Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I used to be a perfectionist, but I'm trying to improve

I've always been a bit of a perfectionist.
I asked my Mum about it, and she said I used to get angry when learning how to tie my own shoe laces as I couldn't do it as quickly or neatly as I would like! As I grew older this meant I was also honing my procrastination skills. I would almost become paralysed by the thought that I could never finish the task to my own standard and therefore didn't get started.  
Doesn't sound like much fun, eh?

For a long time, I wasn't really aware of being like this. I think it was probably when I started sixth form college that I began to realise that I wasn't being particularly kind to myself with this behaviour. However, even though I was more mindful of it I still found it very hard to act in a different way after so many years of practise. College wasn't the happiest time for me, but with the benefit of wonderful hindsight I think it was a period of important self-reflection.  

So, what has worked for me? Time, persistence and lots of self-encouragement mainly.
However, here are some of the other techniques and tools that have helped me along my way:

  • Timeboxing  - I found this some years ago and it really works. I use an online timer called Tick Tock or my iPod touch to set the amount of time to focus for. Until the timer goes off, I work solely on the job in hand and nothing else. I regularly use a timer for say 10 or 15 minutes and some times I'll give myself a treat when I'm done, like reading Philofaxy or having a cup of yummy redbush tea
  • Getting Things Done - David Allen's system has helped give me structure and ask myself the right questions to move forward. Two GTD questions you can use every day - 1) What's the successful outcome? and 2) What's the next action to make it happen? Even if you're not sure what the end result will be, you can always ask - what's the very next step (no matter how tiny) that will move this forward?
  • Aikido and karate - you don't really have much time for procrastination when some one's trying to attack you! (The links provided are for my aikido club and then the karate club I used to train with) Aikido has been (and still is) a very important part of my self development. I once thought it brought out the worst in me, as I would get very frustrated when I couldn't do the movement to the level I wanted. This meant it was invaluable training for the perfectionist in me, but it wasn't easy and I came very close to giving up. After one particularly tough class (not the actual class, just how I treated myself), I sat crying and swearing at myself in my car. Once I calmed down, I promised to enjoy aikido one class at a time and that was years ago now :)
  • Lots of good books, such as the Art of Happiness, The Tao of Pooh and the Happiness Project
  • Hypnotherapy and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) - over the years I have had both and feel they have helped me so much. (The links provided are the practitioners I have seen) I am also very lucky that my wonderful husband is an NLP practitioner too. I would thoroughly recommend you do some reading on these subjects, as I'm not sure I will be able to give the best explanation of what they are here. 
How am I doing these days? Much better! I think my main motivation for wanting to change was that it wasn't making me happy. Am I happier and a bit messier now? Absolutely :)

Thanks to Kanalt at Well Planned Life for the inspiration to write this post, after reading hers here.


  1. Great post, Anita! Thank you so much for linking to my blog. I've not done any further research on the subject, but I am still looking for ways to let go of the perfectionism. I might start keeping a list of the "imperfect" things i do just to prove to myself that the world will not end.

  2. Thanks, kanalt & you're welcome! I think you mentioned two very important words 'let go', which is some thing I'm constantly working on. I also periodically make a list of 'I should' things rattling around in my brain & find they're often unrealistic or unclear.