Having high standards can be great. It can drive us to focus, help make us successful and is something we understandably look for in colleagues and employees. However, for many people, particularly those with Type A tendencies, high standards can too easily slip into perfectionism. Now, perfectionism in some areas can also be a good thing. I’d never say no to a perfect cake and I’m also pretty picky when it comes to perfect spelling.
…it’s better to have a complete piece of work that is 80% perfect, than a few perfect thoughts that don’t really form a cohesive picture.
However, perfectionism can often end up holding us back. This is because, for many people, perfectionism can result in a kind of paralysis, in which we feel like we need to know our complete plan or have a fully formed idea before we start working on something. It’s the opposite of the ‘fail fast’ mentality that prevails in places like Silicon valley.
Some of the biggest procrastinators I’ve worked with are actually perfectionists. You just wouldn’t have known it because they were hardly producing any work, or waiting for inspiration to strike and then cobbling something together at the last minute when they realised it wasn’t going to.
I always say to clients that it’s better to have a complete piece of work that is 80% perfect, than a few perfect thoughts that don’t really form a cohesive picture. But, if you’re dealing with perfectionism, this is easier said than done.
Here are my top tips for banishing perfection paralysis from your work and/or your team’s:
Create and iterate. Get used to the idea that you’re going to go back over work several times. This takes the pressure off and makes it easier to start, as you can tell yourself that version one really is just a draft.
Celebrate trying and failing as a team. If someone does something bold and new and fails spectacularly, celebrate the courage it took to do that and discuss the positives that came out of it. We can’t expect results every time.
One step at a time. If you’re facing a big project or new piece of work, don’t think about the final output, as that can be hugely overwhelming. Instead, break it down into steps and take it one at a time.
There are many things that can stop us being productive, with perfectionism being among the least expected. If you and your team would like support with productivity, get in touch by sending us an email at email@example.com. We won’t expect it to be perfect!