Do you ever have a big task that you KNOW you need to do but put it off because you’re scared it isn’t going to be perfect? This is called perfectionism-procrastination and it’s a very real thing with people who hold themselves to exacting standards. While their perfectionism can be a great asset at some points, the standards this involves can often lead to procrastination! So, is there any way to overcome this? We asked three successful CEOs for their tips on how to get over perfectionism-procrastination.

Amanda French, Co-founder & CEO of EMME

Q: Do you suffer from perfectionism-procrastination at work?

Perfectionism-procrastination is a common trait in entrepreneurs and engineers, and I’m both of those things! I think nearly everyone suffers from perfectionism-procrastination to some degree. This is perhaps especially true for type-A, high performers who always raise their internal bar in defining what success should be. We also live in a culture where women are celebrated for being perfect and often criticized for being anything less, which can add to the pressure to convey a sense of effortless perfection. I think it is essential to focus on tools and tactics for overcoming this obstacle, especially considering the real impact on hindering success for those who experience it.

#1 tips to overcome: Time-blocking

I’m a big fan of time-blocking: I plan my week out in advance and schedule my tasks and meetings based on my goals for the week and the time required to meet each of those goals. Something that helps me plan is defining each goal’s success criteria in advance and deciding what is “good enough” for that task or project.

I always like to remind myself – perfection is the enemy of progress! At Emme, we are working towards a mission of advancing women’s health with innovative technology, starting with an integrated system for birth control management. We worked with a strong sense of urgency to get our product to market because we knew millions of women were waiting for a better solution to bring pill management into the 21st century. Focusing on our mission is a crucial motivator for avoiding procrastination, as delays have real consequences for the standard of patient care. Overall, focusing on the desired result, and thinking about the consequence of delays, is an excellent motivator for overcoming the challenge of perfectionism-procrastination.

 

 

Éva Goicochea, Founder & CEO of Maude

Q: Do you suffer from perfectionism-procrastination at work?

As I’m a perfectionist by nature, I absolutely have encountered perfectionism-procrastination. It usually takes the shape of wanting my to-do list to be cleared before taking on a large task or having a space that is clean so that I’m mentally able to focus.

#1 tips to overcome : Create a folder system

I recommend creating a folder system within your email to manage your lists. It’s something I’ve been doing for years and it really helps. Create folders named as follows: 1. Monday, 2. Tuesday, etc. Then move your inbox items into the days that you need to accomplish that task or respond back. By only focusing on that day’s folder, you ensure that you can manage what needs to get done without being overwhelmed by items that can wait. If there are still items waiting that you couldn’t get to, just drag them into tomorrow’s folder and go home with a clearer head.

 

Steph Hon, Founder & CEO of cadence

Q: Do you suffer from perfectionism-procrastination at work?

I definitely am aware that I am a perfectionist, and that sometimes I take things that should be sent out at 80% to 100%.

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#1 tip to overcome: ask yourself whether perfectionism is productive or perfectionism is burning time

I am always working to identify whether I am in a situation where perfectionism is productive or perfectionism is burning time. Having a high bar for creative work is something I’m very aware I have, but I think that’s what makes our product and brand what it is. Perfectionism can be powerful when used wisely, and unproductive when not. For a physical goods company for example, be a perfectionist about the design and function of the physical good, but maybe push the site when it’s at 85% instead of 100%.

 

Perfection procrastination is the most harmful in areas that you don’t love. Maybe it’s writing a difficult email or a part of the business you might be good at but don’t particularly like. I use Superhuman – the email application – and I star all those must-get-out emails that I might normally stall on. For everything else less time sensitive, I put those in a folder called “non-time sensitive”. This keeps the perfectionism focus narrowed.

 

The last piece of advice, is make sure you’re being a perfectionist at the right time. My personal philosophy is get eyes on your work when the soul of it is there, and then spend time collaboratively refining the edges to perfection. It’s like spending three hours on the perfect cake-icing only to realise the cake has to be chocolate instead of vanilla.

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