Being a perfectionist is kind of the ultimate double-edged sword. Sure, it motivates you to work hard and do your best, often leading to awesome results at work… but it can also drive you absolutely crazy. Your search for flawless may bring you to tears, and an incomplete to-do list (the horror!) or an awkward conversation with a potential S.O. (anything but that!) can really put you over the emotional edge. In pursuit of perfection, you may find yourself distracted from actually getting things done.

stressed woman at work

“Productivity requires you to be willing to make mistakes and iterate,” says best-selling author Jon Acuff, whose new book FINISH: Give Yourself the Gift of Done ($27) is out this month. And those of us guilty of chronic perfectionism know that making mistakes can often feel downright terrifying.

To help us balance our drive for perfection with the everyday reality that things need to actually get accomplished, Acuff offers these six tips:

1. Cut your goal down to make it more manageable. “If you’re trying to declutter your home, start by cleaning just the basement instead of the whole house,” Acuff says, by way of example. Breaking larger goals into smaller pieces will make you feel more productive, and even though there’s really no such thing as perfect, you’ll get a lot closer to 100 percent if your action items are on a smaller scale. Motivating, huh?

2. If you want it done, make it fun. Mary Poppins really knew what she was talking about with her “spoonful of sugar” theory. Follow her — and Acuff’s — advice and make the strategy work in your own life. The author suggests setting mini-milestones on the way to your “big goal” (e.g., smaller steps within your larger sales target) and promising yourself rewards like snacks, new office supplies, or a great new pair of shoes when you reach each one. These baby steps will make life seem more manageable, which will hopefully help you cool it on your perfectionist tendencies. Plus, according to Acuff, you are 46 percent more likely to reach a goal if you actually enjoy it along the way — and we really enjoy a great new pair of shoes.

3. Get rid of your own secret rules. Put an end to the voice in your head that’s striving so hard to be perfect that it tells you unhelpful things, such as “if it’s easy, it doesn’t count.” Flawed logic like this is really just an annoying form of self-sabotage — and you don’t need it! Stop putting parameters around your success. They don’t make you any more perfect, and they definitely don’t make you any more productive.

4. Choose what to bomb. Acuff wants you to give yourself permission to take things off your to-do list as you work toward a more significant goal. As a perfectionist, we know you want to do it all, but keeping too many proverbial balls in the air is a surefire way to bring yourself down. You’ll be more productive if you decide ahead of time which tasks can fall to the bottom of your priority pile until the bigger things are handled.

5. Anticipate the imperfect. “You know imperfections are going to come,” Acuff says. “You have to learn how to manage them.” Lining up some coping mechanisms for failure ahead of time will make you less likely to psych yourself out when you realize that you’re about to fall short of a goal. This will help remove some of the emotional wear and tear that you experience as a perfectionist when things don’t go your way, which will (hopefully) keep you from losing steam entirely.

6. Eliminate your hiding places. We’ve all been there — knowing that we can’t possibly achieve what we want as flawlessly as we’d like, and instead “hiding” from important tasks by getting lost in busywork. Figure out what your own so-called “hiding places” are so that you can catch yourself avoiding the more important to-do items. Next time you realize that you’ve spent all afternoon organizing your email inbox or clearing out the paper clutter on your desk, you’ll know it’s time to redirect your attention and get the real stuff done, even if the results fall short of perfect.

How do you balance your desire for perfection with your practical need for productivity? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)