Embrace Imperfection; Overcome Procrastination!

Have you ever had the “all-or-nothing” thinking? Do you feel if you can’t do something perfectly, you might as well not do it at all?

Perfectionism often kills productivity.

I will tell you an example from my own personal experience. I am my own worst critic (or should I say best?). I always feel there is scope for improvement in all my works. The downside to this is nothing is ever perfect when I do it.

My Notebook of Ideas
My Notebook of Ideas

Earlier this year, when I decided to set up my website and start blogging, I got this small notebook and I filled it with numerous web development and blog post ideas. But then came this huge fear – the Fear of Wasting Ideas. I felt I wouldn’t do my “ideas” any justice if my execution was below-par. I did not want to waste my brilliant ideas with my poor execution.

The result? I mulled over it and discussed it, but never took action. I procrastinated for weeks and then months.

Finally prodded by the guilt of inaction, I gave in and started coding and publishing articles here on my website. I learned over the past few months that I can only improve something by doing it.

So here I am… writing and coding a little bit every day… and with support and encouragement from my brilliant website visitors,  I am moving forward. Learning from my mistakes and failures is definitely better than not even trying in the first place.

And the more I implement ideas, my pool of ideas grows. So this whole fear of wasting ideas was a stupid one after all!

Here are some things that worked as a cure for procrastination.

Tip #1 – Face Your Fears

Fear of failure is a symptom of perfectionism. And like all fears you can only overcome this fear by facing it. You must have heard of the saying “never let success get to your head”. I tell you, neither should you let failure.

The best way to face your fear of failure is to get out there and give it a shot.

When I thought about relaunching my website, one of the thoughts that held me back was “Who would want to read my website?”. But I think I have 300+ people who tell me I was wrong!

Tip #2 – Be Human

Errare humanum est (To err is human). So give yourself permission to make mistakes. Mistakes are not contrary to perfectionism, they are giving you the practice you need to become perfect.

Mistakes are good teachers. Don’t make them undertakers by not forgiving yourself and moving forward.

“Get it right first time” is something that we are taught in our homes and corporate jobs and homes. Coming from a family of medical practitioners, I know it is a crucial principle of the medical profession. But for a creative pursuit where the stakes are not as high as a human life, why worry about mistakes?

Have you been thinking about doing a pencil sketch? Get a paper and pencil and just do it! Don’t worry about crooked lines, wrong shading and wasted paper.

I have gone back and made major changes in my website code… multiple times. I worry about the wasted time, but even with the mistakes came the learning.

Tip #3 Satisfice

When I wrote the article about setting up your colours in style guide I mentioned this phrase – Paralysis by Analysis. Sometimes the perfectionist in you gets in the way of you making decisions and the result is inaction. It’s like being in a rocking chair, moving but not getting anywhere.

There are two styles of decision-making: maximising and satisficing. When maximising, we seek out the best option through an exhaustive search through alternatives. In contrast, when satisficing, we search through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met. We are ok with ‘good enough’.

Maximising is good if you are making your decisions and taking action. But if you are spending months in the decision-making process may be you should satisfice instead.

Sometimes it is better to buddy up so someone else can tell you what is “good enough”. Or if you prefer working by yourself, then set some guidelines which will act as your “STOP” board for over-thinking.

Choosing the colour palette was the toughest decision-making process for me (so far!). Did you know the number of blacks in colour? Neither do I, there are so many!

Black Hex Values
A few Black Hex values

Tip #4 Other Perfectionists

Sometimes it isn’t your perfectionism that is causing you to procrastinate. The high standards set by your family, corporate or society may be causing you to panic and inducing the starting trouble.  Don’t let others’ expectations affect your productivity.

There are two types of people in our lives. They either think that:

  1. You or your works are so perfect. And nothing you do will change that!
  2. You or your works are still imperfect. And nothing you do will change that!

Neither of these people is bad for you.

When you are discouraged, get your Type-A people around you. They will affirm you that no matter what, you and your work will always be loved. When you are complacent, get your Type-B people to throw you some challenges. They will encourage you to find your better self out there. 

I have supportive friends who gave me thumbs-up for all my article shares on social media and I have inspiring mentors who always say “you could have” even when I feel I have given it a 100%. I need them both for my personal growth. The likes encouraged me to keep writing, and the comments helped me improve them.

Tip #5 – Just Do It!

When all else fails, I have just one advice (or rather Nike does) – Just do it!

Don’t wait until you have the perfect detailed execution plan, just take the first step.

Nike - Just Do It

If you are anxious about the opening for an article or a speech, skip to the second paragraph. Start by writing down what you know, and soon enough you will have your perfect opener.

Embrace Imperfection, because an imperfect action is better than perfect inaction!

So go ahead and read some of my imperfect and hopefully motivating articles on Goal Getting and about the imperfect I. Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media.

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  1. Superb and lucid writing… Loved the idea: imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.
    Keep writing….

  2. Fantastic post!

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