Change Leadership Learning Lab, March 1, 2024 Early Bird Rates Available >>

Overcoming Perfection Paralysis

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Productivity

We all want to be good at what we do. But sometimes, the goal of excellence goes too far…and becomes perfection. Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. I definitely think (and know from personal experience) that striving for “perfection” can be a motivating force. But it can also lead to Perfection Paralysis: a state where the fear of not being perfect hinders our ability to get things done.

Sound familiar?

I’ve fallen victim to this phenomenon more than a few times. That’s why I wanted to share some practical strategies for overcoming this obstacle.

Understanding Perfection Paralysis

Perfection Paralysis occurs when the quest for a flawless outcome stifles progress. This can manifest in a few ways:

  • Procrastination: Waiting for the “perfect” moment or conditions to start something.
  • Over-Planning: Getting caught up in the tiny details, leading to delays and indecision. (I often call this procrasti-planning!)
  • Fear of Failure: The realization that perfection is unattainable can lead to avoidance of important work and new challenges.

Why Perfectionism Can Be Paralyzing

At its core, perfectionism is rooted in a fear of failure or judgment. These fears can be particularly impactful in the professional world where we often have extreme pressure to perform and potentially high levels of visibility. However, the quest for perfection often results in:

  • Reduced Productivity: Spending too much time perfecting minor details.
  • Increased Anxiety: The pressure leads to added stress and increases our chances of burnout.
  • Limited Growth: Avoidance of potential failure means missing out on learning opportunities!

Strategies to Overcome Perfection Paralysis

  • Set Realistic Goals: I like to say, “Perfection is the direction, but progress is the goal.” This helps appease my inner perfectionist, while keeping me grounded in reality. Celebrate small wins and forward movement along the way, rather than focusing solely on the final outcome.
  • Embrace Imperfection: Look, we all know that mistakes are a part of growth. In the workplace, that’s a hard thing to accept. But no one (except you!) expects you to be perfect. Excellence often comes from trial and error, and error is an inherent part of that process. Your imperfect work may actually be more valuable than the flawlessly executed stuff.
  • Break Things into Smaller Steps: Looking at a big task or project can be overwhelming and can kick your perfectionism into high gear. Breaking things into manageable pieces makes it feel less daunting and more achievable.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, like meditation and journaling, can help you stay in the present and reduce anxiety associated with perfectionism. Sometimes I write things out and realize I’m being ridiculous! Once my fears are out on paper, I find that my mind is free to focus on the task at hand.
  • Seek Feedback: Regular feedback (from trusted peers and leaders) can provide perspective and help you understand when you may be aiming unreasonably high. I’ve literally had a boss tell me, “Stop messing with that! It’s good enough!” Sometimes, “good enough” really is all you need.
  • Limit Time on Tasks: If you have a tendency (like me) to over polish certain things, setting time limits can be helpful.
  • I shared one final personal tip over on LinkedIn earlier this week. If you missed it, check it out here.

Overcoming Perfection Paralysis is about shifting focus from flawless execution to progress and continuous growth. Remember that perfection is subjective! And usually, unattainable. By adopting these strategies, you can enhance your productivity, reduce stress, and open yourself up to new learning and career advancement opportunities.

Take Your Career to the Next Level

The Career Success Library is a convenient, affordable online learning center for career advancers including administrative professionals, emerging leaders, and anyone else who wants to leverage the power of ongoing professional development. 

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

Keeping Reading More Articles

Join Our Free Webinars and Q&A Sessions

Discount Offers


Get 15% off when you purchase two or more Learning Labs! 

When you register for more than one Learning Lab in one purchase, you will automatically get 15% off. This offer cannot be shared between different people.