Simple techniques to avoid burnout, prioritize tasks, and accomplish more of the important things.
For many years, I identified myself as a perfectionist and felt that it was normal. As normal as that I like chocolate cakes or that I am a goal-oriented person. I did not realize that perfectionism is not a sign of magnificence.
Rather, it holds me back from living out my truest potential and getting things done effectively.
I did not realize how limiting the perfectionism mindset is.
The next significant step was to implement productivity techniques to discipline me to let go of perfectionist tendencies, focus on progress rather than perfection, avoid burnout, and get done the important things instead of all the things.
Becoming more productive will not hurt the quality of our work; it will increase it. — Harvard Business Review
Here are my three productivity techniques that you can implement too to reduce and overcome your perfectionist tendencies and get done more of the important things rather than getting overwhelmed with trying to do everything perfectly.
One common tendency for perfectionists is to overwork. And sometimes, we do get into such a flow mode that we forget to look at the time and take breaks.
However, overall, breaks are necessary. According to an article on the UCL website, some of the reasons include: breaks improve concentration and memory, serve as energy boosts, reduce stress, improve health, and boost performance and creativity.
As for me, a chronic perfectionist in recovery, I have had a problem that if I have a large amount of time to do something, I will use it all to perfect everything until the smallest details. That is how a 2 h task can eventually take 6–8 h.
The Pomodoro Technique helps to take scheduled breaks and not overwork.
Here is my little bit adjusted Pomodoro technique:
- Set a timer for 25 min, work with full focus, do not check messages, or give in to other distractions.
- Take a 5 min break. And instead of checking social media, get up, walk around, stretch or do some visualization or breathing exercises. Drink water.
- Set a timer for 25 min again and work with focused effort.
- Take 10 min break for stretching, breathing, or visualization exercises. Drink water. Do other urgent things that are not related to work (answer to a missed call, important e-mail, etc.).
You can set the timer on your phone, or you can use a special website for that.
Perfectionists can always find a million things to work on, fix, or perfect. My days used to be chaotic because I tried to work on all sorts of things and did not accomplish as much, or it took a long time to finish things.
The thing which helped was setting the intentions for the week and the day.
To set intentions for the week:
Take time on Sunday to plan out your next week.
At first, I start writing down a to-do list with all the important tasks I need to accomplish next week. Then I take time to plan them into my next week’s schedule, starting with the most important ones. I use Google Calendar and choose different colors for different tasks.
To set intentions for the day:
Each day, before you start your working hours, write down three main things/goals you need to accomplish that day. Focus on those before you let other things take your time, focus, and energy.
This is a great way to prioritize tasks to ensure you accomplish what gives the greatest impact for what you want to achieve.
According to an article in Harvard Business Review: “The real goal of all work is impact — whether it impacts sales, profits, or one’s community. And prioritizing productivity guarantees that the work will be done at a level of quality that has the most impact.”
And bonus — setting intentions for the day and week and finishing those first also helps by giving the feeling of accomplishment. When you have achieved the day’s planned intentions, you feel proud, which keeps you motivated and confident.
Give Yourself Deadlines And Timeframes
Progress over perfection.
You probably have heard it many times, so many times, that you start to bypass this simple advice.
However, perfecting everything costs time — it means less time for other important tasks or having the necessary rest.
Plus, it is important to prioritize the tasks so you don’t spend a huge amount of time on something with a low ROI.
Ask yourself, “Is this going to bring the greatest amount of impact for the big goal I am pursuing now? Or is this just a supplementary task for something to look/sound/feel better or for me to feel more confident?”
Sometimes just getting it done is a worthy goal. Even a necessary goal.
Let’s look at the Pareto Principle, which means that 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. Perfectionists focus on perfecting the other 80% of the work too much, but that only brings 20% of the value!
Perfecting our work generally returns a small value for a high cost. — Harvard Business Review
I suggest using the technique of giving yourself deadlines and timeframes, which has helped me to get done more and not waste a ton of time perfecting something:
Set for yourself a deadline — the number of hours how much you will dedicate to a certain task.
For example, you are preparing a project, and you set for yourself 2 h to work on it. Focus on getting it done no matter what during this 2 h. It will keep you focused and help your brain learn how to divide between what is important and what is not so important.
It is ok if after 2 h that the work does not look perfect or even satisfactory. The main thing is that you have made something and finished it!
It will also help you to embrace imperfection more. That everything does not need to be perfect to be valuable and for you to feel good, worthy, and confident.
If it needs editing or extra polishing, you can schedule an extra hour later to work on this. But don’t go crazy with perfection!
Teach yourself to feel good because you have completed a task instead of perfected it.
I know many people think that being a perfectionist is no big deal — that it does not harm our lives so much. I used to think that way too.
However, after seeing how perfectionist tendencies impact my confidence and peace of mind, productivity, and cause stress and burnout, I decided that enough is enough.
I started to teach myself to embrace imperfection and work smarter instead of harder.
Three techniques helped toovercome perfectionism and raise productivity. Those are the Pomodoro technique, setting the intention for the week and the day, and setting myself deadlines and timeframes to focus on getting the task done.
As someone working for myself at home, implementing such productivity techniques has been crucial. I hope they will be helpful and game-changing also in your life and business!