Perfectionism vs. Productivity



Perfectionism is a common affliction among admin professionals.


Many see it as a positive trait.


Wikipedia defines it as "a broad personality style characterized by a person's concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations".


You can see why, for me, it is a bad habit which I need to break.


Striving for flawlessness every time is exhausting. Critical self-evaluation often means you are never happy with what you have produced, no matter how much you work on it, and concerns regarding others evaluations makes it hard to accept any positive feedback or praise. It wrecks havoc with your inner piece, your confidence and, at times, your self-esteem. After all, "almost perfect" is still seen as failure.


Its the voice of Imposter Syndrome (but that's a whole other blog piece)


Its also the enemy of productivity.


Now, productivity isn't about quantity; its not about volume. Its about what you get done, in the time you have got and how you go about it.


Its about working smarter, not harder.


The harsh reality is that perfectionists often achieve less and stress more than regular high achievers.


One reason for this is that perfectionists often find it hard to delegate. There is a need to control everything around them, so they can influence the standard, and improve, where necessary, in the search for that "perfect" or optimum result. They see passing responsibility to another as risk. Of course, this inability to delegate means that everything is classed as worthy of their full effort and attention, which means that they are on a one way road to burnout. It also means that team relationships are harder to forge and grow, which can impact of the working environment in a negative way.


Learning to make quick decisions, and to relinquish control and outsource those decisions and/or tasks that are less important, can remove the potential decision fatigue you face. Pay attention to how good it feels to unburden yourself from the additional stress and pressure. There are tools to help make quick decisions, if this is an area you struggle, such as heuristics, or a decision matrix. Remind yourself that your team are capable, and that delegating to them will be more positive for the project, and will mean increased productivity.


Perfectionists feel obligated to overdeliver.

There is an innate need to beat expectation in every situation, to the point where you believe that if you don't overdeliver, you're under-delivering. There is a tunneled-vision approach, where the focus is the goal. This can often mean that any opportunity to enjoy, and more importantly, learn and grow throughout the journey of a project can be missed. It can also move the boundaries of expectation - if you consistently over-deliver, the over-delivery will be expected every time by the recipient, which is setting yourself up for failure. If over-delivery isn't achieved, there can be risk of wallowing. A regular high-achiever will bounce back, whereas a perfectionist will beat themselves up about the unmet personal goal.


Having a plan before you start, that is built from the goal down, will help you stay on course, with realistic expectations for delivery. Know where your strengths are - there will be areas that you can naturally and easily over deliver - and that is great, but it wont always apply, and don't let it always apply. Remember, that is should be a nice addition, not an expected result. Don't expect too much of yourself.


Create an affirmation that you believe in and remind yourself, every day, that you are enough.


Great is enough. Good is at times. Look at what you have got out of the project in terms of self development also. The goal isn't the only deliverable in a project. Lessons are learned, relationships are forged, and memories are made. The journey can be just as fulfilling if you can open your eyes to appreciate it.


Paradoxically, perfectionists can be prone to procrastination (that's a mouthful!).

Perfectionists are driven by fear; fear of failure, and this fear can often make them fearful of even starting. Worry about doing something incorrect can have an immobilizing effect meaning they don't do anything at all, so things can be left to the last minute, which creates stress. Procrastination can lead to greater feelings of failure, further perpetuating a vicious and paralyzing cycle. It can be devastating on your self-esteem.


Many perfectionist suffer from low self-esteem, and its not surprising really when you think about it. Constantly disappointment, striving to reach unrealistic expectation, stuck in vicious cycles of procrastination , feelings of failure, poor team inter-relations; which is why this is a habit I'm working to break.


It takes 10 weeks to break a habit. 10 weeks to change habitual behaviour. Habits are habits because we've done them for so long, so, of course, changing is hard. Consistent and conscious effort is needed, with a solid plan to help you. You need to be committed and self-motivate.


Planning your time and task can break this cycle. If you struggle to get started, here's what you need to do:


First, start with a list of all the things you need to deliver. Then list out what you need to do to deliver those items. Keep breaking your task list down into bite-sized chunks. Now, delegate the tasks you can to those you trust. Add reviewing how those tasks are going, if you need to until you get into this new habit, but don't take over doing them yourself.


Then think about your timeline - when do you need to complete? What key dates are you working towards? Put them in your diary, create a Gantt cart, or project plan. You will start being able to match up tasks and time to create the basis of your project plan.


Now here's the important bit...Stick to it! You'll need self-discipline here, but do stick to your time plan.


Create your affirmation, your positive phrase that will remind you that great is enough. Use whatever wordage works for you, and stick it somewhere you can see while you work. Re-visit it when you start to feel your old habits creeping in.


Small changes lead to big. Known that you are doing this for yourself, and be aware of the benefits - the positive reinforces - which will encourage you to continue. Work planning into your day, to help control your deliverable and goal setting. It will lower those stress levels (which, as you know from previous post, is a killer - stress is no joke).


But most importantly, do it for you.


You are enough.