Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Confessions of a former perfectionist

I was reading HuffingtonPost yesterday and came across this article on Type A personalities. I laughed and shared it with my friends because it was so like me (except the fatalism part, I tend not to obsess over nightmare scenarios and am an eternal optimist). But I do embody many Type A and perfectionist qualities, such as impatience, stubbornness, and frequent multitasking. And, as you'll learn in some of my upcoming posts, I am a ruthless time and task manager.

I struggle to think of my days with any perspective other than a race to conquer my never-ending to-do list. However, just like Sisyphus and his rock, the tasks keep mounting and I keep plowing through them. On a Monday, I challenge myself to check off as many tasks as possible to add a buffer to the remainder of my week. I recycle emails in an effort to write something well once and reuse it. On a weekend, I try to defy the space-time continuum, dropping off a donation to Savers (and shopping a little), sailing through the grocery store, then getting back in time for the plumber to install the garbage disposal.

In an effort to break out of my habits, I did 2 things differently this week. At work, when I would have used a boilerplate email to get updates from 7 colleagues on the same project, I paused. I pictured each colleague at his desk in Atlanta, London, Milan, Bellevue, Baton Rouge, Herzliya, and Paris. I crafted each message to what I knew about the person, and tried to cater each message to that person in that moment. It took a little longer, sure, but I was more satisfied with the result. I had made a human connection, not just checked off a box.

The second came when I had the pleasure of a quiet lunch out by myself. Normally I come armed with a book and my iPhone, eager to immerse myself in another world. On this day, however, I sat quietly, savoring the food, noticing its temperature, consistency, flavor. I sipped chai tea and enjoyed the navaratan korma. I reacted to the music, favoring the Bollywood hits to the traditional style Indian music. I imagined the conversations of the friends seated 2 tables away, and invented stories about the life of the other sole patron. I had a few moments where I wanted to reach for my phone and scan my Facebook or Twitter feeds, but I resisted. And breathed.

Am I going to become a laid-back, relaxed, go with the flow type of person? Never in a million years; it defies my identity. But more and more, I am learning to enjoy small pleasures such as a genuine email thank you from a colleague. Or sitting quietly with my thoughts rather than worry about what else I want to accomplish that day. My worth and contributions are so much more than a series of checked-off boxes.


  1. I, too, am a recovering Type A. I call myself a "Type B in Training." I once had an instructor who said that the final exam for becoming a Type B was to go find a line someplace and stand in it. Haven't got there yet ...

  2. Pleased to read the blog that triggered a 'pause, think and savor' mode and gained the pleasure and value from such a tiny moment.