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Anxious, burnt-out perfectionists may not recognize their perfectionism as a problem. However, demanding overly high standards, cultivating self-esteem based on meeting those standards, and constantly criticizing yourself will eventually lead to burnout, stress, and frustration. Can we help the team to distinguish “useful” perfectionism from “bad” perfectionism and encourage them to strive for achievement rather than perfection?

Living with perfectionism doesn't lead to increased productivity or efficiency

Instead, this quality generates:

  • avoiding what is important and necessary;
  • promotes burnout and procrastination;
  • imposes excessive self-management.

Working on perfectionism doesn't mean limiting yourself to great work. Perfectionists have no problem wanting to do great work; the problem is that they are extremely inflexible about what good work looks like and how it should be done. The problem is toughness, not the desire to do a great job.

How to do great work without perfectionism?

Perfectionists have incredibly high expectations of themselves and others and are incredibly critical of themselves, their behavior, and the success of their work.

In other words, we can talk about perfectionism as a set of rules formed in a person's head. Constantly following these rules can be motivating and rewarding, but over time they can distract you from your goals: in the end, they will divert your attention from the desired results.

The key to getting rid of perfectionism is not to get rid of your rules but to realize what they are for, identify the times when they are useful and inappropriate, and be adaptable enough to apply them in those cases.

How can theory be put into practice?

What do you see if you think about your work rules? Here is one of the options: “If I do not fully invest in my work, then I will not achieve anything.” Here are a few others: “If you neglect the smallest details, everything will be spoiled.” Or, “No one cares about work as much as I do, so I have to work twice as hard to ensure everything goes well.” Here are a few more sentences: “If I don't put all my heart into my work, it won't work.” To work well, you don't have to worry about the details as much as you might. To do a job well, it’s enough to do it well and not try to do everything perfectly.

Your rules point to your values

Have the perfectionists on your team take a piece of paper and write down some of their values. It is important to ensure each employee manages and controls their values ​​well enough.

Once the team has done that, it's time to answer the important question: How do each perfectionist on your team act in line with these values? It is especially true for work. Are employees living up to their values? Or are they in a mess of worry, procrastination, self-reproach, self-doubt, and burnout?

How to use the values ​​you just defined?

Ready to work with perfectionism right now? Let's go.


Five steps from perfectionism to productivity

Step 1:

Work with perfectionism at the moment.

Avoiding this can either cause your team to slow down or burn out, or you can take on a challenge and risk overworking yourself or angering your team members.

Step 2:

Understanding perfectionism is problematic for a person. But this is important, as is the recognition of hunger or thirst.

Step 3:

Your team needs to learn to look at the thought as thought. The bottom line is that a team member does not have to agree with the content of the thought, and even more so, allows automatic change in the person's behavior. It will help to do the job just fine instead of striving for the ideal and eventually procrastinating from fatigue.

There are several approaches to solving this problem: journaling, mindfulness, or creating a thought diary as part of cognitive behavioral therapy. It's not about convincing yourself that the work is “not bad enough”, or that mistakes don't matter much, or that the things you experience aren't of any value. Instead, creating some distance between a person and his thoughts will allow you to act deliberately and not blindly follow in the footsteps of your own beliefs.

Step 4:

It can seem intimidating when perfectionists have sufficiently detached themselves from their thoughts and feelings. They don't behave automatically by default, so the question is, how should I behave? Values ​​can help you make choices and act on them. It is essential to understand that deciding to act this way is likely very different from following your own rules. Such people will be more open to figuring out what works and doesn't.

Step 5:

Employees should think about what they can do to follow their values ​​and feed their perfectionism less closely. It can apply to both proofreading emails and delegating tasks.

It is better to choose something simple and embarrassing.


Take a break after making changes and see how it turned out. For example, if you let someone else make the decision, wait a week and see what happens. Perhaps your rule about double-checking things has exceptions. Or maybe a tiny difference in selection isn't a big deal. You may even like how this person handled the situation, or you may not. Don't judge hastily. Let this small change take root and see if it makes a difference.

People usually benefit from learning to make value-based decisions and listening to their perfectionist habits. However, this should not be judged solely by feelings. Evaluating how well this works for you and your company makes sense.

Give yourself and your team time to see the results you were looking for. You can track changes in productivity with a time tracking program such as Yaware TimeTracker. Read more here.

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