Not Everything in Life Needs the Q-tip Treatment


Growing up, one of my chores was washing the family car. Dad took great pride in his car and taught me that our car should be spotless inside and out. Because someday the 1990 Accord I was washing would be mine, Dad reminded me to do a good job. And what was a good job? Giving it the Q-tip Treatment. My dad didn't tell me I had to use Q-tips to clean the dashboard's nooks and crannies. My idea of "good" meant "perfect." Perfect meant no dust mote anywhere!

Recently I had an aha moment about perfectionism when planning this article. Writing my monthly blog used to take me 12 hours. I had to be original. I had to be clever. I had to triple check every detail. I had to do it perfectly. I realized that I've been using the Q-tip Treatment for so many work tasks like writing an article that didn't need such detailing. 

As a solopreneur, it was unsustainable to devote that much time and energy to one small aspect of my business. I had to find a better way.  

I eventually condensed my writing process to a level that was good enough (4 hours). Here's what helped me let go of perfectionism:

Lesson #1: use the right tool for the job
Nowadays I mostly give things the Paper Towel Treatment. I religiously use a timer to make sure I don't fall into the black hole of perfection. Using a timer ensures that I focus on what counts.

Lesson #2: very few things in life need the Q-tip Treatment
From a writing course, I learned to let go of "original brilliant writing" to "something interesting to spark conversation".

Lesson #3: getting better is better than getting perfect
From Brené Brown: Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve? "Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?” 

Nowadays I give most things the Paper Towel Treatment. My current car is 8 years old and I've given it the Q-tip Treatment only once. I poked at a few dusty crevices. Then zoomed to Polly Ann for ice cream.

How have you dealt with perfectionism? What's worked for you to not get drowned in the weeds?

Judy Dang