04 To Perfect is to Procrastinate
About this Manifesto
When we procrastinate in the name of getting something perfect, we are actually falling into a protection mechanism to avoid the discomfort of growth which invariably is uncomfortable, can lead…
What is procrastination and how does perfection play a role in it?
Procrastination is the “act of delaying something.” The feeling of dread is often tied to it because by delaying or putting the task off the chances of a negative outcome (isn’t done well, correct, or at all) increase.
An example of procrastination would be delaying asking a person to a dance. The closer you get to the day of the dance and continue to delay—usually because you were waiting for the right or perfect moment to appear—someone else asks them or they make plans and you’re left going to the dance solo or not at all.
We all procrastinate to some degree, but those that make it a habit and wrap it around perfection often find themselves in a “rut” or shame spiral about how they can never achieve what they want for themselves.
Perfection plays a role in procrastination by giving us an ‘out.’
When we lean on perfection as a tool or excuse for our procrastination, we are using perfection as the scapegoat. We put the weight, blame, responsibility on the ideal of perfection: the perfect moment to act; the perfect ensemble of wardrobe, decoration, body weight/shape and makeup; the perfect words or gift.
When we lean on perfection like this we dodge our responsibility for being the driver of our life. We stay hidden, safe in the familiar, or we allow ourselves to feed whatever stories we latch onto about how “that’s just the way we are,” or whatever self-perception of lack we carry.
The irony of perfection-fueled procrastination
There is an irony that if we’re procrastinating to ensure perfection, we’re actually achieving its opposite because anything close to perfection (which doesn’t truly exist—excellence is a better and healthier noun to pursue) requires work, it requires drafts, mistakes, ACTION!
When we procrastinate due to a perfection addiction or trapping, we can never reach our end goal because we’re not taking the steps that lead us in its direction.
Overcoming perfection in our procrastination
If perfection is your primary excuse or cover for your procrastination, then lean into imperfect action. Let yourself be safe to be messy, fail, and find pleasure in your practice.
To release from a perfection-fueled procrastination requires a few things from us:
0) Honestly assess our patterns of procrastination
Before we even begin with actionable steps, we have to observe and acknowledge that we are habituated to procrastination and it isn’t helping us.
Look at what your usual excuses are for procrastination and honestly assess if they are true or just convenient excuses.
Accountability can go a long way in ensuring success, so share with a trusted friend or partner about your patterns and your desire to shift them. Ask them to be a part of your rewiring and practice around healing your relationship to perfection and procrastination.
1) We must look at the total project and identify its components
If we don’t break our project up into smaller bites and leave our task to the last minute, we are often rudely awakened and realize just how complex the project was and we fail to include or execute essential pieces.
Outlines are great for this. Speaking it out loud with your partner, mentor or even physically embodying the project with movement, song, art is a great way to tap into the web of tiny things that make up anything massive.
Once you have the rough scope of smaller, discrete projects you can tackle them with less stress and overwhelm.
2) Create smaller deadlines for the smaller bites
The simple act of breaking up the project or task soothes our nervous system because what was daunting becomes smaller and more manageable. Now, deadlines aren’t as heavy or debilitating because less “things to do” are attached to that specific deadline.
By having success by completing these smaller deadlines we reap some benefits. One is we feel accomplishment and progress toward our final goal. Another is that we gain insight to the project that we may not have had until we started and we can adjust or change course with minimal effort early on.
Making those smaller deadlines has the pitfall that procrastination will just be spread out across many due dates instead of just one. That is why we must lean into imperfect action and trusting in the process of practice.
3) Make room for imperfection and practice
We will never be able to learn how to work something until we engage with it. The same goes for your project. You learn by getting in it. You find your footing by misplacing your feet because NOW you know what the conditions of the ground are, how it feels to do the actions instead of just thinking about them.
This part is the most crucial part to overcoming procrastination because it’s the thoughts and all the associated fears, doubts, worries, shame, and judgement by our inner critic that are leading us into perfection fueled procrastination.
Reassure yourself that no one produces a masterpiece without either: lots of drafts or years of practice. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the room to make those drafts and gather those hours of practice.
4) Follow through to completion
One of the toughest parts for a perfectionist is completing something. We either toss it in the trash, write it off, or leave it languishing and take up another project to feel safe in the dreaming phase of creation.
We reach excellence by producing less-than-excellent results. Like Chuck Jones said, “You’ve got a million bad drawings in you, better get to work.”
Allow yourself the grace and experience to build your capacity for excellence by making a mess and seeing it through to completion. In doing so you are learning about yourself, improving your skills and gaining wisdom to do the next project better (and you start writing new thoughts/beliefs around what you’re capable of).
How to benefit positively from procrastination
Once we address and remove the excuse of perfection from our habits or patterns of procrastination and follow the steps above, we can begin to dive deeper into why procrastination works (or doesn’t work) for ourselves.
Procrastination—which comes from Latin’s prefix pro- (“forward”) and crastinus (“of tomorrow”)—can be a helpful organizational tool to order tasks or things around their importance or looming deadlines. The trick is using it wisely and in a way that does not cause more negative effects versus benefits.
A way to tell if you’re in an unhealthy dynamic with procrastination is honestly observing what you spend your time doing instead of the task you’re procrastinating.
Are you numbing out to your favorite streaming shows/movies? Are you consuming social media in an endless scroll? Are you finding yourself deep in tasks that while yes, do need to be done, aren’t actually producing your deep, life-shifting results (think of tasks like fiddling with a logo, rearranging furniture, just thinking about tasks instead of planning them out and outlining them in writing).
If you’re doing any or a combination of the above repeatedly, you’re likely not using procrastination in a healthy manner.
We all need breaks, play, rest, rejuvenation—and none of the things I listed are wrong in themselves—but they need to be in balance with the steps and actions that lead us to completing our dreams and visions.
And, the more we observe and acknowledge where our habits are around delaying our growth and inevitable success and we actually engage with our work and tasks, we gain confidence, we gain experience and we feel better about ourselves.
Who Is Writing This?
Hey, I'm Tigre Pickett and I'm a recovering perfectionist.
I bought this domain in 2014 and sat on it for seven years before finally taking my own imperfect action and dove into sharing my experiences with perfection. How on brand!
It's my goal to provide others inspiration, guidance and support around befriending perfection by giving it other, more kind and accurate clothes and identities to wear.
I've sold myself short a lot in my life due to perfection's grip. May this website and my work provide you some glorious relief to just be with the messy, flawed, and totally lovable and worthy human you are.