How perfectionism is impacting your productivity

This post is part of my productivity series for 2017.  You can find other posts in the series here.

I define productivity as follows:

Productivity = using your time + energy + attention effectively to achieve your goal

Productivity isn’t about being busy. It is about getting the important stuff done in an effective manner. I am sure we have all found ourselves at the end of day, where we have been busy – we haven’t stopped going from one thing to the next, but we are left feeling quite flat and as though we didn’t really achieve very much, as though we weren’t very productive.

Distraction, procrastination, indecisiveness can all play a part in feeling unproductive, but sometimes these behaviours can have deeper roots. The roots can be deeply tangled in our perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a key enemy of productivity. Perfectionism prevents us from working on things that are important to us. Perfectionism prevents us from sharing what we have created. Perfectionism prevents us from asking for help when we need it.

I feel well able to write on this topic as perfectionism has impacted my productivity on many occasions and still will if I let it. If you read my weekly newsletters, you would have seen this written in a recent edition:

Taking action is hard at times. It means work, sometimes it means putting yourself out there, sometimes it means trying something that won’t work out. But the thing is, you don’t know this until you try.

There are things for me that I find hard to take action on too. Some ideas I sit on for ages before I can act on them and actually create something from it. My Planned & Present E-course was like that. I had the idea and most of the content written for nearly a year before I finally launched it.

Some of my other ideas don’t even see the light. And one of the key reasons is fear. Fear that it will suck. Fear that it will be criticised. Fear that it will fail. Logically I know that it is okay to fail and it is better to at least given it a go, rather than to have never known, but it can be hard to push through this fear and actually do it.

The fear that I write about above is an example of where I am tangled in perfectionism. I held off starting on my creating my course because I kept adding to it, changing it, worried about it – I wanted to get it perfect!

On the weekend I held my first weekly prep workshop. It was an idea I wanted to test out and I had the chance to prep food and chat with some amazing women. Thanks so much to the lovely ladies who bought tickets to the workshop and came along – it was fabulous to meet all of you!

From idea to execution it took just on a month. The workshop wasn’t perfect, but I had put in substantial planning and thought to the idea. If I had waited to find the perfect venue, to find the perfect recipes, to write the perfect copy, to set up the perfect marketing funnel for the workshop, I would be lucky to hold the event this year!

But to move forward with the idea, I had to play some tricks on myself to get over my perfectionist tendencies. I repeatedly told myself it was to test an idea and I could always refine it based on feedback from event attendees. I advertised it as such and was honest about my nervousness at hosting the workshop.

Every time I would catch myself procrastinating by scrolling through images for the “perfect image”, or being distracted when out in the stores pricing ingredients, or going over the recipes again and again without choosing which ones to make, I would remind myself of the tight timeline I was working towards. I simply didn’t have time to be a perfectionist.

These behaviours – distraction, procrastination, indecisiveness were simply a mask for my perfectionist tendencies and if I hadn’t booked a date and venue, I am sure I would spent so much unproductive time on these behaviours.

Overriding your perfectionist tendencies is scary. I didn’t sleep well at all the night before the workshop worrying over all the possible things that could go wrong. But while there are things I can improve on and change, the day went really well. I did forget one item and a massive public thank you to my eldest son, who rode his bike to drop the cabbages off to me.

So if you have a project you are working on, but find you are not spending productive time on it, I encourage you to take a look at the root of your behaviour. Just like me you might find perfectionism lurking there and derailing you.

Face the perfectionism! Set yourself a time line and work towards it, knowing that imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination!

I love this philosophy from Darren Rowse:

Imperfect action gets things done, action is the main thing that separates dreamers from those who accomplish great things. Imperfect action gets things done.

Imperfect action creates momentum. Very often when you take a small imperfect action, the following next steps reveal themselves.

What is perfectionism holding you back from achieving at the moment?

Photo by Alex Read on Unsplash

Comments 3

  1. Gah! So much. I am trying to complete a Diploma but would prefer to do anything but study. Is it perfectionism? Maybe. Something I need to think about and address. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Post
      Author

      It might be perfectionism Eliza, but I sometime put things off and will do other things instead if I think the task is too hard. Often it isn’t too hard, I just need to get started. Once you start you have momentum and it easier to keep going.

      With tasks like this I set myself the task of working on it for only 15 minutes. You can pretty much do anything for 15 minutes, but most times once I get started I work much longer than 15 minutes – perhaps try this little mind trick :). Good luck with your study.

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