Is Trying to be a Perfectionist Sapping Your Time And Energy?
There is a bit of a running joke that follows me around: “Fran is a perfectionist”. Alas, this is true. Guilty as charged! Or I was. However, I have recently realised that the whole trying to be a perfectionist thing is a serious sap on time and energy.
Being a perfectionist has its uses. When I swam for Great Britain, I was rarely happy unless I got a personal best. There is a cringe-worthy interview somewhere with me arguing with the interviewer about how good my time was. It was one of the worst times I had done in a long time. I was furious with myself. I remember the interviewer being perplexed about my annoyance because I had won a Paralympic Silver medal.
In my defence, I was in a lot of pain, and several things were going wrong that were out of my control. Now, however, that medal is my most treasured possession (other than my engagement and wedding rings, of course).
It has to be perfect!
Being a perfectionist also helped me out during my degrees. If you have read my about page, you’ll know that I went to university as a complete underdog. I wanted to prove my intelligence. So, I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power to get the best grades possible.
I treated every assignment as if it was the most important thing (apart from swimming). I refused to print it out until I felt sure that everything was as perfect as possible! Lord help me if the grade I got was any lower than a B! I’ll be honest; I do wonder how much time and energy I wasted trying to get everything perfect. Yes, at University (and in life), you have to work hard to get the best results, which I did!
But I can pretty much guarantee that not one of my lecturers noticed that every single one of my assignments used the same font, my quotes were always in italics and indented at 1.7 inches on both sides, or that I never wrote a page without using three or more references! I also bet they didn’t notice my colour schemes, either. I know that last one for sure because I only had a black and white printer!!
Back then, I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time, at all. But does there come a point when trying to be a perfectionist starts to be a waste of energy?
Trying to be a perfectionist uses up valuable time and energy!
Trying to be a perfectionist absolutely slows you down. There comes a point when you have to stop and be happy with good enough.
I have realised this recently. I’ll give you another example from my life.
I wrote my 30-Days to Confidence Guided Journal in a single weekend last August. Everyone I showed it to loved it and kept asking if they could buy a copy. Excellent, I had produced a product, from scratch, in no time! But I wasn’t happy.
I put the journal away for ages. I played with it from time to time, but in my mind, it was far from perfect, so it wasn’t going anywhere. In November, I changed the layout twice in about four days. Excessive? Yes!
Thankfully, in December, I changed it for the last time. I was finally happy and launched it in January of this year!
If I look at the physical journal, I will spot the tiniest errors here and there. But I am now 99% sure that no-one else would notice (don’t go looking now!).
My point is this: it took me five months to launch a product that was already good enough. People told me that, as soon as I finished, they wanted a copy. I effectively wasted five months of time and energy trying to make it perfect. I could have spent that time producing other products and working on other projects.
Your goal need not be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist.
In all honesty, no matter how perfect you think something is, somebody, somewhere, will hate it.
I have changed the style of my blog images twice in the last four months. Not because I’m indecisive (I am, but that’s not why) but because I’ve been looking for something I’m comfortable with.
I’m comfortable now. Hands up if you hate them! You do? That’s okay. I’m not perfect, and neither are my blog images.
Your goal ought to be to get started, finish and then take action. You won’t know how good you, or your projects, are until you finish. We can keep editing all day long, but if we edit too much, it becomes something different altogether. Then, trust me when I say, you’ll be peed off because what you end up with won’t be what you wanted. Not only that but you’ll be exhausted.
Nothing will ever be perfect. Take the people who work at Apple for example. If my 2013 MacBook Air were perfect, a lot of people would be out of a job. It is not perfect, which is why there have been about 200 upgrades since I bought mine. Apple never strives for perfection. They strive for better than before.
Once you’re finished a project, you can always revisit it at a later. You can spend a little energy upgrading it to be better than before. But this is not possible if perfection is the goal. Allow yourself to be good enough! You’ll save heaps of energy, and you’ll get a lot more done!
Remember: if you’re printing in black and white, no-one will care that you’ve used coolor.co to pick out the perfect colour scheme. That's just taking the whole trying to be a perfectionist thing to extremes!
Disclosure: If you purchase anything from links in this post or any other, I may receive some kind of affiliate commission. However, I only ever mention products I love and would recommend whether I was being compensated or not.