Keep the Work Ethic, Lose the Perfectionism

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Author David Horsager offers some practical advice on planning your day, overcoming perfectionist tendencies, and becoming more energized, culled from his latest book, The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies To Increase Efficiency And Make An Impact Every Day.

Plan Tomorrow Today

It’s hard to get a running start on your day without a plan! An old aphorism says, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” You don’t want to waste your creative morning time wondering what you should do today. If you want to attack your day, instead of having it attack you, here is a simple, solid strategy.

Consider spending the last 15 minutes of your workday planning and prioritizing your activities for the next day. This will set you up for success and also keep you from forgetting about important tasks or appointments.

Try these strategies:

  • Prioritize your to-do list. Count the items on your to-do list, and then number them in order from most important to least. For instance, if you have seven things to do, then the most important gets a number seven. The next most important gets a six, and so on.
  • Repeat the process, in order of urgency. That is, figure out what must be done soonest and give it a seven, what is second most urgent gets a six, etc. When you’ve finished, those with the highest combined scores are to be done first, and on down through the list. Experience tells me you won’t have to do this activity very many times until you become more cognizant of your tendencies and pitfalls. Before I tried this method, I would only do the things that were most urgent, which sometimes meant not advancing my most important goals. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?horsager
  • Put it on paper. Without being overly detailed, write down your schedule for the day. Having your activities on paper will keep you on track toward finishing your work for the day. Crossing them off can be very satisfying!

Excellence, Not Perfection

Perfectionism and efficiency do not generally go hand in hand. I have seen many business people plagued with perfectionism get very little done. More than ever, companies need their employees to work with a high level of efficiency in order to stay profitable. Of all the topics we could discuss, this one really affects the bottom line!

Although perfectionism can be costly, this is not an endorsement for careless work. I strive for excellence and seek to provide outstanding service to my clients. I spend a great deal of time and resources on my speeches, consulting, and books, and value the importance of putting excellence into everything that I do. Part of achieving excellence is doing great work. Another very important part is doing it on time!

Perhaps you are a perfectionist. Perhaps you have perfectionist tendencies. Perhaps you work closely with a perfectionist and you just don’t understand him or her! Consider these techniques for delivering excellent work without giving in to perfectionism:

  • Do it right the first time. When you are working on something, give it your full concentration. Put your all into the task at hand. Chances are, you will do a great job and won’t need to come back to it later.
  • Give yourself a time limit. Estimate how long it should take you to do something well and then stick to it. Once you have made the decision to move on to the next step at a certain time, you may find that you were more efficient in completing that task.
  • Know when to stop. You have to know when a project is finished. At a certain point, more changes are not making things better; they are just making them different. Learn to finish your work, check it over, and then move on to the next thing.
  • Get feedback. If you aren’t sure whether you are bettering your work or not, get feedback from a colleague or supervisor. An outside perspective can help you overcome perfectionist tendencies.


You can keep perfectionism at bay and work hard on your productivity, but if you aren’t excited about what you do, your lack of enthusiasm will be obvious to your colleagues and it will slow you down too!

Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you walked into a fast food restaurant or a gas station and encountered someone who wasn’t remotely satisfied with their job. How quickly were they moving? Excited people move faster, and with more purpose, while those who are bored or disengaged do not.

Here are a few ways to get more energized about your job:

  • Think of the bigger picture. Catch the big vision of what your work is really about. If you are a road construction worker, then you give people freedom, security, and safety. I recently met a machinist who makes tiny metal parts. He is both excited and motivated to do well because he understands that his tiny metal parts go into heart monitors that save lives! Envision the difference you are making to your family and your employer, and you will be motivated to do good work.
  • Act it. By acting excited, you can trick your mind into feeling that way. When you feel a lack of enthusiasm, try putting on a smile and see if your mood catches up.
  • Move on. If you can’t find a way to be excited about what you are doing, that’s probably a sure sign that you need to move on. Tough days come in any job, but if you’ve lost the passion for your work, then it may be time to make a tough decision.
  • Celebrate little things. Keep saying things like, “That was great!” “Can’t wait to see…” or “Thanks for getting that done.” Even a tiny glimpse of excitement is contagious and helps bring other people up. Excitement keeps people going.

David Horsager, MA, CSP, is a business strategist, entrepreneur, and author of national bestseller The Trust Edge.  His new book, THE DAILY EDGE:  Simple Strategies To Increase Efficiency And Make An Impact Every Day, will be published in October 2015.  For more information, please visit

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