When my daughter was in high school, I told her, “Good enough is not good enough.” I was wrong. One reason for our stress and exhaustion is our need to get everything done perfectly. That’s not an option. We have too much to do, and we need to be honest about the importance of our tasks. From making the bed in the morning to leaving the library looking neat, we often treat everything we do equally, but that’s not a good use of our limited time. The result can be that important jobs do not get the detailed attention they need, and we are worn out.
Time management requires more than a to-do list. It means looking at what we do with an eye toward the return we get from our investment of time. In The Costs of Being a Perfectionist Manager, Anna Carmella G. Ocampo, Jun Gu, and Mariano Heyden discuss how to use perfectionist strengths without wearing yourself out trying to get everything done perfectly. They warn that perfectionism frequently leads to dissatisfaction because even when a job is well done, it still may still not meet your standards. It becomes a matter of balance and priorities.
In addition to describing several different types of perfectionists, the trio recommends the following approaches when faced with your own perfectionism:
Design the Right Goals – Ultimately, your goals should be tied to your Mission and Vison, however, as they say, your goals need to be “attainable yet challenging.” Interim goals that inch you towards your larger one will give you the best results. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and you don’t beat yourself up for not seeing your whole Mission in operation or achieving your Vision. You enjoy the process.
Recognize Failure as Part of the Process – This can’t be stated often enough. We teach students that failure is learning, then don’t apply the concept to ourselves. We won’t get it right the first time. The learning is as important as the goal. If we don’t accept this, then fear of failure will keep us from taking risks, and risk-taking is an important leadership quality.
Cultivating Mindfulness – How you think is how you feel. Meditation is what the trio recommend. This could be traditional meditation, but anything that gets you away from your desk and immediate demands on your attention can be beneficial (long time readers of this blog know that I’m a walker). Look for times in your day when you can take a break, listen to your own thoughts (or music, or a podcast) so that you come back recharged.
Using Pep Talks – We are well-aware that we speak a lot of critical things to ourselves, things we’d never say to others. Perfectionist tendencies can make these thoughts batter us too often. Ocampo, Gu, and Heyden recommend finding calming and positive mantras to help banish these thoughts. I use this technique and remind myself of past struggles and ultimate successes. Again, what you think is how you feel.
Fostering Positive Interpersonal Relationships – Although every conversation is an opportunity, you don’t have to have an end goal in mind for each one. We know how important relationships are to the success of the library program, and building them begins with casual interactions. The authors point to how good we feel when we help someone. Doing so is a natural part of being a librarian. And not all help needs to be tied to library use. It’s about being an empathetic, caring person.
Managing Emotions – This is part of SEL and is vital for us all. Perfectionism leads to stress which tends to make us irritable and unpleasant to be with. The above techniques can help reduce that as will reframing. Every cloud has a silver lining. Find it and use it to calm yourself. This may also be a good time for a walk or reading some funny memes. Do whatever you need to restore your mental balance.
How many tasks do you have that don’t need to be done perfectly? Look to your priorities, give them the time they deserve, and then let the other things go. Sometimes, and again with apologies to my daughter, good enough is good enough.