You Only Have to Do It Once
By Ben Heacox
I have a love hate relationship with perfectionism.
Nothing is more satisfying than doing something with excellence, but nothing is more exhausting than trying to be perfect. Anybody else feel that?
Of course you do — you’re a digital marketer.
How to Know if You’re a Perfectionist
Don’t think you’re a perfectionist? Oh, I bet you are. Check out the list below…
According to Web Marketing Therapy, signs of digital marketing perfectionism may include:
- Editing social media posts more than once
- Existential dread around hitting “publish” on a blog post
- Obsessive CSS editing
- Not trusting others to help on a project
If you do any of these, congratulations, you qualify for the Digital Marketing DSM’s definition of a perfectionist.
And that’s okay.
Being aware of perfectionist tendencies is the first step towards claiming a unique superpower.
I’ll share this secret to unlocking your superpower, but first, let’s chat about the triggers.
What Is Your Perfectionist Trigger?
A little practice in self-awareness here — when do you feel uncomfortable pressure to do your work without any mistakes?
I know it is, so here are five scenarios that could help you identify your trigger:
- Uncertainty: You’re really excited about a new web design project, but it’s really hard to get started because this is your first time doing this type of work and you don’t know how it will turn out.
- Reputation: You were once known as your agency’s resident graphic design master, and the stakes feel “all or nothing” as you begin a new graphic design project because you’ve been doing SEO for two years.
- Criticism: You spent an hour writing a blog post, but you are fixated on how it will be seen by your coworkers or manager and keep finding more typos.
- Comparison: You just finished a course refresher course on HTML to help you at work, but you keep thinking about how a more qualified dev employee could do it better and have gotten very little done for a client.
- Your Own Goals: You can’t stop thinking about a promotion you’re working towards as you do an audit, and you start thinking about how a mistake on the audit will keep you from getting there.
In each of these situations, perfectionism feels a lot like anxiety. In fact, perfectionist tendencies are often a coping tool for high-performing, anxious brains.
Getting in perfectionist mode can feel really uncomfortable, and you need a place to let it out.
Claim Your Special Strength
As a perfectionist, at one point in your life, you probably learned to value excellence.
That’s a good thing.
It means you probably do really good work.
But, nobody can be perfect at something all the time, especially working in a field as complex, fast-paced and ever evolving as digital marketing.
So, what do you do with your perfectionism? Take a moment for R & R!
Recognize you’ve triggered perfection mode.
Release it on one focused task.
You can’t do everything perfectly, but you can do one thing perfectly, and your perfectionism gives you an eye for details only you can notice, and your perfectionism means you’re probably going to this one thing really well, and you’re going to feel a lot of relief when you finish just this one thing.
But here’s the real superpower:
A single task done perfectly once will leave a wake of tasks done well enough behind it.
By putting your perfectionism to work on just one thing, you’re training yourself to do better work the next time without even thinking about it.
Here’s Why It Works
The stress of perfectionism doesn’t come from the desire to do things well. It actually comes from the unrealistic expectation that your attention should have unlimited bandwidth.
Just like nobody can really multitask, nobody can do all things perfectly all at once all the time.
With this in mind, managing the benefits of perfectionism becomes a practice in accepting the limits of your attention and learning to manage them.
Think of it this way…
Managing perfectionism is kinda like optimizing your brain’s resource usage:
Perfectionism is “Hyper Attention”
Attention is a limited processing resource.
Thus, perfection must be allocated like a limited processing resource.
One brain per complex task at a time, son!
The Dangerous Downfall of the Super Perfect
Okay, so I just told you perfectionism is a good thing.
It’s only good if you know when it’s happening and manage how you use it.
There’s only one thing you need to get perfect at a time, not everything.
Here’s what happens if you’re bottlenecking that bandwidth:
- You get tired a lot
- You’ll struggle with collaborative projects
- You make more typos
- You lose access to your talents
- You miss out on connecting with helpers
Now, that you know about the triggers, management and the fallout of perfectionism, ask yourself,
“Am I in the middle of perfectionist burnout?”
If you answered, “yeah… maybe?” ask a digital marketer for help right now.
Because we’re all perfectionists, and we know what other perfectionists need to hear to stop being perfectionists for a second so we can apply perfectionism a little more perfectly.
— no perfectionist superpowers were used in the making of this blog… only anxiety.
About the Author
Ben Heacox is a Digital Marketing Specialist at ChoiceLocal, specializing in web development, local SEO, and content creation. Outside of work, you’ll find him traveling abroad, trying out a new Thai restaurant, and enjoying the life of a Shiba Inu dad.