The (Im)perfectionist's Guide to Getting a Project Off The Ground

I’ve been in what my coaching framework describes as the ‘dreaming and scheming’ phase lately.

Using my imagination to design a new coaching programme.

Planning how to execute it.

These activities are second-nature to we project managers-turned-coaches.

But for those of us also inclined to perfectionism, it’s easy to get stuck in this phase and delay taking action.

I started to feel like I was over-cooking the design of this particular coaching programme. So much so that I took a few days to step back and work on something else.

Lesson one: When something doesn’t feel right, trust your instinct.

In this particular case, it didn't feel like it was clicking into place. It felt like a giant red stop sign in my torso.

If I had proceeded anyway, it would have felt forced.

And I can almost guarantee the results would've been less than what I'd hoped.

Sure enough, these few days bought me some breathing space.

Without trying to, or forcing it, I felt my perspective shift.

A couple of new ideas rolled in.

Ideas that felt more like a fit, less like a giant red stop sign.

Lesson two: Creating space from what you’re working on allows new ideas and solutions to come through.

And it happens in a far more peaceful way than staying at your desk and willing yourself to find the answers.

You don’t necessarily need a few days away from whatever it is you’re working on.

Try a walk around the block, or even hopping up from your desk for a few minutes to do a different activity.

I can overcomplicate things, particularly when designing something new.

And these new ideas that rolled in saw me stripping the programme idea I had right back to basics instead.

Two principles from my career came in handy here.

First: What’s the minimum viable product I can create?

Aim for that, and nothing more.

Then: test, gather feedback, and refine.

Lesson three: Keep it simple. Learn by doing, not thinking yourself into knots.

This spacious time reflecting had its consequences.

I found myself behind deadline.

So I had to whip up my new material in a matter of hours. Not days, as it had previously taken me. I no longer had that luxury.

And yet, I suspect that the quality didn’t suffer.

No-one judging from the outside world would know.

I had to think and act on the fly (tricky for a thinker-planner-introvert).

I couldn’t fuss over getting the words just right, designing the layout perfectly, adding all the bells and whistles. I had to create shortcuts.

The point is, I got it done. And far more efficiently than the first time around.

Lesson four: Impose time limits on things you’d normally try to perfect

Try this

If you find yourself caught up in perfectionism too, think back to the last time you had to produce something in less time than you needed.

Did you get it done?

What shortcuts did you need to take?

From an objective perspective, was the end result any less? And if it was, did that really have any consequence?

How might you apply these lessons to the next task you find yourself trying to perfect?

And what would you gain in terms of extra time and energy?

P.S. You can find more detail on my coaching programmes right here.



My free PDF Guide, A Practical Guide to Planning and Taking Action, is now available for download. This guide will help you:

  • Take the stress and overthinking out of planning

  • Move from procrastination into sensible action

  • Focus only on what is necessary

  • Maximise your time and efficiency. 

Click here to be directed to my Resources page, where you can download it and sign up to be notified as more resources are released.