Productivity, Perfectionism, and Learning to Chill

Fundraiser: check. Last show of the season opened: check. Sleeping: … mostly check. (I’ve had a series of intense, strange dreams lately that have kept me from sleeping entirely restfully. Hopefully, this is just a winding-down from the last several weeks.)

As someone with a propensity for perfectionism, reflection can be tough. We see our faults and the ways in which we can grow, and maintaining a clear eye on the positive can be difficult in the face of endless possibilities for improvement. I also care deeply, so keeping from taking criticism as an indicator of professional or personal value is a struggle. What to do in moments like these?

  1. Everybody gets forgiven. There are always ways that we can place blame for why a thing did or didn’t work. Rather than making them personal, assume that everyone — EVERYONE — gets a pass this time around. We all learn. We all grow. We all do the best we can. What happens when everyone gets the benefit of the doubt?
  2. Ask lots of questions. Beware the assumptions that people have particular information handy, or that they’re trying to keep something from you. Ask after why something happened in a particular way before trying to blaze a new trail. Were there reasons a given path wasn’t taken? Get as full a picture as you can.
  3. Think conceptually. Frame ideas in big umbrella concepts. Something causing stress? Was it an individual instance, or a general concept across the board that can be improved? Looking at improvement of approach to our work is key to growth in the long-term and helps avoid blame of a given individual.
  4. Remember that there is a person on the other side of your criticism. This is just as important, if not more important, when looking at one’s own work as when reviewing the work of others. You’re working with someone who has thoughts and feelings about what’s going on. Don’t discount that. Blame is ineffective. Nobody wants to work with someone who sees them as little more than a productivity machine, so why treat yourself (or anyone else) that way? Do it like a human. Like a kind, caring human.
  5. Let it go. How much will this matter in five minutes? Five months? Five years? Scale your concern and reactions accordingly. Learn to chill.

Today was good. Tomorrow is another day. Let’s do better.


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