Are you a perfectionist?

Does it impact on your progress?

My dad is a perfectionist. Even the small simple jobs take ages.

When I was about 15 and still living with my parents, I got a new bed. It was a flat pack and fairly straightforward to put together. The minute it arrived I started to assemble it (I’d been sleeping on a sofa bed for a few weeks already so was keen to get the bed made asap). I put the frame together and then distributed the wooden slats at even intervals along the length of the bed. Then I plopped the mattress on top. Job done. An hour and a half max.

My dad came to inspect the bed. He lifted up the mattress and apparently my bed construction skills were not good enough. He fixed it by precision measuring the slats so they were exactly the same distance apart. Then with great care and attention, he screwed them into the bed base so they would not move. He had to use his own screws because they were not supplied as part of the flat pack (presumably because they were not needed).

It took about 5 hours.

My approximate distribution of slats was good enough. It held the mattress. With the weight of the mattress on top the slats would not move. I could sleep on it.

Did I get a better night’s sleep or was I safer on the precision screwed slats?


Do you do the same thing at work?

Are you a perfectionist? Do you take too long on your quest for perfectionism when good enough would be good enough? Do you end up working late or starting early just to get through your workload? If you’re nodding, your quest for perfection might be getting in your way of making progress. At my membership community the Lucidity Network we talk about choosing momentum over perfection. How it’s more important to make progress and receive feedback than to keep tinkering around the edges with the hope of achieving what we believe is perfection.

Tips to choose momentum over perfection

  • Ask yourself ‘Is it good enough?’If you spend more time on it would it be significantly better or are you just tinkering around the edges? If you’re tinkering stop. Share and get feedback. Sharing with others and getting feedback is a more effective way to help you make improvements than tinkering.
  • Choose the work that’s really important, the work where the consequences of an error are big, or the impact significant that it’s worthy of perfectionism. For example, precision engineering on an aeroplane (my dad’s day job) is important, precision engineering on slats on a bed not so much. Focus your remaining perfectionist energy on the work that is really important.
  • Set yourself deadlines. Think realistically how long something should take. Set a deadline and stick to it. For example, if a blog takes 2 hours. Stick to it. Press publish after 2 hours.

What is perfect anyway? What is good enough? Who is the judge? In my experience, we’re our own worst critics.

If you’d like some help to achieve momentum over perfection join the Lucidity Network. It’s a combination of training and connection to a dynamic network of people who can help you think differently and become more effective at work. 

The Lucidity Network is currently closed for new members while I focus on designing and delivering excellent new content. To be the first to know when the doors open again (as well as a regular dose of inspiration and practical tips to build your confidence to be more effective at work) join my weekly email. Sign up here.

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