night my 11-year-old came into my office (9 p.m. to be exact, foreshadow, foreshadow), and said, “Mom, can you please get off the computer and be with me?” I should know better, right? After all, achieving work-life balance is one of the staples of the coaching diet. I turned off the computer and we sat on the couch reading White Fang aloud. I’m not sure which was worse: not being with him, or scaring him to death, but that’s beside the point… I hope. Was there really anything so important that I couldn’t have shut the computer off at say, oh, 5 p.m.? Truly? No.
So, take a look and ask yourself, “Is this me?”
You know you’re out of balance when…
Your mail sits unopened for a week and you pay your bills late
You think that the more plates you can spin, the more you can have it all
You keep declining invitations with friends
You can’t remember the last time you talked with your brother
You forget appointments and blow off commitments (like working out, eating healthy)
You stop writing your task lists for the week and fly by the seat of your pants
You haven’t synched your PDA in weeks
You don’t care if you’re not on track with your plan
You can’t remember what’s in your plan
You don’t answer your phone or you’re always on the phone
Perfectionism sounds like a first world problem, but it stifles creative minds. Having a great idea but doubting your ability to execute it can leave you afraid to just complete and publish it. Some of the most successful inventors failed, but they kept going in pursuit of perfection. On the other end of the spectrum, perfectionism can hinder people when they spend too much time seeking recognition, gathering awards and wasting time patting themselves on the back. Whatever your art, go make good art and don’t spend time worrying that your idea isn’t perfect enough and certainly don’t waste time coming up with a new idea because you’re still congratulating yourself for the last one.
1. Remember, perfection is subjective.
If you’re worried about achieving perfectionism with any single project so much that you find yourself afraid to just finish it, then you aren’t being productive. Take a hard look at your work, edit and revise, then send it our into the world. If the reviews aren’t the greatest, learn from the feedback so you can improve next time.
2. Procrastination masquerades itself as perfectionism.
People who procrastinate aren’t always lazy or trying to get out of doing something. Many who procrastinate do so because perfectionism is killing their productivity, telling them that if they wait a better idea will come to them.
3. Recognize actions that waste time.
Artists and all creative people need time to incubate; those ideas will only grow when properly watered, but if you’re not engaging in an activity that will help foster creativity, you might just be wasting time. Remember to do everything with purpose, even relaxing.
No one is actually perfect. We often have tremendous ideas or write things that move people emotionally, but no one attains that final state of being perfect. So, don’t get down if your second idea isn’t as good as your first—or vice versa. Perfectionists tend to be the toughest critics of their work, so don’t criticize yourself. You are not your work no matter how good or how bad.
5. Stress races your heart and freezes your innovation.
Stress is a cyclic killer that perfectionists know well because that same system that engages and causes your palms to sweat over a great idea is the same system that kicks in and worries you that you’re not good enough. Perfectionism means striving for that ultimate level, and stress can propel you forward excitedly or leave you shaking in fear of the next step.
6. Meeting deadlines beats waiting for perfect work.
Don’t let your fear of failure prevent you from meeting your deadline. Perfection is subjective and if you’re wasting time or procrastinating, you should just finish the job and learn from any mistakes. Being productive means completing work. You shouldn’t try for months or even years to perfect one project when you can produce projects that improve over time.