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Working Through Perfectionism to Stop Procrastinating

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 of lower quality. There was no time left to make it perfect, so I’m forced to let it be done and move on — even though I know I could have done much better with more time.

So let’s take a look at some strategies I’ve found useful for fighting against both perfectionism and procrastination to put out good work in a timely manner.

How To Fight Perfectionism & Procrastination.

Perfectionism: Done is better than perfect

So how can one fight both procrastination and perfectionism? Here are a few ways that have worked for me.

1. Get it done first; don’t wait for perfect. If you procrastinate because you’re afraid of making mistakes or that the final product won’t be good enough, you may need to shift your mindset. Remember, 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 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 you start with a rough draft. Getting that draft out early leaves plenty of time for second, third, and sometimes even fourth and fifth drafts.

4. Give yourself grace. You will fail and fall back into procrastination. The key is to keep going after this has happened and to commit to doing better next time.

Perfectionism-Based Writer’s Block

Don't Procrastinate

That’s all great, but “just get it out of your head” is easier said than done sometimes. So here’s my process for getting something written in a short amount of time when perfectionism gives me writer’s block.

[You can also read about my process for getting something written every single day here!]

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 word order or formatting.

Step 2: Outline. Make a rough outline for the piece. For each bullet point, limit yourself to a short phrase, or 1-2 sentences at the very most.

Step 3: Expand the outline. Write a few more sentences for each bullet point 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.

If it never gets done, it will never be perfect

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