PARTNERS IN CRIME: PROCRASTINATION & PERFECTIONISM

You guys know I’m on a Podcast kick as of late, and I have a new one for you: Alen Standish’s Not Perfection Podcast! Alan is in recovery of an ED and is a perfectionist, a killer combo I know well (LOL.) Even if you’ve never dealt with an ED, but may notice unhealthy habits, procrastination, or mindless eating; I recommend taking a listen! Alan provides tools and techniques; and is supportive as he ‘normalizes’ things I tend to fabricate.

One of my favorite episodes was number 52 with Dr. Tim Pychyl. The focus was on Procrastination and Using Self-Forgiveness, Mindfulness & Planning.

What face do you make when you don’t wanna do something? Below is my ‘I don’t wanna‘ face. This is procrastination; an “emotion focused coping strategy.” We as humans want to feel good, so when the ‘I don’t wanna‘ feeling surfaces, we tend to go toward avoidance.

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Then, there’s being a perfectionist. Perfectionists live out the future and agonize over how things will turn out. There’s a perception that things need to be executed flawlessly in order to succeed or mark it as ‘complete’. We attempt to foresee the future, imagine the end result, and think about failing prior to even starting.

When the two are combined, Procrastination & Perfectionism, it can be an emotionally unstable mix. It’s a whirlwind of delaying, pushing things back, and negative self-talk; “thinking is our own worst enemy”.47899cefed68d846618c47da2428cc39-e1517540315889.jpgIn my recovery journey thus far, this is where I’ve seen the biggest shift. A few years ago, I was a chronic perfectionistic procrastinator: schoolwork, healthy choices, cleaning, completing errands, etc. I procrastinated any time there were feelings of fear, doubt, or anticipated external judgement associated with the task at hand.

PROCRASTINATION WAS A COPING TECHNIQUE (TURNED HABITUAL) FUELED BY MY PERFECTIONIST THOUGHTS.

So, how did I go from despising change and executing to completing my daily to-do lists, and having a detailed planned schedule? It’s all in following strategies and changing habits. 

Apparently, Dr. Pychyl and science agrees: even with change/trauma/getting older, our personality traits as humans stay pretty stable throughout our lives. Meaning, we can’t necessarily STOP or “recover” from being a perfectionistic procrastinator. However, we can make the strategies in preventing procrastination more habitual and require less thinking. The longer we put the strategies below into practice and make it a habit, the more effortlessly we’ll be able to execute. 

See below for Dr. Pychyl’s strategy for getting started. The mantra that encompasses the strategy is by Parker Palmer: “I will always have fears, but I need not be my fears – for there are other places in my inner landscape from which I can speak and act.” Which we can simplify as meaning: “I can have the feeling, but I don’t need to BE the feeling.”

STRATEGY

  1. PLANNING: Don’t make general broad intentions, make it very specific and concrete. Write it down & link it to a time. Philosophy of Action = intentions lead to actions.
  2. WHEN THE TIME COMES, ACKNOWLEDGE THE “I DON’T WANNA” FEELING. Recognize it emotionally, but remember I planned for it (step 1). NOW WHAT? You need understanding of these feelings, just exerting willpower won’t cut it. Willpower can excerpt negativity and quick burnout. We need to internalize that we have a  CHOICE of whether we recognize the feelings. This puts us back in the drivers seat, not the feelings.
  3. JUST GET STARTED: Execution time. Start somewhere, start small & don’t worry about the repercussions. Remember: if I don’t want to continue, I can stop.

SHIFT YOUR THINKING:

  • FUTURE-SELF: How does you future self want to feel at the end of today? “Bringing future self forward in time, helps me make the present self make better choices”
  • INTERNAL TALK: I am doing this to live the life I want to live.
  • EXTENDED WILL: Set environment up to help me, not hurt me.
  • EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE:
    • What am I gaining from procrastinating? Short term mood repair, delaying and distracting with food can make me feel good and relieved.
    • It makes me feel good now, but hate it in the future.
    • What’s going on that makes you compelled to avoid the task at hand? What is going on with your emotions.

 

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