I’ve been hinting in “Done is better than perfect” that I’d like to share real methods and techniques that I use to work with my perfectionism. I’m certain that you can find good advice here. In this post we’re going to look at 6 of them that have turned out to be very valuable and practical. I start with one that’s very powerful.
The Perfectionists Diary
The gist here is simple: give inner perfectionist enough room so that they can have their way. I write down what he says. Typically it’s good and valuable feedback. The perfectionist sometimes believes he can’t reach the deadline, the graphics are not good enough, the story isn’t good enough. Everything sucks and everything’s horrible. Boohoo.
When you keep a diary of all those thoughts, they have a space to live in, but they don’t occupy your head anymore. They occupy the paper they are written on. As I said, all those “worries” are valuable feedback, but they get in the way of finishing.
A nice exercise is to look at what you’ve written in the past. When you read many of those “worry thoughts” in one go, you can see patterns what you are most worried about. What I find interesting is that it is interesting to find things that I once thought were impossible and now are integrated in my workflow. That gives a great feeling. *champagne*
If you don’t like to write a diary, some people suggest a fixed worry period per day or week where that perfectionist is allowed to talk, and the rest of the time you just do what you have to do. I like that idea too, and you might want to try it. Basically you set time aside, where the perfectionist is allowed to talk as freely as possible. The rest of the day you tell him or her that they get their space, just not now.
I like to keep uplifting quotes on my desktop. I collect them wherever I come across them. On Twitter, Facebook, Brainyquote. An app displays a random one on the desktop. Sometimes I look at it and it helps me to get things moving again.
Notes to Myself
Some years ago I have created “Notes to Myself”. Notes to Myself is a simple system. They are small little notes that I leave randomly around the place to keep myself reminded of certain things, e.g. that it’s more important to make something happen than it is to make something perfect. On my screen I have a small printout that says:
I work for my clients, not other videographers.
It keeps me reminded that feedback from other video folks is nice, but it’s most likely biased towards our profession. Feedback from the client is more important.
I have found they are useful in a lot of places. Put one on your bookshelf that says “I’m smart.”, and one next to your cleaning material that says “I can clean for myself.” You never consciously recognize those little notes, but after 5 months or so, they pop out to you again and make you think. Those moments are pure gold.
People who know me are well aware of the fact that I enjoy gaming a lot. I believe games are everywhere. They keep us young, moving, and alive. As gamer Minecraft is one of my absolute favorites. The Creeper is a hostile mob in the game.
What a Creeper does is easy to explain: the green creature creeps up to the player, silently, before he explodes and destroys everything around him.
In the game this usually happens when you’ve been building something meticulously and are so deep in thought that the world blurs around you. In that moment of deep consideration and thinking, you suddenly hear the creeper’s hissing, he explodes, and he destroys all your meticulous work. All that fiddling, and building, and considering, gone to dust.
I keep a creeper next to my work desks. The creeper reminds me of the thought:
There’s a creeper behind you. His sole purpose is to destroy your work. Can you really let that scary thought stand in the way of your dreams?
As I have been hinting to in this post, I have had great success with a multi-personality approach. To think that the perfectionist is a person that lives inside of me, but is not me me. Someone with their own thoughts and feelings. From a therapeutic standpoint this is a common approach. One thing that gets the ball moving for me sometimes is to think, that person’s got nothing to say. There’s a meme circulating the internet. It says:
When I feel like things are not moving forward and that person is getting too loud and in the way, I tell him to fuck off. It’s harsh, I know. But as harsh as it is, it’s sometimes just the right amount of harshness to get things going, and that is all that matters.