You probably know a perfectionist or two. They can be really annoying, right? But besides that, we worry about these people, too, because we know that a perfectionist is heading down the path to burn out—or worse. But a recent article (yet another one of those annoying lists, actually) in the Huffington Post lists 12 characteristics of highly productive people and number four on the list gives an interesting twist on perfectionism.
Productive people, it says, are “selectively perfectionistic.”
“Being a perfectionist isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s often a valued trait in a good employee. But it can backfire when people are perfectionists for things that don’t require perfectionism. Take, for example, those lengthy reports you have to turn in at work that you know no one ever reads. Is it really worth spending a huge amount of time and effort in making them perfect? Probably not.”
And further, the article debunks the common belief that we need to always strive to be productive, explaining that productive people don’t get wrapped up in “being productive,” in itself a form of perfectionism.
“If your goal is to be productive, don’t focus on the goal of being productive. It’s just not motivating. Who gets excited about saying, ‘I got one extra task done today’? Instead, draw motivation from the reason you’re doing the task, whether it involves working so you can earn money to support your family, or doing an extra task during the day to support a colleague who needs the assistance. You start to think about it much less as this boring task, and much more as making a difference for someone you care about.”
Good stuff, right? But here’s the best advice for those of us who know a perfectionist, or who may live with one, or who maybe ARE one: John Steinbeck is purported to have said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”