By Katie Elizabeth
Do you crave perfection while you’re working on projects? Does this determination waste your time and force you to miss deadlines?
If you answered “yes,” you’re probably just like me. I recently discovered that my inner perfectionist had won the battle against efficiency and productivity. And as a woman working at home, accountable for my own time and results, I knew I had to find a way to outsmart this crippling inner voice.
Since I first realized my perfectionist problem, I spent quite a bit of time (probably too much – cue the perfectionist tendencies!) researching time management and perfectionist-fighting tips that I could implement in my daily life. The three tips that I’m about to discuss have helped me eliminate the obsessive and unproductive behavior without sacrificing quality.
1. Minor Details: Let Them Go
Perfectionists are known to obsess and overanalyze over every single detail. Sure, being detail-oriented can be seen as a positive characteristic, but not when it’s holding you back from completing your tasks on time. You need to learn to let minor details go and focus on the bigger picture.
Re-reading and reviewing emails, articles and other projects multiple times can get time consuming. Start conditioning yourself to read these projects once out loud (or in a whisper, if you have a sleeping baby or another family member working in your home). Verbalizing written content often helps to identify typos and awkward prose.
If you’re working on a relatively large project, I also recommend setting the project aside after completion. Revisit the project during a scheduled time slot the next day. This way, you’re reviewing your work with a fresh perspective and are less likely to pick apart every aspect of the project.
Realize that making a mistake or overlooking a minor detail usually won’t be a catalyst for the success or failure of a project. The goal here is to produce accurate and high quality deliverables without spending countless minutes and hours assessing every detail.
Remember: mistakes help us grow personally and professionally, so it’s perfectly okay to make them on occasion.
2. Create a Daily Schedule and Stick to It
Creating “perfect” work takes time – time that could be spent completing additional tasks (and if you are self-employed, this extra time can easily turn into extra cash). The truth is, I’ve discovered that sticking to a schedule each day helps me prevent the onset of perfectionist behaviors. Instead of doubling the time needed for a project, I’m completing projects faster. I’ve been amazed at the extra time I have at the end of the day!
To make sure I don’t get lost in the depths of both small and large projects, I write down (yes, I shockingly use a pen and paper!) an hour-by-hour schedule for each task I need to complete on that given day.
I also schedule time slots for daily tasks like checking email, following up with customers and vendors and reviewing the previous day’s projects. Peppering these tasks throughout my workday provides much needed breaks from demanding tasks. I can then return to those tasks with a fresh outlook.
Holding yourself accountable to a schedule will decrease the extra time you previously spent perfecting your work. You will get more done and believe it or not, your perfectionist thoughts might even fade as time progresses.
3. Believe in Your Work
Throughout my entire educational and professional career, I always compared my work to projects and endeavors completed by other professionals. This was the primary driver behind my need for perfectionism. Since coming to terms with this mindset, I’ve been able to gain confidence in my work.
This new-found confidence has prevented me from comparing my work to projects completed by my co-workers and company competitors. Focusing on my work, and only my work, has allowed me a creative freedom that I didn’t previously have. Freeing my mind of the expectations and pressures from my peers has greatly decreased my self-doubt.
From today on, start believing in your work and concentrate on your own expectations. You’ll find this new mindset will help defeat negativity and quell your need to be absolutely perfect.
For maximum effect, I recommend writing these tips on a post-it note and hanging it in the area where you work the most. I’ve posted mine on my computer monitor. Whenever I find myself straying from the rules, spending extra time on projects and experiencing production anxiety, I read these rules and immediately get back on track.
What methods do you use to increase your work-at-home efficiency? How do you fight your inner perfectionist?
Katie Elizabeth is a freelance writer and social media consultant. She spends the majority of her time writing at a small desk in her tiny apartment with her puppy by her side. She’s currently a grad student at an accredited online college. Follow her on Twitter.