Have you ever listened to the podcast Entrepreneur on Fire? In case you haven’t, John Lee Dumas interviews successful entrepreneurs and one of the questions he asks is what their biggest weakness is. To my surprise, many of them say that they’re perfectionist tendencies are their biggest weakness. For one, thank goodness I’m not the only one who struggles with this! And, for two, there is hope for us perfectionists!
I’m sure a lot of creatives have perfectionist tendencies, but how often do you let something continually get pushed back on your calendar? Or you never publish that blog post? Or you never show people that portfolio piece? If you’re anything like me, it happens ALL THE TIME.
I am a perfectionist through and through and one of the hardest things to come to grips with was that I will never get something to where I want it to be because my goal is perfection.
And the truth is, your project or pieces will never be perfect. But you want things to be as good as they can? Yes, I know. So how do you know when to stop and let it go? How do you get over this mindset that things have to be perfect to be presented? That’s what we will discuss today and go over some strategies that have been helpful to me and hopefully will help you too.
1. Make deadlines
Self-imposed deadlines can be hard at first if you have no one keeping you accountable. But there are several ways to make deadlines work.
• Get people involved:
If you want to get people involved with helping you stay accountable go for it. Having other people can really help you stay on track and can also create friendships with like-minded people.
• Editorial calendar
This is great because it gives you a birds eye perspective for everything you need to get done. This also can show you where you have time put in to certain goals.
• Make tiny goals
This is such a big one for me because sometimes you think things will just happen. And the truth is they won't. You have to make them happen. Say, for instance, you envision in five years you'll have a beach body and live in your dream home. If you're not working out daily (or weekly) and not saving your money, those things won't happen. Making tiny goals means making a big goal manageable. When I have my calendar out, I set a date to have the project done then I list the steps to take to get it finished then I tackle those items one at a time. I found that after setting a date and writing the steps out I can get the project started and finished much faster.
2. Get a fresh perspective
Something that has worked really well for me is working hard on something then taking a break. I can get more done by taking more breaks instead of trying to get something done in one sitting. Working on something for a half hour, taking a five or ten minute break then coming back has been a huge game changer for me because it allows me to clear my head, and get a new perspective so when I come back I can make changes more efficiently, which saves time in the long run.
This works especially well if you have a hard time focusing and you feel a little scattered. Set your timer and work hard for a half hour then take a 10 minute break. You can definitely try different amounts of time and find out what works best for you. I found that this approach really helped me make some progress. Taking breaks gives clarity and direction.
3. Plan for multiple drafts
This works for blog posts, art projects and client work. For me I always bank of the fact that the first time will be a draft.
Especially when you’re doing something for the first time. If you think, ok I’m going to make this calligraphy logo but you’ve never picked up a calligraphy pen... it’s probably not going to be that great. Or if it’s your first time working with a software, the first time probably won’t be that good. For me, this happened with Squarespace. I had dabbled in WordPress and kept hearing how easy Squarespace is so I was like, I got this. Yeah, no. It took me awhile to get comfortable with it. After several months and 8 templates later I finally got to a point where I thought my site looked decent.
Don’t be afraid to take time to really get to know the medium you’re working with and be comfortable with having multiple drafts. After you’ve finished a draft, take a break. Look back over it. Wrestle around with it and see what’s working and what’s not. If it’s a go... go for it. If you’re feeling like something’s off go back and make another draft.
If you’re someone who needs to cut yourself off, give yourself only three revisions, or whatever it may be. This goes back to the earlier point but I set a date on the calendar and after I’ve done several drafts and if I’m ok with the design or proud of it - I know it’s good and I can move on. If I’m not happy with something, I'll put it aside and work on something else.
4. Let it go
This is the toughest part for me. “Finishing” something is almost comical because in my mind I just think of how I want it to be (absolutely perfect) and how I could change it to make it better. The truth of the matter is, it can always be better. You can always improve something. But when you choose to let it go out into the world you can revise, you can learn more and you can change it when you have more knowledge and experience.
It’s not a bad thing to let something go, it just means you’re ready to work hard and continually improve what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Letting perfectionism go is a process and it takes time to feel comfortable giving up a project that’s near and dear to you. But the sooner you can let things go, the sooner you can come up with more creative ideas, and the sooner you can move forward.
What’d you think about this topic?
Do you struggle with this?
How do you deal with getting over perfectionism?