25/01/2015 um 18:11

making your perfectionism work for you

Abgelegt unter: Distracted by the Shiny
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It is kinda funny, but judging from my own experiences and what others say online, writing seems to be a masochistic occupation. There’s always something to complain about, not feeling good enough about or you just have plain old writer’s block. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live a life of misery, so I set out to find the reason I wasn’t happy. The perpetual drama of having to split my time up between the dayjob, the chores, if I ‘m lucky the meagre resemblance of a social life and the writing was making me unhappy. See, I’m a perfectionist, and I always want to do everything right. Quirky as my mind is, it then also builds in some roadblocks. I can only do A if B has been done, but to do B, I have to get C out of the way.

For a very long time I thought being a perfectionist is more of a hindrance at enjoying life than anything else, but it doesn’t have to be. I think, wanting to do everything “perfect” is actually a great thing, the trouble lies in what we define as “perfect”. Working against yourself never ends well, so I decided to tackle the problem from the other end: What makes me feel like I’ve failed my own expectations? I came up with the following observations:

  1. I need a plan. Without a plan, I don’t function at all, and then I feel like I’m failing at life in general.
  2. I like goals. Word count goals, time goals, etc… works great as a motivation, but often I push everything else back to meet the goal. Reaching goals is dandy, not reaching goals is not, obviously.
  3. I can get a lot of stuff done in the morning. In the evening, after work, not so much and only with great effort.
  4. I love to tinker with things and details until they are polished to perfection, often forgetting the bigger picture.

In the last two weeks, I run an experiment. My daily word goal was a mere 143 words, adding up to 1000 for the week. That’s nothing. Not even half an hour of writing. So I tricked myself into reaching the word count everyday with putting the bar lower, leaving me not feeling guilty and actually free to do other things around the house and on my tricked out to-do list. It worked like a charm. I also forced myself to do bigger tasks in smaller increments, giving myself a whole week to finish them. Very often I don’t start something because it feels like way too much. Breaking it into smaller parts prevents that and doesn’t kick me into the “OMG, why haven’t you done this yet?” vicious circle of shame.

Of course, there are still set-backs, mostly because I’m really not able to do anything productive after I came home, and there’s not enough time in the morning to do everything. At the end of the week though I still get to check off a lot of my to-do list for the week and the house isn’t in total shambles, which counts as a win for me. If writing taught me anything, than that every little bit helps.

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