Your inner perfectionist is so lovely. She’s the envy of all your other personalities. She’s the woman you continually want to be. The woman who makes everything you touch truly remarkable – when she allows you to actually get it done.
But your inner perfectionist is also the enemy of your productivity. She gets in the way of your creativity and prevents you from starting that project proposal that’s already overdue. She’s in your ear saying “you can’t write that first sentence because you haven’t yet completely nailed down the perfect idea”. She’s indirectly telling you to keep procrastinating until the conditions are right for you to get working.
She’s holding you back and needs to be dealt with, immediately, and in the least-perfect way possible. The below strategies should help.
- Just do it. The swiftest move for killing your inner perfectionist is to simply get started, even when she’s telling you that you’re not actually ready: you don’t have the latest laptop, you haven’t hung up the washing, you still have an email to send etc. Start and get into it, hopefully then she’ll quieten down – probably due to the tantrum she’s throwing because you dared to move ahead without her.
- Allow the perfectionist a 10-minute cease-fire. When the “Just do it” mantra simply won’t work, give in a little, but only for a timed period. Set your alarm for 10 minutes and relax while thinking what your inner perfectionist might be able to offer. Is it a better idea than what you already have? Is it a more productive way to get the work done? Perhaps she has a brilliant solution that just requires a little more thought? When the alarm goes off, the cease-fire ends. Immediately start fighting her again by getting starting.
- Set some realistic and completely imperfect goals. It’s here that your inner perfectionist would like you to write a long list of impossible tasks that you have absolutely no chance of ever completing. Ignore her. Instead, grab a crumbly piece of paper or notepad and scribble down a number of achievable tasks you reckon you can complete over the coming two hours, and then a longer list again of what you can get done throughout the day. Add little items “reply to that email”, and big items “finish that proposal”, and tick off each as you get it done. As the inner-perfectionist comes up during the day, get back to the list and remember the most “perfect” thing you can achieve is to get through as many tasks as possible.
- Get some perspective and move on. The inner perfectionist is going to be difficult to kill – that’s her job, after all, to always avoid a bad situation. But a little perspective will help. If the sales proposal you’re working on isn’t the 100% best thing you’ve ever completed, will it matter? Will the client even notice? Will the client care more about you getting it to him or her on time and being 90% happy with it, rather than sending it late in order to achieve that additional 10% of perfectionism? If acquiring some perspective around the task at hand doesn’t do it for you, then take a moment to reflect and consider what’s actually bigger than you – greater than the task, your job and your career. There are always more important things to worry about.
- Support yourself, because you’re great. The inner-perfectionist is determined to continually tell you how terrible you are at your job and life. She wants to remind you that if you just worked harder, slept less, exercised more and dressed more appropriately for “success”, things would be better for everyone. She’s wrong. While it’s always good to set goals – they should be realistic, appropriate and imperfect. Goals that you can achieve, and congratulate yourself on for doing so – even when the outcome is less than perfect.