I don’t like seeing emails pile up in my inbox. I don’t like having unchecked items on my to-do list. I work hard to get projects done as soon as possible so they aren’t hanging over my head.
I always endeavor to do good work. Yet I don’t expect my work to be perfect. I would never call myself a perfectionist. However, I am a completionist.
I remember how hard it was to pull myself away from unfinished work to drive home from the office. Now that I work from home, I have to schedule the time to turn off the computer to enjoy my evening. Even then, I have to distract my mind fully or my unfinished work will haunt me. I have to hide my cell phone so I don’t see the flashing red light telling me there are emails waiting to be read.
I know I am a bit obsessive. I also know I’m not alone.
I have found this same pattern of behavior in many of my clients. From our discussions, it seems this pattern can start at any age. For me, I was always the first to turn in my assignments at school. I wasn’t showing off. I just wanted the tasks off my to-do list.
Some of my clients said they weren’t like this until the past decade. The more they were bombarded with email and things to do, the more they felt the need to get their lives in control. The irony of this behavior is that the more they tried to control their inboxes and lists, the less control they felt they had, leaving them feeling overwhelmed.
Even though we aren’t perfectionists, the way to manage our “completionism” is similar: let go. We have to find ways to let go of shoulds, coulds and so many “have to’s.” We need to identify when the obsession to get things done is causing stress and anxiety and choose to honor our health over our work.
The next time you keep telling yourself that it is vital you do one more thing before you can divert your eyes from your phone or computer, listen to your justification. Is it really a good reason or just an elaborate rationalization?
What is the worst that will happen if you get up now and walk away? What might you do better if you left it for tomorrow?
If you are a completionist, here is your challenge: Walk away from the computer. Hide your phone. Do something to relax our body as well as your mind. Do this at least twice a day, three times if you are brave.
You will still get enough done. You will still be accountable to others. You won’t be missing anything important.
Become the master not the victim of your lists. Then share with us what you did and what happened. All of us completionists need your inspiration!