How to Overcome Perfectionism

If you're looking to perfect your perfectionism, keep your eye fixed on process, not output.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #489

The Perfect Process Learns

And that’s because the perfect process learns from experience. You can’t produce a perfect output the first time out any more than you can stop the seven horsemen of the apocalypse with a fake “One Way, Do Not Enter” street sign at the end of your block. What you can do is the best you can by the date you set. Then do an “after-action review.” Reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and decide how things could have gone better. 

Then plan changes that will take your product to the next level. And by “product,” I mean whatever it is you’re working on. It may be your company’s product, or it may be trimming your beautiful suburban lawn to look like Kim Kardashian seen from above, or it may be finishing the pair of exciting underwear you’re knitting. 

If you’re a perfectionist, let go of the need to have the perfect output. Instead, have the perfect process.

Bernice decides to go ahead and publish the videos she’s produced so far, even though they’re in the dreaded 4:3 aspect ratio. Much to her surprise, everyone loves them. In fact, the main feedback is that people would love to have her go in depth on the issue of choosing the right dental floss for an Audrey II that doesn’t brush regularly. So when she plans her summer video schedule, she can tackle this new topic.

Make Each Iteration a Chance to Learn

With each new production initiative, however, Bernice can up her game a bit. With her first video series, she learned to use her webcam. As she prepares her floss episode, she reads up on how to use lighting in video. After all, it’s dark inside an Audrey II’s mouth, and light will be needed.

She decides her goal for her next videos is to learn the basics of good lighting. Soon enough, Bernice is the Queen of White Balancing, and her videos are starting to look great. With every one, she learns what viewers do and don’t care about. She can get better and better over time; perfection doesn’t have to come all at once.

If you’re a perfectionist, let go of the need to have the perfect output. Instead, have the perfect process. Set a date and do the best you can by that date. Then review what you’ve learned, and set one goal for making your next round of improvements better than the first. Put your nose to the grindstone and do another round. In the time it takes to do five years’ worth of trying to create the perfect product immediately, you can do a dozen learning cycles, and be far closer to the perfect product than you ever thought possible.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. Want great keynote speeches on productivity, Living an Extraordinary Life, or entrepreneurship? Hire me! Find me at http://SteverRobbins.com

Image of perfectionism quote © Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.