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Have you ever noticed that sometimes projects in your business take a really, really long time to complete?

perfectionism-in-businessDo you ever find yourself second-guessing your decisions, and deciding to add more, more, more to an existing or planned income stream? (And no, I’m not talking about the times when adding more feels so freaking good. I’m talking about the times when you add in more because you aren’t feeling that good.)

Do you ever find yourself moving ahead with a new idea, getting almost finished- and then losing interest, and never bringing that idea to market?

If any (or all) of these apply to you, you may be experiencing perfectionism.

Perfectionism, the way I think of it, refers to the mistaken belief that more of everything is always better, as in:

  • If I spend more time on this blog post, it will be better.
  • If I add more bonuses to my product, it will be better.
  • If I sell many different services, that will be better.
  • If I don’t get it perfect, I have to go back to the beginning and start again.

Yes, of course, to a certain degree, all of these are true. If I spend more time writing this blog post, to a point, it will be better than if I spent less time. If I add a few more bonuses to my product, perhaps it will sell better. If I have more things to offer people, perhaps they will be more likely to buy.

However- and this is the fine line in this situation- there comes a point of diminishing returns. That is the point where no matter how much more you add, or how much more you do, you aren’t going to have that much better results.

You can know this intellectually, and still feel compelled to do it.

This is the point where perfectionism has reared its ugly head.

The funny thing about perfectionists is that most of them don’t realize they are. They define themselves as having “high standards.”

High standards are fine- and perhaps something we should each aspire to.

The difference is, though, that high standards refers to the manner in which something is done- completed. When perfectionism is involved, very few things actually get done or completed.

Perfectionists exhibit a behavior I call “mushrooming”, which describes the process of one idea being cut down and creating two more in its place. It refers to the process of the original idea growing, and growing, and growing, such that what was supposed to be a simple project has now taken on Herculean proportions.

Mushrooming is usually to blame when a project keeps growing in scope, or when it is marked by almost completions and multiple “start-overs”.

Perfectionism is very real, and it seems logical and sensible, which makes it difficult to refute.

None of us like to be criticized, and we want to do all we can to avoid being ridiculed or blamed.

Yet, taken too far, perfectionism can directly strangle our business.

It makes us inflexible where we need to be flexible.

It robs of the agility and adeptness that being a small business allows.

It keeps us from putting our offers into the market.

It leaves us feeling exhausted and resentful.

It delays our cash flow as we are always preparing to be ready, rather than just doing.

In short, too much perfectionism can hold on tightly and not let go.

So what can you do?

Perfectionism can be a difficult habit to break, but it can be done. The way to begin is by giving yourself less time to complete tasks than you think you will need. Test out the environment and its responses to you giving less than your best. More than likely, nobody will even notice.

By constantly reducing the extra time you take on tasks, you’ll find that you will be more productive, will be able to complete work faster, and will likely also feel less exhausted and resentful.

Reward yourself for completing tasks more quickly, with good quality.

Both of these steps will very likely help you feel better.

And as you feel better, you’ll be better able to maintain a realistic perspective on what is necessary, and what is too much.