Sunday, 21 November 2010

Slapdash perfectionist

I keep coming across people talking about procrastination. Is it the time of the year? Is there something about the run up to Christmas and the New Year that says, lets put it off till January?

An alternative might be that because I wrote something about it a few posts back I am now tuned in to noticing the word. Kelly Diels said

‘I procrastinate in three ways: I delay making a decision; I delay responding to people (usually because I haven’t made a decision); and I delay doing.’(

She says that the last one of these may just be part of her creative process, not really procrastination but incubation.

‘I grow and warm an idea until it springs fully-formed from my head. (Usually at the last possible minute before a deadline.)’

That last line made me start to wonder if it is all just part of personality, I mean is procrastination something we learn or just something that some of us do?

Personality tests are a bit of a minefield. I’m always surprised by how many people are scared of them, but I have an advantage. In addition to spending her life blogging and cooking about Gluten Free food my wife Lois has a couple of degrees in psychology and the relevant badges to do lots of these tests. You can guess who she practiced on.

According to one test, done on my once as part of a job interview I was described as a slapdash perfectionist. You might think that the two descriptions are so opposite in substance that they could not exist in one person.

Actually it is true in a sort of way. The fundamental problem was that this was a pretty crummy psychometric test. If they had done a different one, say the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory MBTI to those who know, then they might have been able to make sense of me. Of course I know that you are not supposed to use MBTI for job selection, because it is possible to fake it, if, that is you wanted to get a job on false pretences and be someone else for the rest of you working life. Stay with me. On the MBTI I am an ENTP, mostly. Without going into the whole thing (put MBTI into Google if you are curious), the bits that matter here are the N and the P. P means perceptive – the way they use the word means seeing possibilities and that’s where my procrastination comes from. I hate finishing things because it is the end of all the possibilities. A finished project has lost all it’s life, it can only be what it is and all the other wonderful possibilities are down the drain and forgotten. That’s also where the perfectionist bit comes from.

The N stands for intuition (which begins with I, but I has already been used for Introverted, which I’m not, mostly). What intuition means, to me anyway, is that if pressed I will come up with something. I’ll come up with it fast, very fast, so fast that a poorly devised psychometric test will think I’m slapdash.

So there you have it, I am a slapdash perfectionist. I procrastinate when I can, and when the deadline gets near I hit the intuition button, and it is part of who I am. I have the tests to prove it.

There are of course other personality types who have an inner need to make up their minds quickly, (the types that end in J on the MBTI) they are the ones who give procrastination a bad name.

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