By Shakeira MacLean
I have been a procrastinator for as long as I can remember. High school A’s were earned the night before and in university I would attempt to master half a semester’s worth of reading the week of my mid-term. I always knew I could get it done. When I finished school and started working for a fast-paced PR agency last minute was the way of life. A client always needed something yesterday and if you didn’t get the journalist the files they wanted within the hour you lost the opportunity for your story. The deadline was always right there and I met all of them.
But then I left my agency job to start my own business.
My procrastination habits started to take their toll. I would have a list of tasks and the day set aside to work on all of it but then I would get nothing done. Things became different since I only answered to myself. I would waste a day cleaning the house, running other errands, or simply start watching a new T.V. series on Netflix. A day turned into a week. And then the weeks added up. I would think about how simple these tasks should be for me but then I wouldn’t be able to get it done. I repeatedly proved to myself that I wasn’t capable of doing what I needed to do. I had this heavy guilt building up and was becoming really frustrated with myself. I knew I had so much to do but I would feel paralyzed. I was reading a book on habits, productivity, and creativity when I came across a paragraph that changed everything. I’m a perfectionist but never had any idea.
One definition of perfectionism is “a personality disposition characterized by an individual striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical evaluations and concerns regarding other’s evaluations.” Another definition is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection and unacceptable.” To me a perfectionist’s work was perfect and I definitely couldn’t identify with that. Ironic right?
Below are four ways that perfectionists are affected in their work*. Are you one?
This is the type of perfectionism that I’m affected by the most in my work. You’re scared to start and won’t until you feel like you have the ideal moment: a large amount of uninterrupted time, no distractions, high motivation and inspiration, and a plan to make it all work. You feel stuck and don’t get anything done. Once you actually get started you’re frustrated because you know you could have done a better job had you started earlier.
How to deal: Know that there will never be a perfect time to start. Tackle one part of the project and build momentum. Take it one step at a time. Understand things won’t be perfect right away but since you’ve started early you’ll have time to address complexities and other challenges.
You obsess over every detail, even if they are things other people would never notice. You re-do portions of your projects because you’re dissatisfied. You continually research anything related to your assignment even if you wouldn’t need or use the additional information. You spend a lot of time on your work but have little to show for it.
How to deal: Define the deliverables and then decide the intermediate steps needed to create them. Work backwards from your end date to determine the time you have for each step and don’t exceed it. Produce all of your work and then go back if you have additional hours to spare at the end. This will help ensure you don’t over-invest in less important tasks.
There is always something more to be done. You can always change, edit, and refine something and therefore it’s never complete. You can’t deliver your work because it’s not yet up to your standard.
How to deal: Redefine finished as meeting the minimum requirements to the best of your ability given time and resource restrictions. Even if there are improvements you can make, it doesn’t mean it’s not done.
Fear of Feedback
You’re scared when someone finds a mistake or if when they have a different opinion about your work. In fact, you’re scared to hear anything that isn’t positive and will feel like a failure. You feel like people will no longer respect you and think you’re incompetent if your work is flawed.
How to deal: Appreciate feedback and know it helps test and refine your work. It improves your product and helps you to see something outside of your regular world.
After identifying why I was acting the way I was, it was possible for me to tackle my problems. I could pick out what my bad habits were and have the appropriate approach to correct them. As much as I’ve learnt about starting a business, this journey is teaching me so much about myself. I’m excited to continue my growth along with my business’.
*Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei
Shakeira MacLean is the Co-Founder of RSVP33, a social club that makes making friends easy. They introduce groups of friends to meet new people and provide an environment where there’s an opportunity to develop a genuine relationship. In addition to working with RSVP 33, Shakeira is a communications and digital media consultant available for public relations, media relations, social media, branding, or event planning contracts through my consultancy, Gastown Creative. Connect with her on Elletourage.