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.