Thursday, May 16, 2013

How to Rid Yourself of Perfectionism, Be Downright Naughty, and Get Stuff Done

English: perfectionism at its finest
Perfectionism at its finest (Wikipedia)
by Debra Payne

Perfectionism can equal paralysis.

Have you ever sat down to do a project, only to suddenly find a hundred urgent tasks that must be completed before you even begin?

I see this quite often when my clients are faced with writing projects, in particular, but you can substitute writing here for anything else that feels both highly important and very scary at the same time.

You may not be aware of the reasoning behind your sudden urge to go fold the laundry just as you sit down to do your important project. You'd write that novel, but the floors need sweeping, right?

This type of urgent need to do everything else but what you really should be working on is often rooted in perfectionism. Here are a few (fun!) ways to get past the paralysis of perfectionism and onto your important goals:

1. Be purposefully sloppy
2. Steal time for your writing
3. Savor each small step

Be Purposefully Sloppy

Ooh. To a lot of perfectionists, this may even appear dangerous. "Sloppy?" you may protest. "Won't I be found out?"

Think back to a time you dove right into a moment. Do you remember when you were little, when jumping into mud puddles was just plain fun? Go to that place. Be irresponsible.

Place words onto a blank page with abandon, without worrying about anything but using your voice. This may feel like you are misbehaving. If so, good! Keep going. You're starting to get the hang of this!

Steal Time for Your Writing

In the context of project completion, you are allowed to be a brazen time-thief. Tiptoe into the spaces of your life and make that writing occur. "But I just don't have time to write!" you may exclaim.

Look back to a time when you were busy, but something important came into your life and you had to create the space for it. Who does not create time for a new love, for instance? Your writing is like that. Love it.

Do not wait for large expanses of time to appear before you work on your project. With your new, irreverently sloppy approach, you'll get something done. Refuse to wait until you have eight hours of pristine silence away in some cabin in New Hampshire.

If you are willing to abandon the notion that all conditions must be perfect before you begin to write, time will offer itself up in productive little snippets. Fifteen minutes of blissful progress bought via stolen time can feel naughty. Go for it! You will want to repeat the experience.

Savor Each Small Step

Progress is much more delicious when tasted. Why, then, must we wait until a project is completed before celebrating small successes? Each step you take with your writing can be celebrated. Savor each victory.

"Do the words savoring and writing even belong in the same sentence?" you may ask. Reflect back on a time when you really felt good about something accomplished. Was there something specific about it that you really enjoyed? Did you secretly feel good about the fact that you were the brains behind it all?

Go back to that time. Even if you don't feel like celebrating your current writing, chances are there is something beautiful about it. Find it and taste how good it feels to have produced that work.


Perfectionism can sap your energy. It can also stop a project altogether. Purposeful sloppiness, time-theft, and step-savoring are all enjoyable ways to address this issue. Splash into your projects and don't be afraid to get muddied by mistakes.

Steal moments to work on that project you love. Finally, savor your small successes. Each step of the way deserves your recognition. Love your imperfect journey towards achieving your goals.

Debra Payne, PhD is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and a proud member of the International Coaching Federation. She is also the President/CEO/Big Cheese of her company, Better Than Success.

She specializes in helping people in times of transition as they rebuild, redefine, and refine their dreams. Her mission is to assist others in taking the lid off anything that is preventing them from pursuing bold, authentic dreams.

Please like Deb's page at Follow her tweets @drdebpayne. And finally, kiss your self-limiting beliefs goodbye at

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