Productivity Techniques to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often viewed as a good thing. At the same time, perfectionism is often correlated with anxiety because these two concepts snowball together. You want something to be perfect because of the anxiety that comes with failure, which ends up creating more anxiety as you strive toward perfection.

Productivity Techniques to Overcome Perfectionism

This is why perfection can actually be a detriment to productivity. It can consume your time and cause burnout if left unchecked. Make 2024 the year you let go of perfection—and still maintain productivity—with these key tips.

Recognize the differences between perfectionism and healthy striving

The first step is to identify how much perfectionism interferes with your daily life. With healthy striving, your work is free of errors and meets the high expectations you set for yourself. This is what most employees try to do. Unhealthy perfectionism takes this a step further. It causes people to set goals that are too high while also creating severe anxiety and stress around the idea of failure.

A perfectionist will obsess over parts of the assignment that are good enough to make them even better. The result is that they waste time making largely unnoticed improvements. If there are errors, the perfectionist blames themselves for the failures and minimizes their self-worth.

Evaluate whether the goals you set for yourself are reasonable and within reach. Then look at the punishments you set for not reaching those goals. This can help you understand if your perfectionist habits are getting in the way.

Develop a good, better, best approach to goal-setting

One technique you can try as you move away from perfectionism is the good, better, best model. This takes away the black-and-white nature of perfectionism. Rather than approaching a project as either passing or failing, you can set a reasonable goal, an ideal goal, and a stretch goal for yourself.

This allows you to celebrate your successes three times while also limiting your chances of failure. Reaching a reasonable goal is a good thing, but you can still review ways to do better in the future. The focus is on growth, not doing everything perfectly the first time.

This doesn’t mean you can’t want to reach the best often—but it does mean you have to remember that it’s not always going to be that way, and that’s okay too. Everyone has room for improvement.

Set checkpoints and breaks

Perfectionists tend to focus on the end result, which causes them to overwork to create the perfect finished product. They can become obsessed with the work and won’t stop until it is complete. This obsession can quickly become unhealthy, reducing work-life balance and adding unnecessary pressure to deliver a perfect product.

To counter this, break a project into a series of steps. Instead of focusing on the finished design, start with the first part. Then take a break. Continue this process, only focusing on one step at a time, until the project is complete.

Agencies often follow this work routine when completing projects for clients. They only complete the first step and ask the client to approve it before moving on to the next. Once one step is approved, there’s no going back to it.

With this process, you can focus on completing singular tasks rather than getting overwhelmed with the entire project.

Practice failing in a low-risk environment

Perfectionism is often rooted in a fear of failure. To face this fear, put yourself in low-risk situations where you might not succeed. For example, ask your manager to train you on a new skill where you’re likely to mess up as you learn it.

You can bring this challenge to your personal life if you aren’t ready for your coworkers to see you fail just yet. Pick up a new hobby where failure is inevitable but you’re still going to have fun. Join a rock climbing gym, bake bread, or take up ballroom dancing. Anything that’s new to you, but is still of interest, works for this.

This is the perfect reminder that making an effort is good enough and being perfect isn’t necessary to do a great job and have fun.

Celebrate not being perfect

Perfectionism is a bad habit that can take up a significant amount of time. It can leave you exhausted and stressed over small details.

As you try these anti-perfectionism techniques, celebrate your victories. Acknowledge when you catch yourself slipping into old habits and stop those behaviors. Track your growth as you set better goals that are more reasonable.

Not only will these efforts increase your productivity, but they can also improve your overall happiness levels and confidence at work. A win-win!

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