Practice Management Blog

Is perfectionism costing your health practice?

Productivity & Mindset

Do you find yourself getting frustrated with your inability to grow your practice? Or maybe you’re struggling with feeling overwhelmed because you’re juggling too many balls and can’t seem to be able to delegate. If this is you, then there’s a good chance you’re a perfectionist and in striving for perfectionism, your productivity, and those that work for you is being negatively impacted.


The 3 Major Problems with Perfectionism in a Health Practice

The bottom line is that perfectionism affects productivity because it leads to procrastination, increased stress, and dissatisfaction. Perfectionists are also unable to delegate effectively. If you have perfectionist tendencies, then you and the people working at your practice become less productive, and the potential for growing the practice is severely restricted.

Let’s look at the three major problems. In a health practice, perfectionism:


1) Leads to procrastination

In almost all cases, striving for perfection leads to procrastination, which leads to a decrease in your own productivity, and the productivity of those that work under you.

While perfectionism sounds good on the surface, it often leads to an inability to act for fear of making a mistake. (Usually, procrastination is not due to laziness or a lack of discipline – it comes from being unsure of the best way to do something, which is heightened when we set our standards too high.) If you’re holding yourself and your team to impossibly high standards, chances are that procrastination at work is going to skyrocket.


2) Increases stress and dissatisfaction

Whether you’re not getting around to doing things, or are stuck in a mindset that things haven’t been done properly, you’re likely to be suffering from and spreading, dissatisfaction. Critical self-talk tends to flow from the inability to get things 100% right, which will leave you feeling stressed and anxious. And when this critical approach is directed at employees, it’s likely to cause a stressful working environment which negatively affects productivity.


3) Impacts your ability to delegate effectively

Doing everything yourself does everyone a disservice. You’ll constantly be struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed, and you’ll undermine the confidence of those that work for you. This has a serious impact on your practice’s capacity for growth. By taking on tasks that you could delegate, your own ability to grow is restricted, and this will have a knock-on effect for your practice because one person really can’t do everything.


Perfectionism-Fighting Solutions to Start Implementing Today

If you’ve read through the problems that stem from perfectionism and feel like they describe you, help is at hand. Here are three solutions that you start doing right now to boost both your productivity and that of your practice by overcoming the pull towards perfectionism.

Aim for 80%, rather than 100% 

You’ve probably heard of the 80:20 principle, with the idea that putting in 20% effort will get you 80% of the results, but to move from 80% to 100%, you’ll have to put in 80% more effort. So, ask yourself the question, is that extra 20% necessary? If it’s going to cost you 4x the effort, in most cases, it really doesn’t make sense to aim for 100%.

By aiming for 80%, you’re giving yourself permission to make some mistakes which can make it easier to get started on a task that you’ve been putting off, and it should make getting it done a lot quicker. It also gives you the freedom to sign off the work of others which might not be quite 100% perfect according to your standards, but could easily be at 80% which is good enough. This reduces the pressure that you put on yourself and others which will make for a happier working environment. There might be a couple of areas where you do want to aim for 100%, but for most things, 80% really is good enough.


Try it for yourself:

Choose one task that you’ve been putting off and sit down and do it. Don’t worry about making mistakes or typos then, when you’re finished, put it away. When you’ve had some time to think about and process the task, come back and polish it if needed. You’ll be surprised how much you get right in your first attempt.


Set a time limit on tasks

This is a tough one for perfectionists, especially if your goal is usually to aim for 100% regardless of the cost. An artificially imposed time limit provides strict constraints for completing a task, and it’s very effective if you struggle with perfectionism. This method works because firstly, it helps you tackle tasks where you’ve been procrastinating because it’s easier to start knowing that you have full permission to stop as soon as the time is up. And secondly, it actually decreases stress and dissatisfaction because you know that you will probably be able to get the task done within the time frame allocated even if it’s not done perfectly. Any dissatisfaction you feel from not getting it completely perfect is offset by the sense of achievement that you get from meeting the deadline on time.


Try it for yourself:

Pick a task that you’ve been putting off and set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes (or whatever is a tight but realistic timeframe for getting the task done). Then put your phone in a drawer, close the door, remove distractions, and just get started. Focus on this one thing and don’t allow yourself to do anything else until that timer goes off! There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to get the job done ahead of the time limit, and you might even be surprised at how well you’ve done it.


Learn to release control (and delegate properly)

Remember that no-one does things exactly the same way, or even as well as you could, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t delegate. It’s an essential part of growing as a leader.

Decide on 1 or 2 areas that are most important to you and where you’ll allow perfectionism, then learn to loosen your grip on everything else. If you decide that the client experience is the most important, or your team’s wellbeing is the most important, then keep control of those areas. But recognize tasks that fall outside of those areas and begin delegating. You might need to get strict on yourself with this one!


Try it for yourself:

Identify one task that someone else could be doing instead of you, then take an hour to write up a process flow detailing how you’d like the task to be done. Spend some more time training your team members and follow up with them later to see if they have questions. Once they’ve done the work, review it, make any necessary changes to the flow, and have them go through the task again. Then move on. It’s time to find other tasks to delegate.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Constant striving for perfection is going to leave you stressed, burnt out and unhappy. And those feelings can quickly spread through a practice impacting productivity as you procrastinate and struggle to delegate. But there are small changes that you can start making today that can radically alter the trajectory of your practice. By applying the 80:20 principle, limiting the time that you allocate to less important tasks, and practicing the art of delegation you’ll be able to free up yourself and your practice to grow.

Here’s a great phrase we like to remember:

“Done is better than perfect.” – Sheryl Sandberg


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