Perfectionism, Procrastination and WTH

This past spring and summer brought me experiences I felt deserved inclusion in my book, Inheritances, and my recent illness has placed me in front of my computer more hours than time spent outdoors on landscaping activities.  October 1st was to be end of landscaping/gardening and the beginning of writing, reading, website and crafts season.

I’m ahead of schedule, it seems.

I admit to being stuck.   As I add the new thoughts to the existing manuscript – I re-read the old and think, “Why on earth did I think this book needed published?”

A question I’ve asked a thousand times over the past 7 years.

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My years spent as a so-called efficiency expert (my real job was to find efficient ways to collect and disseminate data – a database builder with a glorified title) taught me one huge and important lesson:

I have monumental issues with ‘Scope Slippage.”

If you’re not familiar with this term, I’ll give you an example:

“Tamrah, go on over to Unit D and fix them up with a tool to more efficiently report on what they do.”

An hour or three days pass

“So, Tamrah, how’s it going?  Any idea on when you’ll have them up and running?”

“Yes, most likely next week.  However, I have discovered that Units A, B & C actually have already collected 97% of the data that Unit D is responsible for reporting – they are not collecting their data in a manner that is easy to share, so I’m building their tools, so they can electronically share the data with Unit D and all they’ll then need is a way to add their two cents to the data.”

“Fabulous, keep me posted.”

Another hour or week passes

“Tamrah, where are we at on the tool for Unit D?”

“Coming along nicely – I found out that if we added in a couple of fields to collect a few other stats, we could greatly cut down on the work needing to be performed by Units F, H & I.   I’m implementing that and building the tool to receive the data for the affected Units.  We should be ready to go by next week.”

Twenty minutes later, in the bosses office

“Honestly, Richard, the whole damn show, Unit A through Unit ZZ needs to all be in one grande database.   I can map the entire thing for you and it is the most efficient way to approach this – the $$ saved will ginormous and with cooperation, it can be built quickly.”

“Sure, I hear you.  But there is not budget for that and, can you please, please, just build the tool for Unit D?”

This example is what some people dub perfectionism – enough never being enough.

Or procrastination – finding something new to do to avoid doing something you already signed up for.

I dub it the height of laziness – why do something twice or multiple times, when, with a little thought, planning and up-front work, you can save hours of labor later?  I know how to track Return on Investment – I can spend hours on designing something that will be easy to maintain, later….if I ever finish it…

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Inheritances started as a way to communicate the gifts we receive when a loved one is terminally ill.   The blessing of knowing time is limited and grabbing all the time we can, while we can.   I started writing it as my dad battled first lung, then brain cancer.

It was a small project and quickly completed.   Then my oldest son died. Quickly and unexpectedly from bacterial meningitis.

And I thought about how different the grieving process was for me between the two.  And added those thoughts to the manuscript.

Then my marriage and financial health started slipping away – I lost work, husband and home in a short time – I recognized the signs of grieving and realized how grieving takes place anytime we lose something from our daily routines…

Into the manuscript the ideas, coping mechanisms and gifts went.

Then, feeling as if I had lost nearly everything, I had a stroke and lost much of what I thought of as me.

And though I did not write for more than a year, post-stroke, my brain pondered upon the new lessons I was learning, knowing they, too, must be included.

See?  Scope Slippage.

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Nothing in my book is new – people have been grieving ever since we learned to love and form attachments.  We all, to a certain degree, carry the scars of our losses, the wisdom gained from those trials and we trod on, doing the best we can with what we’ve got and where we’re at.  Why on earth would anyone need to read about it?

I spent two hours on the phone recently, with one who is a designated beta reader- who has yet to read a single page of the manuscript.

And another 30 minutes or so today.

We talk often on a myriad of subjects, but quite some time has been spent recently discussing the reasons I’m resisting printing it out and delivering the manuscript for perusal.

I know it is not because of perfectionism – this beta reader happens to be one of the most well-adjusted folks I know, whose opinion of my work, whatever it may be,  I will accept – good or bad.

I have no fear of delivering what I deem to be a final draft and my reader declaring, “worst first draft, outline or idea I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

Not because that may not happen, but because I know I will be enriched by the experience no matter what the verdict.

So scratch fear of criticism, failure or less-than-perfectionism from the list of whys.

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I’m well known for my procrastinating ways – I always have a myriad of projects in some stage of completion.   Soon, I will pull out the quilt I started 3 years ago in the attempt to have it ready for Christmas gifting this year.

There are those in my circle who will tell you I never finish what I start.  This is categorically untrue.  I finish everything I start – sometimes decades after I started, and sometimes, finishing is accomplished by, “This project no longer contains any functionality for my happiness nor does it add to my daily routine.  It does not benefit anyone else, and will not detract from anything if let go.  therefore, letting it go is finishing it.”

I am a master at letting go.

To this end, I will admit, I’m not letting go of Inheritances, and cannot see ever doing so, though I’m sure I will go through the entire “Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?” test many more  times before birthing my creation to the public.

And so, procrastination seems a no-go, as well.

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The past few years have taught me that if I’m resisting, there is probably a very good reason for doing so.   Case in point, I resisted getting out and pulling weeds from an area this past spring – always finding something else I’d rather be doing, all while the litany of “just get out there and get ‘er done” played through my head.

Thank heavens I did not listen to my own internal nag, for into the weed pile would have gone the seedlings of wild poppies that I would not have recognized as being something I wanted to keep, rather than throw away.

This is just one example in a lifetime of many that have proved waiting (or procrastinating, if you insist) often pays off for me – the deepest troubles I’ve found myself in over the years were the times I pushed to ‘make it happen’ because “I Should” rather than I Must because I simply must.

So here I sit, doing my part by self-analyzing my reasons for resisting hitting the ‘Print’ button and delivering it to another set of eyes.

If I cannot, soon,  come up with a character flaw to explain my resistance, I shall wait, for obviously something else is going on.

Or I might not – maybe I’ll quit editing, print out the pages and deliver them.   Just to see what happens.

Maybe, just maybe, that which is needed to become un-stuck is only a beta read away…

Perfectionism

Remember my post regarding my tendency to say, “Good Enough” and move on?  Apparently, I lied… at least when it comes to work matters…

This past week reminded me of my perfectionism streak regarding work – my mechanic had asked me awhile back if I could take a look at a computer that had crashed – I laughed and said, “No, not my strong suit” and referred him to who I knew in town that does such things.

Apparently the local computer whiz has been busy with other things, for several people have called me back and said they couldn’t reach Mr. Whiz and couldn’t I please take a look at their crashed computer.

No…sorry….

“What do you do when you have computer problems?” they ask.

“I do a Google search, call the ex for advice before I try anything drastic and then set down to figure out how to fix it.”

“Well, then, can’t you do that for me?”

“No, because if I ruin my own computer through ignorance, I have no one but myself to blame – If I break yours, while charging you money for my tinkering, I’ll feel bad and I suppose you won’t be too happy, either.”

And so, I declined paying work a few times these past few months.

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Back to Mr. Mechanic – exasperated when he took another run at having me ‘take a gander’ at a laptop failing to boot, finally declared,

“Look – you said you’d like to have more work.   I’m willing to hire you.   I don’t care, as long as you try, I’ll pay you.”

With that kind of offer and my long-winded disclaimers spouted, I took it on.   And finally got to the pre-boot diagnostics tool half-way into the job and figured out the code and status listed means, “You need a new hard drive.”

I looked up how to take a laptop apart – – doesn’t look too hard, as long as you’re careful with the little plastic tabs when removing the keyboard.

I ordered the part and am now waiting for it to arrive to do my first ever, hard drive replacement on a laptop…

I’m nervous as hell…

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This whole scenario reminded me of a time when I had streamlined my section so well, I found myself unemployed.    Silly me, never streamline your section and brag about it when the economy has tanked and the boss would like to have more people in some other section than yours.

Que sera, I’d do it the same again, if I had the chance.  Stretching 2 hours of work to fit an 8 hour day drives me insane and I’d rather be unemployed and eating dry dog food than stay in a position like that.

But as the weeks of unemployment drifted on, I started to get frustrated.   I’d never gone unemployed for this long – never in 20 years had it been so hard to find a job I felt confident in applying for.

The counselor at the local WorkForce center called me one day and asked why I hadn’t applied for a database management job listed for my area.

“Because I’m not qualified.”

“Did you or did you not tell me that you built, maintained and ran all reports from a database for the local Animal Shelter?”

“I did say that and I did do that – but only because no one else had time to help me.  I read the book and figured out how to build a simple little database, but I wouldn’t say that qualifies me for managing a whole slew of databases on a government contract.”

“Of course it does – quit being humble and apply for it.”

I did  – – and got the job.  Which was temporary….

When I got laid off 9 months later, along with all the other temps, I had built 4 inter-connected databases, modified 14 others to play nice and pass along information from one to another and gotten rid of I don’t know how many spreadsheet templates floating in cyberspace.  I had also made it unnecessary to keep some 15 odd temps, including me, on full time.     Thankfully, no one else knew this at the time.

Back to Workforce I went – – this time, she didn’t trust me to look for jobs on my own.  She ran off a list of everything I was qualified to apply for.

I saw only two that I felt comfortable submitting my resume for.

Nope, I never learn…

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It’s not that I’m not aware or confident in my own skills set – it’s just that I read the whole “We Want” list and if I do not feel I can truthfully claim advanced skills in each item, I don’t apply.

I’ve been on the co-worker side too many times of those who claimed to know what they were doing, when they really didn’t.

And I’d hate to get fired for lying on an application…

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Next week I will dive in and try to do a job I’ve never done before – for a client who knows I don’t know, but thinks I can, anyways…

This is really awesome and no matter how it turns out, I’m sure it will be a game changer for me.