Perfectionism doesn’t sound so bad at first. What’s wrong with having high standards, after all? Here’s what: Perfectionism is usually rooted in poor self-esteem and can keep you stuck—personally and professionally.
Dr. Brene Brown, renowned researcher, speaker, and author, agrees: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best . . . [It] is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield.”
When everything needs to be “perfect,” you’ll soon find that nothing actually is. Perfectionism actually keeps you from being productive, because there is no such thing as perfect—there is no way to ever actually reach that goal. But imperfection—and the acknowledgment of it—is actually a good thing; it relieves a lot of the pressure that many of us put on ourselves every single day. And accepting it can help you actually start to get stuff done.
Here’s how you can start to do just that:
Start by relieving some of the pressure.
When you’re feeling the pull of perfectionism, it’s often helpful to pause, presence yourself, and reflect on reality. While there’s no doubt some tasks or activities are incredibly important, it’s easy to overwhelm ourselves by making things seem more significant than they need to be. Is this situation life-or-death? What will happen if you don’t do it perfectly? More often than not, a quick reality check will show that you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself. Take a deep breath, give yourself some grace, and get started.
Just finish it.
Speaking of getting started, in our blog post on the 30-Minute Start, we offered you tips for when you’re feeling stuck. But often, the bigger obstacle for a perfectionist is actually finishing something. So do as the great innovators and entrepreneurs do and practice iterating rapidly—in other words, finish and share quickly. Then get feedback, implement it, finish and share all over again. For you, this could be anything from cleaning the kitchen every day or sharing an early draft of a presentation with your boss. The point is you’re putting something out there when it’s “good enough,” knowing it may not be perfect, but also knowing there is greater value (and room for improvement) after you just get it done.
Make well-done lists in addition to to-do lists.
We love to-do lists, and we bet you do too. But they can be a little frustrating when you don’t get to cross everything off. (Just us? We didn’t think so.) So why not make a list of what you have gotten done? Celebrate what you’ve accomplished! Perfectionists often focus on what isn’t being done, and certainly on what isn’t being done well—and to a perfectionist, that’s near everything. Start to rewrite that narrative by keeping a list of what you’ve done well, feedback that’s been positive, love notes (both personally and professionally) that have popped up in your inbox or on your social media channels—and revisit that whenever you need a reminder of what you’re truly capable of, no matter how imperfect you may feel.
Forgive yourself—and everyone else.
This is a generally good golden rule in life, but it’s especially important if you struggle with the desire to be perfect. We all fall short—every single one of us. What really matters is that you keep moving forward when you make a mistake or when your output is less-than-perfect. Hold that space for yourself, and for everyone around you. When you can accept, and also forgive, your own imperfection, you’ll start being a lot more productive. And happy. We promise.
Are you a perfectionist? What tips will you use to stop trying to be perfect and start being more productive? Share your favorites with us in the comments below!
Design your days with Day Designer! When a day doesn’t go quite as planned, no matter how hard you tried, remember to give yourself grace—tomorrow is a great second chance!