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Why You Need To Stop Demanding Perfection

Why You Need To Stop Demanding Perfection

I must confess I am a recovering perfectionist who used to let my anal retentive nature slow down progress, overwhelm me with stress, and avoid trying new things because of my fear of failure. We all should strive to be the best version of ourselves that we are capable of being, but demanding perfection is not the way to do it.

I’d like to illustrate why demanding perfection is a losing battle via three case studies regarding healthy living, productivity in the workplace, and romantic relationships.

Turning a Minor Slip-Up into an Epic Disaster

Once upon a time, I had a personal training client who I’m going to refer to as Ashley. Ashley had incredible determination and drive to succeed, but she made the mistake of demanding perfection of herself. Despite the fact that she made positive decisions that resulted in pounds lost and increased fitness, she became very upset with herself. The reason? She ate a piece of peanut butter fudge at an office party.

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I received a panicky text from her the instant this happened. I couldn’t resist replying with a touch of sarcasm, “Um, peanut butter fudge is one of the most delicious things ever, so I don’t blame you.” Ashley asked why I wasn’t fussing at her for making a mistake. I explained that this was only a minor hiccup and nothing to get upset about. As long as we make positive decisions 80% of the time, I see little need in getting upset about the remaining 20%.

Many perfectionists who pursue fat loss fail because they allow a minor slip-up to turn into an epic disaster. They make a single (insignificant) mistake like drinking a beer, enjoying some ice cream, or stuffing face with some delicious pasta, and then agonize over their mistake, beat themselves up for no good reason, and experience immense amounts of guilt. Unfortunately, they often convince themselves that they are a failure and completely abandon their fitness plans (which is the furthest thing from the truth — they are merely human).

Takeaway: If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Aim for consistency (not perfection), because we’re all human here. 

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Bashing your productivity into pieces

I could devote 3 days to writing this article if my heart desired. I could obsess with word choice, sentence structure, and formatting decisions for hours-on-end. But don’t you think this would be a bit excessive? Sure, the finished project might be a little better for my efforts, but do you really think my time would be well spent? You are probably shaking your head “no,” but many perfectionists obsess with their decisions so much that it bashes their productivity into pieces.

Let’s apply this point to something you might be familiar with: writing an essay. Assuming a scale of 1-100, would you rather spend 2 hours writing an essay that received a grade of 90, 4 hours for a grade of 95, or 8 hours for a grade of 100? I don’t know about you, but I place immense value on my time, so I would take the 90 and call it a day.

Agonizing over every single aspect of each decision you make is especially crippling in a business setting, where your very survival depends on an ability to act fast. Do you think the world’s most successful business people are perfectionists? Somehow I doubt it. While perfectionists are obsessing with the insignificant details of every move they make, successful people acted decisively and are already several moves ahead.

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Takeaway: Spending a lot more time on a project might make it a little better, but is it really worth it? Your time is money, so act decisively. 

Demanding more than you can expect from others

How would you describe the perfect romantic partner? I have my own list, which goes like so:

  • Cares about her body and enjoys being active
  • Super sassy and able to make me chuckle
  • Touchy-feely (because I love my cuddles)
  • Intelligent book-worm who can make me think
  • Preferably likes dogs, nerd at heart, fan of the arts, thespian, enjoys traveling, drinks beer, will go to scary movies with me…

I could continue (indefinitely), but you get the point. While this list exists in my brain, this isn’t something I seriously expect of potential partners, because my dating pool would be severely limited if I did. I’m not suggesting you should settle for a person with no redeeming qualities, but you cannot wish your ideal Mr. or Mrs. Perfect into existence. When you do meet a person worthy of a date with your amazing self, here’s a list of 21 first date ideas that might be useful.

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Takeaway: Do have standards, but don’t demand perfectionism from potential partners unless you want your search for love to drag on indefinitely. 

Would you consider yourself a perfectionist? 

If so, I would be curious to know why you are demanding perfection of yourself. Do you feel this is useful for your business or life goals and how so? Do you think turning down the volume on your perfectionist tendencies might be a better option? Why or why not?

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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