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Shaking Perfectionism Paralysis

By Anna Ibbotson

I am a perfectionist.  Not that you would necessarily know it if you met me in the street or visited me at home.  When it comes to the everyday parts of living, for the most part, I can just get on with things.  I am not stifled by a fear of other people judging me, or worse, a fear of not living up to my own perfect expectations. This makes sense of course because perfectionism usually stems from a desire to project the best version of ourselves.

When it comes to my work however, things are very different.  I expect the work I produce to be perfect and I am disappointed if it is not.  This may sound like a good thing, and it is- sometimes – but it isn’t always.  It isn’t a good thing when it stops me from being productive and completing things and it isn’t a good thing when it stifles my creativity.  Perfectionism paralysis isn’t a good thing!

I had a light bulb moment about this while ruminating over a letter that arrived in a bundle of ‘junk’ mail.  The letter was a call to action inviting me to attend a community rally.  It was compelling in its sincerity but far from technically perfect.  I found myself shaking my head and telling my significant other that I couldn’t believe this letter had made it to print!  After all, it was far from perfect.  My husband very casually replied “…and yet you are reading it”.  He was right.  I don’t know the circumstances of the letter’s author but they had produced it in the hope that people in their local community would read it and get their message – and that is exactly what had happened.  My take away from this?  Sometimes you just need to do it!  Make a start, write a letter, get to work and don’t be paralysed by perfectionism.

Here are some things you can do right now to get yourself out of a perfectionism paralysis rut:

1.      Write it down.

 A ‘mind dump’ will allow you to get everything out of your head and onto paper.  It can be a great tool for helping you get organised and set goals.  For more information about what a ‘mind dump’ is, how to do it and what to do with it, visit http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/sync-your-brain-and-your-system-using-a-mind-dump.html

 

2.      Get organised.

A clear space creates a clear mind, but always start with what you have at hand.  Perfectionism breeds procrastination so it can be very tempting to go shopping for the perfect filing system instead of sitting down and sorting through a chaotic mountain of paper.  BEWARE: certain personality types will disguise procrastination as getting organised – you know who you are!

 

3.      Break it down.  

Time management techniques like ‘Pomodoro’ break work into timed intervals.  There are lots of free apps to assist you to use this technique – just search Pomodoro.  To read more about the technique visit: http://pomodorotechnique.com/

When you have freed yourself from perfectionism paralysis you can make some real progress with your work.  If you are not happy with the result, and there will be times when you won’t be, you need to weigh up your investment of time and energy, with the potential for a return on your investment.  Sometimes you are better off outsourcing things rather than not doing them at all.