In our paths to better ourselves, many of us wrestle with perfectionism and/or procrastination. In my own battle against both, I’ve found an interesting relationship between them.
Perfectionism, at least in my experience, often causes procrastination. The fear of getting something wrong causes us to put the project off as long as possible, to avoid thinking about it and confronting that fear. And procrastination, in turn, disappoints the perfectionist self, because the final product is rushed and thus less than perfect.
As I’ve learned to accept “done” as being better than “perfect,” I’ve found that, at times, my procrastination has forced the project into a state of being done, by leaving no time to make it “perfect.” Of course, the problem with this is that I know I could have made it better had I given myself more time in the first place.
How to Fight Perfectionism and Procrastination.
So how can one fight both procrastination and perfectionism? I have found a few ways that have worked for me.
1. Get it done first; don’t wait for perfect. If a reason for procrastination is being afraid of making mistakes or of the product simply not being good enough, it may require a mindset shift. If it never gets done, it will definitely never be perfect.
2. Get it out of your head first, then make it better. This is the single best way I’ve found to defeat procrastination in my own writing habits. Getting that first draft out of my head — usually in very rough outline form — helps me break through my mental blocks, because I know no one is going to see that initial state of the work.
3. Starting early leaves lots of time to finish. This is so much easier said than acted on, but it is true, especially when combined with the second point above. Getting that first draft out early gives me time for second, third, and sometimes even fourth and fifth drafts.
4. Give yourself grace. You will fail and fall back. The key is to keep going after this has happened.
My Process for Getting Through Perfectionism-Based Writer’s Block
Of course, all of this is far easier to understand and accept than it is to enact. So, here is a process I have developed to help myself get something written in a short amount of time when perfectionism would have me stalling.
Step 1: Brainstorm. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and brainstorm everything you can think of that relates to the topic. Make a mind map or freewrite a stream-of-consciousness paragraph. Try not to even think about ordering or formatting.
Step 2: Outline. Make a rough outline for the piece, with only phrases or 1-2 sentences for each bullet point.
Step 3: Expand the outline. Write sentences for each topic as you think of them. Again, don’t worry about the order or transitions between sentences; just get them out of your head and into words.
Step 4: Flesh out paragraphs. Review your expanded outline and start stringing the sentences together into paragraphs. You might not end up using all of them, and that’s perfectly okay.
Step 5: Edit. Read your paragraphs carefully. Remove unnecessary words/phrases/etc. Reorder sentences if you need to. Get it as clean and clear as you can, and don’t overthink it.
Step 6: Release it. Hit publish, send it off, whatever applies. Don’t file it away to check over again and again, just get it out there and move on to the next thing.
Download the Printable Cheat Sheet
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