May 17, 2010
When is it better to actually DO a job rather than add it to your to-do list?
This weekend I had a problem. I had made a number of contacts during a conference in March and felt badly that I hadn’t yet written to these people. Yes, I know I should have done it sooner (that’s what marketing schools tell you to do), but I came back with a very bad cold and then other things kept interfering with my good intentions to follow through. The guilt was starting to build up.
To add to this delinquent correspondence was a pile on my desk of names (okay, lots of names that I have collected for some time now) and in my computer was an Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of names I am trying to keep track of. Therefore, when I decided I could no longer put off writing this latest group of contacts, I did something I tend to do when there is a whole lot of work to do: I organize.
I opened the spreadsheet and began to add new names. I also started to rearrange the list so it would be helpful when I had time to actually write those emails.
However, it soon struck me that my perfectionist, who had convinced herself that I should spend precious time prioritizing the list, would feel she had done something “productive.” A nicely organized list seems so, well, “organized.” In some ways, that may have been true. But I would only have been getting ready to do something in the future, and considering the number of people I have to contact, I wouldn’t have been nearly done with the list at the end of the weekend. I needed to get those emails written NOW.
Fortunately, my recovering perfectionist realized that, at the end of the day, the people I was adding to my list would be nicely included in a lovely spreadsheet, but I wouldn’t have had time to write to even one of them.
That’s when I stopped and wrote a few emails. Do you know what happened? I discovered that the feeling of accomplishment was greater than it would have been if I had made the perfect spreadsheet.
Today I have given myself the goal of writing five people (at first I was going to say ten, but decided that was pushing it) and will not bother with the spreadsheet until I’ve gone through the list of people I know I need to write.
My recommendation from this “lesson of a recovering perfectionist” series is to always ask yourself whether you absolutely HAVE to write that list, or whether it is an excuse or distraction from what you SHOULD be doing.
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