Quest For Perfection can lead to Non-productivity and Procrastination




Friday, August 8, 2014

Quest for perfection is aspirational. That's every thinking individual wants to attain it some time in his/her life. There can be some trigger putting a person on the path of perfection as well. But whatever be the reason behind the desire to become perfect, getting a perfection in anything seen as a virtue, is a feel good achievement. But, what if the very desire to become perfect in everything one does, takes such a proportion that the perfectionist becomes non-productive and procrastinating (means delaying or postponing action; put off doing something)?

You may be thinking how perfection can lead to non-productivity and procrastination.

Actually it very easily can. And perfection most often leads to the two.

People usually think that it's the Lazy people who procrastinate (postpone today's work to tomorrow ). This is hardly true. People who are used to perfecting things or who are least lazy, procrastinate as well. Why? As when perfection goes to its extremes (over perfection mindset), the perfectionist doesn't get the motivation to do a task, unless he/she is sure that the task will be accomplished with perfection. Since, practice makes a person perfect, hence too much quest for perfection , creates a mindset, where a person keeps ideating perfection, and never starts acting. For example, if one wants to learn a language, the best way to learn it is start taking the first baby steps, and keep learning. Imagine a situation where the person visualizes him/her flawlessly speaking the language, the moment he plans to learn the language. Yes, he/she will be overwhelmed by the mere visualization of the perfection. Perfection is elusive, as no one can say he has learned everything.

How the desire for perfection leads to non-productivity is much easier to understand. If you understand the basic wisdom that not everything we do needs to be done perfectly, you understand the link between the non-productivity and perfection as well. If a person gets into 'over-perfection mindset', then he will want to do everything perfectly. Doing things perfectly means investing time. And since time is precious, which can't be spent twice, hence wasting time on trivial activities, is non-productivity. Productivity is spending time only on those acts which are important.

Brandi Riley Senior Manager, Community Relations at Collective Bias , a week ago wrote an article for LinkedIn . The article titled, Overcoming Perfection, talked about her journey into the path of perfection and finally reaching a stage where the quest for perfection was not only making her procrastinating, non-productive but also hand tied. She started her quest for being perfect , when her boss reprimanded and coached her to become perfect, after she had stapled booklets on the wrong side. This was late 90s. Finally, she got rid of this desire to be over perfect in 2014. She calls it -- Finishing Something she started more than two decades ago.

What she learned from her Quest for perfection ordeal?

1) Not everything one does, needs to be done perfectly.
2) Perfection is required in important tasks, those which help you grow. Not every task requires the perfection of a surgeon. For obvious reasons. That apart, time is a valuable resource, which cannot be spent twice.
3) Just like anything else, perfection must also follow the middle path. Perfection must not assume such a scale that it makes the person non-productive and procrastinating. Best Way to grow in life is to start acting.
4) Don't be afraid, what critics will say.
5) Don't be afraid of what others will say, if you fail.

Brandi Riley explains the Problem With Perfection as,

The problem with perfection, though, is that if I couldn't do something exactly right, I wouldn't do it at all. The pursuit of perfect turned into a procrastination tool for me. I’d start project after project, only to abandon them when perfection seemed out of reach.
“I’ll do it when I get the money, so I can do it right.”
“I don’t have the time to make it perfect, so I’ll do it when I get more time to focus on it.”
“I’m done, but it’s not perfect, so I’ll just put it away until I can get to it.”

Brandi has started living her life , without giving too much thought to Perfection 

The quest for perfection negatively affects a blogger like no one else ( But lessons are for any person in any profession). As the desire to write perfectly makes the blogger or aspiring blogger procrastinate. Instead of perfection, a blogger must focus on implementing ideas and thoughts on his/her blog quickly. No matter if the quality is poor initially. As a matter of fact, no one expects a newspaper or magazine like language or content on a blog. If you can write that well, then you would be working in a newspaper or a magazine. In mid July, 2014, Brandi rolled out an ebook , her first eBook, “The 7 Days To A Better Blog Challenge” The ebook tells bloggers about things they can do to grow their blogs to a higher levels, by not focussing on perfection too much.

The eBook is also a reflection of the author on how the quest for over perfection can lead to a blogger (or any person) picking up one thing, only to abandon it after a few months, for lack of sufficient perfection. The sum total of which is picking up on too many things, and achieving  not a single one.

Even this book is an effort of several months. In Ms. Riley's own words,

It started off as one thing, and turned into another, and finally, I was like, “Yo, seriously? This is getting done.”

Not to get derailed from completing the eBook, she announced it on Facebook, and made it sure that the book finally reaches Facebook friends. This helped her keep inching towards the ebook completion. And she completed the book. She has already sold a few dozen ebooks (not much by today's standards). But she sees it as a big success, as she has overcome a big obstacle.

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