Welcome to Episode #47. This is Kristi Angevine, and I’m your host. Today, I'm going to explain where the most effective ways to get yourself out of the straitjacket of procrastination, second guessing, and perfectionism. Listen in to find out more.
Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.
Hey, everyone. I really just love picturing all of my longtime listeners tuning in while you're on a walk, on a run, on your commute, a call shift. So, hello to you, wherever you are in the world today. And if you're new to the podcast, welcome to the podcast. I'm so, so very glad that you're here.
If you haven't yet gone back to earlier episodes, and you're wondering maybe where to start, here's what I recommend. I recommend you start with Episode number 1. And then, the most popular ones so far include Episode 3, Episode 6, and Episode 7. So, go back and start with number 1. Of course, I think number 2 is also pretty great, as well. But number 1, number 3, number 6, and number 7 are great ones to start with.
Now, a couple of weeks ago, I talked about the topic of self-compassion. So, if that's something that you struggle with, and you didn't catch Episode 45, check that out after this one. Because this week's topic is actually related to that, in a way that might surprise you.
I want to start off with a little behind-the-scenes share. When I first started this podcast, I could easily spend 10-12, maybe 15 hours, writing, editing, revising, and basically torturing myself over what ended up being a 25-minute podcast episode.
I really wanted to make sure that what I shared was relevant and interesting and pragmatic and fun to listen to. And at first, the only way I knew to do that was just to fall back on my old ways of spending lots of time on a task. Well, I learned pretty quickly that this approach was not sustainable.
Now, a part of my initial labor-intensive approach was simply because of unfamiliarity with podcasting as a medium. But most of it was based in perfectionism and fear, to use Internal Family Systems terminology. There was a part of me that wanted to make sure the episodes were as perfect as possible.
Why might that be? Well, because this part of me, was really scared of the possibility of people not liking the podcast. And if that happened, I imagined this abysmal public fail, doing something that was really important to me. Now, let's take it deeper; what would be so bad about that, an abysmal public fail? Well, to this part of me, failure was proof of my inadequacy. And that was to be avoided at all costs.
So, in order to create podcast episodes, without it taking forever, I had to look at my fear of failing, and my fear of judgment from others, and from myself. And then, I had to use the exact things that I'm going to talk to you about today.
Today, I'm going to tell you one of the most effective tools that will help you get out of perfectionism, second guessing, and procrastination. And this tool is called, “B- work.” Now, sidenote, this topic is super timely, because I used everything about this topic in order to create this particular episode. And, make sure that this particular episode went out on time.
Here's what happened: A really bad cold and upper respiratory infection hit our house last week; and, it hit us in a staggered fashion. So first, we had one kid really sick and staying home from school. Then, we have the next kid really sick and staying home from school. Then, my husband started feeling absolutely horrible. And, I was the last one to get it.
But the fever and the malaise got to me right as I was prepping for this episode, and then the coughing fits hit right as I needed to record the episode. And by the end, you're gonna see how I had to use a B- approach, in order to get this episode complete and out, so that you could listen to it right now.
So, let's dive in. B- work, have you heard of it? It's not a concept that I invented. And, I'm going to teach it to you similar to the way I learned it, but with some tweaks, that I've modified. So, if you haven't heard of the idea of B- work, I'm going to explain it. And if you have heard it, I'm going to put it in a context, and explain it in a way that may be a little bit new to you.
Now, before I even explain it, if you hear B- and you think instantly of mediocrity, sloppiness, and substandard, welcome to the perfectionist club. If you bristle at the idea of B-, but you don't think that you have a perfectionistic thinking pattern, go back, and listen to Episode 3, which is titled, “You Might Be a Perfectionist if…”
Because the truth is, you don't bristle when you think of B-, unless you have some perfectionistic tendencies. So, let's define the term. What is B- work? B- encompasses a philosophy that has three main tenets; number one, it values good work over perfection. Number two, B- means committing to execution within time limits. This means the elimination of repetitive revising, reformulating, and this means valuing action over inaction. Number three, B- has a clear minimum necessary objective.
So, a B- approach is an explicit, deliberate commitment to less than perfect work. Let me repeat that; it's committing to less than your best. As I mentioned before, to a perfectionist with an all-or-none view, less than your best, B-, sounds like sloppiness and mediocrity.
But this is actually not the case. So, how is this even possible? You might ask. Well, let me tell you. Let's contrast B- with A+++ work. The perfectionist playbook says if we open it up, you cannot stop when something is good, great, or excellent.
You need to double check. You need to reread. You need to ask your friends for their opinion. You need to practice one more time, check one more reference, change the font, take a fourth look or a fifth look. You need to keep going and going and going until it is as good as it can possibly be.
Now, in my training, I would hear in the operating room, over and over and over, this one phrase. And it is, “The enemy of good is better.” And, that was a really wise phrase to keep in mind when you are operating. A perfectionistic approach strives for perfection, and perpetually tries for better at the expense of great, and at the expense of good. And this consumes lots of time that could be spent doing something else.
In contrast, B- calls on a focused execution, with a clearly articulated priority. And actually, results in very high-quality work produced extremely efficiently. Because you bypass the counterproductive tendencies that come with striving for perfect flawlessness.
Now, let's be really, really clear; B- work is not abandoning your standards. B- work is not settling for F quality work, and pretending that it's B-; it is not an easy way out. In fact, B- work is so much more challenging for perfectionists, than is the process of aiming for perfect.
Here's an example to explain this. An email that's written and sent in five minutes, that might have a typo in it, is B-. An email that took 30 minutes to think about, 10 minutes to write, 10 minutes to revise, 10 more minutes to imagine someone else's response, imagine if it's going to be okay, and then, finally press Send. For an email that is probably free of any typos or punctuation faux pas, is an example of A+.
B- means that either you have a time limit for a task, or you have a minimum necessary objective that the task must meet. Once you have met one or both of these, the task is considered complete, and you move on. And, you refrain from doing unnecessary extra steps.
Say your goal is to complete the presentation. An A+, perfectionistic approach would look like this; there would be no time limit. You can work as long as it takes. You won't really know when you’re “complete” because well, you know, it could always be better. This means, you may spend hours beautifying your slides, reorganizing the words, word crafting exactly the phrasing. This could take months. And, it could result in what you might think is an A+++ performance.
In contrast, a B- approach would be one where you give yourself a clear objective: My goal is to communicate these three points. Have three moments for an engaging workshop question. I'm going to use two stories, and give one practical tool. When it comes to my slides, I'm going to ensure 50% of them have a graphic on it instead of a wall of words.
And a B- approach is going to set a finite time limit, and one that is realistic for the scope of the project. This presentation will not take months to complete. So, that sounds pretty straightforward, no?
So, let's talk about why a B- approach is so excruciating for some of us. It is hard because it requires courage and a radically different mindset as you approach the task. Think about the last time you worked long and hard to make sure something was perfect. Maybe, you procrastinated on getting started because you wanted to feel 100% ready and confident, before you started.
Then, we did start. The progress is slow because there were hours of research and hours of editing. Maybe, you revise the sentences. Maybe you made sure there weren't any grammatical mistakes. Maybe you wondered if it was going to be good. Worried about what other people might think. Refined, revisited, re-recorded, tweaked the artwork.
I can feel some of you out there, right now, just nodding, going, “Yes, this is exactly how I do my tasks.” And, this can be work tasks. I know I'm talking a lot about things like grammar, and punctuation, and presentations, and things that require a creative endeavor. But this can also be things like, your laundry, your dinner prep, how you clean your house. This could be how you prepare for going out to meet a friend.
Alright, so let's contrast this with a B- approach. B- requires you stop procrastinating, in favor of taking action. This might mean that you start before you feel fully ready. This requires eliminating excess editing and refining. It means working towards that primary minimum objective, or within a certain timeline.
And it requires guts to execute, without doing all that overpreparing, overediting, fussing over every detail. It requires the guts to release something into the world, to walk away from something and call it done. To know that it is not the A+ work that it could be if you had spent 10 times the time on it.
And it is fully embracing, “done is better than perfect.” This means facing the fears that you have around what ‘less than perfect’ means. And this requires courage. Why courage? Take a minute to think about why something being imperfect feels so unpalatable.
Usually, it's because there's either a fear of failing, or a fear of judgment from others or from ourselves. Fear of judgment from others is the fear of publicly flopping, being rejected. Having so-and-so see what you've done, not like it, and tell her friends about it. This fear of judgment from others, usually is some variant of, ‘if I miss the mark, I'll be judged.’
Fear of our own self-judgment is a fear of what we will tell ourselves while we're doing the thing. And in the aftermath, it's the fear of looking back and thinking we should have done better. It's the fear of regret. It's the fear of making a failure mean that we're incompetent, a loser who won't ever succeed, etcetera.
And it takes courage to see these fears, and still execute a less than perfect product. This is how taking a B- approach is both diagnostic and therapeutic. When you do it, it will reveal all the fears that drive perfectionism; that's the diagnostic part.
Then, the therapeutic part, it will show you that done, truly is better than perfect. That when you do that, you don't die, you are not cast out to die alone under a bridge. And, that mistakes are actually essential for your learning. It may make you feel really uncomfortable, but it's part and parcel for unwinding the grip of perfectionism.
Now, we could stop right here. We could just conclude and say, when you take on a B- approach, you're going to unearth fears and anxieties that usually keep you spending inordinate energy, in order to avoid real or perceived failure or judgment. But let's take it a step further.
Where does the fear and anxiety come from, anyway? Well, fear and anxiety are emotions. And as such, they come from our thoughts and our beliefs. They come from what we tell ourselves. So, in addition to revealing your fears, a B- approach will help you see exactly what you're thinking that creates these fears, that keep you in this A+, perfectionism mode.
So, let's take a minute. What are your thoughts about imperfection when it comes to what you do? What are your thoughts about being judged? What do you think about failing? What do you think about other people failing? And is it different than when you think about yourself failing?
Keep in mind, if you execute something imperfectly, if you are judged, you will only feel terrible if you think a thought that makes you feel terrible. If I get an email where someone tells me, “That was the lousiest episode I've ever heard, what a waste of my time.” And in response, I think the thought, “I'm not cut out for this, how embarrassing. I'm such an inarticulate loser,” then I will go on to feel dejected. Not because their email makes me feel dejected, but because of what I think about their email.
In contrast, if I think, in response to that same email, “Well, I guess that episode just wasn't her cup of tea. I wonder why? I wonder what there's here to learn?” If I think that, I'm going to feel calm and curious.
So, let's sum everything up. B- is a philosophy and approach that you can use to be more efficient, to stop second guessing, and to waste less precious time and energy stressed out chasing perfection. A B- approach means setting a time limit, and/or a minimum necessary objective, and sticking to them, no matter what.
Doing this will reveal any fears you have; any anxieties you have about being judged, or failing. In this way, B- is a hack of sorts, that pulls back the curtain and reveals the root cause of perfectionism. So that you can then reconsider, if you want to continue thinking in ways that create so much fear and anxiety.
So, I said at the beginning, that I had to use B- in order to get this episode out. Well, to be truthful, I've used this B- approach in pretty much every episode. But this one the most, with being sick, because I literally didn't have the luxury to spend very much time overpreparing and revising. And with coughing fits, I didn't have the capacity to do a very long recording.
So, I want you to think about what might you B- this week. Once you know what that is, you can actually plan in advance for how you're going to think about things on purpose. When you're doing this anti-perfectionism work, B- informed thoughts sound like this:
Something is better than nothing. Better done, than perfect. Mistakes are how I learn. Other people's judgment doesn't make me feel anything, until I have a thought about it. B- and out the door. The people I need to help are waiting for B-, not A+. B- is someone else's A+. I really can't rely on my own brain to be an accurate judge. Failure is the currency to my dreams. I'm either winning or learning, so let's freakin’ go.
My invitation to you is this; what will you B- this week? Now, I said that B- was related to self-compassion. The connection between a B- approach and self-compassion is when you can drop perfectionism and you can drop spending your time and energy worrying and fearing and feeling anxious. That is one of the most compassionate things that you can do for yourself.
So, after you know What you're going to use the B- approach on this week, come on over to the Habits On Purpose Facebook group, and let me know what you learn, when you do. And if you want help applying this kind of tool to change your habits, my signature Small Group Coaching Program for Women Physicians is going to open for enrollment, for five days, starting December 26, 2022.
You can learn more when you go to HabitsOnPurpose.com/hopp5.0 You can check out all the details and you can get on the waitlist.
Until next week. Happy holidays.
If you want to learn more about how to better understand your patterns, stop feeling reactionary, and get back into the proverbial driver’s seat with your habits, you’ll want to join my email list. Which, you can find linked in the show notes, or if you go to HabitsOnPurpose.com, you’ll find it right there.
Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit www.HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.