Friday, May 16, 2008

Procrastination and Perfection

It's a habit I developed in college. My theory was that I produce the best work I'm capable of when I'm under a deadline. It seemed to work for the most part; I always got things completed and they generally were of high quality.

Sometimes I think I developed the procrastination bug as a means of dealing with perfectionism. When I was younger, I wanted everything to be perfect. Everything had its place in my room. Everything had a purpose. But once I got to college, I think I might have started to wonder if I could measure up. So, I developed the procrastination habit. That way, I knew the deadline and could push myself for high quality work. Of course the downside was that I endured endless bouts of stress - all self-induced - and then breathed a huge sigh of relief once the project or paper was completed.

But now that I freelance, sure, I have deadlines I have to meet. But sometimes, those deadlines are far away, and I procrastinate and tell myself I can do it later. And then it is a week before deadline and I'm stressing to complete the article and email to the editor.

Take yesterday's deadline. I've known about it for over a week. Of course I had other deadlines interspersed in that time frame, but I kept telling myself I could get it finished in about an hour. And I would have - if I had not been summoned to help with moving cattle (even though all I had to do was stand on the corner and keep that out of our yard - which is much harder than it sounds because it took three of us!!

But the article was about auto racing and I wanted it to sound professional, but at the same time, I wanted to include racing jargon that added a little color to the mix. It needed to be edgy but not over the top. When I finished, I counted the number of terms and had 15. Hmmmm. Is that too many?

So I called my favorite editors - my parents - and forced them to listen to it.

So I edited it one more time - to guarantee perfection - and then hit the send button.

I am sure I could accomplish more every day if I didn't think every single article I wrote needed to be perfect. But I think it is important to establish strong relationships with the editors who trust my work. So, I'm sure the procrastination - perfection circle will continue to trick me. At least for a while.

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