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How to Fight Perfectionism

Perfectionism can be a curse and a blessing. On one hand, it can motivate you to perform at a high level and deliver top-quality work. But it can also cause you unnecessary anxiety and slow you down.

How can you harness the positives of perfectionism while mitigating the negatives? Here are some ways.

1. View the big picture

Attention to detail can be incredibly time-consuming. So it pays to keep the big picture in view and see the cost-benefit of the time and energy you apply to a project.

For example, you might spend an extra three hours making a presentation perfect, but does that improve the impact for the client or your organisation? There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to sweating the small stuff.

So if you’re tempted to tinker on an assignment that most others would consider complete, try to accept that just getting it done is a decent goal.

Ask a colleague for their opinion. They may be able to reassure you that your efforts are good enough or help you to make the improvements that count.

2. Create a checklist

Rather than labouring in search of the elusive goal of perfection, creating a checklist for each task. The checklist outlines a clear process with discrete and measurable goals.

If you are preparing a written report, for example, you may fret over the font choice and sweat every semi-colon. But a checklist can remind you to cover important tasks such as confirming you’ve spelled things correctly and eliminated basic editing errors.

Once you’ve ticked off the items on your list, you’re done.

3. Break the worry cycle

Many perfectionists keep mulling over a problem without ever coming to a resolution. To break free from this destructive cycle, use the following strategies.

  • Identify your triggers. First figure out what sets you worrying. Note the setting: location, the time of day, and who’s around. Once you find a consistent pattern, think about ways you might steer clear of or control those factors.
  • Control your emotions. Try hard to get perspective and give yourself time and distance before taking action. You might be blowing the problem out of proportion.
  • Seek a diversion. When your mind is twisting and turning, seek out distractions to break the cycle. Often spending just 10 minutes on a mundane but practical task like can break give your mind a break and keep you from “spinning your wheels.”
  • Think positive. True, you might not get everything perfect, but your work is still valuable. Discipline your mind to focus on the potential good that can come from your conscientious efforts. And ask someone—a trusted colleague, friend, or mentor—for perspective and support.

You may not be able to completely break free from perfectionist traits, but you may be able to ease your burden—and live happier as a result.


Perfectionists can be helped to kerb their affliction by keeping the big picture in view, using simple checklists, and using several strategies to help break the worry cycle.


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