October 3, 2011 | Barb Carr

Career Development: Cut Procrastination with These 6 Tips

“Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m a perfectionist.”

Perfectionism is a problem on the job because at some point or another, we have to produce results. Whether it’s the investigation itself or your report, your detail-oriented mind, which is why you were hired and why you’re great at your job, can keep your focus on each tiny detail. This holds you back from getting things done.

I’m going to tell you something you may not want to hear: Perfectionists are some of the biggest procrastinators.

In a recent article Dorothy Crenshaw of Crenshaw Communications, Inc. advises that we take a step back. Reminding us that “perfect is overrated”, she doles out six bits of advice on how to cut perfectionism and procrastination, getting our work done:

  1. “Quantify the improvement likely to come from your efforts.” Is another hour going to improve your report by 40%? Keep working. By 10%? Maybe it’s time to ask yourself if there’s something more important to prioritize.
  2. “Get fresh eyes on the situation.” We’ve talked about this before, with proofreading, but it’s a great idea with anything. If you’re stuck on a detail at work just consult with a colleague and get a quick second opinion. The added perspective may be just what you need.
  3. “Focus on the objective, not just the product.” When I get immersed in a project all I can see is what’s in front of me. Literally, 12 inches away from my face. What’s the goal of your report? Are you trying to convince your boss to implement corrective actions? If you think about why, it’ll help fill in the blanks of how.
  4. “Start in the middle.” I used this tactic when writing this blog post. Some sections just seem to click better than others. If your report’s got you stuck, go to a more straightforward section, like the events of the incident. This can re-focus your mind on the task and get you back into the report.
  5. “Set small goals.” A week in which you only get one section done per day is more productive than a week in which you try (and fail) to make time to write the whole report at once.  Just say, “Today is my Incident Description day”, and get moving!
  6. “Ask yourself, ‘How important will this be in one year?’” Chances are, your report is an essential document. But when you’re performing an investigation or writing your report, there are a lot of smaller priorities that should make you ask this question.  It’s impossible to pour all your efforts into every project. Focus on the big ones, and give due (but smaller amounts) of time to the lesser items.

Although perfectionism is often praised in the workplace, there’s a time and a place for it. When perfectionism overtakes your ability to do your job, it’s time to breathe and look at your project from a different angle. Then just jump in, always knowing you can correct and proofread your report later.

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