The other day I was talking to a fellow entrepreneur about her current projects. She's amazingly resourceful and creative, but she struggles with the two things it seems we all struggle with these days: perfectionism and procrastination.
If you think about it, procrastination often stems from perfectionism.
You're creating something that means a lot to you and you're afraid that you're not doing your best, it's not ready, and therefore, you must stagger the release until it feels more complete or you feel ready to release it. However, this often means waiting too long or never finishing anything because it's never perfect or you're never ready for criticism.
Let's tackle this right now. Your future success depends on being able to "ship" things and being able to handle any feedback thrown your way.
Step 1: Remember whom you're targeting.
Let me get this straight - you've worked so hard on your creation and now you're worried about... what people are going to say? OK. People are going to say anything they want to say. However, not all "people" are equal (for this argument's purposes).
For example, there are your people and there's just strangers. Your people are the people you're trying to help; the people who get what you're saying; the people who hang onto your every word. Trust me, those people will never be mean to you.
Why would they be? If their intentions are pure, the most they can do is give you honest criticism that will help you improve the product.
That's not so scary, is it? If it sounds scary, you need thicker skin. :D
Step 2: Done is better than perfect.
I've been a perfectionist my whole life, so I get it. I have been guilty of spending years on books and days on a single graphic in Photoshop. You wouldn't be remotely wrong to call it a sickness. And it makes sense until you realize it's in your way.
You know how we're better at doing things when we have to do them? For example, when I was thousands of miles away from home, penniless, homeless, and jobless, I had to get on my bike, find a job and a house all in the same day. And I did!
My point is, when you see that your perfectionism is staggering your success, it will be a lot easier to tone it down. In my case, it was making me slow and stupid, not to mention broke all the time. I was making no money, no progress, and I wasn't even the person I wanted to be. The person I was kept criticizing, which doesn't help anybody.
You know the words by heart - you are not good enough, this looks awful, you can't do this, you're a failure, why can't you do anything right, and so on. This is the voice of your Inner Critic, and everything they say is WRONG. You will never be happy with anything you create as long as you listen to the little bugger. Which is why I came up with a strategy to kill it once and for all. You can find it in my free guide to starting a business.
Once you shut the bugger up, it'll be a lot easier to ship things without overthinking.
Step 3: Other Little Buggers
The Inner Critic is not the only bugger in your head - there's the Investigator (the one who goes over the facts again and again to understand how something could have happened), the Voice of Reason (the one that stops you from having fun and jumping into things if the consequences are uncertain), and many, many others.
Your head is a playground for these characters. Problem is - they're having fun at your expense. The more they play hardball with one another, the more afraid, anxious, and annoyed you become. This is why I like to repeat this mantra a lot:
Don't think, just DO.
Yoda said it first, but I turned it into my personal anthem. The minute my mind wants to go in circles or worry about the future, I repeat this mantra while I look for something to do. As a result, I've done more in the last six months than I've done my whole life. And if this isn't enough "proof", just do the math - every minute you spend on thinking is one less minute spent on doing. Not all thinking is bad, however, and It's up to you to recognize which kind of thinking gets you closer to your goals and which takes you away.
Step 4: It's all about habits.
We addressed your fear of people's opinions and shut perfectionism down (keep working at it). Now we need to work on establishing the habit of getting things done. As you may know, habits take up 40% of your actions, which means that if you make something so powerful a habit, you'll have even more hours in the day to be productive!
Have you read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg? If habits can dictate what we buy to how we cope with anxiety to what we do to our spouses, I think we can rely on them to get us to our dream destination. Think about it. Almost half of your day is a series of habits, with some short-lived, "out of the ordinary" moments. If most of your day is dictated by your habits, then most of your life is as well. The key to success isn't picking up some random habit from a listicle. It's turning your bad habits into better ones.
It takes time and a lot of repetition for the habit to settle, but once it does, you don't have to force yourself do anything. Remember what I said about not waiting for inspiration to write? When writing becomes a habit, you can write whenever.
P.S. If you want to develop the habit of getting things done, check this out:
Step 5: Plant a cheerleader.
After you kill the critic, you need to plant a cheerleader.
By "cheerleader" I mean a voice in your head that praises your every accomplishment. The minute you start noticing your achievements, even the little ones, you'll start feeling more accomplished overall. It's a law of psychics or chemistry or whatever.
(I actually dug myself out of depression once by keeping track of the most minuscule daily achievements. In time, they got bigger and depression poofed.)
You're not stupid. When your purse or wallet doesn't work anymore, you buy a new one. If your current mindset is not bringing you the desired results, you have to exchange it for something more efficient. Like the song goes,
If you wanna be somebody else... if you're tired of losing battles with yourself... if you wanna be somebody else, change your mind.
You need to give yourself some credit as well. You've come so far and achieved so much. But because we're taught that congratulating ourselves is silly and arrogant, we have forgotten how good it feels and how it opens us up for more achievement!
So I don't care whether you think if others think it's stupid, I praise myself regularly. It's the only thing that keeps my confidence high and my spirits soaring. Try it. :)
The million-dollar question: What do you want more?
Time to decide. And think about this carefully.
What do you want more: To feel "safe" and keep going as you have been OR give yourself a fair shot - to succeed, make money, be who you wanna be?
Which is it?
If you have been dissatisfied with your results lately and procrastinated quite a lot, you really need to choose once and for all. When I made my choice early this year, I finally felt like I've been given a chance to start over, and do it right this time.
You know the rest of the story. Now let's work on your story!
And tell me:
What stands in the way of you getting to live your dream life?