4 Tips On Beating Perfectionism


It’s torture.

Things that I enjoy — writing, speaking, creating — can instead become a scourge.

I’m never satisfied.

Perfectionism is a thief.

It robs my time, my peace, and my joy.

It’s no wonder that perfectionism is linked to a plethora of issues ranging from depression to migraines.

How to escape this Perfectionism Tyrant? A few thoughts:

1. Don’t overthink it.

Whenever I prepare a presentation or write, I throw the kitchen sink at it. I’ll spend time chiseling it later. I just need to get it all out. And then walk away for a while.

I’m learning not to waste my energy reading, re-reading, editing, and rewriting as I go. To do so is maddening, and draining, and disheartening. I’ve learned from experience.

So don’t overthink it. Whatever it is you’re doing, take a deep breath, and let it fly.

Get it out of your bones. And then leave it be for a while.

2. Set a time limit.

I’m a pastor and preacher. I preach a new 40–45-minute message every single weekend. Years ago, I spent 20+ hours preparing one message!

It was killing me.

So, I put a limit on my preparation. I’m committed to no more than 8–11 hours of prep per week. I put meetings around those times to hold me accountable. I learned that if I give myself 20-hours, I’ll take every second of it.

As Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In other words, nature fills every space even if it’s just with air.

Perfectionists abhor a vacuum too.

We’ll fill every extra second, minute, and hour to keep perfecting something. If you give yourself a day to do the work, you’ll take the day. If you set a time limit of 3 hours, you’ll better be able to seal that vacuum and save the day.

3. Focus as if your life depended on it.

When I sit down to write, work, or complete a project, I set a timer to help me focus for stretches at a time.

I recommend Focus Keeper.

I set the timer for 50 minutes of work, with 10 minutes of rest. But I do so in blocks of 3–5 hours.

During that 3–5 hours, I put my phone on airplane mode, close my internet browser on my laptop, and disable all notifications.

Then I get after it.

During breaks, I avoid texts, email, and social media to save mental calories. Then I get after it again — until the phone alarm dings.

Whether I’m finished or not, satisfied or not, I pull myself away kicking and screaming, dragging my claws out of the work, to come back to it the next day or later in the week.

Setting a time limit that forces you to focus on the work as if your life depended on it will be a game-changer. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much time, and joy, you’ll save.

Even more so, you may see your work improve, as well as your pleasure in the work.

4. Hit send.

Just be done with it already. Don’t keep returning to it and tweaking it and redoing it. Hit send, so to speak, and move on.

Or as Seth Godin puts it, “Just ship it.”

This is no excuse for shoddy work. Remember, you’re a perfectionist, so that’s highly unlikely anyway.

On the contrary, you threw the kitchen sink at it.

You dedicated time to focus intensely on making your project the best it can be by the deadline you set for yourself.

And being the perfectionist you are I’m sure you returned to it at least twice for a final fine-tuning anyway.

So put the proverbial fork in it, and declare it done.

After all, as Sheryl Sandberg says, “Done is better than perfect.“

I’m done.


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