5 Ways to Get Over Your Perfectionism

Procrastination gets the best of us. Perfectionism is not too far either. The two apparent opposite concept go hand in hand: not being able to do certain things perfectly (and you know you can’t) makes you not do them and in the worst cases not even start them, a perfect excuse to procrastinate: “I won’t be able to make a site the way I want to anyway”; “It’s not that I’d become a programmer with 8h of programming per week anyway”; “it’s not like I could really paint after a few lessons”; “I can’t do pull-ups anyway so let’s just forget about it”. Easy, isn’t it?

I worked on these two friendly foes the entire 2013 and found my own ways to actually defeat them to annihilation. Almost, one can never win with fighting oneself but you can have quick victories that push you a bit forward and make you a little better. The process is exponential in my mind so every time I have a little success I consider the next one will be twice as good. And people call me pessimistic!

I have described my technique to fight procrastination in a previous post, so let’s focus on the other troublemaker: perfectionism.

My approach: forget it! I’ll do everything to the best of my current abilities. How does that translate into practice?

  1. Don’t fall into infinite research danger. You know that one: “I’ll just read this one book about it and then get to doing”. Do whatever you plan to do with the current skills and then improve. No first draft was ever perfect. Look at the computer, what a beauty became from the monster in the 70’s.
  2. Set little objectives. Don’t set as objective to re-create Google if you want to learn Python. Think about making a little program to organize your 2.000 PDFs folder (you know the folder where you spend 15min to 1h to find something every single time). Don’t plan to do a website with the quality of WordPress (wouldn’t that be lovely?), just code a simple About me page. Or a CV page, or a blog page (by the way, Dash is really awesome to use but Codecademy brings more learning).
  3. Act. Write, make a presentation, make the site, do the program. Whatever it is, just do it. Stop thinking and just do. When you actually do, you learn more than when you think about it, plan it on paper or whatever you’re wasting your time with but actually doing.
  4. You know more than you think. That’s right, I said it. I experienced this ever since university, when I was studying for a week and the night before the exams I had the impression I knew nothing. When I did focus, at the exam, everything came to me naturally. It’s different when you focus on 100 possible topics versus on 1 topic. Your mind will do the work, just set it free.
  5. Have faith. This sounds unlike me and I don’t talk about faith in the religious meaning (you thought you got me there, didn’t you?). I mean rational faith that whatever you are doing; it will work out if you actually start. Starting is difficult and persevering is just as hard to keep up.

Perfectionism takes us forward so it’s not something entirely negative. In some cases though, and I found myself there, it’s a time blocker. Developing confidence and skills comes from constantly improving and constantly doing, so this is where your head should be. Persevere towards your goal, forget about making every single draft or phase perfect. The end result is that matters: to get the skill, to get the job, to be better, to grow, whatever you plan to do, just do it.