Procrastination: How To Solve A Problem Like The Perfectionist I Oxford Open Learning

Procrastination: How To Solve A Problem Like The Perfectionist

Perfectionism is not, in and of itself, a negative trait. Perfectionists are often conscientious high achievers; our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength. But those trying to be constantly perfect can find that every task feels like an unconquerable burden and every essay a path to failure, however unlikely our friends and family might find our doom-laden predictions. Here are three thoughts to use to beat the unrealistic idealism that may currently be beating you.

1. “I am aiming for my own version of perfect.”

What is perfect, anyway? Maybe you could decide. Perhaps perfection could simply mean sitting down at your messy desk, ignoring the clothes on the floor, and spending 10 minutes planning the first half of your essay. In this deeply imperfect and challenging world, if you were to be reasonable with yourself, your definition of perfect should, and could, be different. Redefine perfection: make it doable and make it your own.

2. “I don’t HAVE to do it; I GET to do it.”

A to-do list is a depressing sight, if, at every item, we are telling ourselves that we ‘have to’ or ‘must’ do this or that. But turn ‘have to’ into ‘get to’ and suddenly life seems more joyful. Perhaps it is an irritating piece of advice, an unwelcome call to simply have more gratitude, but studying is essentially an overwhelmingly positive thing. You are learning and growing, and you have access to great materials and educated teachers; you are lucky. And so, even if it feels at first like you are lying to yourself, tell yourself, next time you inspect your to-do list: “I get to plan my essay today”.

3. “A perfect dissertation is a finished dissertation.”

We will do it, but we are waiting for the perfect time when we are in the mood. Because we know we can do it well, and not just well but REALLY well. And so that is the aim. This isn’t laziness, for the fear is real: we cannot bear to submit anything less than our best; we cannot tolerate failure; and we want to be proud of what we have achieved. We have visualised (or we think we have) the perfect essay or assignment. But the truth is that you have a deadline. Perhaps you could achieve perfection if you had eternity to complete it. But you don’t. Most tasks have a timeline, whether it is 6 years to complete a part-time PhD, or one night to finish an essay. And the test is not what you can achieve, but what you can achieve in the time you have to complete it. The definition of perfect might simply be this: finished.

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