4 Ways To Get More Done And Stop Trying to Be Perfect
One of the biggest problems I’ve seen that plagues us as women is the feeling that we have to be perfect ALL THE TIME.
We worry about disappointing people. We worry that even if people think we’re great, we’re going to let them down somehow. We worry–STILL–that we’re not going to be smart enough or good enough when we’re actually put in the ring of fire. We worry that even if we DO get started on something, that we’re going to ‘mess it up’ somehow.
Perfectionism is The Plague
As I was sitting in an Uber with my girlfriend the other night and she explained a situation to me about someone acting strange/semi-creepy towards her, I sat there and thought that part of my purpose on this planet is to eliminate as much dysfunctional delusional-ness as much as possible.
Because to be honest, a lot of the reason why we suffer and why we have problems? A good amount of it is EMOTIONAL. People’s ‘stuff’. And perfectionism is one of those by-products of other people’s shit.
Maybe you had a narcissistic parent. (I did, and a lot of other women I know have, too). Maybe along the way in school you learned that the only way you could feel good about yourself is if you pushed yourself SO hard that you got that perfect grade or did that thing ‘perfectly’. And when you didn’t live up to those standards…you felt awful.
Because sometimes ‘perfectionism’ can be helpful
I believe it’s beautiful to want something and want it to be the best. You put all of your time and care into it, you think through all the details, and you create something that seems beyond what you could have ever thought was possible. I believe that’s healthy, and a great way to see what you’re capable of.
Where things get ‘weird’ is when our self-worth fluctuates with our level of accomplishment. When we burn ourselves out in order to be ‘perfect’, losing sight of what ‘perfect’ even means. When we try TOO hard to make something happen, trying to stuff it into a little box even though all the signs are telling us it WON’T work. That kind of ‘being perfect’ is a suffocation–we can’t think clearly, we don’t see the situation in the right light, and we end up disappointing others…and most importantly, ourselves.
We’re our own worst critic
Which is why I’m not surprised when I talk to and work with women who are ambitious and want to accomplish a lot who seem to have put a lot of their dreams on ‘hold’. They start things, but they don’t finish them. They KNOW what they need to do…but they don’t do it. It’s not that we’re not smart, capable, or can’t figure it out. WE get in the way. Sometimes it’s self-doubt or self-consciousness. Sometimes, it’s things just below the surface that we can’t quite feel, or can’t quite articulate. You know what I mean if you’ve felt this before.
So what can we do?
Considering that I’ve come a LONG way from being a bottle full of ‘perfectionist’ anxiety to a more Zen-ed out version of myself who can get things done the easy way, I’ve discovered a few ‘hacks’ to deal with out perfectionist brains that I’m excited to share with you today. Because I believe the better you get at identifying what’s stopping you from getting things done, the easier it is to actually get it done.
4 ‘Brain Hacks’ to Get Shit Done Calmly, Even if You Feel the Urge to Constantly Be Perfect
- Just be ‘good enough’.
I have to laugh out loud as I’m writing this, because the idea of just being ‘good enough’ sounds like a version of hell to a perfectionist who loves to, you know, make things perfect. I cringe at the sound of the words ‘good enough’ because it sounds like mediocrity, and mediocrity sounds like death.
I have discovered a surprising way to make this work so that you can unlock your best performance.
Here’s how I did it:
The more and more ambitious I’ve gotten and the more I accomplish, it seems the more pressure I seem to be under. (Anyone agree?) So it feels like the stakes get higher, and then I become even MORE aware of that, and my perfectionist tendencies seem to go into hyper-drive and I found it completely messing up my game.
So instead, I started saying these words to myself whenever I started to feel the pressure taking over: “Felicia…just be ‘good enough’.”
And I felt myself IMMEDIATELY relax. I was able to ‘flow’ instead of constantly trying to control the situation and what I was saying and doing. It was like finding a key to unlock a part of myself that just wanted to be able to fly free and do its thing without my interfering.
So the IRONY was that even though I used the words ‘good enough’, I was actually doing better–and performing better–than I ever could have done by consciously trying to force it to be that way.
Just these words: “Be good ENOUGH” completely changed how I felt in high-pressure situations.
2) It was ‘great’…but not perfect.
Another psychological trap I seemed to be walking into, though, was that when I was ‘good enough’ and surprising even myself, I started to think: “That was amazing. How can I do that AGAIN?”
I started to try to figure out the exact steps I took, and then it never felt right. It felt forced. And I’d circle back into the trying to be ‘perfect’ cycle again.
But then I had an illuminating insight:
What if what I thought was ‘perfect’…wasn’t? What if it was GOOD…even GREAT…but not perfect?
Thinking that immediately helped me see that there actually WAS room to improve. Instead of me thinking I had been perfect and I could never do it again, I suddenly saw an opening in the tunnel, like: OH. There might be an even BETTER way to do this!
So the original pressure to “replicate” what I thought was so good…dissolved. I was proud of what I had done, and felt even more invigorated to find a better way to do it. Which, is catnip to us. We always want to find a better way.
3) Start with ONE thing.
Now, given that you ARE an ambitious woman and you do love the thrill of accomplishing things (because you know you can) another common trap we fall into is thinking WAY TOO BIG. We’re like: “I’m going to build a million dollar company!” or “I’m going to complete 10 projects this year” and then when we actually get STARTED, we’re like OMG. Instant overwhelm. Triggers perfectionism. Then we either procrastinate, give up, or feel bad and guilty about the work we’re doing because it’s not ‘good enough’. See how that works? 😉
Here’s what I recommend:
Keep your dreams big, meaty, and exciting. BUT narrow it down to the teeniest, tiniest, smallest thing you can do to get started FIRST. It can literally be as small as “type in website address”. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it WORKS.
Because it’s better to get the ball rolling, than it is to sit there, dream, and get overwhelmed. Because what happens when you start with one thing is NOT that it’s followed by other small things (which to us, is uninspiring), but you start to gain MOMENTUM and feel like: Wow…I’m making progress! I can do this! And the path forward seems clear for the first time.
It’s exactly like when I started to work out again 8 years ago. I hated working out. But I said to myself: “Felicia, go to the gym ONCE this week. For 20 minutes.” I went. Found a bike that was actually a dragon game in disguise. And had so much fun that I couldn’t wait to go back again.
Once a week turned into twice a week, then 3x a week, and now, it’s up to 5-6x a week. This is a habit that I have not fallen off the tracks of even once in 8 years, despite moving to different states, traveling, and all the other ‘life things’ that come in the way. I always made time for it because it was such an enjoyable habit.
But that can only happen when you start with the smallest thing FIRST. If I had tried to go 5x a week at first, I would have crashed eventually, felt guilty, and yo-yoed my way to the gym for the past 8 years.
For you, what’s the teeniest, tiniest thing? Get so specific and small that you’d laugh at yourself for not doing it. You’ll be amazed by what follows.
4) Break it down.
Now we get to the point where we’ve gotten started on something…we KNOW what to do…YES we’re excited…but OMG it’s a lot. Again, this is one of those critical moments where we can immediately get into “I’m overwhelmed” mode.
This is the part where you get out your planner or calendar and start writing down what step(s) you’ll be taking each day towards what you’re doing. And it’s not that you’re going to follow it religiously, but it’s that all the thoughts and excitement in your head need a PLACE to go. When it’s out on paper, you have a lot more order and nice little ‘checklist’ to follow so every time you cross something off, you’re that more motivated to keep going.
A great example of this is when I have a lot of writing to do. Instead of me saying “ Write 5 emails on Monday” I write down “Write email #1 Monday morning. Email #2 on Wednesday”, EVEN IF I COULD get it all done in one day. I space it out. So that I actually have TIME to follow-through, and I ALSO have time to do more if my schedule allows for it.
Putting it down so you know when you’re doing something allows you to have structure, but also be flexible for what ends up coming up. If you’re way ahead of a deadline, you can move “Write Email #2 to Thursday” and still be 100% on schedule without worrying if you’re going to be able to do it.
But maybe some of you already ‘know’ about these things. So why don’t we do them?
I believe a part of it is that a lot of material about ‘getting things done’ is very much about telling people to:
“Just DO IT!”
“Just FLOOR it!”
“Just get STARTED!”
And people have good intentions. And it’s not that those sayings aren’t true. It’s just that they don’t address the REAL problem. They don’t address why we’re not doing something in the first place. And, they don’t address a way forward, either.
Not to mention, it’s what a lot of men say, too. It’s all about blasting through walls, forging ahead, and marching in an army towards what you want. And while I’m all about that power to move forward, I believe women think about ‘getting things done’ a little differently. I should know, I am one. 😉
So now, I want to hear from YOU:
How much more do you think you could accomplish and do if you weren’t thinking about being perfect all the time? I’d love for you to fill out this survey (super short, just 5 questions) and tell me more, as I’m in the middle of developing a course on this and if you’re on my list, you have the unique opportunity to be a beta tester. Personally, I’m sick of hearing people tell me to try the latest productivity tools if we’re not actually talking about what’s getting in the way in the first place.
Fill out the survey here: For Women Only–How to do more without ‘perfect’ getting in the way
I love hearing from you, and I love your feedback. Talking with all of you is one of the best parts about my day.
Looking forward to reading!