You don’t have to be perfect every day. It’s the consistently coming back to your work that matters.
When we commit to a goal, we want to go all in. We swear that we’ll run every night after dinner. We buy a new planner and decide to put in two hours of uninterrupted writing after everyone leaves the house in the morning.
And why wouldn’t we make these plans? Obviously, we want to do things right and so we turn into a little bit of a perfectionist. All in the name of The Mighty Goal, of course.
The problem is that inevitably, life happens.
Your plan works for three days or even three months, but then you get busy. A parent gets sick, you commit to mentoring an aspiring painter, your son moves out of the house and for some reason you find yourself doing all the planning.
When we fail at following through on our perfect, this-shows-I’m-really-committed rules the consequences are serious – at least for our self-esteem.
“What’s wrong with me that I can’t get this done?”
We must be failing because we’re lazy, right? Or incompetent, crazy, not committed enough, maybe?
The problem is not us. It’s perfectly human to fall off the wagon. I’m sure even Obama slacks off on things from time to time. The problem is that when we “fail”, we look for internal reasons why we can’t make things happen. But most of the time, things are not that deep or dramatic – it’s just that life keeps happening regardless of our good intentions.
And that’s actually okay. It’s to be expected even.
How to overcome procrastination
What matters is a) that we set kinder, more realistic goals for ourselves (Baby steps rule!) and b) we come back to our work faster after we’ve procrastinated or wandered off the path.
The key to being where you want to be in a year lies in your ability to come back to your work consistently. Not to be perfectly productive every day.
Viewing your life in this way helps you overcome procrastination by taking away the paralysis that follows it.
It’s the coming back that matters most. Not your ability to be productive every day.
Also, just as a heads up: There’s hardly anything I manage to do every single day. And yet I get things done.
When I get derailed the next day (or the next, or the Monday after) I come back to my work and I pick up where I left off. And in doing so I’ve been able to make more more progress in the last five months than in the last year.
I published new articles roughly every 2-3 weeks this year (an improvement to the publish-every-week-sprints (perfectionism) followed by months of silence (hiding after failing the perfect follow-through)). I’ve redesigned my website and I’m so proud of what it looks like now.
This is what progress looks like. Slow, somewhat consistent progress. Which mostly comes down to the permission and courage to come back after we’ve failed Perfect Productivity.
How would your life be simpler if you started to focus on consistently coming back to your goals?