Confession: I’ve been wanting to start this blog for months, but a web of procrastination ensnared me. You see, I had the idea ages ago to write about living a chic life. By which I mean…
- Expressing your signature style in dress, grooming, home decor, and work
- Living with simplicity – being well organized, uncluttered, and minimalistic
- Practicing self-care – looking after your physical and psychological health
- Living an ‘inside out’ life – one that reflects your personal values rather than external standards of convention, social media, or other people.
I knew what I wanted. To write about my insights, both to cement what I was learning and to share the journey with fellow chic life aspirants. For my blog to be beautiful, so I’d feel inspired to write. And a French chic flavour, because that’s what I love.
I could have just begun writing – ideas flowed and nothing was stopping me. Well, there was something stopping me – moi.
Perfectionism and Procrastination
I had many excuses that ‘justified’ my procrastinating. Here are some:
- I’m not clear enough on who my audience is
- I haven’t written in so long – I probably need some kind of refresher
- The online world has changed and I don’t know what people are into
- It’s a Tuesday; I should start on a Monday
- I don’t know if I should use categories or tags or both
- I’m used to doing non-creative work at my desk so I should go to a cafe to feel creative
- I need to do more of that nebulous taskoid called ‘research’.
I also held a very high standard for myself. Before I could publish anything I thought it needed to be:
- Grammatically perfect
- 100% guaranteed free of typos
- Colossally wise and insightful
- Witty and charming
- Breathtakingly original.
That level of perfectionism works against starting, much less finishing, anything. When I think of my favourite writers, there isn’t one who is consistently all the above – how on earth did I expect I would be? Can you think of anyone who always gets everything right? It’s so silly to apply standards to ourselves that we don’t apply to the rest of the world. No wonder I was mired in procrastination.
And then I remembered something: a key purpose of this blog is to collate lessons I’ve learned and teach myself lessons I want to learn, right? Well, clearly I need to learn about getting started.
So, I asked myself, eyebrow raised, what lessons do I need to learn about overcoming perfectionism, beating procrastination, and getting started? Hmmm…
Can you think of anyone who always gets everything right? It’s so silly to apply standards to ourselves that we don’t apply to the rest of the world.
4 Lessons To Stop Procrastination And Get Started
Here’s what I came up with:
Lesson 1: Accept that procrastination happens because starting is hard
The inertia we feel is not a sign we should delay or try something easier. Getting into motion is hard for everybody. The distinction between those of us who begin, who break the ice on projects that hold meaning in our lives, is not whether we struggle, but whether we persevere.
It could be a blank page, a new exercise plan, or a decision to change – resistance is universal. It’s what we do with our resistance that makes all the difference.
The inertia we feel is not a sign we should delay or try something easier. Getting into motion is hard for everybody.
Lesson 2: Be prepared to let the sediment out
Think of the brown gunk that comes out of a tap when you first turn it on. You don’t give up and say, well that tap’s no good, I guess I’ll give up water. Nor do you expect to come back another day and find the water has magically cleared itself. No, you keep the tap on, let the water flow in all its icky gunkfulness, until you flush the sediment out and the water runs clear.
Which means you have to…
Write rubbish to find your flow and show yourself what you’re tying to say.
Exercise in an awkward and uncoordinated way until your muscles adjust and your body learns.
Produce malodorous dishes to build your culinary skills (I don’t cook, so I don’t know if this is true, but I do enjoy saying ‘malodorous’).
Procrastination won’t save you from the awkward stage – it will be waiting for you however long you put things off.
You can’t lounge in a corner sipping a martini and wait for the good stuff inside you to emerge, resplendent and fully formed, and declare, Hello, world! To start anything, there’s no avoiding initial ineptitude, clunky turns of phrase, physical gawkiness, flirtations with food poisoning. It’s a journey – and the only path to elegant is via clumsy.
You can’t lounge in a corner sipping a martini and wait for the good stuff inside you to emerge, resplendent and fully formed, and declare, Hello, world! It’s a journey – and the only path to elegant is via clumsy.
Lesson 3: Allow yourself to be mediocre and let go of perfectionism
After Lesson 2 you may think ah, well I’ll tolerate some early ick and then my true genius will flow forth and flood the globe. But no.
Even after the water clears, most of us are only… okay. We’re not that special. Unique, certainly, and with a right and some say responsibility to express what’s in us. But most likely our contribution won’t be earth-shattering. Perhaps not even earth-scratching.
And that’s fine. Being in the arena is what counts, as Roosevelt so stirringly said. Dancing our dance, creating our art, improving our relationships, raising our standards, doing what we feel called to with passion and integrity and care. It’s more than many achieve, and worthy of our pride.
You’ll scare yourself into never starting if you expect to change the world. Express what’s in you and you will change your world – the lives of people around you, maybe some, maybe many.
Show up and be who you are. This freedom alone can help you overcome procrastination.
You’ll scare yourself into never starting if you expect to change the world. Express what’s in you and you will change YOUR world.
Lesson 4: Realize that tomorrow is a mirage
I will start soon.
No, you won’t. ‘Soon’ is a lie. ‘Later’ is never coming. You won’t start your new health regime on Monday. Or give your relationship the attention it needs after this work project. Or begin the art class you’ve had on your list since 2012 as a New Year’s Resolution. Monday, tomorrow, soon… are all illusions.
If something matters to you and you’ve been meaning to get to it since… well you’ve stopped keeping track, then here’s what you, and obviously I, need to know.
There is only ever one time. Only ever one moment that matters.
And that time is now.
My friend, let’s start.
PS I wrote this on a Tuesday, not Monday; in my studio, not a cafe; imperfectly; with low expectations; and with brown sediment spilling all over my keyboard.