Being At Our Best or Being Too Perfect –
Thoughts to Re-Evaluate Your Personal
and Professional Goals.
By Gilda Tavenese, MSW and Sonny K.H. Wong, M.Ed., RP
Procrastination is a common habitual behaviour that can plague even the most highly successful people. This behaviour is quite common, but most often it is accompanied with worries. Individuals caught up in this vicious cycle find it difficult, but not impossible, to break. Especially during this time of uncertainty–you may find yourself engaging in procrastination more than usual. Rather than giving advice, let’s explore what may be happening in our daily lives that is causing us to procrastinate.
Procrastination Appearance: Merriam-Webster defines procrastination as: “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”. Often, we know what must get done in our daily lives but there seems to be more distractions at our fingertips–our cell phones for example, walking to the refrigerator for a snack, YouTube videos, and so much more. However, from a psychological perspective–procrastination is a defense mechanism used to avoid engaging in something because the self does not want to complete the task and face being evaluated. Our society has somewhat defined procrastinators as lazy, but this is far from reality.
Productive Procrastination: It is silly to say that procrastination can be productive. However, before self-identifying as lazy–take a moment to reflect on the ambiguous stage of “productive procrastination”. Are you pausing to reflect, strategize and to cautiously proceed? The best course of action to take is to begin with how a behaviour is viewed, namely our internal dialogue. If your internal dialogue is helping you choose the best course of action, then rest assured you are not lazy or procrastinating–you are striving to be at your best. For example: You may be a job seeker trying to find employment. It will take time for you to construct a resume, cover letter, and analyze your thoughts about what is meaningful work. All these steps involve cautious planning. You only have one chance to make a good impression on your employer. Cautious, deliberate, and well thought out actions is a form of productive procrastination because it increases your chances of goal actualization, even if you failed. You will be able to go back to retrace your steps, to strategize and be at your best for next time. However, if your internal dialogue is telling you that your resume is not good enough–and you are seeking the opinions of your friends, peers, former colleagues, and engaging in edits after edits without applying for a single job, then you may be avoiding the action of getting an interview where being evaluated by others may be frightening. Worse than being frightened – you will never know if your resume is effective or not because you never sent it out to be evaluated for employment. Therefore, what is your goal? It may be time for you to consult a career counsellor to address procrastination rather than job search skills.
Counter-Productive Procrastination: Let’s explore procrastination that is counter productive to your desired goals. It is often accompanied with negative self talk, guilt, and extreme worries. Perhaps it is because you are striving for absolute perfection rather than to be at your best. Focusing on perfection is not productive. This focus can hinder your hopes, wishes and dreams. For example – when seeking a career or employment success – your internal dialogue may say to you ‘just one more Netflix episode and then I will get to it’. With counter-productive procrastination, it is initially disguised as enjoyable and entertaining. We now have more distractions than ever before through social media and the internet. With job searches generating professional connections, all done on the world wide web, we can easily go down the internet rabbit hole, which can consume an alarming amount of our time. Procrastination can be our new habit in this new normal since we are relying on technology for our personal and professional interactions.
The simple act of recognizing that if we are striving for perfection or thriving to be at our best can shine light on procrastinating behaviours. Letting go, even to a small degree, the desire to complete a task perfectly can shift from thriving to be your best to achieving your goal. You may not achieve your goal this time but thriving to be the best will ensure there is a next time. Whereas wanting to be perfect may just keep you at that unknown, frightened-to-be-evaluated stage with little outcomes. We can change our own behaviours with gentle encouragement and self exoneration. It can be a struggle, but with continued effort procrastination can be kept at a minimum, giving room to more productive times ahead!