Perfection: How do I become a perfectionist?

A job well done can be a blessing to those who rely on your work.

However, perfection for perfection’s sake is obsessive-compulsive disorder. An obsession with perfection can cause you to miss deadlines and alienate those around you.

The art is in knowing where to draw the line. How good is good enough? You want to do as good a job as possible in the amount of time given while maintaining good relationships and not burning bridges.

The art to a job well down is also in keeping both the big picture and the details in mind simultaneously. Some people get so bogged down in details, that they never finish. Others only see the big picture and their work is full of errors.

Steps to a job well-down:

  • Know your goal as explicitly as possible.
  • Can you achieve it?
  • Will you need help achieving it?
  • Be clear about your goal. When you meet it, it’s done. Don’t waste time on trying to make your work better than the target. No one will appreciate it. They will see it as a waste of time.
  • Know the deadline.
  • Working backward from the deadline, outline the steps required to get you to the deadline.
  • Divide those steps you outlined above into smaller pieces, making note of any resources you need to achieve them. The finer the step size, the more details are revealed.
  • Build in extra time for mistakes and unforeseen circumstances. I often double my time estimate to allow for unforeseen circumstances.
  • If you depend on another person to provide resources, set that up now rather than waiting for the last minute.
  • If you find you can’t meet the deadline based on the schedule you created, negotiate for a later deadline. You may have to cut out some of the extra time you built into the schedule.
  • Document everything you do. There is nothing worse than trying to figure out why you did something a month after the fact.
  • When things do not work out like you thought they would, do NOT see it as failure. It is feedback telling you to approach your work in a different way.
  • Triple check your work. Take a break and check your work again. Is someone else available to look over your work as well? Often another person will catch things you miss.
  • As you finish tasks, mark them off on your calendar. This allows you to see if you are meeting your schedule or if you are slipping.
  • Every time you notice yourself thinking, “That’s not important.” or “I’ll get to that later”, stop and make a note about it. Get back to these later and evaluate them seriously. Thoughts like these are how sloppiness is encoded in our brains.
  • Periodically discuss your work with other people to get their input.
  • When looking over your work, imagine yourself as someone seeing it for the first time. We are often so close to our work that we are blind to many things that someone who has never seen it might catch.
  • When you have completed your task, ask others for feedback.
  • Write a “post-mortem”. This is a document where you discuss what went wrong in your project and what you would do differently the second time around.
  • Keep your notes for the next time you have to do a similar project.
  • Congratulate yourself for what you did right. This will reinforce good behaviors.

I want to reiterate:

  • Every time you notice yourself thinking, “That’s not important.” or “I’ll get to that later”, stop and make a note about it. Get back to these later and evaluate them seriously. Thoughts like these are how sloppiness is encoded in our brains.

In summary, I don’t think perfectionism is a worthy goal. In most real world situations, perfection doesn’t exist and perfectionists are annoying. Instead, chose to be methodical, detailed, systematic and efficient. Shoot for a job well done. This is achieved by knowing how good is good enough.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Icon: Ladder of Divine Ascent

2 thoughts on “Perfection: How do I become a perfectionist?

  1. So much of this resonated with me! I’ve found that I feel energized and thrive in multidimensional projects- I can see both the big picture and the details and how they can fall into place in different ways! But your list of pointers brought a few weaknesses of mine to the front: having others review my work for mistakes or areas I may have missed- I do have some review, but not as often as I should, I think; and those thoughts of “This isn’t important”- absolutely a piece I’m putting into practice immediately! Thanks for the post! Excellent!

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