Welcome to day four of our special time-management clinic with renowned life coach and bestselling author, Wendy Jago, whose brand new book, How to Manage Your Mammoth: The Procrastinators Guide to Getting Things Done, is published by Piatkus this month.
Today’s clinic will address one of the most commonly attributed causes of procrastination – perfectionism. If you find a need to achieve perfect results is holding you back, today’s clinic may be just what you need to break the habit and realise your full potential.
For those of you who missed our previous clinics, every day at 4pm for the next few working days we will be posting Wendy’s answer to one frequently asked time-management question here on PiatkusBooks.net. The aim is to inspire our readers to conquer their own time-management mammoths!
The clinic also offers an exclusive opportunity for you to have your questions answered (for free!) by one of the most well-respected coaches in the time-management and neuro-linguistic programming field. So do please leave your own time-management questions in the comments section below and Wendy Jago will answer them for you!
Q. I spend so much time worrying that my work has to be perfect and I have to get the right results that I often don’t start the jobs I need to do until too late in the day and then they never seem to work out. Can you help?
You know why you don't get started on stuff – being late and in a rush is a way of making sure you never run the emotional and professional risk of being criticised or found inadequate when you know you have done your best. High stakes indeed. But a short-sighted coping strategy, as you also know.
Chances are this goes back a long way. 'What happened to the other 2%?' the father of one of my daughter's school friends asked when he got 98% in an exam. This kind of thing can leave a powerful and lasting impression. Having a task to do for someone else (and that means most tasks at work, of course) makes you feel vulnerable and ungrown- up.
First step is to do some historical detective work. How, when and where did you get the idea that less than perfect just wasn't good enough? You may know the answer at once, or the cause may have been buried because it hurt or rankled, so it may take time to come to the surface. Sometimes just knowing is enough: you can remind yourself that then was then and now is now. You are not a child any more, and you know what you can and cannot achieve. If it would help to talk this through with someone – a friend, colleague or professional helper – allow yourself to do so.
Second step is to be firm and realistic about the job that you're putting off. You have an idea of what would be involved if it were to be done perfectly – but is perfect what's actually needed here? If you boss has asked for a briefing document, she will probabably prefer bullets, questions and short phrases to a reasoned argument, and a single sheet to a six-page document. If you are in doubt, ask. By getting smeone else to describe what will satisfy them, you give yourself a clearer target. You have redefined perfection, and made it more achievable. This is really important, because it lowers the threshold while at the same tme respecting your wish to do a good job. This is as true for interpersonal issues as it is for tasks at work. The psychologist DW Winnicott coined the significant phrase 'the good enough parent' to describe what in his experience children really needed. Not perfect parents, but good enough ones. Many of my clients have found this phrase gave them a really powerful and helpful touchstone for judging their aims as well as their actual performance.
You may find some help with old messages and old hurts in Chapter 8 of How to Manage Your Mammoth 'Historical Mammoths'. In addition Chapter 10 of How to Manage Your Mammoth 'Bite-Sizing Backwards – your personal path to achievement' introduces you to key NLP principles for framing goals that are actually achievable.
How to Manage Your Mammoth is available from all good bookshops. This title is also available as an ebook so you can add it to your Sony ereader, Kindle, Kobo or iPad.
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