A Brain on Perfect is Often Late too

Your hardest hitting efforts fall short of others’ expectations.  Fun melts away like ice cream on a scorching afternoon. It’s too cold, or too hot for, time running out but rarely right. Health suffers and anxiety spikes. Would peers describe you as perfectionist? If so, you’re likely habitually late, and likely armed with excuses that could set death row prisoners free. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Perfectionism Makes Late

Perhaps even more than slow you down, perfectionism is bad for the brain. According to Gordon Flett at York University that craving for perfect, leaves people unable to continue. So stress grows as the clock ticks toward another dreaded deadline you’ll miss.  Another related peril of perfectionism, research shows,   in addition to avoiding time limits, is its tendency to undermine quality performance. See why perfectionists rarely reach the peaks?

Be careful not to confuse perfect with excellent though. While it’s admirable to devote attention to details, perfection robs a brain’s passion to sustain accurate overall performance. Consider the end results and it makes sense. Excellence, is seen in great masterpieces such as Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Perfectionists, on the other hand, harbor  unrealistically high standards, and then judge others for not living up to these lofty expectations. Have you seen it?

Brain drain comes to perfectionists through:

1. Procrastination – which punches against growth.  According to University of Calgary researcher, Piers Steels procrastination is on the rise, as reported in the January Psychological Bulletin where Steels stated that 26% of Americans identified themselves as serious procrastinators.

The opposite is of procrastination is targeting effective  ways to reboot the human brain for creative excellence. It’s more than and yet includes time management.

2. Stress -increases cortisol to dangerous levels. Literally, it can shrink the human brain, lower the immune system, rob memory, and shut down creativity. Sadly, stress that comes from perfectionism, often masks as diligence, and so it’s mental toxins can go unnoticed.  Stress tends to leave people fearfully limited to the foothills while more creative peers race them mentally to the peaks. What would it take to enjoy a life unhindered by perfectionism’s mental chains?

The opposite of perfectionism is  time management for creative and mind-bending performances. Einstein modeled it and Dr. Robyn McMaster showed its pool of talents.

Would you agree that perfectionism chains people to rigid routines, and imprisons them in places of fear and insecurity? If so, you’ll likely also agree that it takes courage to loosen that noose of mediocrity in favor of daring acts that draw from your unique mix of talents.

Adventures on the other side of late:

Taken one step at a time, risk-taking leads to accomplishment, in spite of challenges and short-comings along the way.

Helen Keller spoke for many of us when she said:

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.

Rather than perfect, life for Keller represented:

Either a daring adventure, or it was nothing at all.

For you? Human brains rewire for excellent adventures beyond perfectionism through risks taken on an otherwise ordinary day. How will you nudge that exciting idea you’ve been holding back, to cultivate an innovative  place through time management beyond ruts of perfectionism?

5 ways you can reboot the brain to manage time:

1. Set target and name desired completion date so that both remain in front of you at work. Mark the due date, a day or so ahead of the deadline,  to avoid stress that comes from that last minute rush. Stress tends to  limit growth and shut down creativity.

2. Identify barriers and reduce conflicting tasks that  slow you down. On the left side of a paper list each task that will lead to completion of your target. To the right of tasks, list barriers or conflicting duties that slow your progress.

3. Plan adventure, stay curious and have fun. Remember that Einstein, Edison, Mother Teresa, and Helen Keller all had the same number of hours in any day as you have. For each successful leader you’ll also find an ability to tap into brainpower that motivates visions through curiosity,  adventure and yes – sheer fun.

4. Avoid multi-tasking that works against brainpower. To multi-task, is to bottleneck your brain and decrease focus needed for meeting a deadline, instead, prioritize tasks each morning so that your top target stays on top of your to do list. Then focus more on completing one task at a time, and check off its completion.

5. Reward efforts following each action plan completed. In brain based terms, these rewards, or serotonin taps increase brainpower that any individual or group needs to remain in a race to the finish line. Serotonin is your brain’s best adrenalin for managing time, while other natural drugs can come to your rescue when cortisol chemicals cause you to fall off track.

Have you joined the hall of procrastinators who run for perfect. Or do you manage time and hit high performance deadlines with the brain in mind?

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset

10 thoughts on “A Brain on Perfect is Often Late too

  1. Robyn McMaster

    Hi Ellen, one of the paradoxical qualities of perfectionists is that when they put off a project, they tend to “rush” to the finish line and the results are less than pleasing.

    Have you noticed that when perfectionists lead a team, they tend to work against collaboration since they seem driven to contol? When that happens, others back away from them and often do not feel motivated, energized or empowered. You can well imagine what happens from there…

    You offer some excellent brain based strategies as an antidote. I’m ready for adventure – and adventure involves risks… the first steps past perfect.

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Is Your Brain in Gear at Work?

  2. eweber Post author

    Thanks Robyn, for showing yet another reason that perfectionism works against good results!

    I hadn’t thought of the collaboration vs control issue – but that sure makes sense, given the research here!

    Can’t wait to see and share your next risks for excellence, Robyn:-)

  3. rummuser

    It has indeed been my experience and observation that perfection is totally counterproductive when the time to accomplish a task is finite.

    It has also been my observation that perfectionists can drive themselves and the people in their lives to nervous breakdowns. I saw this at close hand and to try and understand what it is all about, I invested in a book a while ago. “Addiction to Perfection” by Marion Woodman is a book that to start with disappointed me for being woman centric, but eventually helped me understand the immediate problem at hand. While perfectionism is only a part of the total book, the part certainly clarifies many aspects of the psychological causes for the problem.

    Some times, just some times, I wish that I could be a perfectionist. These occasions are when lack of attention to detail, have caused embarrassment. Example, not filling in the amount in figures in a check. I suspect that striking a balance is needed.

    rummusers last blog post..Realities Of The Past.

  4. eweber Post author

    Good points Ramana, and yet I smiled to think that too few numbers written in a check could also be a real money saver.

    On a serious note, though, you have made a great case for balance – which so often adds to mental well being. Just what many of us need to start a new day! Have a great one! Ellen

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  9. Angela Mary Lisle

    Perfectionists are usually disliked too and that’s one of the biggest problems I’ve encountered. For example, a common saying is ‘you’re such a perfectionist!’…

    I often wish I was – a perfectionist – but apparently my line manager always said I was a finisher? It’s a pity she wasn’t right too otherwise I would have completed my PhD sooner.

    Although I suppose finding someone to supervise your PhD studies helps. I’ve just found someone after looking for more than 20 years, someone that it who actually understands my thesis – he’s a neuroscientist!. And now I’ve found him I haven’t got the finance to pay for the PhD – £15000 is a lot of money.

    My books and research papers aren’t enough now to submit for PhD – I wrote them between 1999 and 2010. They are too old apparently or too theoretical and let’s face it, who likes a theorist if they are not in a position to test their theories!

    So I’ve been advised to start again and forget what I’ve already done. I suppose I’ve just never been in the right place at the right time for the right person to help me. Not to worry…

  10. eweber Post author

    Oh Gosh Angela, I am so sorry that you found so little support and that left you unable to move your important work along in good timing. We really need good people in neural related areas. Far too many PhD students meet with similar situations that seem to barricade their progress.

    What if you speak to a cutting edge leader about the next thing you need to support your progress forward? And if that leader does not give you support that resonates keep moving until you find a thoughtful leader who sees your goals with you and will help you to implement these? Luckily I found such a leader during my own PhD at UBC and what a difference. Brilliant peers who failed to find the kind of support that’s needed, often dropped out before they completed their doctorate. That support is usually there – and yet it can be hard to find it. I wish I could help you further – because no PhD candidate deserves to be denied support that helps you complete their higher education requirements. Good luck – I’m sensing you can more than meet requirements, without losing all the hard work you have already completed. Let us know how you make out… Best, Ellen

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