It’s really easy to get caught up in trying to be a perfectionist. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants on paper? Someone who pays so much incredible attention to every little miniscule detail and will overachieve for no particular reason.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be a perfectionist. I would put on this front that not only were all the areas of my life filled with rainbows and butterflies, but that I also had every single butterfly aligned in perfect order, and color coordinated to its most efficient place.
Here are a few things I’m currently working on to let go of perfection and optimize my success. The most important lesson here is that perfection isn’t found in the result, it’s found in the journey. If you don’t take the time to appreciate the journey and absorb all the knowledge and experience the process has to offer you, then you’re destructing your own growth.
1. The best time to get started really is now
People tend to use perfectionism as a mask for procrastination. You have to take big risks to achieve big results. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I played it really safe and as a result I have this multi-million dollar business?” Never. Risks, both big and small, are a necessary part of success. It’s important to acknowledge your fears and hesitations; you don’t want to cover them up completely, but that doesn’t mean you need to let them control you.
2. Finished is better than perfect
Use what you have right now to get to where you want to be. Sometimes “good enough” really is perfectly fine. Is spending the extra time and energy to refine your current product really going to make a difference in the outcome? If the answer is yes, then absolutely, put energy there. However, if the answer is no, come to terms with your “good enough” work. Don’t waste your precious time just for the sake of being perfect when perfect isn’t going to get you anywhere. Perfectionism also results in a blurry view of reality. When you have your heart set on achieving “perfect” and often unrealistic, overly specific goals and expectations you set at the beginning of the task or project, you lose your ability to identify and hone in other areas that still have room for improvement that would more effectively benefit from your attention.
3. Use struggle to generate success
A few (or a thousand) obstacles, roadblocks, and mistakes do not mean your plan is tainted. There is no amount of planning and preparation that can account for all the bumps in the road. And, if you waste time accommodating every possible situation, chances are the roadblocks you planned for aren’t even problematic anymore and you’re just thrown a whole different set of curve balls. Setbacks happen for a reason. There will always be struggles. Always.
4. Be ready for anything
Planning is key to productivity. However, part of your planning process needs to be anticipating the unexpected, otherwise, you did not plan efficiently. Have a game plan in your head to deal with unexpected factors. If you’re meeting with someone and they tell you they’re running late, instead of sitting there tapping your foot filling with anxiety about how this is going to throw off your entire day, optimize that unexpected time by catching up on a few emails, reviewing documents, branding yourself a bit on social media, etc. You’re truly killing it when you can not only accept the unexpected without losing your mind, but also when you can optimize the unexpected to your advantage.
5. Differentiate ‘perfect’ and ‘productive’
You wake up in the morning and check your emails first thing in the morning. The next thing you know, it’s noon and you haven’t even eaten breakfast yet because you’ve been too busy putting out fires for your clients and cleaning up mistakes made by people on your team. Sure, everyone might be a little calmer now that you’re awake and engaged in the world but did you really get anything accomplished? Maybe putting that fire out with your client was productive in your eyes, but if this client is consistently dramatic, are they really worth your time anyways? Productivity isn’t crossing things off your to-do list. It’s focusing your energy on tasks that are going to move YOU (yes you, be selfish) in the direction of your dreams and goals. Start your day by determining what you can do today to take a step closer to where you want to be in life (no matter how big or small that step its). Do those things and only those things.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Trying to appear perfect causes you to neglect how perfect your life is. Perfect is an objective term. And therefore, you need to stop focusing on if your perfectionism is meeting the ‘perfect’ standards of others. Why? Because you’ll never be able to reach someone else’s opinion of perfection because your definition of perfection is the only one that really matters.