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Difference in the Details: How to Manage Being a Perfectionist


My mom always tells me she prays each morning "that God will help the perfectionist in her third child (me) to not stress so much about everything life has to offer". If there's one thing you can count on it's that I'm the biggest type-A perfectionist on the East Coast. Anything from making my bed like a Pottery Barn catalog to organizing my agenda, working on presentations, and setting up business proposals have to be at my perfect standard before I can feel confident in them. This sometimes can be my downfall because I have astronomically high standards when it comes to just about everything. I'm harder on myself than some college professors are on their slacking students. Sometimes I expect too much in someone or something because I have ridiculously high standards. Things that literally take little to no thought in any given day, I take to the nth degree to make perfect.

Now don't get me wrong, I love being a perfectionist. With it comes great attention to detail, great planning ability, high efficiency, polished results, and incredible analytical skills but when thinking about every way to achieve in the best way possible, it's often easy to stress about all of the ways I can fail. The downfall of perfectionism is being so zoned in that I lose sight of the objective at hand. I get too obsessive with the wrong topics. I also sometimes do things at a slower pace so I don't skip any opportunity for finishing touches. The worst and biggest con about being a perfectionist is fearing failure above all else. If you sympathize with me and my tendencies to be absolutely perfect (even when unnecessary), I'm glad you stopped by today. I'm sharing my top tips for managing my sometimes ridiculous perfectionist characteristics.


Be Organized -- Good news! Perfectionists are oftentimes really organized. If you're not, get organized! It's okay to organize your agenda in just the manner you want it and in the color scheme you deem will help you succeed the most. When people look at mine they say "wait this is really amazing...how do you do find the time to do this?". The great thing about being organized is that you can see everything you need to get done in a days work. Remember, you have 24 hours in the day like Taylor Swift, Ralph Lauren, and J.K. Rowling. They can do it, so can you.

Carry Around an Additional Notebook -- As much as I love my Erin Condren Agenda, there still isn't enough space to get all of my daily thoughts down. No agenda on the market has the space for me to write all of my thoughts. I carry around an extra notebook (that yes, matches my agenda) so I can brainstorm ideas, make to do lists, and write out projects. There's something about classic pen and paper you just can't beat! I even do spare math and budgeting in this notebook! I love this thing and even though it might not have a consecutive order to things, I tab important pages and bookmark daily to-do lists.

Digital Calendars in Addition to Paper -- Yes, on top of my whiteboard calendar, agenda, and spare notebook I also keep a digital calendar that spans through all of my devices. Google Calendar is literally the Mecca of all organization. It's color coded, and planned through as far as I can get. These calendars are great to have so you can plan on the fly. You can plan on the bus, in line at Starbucks, and in class when your professor is spitting dates at you. I know it seems like I'm getting a little crazy with scheduling, but the more on top of dates you feel, the better prepared you will feel when it comes to tackling projects. ALSO, if you work in groups or like to schedule with family or friends, you can share your calendar with theirs. My sister and I did that when we needed to share a car a few summers back and it worked like a charm.

Start Weeks in Advance -- Because I think of things down to the last detail, if I wait until the night before to take on a project, paper, or assignment I will most likely stay up all night trying to get it as close to perfect as possible. In order to avoid this you need to start on projects as soon as possible. I didn't start doing this until I got to college, and even when I just had regular exams did I put things off. I didn't understand how useful starting ahead was until I got into my major. I mainly have speeches, papers, and presentations for my assignments and those don't just happen overnight. I start papers at least two weeks in advance. Can I crank out a 6 page paper in about an hour and a half -- yes, but I know I can create a near perfect paper in two weeks which calms my inner perfectionist.

Be Present -- This is so difficult for me!! When it comes to not being able to take my own advice, this is the rule that applies to! When I'm at work, I can't answer emails or work on homework, and when I'm working on homework at midnight, I can't ask my professor questions. To help control this, try to remain present. As much as I want to tackle the overflowing inbox on all of my projects while I'm working at school, or I want to be in my professors office asking questions even though it's midnight, I just can't do those things all at the same time. Why worry when there's nothing I can do about it? Tackle the project in front of you to the best of your abilities, worry about the other stuff when the time is right.

Let Go -- Another big setback I find I have when I want to be perfect is that I like to be a people pleaser. This quality comes with a lot of guilt if things don't go the way I expect them to. Whether it be in social situations, academic, or professional situations if something doesn't go as I planned, I freak out even when what went wrong wasn't my fault. I still feel guilt like a load of bricks, but I'm better about it in college than I was in high school. What really helped me was backtracking through situations to see where things started to go wrong -- if I'm not in that moment, I don't really take any guilt. I also found that when I started keeping up with myself and stopped trying to micro-manage others that guilt started melting away pretty quickly.

Find Something that Relaxes You -- In a last resort when I feel like I'm stressing out about trivial things or feel like I'm getting a little too invested in a project to the point where I lose sight of the overarching objective, I turn to things that relax me. I'm a big music gal, so putting on my Beats and blasting music while I clean my room relaxes me and clears my head. I also find that cooking relaxes me and showering, doing a face mask and reading for a few minutes clears my head. It gets me thinking about something else and clears out all of the thoughts clouding my mind.

Being a perfectionist can get in the way of accomplishing tasks quickly and cause you to dwell on mistakes which can sometimes be unhealthy. Don't take this quality and rid yourself of it! Find a way to hone it and turn your perfectionist tendencies into strategies to strive for excellence. Grow from mistakes instead of dwelling on them. Find creative ways to bounce back after stressful situations. Lastly, find ways to effectively and efficiently manage your busy life! It throws a lot at you, but we all have the same 24 hours -- it's how we use them that makes us great!

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