by Kellie Whitehead
“If you want something done, ask a busy person” the saying goes - or a woman, let’s face it.
Nobody wakes up with the intention of having a bad day. Few people intentionally jeopardise their own time and sanity - but there’s a new pandemic in town, and seemingly, it’s women it affects the most if not only at work and at home.
You want to be top of your game, whether career wise, socially or domestically. You yearn for serenity, focus and calm, yet creative chaos ensues, despite any pre-planning and ‘happy thoughts’ you put yourself through beforehand.
I’m here to tell you that it’s the pre-planning that’s the problem. I’m not suggesting for a moment that being organised and on top of things is not the way forward, of course it is, but it’s the insistence on ‘perfectionism’ that pades itself as ‘planning’ that is truly endemic amongst my fellow females, and at the root of a lack of productivity.
It’s taken many years for it to sink in, but the fact is, ‘perfect’ simply does not exist. When is anything actually ‘perfect’? There is always something else, something extra, something ‘next time’ - and it’s by holding onto ideas of perfectionism that actually holds us back, and encourages us to be highly self critical.
Letting go of perfectionist tendencies is the key to getting more done. Perfectionist tendencies often stop us from getting started in the first place. The key to productivity is ‘doing’ - over-thinking and fears of not reaching what you deem to be the required or perfect standard in your tasks, paralyses us into doing nothing.
When you wait for things to be ‘just right’, the stress and pressure of self imposed high standards can take their toll.
We can’t mistake ‘busy’ for productive - it’s the war cry of the Dubai woman - “I’m soooo busy” but it’s perfectly okay for things to not go to plan, and we need to embrace it. Procrastination is the product of perfectionism - tweaking, improving and waiting. Just. Get. Started.
If we start to believe that ‘done is better than perfect’ we see a tangible rise in productivity - heck, we may even finish a few things along the way. It shows us opportunities to be agile, to take a different direction, and opens up new ideas, innovations and ways of thinking. No path is linear.
Progress, not perfection…
Moving forwards means learning and development. Chronic perfectionists can struggle to see this, but by adapting our thinking, and framing a curveball as an opportunity, we can energise ourselves into putting the first foot ahead.See it as ‘growing’ into something or ‘figuring it out’ - release the pressure and get a move on!
Setting time limits on projects or tasks sets you a deadline. It’s a great tool for recovering procrastinators to know you only have a set window to finish or at least break the back of a daunting task you’ve been putting off due to fear of ‘not getting it right’
If perfectionist tendencies stop you getting started, you’ll no doubt be keeping quiet. Open up and start conversations about things you are putting off by making yourself accountable to your colleagues or friends. Yep - you’ve said it, so you need to get started. The bonus is that you will instantly appear more productive, enthusiastic and positive at work too - all great reflections on you - and then of course, you’ll need to actually do it too!
This works as well with children and friends as much as your career. If we recognise that it’s okay to not be ‘perfect’ (no such thing remember) we can celebrate actions and those that try. Congratulate anyone on getting started and recognise progress or agility, however small. Small and incremental steps are still very much a journey toward the end goal, pivots and going off path are also part of the fun. If you are the cheerleader amongst your peer group, but recognise you did not practice this on yourself, it’s time to start with you.
Change the focus from worrying about things you haven’t done, to recognising those that you have this week. List them out if you have to. Remembering that we are all human, whatever perceived status we hold in the world is imperative. People make mistakes, sure, but only people who actually get started in the first instance.
If you are constantly looking for ‘perfect’ - you’ve got a very long way