We all love the idea of starting something new, be it a relationship, a job, a business, a writing project or a keep-fit regime. The challenge comes, however, when we have to put those wistful thoughts into action.
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where no matter how much time and effort you seem to invest in a particular project, you just don't seem to be making the expected progress? It happens to us all, and if that's the case, you may find you have become the victim of what I have come to call the 3P's.
When it comes down to starting something new many of us find ourselves waste a large proportion of our most valuable assets (time, money and effort) on the three 'P's. Planning, Perfectionism, and Procrastination rather than taking action. You will become obsessed with and focused on what you think needs to be done in future, striving for perfection or procrastinating over way too many choices, rather than just focusing on and delivering the results that matter today. It's a common problem but one that you will need to overcome or at least mitigate and manage if you want to be able to gain enough traction and momentum to actually complete your projects and get the outcomes and results you desire.
Let's take a quick look at each of the three 'P's in a little more detail so you can recognise the warning signs and behaviours that create undesirable outcomes and take the corrective action that will put you back on track.
While some planning is useful for setting core strategies, primary direction and timelines, doing too much of it does have a considerable detrimental downside. The problem with planning is that it's mostly guesswork, based upon no more than assumptions, hypotheses and uncertainty. Many who strive to start a new routine or project can quickly find themselves stuck in a constant cycle of non-productive "action planning", a kind of proactive procrastination if you like. The end result is that they never achieve anything of any real substance. Yes you may have hundreds of great ideas, aspirations and desires in your back pocket, yes you may plan loads of stuff, and yes you may have filled your time with "busy work", but let me ask you a simple qualifying question:
How many completed projects will you be able to hold your hands up to in the next three, six or even twelve months? Unless you can control planning and focus on action and execution, my bet is not many.
Getting stuck in a never-ending spiral of perfectionism is one of the most common afflictions facing those starting something new. Many mistakenly believe perfectionism to be a good thing and a condition to be continually worked towards. While striving to deliver your best is, of course, an admirable quality, it's also essential to keep in mind that perfectionism is often subconsciously used to disguise delaying tactics emotionally. Perfectionists are often perceived as high performers when in fact the very opposite can be true, with many lacking self-confidence, having feelings of overwhelm, doubt, insecurity and a wanting to avoid failure at all costs, which of course they can't. Perfectionists are rarely prolific performers because they spend so much time and effort seeking "perceived" perfection that delivery is often conspicuous by its absence. How many great artists, award-winning actors, writers, musicians and business people do you think exist in the world right now? Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions? We will never know because their work will remain hidden from the world in a constant state of "rework and improvement". Don't make the mistake of thinking that perfection equals performance. In the real world, that's rarely the case.
Just as perfectionism can be an emotional way of putting a respectful spin on delaying tactics, so procrastination can also be an emotional disguise for lack of interest, motivation, purpose and commitment. No matter how much you may idealise the "the end result" if your heart and soul are not in it, procrastination will take hold very quickly. In essence, procrastination is simply a cognitive response or story that we tell ourselves to justify our inaction and lack of progress. Procrastinators will often find themselves overwhelmed with choice, get stuck in ruts and generally lack organisation, purpose and direction. This is why identifying your real goal is so critical. Those with true love and passion for what they are doing rarely if ever cite procrastination as a hindrance to productivity or performance. If you find yourself continually procrastinating it might be wise to take a good hard look at what you are doing, and why it matters. It could, of course, be that you have drifted a little over time and need to realign to what's important for you. A quick re-evaluation of your purpose and mission will quickly see you back on track focusing on objectives, outcomes and results that really matter. Procrastinating is not all bad news, though. Recent scientific research has shown that mindful procrastination can be extremely valuable in the fields of decision making, idea creation, and solving complex problems. Like everything, balance throughout is the key.
© 2019 James Kingham | All rights reserved.