6 Strategies To Focus On Progress Over Perfection in Work (6 min)

6 Strategies To Focus On Progress Over Perfection in Work

Don’t let perfectionism or concerns about getting things perfectly right turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy of not getting anything accomplished. According to Thrive Global, “In a self-aware 2010 study, Hewitt, Flett and their colleagues found that among 1,200 psychology professors, those who strive for perfection and hold unrealistic expectations for themselves were “less likely to produce publications, receive citations and publish in high-impact journals.”

In other words, perfectionism has implications for your career. Specifically, it would be better to let a few details slip by in order to make more progress. Here are few ways to work against perfectionism in your life.

  1. Just get started: Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from at least starting your project. Once you get something on paper, you’ll have something to mold!
  2. Create a time container: If perfectionism is a habit of yours, it may be difficult to break. Consider setting a series of new goals to achieve that won’t give you time to sweat the small stuff – for example, a 2-hour sprint, at the end of which you want to have a rough draft ready.
  3. Seek positive feedback from others: Sometimes, you just need to know that you’re doing a good job (rather than continuing to tell yourself that you’re doing a terrible job). Make an outline or a sketch and ask a colleague to tell you what they think you’ve done well or whether you’re on the right path. See, it wasn’t that bad!
  4. Set two deadlines: Set both a “good enough” deadline as well as your final deadline. This will help prevent procrastination. Work as hard as possible to have your product finished at a “good enough” level by your first deadline. Have someone else  look at it. Then know that you have time to put the finishing touches on the product by the final deadline.
  5. Just finish: Perfectionists are terrified of the finish line after which no changes or upgrades can be made. If you’ve double checked your work, it’s time to hit send. You can do it!
  6. Ask for constructive feedback: Practice receiving feedback in low-pressure situations by asking for it directly or scheduling time for it on a weekly basis.

Most of the strategies above are specific to working environment but there are also ways that perfectionists can expand their sphere of comfort in realms that are less strategic and more about lifestyle strategies.

Here’s a brief comparison between “The Perfectionist” and “The Optimalist” (don’t misread that as “Optimist”. Note that it’s based on the word “optimal,” meaning someone who does things “optimally” but not necessarily “perfectly”).