I can tell you the first time I heard that being a Perfectionist was a ‘weakness’ I thought it was a passive aggressive answer on an interview. I might have even used it. It was the truth, after all. I’m going back a few years, but it took me some time to become aware of the debilitating effect being a Perfectionist had on me. Dealing with OCD most of my life, I realized that while trying to do the best job, I took a dozen or more steps backwards anytime I endeavored a task. I’ve always said, time is a greater resource than money. And in my case, time certainly is a thief! Here I was, constantly wasting time or worse, not completing the job. It was a painful process that I had been dealing with for over three decades. Over the years I have tried my hardest to move around this ‘weakness’ and be as effective and efficient as possible. I’ve picked up a few tricks that have helped me out and will hopefully assist you, too.
Let it go
I can still hear my Aunt telling me (cue the Elsa notes) to Let it Go, Let it Go! And it’s a struggle. I’m not a competitive person by nature so I would question if it could be pride. Or is it OCD? Perhaps it’s a little of everything. But here I am thinking about how well I can do something and why wouldn’t I make it everything and anything it can be. You have this great idea and know how to maximize on a task, yet all of these ideas create a complex and polarized process where you feel like you aren’t getting anything done. And you are left feeling defeated.
Once you decide that it’s ok to be average and totally acceptable to do a great job versus a perfect job, you are freed in a way that brings such joy, it’s all worth it. Missed an opportunity? Its ok, there will be more. Accepting that you are human and not a super-human is a liberation. Legitimately a deliverance. And it might not happen in one day. And that’s ok, too!
Years ago I read a book about relationships. One of my bigger takeaways from this book was how a submissive person takes control. This really stuck with me because my gut said it would typically be the opposite. Yet I can see how there is a certain comfort in making a decision that possibly wasn’t your first choice, still knowing YOU made the decision. For example, maybe you know deep down that you will not be able to meet a deadline for extra credit. Or maybe you want to make it to see your nephew play ball before you come home and get ready for an appointment. You might want to try and make it to two parties in the same day? If your deadline makes it impossible to complete the extra credit, turn it down and ask for another opportunity. If you take control, you may decide between the two parties or let them both know you will be leaving early / coming late. But knowing you were the one who made the decision can be satisfying even when you are ultimately disappointed. And make those decisions earlier rather than later. This also helps tremendously with anxiety.
Tackle it and then fine tune
When I am working on a project there is one constant every single time. And it’s that at some point, I need do something else before I continue. This creating of an additional step happens without fail. So let’s say that one step back is going well…and I am almost done… and just about to get back to my original project but… wait…I need one more thing to be done… let me go grab it. Oh boy, I better clean this room! I hope you are laughing For those who are not, I am happy for you that you do not go through this. It is beyond frustrating and before you know it, your office is clean, you reorganized your file system, edited your generic template for two protocols and now two days later can get back to step 1 of a project that should have been complete in two hours. My recommendation is to push through and stay focused to the assignment in front of you. If you have an idea that might make the project ‘better,’ write it down and then when you are done, go back to the written list of things you wanted to do and see if its worth it to add in and fine tune.
This is specific when it comes to the above mentioned ‘tackle and fine tune.’ Let’s say my project is working on edits to my website. It’s very easy to become distracted by other mini-projects that might help your current one. For example, while editing the website, I might consider writing a blog. This takes time! Or maybe I want to add photos from my last few clients with reviews. As great as it would be, I will now need to reach out to those clients and ask for photos and reviews. Realistically, it’s a fantastic idea because everything is done fluidly and hard work pays off when all is said and done. But now my project of working on the site has been pushed back. So when it comes to my mini projects, I can choose to ‘park it.’ I write down what I want to do and then just before I complete the project at hand, I gloss over the ‘parking lot’ and decide if I should add in the mini projects I thought would enhance my current one. If I feel I can do it separately and just finish the project as it is, I will. But I can also ‘take control’ and make the decision to reach out to my clients and then when they come in, add it again. Meanwhile, I ‘park it’ or write it down, so that I don’t become too distracted.
Give a realistic time limit
This one is tricky but also important. I think if you consider a goal time and a back-up time, it can be helpful to completing a task without rushing it. Moving too quickly is my only concern when it comes to time limits. For example, I am working on Project Management for one of my clients. My goal might be to complete a four part project within three days. I am realistic about the timing and I break it down day to day and hour to hour. So imagining each of the four sections can be done in two hours, I will allocate more time than I need (a cushion of time) and consider them mini-tasks with a ‘cushion’ in case I have an emergency. I include all of the above mentioned tricks, utilizing the parking lot, but at the forefront making sure I get through my work, leaving the process of fine-tuning at the end. I should complete it with no problem. And having a goal time and back up time, will work brilliantly as well. This is a great way for the Perfectionist to limit distractions, stay focused and not rush through.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. I wrote it in a planned goal time and utilized everything above. Could it have been better? Probably. But I feel good about it and hope this helps my fellow Perfectionists out there, too.