Why Being A Perfectionist Is Killing You And How To Deal With It

Written by Max
, tagged as #design
Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving. - Neil Gaiman

I was struggling with myself as a perfectionist for a while, and from now on, I decided to quit it at least partially. It doesn't mean that the quality of the work that I do daily will be worse. I think about perfectionism more as a process of achieving something. And I figured how it blocks me to deliver something earlier than I usually do.

Everyone has its measure where things are perfect. What's perfect for one isn't for someone else. 

Our standards can be changed throughout time. What is perfect Today isn't tomorrow.

The problem is that if you're doing something and your standards change and you feel like there is always one last thing that will make your result perfect — there is a high probability that you'll never finish the project. 

It's like a dark hole that sucks your energy but never lets you finish and release something to the public. This kind of perfectionism is the evil for all creatives like designers, musicians, product makers, inventors, etc.

Life isn't always going to be perfect. There are always positive and negative sides of it. Life happens while you're making plans, especially in these transient times like now. Just keep moving forward until you achieve desirable or at least close to your standards results.

The truth is, there is never the right time. Perfection is like chasing something that doesn't exist. You need to know when to stop. It's best if you have a measure, or you can train yourself to feel this moment when it's best to stop and finish that project or a stage of the project.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. - Anne Lamott

Someone said that perfectionism makes you better. But perfectionism might also kill creativity and productivity.

With unrealistic expectations, you'll never be satisfied with your work or even yourself. People never deliver because they never feel like their work is finished. But nowadays, nothing is ever finished anyways. So if you are a real perfectionist, you tend to overthink too much, and the work actually suffers instead of improving.

As I mentioned before, I want to reduce the amount of perfectionism that I have and start delivering more. Experiments and practice more, theory should go in the background.

First of all, I reviewed the toolkit I used while creating a design and came up with one simple rule. Your efficiency depends on what kind of tool or software you use initially and how many iterations you have until the final result.

I use simple tools like a notebook and pen to draw basic sketches, mind-maps, or low-fidelity wireframes. This first step of creating something has restrictions. I can't make things perfect on paper, but I can quickly draw a concept that simplifies a lot of work in the next stages. It's the most natural way of creating something.

Our nature behaves in the same way. Almost every complex project or process starts with basics and ends with details. Often, it never stops developing and delivering results.

You can avoid a perfectionism loop by splitting a big task into stages or iterations. It's easy to move forward in small, simple steps. When you complete each step, you get a small rewarding feeling that motivates you to keep going. I'm trying to do each step so that by completing it, I have some results that I can send to somebody I work with or make public. It helps to focus more on the delivery of a solution than on a process.

When I work on design iterations and even complete projects, I try to set inner deadlines that nobody knows about except me. It helps not to overthink projects and tasks that I'm doing. I prioritize better and do the essential part first, and if I have time in the end, I can polish my solutions to make everything even better.

One important thing here is that if you work on clients' projects, these deadlines shouldn't be the same. It would help if you had a buffer time between your inner deadline and a client's deadline. Deadlines shouldn't make your work stressful. They should help you to be efficient.

A similar approach for writing. I'm not trying to write my articles perfectly from the beginning. That's how I learned to write. I usually start from topics that I want to highlight or just write something until I feel that I'm in the flow. From this point, it's important not to go back and check what you have written before. I just continue writing. This can be as a first stage. And the second step will be to review what I have written, then polishing and structuring my thoughts.

Perfection is unattainable, so trying to achieve it is a waste of time. No one is perfect, but anyone can decide to be a better person and so on. I even have several tasks for creating one post. The first one is usually freewriting on a certain topic. The second one is about structuring and proofreading the text and one more step for adding necessary images and posting them on my website.

Procrastination And Perfectionism

Procrastination is related to perfectionism. Whenever you start doing things that don't lead you to some achievements, and you burn your time with various activities, it means that things that you really need to do seem difficult, too big, scary, or you simply don't know where to start. Our brains were designed in a way to choose the simplest path.

Since our goals are getting bigger and harder to achieve, we need to learn how to do hard work in a simple way.

Some of the technics described above can help in many cases. But, again, don't forget to avoid perfectionism at any cost.

Making things perfect is just impossible. This way of thinking about tasks and goals feels so overwhelming. Work hard if you can, but don't forget to work smart. Uncomplicate things you do, and you'll see that it's much easier to complete tasks and projects.

If you want to make your life easier, then stop chasing perfectionism. Be okay with not being perfect. Just be as good as you can be. And if you're starting something new, then accept that you can mess up and be okay with it.

Don't put off doing something because you don't feel like you know everything. You will never know everything about our universe because it changes all the time.

Don't put something off because you don't feel ready. You'll never be 100% ready.

Don't put something off because you feel there are people better than you.

The only way for you to get better is by getting better! It's okay if you're not perfect. No one is. And chances are, no one cares. No one even notices. If you do things, you'll get better. And each time, you'll get better than the last time. So stop chasing perfection. Or you'll chase it forever, and it will hold you back.

As you get closer to perfect, it gets more difficult to improve, and the market values the improvements a little less. Increasing your free-throw percentage from 98 to 99 percent may rank you better in the record books, but it won't win any more games, and the last 1 percent takes almost as long to achieve as the first 98 percent did.

We've been trained since first grade to avoid mistakes. The goal of any test, after all, is to get 100 percent. No mistakes. Get nothing wrong, and you get an A.

I wish you deliver and experience more than being a perfectionist.

Thank you for reading,