If you wear ‘being a perfectionist’ as a badge of honour then you are setting yourself up to fail. By definition the perfectionist cannot succeed so it’s quite a self destructive mantra / character trait to have. In fact it is often referred to as “the highest form of self-abuse” because perfection simply doesn’t exist. More importantly, perfection is rarely necessary in day-to-day working and living (unless you are a brain surgeon). Don’t get me wrong, perfectionists are frequently high achievers but the price they pay for success can be unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Perfectionists are also make for difficult managers, focusing on the minute detail (especially if there is a small error) and therefore easily missing or forgetting the bigger picture. They are unreasonably demanding micromanagers who irritate employees by obsessing over nonessential details. Because everything is important, they are terrible at prioritising, perhaps the most important task of a manager.
Being a perfectionist manager also stops them from delegating because of course, no one will do it as well as them. But, as I point out to clients, they are asking the wrong question. Rather than considering “will they do it as well as me” they should ask “will they do it well enough?”, and if the answer is “yes” then they should delegate.
Are you a procrastinator?
Procrastination is often a symptom of perfectionism. Perfectionists fear that they won’t be able to complete a task perfectly so they put it off as long as possible. Perfectionists worry that failure will result in criticism or ridicule either from internal voices or external authorities and peers. The higher the fear of failure and ridicule, the more perfectionists procrastinate.
Procrastination is not laziness. It’s more a misguided sense of activity based on a low tolerance for frustration and failure. For example, when you delay completing a task that seems like it will take a really long time, only to realise that it took less time to do it than to think about it repeatedly. That’s why one of my best time management tips is to make your to-do list and do the hardest thing first.
Procrastination is easy to spot: Are you doing what you want to be doing or are supposed to be doing, or are you surfing the web/reading Facebook posts/filing papers/doing laundry/running errands? If you answered yes to the latter, then you are procrastinating.
Breaking the cycle
1. Focus on progress, not perfection.
Get a clear sense of the purpose in everything you do. Then it will be easier to know which things deserve that extra time to get things “just right,” and which things don’t.
2. Set your minimum standard, and stop when you meet it.
Get clear about your minimum standards – and once you find an answer that meets those minimum standards, choose it. Stop searching for more options.
3. Get organised
Create your daily/weekly lists and do the hardest thing first
4. Get unstuck
When you get stuck and find yourself procrastinating, JFWDI (and if you want to know what that means, drop me a line!)
I run workshops on delegation and being a great leader and this is a topic that is discussed with more detail on strategies to overcome it.
So take your ‘perfectionist’ badge off and replace it with on that says you are a realist and a do-er.