Are You a Perfectionist?
We’ve got some bad news: perfection doesn’t exist. You’ll never find it.
In fact, if you keep looking for it, you’ll probably end up falling down a black hole of terrible productivity and constant frustration.
The best news? Progress is far more important than perfection. And if you learn to appreciate your progress, you’ll achieve far more in the long run. As they say, “better done than perfect“.
Here’s how to start ridding your mind of the word ‘perfect’ and focus instead on how you’re progressing.
Re-Think Your Standards
It’s ok to have high standards – it’s to be encouraged if anything.
However, if your standards are too high, you’ll only end up disappointed with most of the stuff you produce. That’s because you’re confusing the word ‘standard’ with ‘perfection’.
Instead, spend some time working out what your normal standards are. What can you describe as being ‘good enough’ that will delight your manager, client or colleagues? Once you know that base level, you’ve found what you should be striving for.
It’s ok to relax your standards once in a while, too!
Try a Few Hypotheses
What would happen if you turned up five minutes late for that meeting? What if, just for once, you didn’t proofread that blog post before publishing it?
This might sound like career suicide, but what if your gut instinct that something is good enough is actually true? Rather than spending countless hours (or days) rejigging, revising and bashing something around, you could just finish it.
You shouldn’t confuse this tactic with laziness, either. Your hypothesis that something is actually ok without the need to be revisited will likely be right a lot of the time. And, when it isn’t, is the outcome really going to be as bad as you think? Probably not.
When you’ve finished something, but you’re not convinced it’s quite ‘there’ yet, challenge yourself.
What are you looking for? Have you strayed beyond the original remit and into your own desires for the project?
If you can’t answer that question quickly or succinctly, you’re probably striving for something that doesn’t exist, and which certainly isn’t required.
When you challenge yourself and find yourself wanting, it’s time to draw a line under that particular project, send it on – and move on.
Expose Yourself to Bad Work
If you think that the thing you’re working on is of poor quality, it might be time for a reality check.
When this happens, take some time to look at competing work – be it stuff that you’ve undertaken previously, or something done by the competition. Some of what you find may well appear better than yours, but a lot won’t. In fact, some of it will be downright terrible – and that’ll make you feel far better about your work.
So, in summary, if you want to beat perfectionism, there’s a few things you need to do.
Re-evaluate your own standards – it’s commons for these to be much loftier than needed. To put this into practice, just get that thing out there – even if you haven’t checked it over.
The key takeaway today? The importance of challenging oneself. Being a perfectionist is admirable but time-consuming. If you can’t answer positively when you challenge yourself, you know you’re striving for something that can’t be reached (and that isn’t a failure!).