I know that by Monday I have to submit an article. It’s Friday and I already dread the following Monday. Why did I agree? Why did I choose this particular topic? Can I really write something substantial on it? I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll be more focused. Tomorrow comes and I still haven’t written a sentence. I’ve been thinking about the article the whole time; I have a draft in my head. Sunday comes, no word typed yet. Monday comes, I sit down and write. There’s no other option. The deadline is looming.
Does this sound familiar? No, this is not a story about a procrastinator; it is a story about a perfectionist. Perfectionism can be and a lot of times is a burden. It can stall our productivity. I’m somewhere between two types of perfectionism, as defined by Don Hamachek more than 30 years ago: normal perfectionists “derive a very real sense of pleasure from the labors of a painstaking effort” while neurotic perfectionists are “unable to feel satisfaction because in their own eyes they never seem to do things well enough to warrant that feeling of satisfaction”. But I’m in the business of writing. I have to deal daily with my own demands of being perfect, so I can be productive. Here are my five steps how to snap out of it and start writing.
1. Yes, you’re going to fail from time to time. Deal with it!
Perfectionists are afraid of failure. However, failure is part of life. There isn’t a successful person in this world who hasn’t failed from time to time. They learned from their failed attempts and moved on. Life is unpredictable. It is rarely well structured. Realize that not all your posts will be popular, praised and shared.
2. Nobody’s perfect
Do you remember these legendary words by Jack Lemmon from Some Like It Hot? It’s true. Nobody and rarely anything is perfect. So snap out of unrealistic dreams of writing that perfect post. Realize that an incomplete post may even attract more comments (what you may deem incomplete, i.e. not perfect). You don’t need to cover off every aspect of the post’s topic in order for that post to be good.
3. Don’t be so pernickety
In the workplace, perfectionism is often marked by low productivity as individuals lose time and energy on attention to detail and small irrelevant details of larger projects or mundane daily activities. It happens to all of us, perfectionists. Instead of worrying about grammar, spelling later, we worry about them while writing. So instead of typing our thoughts, we worry more about the structure and little details, making us going back into texts and correcting, rather than moving forward and making sure we don’t forget what we wanted to write. This can make us less productive. So snap out of it and just write. Switch off the spell check until you’re finished with the first draft.
4. Just do it
Because we’re so afraid of failure we’re prone to procrastination. Many times we worry so much about doing something imperfectly that we become immobilized and fail to do anything at all! This leads to more feelings of failure – a vicious circle. The only solution to this is to just sit down and write. There’s no other cure. Snap out of it and write. Don’t worry about the end result yet. Just write.
5. Give yourself a tight schedule
If your deadline is in two weeks, give yourself your own serious deadline at least a week earlier. The farther the deadline, the less you write before then and the more you think about the assignment – more thinking, fussing about the assignment doesn’t necessarily mean it will be better. Shorten the time you’d otherwise have for dreaming about the perfect post.
This is not easy. Believe me. It’s something I’ve been struggling for a long time. I try to follow my own advice above. In the end, I always realize I was afraid in vain. So don’t be so hard on yourself.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? How have you overcome it? Help us all!