If there’s one thing I’m good (bad?) at, it’s procrastination. Don’t get me wrong. I do what needs to be done. But I often wait until the last minute, which leads to stress and frustration. Not to mention, when I put stuff off and then have to scramble to get it done on time, I don’t think I do my best work.
Procrastination has been on my list of things to conquer for many years. But when it comes time to actually work on it, well, I procrastinate and it never happens.
Then, while I was procrastinating one day, I saw that Tressie McMillan Cottom Ph.D., a sociologist, New York Times op-ed columnist and Black sister extraordinaire, had tweeted the following:
“Take this tweet as a sign that it’s time to half-ass the tasks on your to-do list. Just half-ass it. It’s fine.”
The tweet received more than 10,000 likes and tons of retweets. People rushed to the comments to discuss ways they would finally get things done by half-assing it.
She hit home for many folks with that one. The tweet received more than 10,000 likes and tons of retweets. People rushed to the comments to discuss ways they would finally get things done by half-assing it.
As a perfectionist, I’ve always been part of the “do your best or don’t do it at all” group. So I balked at the term “half-ass” at first. It has a negative connotation. It makes people think something is subpar or done poorly. But I thought more about it and realized that’s not necessarily true. For example, it could mean doing a 1.5-mile walk instead of 3 miles. Or reading a few pages of a book before bed rather than the full chapter I’d planned. Either way, I got something done, which is better than nothing.
I decided to give Dr. Cottom’s advice a trial run. Rather than putting something off for later, I told myself, 'Just half-ass it.'
Now, obviously, if you’re a rocket scientist, work in health care or have some other super-important job or task, going halfway in isn’t recommended. But outside of those situations, it’s OK in many cases. As one person pointed out in the comments, many tasks don’t actually need a full ass.
All righty, then! I decided to give Dr. Cottom’s advice a trial run. Rather than putting something off for later, I told myself, “Just half-ass it.”
For instance, there was an assignment I’d been procrastinating on for a while. I gave myself permission to do a mediocre job as long as I started. I sat down and got to it. Although some of the writing was crap, the majority was good. With some editing, the article was ready to send to my editor. Doing a small amount of less-than-stellar work put me further ahead than if I had waited around for inspiration or spent tons of time tweaking words and paragraphs to try to make them perfect.
Other things I half-assed? I didn’t have time to deep clean the whole house, so I did the kitchen and bathrooms and tidied up the other areas. I meal-prepped veggies only. I did my nails and skipped the pedicure (hey, it’s winter). The list goes on and on. I was a half-assing queen that week.
I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I felt better than I had in ages. I was less stressed. Felt more productive. And I knocked so much off my to-do list, including things I’d been putting off for months.
And you know what happened? The world didn’t stop turning. No one complained. And I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I felt better than I had in ages. I was less stressed. Felt more productive. And I knocked so much off my to-do list, including things I’d been putting off for months. While I was making an effort to make less of an effort, I found that once I started something, momentum usually kicked in and I did more (and better) than I expected.
Oh yeah, that article I gave about 60 percent of my effort? The editor loved it and assigned more work.
See, half-assing it isn’t so bad.
In fact, what started as a trial run has now become part of my lifestyle. Of course, I’m not taking that approach with everything. It’s all about balance — realizing some tasks require 100 percent from me while others require less.
A wise woman recently reminded me of the adage “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” OK, Sis, I hear you. I’m working on becoming better at accepting that good enough is good enough. And now I see that sometimes the way to get to good enough is to half-ass it.