Get It Together
April 6, 2000
By Liz Kelley Kerstens, CGRS
The Deadly P's: Procrastination and Perfectionism
To procrastinate is to "put off intentionally and habitually." In my lectures on organizing and time management, I frequently talk about procrastination because I have found it to be a large factor in the progress people make toward getting organized. This fact was brought home to me this past weekend when I was vending at a genealogy book fair. Several current Clooz customers came up to me and said they have my software but haven't installed it yet, or have installed it but haven't used it yet. When I asked them why, they usually replied that the whole process of organizing was too overwhelming to even begin.
This is an overt sign of procrastination, but a less obvious sign of perfectionism. Perfectionism in this context is "a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable." Perfectionism can actually lead to procrastination. In the example of the Clooz customers above, these people are looking at the entire problem and finding the solution unattainable. When that happens, it becomes easier to avoid the problem entirely than to tackle it in bits and chunks.
If you're looking at an organizing nightmare and your stress level is mounting, isolate one corner or one stack of paper or one closet that can be tackled. Remember, you didn't get this disorganized overnight, and you're not going to suddenly become organized overnight. So what's the rush? If you can learn to tackle small portions of tasks at a time, you will be able to make progress. If you continue to see the whole picture and get overwhelmed with the task, you'll continue to procrastinate.
Procrastination can lead to undesirable results. For instance, if you're not in the habit of making regular backups of your computer files, the first time your hard drive crashes, you'll learn about the undesirable side of procrastination. If you only keep copies of your genealogy information in your house and haven't shared it with anyone yet, when you have some sort of catastrophe such as a flood or fire, that procrastination beast will be paying a house call.
Sometimes it's hard to recognize procrastination and perfectionism in ourselves. You can tell if you have perfectionist leanings if you:
- Won't start a project if you don't think you have enough time to complete it;
- Won't start a project if you don't have all of the necessary supplies;
- Won't start a project before thoroughly researching every possible way to accomplish the project.
You can tell if you are a procrastinator in any number of ways, but generally if you:
- Allow piles of paper to grow in your home or office;
- Don't respond to e-mails and letters in a reasonable amount of time;
- Delay important projects for more easily accomplished tasks.
If you recognize yourself in either or both of these lists, it's OK. There is hope! I recommend that you allow yourself to work on little projects that will work toward bigger projects. Accomplish tasks in chunks and you'll not only see progress, you'll feel great about your progress! If you only have 10 minutes, you can go file some papers, but you don't have to file the whole stack.
Remember, progress rather than perfection!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22-May-2013 08:15:37 CDT