Why Perfectionism Will Only Slow You Down

Being a perfectionist is necessary in many areas of life (for example, when performing surgery, or building a bridge) but there are a number of other situations where obsessing over every detail becomes a roadblock to efficiency. When it comes to say, sending an email to a potential employer,  pondering  over every word and structure of the message is not an efficient use of your time.

The fact is, we are all increasingly bombarded by messages on screen and people on the receiving end likely just don't have the time.When I first started as a client services manager at an ad agency, I took great pride on providing the client with daily updates. These emails were long. Very long. They went into every detail of what the team was doing, what things were coming down the pipe, what roadblocks we came up against. Short of giving them a breakdown of what I had for lunch it was way too much information. A learning of mine since then has been to shorten emails by getting to the point. Seems simple enough, as I'm naturally someone who feels that context is important and so easily lost on screen. But here's the thing, if someone is confused, they'll call. Or, they will send you an email back asking for clarification. It was hugely important for me to realize it's not about telling people how on top of everything you, but proving it to them by giving thenm the information that matters.



Image Source:

It's only natural that we would want to put the best versions of ourselves out there. With communication on screen, this sometimes translates into hours of drafting the perfect words to ask someone for a coffee. Another memorable lesson from my marketing days: At my first agency, I put a client through 5x revisions and I vividly remember her email telling me that one day you will have to learn to make decisions that mean sacrificing every little detail.  The younger version of me didn't understand at the time. I interpreted her feedback as being lazy and that she just didn't care enough. But 10 years later, her advice has come full circle back and I can finally say I understand.

mower & grass


Image Source:

As a producer and project manager the way I communicate with people is the core of what I do. And there are no shortage of ways to do it however, email remains one that I can't get away from. In terms of reaching out to people, I've found that shorter messages are better, and I choose not to let myself feel bad for a typo or grammatical error. The fact is, getting the message out there is more important because it saves time for real conversations. The ones that happen when you get to meet face to face, or have a call where you can hear a voice.

I've also seen this apply to ideas. Often it's entrepreneurs that try, and try again that are the ones who find success. Why? Besides the common thread of failure, they have a tenacity to keep trying. At my current masters program, we build rapid prototypes. A lot. We do it because we're forced to create in a space that allows us to try things without fear of failure (other than the loss of your investment in time). This creates a unique space where we're forced to make ideas come to life in very short time frames. We simply don't have the time to perfect a concept before we build a plan and have to execute on it's reality. One way that we tackle this is by building virtual slices of an idea. Essentially, a piece of the entire concept that is hyper focused on so that we can strive for the best representation of the idea as possible. Something that could never happen if we let the stress of a perfectly formed idea hold us back.

Being a perfectionist is exhausting, stressful and time consuming despite being absolutely necessary for parts of our lives. I've had the opportunity to learn that it's simply not worth it. Instead,  I now choose the parts of my life that deserve 100% attention to detail and as a result, I get a lot more done. This isn't to say we should all become slackers and speed through life, but to say that meaningful detail can only be applied to so many areas of our lives without making us go crazy. So turn spell check on. Set up systems with your email that will allow you to make mistakes (the unsend feature has saved me many times), and have a friend read over message if it's really, really important. Just know on the other end, people likely aren't thinking about it as much as you just did.

How has being a perfectionist stopped you in the past? How have you dealt with it?

, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply