How to Handle Too Many Projects and Priorities When You’re a Perfectionist

Everybody has too much to do and not enough time to do it.

But your situation is different.

Because you feel a certain kind of stress when you are overwhelmed like this.

And all the productivity wizards in the world won’t be able to help you if you don’t face the underlying issue.

You’ve taken on too many projects. You have too many priorities.

You don’t have enough time. You don’t have enough energy.

And you don’t know what to do besides work more. Work longer. Drive yourself insane chasing all the loose ends.

  • It’s hard to delegate because you don’t really trust anyone else with the important stuff.
  • It’s hard to get help because nobody responds fast enough.
  • It’s hard to deal with everything yourself because you literally cannot do it all.

It’s time for a new approach.

And this is the hard part for a perfectionist.

Why you are feeling so much stress

If any of this sounds familiar, you might be in the perfectionist loop of doom.

This is when you feel bummed out about not being able to do everything to the level of your expectations. And feeling bummed out lowers your energy and enthusiasm.

You start to lose hope.

That’s a problem for you. Because perfectionists are optimists.

That’s how you get the energy up to chase down all those loose ends and to keep going to the next level after everyone else has tired out.

You see a clear vision of a great solution. And you want it badly. You know it is possible. So you chase it down and you make it happen.

All of a sudden, that’s not possible in your current situation.

Now, you are spiraling in the wrong direction. And it’s tough to correct.

Here’s what you gotta do.

When it’s time to get real

It is probably time to face the fact that not everything is going to be perfect.

You might cringe at that. But you likely know that it is true.

And that’s what you are struggling with.

Because being perfect is everything when that work has your name on it. When you hold yourself to a high standard. When you know that the extra effort is always worth it in the long run.

The problem is that you can’t control your entire situation.

You may be in a dysfunctional organization. There may be too many decrees from on high.

Priorities may not be clear. Or they may be changing all the time.

You feel trapped.

And it feels awful because this is an attack on your identity.

  • Are you going to change who you are because you are in a shitty situation?
  • Are you going to give up on core beliefs about how you work?
  • Are you going to sacrifice more than you feel is right?

When you get to the point where you might be thinking things like this, it can really sap your energy.

Because if you give up hope, then you start to really lose out. The spiral gets deeper and worse and nothing is going to get done and your career is probably over.

That’s how you might feel. But that’s not how it really is.

You just need to take an important step. One that you maybe never took before.

You need to admit that you can’t do it all and do it all well. You are going to have to pick your battles. And you are going to have to let some stuff suffer.

Some work won’t get done well. And it will still have your name on it.

It will have passed through your capable perfectionist hands and it will not be perfect. It will be late, rough around the edges, or imperfect in some other way.

There might not be much wrong with it. Other people may not even notice or care.

But you will.

And here is where you need to make a strategic choice.

Doing less and doing more

You will need to be selective and realize that it you will be better off by deciding up front where your focus should be.

Selecting one thing and doing it really well is the way to go.

Other things will suffer, but that’s better than letting everything suffer and feeling bummed out about it all.

It’s better to use your perfectionist powers to do really well on one strategic choice. To garner that energy and enthusiasm by playing to your strength.

Because you need hope. And you need the energy that comes from that.

Eventually, you will see that by getting that one thing done and done well — to your higher standard — that you will have made a big dent in progress forward.

While it seems like the world is ending if you let anything go, it really doesn’t. It mostly just feels that way.

A new level of perfectionism

What you are really doing here is upping your perfectionist game. You are shifting to a broader view and a strategic approach.

Because in the big picture, it is clear that making real progress on the most important thing is going to be the winning strategy in the long run.

And you know that if you make that strategic choice and follow through, you will have done the most important thing in the best way possible. Which actually makes room for you to take on the next thing.

Because when that one big thing is done right, it no longer needs a lot of attention. And whenever you might need to circle back to it, it will be in good shape because you did it well. Which is exactly what you like to do.

Focused and strategic perfectionism is your way out of this mess. Do one thing at a time and do it really, really well. Gain energy and enthusiasm from that and take it to the next challenge.

That’s how you start to spiral upwards and play to your natural strengths as a perfectionist.

All you need to do is admit that everything can’t be perfect all the time. And that you don’t need to be perfect–but that you do need to be strategic.