You might think that perfectionists are extremely organized and very good at managing their time. However, the reality is, those with a tendency towards perfectionism are actually more likely to struggle with time management.
Read on and I’ll explain why . . .
A perfectionist is usually defined as someone with a dispositional tendency to strive for excessively high standards, refusing to accept anything short of perfection.
This may seem like a positive trait, rather than a flaw, particularly when it comes to the work you do. When I think of perfectionists I’ve known, I think: overachiever, demanding perfection in everything, staying late in the office, putting work above all else.
Many employers probably love that kind of thing and see the quality it as an asset.
However, although there are some jobs that may genuinely require perfection all of the time, they are few and far between.
And you also need to consider that there is a world of difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection.
Having high standards is certainly a prerequisite for doing well, but if you are continually holding yourself (and your co-workers) to impossible standards, it can actually end up being extremely counter-productive and likely to damage success and your relationships.
Perfectionism can also have an extremely negative impact on your time management.
Signs of perfectionism
- You think in all-or-nothing terms
- You think, and then act, in extremes
- You rarely delegate, since you can’t trust others to do a task correctly
- You have demanding standards for yourself and others
- You struggle to finish projects due to the need for constant improvement
- You use the word “should” frequently
- Your self-confidence depends on what you accomplish and how others react to you
- You tend to ruminate over tasks where you feel you messed up
- You procrastinate or avoid situations where you think you might not excel
How many of these ring true with you?
If you think you might be someone with perfectionist tendencies, the tips I outline next will be of particular help to your time management.
Managing Time For Perfectionists
If it appears that you are somebody with perfectionist tendencies, here are several tips that will help you handle your time management more effectively.
1. Audit your time
I don’t think it would be unfair to say that perfectionists often get hung up on the finer-but-usually-meaningless details and spend a lot more time on projects than is necessary.
Therefore, getting a handle on exactly how you spend your time each day could be quite revealing and enable you to take action to improve the way you operate in the future.
The way to do this is to audit your time. I have covered exactly how to do so in this post.
2. Prioritize your work
When you’re a perfectionist, your tendency may be to want every task you complete to be “just so”.
However, not all tasks require the same level of intensity and attention.
Many tasks are what you could call low-value in that they don’t do much to help you move closer to your goals. They include things like most emails, basic administrative tasks and any other activity that has little or no consequences if it is not done. Low-value tasks can generally be delegated or automated.
Instead, spending more time and applying your perfectionism to the high-value tasks and activities that do contribute to your mission or your company’s goals should take priority. What these tasks and activities are will depend on your job, but if you’re a salesperson, for example, the high-value tasks would include things like prospecting, making sales calls and following up on commitments to clients.
Learning how to quickly distinguish the high-value tasks from those with less value will help you focus on the right things and make much better use of your time.
If you are not sure how to prioritize your tasks, this post on the Eisenhower Box Method may be of help.
3. Get an objective opinion
Ok, so you’re concerned that task you’ve been working on is not up to scratch. Different aspects are niggling you and you’re on your usual quest to make everything perfect.
However, there comes a point when the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in and the extra work required to move from good to “perfect” becomes hard to justify.
So, instead of beating yourself up and expending more time and effort on re-visiting everything, why not get a second, more objective opinion from a co-worker or manager?
The chances are, it’s all good and you’re just wasting time on an already-finished task when there are loads of other jobs to be cracking on with.
Spending too much time on a task is bad time management and a waste of resources.
4. Stick to a schedule
In addition to spending too much time on tasks, another common trait of the perfectionist is procrastination.
This is usually because of a (subconscious) fear of not being able to complete the task to perfection, so it ultimately gets put off.
To overcome this issue, make sure you schedule everything you do and try to stick to the time you have allocated for it.
Check out this post: How To Create A Schedule >>>
5. Be realistic
Accept that not everything needs to be perfect and most of the time, not everything can be perfect.
While there are some jobs that require certain tasks to be completed to perfection, the reality is, most do not.
And as much as it may pain you to hear this, usually “done” is good enough.
This famous quote from General George S. Patton sums it up perfectly.
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”General George S. Patton
6. Think big
If you find yourself in a position where you’re having trouble winding up a task because it is still not perfect (to your mind, that is), try to focus on the overall goal, for example, ask what impact delaying completion will have on other colleagues and on the bigger picture.
As mentioned in #4, most of the time good and done is good enough.
Try using kanban for managing your projects, as this will help you to keep your eye on the big picture. And each time you attack a task, ask yourself what would happen if it is not executed perfectly. If the answer is “nothing”, just get it done and crack on with the next item on your to-do list.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with paying attention to detail and wanting to do a good job, but there’s a time and a place for perfectionism and trying to be too good when it is really not required can actually negatively affect your productivity and your relationship with others.
That doesn’t mean you need to settle for average, but most of the time in life, good and done is good enough. The key for perfectionists, I guess, is to learn to recognize what “good enough” looks like and work on “adjusting the bar” accordingly.
Perfectionism is something of a double-edged sword. It can motivate you to perform to your best, but it is also important to recognize the negative effects it can have on the way you manage your time.
To paraphrase Voltaire, don’t let perfection become the enemy of the good.
You may not be able to completely overcome your perfects tendencies – after all, it is part of what makes you who you are. However, if you can follow some of the suggestions outlined above, I am confident that you can at least become more conscious of the impact perfectionism can have on your time management.