I’ve shared before how much perfectionism is connected to procrastination. I’m not the only one who talks about it.  A quick Google search will take you to a long list of academic articles on the subject.

When I usually get a lot of questions about this. Most of us think that being a perfectionist is a good thing. I agree—to an extent.

Having high standards and wanting to do a good job is a good habit. None of us want to be known for sloppy work. The trouble happens when having something be “perfect” gets in the way of moving forward.

The unhealthy pursuit of perfection or, Serial Perfectionism is different than having high standards. There’s a valuable saying that helps me keep things in perspective “It’s not about perfection it’s about progression.”

The day I realized that my preference for high standards was getting in the way of making progress on my goals, I had to figure it out.

If you are a serial perfectionist like I used to be, I’d like to invite you to join me for an intervention!

The first step is to admit that your need for things to be “perfect” before you share them or hand them off is getting in the way of collaboration, team work and results. How do you know if this you? Do you find yourself saying “yes” to these questions and statements?

  • Has anyone told you that you have unrealistically high standards?
  • You’ve been accused of wanting everything to be perfect.
  • You sometimes delay working on a project because you don’t have all the resources to get started.
  • You have delayed launching something because “It’s not quite ready yet to share”

Serial perfectionists have to realize that what they consider “ordinary”
is someone else’s “extra-ordinary.”

Another lesson that helped me shift my approach is when a speaker at an even said “if you want to earn {money} done is better than none.”

So where can you start in letting go of perfectionism?

  •  Think ROI- return on investment. Insist on getting a profitable return on your invested time. If there is limited return, limit your time. Simply put don’t spend all your time trying to make an unimportant project perfect. Learn to let it go so you can grow. Give the task the amount of time that it’s worth.
  • Set a time budget and stick to it. Figure out before you start the project how much time you are willing to devote to a task and work within that budgeted amount.
  • Know when it’s good enough. There comes a point when you have to let the project move on to the next level. A couple of years ago, I had an incredible opportunity to present a time management workshop to a potentially huge, repeat client. I had less than three weeks to prepare my presentation and get my handouts ready. I was stressed out because I know when I rush things I can make mistakes, but my back was up against a set deadline and I had no choice but to pull the trigger. So I did something I had never done before. I admitted to the group that there were mistakes in my content. I asked them for help. I brought goodies and books and gave stuff out to anyone who caught a mistake. By the end of the day, the workshop was in the bag, my “helpers” had found every mistake and more importantly we all learned a valuable lesson. I realized that talking about mistakes wasn’t the end of me, and I demonstrated a life skill to them about getting something to “good enough”.
  • It’s better to get it done than to delay until it can be perfect. Remember “done is better than none?” Well if I hadn’t gotten over the “what if” hump, I would have missed out on that incredible opportunity. By the way, that client is not only a repeat client, they also referred me to a training partner that has also become a repeat client. I would never have these great relationships, if I hadn’t just gotten the work done.
  • Do the best job you can in the time you have available. In the organizing and productivity industry, we teach about Parkinson’s Law or principle, which basically says that our work will expand or contract to the amount of time we have to complete it. If we have 3 weeks, we’ll stretch the work out. If we only have 3 days, we figure out a way to get it done. Many of us are externally directed, we respond to deadlines set by others and perform accordingly. If we are in charge of the clock, it gets harder to get things done “on time”. Try to match the output and quality to the time you have. Do the best you can with what you’ve got.
  • Take baby steps. Practice the Japanese Lean concept of Kaizen which refers to making small, continuous improvements made overtime. This is key especially if you are learning something new or you’ve set a huge goal. Try to improve things a little bit at a time. Make small improvement goals each time you work on something. It will add up to a huge improvement overtime, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of moving forward with your work.
  • Don’t set unrealistic standards for yourself or others. Be honest with yourself and others about what you can actually get done. Don’t overpromise and under deliver. Try not to bite off more than you can chew. Very cliché but true. You are more likely to procrastinate if you set a goal that is just way over your head. If that happens, dial it back a little bit. Figure out how to break the project down into manageable, achievable chunks.

So if you can raise your hand and admit to being a perfectionist, it’s time to go into recovery and become imperfectly perfect.

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Nicole Chamblin
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Nicole Chamblin

I’m Nicole Chamblin, a productivity coach and trainer who gives powerful yet loving kicks in the behind to women ready to leave procrastination and frustration in the rear view mirror. I would love to help you get back to the top of your priority list and crush your goals. Call me!
Nicole Chamblin
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