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4 Ways to Overcome Perfection Obsession At Work

Perfection Obsession

Perfection at work is good. There's no denial to it. But Perfection Obsession at work results in zero progress.

Here are some examples of Perfection Obsession at work:

  1. A graphic designer who keeps on perfecting their design and struggling to deliver before the deadline

  2. A salesperson writing a simple sales email for hours without sending it, just because they feel the email isn't perfect enough to close the deal

The graphic designer and salesperson described above are committing a big mistake.

They both thought their endless efforts to achieve perfection would achieve results. They failed to recognize the fact that perfection cannot be achieved without feedback from real-world results.

In order to know something you tried works or not, you must produce a reasonably valid deliverable, and monitor the results to continually improve upon it in your subsequent deliverables.

In this blog post, we'll share 4 ways to overcome Perfection Obsession at work.

Here we go!

Self Micro-management

Micro-management is a negative term in today's business world. However, nobody is probably going to oppose it if they're asked to micro-manage themselves.

As a self micro-manager, you need to break down your work into small tasks and set a deadline for each of them.

When you have a deadline for each task, you're less likely to allow your mind to deceive you into the endless loop of perfection even if you're perfection obsessed.

The best way to self micro-manage is to start your workday by listing the small tasks on a spreadsheet along with the deadline for each of them. Of course, don't forget to include a buffer time for ad-hoc tasks or meetings that come along the way.

Since your brain is already aware of the deadlines of each task, it will obviously alert you when you're about to enter the Perfection Obsession mode.

Remember the cost of delay

Perfection Obsession causes overthinking. Overthinking causes delay.

In summary, Perfection Obsession results in delay. In worst cases, it could even make you start all over again at point zero multiple times, even after several hours of quality focus at work.

For example, a perfection-obsessed salesperson, while writing a sales email could use the backspace key more than all the characters they typed in the email draft. First, they tend to think they should talk about the value in the email subject line, and start writing the email content.

While drafting the email content, they suddenly get a feel that cost savings is more important than the value for the prospect. Then they rewrite the subject line and draft the email content from a cost-advantage standpoint. After a while, they would feel both value and cost are important, and start all over again on the subject line. Here, the salesperson wasted several hours due to their Perfection Obsession, while getting nothing done.

We normally tend to enter the Perfection Obsession mode, when we're not aware of the cost of delay (which is usually a lost opportunity).

Hence, when you have an eye on the cost of delay, you can smartly avoid Perfection Obsession at work, and eliminate the potential trap of duplicate efforts by starting all over again.

Accept there's always room for improvement

When we are perfection-obsessed, we're deceived into thinking that we're trying to achieve something that can never be improved further.

That's completely wrong. The reality is there's always a scope for improvement, even in the so-called 'perfect' work.

If you're perfection obsessed, you must look at the value of things with time. For example, in late 90s, a cellphone with a basic capability of making/receiving calls was marvelous. Today it's hard to find such basic handsets, as the smartphones are dominating the market, and they have completely revolutionized the way we operate.

Back in late 90s, if Nokia was perfection obsessed, they would have been trying to make something even more perfect, and kept starting all over again even today. And smartphones would have been imaginary today rather than a reality.

When you recognize that there's always a scope for improvement, you stop being perfection-obsessed. Instead, you deliver something that's reasonably valid, and get the stakeholder feedback to continually improve that deliverable in subsequent attempts.

Rely on internal stakeholder feedback

If you're perfection obsessed, you're most likely to simulate the customer minds within your head endlessly before finalizing a deliverable.

Instead, you can ask for the internal stakeholder feedback, and avoid the delays caused due to Perfection Obsession.

For example, the graphic designer could invite other people within his/her team to review a design, and get feedback on what on the design immediately invited their attention. They can then fine-tune the design based on those inputs and finalize it.

Once you finalize on the deliverable, you can go live and get external stakeholder feedback and improve your deliverables consistently, while successfully eliminating your Perfection Obsession!


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