Don't be fooled by Perfectionism

Is perfectionism crucial to success or does it hold you back? Perfectionism is essential in some cases. But in many common scenarios, striving to attain perfection has the potential to do you, your colleagues and your organisation more harm than good.

Perfectionism can take many different forms, including agonising over simple decisions or working on urgent jobs to the detriment of more meaningful tasks.

If you identify yourself with Perfectionism – worst still wear it like a ‘badge of honour’ how can you train yourself to let go more?

Here are a few simple tricks to get you out of the perfectionism trap. And remember, small steps count!

  • Identify the most important parts of tasks (which aren’t necessarily the most urgent) and focus on achieving those. This may go against every grain of your usual thought patterns, but the more you do this, the more natural and intuitive it becomes. And you’ll find that you don’t have time to overthink things.

  • Learn from others and the way they deal with projects or problem solving. Do you find that others achieve their work objectives because they get on and get things done, rather than focusing on the small details? Do their peers and stakeholders like to work with them because they are goal focused and not picky? Use your tendency towards perfection to work towards a great result, not perfection every step of the way.

  • Focus on the big picture. People often talk about the 80/20 rule and many of the everyday innovative products we take for granted launched in this way. If you complete something to an 8 out of 10 level, is it still a win? And does that mean you have more time to complete another 8 out of 10 win? The answer is often going to be a resounding yes.

  • If small things bother you, find ways to disrupt your thought patterns. It could be going for a walk, taking 5 deep breaths or practicing some mindfulness techniques.

  • Don’t think that you have to solve the world with everything. Even a small step towards improving a business problem could make a huge impact to the business or your customers.

  • Challenge your thought processes. You can either create some rules for yourself e.g. if you know that one of your team can do the task adequately and to the required standard, then practice handing on tasks. Put yourself in situations where you need to make faster decisions e.g. create meeting objectives where decisions and progress need to be made within that 60 or 90-minute window. And to hold yourself to account, communicate this to your managers so that they expect a decision or update after the meeting.

If you are a perfectionist, you may be procrastinating about where to start. Which tactic is going to bear the best results? Our final word is this – choose one change that you’d like to work on from the list above and plan to do that for the next month. That will give you a kick start to operating more effectively – and you may even find work a lot more enjoyable.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services