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Perfectionism is Destroying Your Productivity – 6 Ways to Overcome It Now

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Perfectionism is Destroying Your Productivity – 6 Ways to Overcome It Now

Sarah Mae (SMae) |
Perfectionism is Destroying Your Productivity – 6 Ways to Overcome It Now

Entrepreneurs often think of perfectionism as a double-edged sword. You like to think that it’s what gives you the drive to be the best at what you do, while simultaneously understanding that perfectionism is destroying your productivity and slowing your growth.

In reality, it’s a single edge sword. When you are driven by perfectionism you’re driven by external approval. However, being the best you can be at what you do is an internal process.

Relying on perfectionism to give you the drive to create a successful business is going to end in stress and burnout.

Do you constantly find yourself procrastinating and second-guessing yourself? Are you hard on yourself when things don’t turn out the way you hoped? Do you secretly feel like you aren’t good enough?

Today I’m going to share 6 ways to overcome perfectionism so you can spend more time enjoying your business — and your life!

How Perfectionism is Destroying Your Productivity

To see how Perfectionism is destroying your productivity, look no further than Aesop’s Fable, The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey.

It goes like this… “A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: ‘You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?’

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: ‘See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.’

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: ‘Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.’

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: ‘Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?’

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

‘That will teach you,’ said an old man who had followed them:

‘Please all, and you will please none’.”

Please ALL, and you will please NONE.

Aesop’s Fables

Why Do We Pursue Perfection?

Perfectionism, i.e. the need to be, or appear to be, perfect, is built on the belief that it’s actually possible to achieve “perfection”. Yet, deep down, we all know that perfection is an illusion. One person’s perfection is another person’s failure. So why do we try to pursue it at all?

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher and author Brené Brown highlights that we are driven to pursue perfectionism as a way to avoid the pain that comes from feeling judgment, shame, and blame. She writes, “Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

Or maybe it is a twenty-ton sword?

Regardless, perfectionism fears stop entrepreneurs from taking risks, being creative, receiving feedback or criticism, and meeting deadlines. Worst of all, perfectionist entrepreneurs find themselves spending every waking hour on business-related activities, ultimately sacrificing their personal life.

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism manifests differently for different people, and there is no one size fits all approach to overcoming it. Try these strategies, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t.

1) Embrace Fear with a Growth Mindset

When I first heard the term, “Growth Mindset”, I was certain I had this in spades. I’ve always been ambitious and believed that had a lot of confidence. However, when I read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, I was blown away by how little I’d actually fostered this skill in my life.

I realized that my confidence was only surface-level deep, and that ambition does not equal the belief that you can reach your goals.

Perfectionism comes from a fixed mindset. Dweck’s research found that people with a fixed mindset feel smart when they don’t make mistakes and things are easy for them compared to others. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset feel smart when they’ve spent a long time mastering a skill.

Having a growth mindset means seeking opportunities for improvement, not shying away from them because you are worried that you might fail. 

Yet, failure is the PROCESS of success. You cannot grow without it.

Perfectionism vs. Success

Read this post on 3 ways to develop a Growth Mindset.

2) Be Kind to Yourself

Perfectionism can be a loud inner critic constantly telling you that you’re not good enough or doing enough. They often surface in the form of ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

“I am not good enough.”

“No one is going to like me.”

This voice only becomes a problem when you actually believe what it is saying.

So it’s important to remember that these are just thoughts, mostly the echoes of your past bullies, with no basis in reality. YOU are NOT your thoughts.

You would not say such awful things to others, so why take it from yourself? Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative, change it to a positive, say it out loud, and repeat it as many times as you need.

“I am more than enough!”

“I don’t need everyone to like me!”

Self-compassion can be learned and nurtured. The more you practice replacing your negative thoughts, the more you will rewire your brain to think positive thoughts instead. 

I love mindfulness as a way to train your brain to be able to interrupt your thoughts. If you do not practice yet, I suggest 1 minute a day to start. You can do anything for 1 min.!

3) Learn to Take Criticism

Everyone on the internet has an opinion these days, so how can you tell the difference between constructive criticism and trolling?

Constructive criticism consists of feedback intended to help people improve. Whereas trolling, or bullying, is behaviour used to make someone feel inferior. You can usually tell the difference based on words and tone.

When you receive criticism, do not respond immediately. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what the person is actually saying. If they are bullying remarks, do not waste any time or energy on them. If they are constructive remarks, thank the critic and look at how you can use the remarks to improve your work.

For example, if someone tells you that your content is boring, instead of thinking of it as an attack on you as a person, use it to see how you can add more variety to what you publish.

While your first reaction may be to defend yourself, when you take a step back and think about it, it’s really a gift. They’re giving you an opportunity to do better.

The more constructive feedback you get, the better you can be. Embracing this will help you stop trying to get it “perfect” the first time.

No one likes to get negative feedback or criticism. It can be hurtful and demoralizing. Yet, how would we learn and grow without it?

4) Accept that Imperfection & Vulnerability Create Connection

Remember when you were in Kindergarten and there was that one kid that always put their hand up first

Did you like them? Probably not. No one likes a “know it all”.

You see, perfectionism is intimidating. When you hide behind its shield, it stops people from connecting with you.

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.

Brené Brown.

In order for your customers and clients to feel seen, heard, and valued, they need to know that you’re a real person. Not a perfectly curated clone.

They need to see themselves in your challenges and share in your joys. Without this, you come across as inauthentic, your “perfection” becoming the very “imperfection” that you’re trying to avoid.

Truly understanding this will not only help you drop the perfectionism and be more productive, but it will also help you connect with your community more meaningfully.

5) Set Boundaries

Are you someone who struggles with having a realistic estimate of how long tasks are going to take? Do you often pull very late nights or all-nighters to get something finished on time, only to feel exhausted and lose a day recovering after?

Then you need to start setting boundaries around your time. Meaning, when you allocate a specific amount of time for something, you stick to it.

What if it isn’t finished? I hear you ask. The unsatisfying answer is, nothing is ever 100% finished. You launch and make improvements as you go, or schedule more time for it later.

I like to use the Pomodoro technique for this.

You set a timer for 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break, then repeat. So if you have allocated 3 hours to complete a task, you would do 6 Pomodoro rounds.

Setting boundaries around your time and using techniques like the Pomodoro method stops perfectionism from stretching out the time you are investing in tasks.

As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work will expand to the time you give it”.

6) Enjoy the Process

I spent YEARS trying new things and stopping because I wasn’t “good enough”, fast enoughCalligraphy, drawing, photography, graphic design… the list goes on. Then I discovered acting.

My first time studying a character, I did tons of preparation and felt great about performing my monologue in front of the class. I knew my character so well. However, the first time I ran my monologue in front of my coach it fell flat. I was asked to do it again, and as I had just done everything I had prepared to do, I felt dejected and had no idea what to do differently. So, I decided “fuck it” and just dropped all my preparation, almost in protest.

To my surprise, the second time I ran my monologue was like magic. The character came right through me. I learned at that moment that life, like acting, is all about trusting the process. I could not have become the character without all the preparation, but I had to let it all go in the end. This normally would have felt like a waste of time. Only this time, I knew it was anything but.

In life and business, it is impossible to be “good” at something if you do not go through the process of becoming good. You have to start at the beginning like everyone else and take the journey, which is far easier when you’re actually enjoying it.

I feel bad when I think about how wrong the education system had gotten this, turning out youth who have this idea of a career as a destination to achieve.

As an entrepreneur, you’re doing a wonderful job at breaking out of the box that society has created for you. Make sure you do everything in your power to enjoy the process of creating your biz and designing your dream life.

When you enjoy the process, you trust that mistakes and imperfections are a part of the journey, and you stop being so caught up in perfectionism.

The Bottom Line

Perfectionism is destroying your productivity and will eventually lead to burnout, if it hasn’t already. Putting some of these practices into action and embracing imperfection instead of shying away from it will transform your life and allow you to connect with your community on a deeper level.

Perfectionism will hold you back you let it. So here’s your new mantra: Done is better than perfect.

Let’s dive in deeper and Master Time like the BOSS you are, download your free Time Mastery Guidebook here!

Rise With SMae

P.S. Are we connected on Instagram? No? Well new friend, let’s fix that now! Come hang out on my favourite social media platform. Follow for inspiration and send me a DM to let me know we’re connected.

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