I was in 4th grade when I learned that B+ in my report card was not good enough. The feeling of shame was incongruent with the honor roll certificate given to me by my teacher as she smiled and offered praise with a “Good job!” Yet, that wasn’t enough in my home and from that point on, I made it my business to accumulate as many A’s as I could all the way through Graduate School. I accomplished many things I admit but it cost me a whole lot more than I had anticipated.
Perfectionism is often seen as a source of honor but I learned that it actually isn’t the secret element in achieving success in business. In fact, it can hurt it. How? The reasons are many but in business, it severely taps into your productivity by producing paralyzing effects that can keep you from taking action and achieving your business goals.
The real price of perfection
Some of my perfectionistic ways were learned in my younger years. However, I came to the realization that the pursuit of perfection was actually a liability for my business endeavors. To bring light to this point, I’ll share a mini list of my losses:
- Failure to launch 4 businesses that were in the works in the last 10 years because “I wasn’t ready.”
- Missed opportunity to work with a former FUBU publicist in the early 2000’s because I didn’t feel prepared enough to email her back.
- Failure to publish 30 articles I’d written because after I reviewed them, they didn’t offer enough quality by my standards (Thankfully I learned about repurposing content).
Getting past it
Perfectionism can become maladaptive. You can easily begin to rely on it so profusely that it debilitates your confidence. As you become busier, you can start to doubt your capabilities in fulfilling tasks. The tasks become to-dos and eventually large piles become insurmountable baggage that just lingers around weighing on you. Your brain becomes overwhelmed and your inability to quench it down creates feelings of lack that can result in guilt, shame and personal failure. Your business becomes stagnant or completely folds.
It’s hard to take a step back and deconstruct this act. It becomes so fixed that the actual execution of revisiting, revising and redoing becomes a gratifying activity because it is addicting in nature. But somewhere along the line there has to be a point where something is good enough and not overdone.
How do you manage this time sucking beast?
First, expect the unexpected and be flexible with outcomes.
When working out a course of action, understand that a plan is just a framework to assist you. Don’t entertain any black and white thinking. Be adaptable. In business, nothing is predictable so let it go and move on. You’ll need your sanity and energy to keep growing your business; therefore, learn to cut the toxic chatter in your head. Course correct while you’re moving. As you take action, you’ll begin to take the control back.
Secondly, think about what motivates you and break it down.
Ascertaining a goal is usually easy. Actually achieving it is a different story. If perfectionism knocks on your door, so will procrastination. When you are a constant worrier and over thinker, it is quite difficult to establish an environment for yourself that is conducive for getting the job done. Map out a picture of the big goal then concentrate on small steps individually.
Mastering small steps will allow you to immerse yourself, which will heighten your concentration and pleasure and create a more favorable setting for continuous accomplishments. The important thing is that you set attainable and measurable goals.
Lastly, eliminate multitasking to increase focus.
In business, multitasking has become almost synonymous with productivity. The problem is that it can become rampant taking you to a place of chronic misuse of your time. Your brain is not able to handle all the demands you put on it when you multitask because it cannot switch efficiently between tasks. It actually slows you down and changes the way your brain works. Figure out what your highest priorities are, chunk your tasks and align accordingly. For example, if you set out to complete 4 tasks in one day, set a specific time period for each task and move on. Program your brain to think that you have a deadline to meet during each time period. This will allow you to focus on getting things done rather than perfection.
Stop being a hounding self-critic
Perfectionism is not objective. Your definition is likely to be different than mine but all of it stems from an attempt to avoid some sort of discomfort. However, a dose of perfection is not all bad. It can kick your buns into high gear. It does become a problem when it’s chronic. Start by loosening up your unrealistic standards. Otherwise, you’re be mounting the fast lane towards dysfunctional coping. Your business will suffer and you’ll find yourself paying the high price of overtime with no return on your investment.
Are you willing to reconsider that price?