Has your perfectionism brought more misery than joy to your life?
Sure, most of us get satisfaction from a job well done. But often the process of delivering that job can make us miserable. In “How to Manage Your Perfectionism,” freelance writer Rebecca Knight quotes coach Matt Plummer, who says, “A lot of perfectionistic tendencies are rooted in fear and insecurity.” We’re perfectionists because we fear that if we’re not, we won’t end up performing well and we’ll damage our reputations. (I recommend reading the article because two case studies at the end present people who have dealt with perfectionism in real life and won.)
In this article, Mr. Plummer and Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit talk about understanding and dealing with the consequences of perfectionism and accepting that you will not be able to do everything perfectly.
“See the big picture”
Mr. Plummer and co-author Jo Wilson note that it’s important to consider the opportunity cost and time of perfectionism, asking yourself if you’re making smart use of your time. Focus on what’s important and look to maximizing your impact rather than on polishing every project to a high gloss. Be aware of the law of diminishing returns.
“Adjust your standards”
Get feedback on your efforts early in your process, and you may well discover that you’re doing fine. Feedback, of course, will help you improve. And Ms. Boyes point out that your work “doesn’t have to be the final word, it just has to contribute something useful.”
“Create a checklist”
Without a checklist, you’ll likely get lost in the weeds. So build a checklist for each task you’re working on. When you check each item on the list off, you’re done, which defeats your tendency to keep at a job long after diminishing returns have kicked in.
“Break the cycle of rumination”
Do you ruminate? I sure do, and though we used to laugh about it in my family as the fruit of OCD, it’s really not pleasant or productive. Ms. Boyes points out that rumination is anxiety-related and that ruminants are less forgiving of themselves than others. Rumination is a cycle that requires disruption. You can—and should—figure out your triggers, find ways to divert yourself, realize that you probably can’t trust your ruminations, and make a point of thinking of all the tasks you’ve done successfully. The article goes into further detail on each of these techniques, so I recommend checking it out.
For heaven’s sake, talk to someone with whom you can be open and comfortable—definitely not the office smarty-pants. Ms. Boyes suggests that you be clear that you want the person you choose to be honest. Promise you’ll think about what they say, even if you’re initially defensive. And then, of course, don’t renege on that commitment.
“Monitor your progress”
Review your progress every week, so that you can learn where your perfectionism has positive and negative impact. Negative impact, for example, is when you avoid doing something or procrastinate because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Mr. Plummer points out that in addressing perfectionism you’re “redirecting your personality,” rather than “changing course.”
I found this article helpful because I tend toward perfectionism. This can hinder a freelance content creator, though I have not generally found that it gets in my way. Where my perfectionism is hardest to overcome is with this blog. It’s not difficult to come up with an editorial calendar filled with valuable topics, but getting the writing done can be a lot harder. What I found helpful in this article is the suggestion to focus on sharing information that make a useful contribution.
We’re all insanely busy. I like to think that I come across great thinking that readers may not have time to ferret out and that I may be able to encourage them to seek out more from a writer whose ideas they like.
Photo credit: Andriy Popov – 123rf.com