If you’ve ever felt totally defeated by your own lack of progress or serious procrastination issues, you NEED these three little words.
They’ll absolutely change the way you measure productivity, and free you from the cycle of perfectionism. Keep reading… they’re coming. You won’t know how you lived without them all this time. (Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. But you never know.)
Recently, I calculated over 100 hours of work completed on my blog in the past few weeks. I was pretty surprised, considering I lose time each week with regular PT appointments for my daughter.
So why is it that I feel so unaccomplished most days?
I don’t know about you, but the harder I try to implement any of the dozens of productivity tools at my disposal, the bigger my sense of failure sometimes. You’d think we could all squeeze a 12-hour workday into our measly 4-6 hours by now, right?
What is Productivity?
Definition of productivity: “The act of yielding results, benefits, or profits.” Okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. But it gets more intense when productivity is measured by employers.
There’s actually a mathematical productivity formula to figure out a worker’s productivity measurement in dollar amounts.
This seems a bit technical, but hang in there … there’s a point to this, I promise!
And another formula measures the quality of that productivity — the employee’s actual work efforts. It’s an employee efficiency calculation. We’re not only a dollar sign, we’ve also been assigned a percentage of value to our employer.
That’s a little unsettling, right? I mean, I understand that a company needs to know these things, but feeling like a failure is close to the surface even in the workplace.
Our accomplishments are constantly being evaluated — whether by employers, society, or ourselves. This is why Ben & Jerry’s will never go under … we need them in order to cope, am I right??
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely read about and learned dozens of genius personal productivity and time management techniques. Surely we’re all on our way to becoming productivity rockstars.
Personally, I’ve adopted so many great work schedules and routines, my business should be featured in Forbes any day now… “big time”, here I come.
In reality, I end up feeling defeated more days than I’d like to admit. Bingeing on Downton Abbey for a third time sounds better and better each time I look at my to-do list.
I love the time-blocking and Pomodoro techniques, but I’m still unable to achieve 12 hours’ worth of work smashed into 8. What gives?
Personal productivity mystery solved:
Colonel Productivity was axed in the study with the candlestick by . . . Professor Expectation and Miss Perfectionism herself.
Our time management and productivity tools are meant to help, but they can’t alter our expectations — and they’re no match for the big “P”.
Perfectionism. Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter.
When I Googled perfectionist personalities, I came across an image that cracked me up. There’s a person at eye-level with the grass who’s snipping away the uneven blades with scissors.
Symptoms of perfectionism:
- All-or-nothing thinking
- A critical eye
- Unrealistic standards
- Focused on results
- Fear of failure
- Low self-esteem
Do you have a perfectionist personality? I know I do. And these are not traits I’m proud of, either. They are very debilitating, to be honest.
The last finance post I wrote for a client took 19 hours. That’s just sad. I know my stuff, plus I did a ton of research. But I stayed in editing mode for hours. Just wanting it to be PERFECT.
Many of us suffer from perfection paralysis. I think I see you nodding your head, too. It’s a nasty disorder, really. And quite difficult to cure.
Procrastination and unrealistic standards are my personal demons. They’re the double-edged sword that can stop me in my tracks for days.
Miss Perfection is a tyrant. She tells us that who we are and what we do must be as close to perfect as possible. If not, it’s time to pull the plug and not do it at all.
Real life translation: We’d better stop parenting our children, quit our jobs, and give up our dreams of a successful business right now.
We’ll never get our lives in perfect order. So, to get rid of the guilt and pressure, let’s just quit while we can.
Do you ever feel that way when you try to make progress in your relationships, parenting, or your business?
That’s perfection paralysis at its best, and we need to fight back.
The Root of Perfectionism
Before we plan our attack, we need to see where all this is coming from.
Society certainly puts immense pressure on doing, excelling, and achieving. Or maybe you grew up in a home where praise was given for performance over who you actually are. A person of value in your own right.
Are you not the perfect spouse, parent, or business person yet? Why not? You’ve had plenty of time to practice and get it right. I guess it’s time to try harder, be better, and buckle down.
Forget the outside world, we have no trouble internalizing these things all by ourselves!
Like a bad football coach who terrorizes his team, our own inner coach can be a relentless bully. And the sad thing is, this bully never stops to acknowledge our improvements or accomplishments.
How to Overcome Perfectionism
- Recognize that perfection is a figment of your imagination.
- Stop being fixated on results and failures.
- Retire that all-or-nothing mentality.
- Fire the mean inner coach!
- Strive for improvement only, and celebrate progress.
- Recognize all of the contributions you make in your own life, the lives of your loved ones, and your work — despite imperfect efforts.
You’ve dismissed the inner tyrant and outrun Professor Expectation. Now you’re ready for the three important words.
“Progress not perfection.”
I just love that saying. Let’s make it our mantra.
Watch out Miss Perfectionism … Mrs. Progress is going to whup some *ss. Plus, she’s got legs for days — built for endurance. Perfection’s only good for a 60-second sprint.
Progress Not Perfection
Let’s set one or two productivity goals and give this thing another try. Pick a technique you’d like to implement, or a tool that’s worked before, and get it ready. Our focus is on improvement and taking steps. Going forward from where we were the day or week before. Sound good?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with our tools, and there’s nothing wrong with us, either. We’ve allowed ourselves to develop amnesia when it comes to progress and accomplishments.
Developing an Action Mindset
The action mindset will get us thinking about moving forward and taking action again. It’s not a measure of how far we go today, or how fast we can get to the land of “awesomeness.”
If you’ve been feeling defeated for a while now, being great is the last thing on your mind. Maybe you’re wondering if you can appreciate yourself at all.
This is simply a mindset replacement exercise. Think of elevating the positive feelings that come from taking action over the false high of perfection. If you’ve never heard of the 5-second rule, you’re in for a real treat!
Perfection, as we all know, is an illusion. But taking action is tangible, doable, and worthy of much praise. It will also get you where you’d like to be. Action is a journey, though. Not a mad dash.
Now that we’ve reframed our thinking, it’s time to shift into drive and resurrect productivity. This time we’ll work within healthy and reasonable boundaries, minus the impossible expectations.
One of the ways to make good progress is to recognize its presence. Acknowledgement of successes can move us forward.
Making good progress also includes:
- Putting one foot in front of the other and doing something. No matter how imperfect.
- Showing up.
- Not comparing yourself with others or who you used to be.
- Rewarding your efforts and celebrating them.
Put One Foot in Front of the Other and Move
To begin moving forward, we must oil those joints. Practice our moves. If you’ve been stuck in paralysis mode for too long, you’re simply out of practice.
You may not even remember what the joy of progress feels like. Am I right?
If you’ve ever started jogging for fitness, do you remember that elated feeling when you could run for a minute straight without stopping? What about for a whole mile?
I think my head would pop off if I ever successfully completed a 3K while running the entire time! But I digress.
Start by setting a timer and jumping into a task or activity you’ve been putting off. Haven’t sat on the floor and played with your kids for a while? Feeling guilty about that?
Thirty minutes goes on the timer right now; pull out those legos or crayons, and get ready to bask in their joyful glow. Mommy is playing.
Stuck on that blog post for the second week in a row? It looks horrible to you, and you want to scrap the whole thing. Oh honey, I’ve been there.
Set the timer for half an hour, read a great article about your topic, and move forward. Write another paragraph, or re-write a part that can be improved. When time’s up, stop and recognize your efforts and the fact that you’ve made some progress.
Just Show Up Every Day
Every day that you’re physically and mentally able, show up for the game. You must be present to work on your goals. There’s never been a better time to adopt the familiar Nike slogan… “Just do it.”
Sit at your desk, stand on that treadmill, or step out the door toward the park with those kids. Those first steps of showing up are the most crucial.
It’s so much easier to take action tomorrow. But procrastination gets us nowhere. Inaction is almost always caused by our inner critical voice.
“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.” Harry S. Truman
I only have 15 minutes to spend at the park; my kids will hate me if we can’t stay longer. My house will never look clean, so why bother straightening up the living room?
Showing up every day for tasks we’ve been putting off, or don’t feel successful with, will push away doubts and bad feelings little by little.
Pretty soon you’ll develop authentic appreciation for taking action, however imperfect. Acknowledge your consistency, keep showing up, and let yourself feel proud of that.
Don’t Compare Yourself
This is a tough one. Once you start feeling better about yourself and your efforts, it’s hard not to look around at others’ accomplishments.
How did Betty blogger get to Mediavine so quickly when she only writes 500-word crap posts? [I’m not bitter… I swear.] Why am I not losing this weight when I eat waaaay better than my sister?
Paralysis will set in again if you start comparing yourself with others. This journey belongs to YOU alone.
Keep moving forward. Ignore Facebook for a while. Give your sister extra dessert next time she’s over (just kidding… sort of). Focus on you and YOUR goals.
* Don’t compare who you are now to a past version of yourself. This is especially damaging.
Looking back at what you accomplished before kids, or how productive you were in your previous job, etc. won’t allow you to make progress; and your self-esteem will take a serious blow.
I would know about this one.
Before my daughter died a few years ago, my mind was sharp, and I could concentrate for hours. I’d even gone back to school. Now, there are days when my mind goes on vacation — and there’s no warning when its bags are packed. My brain wanders away and comes back when it’s ready.
Thinking about your other self will bring you down.
Keep looking forward at what you can accomplish now. That’s all that matters. I promise.
Reward Your Efforts and Celebrate
Celebrate every small, medium, and big win. I’m talking dance party with you, yourself, and you — in the middle of the day. Me, myself, and I will join you in spirit.
Go put on Uptown Funk. I dare you not to dance and belly laugh at the same time. [Especially if your moves are out of date like mine.]
Have a glass of wine with your Sweetie at the end of the day to celebrate some progress you’ve made. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Buy yourself a little bunch of sunflowers at the store.
Your efforts are worth celebrating. Accomplishing big goals is wonderful, but making an effort and showing up — that’s where the party’s at right there.
Whenever those feelings of defeat set in, or you assume you’ll never accomplish x, y, and z — remember those three important words. “Progress not perfection.”
Fight the urge to criticize your efforts, and don’t forget to celebrate those wins!
Jump in with both feet and start something you’ve been putting off. You’ll be so glad you did.
And guess what? It will push you to do better and better. Wait and see.
Gotta run. I hear Uptown Funk starting up…
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