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Five ways to beat perfectionism

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 | By Amanda Jesnoewski

The biggest productivity killer in business isn't procrastination; it’s perfectionism.


I’m sure you’ve experienced it, you’re about to press the send button on an email, the print button on proposal or the publish button on a blog post, but you stop.


You start to wonder, is this good enough yet? Did I forget something? Did I miss something? Did I correct every spelling mistake? Have I articulated myself well enough? Could it be said better?


Before you know it you’re reading through it again and making what seems like the thirtieth round of changes: 10 minutes pass, 20 minutes, 30 minutes – an hour passes and you’re still ‘perfecting’ the one task.


But let's face it; your work will never be perfect. It will just be a different, slightly better version of the last one and you will have wasted more time that you could have been using getting through your other tasks.


So how do you ensure your work is high quality without getting stuck “perfecting” it? Here are five tips to help you beat perfectionism trap.


1. Check your expectations


Look at your work expectations honestly. Are they reasonable? Are they possible within the time frame you have? Would you expect the same from someone else?


If it is a client project, also determine if they are your client’s expectations or your own. Often we will put far more pressure on ourselves to perform than what our clients and others are actually expecting from us.


2. Keep the self-critic in check


We're our own worst critics. We'll naturally see everything that is wrong with our work before we'll see what is right. So make sure you're not being overly critical.


Try to look at your work through the eyes of your client, potential client or another target audience (depending on what you are working on and who you are targeting). Would their perspective be different? Would they be happy where you're not?


3. Have a sounding board


If you're a serial perfectionist and often find yourself in the trap of doubting, editing and changing work, seek the opinion of someone you trust.


Who you go to will depend on what you're working on; though it pays to have someone who is business-minded and someone who isn't, available to call on.


Getting input from others will not only keep your expectations in check, it will also help you to work out if you're editing because your work needs it or editing because you're chasing perfection.


4. Take a break


Sometimes taking a break from the task you're working on can help you gain a new perspective. If you're editing a document, try to take a break overnight as you will come back more refreshed the next morning.


5. Learn to just let go


You need to get to a point where you just let go and accept that not everything can be perfect. Perhaps you limit how many times you read your work or how long you spend on any given task to help you get to this point.


Also remember to trust yourself and your expertise. Know that you do good work and in those moments of doubt, read back over the testimonials you’ve received from happy clients.


How do you deal with perfectionism?