Are you Procrastinating, or Paralyzed by Perfectionism?
Overwhelmed Man in rough water

Don’t think you’re a perfectionist?

If you sometimes do nothing because you don’t have the time/energy/resources/etc. to do it the “right way,” you may need to think again!

There was a day when I didn’t identify myself as being a perfectionist. I remember thinking back then…

“I can’t be a perfectionist! I’m a hot mess!” 

But the more I learned about myself and my ADHD brain, the more I realized much of the reason I was a “hot mess” back then was because of my perfectionism! Who knew?!

You see, I believed there was a “right way” to clean. Just one. And it involved a scrub brush, bucket, and lots of hands-and-knees, corner-to-corner scrubbing, which I rarely had the time, energy, or interest to do. (Until guests were coming or I just couldn’t take it anymore, and then I would clean until everything sparkled and shone like a new penny. For a few minutes, anyway!)

I also believed there was a “right way” to exercise. Just one. And it involved working out for hours at a time, first thing in the morning (to boost my metabolism), with lots and lots of intensity to exhaustion, which I often didn’t have the time, energy, or interest to do. Until I was frustrated by the shape of my body or the fit of my jeans, and then I’d be gung-ho on the latest fitness program (or piece of exercise equipment) for a little while, anyway.

I also believed there was a “right way” to manage paper. Just one. And it involved an elaborate filing system and bins and letter trays and flow charts and… (okay. Maybe not flow charts, but you get the point!). And I rarely had the time, energy or interest to do it until tax time, or until I couldn’t find something I needed, or until guests were coming. (My husband actually used to suggest that we entertain on a regular basis so that the house would get cleaned up.) Yep. That was me.

And on and on and on. 

It’s tough. Paralyzing, really. Our society encourages perfectionism. Parents tell their kids to “do their best” and “try their hardest”. I know I’ve caught myself telling my kids this very principal and, while it sounds like a good value to teach our children, it comes at a cost! Not everything is worth our “best effort”, and perfectionism can keep us from using time efficiently and effectively. Perfectionism can come at the expense of our productivity, and at the expense of our ability to follow through on our intentions. It can keep us from getting started, and it can keep us from finishing. It can be paralyzing.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest challenges my clients face, and can impact every aspect of their lives! From working with hundreds of other adults with ADHD / ADD over the last decade, I’ve seen way too often that…

Perfectionism is the biggest contributor to Procrastination! 

Today, I think of myself as sort of a “Recovering Perfectionist”. I know that my tendency to go “all in” can be a great quality when well-directed and managed, but I have to watch that tendency very carefully because it can very easily get out of hand and leave me paralyzed.Now, I know differently, and I do things much differently. I clean a little bit every day, I manage my paper in simple ways every day, and I exercise (almost) every day. That younger me would be astounded! My house is clean (enough), my office is organized (in a functional way), and I’m taking care of myself. It’s definitely not perfect, but it’s really, really good.

And most of all, I’m happier!

So, if you’re trying to improve your follow-through with productivity strategies or telling yourself to “buck up and try harder“, you’re never going to achieve what you want because you’re not addressing the real problem! It’s not laziness or lack of willpower. And if you focus on improving your organization or your productivity or your time management, you may see some small improvements, but nothing dramatic that will last. Because those things are not at the root of the struggle.

I tell clients all the time that if you don’t address what’s going on “between your ears”, no amount of tips, tricks, strategies or hacks are going to stick for the long haul!

What’s going on between your ears must be addressed if you want to make lasting change!

Some things to think about.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you struggle with follow-through and procrastination, I hope you’ll check out the link below for the Push Past Procrastination© Program. Part of what makes the program unique, is that it explores and helps you start addressing your perfectionism monster. Join now and get started today!

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