If you consider yourself a perfectionist, you’re probably well aware of the baggage that comes with it. You’re also in good company: perfectionism has been increasing over the past 27 years, according to a 2017 study. Sure, there are positive aspects, like being highly motivated and attuned to details, but the downsides are significant, too. Namely, perfectionists experience higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety.
There are actually two distinct categories of perfectionism, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review explained. First up, there’s “excellence-seeking perfectionism,” which involves fixating on and demanding high standards of work from both yourself and others. The second is “failure-avoiding perfectionism,” in which a person is obsessive about potential failure, and is afraid that others will lose respect for them if their work falls short in any way.
Following their analysis of four decades of research on perfectionism, the authors of the Harvard Business Review article concluded that when taken as a whole, perfectionism is likely not constructive at work. In fact, they found no link between a person being a perfectionist and job performance.
“If perfectionism is expected to impact employee performance by increased engagement and motivation, then that impact is being offset by opposing forces, like higher depression and anxiety, which have serious consequences beyond just the workplace,” they wrote.
Fortunately, even if you are a perfectionist, there are ways to harness the power of prioritization to ensure that it doesn’t get in your way at work, or eventually lead to burnout. Here are four science-backed Thrive Microsteps to help even the most stringent perfectionists get back on track:
In the morning, write down your priorities for the day.
Deciding what’s important and what’s not is key to reducing stress and improving productivity.
Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed everything.
Truly prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions. When you take time to recharge, you’ll return ready to seize opportunities.
Identify one low-priority activity — and stop doing it.
You’ll find time you didn’t know you had, which you can devote to more important tasks.
Do one small thing each morning that brings you joy.
It might be meditating, walking, or making breakfast. From this foundation, you’ll be more focused and productive once you get to work.
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