8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Several years ago, Pauline made her living by writing reports.  She would carefully craft a 5 or 6-page document and send it to the typing pool.  (She is aging herself here.)  In a few days, the report would come back.  Pauline would vigilantly review the report for perfection, make changes with a red pencil, and return it to the typing pool.  This process often occurred two or three times, before it was finally ready for the meticulous preview of her Manager.  However, once again, the dreaded red pencil would come out.  Eventually the report was sent out.

Pauline had a background in accounting and everything had to balance.  Thus, the contents of each report had to be perfect.

One day, Pauline’s Manager put a new computer on her desk.  It became her responsibility to produce reports.  (The gals in the typing pool were grinning from ear to ear!)   At this point she realized how much time she had cost the organization.

What’s sitting on the back of your desk for more than 5 days? 

Is it a task that needs to be done but gets delayed each time a new duty comes up? 

Many of us tend to procrastinate, whether it’s planned or not.

These are some of the qualities of a perfectionist:

  • E-mails and reports are double checked, triple checked and checked once more before release.
  • Work is submitted at the last minute
  • Regularly running late
  • Extensions to deadlines are often requested
  • Nothing is ever “good enough”
  • No room for error
  • Often criticize themselves
  • Operating at 110%
  • Often feeling stressed because everything has to be perfect
  • Standards of others are never up to par, compared to the standards of a perfectionist.

How to overcome perfectionism:

  1. Set a time limit or deadline for the task and plan the work accordingly.
  2. Review a report or e-mail two times and send it out.  If it is “tricky”, set it aside, review it one more time and send it out. 
  3. If the correspondence is contentious, ask a co-worker or manager to review it and get their opinion.
  4. Resist comparing yourself to someone else.  We all have unique qualities, characteristics and talents.  We work at different paces and standards.
  5. Recognize that everyone’s standards are different.  Therefore, the standards of a perfectionist may not meet the standards of the next person.  
  6. Be realistic.  Recognize that we are human and we make mistakes.  The task does not have to be always perfect.
  7. Learn to ask for help.  When we are learning how to do something new or challenging,  it will take us longer to do it.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.  We will learn something new in the process, and save our time and that of an organization.
  8. Accept feedback and criticism. This is how we learn and grow.

When completing a task, we first need to recognize that we may have some of the tendencies of a perfectionist.  There are several ways to overcome perfectionism.  We need to realize that we are human, not a machine.  To error is human.  What we consider to be perfect, may not be perfect for the next person.  We do the very best we can, with what we have at the time. Adjustments can always be made later. 


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