5 Easy Ways To Avoid Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a major downfall for many of us. We set high standards for ourselves and have this notion that the more time and effort we put into something, the better the end result we will produce.

You may be thinking that perfectionism isn’t something that’s an issue for you. Well, do any of these apply to you?

  • You are quick to criticise yourself if you make mistakes or do not meet the expectations you have set for yourself.
  • You spend hours refining a piece of work that you don’t end up using anyway.
  • You tend to focus on what has gone wrong, even if it was something really minor, rather than focus on the things that have gone right.
  • You’ve had products you’ve never released because you think it isn’t complete or good enough to be released.

Image courtesy of zirconicusso/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To some extent, we all have some level of perfectionism within us, that may be preventing us from experiencing the results we want to. When I was writing my book Building High-Performing Teams, I knew I was writing a guide for those who wanted to create highly engaged and effective teams. Before I started writing the book, I had decided that I would only cover certain principles as the topic of developing teams can cover so many principles and lessons.

As I got closer to completing the book, my perfectionism tendencies kicked in and I started questioning if I had written enough or added the depth to the book that I thought the readers would need. I went back and re-read and re-edited a lot of what I had written. This process added a few extra months to the process and caused me to feel disappointed with myself and questioned the value of the book. I eventually sent out the book to an editor who commented that the book was a very helpful guide for busy managers or team leaders who didn’t have the time to read detailed books and my book would shorten the process for them.

Had I not gotten feedback on what I had already written, chances are the book would have been delayed even longer. The good news was that when I released the book and did my initial book launch, it ended making it to #1 bestseller status on Amazon for two categories.

Here are five easy ways to avoid the perfectionism trap in order to help us get things done quicker.

  1. Be easy on yourself. As we are our harshest critique, we must be able to train our critique to provide us with valuable feedback, rather than just focusing on what has not gone right. The key is to learn from things that have not gone well. A powerful mindset to adopt is to see yourself as being on a journey of continuous learning and growth.
  2. Decide how important what you are doing is. One way to decide on the importance of something is to ask, “Is it going to matter in 3-5 years whether what I’m doing now is not perfect or as good as it could be?” Also, rather than getting bogged down in the detail of something, ask yourself, “Will spending this extra time on this task or project make a difference in the long run?” Sometimes the details are not as important as getting something completed.
  3. Good enough is better than perfect. For things that aren’t important, good enough is really good enough. Our best work should be saved for work that is our highest value work and for work that is aligned with who we are and what we are trying to achieve long-term.
  4. Study successful people and successful companies. Most of our references of perfection is either because we have seen someone else or a company achieve an outstanding result. We need to be clear about where we are in our own journey. Get better perspective! Recognise that it has taken years for successful people or companies to achieve the success they have, and they perfected as they went along. Don’t try to be like Apple right out of the gates.
  5. Don’t take things too seriously. This is probably the most important takeaway. We are not perfect so how can we expect perfection from ourselves in everything we do? We need to learn to be more relaxed and have a light-hearted approach to life. After-all, what’s the worst that can happen if something is not perfect? Choose to be happy rather than perfect.

Perfectionism can cause us to take longer to complete tasks or projects, which ultimately can lead to frustration, overwhelm and more stress. Perfection is a moving target. If we can adopt the idea that done is better than perfect and we can perfect as we go, we will be more productive and end up saving ourselves countless hours of wasted effort.

Question: What is one thing you can do to overcome perfectionism?

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  • Jane Ransom

    I am definitely guilty of this shortcoming! Thanks for the tips, Neel!

    • Neel Raman

      I think we’re all guilty of it Jane! I am getting better at it by taking on the “good enough is better than perfect” approach. That approach will certainly reduce stress and overwhelm. Thanks for your comments Jane!