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“Done is better than perfect” – Sheryl Sandberg
Have you ever been on a project you loved when you began, but you couldn’t wait to finish years later? One that you felt was just dragging, not matter how much effort you put into it?
That’s what my experience doing a PhD is like. While I love my topic – how students’ speaking fluency changes after a study abroad experience – I can’t wait to be done. The analysis is interesting, don’t get me wrong – but wow, is it technical!
Sheryl Sandberg says “Done is better than perfect”, and I totally agree.


When Trying to Be Perfect Leads to Procrastination

Motivational Monday 55 Motivation

I’ve had readers tell me that perfectionism is often a struggle for them.  Personally, I find this less of a problem than overwhelm (the next section), but I do have some tips for you.


Try to understand why you are aiming to be “perfect”.  Perhaps you’re competing with someone, or you feel pressure from a boss, co-worker, or colleague. Maybe you are simply determined to reach a specific goal you’ve set for yourself.


Follow these 3 steps to keep your quest for perfection in check.

1. Redefine “Perfect”

Do you really need it to be perfect? Instead, decide on key characteristics or features of your project that do need to be done meticulously. For example, there are parts of my data analysis that have to be absolutely correct to avoid problems in the future. Sometimes you need to be detail-oriented.

Other times, you may be wasting a lot of time nit-picking over something, rather than getting the main project finished. 

Make a list of what really needs to be done in a meticulous, perfectionist way – and then leave the rest alone!


2. Set Milestones

Milestones are my favourite way to set deadlines! What are the big accomplishments you’ll hit before you reach your overall goal? Make a list, and check them off as you get them done.

Before writing this post, I knew little about Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, but I’ve learned a bit more about her.  She seems to have taken terrible events in her life and turned them into a positive force to help others. She helps others handle grief according to this Time article, and inspires many with her quotes.


3. Track Your Progress

Don’t forget that you’re in charge of whether or not you make progress. Of course, tracking progress is just as important as setting goals. Try writing down what you’ve done, not simply your goals. Make a column next to your accomplishments for rewards, too. This will push you to achieve more!

What to Do When Overwhelm Leads To Procrastination 

This is totally my case. Actually, in almost every other aspect of my life, this is not a problem. When it comes to the giant project that is the PhD, though, it seems to be another story.
There is so much data in my project.  Do you know the feeling? How can we feel like we’re doing something worthwhile?

1.  Remember Why You Started

Sometimes it’s easy to lose focus of why we started a project when we get completely snowed under.  I constantly remind myself that the outcome of my PhD and its implication for language learning students are really the important issues here.  The details, the struggle through analysis, the complex process – those are details.  What matters is how I can use what I find to help my language students, and perhaps even run a successful language school, or study abroad exchange program one day.



2.  Plan It Out (Google Calendar)How to Use Google Calendar

I write a lot about using Google Calendar effectively. It’s simply because I really love it.  When I’m overwhelmed, planning really helps me. Of course, the tricky part is getting everything done. So I’d suggest saving space to write that down, too. Checklists, post-it-notes, whiteboards – whatever works best for you.



3.  Get Close to Perfect

Wait…didn’t you say not to worry about being perfect?  Yes, I did.  In my view, getting close to perfect means working your hardest, doing your best, but not worrying about perfection. 
Remember my post on tradeoffs? It is definitely true that you can do anything, but not everything.  Define your priorities, decide which details you should nitpick and fuss over, and then get it done. 
Have a lovely and productive week!
P.S. Photography fans, the photo for today’ a post (and poster!) is one I took in Valencia a couple summers ago

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