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Dastardly sayings

May 24, 2006   

Yesterday, the theme was, “The more you know, the more you realize how little you know,” as pointed out in the comments by A_B. And I agree with that 100%

Today, it’s, “If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.” This one, I have to disagree with. Same with, “Don’t start anything you can’t finish,” which is pretty much the same thing. Screw that.

It’s an idea that I’ve always let rule my actions, and if not my actions, my judgment of those actions. And it’s been debilitating. I’ll look at a project and be filled with horror and stress at how long it’ll take to get perfect. I’ll look at the bathroom and know in my head exactly how long it’ll take, exactly how much work it’ll take to get it up to the level of shininess I think is acceptable, and think to myself that I don’t have that kind of time right now (which is always).

It seems so fricking obvious, but realizing that a hefty portion of my procrastination had to do with my inability to consider a half-done job as being ok progress has been really freeing.

Looking back at the last few years, this is so obvious that I want to poke myself in the head. Not that I know what that would accomplish. Anyway, it’s one of those things people constantly say, and you think to yourself, “Yeah, duh,” and roll your eyes that some moron thought they needed to put it into small words so that your small mind can understand it.

But seriously? I let it rule so much of me. I think I finally really get it, as it applies to me.

When was I most able to enjoy writing? When I shed the restrictions I had put upon myself, when I stopped micromanaging every word and phrase that came out of my mouth, when the month of working on NaNoWriMo flew by in a haze of triumph.

When was I able to lose weight? When I decided that I didn’t need to have lofty goals and be perfect and stick to such strict rules. It took so damn long before any noticeable change, but it’s been working and I’m still on my way.

When was I able to learn to exercise? When I decided not to put “real” exercise (i.e. working out in a “natural” way, not at the gym) on a pedestal and value the convenience that the gym offers. Well, I’m still learning.

The last week, I’ve been doing tiny little cleaning exercises — not enough that other people can tell, I’m sure, but enough that I can see how easy it would be to incorporate the small actions into my everyday life as a subconscious habit. No, the bathroom is not nearly as spotless as I think it needs to be in order to be considered clean. No, the kitchen is not reorganized yet. But I’ve been scrubbing sinks and tubs and toilets in the last few days in a matter of minutes per task. When I have something I’m waiting for, like food to heat up in the microwave, I whip out the vaccum and run it over the rug in the livingroom. No, I didn’t get the entire room, and no, I didn’t get the entire house. But the rug is almost dogfur-free, and it took me almost no time. I’ll get the other parts of the room when I’m waiting for something else. And something else after that.

Feeling like I don’t have to stick to my mother’s top-to-bottom routines has left me feeling quite free. Feeling like I can straighten half a table at a time has made me feel like it’s not a problem, it’s progress.

I can’t wait to figure out what other things I can apply this knowledge to.

Angry Chad
May 25, 2006 at 5:45 am

I’m a firm believer in “If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.”, but also in staying on top of things, especially in the realm of cleaning and organization. I don’t think “doing something right” necessarily means that you have to do it big. In fact, I often view the “right” way to clean as a “clean as you go” approach, and I think the same thing goes for similar tasks. Procrastination is what leads to ever bigger tasks. Stay on top of things, don’t let them spiral out of control, and you’ll never have that monumental task looming over you.

Some areas of my life that I apply this to:

Work – Deadlines are a bitch, but much less so as long as you plug away consistantly.

Working Out – Work out as many days during the week as you can, in smaller spurts, maybe 20 minutes. This way you don’t have to stress out about which day you can afford to set aside two hours on.

Yard Work – Do a little something each weekend, so you’re not wasting an entire day trying to catch up. Mow this week, edge next week, trim the hedges the week after that, ect.

Cooking – Don’t wait until after you’re done eating to start cleaning up. Done with that measuring cup? Rinse it out and put it in the dishwasher right now. Granted, Steph does most of the cooking, but I try to help her out when I can by cleaning up as we go.

I find that my overall mood improves greatly when I accomplish even the smallest of tasks; if I feel like I’ve made progress on something. When I get lazy and start taking days off from doing anything at all, I feel like crap and worry about what I’ll have to do to make up for it the next day.

May 25, 2006 at 10:42 am

I don’t think “doing something right” necessarily means that you have to do it big.

I think this was my biggest hurdle. The concept of “right” == “mom’s way” was so ingrained in me that it was difficult to understand that getting bits done at a time is also a right way to do things.

So in essense, the “right” that I’m rejecting is simply the full regiment of my youth. And I totally agree with you that smaller broken chunks are so much better to deal with on a day to day basis.

May 25, 2006 at 10:46 am

I forgot to mention that an anomaly in all this is that while my personal projects (as well as any schoolwork) suffered from this same problem, I generally have never had this problem for work projects. It does happen every so often, but it’s usually a burn-out issue rather than this must-be-perfect issue.

I wonder why that is.

May 25, 2006 at 11:56 am

man, this makes a lot of sense.. i think i also suffer from a paralyzing sense of perfectionism.. but hadn’t really thought of it in these terms..


Andre Alforque
May 26, 2006 at 11:03 am

Having never truly failed in life is an obstacle. One way to avoid failure is to not begin what you know you might fail at (a variant of, “if it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all”).

In my life, I have started but not finished, I have finished but not to the best of my abilities, and I have even failed. Life is about experiencing!

Take my photography for example. It’s not worth doing right (buying the right equipment, taking classes, vehemently studying other artists, et cetera), yet it is definitely worth doing.

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