I have a tendency toward perfectionism. I am a borderline control freak. Okay, more than borderline. And the irony -- or is it the paradox -- is that the more I try to control everything, the more half-assed a job I do on more things.
In 2006, I started keeping a list of the books I read, broken down by quarters (Spring 2006 to Fall 2013). It started innocently enough, because I would see a book and think, when did I read that? Did I finish it? The list was helpful, especially since it showed me a historical record of where some of my ideas might have come from, as when I read two books simultaneous (one in print and one audio, say) or close together. Then, this year, I got the bright idea to include movies and podcasts in the list, and it immediately went from a nice, helpful, easy to maintain list to a nightmare.
I cut everything but books out of the list, saved the file to overwrite the old one, and resisted the temptation to keep the more complete file. If I kept it, I might go back and start updating it, and that kind of think I can't go on doing. I need to do less, expect less, demand less, and maybe that way I can do those fewer things, the really important things, better. Better in the sense of more mindfully, without feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, without having my concentration divided.
As I look at the piles of papers and files and books on my desk, I know there are other things I need to stop trying to do, things that aren't vital and that distract me from things that are vital. But I don't have to stop trying to do them all at once. Trying to do that would be perfectionism in pursuit of ending perfectionism. Instead, I will try to reduce my perfectionism: gradually, manageably, imperfectly.