Overcoming Procrastination: Embrace Imperfect Action

I spent one whole day of my Spring Break 2020 in my yard. I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to taking care of my grass, trees, and garden. It’s not perfect but I enjoy the process. I like making things look nice. There is something about preparing, planning, planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting in your own yard. It takes work, research, and action, and the result can be amazing. One of my favorite rewards for all of this work is pickling cucumbers.

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Pickling cucumbers are different from slicing cucumbers.

I also enjoy mowing the lawn. For me, it is a mindless task that provides me time to think or listen to an audiobook or podcast. The end product is almost always awesome too! It looks so great after it is freshly cut. However, my lawn is far from perfect. I know I have patches of orchard grass and crabgrass. It is frustrating because these different types of grass grow at different rates. The yard gets ugly really quickly. I try to remember to fertilize, pull noxious weeds, and not use too much water. It is a lot of work throughout the year. It’s a big task, mostly because of how much lawn I have.

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First mow of 2020.

Procrastination

Let’s get to the procrastination part. I have seen some pretty epic lawns in the neighborhoods that I have lived in. There are people who take a significant part of their week to fertilize, spot water, and do other things to grow a uniform, level, green lawn. If I were to expect that kind of work from myself the first summer that I moved into a new house I would be very overwhelmed. I wouldn’t know where to start. I would worry about things that I don’t know how to do. I would be afraid of making the lawn worse.

Students People are the same way. If we were in my high school English class, and I want students to write an argument essay, I will have a percentage of students not start. They aren’t hesitant because they don’t know how to write. They aren’t hesitant because they don’t have an opinion about the topic. They are hesitant to start because they are afraid of forgetting important parts. Maybe they aren’t confident with providing textual evidence. Maybe they don’t know how to add transition phrases. They don’t feel like they have mastered the process.

This is where students and others freeze. They see others being successful. They see other students writing with no hesitation, no problem. They see beautiful green lawns from a distance. They assume that if they can’t produce perfectly right off, they shouldn’t even try. For them, it isn’t worth the stress and thinking that is expected. Their thinking produces anxiety and they freeze.

My lawn has issues. There are bald patches because high points are cut too close by my mower blade. There are dying patches because of rodents. I can’t stop taking care of my lawn because of those deterrents. I need to focus on what is possible. My lawn will not get better if I hesitate. It needs to be mowed. It needs to be watered and fed. I can take baby steps and see progress.

Imperfect Action

I was in a virtual meeting the other day with a professional speakers group in the mountain west. The focus of the meeting was to address the issue of the global pandemic and what we can do to share our messages when we can’t present in public. One of the panelists, Tiffany Peterson, talked about imperfect action.

Imperfect action is starting without knowing how things are going to turn out. It is believing that you can achieve your end result without knowing exactly how it will happen.

In so many ways, whether participating in personal hobbies, new business ventures, pursuing more education or participating in online distance education like students today, people are hesitant to take action.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be perfect action. We learn by doing. We make corrections as we learn.  We adjust our process, collect more information, try new strategies, talk to people, all in hope of a better end product.

Imperfect action is better than no action. Starting with an idea is better than just sitting there. Complaining doesn’t do anything for anyone.

Identify the baby steps that you are capable of doing. Start somewhere. Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the project. Pick something that you can do today.

Start today and keep trying

-Dave

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