Q#4 Excellence or perfection ?
I am a coach in «professional development» at a Communication and Journalism School in Paris. I always tell my students : «Stop wanting to be the best. Start wanting to be the best solution. And let mistakes be part of your style. Then, you will become an adult».
There is a thin line between desire for excellence and perfectionism. Unfortunately, this line is often crossed during the peak hours of the day mentioned at Q#2. Ask yourself how much prime productivity time you waste trying to avoid mistakes and making your tasks perfect. In doing so, you just don’t get things done.
Sometimes you focus so much on the results that you don’t even get things started. Having your eye on the prize disintegrates momentum => you are stuck=>you no longer have the guts to take risks=>you no longer have the imagination to create opportunities.
What’s in a perfectionist ?
Observe not only yourself but also people around you. We all mixed socially or worked with at least one person who proudly announced himself/herself as «perfectionist». Now think about their efficiency and you will realize that, very often, this «perfectionism» was the «perfect» excuse for not getting things done in time or for not getting things done at all. Actually perfectionists are rarely successful.
Think also of their attitude : perfectionists are angry, frustrated people.They are control-freaks. They think they know the « one right way ». They need to make others feel wrong or inferior. Therefore they are toxic. If possible, try to avoid rubbing shoulders with them. Also try to avoid imitating them.
Are you a perfectionist ?
- Do you second guess yourself constantly ?
- Do you feel there is a «right» and a «wrong» way to complete a task ?
- If you are running out of time to finish a project, do you prefer to finish it late but to your high standards ?
- Do you give up when you try something and you find you are not so good at it ?
- If you make a mistake, do you think you are incapable and tend to get down on yourself ?
- If you make a mistake, do you fear others ill reject you ?
- When you look at somebody else’s work, do you focus on the mistakes he’s made ?
- Are you uncomfortable with alternative ways of getting things done ?
- Would you rather work till you drop and do everything yourself than delegate some tasks to other people ?
- When you set a goal, do you tend to focus on the results ?
Tell us more about your answers to these 10 questions in the Comments.
Can you overcome your perfectionist tendencies ?
Yes, you can. The journey may be a long one, but here are some useful tips for your travelling bag.
Journal your perfectionist thoughts. At the end of the day, block off 15-20 minutes to remember and describe the moments when you felt stuck, made a mistake, got overstressed or overscheduled, etc. Don’t write only about your feelings, try also to remember your thoughts and what that little devil – your inner critic – told you at that time to further torture your brain. After 7 to 10 days of journaling, you will notice that the patterns behind a variety of thoughts and situations are always the same. Identifying the patterns will help you challenge them => change them.
Recognize that change takes time. This will be your first step from «perfect» to «acceptable». Altering your perfectionist traits cannot happen overnight. You need to keep challenging them, experience setbacks and get back on track to make real progress.
Praise yourself and others. Now this is some huge step ! A perfectionist would rather whip himself than feeling good about the way he accomplished a task. And he would rather rot in hell than praise others. A perfectionist always focuses on what could have been done better or instead.
Learning to praise yourself for your achievements starts with :
1. Setting «bite-sized goals», meant to reduce stress ;
2. Focusing on the process not on the goal itself ;
3. Enjoying every small success in the process (why not start with forgiving yourself the next time you make a mistake ?).
Pamper yourself. You can never find time for yourself ? Of course you can’t ! This is just one of the many ways perfectionists punish themselves for not being good enough. Again, start with a «bite-size goal» : take a nap ! You don’t even have to sleep. Just relax for half an hour and allow yourself to daydream : this will help you see the bigger picture (learn more about Productive Daydreaming here).
So stretch out ! Begin sloooowly. It is perfectly acceptable.
Part III : A Time Management Tool : The Stress Diary.
Back to :
Part I : Manage Your Time From The Inside Out.
Introduction To The Time Management Series.
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