Samantha Praus, MSE, LPCC
Overcoming Perfectionism Tip: Set Reasonable Goals
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
If you're a perfectionist, you are most likely setting unrealistic and unattainable goals.
Setting unrealistic goals often makes us feel like failures. We tend to think we should be capable of getting things done and that these tasks are "no big deal."
Yet... we can never really seem to feel caught up or like what we are accomplishing is good enough.
If you are an individual that makes daily list of things to do and you are often finding that you are not crossing off everything you want to get done that day, forcing yourself to add these undone tasks to tomorrow's list and you see the same pattern repeat, you might be a perfectionistic procrastinator.
Perfectionistic procrastinators often set unrealistic goals for themselves, beat themselves up when these goals are not attained, try to motivate themselves to make up for them the next hour or day, and then repeat the cycle.
What an awful cycle! It's time to set more reasonable goals.
Some suggestions to help set more realistic goals:
Try cutting your to-do list in half. Write out your list for the day, then split the list in half and set the second half aside. See how many you complete on your half-list and re-evaluate your list for the upcoming days.
Add enjoyable tasks to your list. Add 1 or 2 things to your list that you actually enjoy doing and will accomplish that day. ie: knitting a couple of rows of your scarf, reading a few chapters of a book, spending 20 minutes playing with the cat, going for a short walk, etc. This gives you a much needed break from your daunting or overwhelming tasks, allows you to experience a sense of accomplishment and can even be used as a reinforcement for completing some of those less enjoyable tasks.
Just do one task. Give yourself permission to complete one goal or task and if you feel like you are on a roll, tell yourself that you can complete another or stop there. ex: "I will do a load of laundry and when I am done, if I'm up for it, I can do one more and if I'm not I can stop." It's not unusual for us to actually complete more once we no longer feel like the task is overwhelming or daunting. Giving ourselves permission to just do one task actually alleviates the pressure we feel, making this task feel more do-able. Believe it or not, we don't always work very well under pressure and beating ourselves up doesn't actually push us to do more.
Less is more. Give yourself permission to do a little bit at a time. Fairly similar to the tip above, except you can choose to break one task or goal into smaller, more manageable tasks. ex: "I need to do the laundry on Sunday" (wash, dry and put away all laundry) vs. "I can do one wash and one dry load of laundry on Sunday and can worry about putting the dry clothes away at a later time" or "I can just unload the bottom shelf of the dishwasher and worry about the top shelf later."
Increase the timeline. If you are often striving to complete tasks or goals in a set timeline, but are never really able to get these done, try extending or doubling your timeline. ex: if you have a list of things to do in a single day, try giving yourself 2 or 3 days to complete these instead. Or, if you think you can complete something in 20 minutes, give yourself 40 minutes instead. You may be much more ambitious in your mind than what you can actually achieve in a given day or timeframe.
Acknowledge your accomplishments. Practice spending adequate time acknowledging the goals you are accomplishing rather than the ones you are not. Thinking about what we are not getting done actually contributes to our cycle of shame, causing us to continuously feel like failures and like we are not doing enough. When this happens, we tend to dwell on our failures or mistakes, and instead of this providing us with the drive to get things done, it actually just contributes more to our perfectionistic procrastination tendencies.
If you have questions or want to know more, reach out. We'd love to hear from you.
Happy reasonable goal setting!