Is Your Perfectionism Working For or Against You?

by Jennifer Miller on July 23, 2012

in Personal Effectiveness

target with three bulls-eyesAre you making the most of your perfectionism?  If you’re a self-oriented perfectionist , chances are that you’re getting some good traction, because this is a type of thoroughness that’s linked to high achievement and continual self-evaluation.  So, striving for perfection has its benefits.

But that’s not always the case.

Do you recognize this scenario? A deadline looms and you’re thinking, “If only I had another day to get this right. . .just a bit more research and I’ll have an excellent report”. Guess what? Your co-workers might be saying, “Enough already! Just give me the $#*& report.”

On those days, your perfectionism is working against, not for you.

The urge to get things “just right” or to meet your high quality standards is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, it’s gained you a reputation for having your facts straight, the go-to person for details.  You’re the Quality Dude.  But it might also be causing friction with your co-workers. And that’s diminishing the professional credibility your perfectionist ways strive to create.

Here are five ways to help you break the analysis paralysis — in a way that respects your high quality standards and still allows you to move forward.

Ask a buddy for a reality check. Ask a colleague you trust – “Am I over-thinking this?”

Be flexible with the accuracy threshold. Ask how “good” is good enough for the person making the request. By your standards, you probably want 99% accuracy, but perhaps 80% accuracy is “good enough” for the requester. Yes, this is difficult, but you need to release yourself from making a perfect output, especially if it’s a draft. You can always refine later.

Evaluate the payoff. Continually ask yourself, “What’s the extra effort gaining me/my clients/my project?” Yes, there’s always a trade-off for lack of perfection, but is it worth it?

Play out the worst-case scenario. Ask, “What’s the worst thing that will happen if my data is incorrect?” If the realistic answer is, “nothing, probably”, then it’s time to stop putting polish on your project and “ship it”.

Devise a back-up plan. Part of the worry with a perfectionist is that your credibility will suffer if you aren’t 100% accurate. Create a Plan B in your mind as a back-up.  Not only will this help you release your project, but you’ll be ready to act in the unlikely event that your data is incorrect.

Perfectionism can be one of your strongest assets at work. Just be sure that you’re not overusing it, because then it’ll become your biggest liability.


Image credit: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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