In our eagerness to deliver top quality for customers, colleagues, the boss or business partners we may use a disproportionate amount of resources on tasks and end up “over performing”, i.e. delivering 120 percent instead of the 100 or 80 percent the receiver needed.
Being quality conscious is a good thing, but in the right measures. Perfectionists are characterised by not accepting errors, and they want to carry out the task in a perfect manner. There are many variations of perfectionism, and for some people perfectionism is only applicable for particular types of work tasks. Perfectionists often spend unnecessarily long time to comply with personally set quality standards.
Roughly speaking, you can say that the result seldom match the major efforts. At the same time, the extraordinary result is often not noticed by the surroundings. The time consumption, on the other hand, is noticed, as it may be undeniably large. A perfectionistic logistics consultant told me that his boss started balancing the quality expectations in this way:
”You should not deliver more than 80% this time”. Sometimes they used the old Danish 13 grading scale: ”This task is for 11 (second highest on the scale) , or this time it is okay with an 8 (average performance).”
Pretty smart, because the consultant thought he should deliver at least 120% each time. So we can save a lot of time by balancing the expectations both to ourselves and the people we work with and for: What is really needed?
Please note that perfectionism often may lead to procrastination. A task that can trigger a 13 can easily get unmanageable and way too time consuming to start with, and you then easily end up spending more time on procrastination than working on solving the task.
If you are sort of a perfectionist, you can make use of these tips:
- Make clear rules for task work
- Balance expectations with the task giver/boss/customer/colleague
- What is the target – maximum quality or speed?
- Set a limited time span for the task
- Start with a rough overview
- Be honest; is this really an improvement or just unnecessary tuning?
- Do not expect the same of others as you expect of yourself
- Errors are opportunities to learn something new
- Perfectionism is often a waste of time
- Is it really necessary, or could you spend time on a quadrant 2 task instead?
- Set the timer! A very efficient tool to challenge your inner perfectionist: Decide beforehand how long time you want to spend on the given task. When the time is up, the result IS good enough.
In brief: Find out what the receiver really needs. And at the same time make up with yourself: When is it good enough? How many extra resources am I willing to invest in the task? Does the result match the efforts?
For some perfectionists, it helps to focus on what they get out of not bringing tasks to perfection. E.g. more time for other tasks, being able to go home early, time for breaks during the day etc.
Moreover, you do not need to worry about delivering bad quality; I have not yet met a perfectionist who did.