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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

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How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

While perfectionism is commonly seen as believing you want to be perfect or perhaps the obsession of wanting something to be exactly right, being a perfectionist can manifest in other subtle ways:

  • Having to check something just one more time
  • Procrastinating with the thought that it isn’t the perfect time to start something
  • Being the first person to spot a mistake all the time

It actually reflects more than we think and can be a blessing or a curse.

“Perfectionism is more than pushing yourself to do your best to achieve a goal; it’s a reflection of an inner self mired in anxiety.” — Thomas S. Greenspon

This is said by Thomas S. Greenspon, a psychologist and author of a recent paper on an “antidote to perfectionism,” published in Psychology in the Schools [1]

In other words, perfectionism is born out of uneasiness, concern and doubt rather than a simple basic want to do things well.

The Psychology Behind Perfectionism

Why are some people such perfectionists? There are several reasons why this personality trait is stronger in some than others and it’s down to a certain psychological mindset.

While some people take or leave mistakes as a lesson, perfectionists see them as personal flaws. They mentally beat themselves up and feel that sense of failure – the same fear of failure that perfectionism stems from.

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Another source of perfectionism is the issue of the ego. Many people want things to be perfect because they’re in a mindset of caring what other people will think of them – that they’ll be judged negatively if something isn’t up to a certain standard.

Childhood experiences can also allow perfectionism to evolve in your personality, especially if you’ve learned from a parent or guardian that you somehow can’t be loveable if you’re not perfect. This transcends into your way of thinking throughout work and relationships into adulthood.

And of course, the restricted rules during your education years can teach you at a young age that following rules is important and to your detriment if you’re to break them in any way or not live up to them.

How Perfectionism Secretly Screws You Up

Many people take comfort in being a perfectionist but it’s a common myth that perfectionism creates perfection.

One downside is the time wasted on making something seemingly perfect and actually causes you to become less productive.

Spending more time on something can often be an illusion – we think we’re improving something but that time isn’t necessarily quality time and could be hindering your performance.

For example, say you were working on an important project for your department that accounted for 15% of sales for the company and it took you 4 months to complete. While another coworker completed another project in a month that only accounted for 7% of overall sales for the company. While it didn’t rack up more sales, your coworker had time to complete further projects which brought a total of 21% of sales.

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This is an example of the idea that failing fast is better than succeeding too slowly. When you fail fast, you learn much more in a shorter period of time preparing you for future success much sooner and this is what perfectionism can prevent.

How to Change Your Perfectionist Mindset

If you feel your perfectionism is holding you back, then it might be time to change your habits and way of thinking. There are several strategies you can adopt to change your perfectionist mindset and improve your success in life.

1. Abandon the “All or Nothing” Mindset

A common mindset when it comes to perfectionism is either you want to do something well or not at all. But the problem with this is in denying the importance of the process.

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Achieving greatness comes from the experience and insights gained from this process, allowing you the chance to tune and apply these for future success. This inadvertently reduces the chance of failure overall despite what the perfectionist mind may try hard to deny.

2. Keep in Mind the 80/20 and 70% Rule

It’s sometimes easy to ignore the essence of something when it comes to perfectionism but as long as the essence is apparent within whatever you’re doing, it doesn’t need 100% perfection. Just 70% is all it really needs for it to be great and the fine tuning can be done afterwards. This way you’re seeing the end result more clearly helping to see potential issues.

The 80/20 rule is a good one to keep in mind – only 20% of your efforts can amount to 80% of the results. Any more than this isn’t going to make a huge difference plus it gives you that leeway to tune up the details at a later date.

3. Actively Ask for Positive Feedback

Feedback is every perfectionist’s worst nightmare and while getting both positive and negative feedback is the ideal, this is something a perfectionist would struggle with already being aware of shortcomings and inadequacies. Therefore, asking for feedback on a regular basis can help counteract this and get the mind used to a balance of opinion.

4. Sort Out the “Must Haves” from the “Good to Haves”

Lots of ideas can be great unless perfectionism is your downfall. Prioritization is key here but a perfectionist can find it hard to leave out ideas that they think should be included. However, this is detrimental to the quality of your work or project and can cause you to fall behind or add extra pressure on yourself.

Before you start any project, make sure you create a list of the ‘must haves’ and the ‘good to haves’. Make the ‘must haves’ an absolute priority and only include the ‘good to haves’ if time allows.

5. Celebrate Small Wins Every Day

A perfectionist’s mindset tends to lean towards the negative so writing down 3 daily achievements can help shift this mindset to one of positivity. Anything small from “I got up earlier than my alarm today” to “I met a new and interesting person” can get the mind thinking of positive aspects and detracts from the negative.

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One study explains how this is all down to certain chemicals interacting with our reward system in the brain allowing us to receive the feeling of accomplishment. This feeling motivates us to repeat the process again in order to achieve it. Thinking of positive daily aspects, no matter how small, can literally train your brain to be more positive.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Setting unrealistic goals is a definite trait of a perfectionist and ends up causing feelings of inadequacy because they can be hard to achieve.

Say you’re an actor who aims to become a Hollywood star within a year, or you want to have a successful published book within the next 6 months before you haven’t yet written a word – while this could happen, realistically you’re bound to be disappointed.

Having goals is a wonderful thing but raising the bar too high can create feelings of demotivation and lack. So harvest that desire to improve yourself by all means, but not to the point of making yourself feel less-than.

Learn more about how to set realistic goals here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

You can’t always extinguish the perfectionist in you (that’s perfectionism) but you can become a ‘healthy perfectionist’. You can do this by always keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Whenever you start drilling into an aspect or detail of your project, ask yourself how much it’ll affect the end result. If it only contributes to around 2%, then you need to let it go. This is an example of opportunity cost where there is potential loss of other avenues or alternatives because of sole focus on one idea.

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Stepping back before diving in can save you a lot of time and frees you up to focus on a better result.

Reference

[1] Psychology in the Schools: Is There An Antidote to Perfectionism?

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 29, 2021

Why the 10-80-10 Rule Is Key To Achieving Success

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Why the 10-80-10 Rule Is Key To Achieving Success

The 10-80-10 rule is an extension of the Pareto principle that says 80% of productivity/wealth is generated/owned by 20% of the population.[1] This ratio is often observable in various statistics and studies.

The 10-80-10 rule takes this principle and applies it more specifically to human behavior. It is also malleable, enabling people to move between categories. If we apply it to a company (just as an example), in essence, the 10-80-10 rule looks like this:

  • 10% Highly Productive Elite – This is the core of your business. These people will work all the hours that God sends for your company, leaving no stone unturned and generating the maximum possible productivity/revenue for you that they can.
  • 80% Productive – These lovely folks make up the majority of your business and will work 9-5, getting their tasks done and not making much of a fuss about it. They are less likely to offer innovation, but they are reliable, trustworthy, and dutiful.
  • 10% Unproductive and Defiant – These people are outliers and mercifully low in number, but they create work. They are difficult, unwilling to work hard, and generally take more from your company than they give.

This can also be applied in other areas of life. Morality is another example, with the vast majority (80%) of us being law-abiding citizens who may bend the rules occasionally, 10% being unscrupulously good, and 10% being out-and-out criminals.

Who Came Up With the 10-80-10 Rule?

As touched on earlier, the 10-80-10 rule is an off-shoot of the Pareto Principle, first conceived of in the early twentieth century by Italian civil engineer turned economist Wilfredo Pareto. He simply observed that 80% of the property in Italy, at that time, was owned by 20% of the population. Wealth distribution, according to Pareto, was divided 20/80 across all sections of society. The country, age, gender, or industry didn’t matter. This principle still applied.

Later on in the 1940s, Joseph M. Juran (himself an engineer and management consultant) applied the Pareto Principle to human behavior with the aim of improving quality control, positing that 80% of the success on any one project would be due to the efforts of 20% of the team working on it.

Since then, various researchers and theorists have expanded the Pareto principle into the 10-80-10 rule—observing that 10% are true leaders, 80% seek guidance from others, and 10% wilfully act in a counter-productive manner.[2]

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How to Apply the 10-80-10 Rule to Management to Be More Successful

Well, let’s stay with the team/workforce model for now: if you want to improve productivity in your company, where should your focus be? All too often, “the squeaky wheels get the grease.” That is to say, we tend to try and fix what’s most broken in our organization (namely the bottom 10%) before we move on to the less broken.

When you realize, though, that you’re pouring resources into just 10% of your labor force, it starts to look very inefficient. Moreover, that 10% is comprised of folks who are highly unlikely to change their tune (statistically anyway). You need to focus on the 80%. That’s where you’ll have the most impact and where you’ll create the biggest uplift in productivity. The 80% aren’t (of course) completely equal. Some will sit closer to either of the 10% range, but this means that you should be able to increase the size of your top 10% to be more like 20 or 30%.

How Much of a Difference Would That Make?

Now, before you slam your laptop shut, haul off, and start brainstorming ideas about team-building exercises and corporate days out, it is first very important to understand the metric by which you measure productivity. Numbers on a spreadsheet or letters next to a person’s name only paint part of the picture.

What you value in your company is unique to you. As I’m constantly saying to entrepreneurs and business owners that I coach, you have to be specific with what you are asking of your team, your customers, and the universe at large. Ask a vague question and you’ll get a vague answer.

So, do the work of understanding exactly what is working for you and what isn’t. Simply saying that you want revenue to increase is not enough. By how much? In what areas? Who will we add value to increase their spending with us? Where and whom should we target for new growth?

Who Does This Desired Increase in Productivity Help You Become and Who Does It Serve?

Armed with this, you will have much more clarity to take to your team and with which to start formulating a plan of action. You can look at what would incentivize those in the 80% who just need a slight nudge. That’s where minimum effort will yield maximum results! So, start there.

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A 2014 Gallup poll found that a third of the US workforce felt unmotivated in their jobs, with the highest levels of motivation found among managers.[3] This tells us two things:

  • Firstly, the unmotivated third is comprised partly of those in the 80% camp, but the entirety of the unmotivated 10% is in there, too. If you take them out (because they are those people), the remainder isn’t as many people and they are in a group that still wants to work and get on.
  • Secondly, those in a position of management (i.e. those who feel as though they can effect change in the company) tend to be the most motivated.

Now, let’s not confuse motivation with productivity. You can be as motivated as you like, but without proper strategy or direction, you’ll just be a hammer in search of a nail. Nevertheless, those in management who felt the most motivated to be productive are worth interrogating.

Why Did They Feel More Motivated?

I would posit that the answer is very simple: they felt heard and that they could affect change. It’s a hugely important part of human psychology that we feel as though our ideas, thoughts, and feelings are heard by others. When we feel ignored, we feel unvalued. When we feel unvalued, we are (naturally) unmotivated.

This is not to say that you should make everyone a manager within your company. Your business might be a start-up or just a few people working out of your converted garage. The point is, make sure that they all feel heard. I guarantee you that—especially among the upper end of the 80%—you will see the greatest uptick in productivity if you simply listen to them. Make them feel as though they have a vested interest in growing your business, too.

If they can see the role that they play is important and understood by you, they will push themselves to go further, work harder, and achieve more. You have to put yourself in their shoes, which brings us on to the next point. . .

How to Use the 10-80-10 Rule to Improve Success

Okay, so far we’ve just looked at the 10-80-10 rule as it pertains to the success of groups. But how does it apply to us as individuals? What can we learn from it and use in our day-to-day lives?

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You might be a sole trader or maybe a consultant—someone who does not have a team to rally and simply sells your services to others. In that instance, how does this work for you? Divide yourself up into the 10-80-10. Do it by tasks: what are you most efficient/gifted at, what are you good at, and what do you constantly put off doing?

Here’s an example. Say you’re a writer (where did I get this one from?), and you’re very successful. You are asked to write articles for lots of great, top publications like LifeHack, or maybe you’re writing a book and your screenplay just got picked up by Warner Brothers. Writing is your 10% elite. It’s where you offer the greatest value.

It’s probably not the actual writing so much as it’s the creativity, ideas, and talent that you can bring to bear in your writing. The actual writing—sitting down at your computer, tapping it out, proofreading, and catching spelling/grammar mistakes—that’s your 80%. Sure, you’re good at it. You are competent and get it done. But it’s not where you are at your most powerful, and you usually run out of steam at some point during the day.

Then, there’s your bottom 10%. That’s probably your operational tasks, such as your timekeeping, bookkeeping, invoicing, correspondence, tax return, etc.

Where Do I Get These Examples From?

So, where can you be most effective in taking action that will support you in accelerating your growth? Again, start with the 80%. Try finding ways to improve the writing experience for you. Maybe observe yourself on a typical day, and note when you do your best work. It might be right after your second coffee that you stay at your desk for longer and write with the greatest clarity. So, start structuring your day around that.

What has that cost you? Nothing! It was simply a case of reorganizing your day and bingo, you are doing more of your best work in less time than it took you before. Pretty soon, after you’ve tightened up your day so that you are of maximum productivity, you’ll find that you have more time and resources.

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Once you are better resourced, having landed bigger and bigger jobs, you’ll be able to take care of that pesky bottom 10%. It could be that you eliminate it by outsourcing the work to someone else. Now that you earn more for less of your time, why not? Just take it out of the equation altogether.

Final Thoughts

The 10-80-10 rule is not about adding ridged structures or following strict rules per se. It’s simply a lens through which to view human behavior, including your own. The reason why it is (or could be) the key to your success is that it enables you to identify those small changes that you can make that will have the greatest impact and accelerate your growth the fastest.

If you categorize your labor and the labor of your employees in this way, you’ll be able to more easily identify where you can have maximum impact with minimum input. If you continue to work out from there, your success will snowball, and you’ll have the support in place to maintain it.

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Featured photo credit: Andreas Klassen via unsplash.com

Reference

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