Are you one of those people who always want everything to be done perfectly to the slightest detail and never start something unless they are sure they can make it absolutely amazing?
If yes, then do you know that this perfectionism, as useful as it can be, is most likely something that may be keeping you from uncovering your full potential, trying new things, growing and being even more productive?
Are you a perfectionist and is this holding you back from being productive?
It may sound like a paradox but for so many people, the strive for perfection is holding them back from amazing experiences, new ideas and success and they don’t even realize it. Perfectionists are proud with their strive for perfection and praise it as something that helps them being great. However, sometimes, trying to be too perfect can be an obstacle to your productivity and personal development.
What is perfectionism?
I am the last person to advise you not to do your job properly and with no attention to detail. Still, as a person who is trying to deal with my own perfectionism, I will try to convince you that “quality” and “perfection” are two different things.
If you always insist that everything you do is perfect to the smallest detail and you think that if you are not absolutely great somewhere, all your work is not worth it and you are an incompetent, incapable and generally bad person, welcome to the perfectionist club!
Actually, behind the desire to be perfect is a need for control. The only way for everything to happen according to the perfectionist’s high standards is to have complete control over the entire process and the results. However, complete control is impossible – at any moment it is possible for something to go wrong and it does not always depend on us.
Perfectionists believe that if they fail in what they do, this will lead to failure in their relationship with the people around them – colleagues, superiors, clients or friends. While it’s actually the other way around. If you’re a robot who never makes mistakes and always points out the slightest mistakes of others, it’s more likely that this will scare the people around and they may decide they cannot meet your high standards, so better not try at all. Or maybe they may be terribly annoyed by the fact that you check everything a couple of times, so you’re slowing down everybody’s work. Or they may feel too criticized by you if you often point to mistakes in the smallest details. After all, most people do not accept being constantly criticized for the smallest thing, even though (from your point of view) you do it for the common good.
Why is being a perfectionist a problem?
Perfectionism is very insidious because it brings some real benefits to you, which prevent you from seeing the damage done by it. The results of your work are probably ideal (or at least as close to ideal as possible). However, those results are usually paid with a lot of nerves and tension from your side. But that seem to be a normal part of ever work and life in general, right? And, besides, if everyone else was a little more careful and detail-oriented as you do, you would not spend so much of nerves, would you?
Now, being really good at your work is something useful and is praised by professionals and employers all around the globe. But as with most things in life, “the dose makes the poison”. And if you go over with perfectionism, you risk losing not only great relationships with others.
In the long run, perfectionism actually reduces your productivity because you waste your time (in most cases unnecessarily) for slow and diligent work, such as unnecessarily long checks for mistakes, double and triple checking, small corrections, constant updates, design corrections, etc. Moreover, striving for the ideal results each and every time (which is impossible to achieve) can lead to serious problems, such as depression and anxiety.
How can you handle your perfectionism?
If I have managed to convince you that it is time to take action against perfectionism (or at least try to), you are probably wondering how to do it and whether it is possible at all. I’m quick to reassure you that this is fully achievable, yet not to perfection. Once I started adapting my perfectionism to some healthy and normal levels (and I’m still alive and working, I even have satisfied clients and run a blog), then you can do it too.
Straight to the point – here are some tips I apply for myself in order to deal with perfectionism and I share them with you so you can use them for every task in your everyday life that you are tempted to end up perfectly:
- Consider the end result of your work.
For instance, you can start by questioning yourself “What do you expect to happen as the end result of what you do?” “What does the ideal result look like?”
For example, at the moment I am writing the article you are reading and the final result of this task I expect to be an article that gives you useful and proven information, which you can read with pleasure, and apply in your day life.
- Determine the most important of the final result and what you can ultimately make a compromise on.
I know that, as a perfectionist, you want to do with precision every step of your every task and that the word “compromise” does not have a place in your vocabulary. But what would happen if you had a limited time and had to do your work 2, 3 or 4 times faster than usual? Whether you want it or not, you will have to determine what is important and what you can pass, so that you finish in time and still get some result.
Once you find out what’s really important, give your maximum to it, and do the rest of your work without trying to be so perfect. (Don’t worry about shuffling it – you have high enough standards, so your “lack of diligence” will actually result in a higher quality than that of most other people.)
For instance, in my case, in order to write the perfect article on perfectionism, I would ideally have to read the most up-to-date studies on the topic by the leading psychologists and authors I follow, summarizing them, drawing out the most applicable, adding some of my personal experience, and then putting it all in an article. While writing, I should make the most of style, grammar and word selection in order to be accurate, so the article is informative without being dry and scientific.
It would be perfect if I also present you with all the possible techniques for successfully combating perfectionism, not just a few steps, however, tested and proven to work. Also in some way (and I do not know what that way is and that should worry me) I have to make sure that you read the article thoroughly from start to finish and apply everything that is written in here … otherwise it will not be the perfect article, isn’t it?
Instead of doing all of this, however, I picked out only the most meaningful sources, took out the best methods, which I’ve also applied and tested over the time and came up with an article on this topic. After all, the most important thing was to write an article which can be helpful to you today, and if I had been buried in all the sources I could use, I would probably not be ready in a month. Besides, if I had thoroughly described and listed all possible ways to defeat perfectionism, the article would be so long that you could hardly read it.
- Do a reality check.
One of the biggest fears of every perfectionist is that something terrible will happen if he works under his standards – at least he will be fired or going bankrupt. And if he makes a mistake, the ceiling will fall, and maybe the Earth will stop spinning … of course, all because of his lack of perfectionism.
One of the ways to ease that fear and actually convince yourself that you do not have to be perfect for success is just to do something that is not perfect and track down what will happen. See if the implementation of the previous step (where you only concentrate on the most important thing, not everything) will lead to a crash or it will turn out that there is no difference between 100% and 80% of the perfect result.
(I do not want to spoil the pleasure from the experiment, but because I suspect you don’t dare to give it a try, I’ll tell you what happens: there’s almost no difference.) But what you can gain from this is more time, better productivity, better focus on things that actually matter, and even better results!
At the end, the article on how to deal with perfectionism is written and you just read it, right? 😀
Pssst… want to get a book on productivity and perfectionism for free? Go to Audible
If you love listening to inspiring books while traveling, relaxing or commuting, Audible can make it super easy for you to literally “gulp” a new book in a few hours.
A Little Note & Thanks
Thanks! If you see a book you like and you purchase it using the links on this site, LiSt Contents receives a very small commission at no extra cost to you.
(Disclosure:Amazon images and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, LiSt Contents earns a commission on qualifying purchases.)