section eight excerpt – perfection

While I’m waiting for what I hope will be the final proof, here’s another excerpt from The Clutter Book:

People often are surprised to learn that some perfectionists procrastinate. If you think you can’t do it perfectly, what’s the point of starting, right? The reality, though, is that you spend so much time worrying about the outcome that you could have completed the task in less time and with less anxiety.

If you wait for the “perfect” time or circumstances or system before you commit to action, you are making a choice by not choosing and allowing the details of your life to overwhelm you. Don’t allow the idea of “someday” keep you from accomplishing what you need to do today. Some future event that you dread or anticipate might not even happen.

It bears repeating that a system is just one part of the whole process; your habits play a large part in your success. Constantly changing systems because you haven’t found the perfect one yet is a guarantee that you will not succeed. Learning to live with “good enough” can be difficult, but it’s a skill you can develop. Give yourself time to try a new way of doing things before you declare it (or yourself) a failure.

Perfectionists often say “I should” when questioned about how they manage tasks. I hear those words several times a week from clients:
   I should return that scarf.
   I should give that box to my brother.
   I should send birthday cards to everyone in my family.
   I should put my clothes away.
   I should exercise every day.
   I should pay my bills online.

They are surprised when I ask “Why?” Why “should” you do something? Because someone told you to? Because it will improve your life? Because everyone else does it? Rephrase the statement and see if it still seems true. Instead of saying “I should,” say “I want to” or “I plan to.” When you feel obligated to do something, but there is no incentive for you to do it, you procrastinate. If you can reframe the behavior to make it meaningful, you are more likely to do it.

If you don’t want to do the task you’ve been putting off, then don’t do it. You will have to consider the financial, legal and health implications of your decisions; you are an adult and you have to live with the choices you make. Most of the things you choose to let go, however, probably will not result in major crises. Instead, you will have more time to do what you want to do and fewer feelings of guilt or shame. Letting go of mental clutter is just as significant as letting go of physical clutter.

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