Why Being A Perfectionist Is Killing You And How To Deal With It

“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.” – Neil Gaiman

I was struggling with myself as a perfectionist for a while and from now on I decided to quit it at least partially. It doesn’t mean that the quality of the work that I do on a daily basis will be worse. I think about perfectionism more as a process of achieving something. And I figured how it blocks me to deliver something earlier than I usually do.

Everyone has its measure where things are perfect. What’s perfect for one human isn’t for someone else. But even if we focus on one human and his standards we can see that it’s not a solid thing, but always related to something.

Our standards can be changed throughout the time. What is perfect Today, isn’t Tomorrow. The problem of it is that if we doing something and our standards change on a daily basis then we’ll never finish it. It’s a like a dark hole that sucks our energy but never let you release something. This kind of perfectionism is the evil for all creatives like designers, musicians, product builders, inventors and so on.

Life isn’t going to always be perfect. There are positives and negatives. Life happens while you making plans especially in these transient times like now. Just keep moving forward until results that well enough.

The truth is, there is never a right time. Perfection is like chasing something that doesn’t exist. But you should know when to stop. Have a solid measure or just train yourself to feel this moment to stop and release.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” – Anne Lamott

Someone said us that perfectionism makes us better. But perfectionism might also kill creativity and productivity.

With unrealistic expectations you’ll never be satisfied with your work or even yourself. People never deliver, because they never feel like their work is finished. But nowadays nothing is ever finished anyways. So if you are a real perfectionist you tend to overthink too much and the work actually suffers instead of improving.

As I mentioned before I want to reduce the amount of perfectionism that I have and start delivering more. Experiments and practice on the first place, theory on the background.

First of all, I reviewed toolkit that I use while creating a design and came up with one simple rule. Your efficiency depends on what kind of tool or software do you use at the beginning and how many iterations you have until the final result if you have them at all.

I use simple tools like notebook and pen more on start to draw basic sketches, mind maps, or even low fidelity wireframes. This first step of creating something has restrictions. I can’t make things perfect on paper, but I can quickly draw a concept that simplifies a lot of work on next stages. It’s the most natural way of creating something.

Our nature behaves in the same way. It starts with basics and end with details, but never stops developing and delivering.

You can avoid perfectionism loop by splitting a big task into stages or iterations. It’s easy to move forward with simple steps. And when you complete each step you feel the mini reward that makes you motivated to move to the next step. I’m trying to do each step in a way that by completing it I have some result that I can send or make public. It helps to focus more on a delivery of a solution than on a process.

On stages when I work on design iterations and final design input I try to set deadlines for myself. It helps me to not overthink a task that I’m doing. I do what is the most important and if I have a time at the end I can polish my solutions to make them look better.

One important thing here is that if you work on clients projects these deadlines shouldn’t be the same. You need to have a buffer time between your inner deadline and a deadline of a client. Deadlines shouldn’t make your work stressful. They should help you be efficient and to avoid perfectionism.

A similar approach for writing. I’m not trying to write my articles perfect from the beginning. To be honest that’s how I learned to write. I usually start from topics that I want to highlight or simply just start writing something until I feel that I’m in a thread. From this point, it’s important to not go back and check what you have written before. I just continue writing. This can be as a first stage. So, the second step for me will be to review what I have written, then polishing and structuring my thoughts.

Perfection is unattainable, so trying to achieve it is a waste of your time. No one is perfect, but anyone can make the decision to be a better person and so on. I even have several tasks for creating one post. The first one is usually free writing on a certain topic. The second one is about structuring and proofreading the text and one more step for adding necessary images and posting it on my website.

Procrastination And Perfectionism

Procrastination is related to perfectionism. Every time when you start doing things that don’t lead you to some achievements and you simply burn your time with various activities it means that things that you really need to do seems difficult, huge, scary and you don’t know where to start. Our brains were designed in a way to choose the simplest path.

Since our goals getting bigger and harder to achieve we need to learn how to do hard work in a simple way.

Some of the technics described above can help in many cases. But don’t forget to avoid perfectionism here. It usually adds an additional cost.

Making things perfect is just impossible. This way of thinking about tasks and goals feels so overwhelming. Work hard, but don’t forget to work smart. Uncomplicate things you do and you’ll see that it’s much easier to complete them.

If you want to make your life simpler then stop chasing perfectionism. Be okay with not being perfect. Just be as good as you can be. And if you’re starting something new than accept that you can mess up and be okay with it.

Don’t put off doing something because you don’t feel like you know everything. You never will know everything.

Don’t put something off because you don’t feel ready. You’ll never be 100% ready.

Don’t put something off because you feel there are people better than you.

The only way for you to get better is by getting better! It’s okay if you’re not perfect. No one is. And chances are, no one cares. No one even notices. If you do things, you’ll get better. And each time, you’ll get better than the last time. So stop chasing perfection. Or you’ll chase it forever and it will hold you back.

As you get closer to perfect, it gets more and more difficult to improve, and the market values the improvements a little bit less. Increasing your free-throw percentage from 98 to 99 percent may rank you better in the record books, but it won't win any more games and the last 1 percent takes almost as long to achieve as the first 98 percent did.

We've been trained since first grade to avoid mistakes. The goal of any test, after all, is to get 100 percent. No mistakes. Get nothing wrong and you get an A, right?

I wish you deliver and experience more than being a perfectionist.

Thank you for reading,
Max

P.S. I'm writing a book on remote work and business for creatives, which you can pre-order now. I have no comments area here, Tweet me your questions if you have.

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