Overcome the challenges of working from home

Perfectionism and productivity

Published by Amanda Brown on

The 3 Ps – Perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis – are subjects for a series of blog posts about the Productive Mindset.

The first of these mindset roadblocks to productivity is perfectionism and this is backed up by the results of the Homepreneur Survey 2018 where many freelancers cited it as a major challenge. We all want to do a great job for our clients but for many coaches, consultants and freelancers the work we do can lead us to spend more time than the project warrants.

1. Perfectionism is in the eye of the beholder

Like beauty, perfectionism is in the eye of the beholder. ‘Perfect' is subjective. What you think is less than perfect may be exactly what your client wants – warts and all.

2. Perfectionism takes too much time

Consider Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If you have the tendency toward perfectionism, not only does Parkinson’s Law hold true but goes a step further. Sometimes our desire to deliver the perfect report, advice or training means we spend far too many hours completing it, staying up to the small hours crossing every T and dotting every I, until losing sight of the marginal improvements every extra hour yields.

The overrun in time is not only costing you your hourly rate but is also eating into time you could be spending on another fee-paying project or marketing.

3. Perfectionism undervalues your worth

I’m not encouraging you to be slapdash – far from it – but knowing when enough is enough is all about recognising your own worth and being confident in your expertise. The fear of your work not being good enough can result in over-delivering. The key to overcoming this is to have very clear discussions with the client upfront and define exactly what is included in the brief and what is excluded.

Managing client expectations in a friendly, open way is the secret to success when it comes to offering value.

4. Perfectionism is stressful


Most Homepreneurs work to deadlines largely set by our clients. Meeting these deadlines is one of the key measures of being a successful freelancer. When a deadline looms, it’s time to put all ideas of a faultless piece of work to one side.

When you have stared at the fourth edit of a report which is due in a couple of hours, the pressure rises. The nearer the deadline gets the worse the feeling – do you ask for more time or do you risk sending off a substandard (in your eyes) piece of work?

As humans, we are notoriously bad at judging how long things take, frequently underestimating by quite a large margin the time involved.

To alleviate this problem, planning your projects and writing down the component parts will reduce the stress and result in the more accurate scheduling of work.

5. Perfectionists work too hard

Productivity is all about working smarter and not harder. Long hours may be the expected norm in the corporate world but one of the main reasons people choose to work from home is to spend more time with their family and friends or enjoying their free time. Having perfectionist tendencies is likely to result in work eating into precious personal time and projects stacking up so, in the end, you’re working in the evenings and at weekends just to catch up.

6. Perfectionism leads to procrastination

If you’re one of those people who doubts your own abilities, then being a perfectionist can lead to never even starting a particular venture. For example, you might want to offer a new service, but the fear of failure means you never begin.

7. Perfectionism stifles creativity and innovation

Productivity thrives on creativity and innovation. Coming up with new ways to streamline routine tasks and iterating until you’ve found a better process requires us to embrace learning from failure, refining and trying again. Being open to operating with a ‘less than perfect’ solution and revising it step by step is hard for the perfectionist who would rather develop the faultless routine upfront or not even start at all.

Embracing innovation is how the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Tesla were born. Their products are always evolving.

In a world which moves at super-lightening speed, being a perfectionist may make the difference between success and failure.

As LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman said: “if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

8. Perfectionism reduces our profitability

This impacts on our productivity and ultimately our profitability. Even though many business people quote on an hourly, half-day or day rate, the truth for many freelancers is that most projects are based on a fixed price. Few clients are paying on a per hour basis as they need to stick to a budget.

How to overcome perfectionism

  • Embrace your high standards and make them work to your advantage by valuing your worth.
  • Set your own deadlines and stick to them. When a project’s done, it’s done!
  • Avoid comparing your work with others.
  • Be driven by the passion to succeed and not fear of failure.
  • Set increased productivity as your goal that way you’ll focus on the ratio between inputs and outputs and not the perfect product.
  • If perfectionism is turning you into a workaholic, take a break and get out of the house. Ask a friend to hold you accountable.
  • Learn to say, “It’s good enough.” This doesn’t mean lowering your standards but in a world which is transient, much of our work lasts a relatively short amount of time.

Perfectionism isn’t all bad

I’m definitely not a perfectionist but I am productive. I could learn to pay more attention to details but as a creative working in a fast-moving, online marketing environment, I have learned to adapt by testing and measuring what works and dropping what doesn’t. In marketing, there’s simply no time to be a perfectionist.

Developing a productive mindset is a never-ending challenge. Tackling any perfectionism tendencies is one step along the working smarter path.

Categories: Productivity


Matt M · 6th September 2018 at 8:57 am

Thanks Amanda. Enjoyed the content in this post. Perfectionism leading to procrastination in certainly a killer. Also enjoyed your mini course from this content. Cheers!

Natalie · 24th January 2019 at 6:54 pm

Great post, thank you Amanda.

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