“Oh that’s perfect, thank you!” Such nice feedback to get, isn’t it? But striving for perfectionism is a largely self-imposed trait – it can be limiting, increase your stress levels and lead to burnout. The impact of last year’s events, resulting in job losses for some and increased workload for others, have only heightened these pressures. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, we need to check ourselves, take stock of what we are trying to achieve, assess how to use our time effectively to deliver it, and explore new ways of meeting (our own high) expectations.
1. Acknowledge and understand ‘perfectionism’ as a trait
You may not have pegged yourself as a perfectionist, or perhaps you wear the ‘perfectionist’ badge with pride. Step back and assess yourself to understand if you are being limited by always trying to be the very best. Signs that you are a perfectionist include procrastination to get started, fixating on small details and constantly trying to redo things to improve them (whilst avoiding trying new ways of doing things).
2. Overcome your inner saboteur
Applying extremely high standards to everything you do could be a sign of insecurity. Negative thoughts can be mistakenly acknowledged as a motivating driver but they only get in the way of whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Politely tell that voice – what RuPaul Charles terms ‘the inner saboteur’ – to leave the room and focus on getting things done.
3. Be realistic with expectations and goals
It’s good practice to make goals, uphold standards and demonstrate the value you bring. Just be realistic with what you can deliver and don’t make yourself feel like a failure if you need to reassess and pull back. Also avoid holding others to your same standard – everyone has their own levels of perfectionism.
4. Clarify the required standards
Does everything you do need to be up to the same high level? Or can some lower priority tasks be quick and dirty? When replying to someone, does this person need a full-blown email or a quick response? Balance out your perfectionism by embracing imperfectionism and learning from failure.
5. Set a deadline and stick to it
Perfectionism takes you longer to get results and can make for less-than-perfect time management. Impose a deadline on yourself and focus on one task at a time. Most importantly, stop multitasking! To get a draft of this blog completed, I set a midday deadline and shut off Outlook/Teams for one hour.
6. What’s the worst that can happen?
Imagine the worst-case scenario of your work not being delivered: what are the consequences? These outcomes are worth unpacking as they often expose unrealistic impacts. Asking these questions will also highlight the level of importance for the tasks, which helps with prioritising one over the other.
7. Just say ‘no’
There’s nothing wrong with being a people pleaser, but there’s a point where you need to remind yourself of being realistic with expectations and goals (step 3). If you’re already working at capacity – or over capacity – how are you realistically going to take on more on top of this? Identify where you can delegate or collaborate to share workload, drop lower priority work that may be less relevant in the current climate, and don’t be afraid to say when you simply can’t achieve something in the given timeframe.