Say someone asked you to describe the “perfect workday.” You might rattle off something like this:
“I arrive early at 7:45 a.m. with coffee in-hand. My daily tasks are neatly organized in a list in front of me, which I review alongside my daily schedule. I read a few credit union articles and begin my morning with a clean inbox. I then work with 100% efficiency for the next 8 hours, checking off every item on my to-do list, creating a list of tomorrow’s tasks before I leave.”
And perhaps you attempt to do all these things… but then your website goes down. And your co-worker wants to know if you’ve finished Black Mirror yet. And you get roped into a meeting you weren’t supposed to be in. And someone leaves a nasty review on Google for you to address.
If you struggle with perfectionism, you probably do expect that each day will be like the one above (minus everything hitting the fan, of course). You feel shame when everything doesn’t go according to plan because if all those productivity gurus on social media can cram 60 hours worth of work into 5 minutes, why can’t you? What’s wrong with you?
Nothing! It’s not you…it’s your expectations. The perfect day at work does not exist, just like perfect humans do not exist. That being said, here are some simple adjustments you can make to maximize your productivity and feel calmer in the process:
1.) Be more present. Instead of getting worked up with everything you have to do for the day and rushing through assignments, focus on the present and slow down. Give your full attention to even the smallest tasks and tackle them one at a time. You may work slower, but your quality of work will improve, meaning you won’t lose time having to go back and fix errors.
2.) Start doing. Planning is only helpful when it supports action. Spending three hours making a Gantt chart to show how you’re going to tackle your to-do list can create a false sense of accomplishment, but taking a leaf out of Nike’s “just do it” playbook will actually make you feel better.
3.) Track your time. The first lesson you learn in budgeting is to know where your money is going… so why not track where your time is going? Take a few seconds to jot down start and end times for your assignments. This will help you identify where you can make improvements and serve as the foundation for asking for additional help in your department if needed.
4.) Plan for the unexpected. Build in time during each day to deal with catastrophes… they’re going to happen! Scheduling time for them means they’ll interrupt your workflow less, and you get bonus productivity time when they don’t pop up.
5.) Get Deep: Confront your perfectionism. Author Elizabeth Gilbert has a powerful quote about perfectionism in her book Big Magic. She says, “I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear.” Take some time to examine what role fear plays in how you work, and whether or not your perfectionist habits are truly serving you – inside and outside of the office.