It’s the P word. Perfectionism has become the negative term for the unending drive for flawless results at all times. It can leave you over-stressed, overworked, and just overwhelmed. But with stock prices rising and falling based on rumors, and with more competitive contracts being awarded and signed each day, what reasonable entrepreneur doesn’t demand results? Even workers want the promotions, raises, and bonuses that come with being the best.
The side effects of stress are well known and even medically documented. It can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, memory impairment, heart disease and worse. Because cardiovascular illness is the leading cause of death in the U.S., the concern is real.
But where is the line? What about “good stress” that motivates you to get things done? Stress is not without its place. But as long as any perfectionist knows, there are times when the drive to be perfect actually makes you less productive and, by extension, affects your results.
Time management can be hugely beneficial in reducing the negative aspects of stress and letting your natural sense of motivation lead you to success. With the right focus, the right attitude, and the right tools for the job, you can achieve the results you need for your business and career, without threatening your sanity or personal health. Two steps are essential for putting the “bad stress” in its place.
1. Identify aspects of your business that must be perfect.
With the wrong measurements, a bridge will fall into the sea. While very few reader of this site are bridge builders or even in construction, the same principle applies across all industries. No matter what you do for a living, there are aspects of your business or work that must be absolutely correct in order for you to succeed.
Those who sell merchandise must have exact standards for shipping (and suitable backup plans for when things go wrong). If a business offers its products online, customers must be able to access and browse the site. This is where perfectionism pays off. By checking and double-checking these critical areas of business, entrepreneurs who are perfectionists are often able to succeed.
2. Identify aspects of your business that must be excellent, without always being perfect.
Not every single aspect of your business has to be flawless, and you can learn from your mistakes. This is the point where perfectionism fails. To the perfectionist, every element of a project must be perfect. This is almost always a mistake, as it assigns equal priority to everything at once. This is also the point at which most people become overwhelmed with stress.
A slight allowance in typos within internal correspondence is probably fine, for example, as long as everyone understands the messages being sent. Or, with email in general, most messages can often be responded to within a few hours, instead of a few minutes.
It’s simply a matter of “picking your battles.” By placing too much scrutiny on items that don’t need to be perfect, you divert attention from critical areas that need it the most.
Once you have picked out what must be perfect and what can survive a few flaws, you should make sure that you are investing your time and energy where it counts. Check your calendar to make sure the critical aspects of your business get an appropriate share of your scheduled time.
If you do much of your work on your computer, assistive tracking software such as Time Doctor can help you make sure you’re spending time on the right websites and using applications relevant to your most important work. Email, for example, is a common culprit for taking time away from more important tasks.
Once perfectionists are able to let go of tasks that don’t actually require perfection, they will find themselves with more time for what really matters and under considerably less stress.