2 Solutions to perfectionism based procrastination

“What is perfectionism? Do you  hold to lofty standards, demand perfection from yourself, and make your worth contingent on meeting these standards?”  –
Dr. Bill Knaus

For three, almost for months, I have been stuck procrastinating on this very article. Afraid that I might not meet my own lofty standards for it, demanding perfection from myself and making my self-worth contingent on meeting my own standards.

This means I think that if my article is less then perfect, I suck as a whole.
Being a perfectionist and thus a procrastinator, I suffer from a form of dichotomous thinking where I find myself either smart or dumb, good or bad, winner or loser and nothing in between.

What I forget, according to Dr. Knaus, is that I am a complex human being. So if my article should not be up to par, it does not mean that I am bad or dumb. If I would feel that way (and I would), that’d be based on a false conviction.
I am a pluralistic, complex human being with “a broad array of talents, emotions, beliefs, and experiences.”
Therefore if my performance in one tiny area of my life can still be improved, it does not mean I do not perform well in others.

What happens if I fall into this thinking trap?
Here are the seven steps of the vicious cycle of the perfectionism-procrastination process Knaus mentions.

“(1) You hold to lofty standards.
(2) You have no guarantee you’ll do well enough.
(3) Less than the best is not an option.
(4) As you think of not doing well enough, you feel uncomfortable.
(5)  You fear the feelings of discomfort.
(6) You hide your imperfections from yourself and dodge discomfort by doing something “safer,” such as playing computer games. (or checking your Facebook)
(7) You repeat this exasperating process until you get off this contingent-worth merry-go-round by not demanding perfection from yourself.”

Step 7 can go both ways though
– either you learn to become more realistic in your expectations
– or you become lethargic and do nothing anymore, except for “comfort tasks” and start beating yourself up for that too, reinforcing your false conviction that you’re lazy or bad.

Let’s look at some ways to overcome this process:

1) Set the bar lower, not by becoming passive, but by reducing the mountain. A friend of mine told me she writes everyday, AT LEAST 1 sentence and MAXIMUM 15 minutes.

I’ve been trying this and I found that this helps me tremendously when I have to write something I don’t like. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, even if I’ve just written one sentence on a given day. That’s such progress and shift in thinking for me!

If I do feel like writing, but just feel stuck, I stick to the AT LEAST one sentence rule, but don’t set a maximum time, like for this post.
This helps me to set myself into motion. Very often I get into a flow and I find myself writing effortlessly.

2)Keep reminding yourself that you’re a complex person with many talents and emotions. You are a multi-faceted diamond, that’s why you can never be EITHER one OR the other. That doesn’t do justice to the beautifully intricate person you are!

Please take a minute to leave a comment below, I’d really appreciate it!
And if you’d like to follow my blog, go ahead and sign up for the e-mail list or via rss. Thanks for supporting me!
love and peace,
Ester
You can also find me on: Facebook , Twitter or Google +

A Benedictine solution to procrastination: pt 1: Organize

image

“An ancient proverb states: ‘It is not the size of the tree but the depth of its roots that make it strong.’ Procrastination usually has very deep roots. The problem of procrastination is one that often goes beyond self-discipline and whipping oneself from stasis to stress.” T. Quek

Comparing this to the way of a Benedictine monk, I notice his fluent transition from one activity to the next, at the sound of a bell, without dragging his feet.

Quek mentions 4 possible causes for procrastination:

(1) Disorganization:

  • poor distinction between urgency and priority
  • distractibility
  • forgetfulness
  • ‘lumping’

(2) Fear

  • rational vs. irrational
  • discipline vs. comfort

(3) Perfectionism

(4) Procrastination as an indicator of underlying illnesses (like ADD or mental disorders)

This is the first article in a series of three, where I go into these causes and present a Benedictine inspired solution for them.

Disorganization: The luring illusion of ‘comfort’ tasks

This is characterized by a poor distinction between urgency and importance.

Quek’s theory is that the typical procrastinator tends to procrastinate doing a lot of so-called ‘comforttasks, which are easy to reach, convenient or interesting to perform.
This causes a pile-up of old and new tasks wich start crying out for attention, thus becoming urgent, regardless of their level of importance.
The ‘tyranny’ of all the open loops of important tasks start weighing down on the procrastinator and she will want to perform even more comfort tasks to relieve that stress: a vicious cycle is born.

Distractibility: “What does THIS button doooo?”

Distractions are a multitude of off-task behaviours

This is a HUGE issue for me. Midsentence I fall prey to the lure of Facebook, What’sApp, texting, email – not so much anymore these days because I get so repelled by all the unanswered emails sitting in my inbox – eating, drinking, sudden cleaning urges, old-fashioned daydreaming, or doing non-important, non-urgent comfort tasks, *sigh*…

Forgetfulness: “Yeah, I was just about to do it…”

I can be really short about this: Put your mind on paper (or electronics). Author and guru of GTD (Getting Things Done): David Allen states we can only consciously remember a list of 10 things, if we put in another, then we “erase” the first again.

“The mind is for having ideas not holding them” –

David Allen

It’s key though to keep reminders of things to do in a dedicated place! Not in ten!
In my next post I will elaborate on this, with regards to the GTD-method.

Here’s already a nice teaser for you: David’s terrific video talk for “Dolectures“, on this subject.

Lumping!

Lumping or chunking is the errant perception that most tasks come as an inseperable whole (a “lump”) and cannot be subdivided and dealt with systematically.

Whoa! I feel so relieved to see that my plight actually has a name. How many fears in my life stem from this misconception.
Lumping my writing, lumping my household, lumping my life!

Ok, now that I’ve acknowledged my utter state of disorganization, I feel relieved yet inspired to change this. But: babysteps, one step at a time, towards no more lumping.

How would a typical Benedictine monk go about his tasks? Can I borrow some of his wisdom to infuse into my disorganized life?

  • A Benedictine monk would divide his attention well, praying for discernment in setting priorities at the beginning of his day, after a period of empty mind: meditation.
  • He would neither make a distinction between Ora et Labora (Pray and Work), nor between eating, loving or praying, because he knows that everything is equally important. The mundane is just as key as the heavenly.
  • He would also set emotional boundaries for himself: saying “no” to himself in case of distraction. So when the bell tolls: change of scenes. No: ” I quickly finish this…” or “Hey, I am praying but I actually have to give my abbot a phone call right now”.
  • He would take notes on his little notepad, which he takes with him everywhere, hidden in his habit. (Don’t you like the pun that monks are creatures of habit? A monk’s “habit” is also his cape.) He would then place a reminder on his to-dolist, but there wouldn’t even be the need for an agenda, because his day is being shaped by the ever present bell.
  • And he would not need an intricate productivity system, because his life were already stripped to the bare essentials: eat, pray, love your neighbour, work and recreate.
  • The monk would keep it simple, and progress slowly but steadily. He would give each different activity his undivided* attention, mindfully and slowly going from one thing to the next.
  • The daily timetable or horarium** of the monk automatically prevents him from “lumping”, because his day is already neatly subdivided. The great thing for him though, is that his abbot makes that table already for him, following the Rule of Benedict. We in turn have to let our own wise mind (our own ‘abbot’) sternly but lovingly set boundaries for ourselves, using a timer and planning ahead at the start of each new day.

To be continued!

In the next post we are going to look at fear-based procrastination.

Let me know if you recognize anything in my article, I’d love to talk with you about it! Maybe we can inspire each other with ways to tackle the problem of procrastination.

You can also find me on Facebook or Twitter.

*to divide comes from dividere (Latin), which means: to force apart or to cleave.

** Continue reading

breaking the P-cycle

lorianderson-quotes.blogspot.com

Lately I have been struggling greatly with Procrastination and Perfectionism. I seem to just flatline when I’m thinking I either have to be perfect or just sit in my chair, stare, do nothing and feel bad about myself. Good or bad, black or white.

Today I read something very fantastic in a daily email from www.flylady.com.
Let me first say that Flylady (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself) is a sweethearted lady who helps you manage your home again in tiny babysteps, while loving yourself instead of beating yourself up.
It is a very fun website with incredibly helpful tools and I am currently doing the beginner babysteps of housecleaning & organizing, to keep me from getting into the Procrastination and Perfectionism cycle.

So today I read this awesome entry about there being two other P’s associated with Perfectionism and Procrastination, so all credit for the 4-P idea goes to Karen, a Flybaby from Tennessee and to Flylady for her advice and resources.(I’ve also added a fifth P)

Pride

The first P Karen says is for Pride, which wants you to set too high standards for myself (oh yeah baby!). I tend to do that a lot with household stuff, or my to-dolist for the day or week. I always cram in way too many things.

Perfectionism

The second P is Perfectionism, which is the result of setting the bar too high in the first place. With me this is closely related to never feeling good enough. It’s definitely gotten better the last years, but when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired, or (God forbid) PMS-ing (you ladies know what I’m talkin’ ’bout…), then I tend to slide back to this horrible P to try to regain control my life (of course, in vain).

“You cannot open a flower with a sledgehammer” –

Bob Wilson

Pressure

The third P is the inevitable selfdestructive Pressure you’ll be on then, resulting in negative self-talk, spiraling down to feeling like crap and behaving that way as well.

Procrastination

Fourthly there’s mr. Procrastination. Now I think there’s good and bad Procrastination. Good Procrastination is letting your mind wander, daydream, do nothing and get creative.

Bad Procrastination is the result of negative self-talk, self-condemnation, being stuck in a irrealisticly high expectation of yourself, perfectionistically disabling yourself from doing ANYthing ANYmore.

In this state (where I was in yesterday afternoon) my muscles turn to jell-o, and I feel like a boneless chicken , not able to think, not able to move, I was even crying out of sheer self-imposed helplessness and inertia.

Punishment

At rock bottom of this process I’d add a final and utterly sad fifth P: Punishment of myself. That’s when you actively start thinking horrible thoughts about yourself and punishing yourself in your thoughts.

Like:
“I am good for nothing; I cannot do anything right; I am worthless; I am lazy ; I am a bad person, I am not worth being on this planet.”
Recognize those bugger-thoughts?Time to turn it round!

I know that these negative thoughts are so self-destructive, they prevent me from being the me I am supposed to be, they increase my stress levels, decrease my quality of life.
Who am I to say that I am not good? I am God’s beloved creation!

Awareness, Acceptance, Action

But I know that if I am to beat this nasty P-cycle, I first have to be aware they are there, drink a cup of acceptance-tea with them, gently usher them out of the door and start praying to my God and saying healing and healthy thoughts to myself (action).

Now be nice to yourselves today and go replace them nasty P-s with nice ones!

Patience, Pleasure, Potential, Pampering, Pleased, Peacefulness, Prayer, Passion, Perseverance, Peace, Possibility, Positivity, Praise, Pureness, Playfulness and you are PRECIOUS!

If you like what you read, please take a minute to leave a comment below, follow me on Twitter or visit my Facebook page. Thank you! Spread the positive word!