17 Ways to Stop Being a Perfectionist and Get More Done

photo by Sarah Hobbs

By Christina Laun

Although sometimes it may seem like it, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and has at least a few faults. And while it may seem like a noble goal, striving to be a perfectionist in your work or personal life can actually be more of a hindrance than a help in making you successful. Focusing on making every detail perfect can end up making you get less done, not to mention leave you in a constant state of anxiety. These are a few ways you can stop worrying so much about being perfect, enjoy your work, and still get plenty done in a day.

1. Set realistic expectations. While it might be wonderful to finish your current project, start another, get new clients and keep up with all your household chores, the reality is that expectations like that aren’t always realistic. There’s no sense in making yourself feel bad by setting yourself up to fail. You don’t have to be perfect to be productive, so give yourself expectations that are something you can actual accomplish, you can always add on more later if you get ahead of schedule.

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. ~Harriet Braiker

2. Give yourself credit. When you set goals for yourself, it’s easy to let yourself concentrate on the things that you haven’t accomplished instead of those you have gotten done. Give yourself some credit for the milestones and small parts of projects that you get done along the way.

3. Accept that you will make mistakes. While it might be hard for the true perfectionists out there, you can get a lot more done if you recognize that no matter what it is you’re doing, there are going to be some mistakes that you’ll make along the way. Accept this, and use these as valuable learning experiences to be better in the future instead of beating yourself up over them.

4. Ask for help. Though you might feel it’s a blow to your pride, asking for help doesn’t make you weak or incompetent. Sometimes having an outside perspective or a little extra help can make all the difference.

5. Focus on the present. It can be easy to get caught up in worrying about past mistakes or things that are looming in the future that may never even happen. Instead of trying to perfect your past and future, concentrate on doing what you need to do now to make yourself happy or get more work done.

6. Just get it done. Getting things done perfectly is great, but just getting them done period isn’t too bad either. Focus more on the action of getting things done instead of putting so much effort into worrying about doing each thing perfectly.

7. Relax. When you tense up because you’re worried or nervous about being less than perfect, you can make work a completely miserable and stressful experience. Just relax instead. Even if things don’t turn out perfectly, chances are good that things won’t be nearly as bad as you imagine.

8. Focus on the big picture. Perfectionists tend to focus on the little details, nitpicking every tiny aspect of a project, making it take much longer than it should. Let go of the small things so you can focus on the bigger aspects of your projects.

9. Give yourself permission. It can be hard to stop looking at things through the eyes of a perfectionist. You can start by giving yourself permission to be less than perfect and stop thinking of yourself as a failure when you don’t meet your own expectations.

10. Silence your inner critic. That nagging voice inside your head that tells you your work isn’t good enough can drive you to work harder, but it can also drive you crazy trying to achieve impossible perfection. Replace those negative comments with with positive encouragement instead.

11. Realize that someone can always find fault. You could spend hours tweaking a design, website or paper and no matter how much you do to it, someone can still come along and find fault. Everyone’s idea of perfection is different, so understand that no matter how perfect you make something it will never be safe from criticism. Realize this and you’ll be more willing to give yourself a bit of a break.

12. Use it as a motivational tool. Perfectionism doesn’t have to be totally bad. Sometimes it can be a great motivational tool in pushing you forward. The trick is knowing where to draw the line between productive thinking and destructive thinking. If you find your work making you more miserable than happy, then chances are you’ve crossed the line and need to take a step back.

13. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s fine to have someone to look up to, but constantly comparing yourself to others can ultimately be self destructive behavior. Do the best you can do, not the best someone else can do.

14. Don’t overanalyze. Planning, preparation, and going over your work can be good things, but when you start overanalyzing things to the point that you don’t get started or finished with anything is counterproductive. Remember that it doesn’t matter how great something is if it’s only half done.

15. Lighten up. Your work may not be a joke but that doesn’t mean you have to treat it as a humorless endeavor. Lighten up and you will be less willing to get bogged down in making everything perfect.

16. Learn to take criticism. No matter how perfect your work may seem, you’ll likely get some amount of criticism from users or clients. Learn to take these kind of comments as ways to make your work better, not as attacks on you personally.

17. Stop procrastinating. Though it might seem odd, perfectionism can often lead to procrastination. If you find yourself reluctant to start projects until you can do them just right or until you have the perfect idea you’re likely letting your perfectionism get in the way of getting things accomplished. Just get started, you can always go back and revise later if you don’t like what you’ve gotten done.

Taming your inner perfectionist can be a long and hard fought battle, but it can be worth it in the end if you feel better both about your work and yourself. You’ll avoid loads of frustration, self imposed guilt trips, and maybe even get more done.

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16 Responses to “17 Ways to Stop Being a Perfectionist and Get More Done”

  1. February 29, 2023 at 11:45 am #

    This is a great post to start my day with. Thanks so much!

  2. March 2, 2023 at 9:59 am #

    You’re so right when you say accept that you will make mistakes. They can get so blow out of proportion in your head. 7 years ago I made a mistake and screwed up a project I was given and I wouldn’t let it go for years. It held me back because I was afraid of making a mistake again. That’s not a way to live! Recently I’ve just accepted that sometimes I’ll mess up and that’s ok because sometimes I’ll really succeed and that’s worth the trade off!

    Dan’s last blog post..How do I cope with pain?

  3. Charlene
    April 24, 2023 at 1:21 pm #

    Great post. I just linked to it in my recent blog post.

    Charlene’s last blog post..Let Your Products and Services Fly

  4. June 27, 2023 at 9:00 am #

    I like your list. I think it applies to the regular world, as well as the business world. You could easily change the name to Cultivate Happiness. Nice job.

    Laurie Furber’s last blog post..Help! My Toys Ate My Family Room

  5. October 26, 2023 at 12:10 am #

    really enjoyed old posts. waiting for updates.

    Jesus Mondea’s last blog post..Dr. Phil Caught Cheating

  6. January 11, 2024 at 11:24 am #

    As i was reading this post, I ponder about my relationship with my husband. Sometimes, I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to our married life, or the things that I expect from him. Thus, we fought, and those times that we did are some of the unhappy times of my life. Ironic how wanting to have a perfect life can bring a person sadness.

  7. January 16, 2024 at 11:24 pm #

    i am a perfectionist, and i realize that make me do thing less, so i try to stop being a perfectionist but some time i just can’t stop listen to my inner critic :P

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  8. Venora
    February 9, 2023 at 2:29 am #

    This is a great post to start my day with. Thanks so much!

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  9. February 10, 2023 at 4:14 am #

    this is very good content. thanks you.

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  10. February 15, 2023 at 10:40 pm #

    Wow,. very nice entry! thanks so much!

    Ize’s last blog post..A Prayer

  11. March 4, 2023 at 7:19 am #

    First i like your given quote here, and your whole post is super get perfection is not everything i like your most of the topic and also wanted to implement.

  12. March 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm #

    Wow, what a great article to stumble across!

    Thank you so much! I have printed this out to keep near my computer, just to remind myself of some of the key points!!

    Thanks again!

    The Angels Weekly’s last blog post..March is National Nutrition Month

  13. Ann@Las Vegas Home Mortgage
    April 13, 2023 at 7:52 pm #

    This is good content. You should try to write more then about this topic. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Set realistic expectations.<— This is the challenge for me and a lot of people. I have to remind myself this all the time.

    Ann@Las Vegas Home Mortgage’s last blog post..Las Vegas Mortgage advice for you- mistakes to avoid.

  14. April 17, 2023 at 6:25 pm #

    Great post! Thnaks!

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  15. May 14, 2023 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks for the tips, I suspect we could all do with more of this from time to time.



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