Perfectionism can hold you back from the excellence you’re striving for.
- You might be paralyzed by decision-making, for example, because each choice feels monumental.
- Or you might feel morally obligated to over-deliver.
- Or you rigidly cling to habits that no longer serve you.
To mitigate these self-destructive tendencies, start by developing self-awareness and systems to hold yourself accountable. To tone down your tendency to over-deliver, pick a few areas where you’re okay just meeting expectations. And weed out the habits that no longer serve you by regularly reviewing the opportunity cost of your day-to-day commitments.
So let Perfect not standing in the way.
Productivity isn’t about getting more done. It’s about what you get done. Three aspects of perfectionism can interfere with your ability to prioritize the most important tasks.
1. You’re reluctant to designate decisions as “unimportant.”
There’s an argument that, for unimportant decisions, you should either decide quickly or outsource the decision. But perfectionists have a hard time designating decisions as unimportant. They like to be in control of everything. Why? Because imperfections bother them more than they do other people.
Solution: In modern life, decision fatigue can be intense. A perfectionist can learn to love giving up control over some choices if they pay attention to how good it feels to be relieved of the decision-making burden.
2. You feel morally obligated to overdeliver.
The belief that you need to beat expectations in any situation can manifest in many ways. Sometimes this line of thinking comes from wanting an excessive cushion; It can also be driven by anxiety, insecurity or imposter syndrome; for instance, you think the only way to prevent anyone from being disappointed or unhappy with you is by always exceeding expectations. Perfectionists also sometimes imagine there will be catastrophic consequences if they fail to overdeliver;
Solution: Have a plan for how you’ll course-correct if you notice these thought patterns. Understand what it’s costing you to always aim for outperformance. What else don’t you have time, energy, attention, and willpower for? Perhaps your own health, your big goals, or your family. If you assess that the costs are significant, try having a rule of thumb for when you’ll overdeliver.
3. You get excessively annoyed when you aren’t 100% consistent with good habits.
When perfectionists want to adopt new habits, they tend to fall into one of three categories. They bite off more than they can chew and their plans are too onerous to manage; they avoid starting any habit unless they’re 100% sure they can hit their goal everyday, which leads to procrastination; or they take on only those habits that they can stick to no matter what.
Solution: Have a mechanism in place for checking that you’re not sticking to a habit just because you’re worshiping at the altar of self-discipline. If you’ve never missed a workout in two years (or any other habit), it’s likely there were some days when getting it done wasn’t the best use of your time. Regularly review the opportunity cost of any activities or behaviors you diligently do to make sure they are currently the best use of your physical and mental energy.
Perfectionism is often driven by striving for excellence, but it can be self-sabotaging if it leads to suboptimal behavior like continuing habits beyond their usefulness, overdelivering when you don’t have to, or overthinking every decision you make.
Source: This blog is inspired by the article “Don’t Let Perfection Be the Enemy of Productivity,” by Alice Boyes