Women who are professionals know that perfectionism is a common problem. I used to strive to make sure everything was perfect before showing my clients or boss. This resulted in extra stress and anxiety that could have been avoided if I’d just let go of the need for things to be “perfect.”
If you “try to be perfect” at work, it will stunt your career growth. I was very nearly put off when my male boss told me, “Anna, you don’t have to be perfect.” It was then that I realized instead of worrying about making things perfect, I should focus on making them “good enough.” I also noticed that my male colleagues weren’t as perfectionistic as the women and they seemed a lot more content. Once I realized this, I started to emulate their behavior and found that I enjoyed my job much more!
One characteristic you might think would be beneficial for female leaders is striving for perfection, but it can actually backfire when working with men who couldn’t care less about being perfect. If you’re as done with perfectionism as I am, here are some tips to help:
1) Set realistic goals and expectations. Never commit to a deadline you know you can’t keep. If you have other tasks on your plate, always give yourself some margin by setting the deadline for earlier than when you think you’ll actually be done. That way, if something unexpected comes up or takes longer than expected, you’re still covered. Plus, who wants to pull all-nighters?
2) Go with your gut. We can often get paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision, but we need to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect choice. Mentors and research can help us gain a better understanding of what we’re facing, but at some point, we need to go with our gut and make a decision. If we wait for perfection, we’ll never get anything done
3) Give yourself an internal deadline. Give yourself deadlines for each task so that you don’t spend the entire day trying to make one project perfect. If you haven’t finished the current task, move on to the next and do your best with the time available. You can always come back to it later with a fresh perspective if necessary.
4) Ask for an extension. It can be tough to ask for an extension, since it may suggest that you’re not perfect. However, more often than not there are no negative consequences to asking for extra time – in fact, it usually demonstrates that you’re highly invested in the project. (If you frequently miss deadlines, this will damage your relationships and reputation. Be sure to distinguish between a hard deadline and a soft deadline..)
5) Aim for being respected instead of being liked. If you want to get rid of the need to be perfect, try changing your mindset. A lot of times, women feel the need to be liked by everyone, and that’s where this problem arises. Not every co-worker is going to be our friend, and that’s okay. Instead, focus on earning their respect. This should be our goal at work because it is more important in the long run. When we look for ways to please others, we are often taken advantage of or just end up feeling drained. So instead let’s seek out respect from our colleagues.
We all make mistakes – it’s only humans. However, constantly striving for perfection can be extremely stressful. This week, try out these five tips at work and see if they help you become happier and less stressed.