21 June 2012

Recovering Perfectionist

My  name is Autumn and I am a perfectionist.

The last time I remember being unattached to a rigorous schedule or rules of perfection was when I was 15, right before my dad got sick.

After my dad died in 2006, I guess I realized my own mortality and  joined every club possible in high school, went to as many events as possible, and kept a beautifully organized planner to keep track of all of my commitments. I threw myself into anything that I felt I'd belong, probably to fill the void of my dad's death.

I love planners. I love the feel of the pages turning day by day and week by week. I love using highlighters to color code commitments and reminders. I love writing a small description of the day's events or weather. I love crossing things off my to-do list. I tried digitizing and failed. Paper planners become part of one in a way digital planners cannot.

Depending on my schedule, I typically use a two page per week academic planner (what I first started out with) or a day per page planner, usually in a binder. Up until recently I exculsively used Franklin Covey, but received a DayTimer as a gift and felt it would be more frugal to use that.

Being a perfectionist, things have to be "just so," especially in a planner. I needed room for lists that wasn't there, the schedule section was too small, and I found myself hating the new planner so much I spent countless hours looking online for a new one, similar to the one I used last year with specific sections for a Prioritized To-Do List, Appointments, and Notes with ample room.

But I never found it. Each planner was too structured for my current less scheduled life. I didn't need my trusty 1" Ring-Bound binder to carry school assignments or vital information anymore, since I spend most of my time at home. I didn't need the detailed appointment times to keep track of two work schedules, know when I could meet a friend for a quick coffee break, schedule errand days, and know when to eat, sleep, and shower.

Right now, the only solid commitment I have is work, which is a simple "Work 15.00-23.00" on the page.

Knowing full well planners change as people and schedules change, I re-evaluated my needs for a planner and realized, for the first time in 7 years, I actually didn't need one. I looked through my notes in my planner, on my phone, and EverNote and realized most of what I wrote down was creative projects I wanted to finish, grocery lists, occurrences during the day, small reminders for when a bill is due, and recommendations.

And most of those were on post-it's since the days on the pages are so small they fill up quickly.

I didn't need a planner. A dated notebook would do just fine.

I looked around our apartment and noticed I neglected chores more than I did when I first got here, which probably isn't that great, but the beauty is I don't care. Things didn't have to be 100% clean all the time. I didn't need to have it together 24/7/365. I got physically sick when I moved here because I had been overexerting myself for so long and my body finally had time to relax. Imagine hiking through rigorous terrain on your own for two years and coming to a meadow that doesn't end. The overwhelming feeling of space took over my body and put it into shock.

Perfectionists tend to set higher expectations for themselves than others do; those expectations are often so high they're unattainable and perfectionists will do anything to get to that mark that notch. All or nothing; go big and go home.

And we tend to beat ourselves up pretty good when we fail to meet our own ridiculous expectations.

I'm using this time to find myself again, like I mentioned in this post and this post. I'm learning I don't need to participate in as many things as I thought: activities don't define me as a person. I can choose a few to dabble in and focus my efforts on those.

I threw out my 2, 3, and 5 year plan.

I threw out my wedding plans.

I threw out the list of schools I'd like to attend.

I threw out the work-out section I rarely used.

I threw out the meal planner and diet tracker I tried to implement.

I transferred the essential personal information, logs, and endless lists I rarely use, but would like to have -- to my phone.

The only things I have in my planner are a couple pictures of my family, the calendar pages, some yoga sequences I use, and a goal-oriented to-do list. I have a streamlined Moleskine daily planner on the way since I no longer need the binder.

I should've taken a picture of it before to show the monster I used to carry, but I was too busy annihilating useless pages.

My planner should be a tool, not an entity that dictates what I can and cannot do. My planner got me through some hard times, but it also enabled my perfectionism.

My mind is not meant to be structured right now. It used to be, since I needed a place to  keep track of my commitments while simultaneously prove how busy/organized/perfectly insane I was. 

I'm not saying organization is bad -- far from it. I love organization. I'm saying there is such a thing as over-organization and letting it enable perfectionism.

Let go.

Be free.

No one is perfect and you don't have to prove anyone you're as close to perfect as possible.

It's okay.

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