How many of you are happy being called a perfectionist? I mean for most people, being called a perfectionist is an accomplishment as it shows that they are people who have no problem getting things done in the most perfect manner.
All these years, I was so proud of being a perfectionist. I always made sure I get things done in the best way possible. Always looking forward to success and perfection in every little thing I do on a personal or professional level.
But then I started to realize that trying to be perfect is just getting in the way of my productivity. The more I look into whatever I am doing, I am never satisfied with the final product. I always felt like there is room for improvement even when it is clear that it is the best I could do which is good enough.
If you truly are a perfectionist, then I am sure that you are suffering more than enjoying your perfectionism. If you are not a perfectionist, my advice is to not try and be one.
The problem is that most people don’t really understand what perfectionism is truly about. So let us first have an understanding of what perfectionism is before working on overcoming it.
What exactly is perfectionism?
There is a misunderstanding by most people about what perfectionism is about.
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” – Michael LawTweet
Perfectionism is not about your ability to get things done perfectly. It is your constant attempt to get things done in extremely high standards with unrealistic expectations. You always try to be the best of the best no matter how unreasonable it sounds.
Perfectionists always have the idea that their work is either a complete success or a complete failure. There is no in-between. They always judge themselves very harshly of how well they got things done.
A clinical psychologist Martin Antony, who is a professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto said, “Perfectionism is a personality trait – it’s something that happens on a continuum from not perfectionistic enough, which can lead to problems getting things done, to too perfectionistic, which can interfere with your life.”
This is why perfectionism is like some kind of illusion that plays with your mind. It hinders you from being yourself when completing tasks without having to doubt yourself or assume others think the worst of you.
“Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for ‘better than yesterday’.” ― Izey Victoria OdiaseTweet
Challenges of a perfectionist
Being a perfectionist is a true challenge to your well being and your mind’s peace. Your negative thoughts and self-judgment clouds the reality of your performance. No matter how good something is, you will always doubt yourself and this may even lead to depression.
Here are some of the major challenges perfectionists face.
- Repeated Checking – No matter how much they check their work, they feel like it stills need another round of checking.
- Trouble making decisions – They always doubt their final decision regardless of how valid or relevant it sounds.
- Inflexibility – Their extreme need for organization makes them create rigid standards that are not prone to any mistakes.
- Inability to delegate – They are never satisfied with other’s performance because they believe in the saying, “If you want it done perfectly, do it yourself.”
- Finding imperfections not only in themselves but also in others – It is very important for them to correct people and sometimes get overcritical of any mistake made by others.
How does perfectionism hurt our productivity?
It can be a good thing to be working hard to get everything perfect. So being a perfectionist to a certain level is not a bad thing. If will help you achieve tasks in the best possible manner. However, if you let it take total control of your mind, it will start affecting your productivity.
So when do you start to feel the effect of perfectionism on your productivity?
You feel challenged to get things started
Starting any task is always uneasy. I mean if someone asked me to write something or give a speech on a particular topic that I am so familiar with, I always get stuck on how to start even if I know what to say. This is normal for regular people.
Now think about the struggle a perfectionist would be going through. No matter how good a starting is, they will never be satisfied with it because according to them it is not “perfect”. I truly had trouble staying simple and productive at first.
If you are concerned about perfection, you won’t really know how to get things started. You will waste your time worrying about doing things perfectly that you wouldn’t even start.
This can lead to missing your deadline or even procrastination because you will be busy looking for the perfect starting and won’t actually start. Sometimes, the frustration can make you keep postponing the work until it is not done at all.
Everything takes longer than it should
I won’t say I am a very fast worker but I do have good enough speed to get things done on time. Yet sometimes, I notice that it takes longer for me to submit a certain task rather than to actually do it.
When preparing a PowerPoint presentation for my class, it takes me not more than 30 mins to complete it (notes and graphics included). What takes longer for me was proofreading it and constantly trying to find a fault to fix.
Trying to be as perfect as possible made me spend more time editing what I did than when I did it the first time. It was not about how much time I took to do it, it was how much time I took to decide it was perfect enough. This was actually the reason I decided to let go of my perfectionism and look for simplicity in my final result.
When you are a perfectionist, it takes you longer to complete what you started not because of what you wrote but by proofreading it zillion times. Second-guessing your work makes you take longer than you should to get things done.
You feel morally obligated to over-deliver
Perfectionists are never satisfied with the amount of information they share. They always feel like they can do better if they look into it more and add more information to keep it perfect.
When I was writing my first draft of this blog post, I didn’t know what title to give it. My main objective was to deliver how perfectionism affects our productivity, and how to overcome it, with a little information on what perfectionism is.
When I noticed that I reached around 1500 words, I gave a quick skim through what I wrote and guess what happened. I realized that all I spoke about was understanding perfectionism, the traits of perfectionists, and the causes of perfectionism, all in detail. I was talking about unnecessary details leaving the main idea of my blog post.
The need to overshare awareness on perfectionism made me forget that the main purpose of my blog post was to talk about perfectionism in terms of productivity.
So just focus on what you want to be accomplished and leave out the need to overshare details related to it.
Afraid of taking risks
The fear of failure, embarrassment, and even judgment forces us to stick with what we know and stay in our comfort zone. This is why we create high standard expectations from ourselves because we believe we can do it in its best form.
By fearing failure you are stopping yourself from trying new things. You are always afraid to make mistakes that can be judged upon or used against us as an embarrassing incident.
You will always be afraid to start something big or put yourself out there without having the “perfect” plan to get things done. This will take away your opportunity to grow and become a better person by learning from your mistakes.
How do you overcome perfectionism to boost productivity?
Now that you have come to know all about perfectionism and its effects on your mental health and productivity, I am sure this is the question you are eager to find an answer to.
Overcoming anything in this life needs commitment. No matter how many tips you come to know about overcoming anything, you can never free yourself unless you commit to change.
Let us look at the basic tips to commit to in order to overcome being perfectionists so you can be more productive in getting things done.
Moderate your goals and expectations
If you set high expectations for the things you want to be accomplished, no one is going to benefit from it including yourself. You won’t be able to complete it which will get you even more stressed.
Setting high expectations when you first plan your task is not a bad idea. However, it should not be your final plan with unreasonable or unrealistic ideas. Try going through the high standard expectations you have set for yourself and moderate them but making sure that they are realistic yet challenging.
You have to learn to be okay with “okay” and not focus on “perfect” all the time. And by the way, nobody is expecting you to be perfect so don’t try hard to be one.
Change your inner self-talk
We all talk to ourselves whenever we get to do something. We either complement our self for the amazing job we did or criticize it for messing up. As we have set very high standards for ourselves that most probably won’t work, we tend to criticize ourselves more times than we complement it.
It is important that you have a positive mindset to achieve your goals in the most productive way. Always look for ways to turn down your negative voice and amplify positivity to boost your self-esteem. It will have a huge difference in your productivity.
There are several ways that you can boost your positive mindset. Personally, I work on my self-love by journaling. I use my Daily Journal Prompts to tell myself all the positive things that happened during my day and note down my capabilities to help increase my self-confidence.
Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”
This is a very very effective point. I mean really…what is the worst that could happen if you are not perfect? You will be good enough? Yes, that’s about it! It is okay to have some imperfect points. It is how it will always be because you are not perfect. No one is.
You need to start making it a habit to believe that things can be good enough and still get you the best results you were looking forward to. When you reach a certain level of satisfaction with your work, stop doubting yourself. Believe that you did it as well as it should be.
I am not saying that you should be careless if the worst-case scenario is acceptable (because sometimes it is not). What I am saying is, instead, think of the best-case scenario. This way you will come to the realization that your good enough work will get the outcome you need.
This is a very important tip for gaining the highest productivity in working on your tasks. If you don’t prioritize your task, you are never going to accomplish anything meaningful.
When you set high standards for yourself, it can be possible that you want everything done all at once. And the worst part is that you believe it is possible. When you won’t be able to do them, then you start doubting yourself and negativity attracts stress.
Prioritize your tasks according to your limit/abilities. I am sure you can get everything done successfully but the only thing is that you won’t be able to do them all at once. This is not about your productivity skills. It is just not possible.
Focus on the process rather than the outcome goal
As a perfectionist (getting better at overcoming it), I never really cared about HOW good I get something done. I only focused on getting the final outcome in the most perfect format. This made me lose the satisfaction and enjoyment in the process of achieving it.
When you compliment yourself even at the smallest achievement, it makes a huge difference with you. If you only focus on the achievement of the final result, you will never be able to enjoy each step you completed on your way to the final outcome.
So what you should be doing is setting a schedule that is realistic enough to achieve your goals and enjoy each minor achievement along the way.
Compare yourself to yourself, not to others
When you keep comparing yourself to others, all you gain is an inferiority complex. It is very normal to find people better than you in many ways. We are all created with different talents and capabilities. Most importantly, we all have different experiences that shaped us today.
What you should be doing instead is comparing your yesterday to your today. Notice how you are improving, the challenges you overcame, the goals you have achieved, etc. Focus on YOUR achievements, not on others’.
If you compare yourself with others, it will just be a waste of time. It won’t get you anywhere. So don’t just waste your time on nothing.
I know that perfectionism is killing your time and energy to get things done. But you have to keep in mind that there is no such thing as “perfect”. We are all human and prone to being imperfect at certain points.
Perfectionism is not something that you can overcome overnight. Any habit takes time to change. Perfectionism is not any different. What I want you to do is to just realize that you are a perfectionist and take it one step at a time to change yourself.
Thomas Frank shared his amazing thoughts on overcoming perfectionism. You can watch his video here.
Thank you for reading till the end 🙂
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Are you a perfectionist? Have you ever been affected by perfectionism? Share your experience with us in the comments below.