Do you ever feel frustrated about how much you get done—and how much you don't accomplish? Do you ever wish you could be more productive but think it's impossible? There may be an underlying cause of your lack of productivity that you aren't even aware of... perfectionism.
Perfectionism is more than just having a neat junk drawer. Perfectionism entails an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to everything: work, home life, exercise, friends, creative projects, you name it. Something is either perfect or it's an utter failure. It's either done right or it's done wrong. This all-or-nothing mentality can be your kryptonite when it comes to productivity. Here are nine ways perfectionism might be robbing you of your productivity:
Perfectionism is very stressful. There's a constant conversation in your brain pushing you to do something more to make it perfect. Research shows that perfectionism contributes to increased stress and risk for burnout. And that stress can have a negative impact on your productivity.
With an all-or-nothing mentality, perfectionism can create the thought of "If I can't be perfect then why even bother?!" A great example of this is a coaching client of mine who wanted to be healthier. She told me, "I can't get to the gym every day because I'm so busy. So I can't work out." I pointed out that, in fact, there are lots of ways to exercise; going to the gym is only one of them. For example, she could go for a walk during lunch, do two minutes of squats while she's on a phone call, or choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. However, her perfectionistic attitude had her avoiding any exercise at all. Another place where perfectionism can lead to avoidance occurs when waiting for the "perfect" moment to get started on a project. In reality, there is no perfect moment, so get started now.
3. Fear of failure
While ostensibly perfectionism is about wanting to be perfect, on a deeper level it's based on an intense fear of failure. A fear of failure not only increases your stress but also reduces your ability to be productive in other ways. For example, if you're so fearful of failure you may not take a risk to try something new that may help you advance your project.
The perfectionist often thinks that she needs to get it all done now, which can result in multitasking. And research overwhelmingly shows that multitasking depletes our ability to be productive.
5. Don't let yourself take a break.
Along with multitasking, a perfectionist often focuses on the need to get stuff done now. He often avoids taking time out for himself, thinking that he needs to put his attention on and focus on work. In reality, taking a break can help you be much more productive.
With an all-or-nothing, perfect-or-failure thinking, making a decision can be difficult for perfectionists. Fearful of making the wrong decision, they often overanalyze and have trouble picking just one decision and sticking with it. This can lead to reduced productivity, as well as lots of unnecessary stress.
7. Difficulty completing a task
Because perfectionists often have unrealistically high expectations, there's a sense that it's never good enough to be complete, so a project is never finished. As a result, they may continue to focus on minute details as opposed to completing the project and moving on.
8. Can't say no
With perfectionism can often come people-pleasing—the inability to say no to tasks or not wanting to turn off email or phone for fear that someone will need them. I had a client once tell me that she had to check her emails morning, noon, and night, weeknights and weekends, in case someone needed her attention. That inability to set any limits can severely hinder your productivity.
9. Difficulty delegating
A perfectionist can have difficulty delegating for several reasons. One, there's a sense that they "should" do it all. Another is the notion that others can't do it as well as you. Both of these beliefs get in the way of delegating. In reality, delegation is an important part of increasing your productivity.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, click here for free tips on how to overcome perfectionism to boost your productivity and success.
Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD is a licensed practicing psychologist with a master's in physical therapy from Duke University and a Ph.D. in psychology from Drexel University. Based in the Greater Chicago Area, she combines research findings, real life stories and humor to provide actionable tips you can benefit from immediately.
Considered Shaquille O’Neal’s “Head coach for Happiness,” Lombardo is on a mission to free people from the stress of perfectionism caused by their own inner critic. Her ability to help men and women unlock their own, unique personal happiness code has made her America’s most interviewed celebrity psychologist, with hundreds of radio and TV appearances on shows like Dr. Oz, The TODAY Show, Steve Harvey, CNN, Fox Business News and many more. She has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Women’s Health and more.