For most – if not all – of my life, I’ve been a perfectionist.
And there have been times when that’s come in handy.
Like in coding, learning (but not performing on) the piano, and working at a medical imaging facility.
However, my perfectionism has also led me to waste much of my time on needless meticulousness, and to be unduly critical of some of my work/undertakings in various settings and stages of life.
In addition to my ravenous internal drive for perfection, I’ve also at times struggled with a sense of guilt for not feeling or seeming busier.
Which reminds me of an interesting video I once watched of a presentation by Adam Grant, on the creators of Warby Parker:
They delayed. They “dawdled”. They deliberated. They dreamed.
Then, after all of that, they finally decided and did. After extensive incubation, they executed their plans.
But those plans required a season of awkward appearances and seeming slothfulness to formulate.
To a potential investor such as Adam Grant, these young creators probably seemed, at best, a bit flighty, immature, or disorganized. At worst, they appeared lazy and unmotivated.
A gestational period was required for their ideas and business plan to solidify and transform into the truly intelligent, well-considered, executable strategy that made Warby Parker successful.
Yet to Grant, in the time prior to the launching of their business, these creators didn’t exactly seem “busy” or conscientious enough for entrepreneurs.
However, their minds were busy thinking, gathering data, processing, innovating.
Impressions and Incompletion – Tying Busyness and Perfectionism Together
“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most. You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.” – Adam Grant
Perfectionism causes us to be critical of our failures and lose the motivation to keep trying, because we’re focusing on what isn’t and what “should” be, rather than leaving the doors of our minds open to what could be.
Busyness prevents us from even allowing ourselves the time to fail or succeed. We don’t have time to come up with rotten ideas or golden ones. We don’t have time to think, because we’re too busy doing what we – and seemingly everyone else – believe we ought to be doing.
Demands upon ourselves or others – for perfection or perpetual busyness – are black holes which can never be satiated. The sense of accomplishment from such efforts will nearly always be missing, and there will always be something more to “perfect” or “do”.
Only when we come to terms with “good enough” – with the concepts of “finished”, “acceptable”, and “adequate” – can we eventually lose our compulsion to strive, and our feelings of restlessness, apprehension, and resentment when everyone else is too weary or overburdened to contribute any more to the “completion” of our never-ending list of objectives and expectations.
Without this acceptance, it is incredibly challenging to live peacefully within or with others. We may frequently default to tearing ourselves and others apart for not contributing more, achieving perfection, or “staying busy”.
Staying busy can give us the feeling that we are accomplishing something. And of course, true productivity does require a certain measure and form of busyness – even if that busyness transpires primarily in one’s mind.
However, to simply be “busy” is not necessarily to be productive, or to be making optimal use of time.
We can be busy cleaning and recleaning every inch and corner of the bathroom sink and counter – terrified that we might have missed a millimeter. We’re staying busy, but not exactly being productive with our time.
We can stay “busy” with lots of activities and events we don’t even care about – engagements that feel like a waste of time but look good or seem socially acceptable. However, if these activities are not serving to hone or engage our abilities, skills, and interests, then they are generally a waste of time. And such engagements can be doubly unproductive – or potentially counterproductive – if you’re an introvert like I am. As introverts, it is imperative that we carve out ample time for reflection and recharging. Without the allowance of sufficient “lazy”, “quiet”, nonsocial/”inactive” (i.e. thinking, rejuvenating) time, it is difficult to be productive at all.
Sometimes, the most productive thing we can do is say “no” to an engagement or activity, and instead use that time to sit back and reflect (and/or read, research, write down our thoughts). It is this activity which allows us to realign ourselves with our values, goals, passion, and creativity. It allows us to make intelligent plans and ensure that our physical busyness and efforts are worthwhile, and not wasted due to insufficient forethought.
Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. – Thomas A. Edison
Plan, prepare, ponder. Then perspire.
And be willing to do it all imperfectly. ❤
© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved