Does it feel like you can’t ever accomplish what you really want to? You struggle to stick with your goals or fully execute your ideas. You feel unmotivated, lazy, and incompetent. All these things lead you to question your ability to accomplish anything perfectly, or even at all. Your inner critic tells you that it’s better not to try than to fail.
So you settle. You play it safe. You only attempt what you know for sure you can succeed at. Or you procrastinate so long that you find yourself scrambling to meet the deadline and end up with a haphazardly completed final product, and it shows.
Does any of that sound familiar? That’s the pattern of perfectionism giving way to procrastination and eventually to paralysis. Your perfectionism is sabotaging your productivity, your growth, and your career.
But that doesn’t have to be the way your story unfolds. You don’t have to succumb to the life of a mediocre perfectionist. Use these five tools to create a game plan for the next time you feel procrastination sneaking up on you.
Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself
You’re a human being. It’s absolutely impossible for humans to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. The sooner you accept that as truth, the quicker you’ll be able to move forward and avoid being paralyzed by fear and perfectionism. Adjust your expectations to align with reality and you’re already half way there.
Visualize Things on a Continuum
Perfectionists only see two options: perfection or complete failure. That’s why the fear of not doing something perfectly is so paralyzing. If you can’t do it perfectly, that means you’re a failure. Instead, learn to view things on a continuum, ranging from “a good place to grow from” to “good work” to “my best work”. And note that “my best work” does not mean “perfect”. Know that you can move forward on the continuum with effort and time. Your first draft or first try doesn’t have to be the final product.
Good Enough is Good Enough
Make this your new mantra: Good Enough is Good Enough. Write it on a sticky note, repeat it every morning. Whatever it takes for this to become permanently ingrained in your brain, do it. When perfect is not realistic (spoiler alert: it never is), then good enough really IS good enough! Retrain your brain to accept the good work you do and stop banging your head against a wall of perfectionism.
Break Down Big Projects
When the project seems daunting, break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Then just do one thing at a time. A helpful technique is to create time blocks and rewards. Set a specific amount of time, say 30 minutes, to work on a single step. Then take a break and reward yourself with a cup of coffee or anything else that motivates you. This process makes focusing on one thing at a time easier and you’re less likely to waste time agonizing about how overwhelming the project feels.
Stop Planning and Start Doing
Every successful project needs to be thought out and planned appropriately. But perfectionists tend to get stuck in the planning phase. It’s an avoidance technique that makes you feel like you’re preparing but all you’re really doing is procrastinating. So just pick one of those steps you created and start. Don’t spend time debating where the best place to start is or what order to go in. Just take action and get going.
Remember to go easy on yourself and adopt an attitude of self-compassion. No one is perfect and setting that standard for your life is completely unrealistic. Get started, do your best, and value the work you do. Learn to enjoy the process of accomplishing each project with pride and living with a greater sense of who you are and what you can do.