How to Overcome Perfectionism When You Want to Be Productive

overcome perfectionism

Perfectionism kills productivity.

It shouldn’t be such a big deal. But it is.

When you want to do everything perfectly, you end up achieving less than it’d be normal.

Perfectionism is also strong enough to:

  • Create troubles in relationships: Because you’ll have extremely high expectations and demands from others, whether we talk about personal relationships or business partners. You’ll feel angry and disappointed with most people.
  • Make you feel exhausted all the time: When you’re “perfect” you need to accomplish more. And more. And more. The day when you have everything and you’re happy won’t come. Never!
  • Stop you from getting results: You’ll stay too much on easy tasks or you won’t even start them. Also, you’ll think in the short term. Not a good approach for things that require time and hard work.

It looks like you have a big problem, don’t you? Don’t worry. I’ll show you how to overcome perfectionism.

Start right now! You’ll find that this article has a crazy list of ideas.

You don’t need to use all of them at once. Instead, I encourage you to pick and choose the ones that work well for your personal situation.

Let’s get to it.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #1: Develop your confidence:

It’s hard to believe in yourself. We live in a society where everybody tells you what you can’t do.

Life isn’t fair, right? Wrong.

The idea behind the lack of confidence is “I’m not good enough.” And that’s what society tries to make you believe. And they do a pretty good job. You tell yourself you’re not good enough all the time, don’t you?

Well, you need to stop this if you want to overcome perfectionism. The first step is to understand better what’s confidence.

What means to be confident:

People who always show off aren’t confident. Neither those with a big mouth.

Being confident means two things:

  1. You believe that you deserve to succeed
  2. You trust in your abilities to succeed

Confident people know they can’t be right all the time. But they aren’t afraid to be wrong. When you’re confident, you don’t live in worries. You also don’t care what people think about you.

Sounds nice, but how you develop this trait? Confidence comes from your thoughts and actions.

Let me show you how to take care of both…

Step #1:Possitive affirmation:

What you repeteadly say, becomes true.

Especially what you say about yourself. That’s why I recomend you to create a list with positive affirmations.

For instance:

  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Read them in the morning and in the evening (preferably loud) for a couple of months. When you first start saying these phrases, they might not have any effect.

But don’t worry.

They’re designed to reflect who you want to become. Over time, the consistent repetition of these daily positive affirmations will help you reshape your inner beliefs about yourself.

Step #2: Do scary things:

“ What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
― Timothy Ferriss,

Ok, let’s say you already use affirmations for your mindset.

What can you do to improve your actions? Maybe you can dress better? Change your posture? Go to the gym? All of these are great, but no.

The best way to develop your confidence through action  is to confront your fears.

This will bring you more results than anything else. I know it’s not easy. When you’re a perfectionist, you have many fears.

Even for minor things like:

  • talking to strangers
  • show the world your work
  • telling your opinion

But listen to me….

You need to do all of these. If you won’t, you’ll live in fear untill you die. i used to avoid such problems. ‘’Yeah, I know I should do that. I’ll do it tomorrow’’ —  I said this for years without taking action.

Finally, I realized something: ‘’I know I should do that’’ is just the code for ‘’I won’t do it.’’ And ‘’tomorrow’’ is the code for ‘’never’’. So, I stopped saying this. I said something else: ‘’I’ll start today. No more excuses.’’ I suggest you the same.

Untill you face your fears, you’ll never overcome perfectionism.

Sorry, but that’s the truth.

I know you don’t feel ready to do this today. But it wasn’t different yesterday. And it won’t be different tomorrow.

So, start where you are. Unready and scared to death. And see what happens. You’ll realize you won’t die for doing uncomfortable things. In fact, you’ll grow as you do most of them.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #2: Stop setting goals:

Goals don’t separate winers from the losers.

On the contrary, the more you’re obsessed with them, the more likely you won’t achieve anything. Sure, some goals can give you a direction to get what you want.

But besides that? They’re useless.

In fact, a goal can stop you from getting results when you’re a perfectionist because:

  • You’ll set your expectations too high
  • You’ll think just about the final results(this affects the quality of your actions)
  • You’ll be depressed untill you get what you want(smaller wins and the progress from your journey doesn’t matter)
  • Even if you get what you want, you won’t be happy(you’ll set a new goal…and another one…and another one)

In other words, setting goals it’s a bad thing for you. Let’s change this, shall we?

How to get massive results without setting goals:

Forget everything you heard about knowing what you want in life and answer to this question:

If you ignore all of your goals but you still take action, will you get anything?

I think you would. And I know a way to take action every day without any effort: Start creating systems.

Let me show you how…

Example #1: System For Writing:

Let’s say you want to write a book.

The classic way: Make a goal to finish your book by the end of the year.

Nothing wrong with that but you have no system to take action constantly. So, what’s gonna happen? You’ll waste your time. You won’t write as much as you imagine and you’ll give up after a while.

A better way would be this: You make a goal to write a book. Then, you set-up a system to:

  • write at least 3 times/week
  • ask people for feedback
  • edit consistently

For instance, you can:

  • Write 1,000 words every Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 15:00 PM
  • Edit 1 hour every Thursday and Saturday in the morning at 7:00 AM
  • Talk 5 minutes daily with 3 people who might be interested in your book at 12:00 AM over the phone, on forums, on chat etc. and ask them what changes you should come up with

You’ll probably finish your book, unlike the guy who’s never motivated to write.

Do you see how different is this than what most people do? Let’s take another example.

Example #2:System For Fitness:

Let’s say you want to lose weight.

The classic way: Make a goal to lose 20 lbs in 10 months. Then go to the gym, eat healthy meals and run at least 2 miles/week.

Again, everything looks good on paper. The same problem: There’s no system to do all these things.

A better way would be this: You decide to lose weight.

Then, you set up a system to:

  • go to the gym 3x/week, without missing workouts
  • have ealthy food ready for you every day
  • go to runing 2x/week

For instance, you can:

  • Go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 AM and keep a list in your phone with your exercises.
  • Buy healthy food every day after the gym, then prepare it in the evening at 9:00 PM for the next day. This will save you a lot of time, because all you have to do is to take your food from the fridge.
  • Run 1 mile every Tuesday and Saturday at 7:00 AM  

Ok, you get the idea. A system is made from habits. You start to create one habit. Then you create another one. And another one. Finally, your system will be ready. Then you’ll take action and get results naturally.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #3: Get rid of negative thoughts:

Did you know an average person has 50,000-70,000 thoughts in a day?

Around 80-90% of these thoughts are negative and repetitive. If you want to overcome perfectionism, change this. Now, I’m not saying you should always think positive. But you should get rid of negativity as much as possible.

Here’s how to deal with this problem:

Step #1:Stop watching TV:

News are full of stories about murderers, fights, and diseases. Maybe some of them are interesting but they definitely don’t help you see the good side of life. So, no more news from today.

Step #2:Be responsible:

All successful people have something in common: They don’t complain. And you know what? It’s better to live without complains, even if you’re not successful yet. It gives you a power you can’t even imagine.

That’s why I recommend you the next exercise: Try to not complain about anything for 7 days(not even in your head).

This is life-changing.

Step #3:Start to meditate:

Meditation can help you feel relaxed. And you can start it relatively easy.

Just choose a quiet place from your house and begin.

You can start to meditate 5 minutes day. If your negativity is strong, do it for 30 minutes. You’ll see some changes in a matter of weeks.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #4: Get rid of toxic people:

In the last point, I showed you a couple of ways to deal with negativite thoughts. Now I want to show you how to deal with negative people.

I’m hesitant to say it, but…

You’ll never feel good if you don’t cut some people out of your life. I know it’s hard to accept this idea, but there’s no other way to appreciate yourself as you are.

Toxic people have the power to make you feel a loser. They also are magnets for failure. You can try to act like you’re not affected by them. But you are. And sadly, you can’t change them. The only way to deal with these people, is to not keep them around.

So, here’s what  I want you to do:

Step #1: Make a list of these people:

I think you already know them. So, this step should be easy. If you need help, I’ll give you some clues.

Toxic people:

  • have a negative mindset
  • compare yourself with the others
  • talk too much about your flaws
  • complain all day, even when it’s not the case
  • don’t take responsibility for their action
  • don’t celebrate your small wins
  • don’t want you to succed

These characteristics will help you create your list faster. Did you finish?Then, you can apply the next step…

Step#2:Stop talking with them:

No, you don’t do this in time. Do it today!

Block their phones. Delete them from social media. And tell them you don’t want to hang out anymore. It’ll be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but results will speak for themselves.

You can always make new friends. Don’t bother to get a lot of people in your life. You just need the right ones.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #5: Stop wasting time on low-valuable work:

When you’re perfectionist, time always move faster than you.

It doesn’t matter how much action you take. You never see any real change in your life. But the reason is not lack of time. Everybody has the same 24 hours in a day. The problem is a lack of priority and focus.

Let’s talk about each one…


If you have too many priorities, it means you have no one. Aim for 3 or less. I don’t know about you, but one year ago I had around 12.

I wanted to:

  1. write more
  2. go to the gym
  3. talking with more women
  4. learn marketing
  5. learn productivity
  6. learn English
  7. become a freelancer
  8. create a business
  9. change the way I dress
  10. create another business
  11. read more
  12. eat healthier

And if it would have been possible, to do all of these in a day. It was too much. I ended up most times doing nothing. And if I did something, I always felt like it wasn’t enough.

So, I changed my strategy. I decided that going to the gym was my biggest priority and I focused on it until it became something normal. Then, I took another thing from my list and I repetead the process.

Guess what? This strategy works like magic. You can use it, too. You need to follow 2 steps:

  1. Decide what’s your biggest priority. What do you want in this moment more than anything else?
  2. Do something everyday for it. And make a system around it.

If you do this, you’ll see a big change in your results.

Problem #2:Focus:

I bet you heard about the Pareto Principle. Who doesn’t know about it? ”Just 20% of your actions give you 80% of results.”

I suggest you to use this principle as much as you can.

If you want to lose weight, change your meals. If you want to create a business, do something to get customers. If you want to learn Japanese, talk with someone in Japanese.

I know what you’re thinking: ”Ugh, this is hard.’’ And it is. Perfectionists prefer smaller tasks to avoid the hard work because they know their performance will not be up to their expectations. But if you do the oposite, you’ll prove yourself that you don’t need to be perfect to get results.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #6: Stop overthinking:

“Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life….My precept is, do something, my sister, do good if you can; but at any rate, do something.” ~Elizabeth Gaskell”

I’m sure you think too much. And that’s a problem.

If you overthink things like:

  • what people say
  • events from the past
  • things you want to do
  • 10 possible consequences for doing an action(usually worst case scenarios)

Then you need a change.

If you continue to live this way, you’ll be a perfectionist until you die. Worries will never stop. And it’ll be impossible for you to make decisions.

Do you really want to be constantly distracted by your thoughts? To live in your head more than in reality? To waste so much time within your imagination that you forget to live?

I don’t think so. And you don’t have to. You can stop this. Remember, your mind is a tool. And a tool it’s something you use, not something that use you.

So, let’s retake the control. I’ll show you two exercises to do this.

Exercise #1: Get out of the gray zone:

I don’t know how to explain this concept, but I’ll try. You live in the gray zone when:

  • you do A and think about B
  • then you do B and think about A

For instance:

  • when you work but you think about spending time with your family
  • then you spend time with your family but you think about work

Another example:

  • you go to the gym and think about playing computer games
  • then you play computer games but you think about going to the gym

Being in this zone sucks. But once you know you’re there, you can get out relatively easy.

So, here’s your exercise:

  • Write down for 20 minutes where you live in the gray zone
  • Decide to not live there anymore

That’s all. If you’re conscious about this zone, you can get out anytime.

Exercise #2:Get some complexion:

When you overthink, many of your thoughts are unfinished things from the past.

Here’s an example: Two years ago you argued with somebody on facebook. But you didn’t finish that argument because you was blocked. That argument could still be present in your head. And if it is, you probably can’t stop thinking about it.

Do you agree there’s something unfinished here? I bet you do. And guess what? Everything unfinished in your life need some complexion.

Otherwise, it will persist in your head. Here’s what you can do for this:

  • Write on a piece of paper all the events, projects and things you left unfinished: This shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. Hint: To make your list faster, think about what you avoid. Someting’s hidden there.
  • Decide what to do with each item from your list: You can cut most things and release them to the universe, without caring anymore. Or you can do something to finish them today.

The idea is to focus more on the present. Stop thinking and start living.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #7: Don’t consume too much content:

Reading can become overwhelming.

When you read too much about something you want to do, you forget to actually doing it. And too much information can make you go crazy because you’ll find contradictory advice.

A perfectionist wants to know everything about something before doing it. And he searches for the perfect answers. But they don’t exist. Use your time to get results. You don’t need to be a ‘’know-it-all’’ to learn something new.

Here’s a better aproach…

Read just what you need for your situation:

Most of us read about things we don’t practice.

I have a friend who read all day about fitness. But he doesn’t go to the gym. I have another friend who read all day about marketing. But he never started a business.

Have you ever did something similar? Me, too. But let’s be honest: It’s wrong. It’d be better if you read just what you need for your situation.

Also, apply the next step…

Read less and do more:

Do you want to do something new?

You don’t need 100 books for that. Read just one. You don’t even need to remember everything. Just do something based on the information. If it doesn’t work, then read another book.

In the last 3 years, I used this approach for learning and it’s much, much more faster. Most times I don’t even need information to understand some things. You don’t need either.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #8:Measure Your Progress

Don’t underestimate your mind.

It has more power than you can imagine. If you didn’t notice, your mind always tells you what you don’t do. But it makes you forget about what you did.

Let’s change this! I’ll show you how to become more aware of your actions.

Make a list with everything you did right today:

Include in this list even minor things.

Maybe you was at the gym. Maybe you learned a new skill. Or maybe you took a healthy breakfast. It doesn’t matter if you wasn’t 100% productive throught the day.

Measure your progress. Even if it’s small.

In time, you can take a look at your list and see how many things you did. This will change your mindset and motivate you to do more. You can also keep your to-do lists with your items checked. Or, buy a calendar and put an X for each day you did something important.

Use a personalized alarm before you go to bed. It’ll remind you about measures.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #9: Accept failure:

What if your business fail? You’ll waste your time and money. So, it’d be better if you don’t try to start a business.

In fact, it’d be better if you never try something new in life. “What if it doesn’t work?”–>You’ll lose something. That’s the way most people think about life. If you’re perectionist, your way of thinking it’s even worse. You can’t fail. The idea of not getting the best results it’s unnacceptable for you. That’s why you usually do nothing.

Now let me ask you something: What if you learn to embrace failure? I think you’ll fail most times. But I also think, you”ll succed one day. And when that’s gonna happen, you”ll get incredible results.

Successful people always fail.

Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shoots in his career. Colonel Sanders was rejected 1,009 times before his KFC recipe was approved first time.

And you know what. Maybe you’re not like them. I’m not either. But I guarantee it’s better to accept failure.

Here’s how to do this:

Step #1:Write down your thoughts:

What’s the worst that could happen if you fail? Be as honest as possible when you write your response.

You’ll realize the world doesn’t end. Then, think about what’s gonna happen if you don’t do anything. Write this response, too. You’ll realize this is worse than your potential losing.

Did you finish? Go to the next step…

Step #2:Do what you want:

The more you think about doing something, the more likely you won’t do it.

That’s because your mind will try to find all the reasons why your idea won’t work. But if you applied the first step, then you realized the fear you have it’s unjustified.

Now it’s a perfect moment to do something. If you stop thinking and start taking action, you’ll see with your own eyes the results. And even if you fail, you’ll realize the next things:

  • your mind gave you too many sf-scenarios(they’ll never happen in reality)
  • it’s easier for you to succed than you thought
  • the world doesn’t finish

In fact, you learned something from failure and you’re better prepared to try again.

And what if your idea works? Well, if you do something again and again, it’s just a matter of time until you find success. Failure is not so bad. Believe me, you’re too worried. As long as you don’t die, do anything you want. Forget about doing things perfectly.

How to Overcome Perfectionism Tip #10: Forgive

If you don’t learn to forgive, you’ll feel miserable your entire life.

I know this from my experience. The more you keep hate and anger inside of you, the more you suffer. I’m not a spiritual person but I consider forgiveness a critical part of life.

And let me tell you something: To forgive doesn’t mean to ‘’forget’’. Forgiveness means to accept reality and move on.

Or, if you want a quote:

“Forgiveness means letting go of the past.” – Gerald Jampolsky

It’s really hard to forgive. Sometimes it’s even impossible. But you should do it anyway.

Let me show you how…

Step #1:Forgive yourself:

When you do something wrong, you register it in your nervous system.

That’s why so many mistakes from your past are acompanied by feelings like guilt, shame and regret. It’s also one of the reasons you always say things like ‘’I never do things right.’’ or ‘’I’ll never be able to do this.’’.

You need to become aware of this.

Actions steps you can take:

  • Write down the mistakes you did in the past that are still in your head
  • Admit you was wrong. And admit now you know better.
  • Write down how these mistakes helped you grow as a person and what you learned from them
  • Repeat the next afirmation for 10/20 times: ‘’I did the best I could at that moment’’

If this doesn’t work, focus on your emotions. Release that first and forgiving yourself will be easier.

Stop beat yourself up. And start to love yourself more.

Step #2: Forgive the others:

I know how you feel.

People hurt you. Some of them share your secrets. Others, let you down at hard times. And some of them betray you.

Guess what? You need to forgive them. If you keep negative emotions asociate with these people, you poison yourself. They are not affected because you don’t forgive them, but you are.

And let me tell you something. Forgiving a person doesn’t mean:

  • to tell that person that he or she is forgiven
  • excusing the other person’s actions
  • that you’re okay now with what happened

In fact, you can forgive people and not continue to include them in your life, if that’s what you want.

Some actions steps you can take:

  1. Make a list with people that hurted you in the past
  2. Think about each person. What she/he did? Everybody has flaws and some people from your list didn’t want to hurt you.
  3. Commit to forgiveness! Cut each person from your list and say loud: “I forgive you”.

You can keep talking with these people or you can exclude them from your life. It’s your own decision! You’ll still remember what happened, but you will no longer be affected.

Final thoughts on overcoming perfectionism:

To sum up: The best way to stop perfectionism and increase productivity is to focus on the bigger picture, do what works and stop worrying so much. I recommend you to implement at least one of these 10 tips for that today.

Do it now! You can come back to apply more later.

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  1. Thanks cosmincretuu for this article, I have always struggled with perfection and people pleasing. I just gone through your post and It’s simple and beautiful explanation about acquiring the perfectionism. Will surely try all your tips!
    Thank you!

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