The Scarlet Letter P

In high school when we read the Scarlet Letter, we had an assignment where we had to pick a letter to represent one of our own faults or weaknesses. I picked the letter P for both Procrastination AND Perfectionism. My teacher believed the procrastination part but refused to believe the perfectionism part.

The Scarlet Letter P: How Perfectionism and Procrastination are Intertwined

What she didn’t understand that the procrastination had it’s origins in perfectionism. If I put things off until the last minute, then I had an excuse for my product not to be perfect. I had a very all or nothing mentality where I would either focus my full energy towards making something exactly as I envisioned, or just throwing it out there as “good enough.”

When you combine executive functioning challenges with a perfectionist streak, very little of your own products live up to your standards, which makes it very easy to give up. This worked OK when I was just in my day-job in schools but branching out as an entrepreneur I’ve had to put myself out there imperfectly on a regular basis - in front of a gifted audience at that!

This was fairly intimidating at first, especially since I never had a proper grammar lesson in my life (Spanish Relate-abilityImmersion - long story), and am prone to missing details in writing. Over the years, I’ve learned some things about procrastination and perfectionism that have really helped me along the way.

Procrastination is not all bad if you learn to harness it. One of my executive functioning challenges is that I get almost nothing done without urgency. My first few years of college this meant that I was up until 4 AM when a big paper was due no matter how early I started writing it. Eventually though, I was able to more accurately gauge how much time something would take and though I still put things off until the last minute, I no longer had to pull all nighters to finish them.

I still have to set up some sort of accountability to get anything finished. At first in my business, I made a commitment for weekly blogs, and the last 3 years it has been weekly podcasts. When I created my first course, I set up a schedule to write one day, record the next and then release the next week day. I’ve streamlined the process now by reducing a few steps.

Skip unnecessary steps. When I started my first course I recorded all the lessons ahead and shared them online. During my second run, I started to rerecord, but the quality difference was not enough to spend all that time rerecording so I just had the sound edited for clarity. I started my solo podcast episodes all on my own, but then forced myself to record them live in order to avoid the temptation to start and restart over and over again. This led me to start doing my lessons live as well, which had the positive effect of not only taking less time to record but actually sounding more engaging because I was talking to real people instead of recording into the void.

Relate-ability is much more important than perfection. I’ve been writing for a mostly gifted audience for over 5 years now and for the most part the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. What I’ve come to realize is that people just want to hear more about people like themselves and we all tend to be more perfectionistic in our critiques of ourselves than in our critiques of others. If we hold ourselves back from producing things because we are afraid they will not be perfect then we are not only limiting ourselves but also depriving the world of what we can offer!

As I move into the new school year with increased time to work on my business, it’s been good to remind myself of these things. I had this idea of creating a course on Befriending Your Brain, which resonated with my audience, but then when I looked at creating one course I realized that the topic was so broad that creating one all-encompassing course was never going to live up to my own expectations. For a while I played with different course outlines but there was always something missing, so I decided that instead of a course, I’m going to create a course series with different topics each month starting in October - stay tuned for updates. My goal is to help flow with your brain and not against it.

For me perfectionism and procrastination have been two areas where my own brain has been in conflict over the years. Instead of fighting against these tendencies, I’ve found ways to flow with them more effectively.

I talk a bit more about this on this weeks episode of Embracing Intensity - Perfectionism & Procrastination: Two sides of the same coin?

I’d love to hear from you, what are some ways you fight against your own ways and how would you like to flow with it instead?

This has been part of the Hoagies Gifted Blog hop for September on Perfectionism, Anxiety and OCD.