I was talking with an attendee at one of my writing workshops. She was there to write the novel she’d been thinking about for years.
But when it came to actually writing—not just talking about writing—she wanted to wait until she could afford to purchase a laptop to start her novel. This purchase was months away.
When I suggested she write with pen and paper in the meantime, she explained how much faster to write and easier to edit it would be with a laptop. No doubt, but it would also delay the start of writing for months waiting until “perfect” conditions were in place.
I can relate. I can’t count the number of times mid-blog post I’ve decided it would be a good time to try out a new writing tool, like iAWriter, ByWord or Scrivener. Looking for the perfect writing app is so appealing because researching and experimenting are easier than actually writing.
But this isn’t a post about writing. It’s about delaying. And we do it with all sorts of activities.
- I can’t make a career change until the economy improves.
- I can’t think about decluttering the house until the kids are grown.
- I can’t work on getting healthy until I change jobs and have a shorter commute.
If you’re like me and many others, you probably see yourself in this behavior.
Do you delay moving forward or getting down to work because you’re waiting for the ultimate tool, the perfect circumstance, the ideal system, the exact right time?
Perfectionism as procrastination
Here’s the bottom line: These delaying tactics are perfectionism as procrastination and procrastination as perfectionism.
The tool doesn’t really matter. It’s just the means to the end. Perfect conditions don’t really exist. They’re an illusion to distract us from moving forward.
Getting down to business
What matters is getting to it. Hatching the idea. Writing the next sentence. Making the call. Hitting the Send button. Saying your piece. Showing up. Putting yourself out there.
There will always be a reason not to move forward. But you can move forward anyway.
If you wait for perfect—perfect time, perfect tool, perfect conditions—you could be waiting a very long time. Meanwhile, hours, days, weeks, months pass you won’t ever get back.
The payoff is progress
The payoff is not in finding the perfect way to do something—change jobs, be healthier, launch a business, get a new client—but in making progress. Regular, persistent, incremental progress.
I still catch myself sometimes using a quest for perfect as an elaborate means of procrastination. But I’ve gotten much better at avoiding the trap.
I know this for sure: A quest for perfection usually means procrastination and no progress. I’d rather move forward, imperfectly perhaps, but forward nonetheless.
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