One of my strengths, which is actually also one of my weaknesses, is being a perfectionist. How can perfectionism be both you may ask? The main reason is because there are many advantages and pitfalls of being a perfectionist. And they tend to drive people like me crazy because we hate making mistakes and have high expectations for ourselves.
If you’re a perfectionist yourself you’ll easily be able to relate. Even if you aren’t one yourself, but live or work with a perfectionist, this post will help you understand us a lot better. You can learn how to utilize the strengths of perfectionists in your business and help us improve on our weaknesses.
4 Key Advantages Of Perfectionists
+ We Love Details
It may sound dorky, but perfectionists like me love details. When we say we’re detail oriented we actually mean it. A lot of other people may think they are detail oriented, but we perfectionists know when they are lying. Why? Because we find and end up fixing all of their mistakes! Perfectionists are great at things like number crunching, working on spreadsheets, making checklists, planning, proof reading, and packing.
We thoroughly check our work before turning anything in and are reliable workers. Perfectionists also like to read fine print and tend to fully read through legal docs before signing them. Yes, I am one of those crazy people who reads footnotes and legal stuff – I have to understand what I’m agreeing to before signing things. Lawyers can be very sneaky!
+ Perfectionists Are Great Organizers
I consider myself a humble person, but one thing I will boast about on occasion are my organizational skills. Perfectionists like me are very particular about where we put things. I can’t stand losing things so I always put things in the same place everyday. Perfectionists cringe when we see loose papers scattered about and junk drawers stuffed to capacity. And we have useful filing systems that make it quick and easy for us to locate things.
We also love to declutter and clear spaces. I can’t think straight when I’m in a messy space, so I have to straighten things around me before I can work. Back in school when I was hallmates with one of my best friends, I used to have to clean her room before we could study together in her room lol. Sounds silly but it worked and helped us both focus better on our homework.
+ We’re Great At Catching Errors
I can’t stand it when I make errors. I like to double check my work because I’ve always taken my career really seriously and want other people to feel confident they can count on me. Even in my personal life I try really hard not to make errors. Perfectionists are great at consistent accuracy and reviewing work. Our love of details really helps with this.
As a result it really drives me crazy when other people I work with rush and make a lot of repetitive mistakes. People should be held accountable for their performance. So when I see someone making a lot of errors at work, I take time out of my day to give them some constructive criticism and help them out as best I can. I want to help everyone succeed if I can. But if things don’t improve and the business is put at risk, those are the type of folks that will get the boot.
+ Perfectionists Have Sharp Analytical Skills
Another strength of perfectionists that ties into being detail oriented are strong analytical skills. Perfectionists like to get into the nitty gritty and think about all the different angles and scenarios when making decisions and building things. We’re great at coming up with “What if” questions and thinking about all the different ways one process can impact another.
Perfectionists also tend to be deep thinkers and like to brainstorm ideas. We aren’t the type to just push buttons and call it a day. We like to understand what is happening behind the scenes as a result of our actions and why each step is important.
4 Main Pitfalls Of Perfectionists
– Perfectionists Can Lose Track Of The Big Picture
The first pitfall of being a perfectionist comes as a result of being super detail oriented. It’s easy to get so caught up in the little things that we forget or lose track of the big picture. I’ve definitely struggled with this myself. I’ve been so caught up thinking too many levels deep into projects before that I buried myself in the minutia and got stuck. Giving perfectionists reminders of the larger objectives and working together to set priorities helps a lot.
I love making lists and writing everything down. As a result I can end up with a massive list that makes me feel totally overwhelmed. So I divide up my tasks by day and priority to help me stay focused on my largest objectives. Diversity is also good for perfectionists. Working with people who have different strengths in momentum, customer relations, marketing, and product distribution is great for development. Collaborating with different departments helps keep the shared end game in focus.
– People Might Think You’re Anal Or Socially Awkward
One time when I was hanging out with some friends, we decided to come up with one adjective to describe each other just for fun. When my name came up, one of my friends turned to me and said, “Well I don’t mean this in a bad way but I guess I’d say you’re anal.” And then we all burst out laughing. Ah funny but true (I guess). I like things done in a certain way and I’m really organized. To some people that translates into being anal retentive!
I don’t think I’m a control freak, but it was a good reality check hearing her say that because I didn’t realize that my perfectionists habits were that obvious to those around me until then. That realization helped me work on toning things down a bit.
Perfectionists can also be perceived as socially awkward if they are highly introverted or withdrawn. Thus it helps to hang out with extroverts and ambiverts from time to time to keep a healthy balance in your relationships. Perfectionists can also work on developing leadership skills and gaining confidence in social situations.
– We Can Be Slow As Molasses
The biggest challenge I have with being a perfectionist is my struggle with speed. I can be slow as molasses sometimes because I get so caught up in the details. There has to be a certain amount of balance between getting the details right and being efficient. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I really don’t need to triple or quadruple check something – twice IS enough. It can be a hard habit to break.
Perfectionists also struggle with letting go and being satisfied with their work. For example, there are a million different ways to say the same thing. I have a hard time writing my blog posts sometimes because I get trapped trying to edit and re-edit my sentences. It’s inefficient to write and edit simultaneously but the perfectionist in me is always trying to take over.
Perfectionists have to work on developing efficient routines. I’ve found setting time limits is helpful. Otherwise, it’s too easy to end up redoing something over and over again, and hours just disappear. We must remember that nothing is perfect!
– Change Can Be Difficult
Since perfectionists like control and doing things a certain way, change can be quite difficult. So make adjustments in small stages and try to keep an open mind. We also can’t assume that the way you we do things will work well for others. For ex. I have no idea how some people can function having their computer desktops covered with files all over the place. The perfectionist and organizer in me starts screaming in my head when I see something like that. But all that craziness makes sense and works for some people.
Focusing on the things you can change instead of those you can’t will also help. Perfectionists can also use their natural abilities in detailed work to document changing procedures. Keeping track of operations, procedures, projects, and creating checklists are a few ways I’ve been able to use my perfectionist tendencies to get ahead in my career.
Untemplaters, how would you rate yourself as a perfectionist on a scale from 1 to 10? What are the biggest advantages and pitfalls of being a perfectionist in your opinion? What do you struggle with the most?
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Sorry for the one year late reply, but i have to contribute, i’m a perfectionist to death, on a scale 1 to 10, well 10, 10 and 10, yes i’m crazy and i’m glad i met someone crazy like me, i seek perfection in everything in life, if it was 0.000000001% less than perfect or how i wanted it to be then never and unacceptable, it used to be quite overwhelming, but by time i’ve learned to control it, to know when to let go, basically by being realistic and always thinking about the outcome, always saying to myself “what would happen if?”, people think i’m weird and always telling me “why are you like this?”, who cares?, people can’t comprehend what they don’t understand, great article Sydney, btw i’m new here and loving this site 😀
Thanks for your comment Adawy, and welcome to Untemplater! It’s so hard being a perfectionist isn’t it?!
Marissa @ Thirty Six Months says
One disadvantage is people get mad at you because they don’t understand you.
That’s very true. We often have to work with people completely different from ourselves over the lifetime of our careers. Finding ways to utilize each others strengths and keeping communication open can help avoid clashes.
I’m not quite the perfectionist you describe yourself, but I can be pretty bad. I’ve learned to just let go of some things I can’t control.
Letting go of things out of our control helps a lot with stress too. That’s one thing I’m working on now to try and get back to a better work life balance. I have to stop getting upset and feeling responsible for other people’s mistakes all the time.
Bryce @ Save and Conquer says
No one in my family is what I would call a perfectionist. I like to think that my wife and I are very good at our work, and our house is relatively clean and neat, but we tend to stack stuff to be cleaned up later, and leave our shoes lying somewhere in the vicinity of the front door. So, thanks for the inside look at a real perfectionist.
Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia says
I can relate 100% to this description of perfectionists. Slap a picture of me at the top of this post and it could be my bio!
Being a perfectionist can wear you down physically too especially when you have a million daily responsibilities. I’m trying to lessen the perfectionist in me by convincing myself that others won’t notice or even be bothered by what I perceive are “errors.” It’s akin to applying the accounting concept of materiality – mistakes don’t matter unless they’re serious enough to cause a big problem.
I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, I always thought I was detailed oriented. It is that financial or accounting training! I constantly think about the outcome I am trying to achieve. Isn’t that big picture thinking?
Details are definitely an important part of training in the accounting world. One accidental extra digit can totally blow things up!
Yeah, keeping your outcome at the front of your mind is definitely big picture thinking. That’s not always easy to do on a regular basis for people who are detail oriented, so you’re ahead of the game. 🙂
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Love this Sydney! On a scale of 1 to 10, I think I am a 15. 😉 My wife teases me about it all the time and the crazy thing is that we could not be more opposite, which is a good thing as she balances me out. The one I struggle with the most is losing track of the big picture. I can get so mired in trying to find errors and correcting them sometimes, that I completely forget what it is I am actually trying to accomplish. My other big issue is not trusting others because I fear they’ll be making mistakes. Thankfully I’ve seen some growth in it, but it’s always there under the surface.
Thanks John! I’m glad to hear that you can totally relate and I’m not the only crazy perfectionist out there. I totally get you on the trust issues. I’m struggling with one person at work who I really want to trust, but I’m on my last thread of patience. He keeps making the same type of careless mistakes over and over again. It’s driving me insane that he doesn’t know how to double check his work because that is second nature to people like us.
Financial Samurai says
Love it. “Perfectionists also struggle with letting go and being satisfied with their work.” This is easiest experienced as a blogger who frequently writes and publishes post. I make it a habit to always schedule or publish after looking over the post once. I KNOW there will be typos and other errors, but what the heck. FS ain’t the NY Times! I’ll correct them when I see em!
I want a perfectionist on my team if I am a manager. I can always ask him or her to speed things up and not worry about some things. Attention to detail is so crucial in so many things. Let’s a manager and colleague sleep better at night!
The perfectionist in me can’t publish something unless I’ve checked all of my spelling and grammar. That’s one thing I just can’t let go of. I think it comes from my habit of proof reading all of my work emails too before I hit send. I get really upset if I send something out with an error so I developed this habit. Your way is definitely much more efficient!
Finance Blog Zone says
And people might also think that you are just procrastinating, since you sometimes spend so much time on one given job, right? 🙂
Yep that can happen too and definitely isn’t good!