Stress Management

To All Perfectionists: Say Goodbye to Your Stress!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I was a perfectionist.

Maybe you are, too.

We tend to see even the most minor details and perfect them. We wanted our projects in school to be flawless. In my case, I will re-print an assignment if there's a misspelled word because erasures are messy.

I used to stay late for my school projects because nothing seemed enough to make them ready for submission. I also rendered overtime at work to finish the nitty-gritty of project documentation. I won't go home until I am satisfied with my output.

But, I have to admit that being a perfectionist was stressful.

When I started applying Agile in software projects, it somehow changed my perspective. I realized I could also use some of the Agile Principles to my advantage.

Agility requires a different way of doing things, which involves a change of mindset. So, to beat perfectionism, I'm trying to master 3 out of the 12 Principles of Agile. And so far, I have already observed a significant decrease in my stress.

Unlearning perfectionism is not easy, but the benefits made my life better. So, let me share with you which Agile Principles I used to manage my perfectionism.

Beat Your Stress < Agile Principle #1 >:

"Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work NOT done — is essential."

The idea that the product would continuously evolve makes imperfection acceptable in Agile.

With time and resource limits, the team needs to simplify by identifying the non-essentials and setting them aside. The goal is not to deliver perfect and complete features in early sprints. Instead, the goal is to provide small working components of the software.

Yes, early development releases are imperfect. And, that's acceptable in Agile.

Photo by Paula Schmidt from Pexels

To simplify means to focus on what is essential and let go of the trivialities. The principle helps me overcome my tendency to overcommit. For example, I let go of my daily ToDo list. I realized that my long task list was overwhelming and causing me added stress.

Some Tips:

  • Plot your calendar appointments and meetings weekly.
  • Let go of your ToDo List or decide to limit the items.
  • Select the top 2- 3 priorities for the day (those not on your calendar).
  • List down your wish list for the day.
  • When you get overwhelmed, move some tasks to your wish list.

If you are using Google Calendar, you can set the settings to email you a daily summary of all your appointments and meetings.

Beat Your Stress < Agile Principle #2> :

"Working software is the primary measure of progress."

The Working Software and the Simplicity principles are somewhat related. The team simplifies by making sure that a portion of the software works. The goal is not to complete a big user story but to deliver a small part that works.

How did I apply the Working Software principle?

I learned to accomplish a goal and be content with the idea that I could still improve the output.

For example, I was too busy when I did my first New Hire Onboarding. So, I only used Notepad to onboard the new hire. Of course, using Notepad is not as good as using a slide show presentation. But, it didn't hinder me from achieving the goal.

(The subsequent onboarding, I was able to create a slides presentation. And, I keep improving it every time. )

Image from Pexels

Some Tips:

  • Define what's the goal of your task.
  • Break down your tasks.
  • Take a break after a small task is complete.
  • When you overthink, apply the Simplicity Principle.
  • Keep going until the goal is achieved.
  • Identify points for improvement the next time you do the task.

With Working Software, I have learned to develop a mindset of finding joy with small milestones. I don't have to make everything perfect to be happy. It's enough to know that I still have a chance to improve it further.

In a way, it makes life less stressful and makes work more fulfilling.

Beat Your Stress < Agile Principle #3> :

"Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage."

In a study, adaptability came out as the top required professional skill. Adaptability is the acceptance that "Change" is inevitable.

The same in software development, a genuine Agile Practitioner embraces the change principle. Any software update request is acceptable when deemed necessary.

When I started to instill the Change Principle in my mind, I have learned to manage my stress well. I de-prioritize a task if necessary. It's okay to get delayed with one task to make way for a more pressing one. With this mindset, there is no pressure to complete everything as planned.

Photo by hay s on Unsplash

Some Tips:

  • Make a buffer for unplanned tasks every day.
  • When things go as planned, go for the wish list items.
  • Answer chats and emails that don't take much time.
  • Acknowledge requests that take time but don't commit right away.

When we accept that "Change" is part of life, it's easy to go through with our day. We can change our plans as long as we stay focused on the end goal.

Life is better when it's not perfect

Agile has its way of doing things. As an Agile Practitioner, I have to unlearn perfectionism to be more effective.

I cannot say that I have tamed my perfectionism completely. I am still a work in progress now. The Agile Principles on Simplicity, Working Software, and Embracing Change helped me a lot in this journey to beating stress.

I have to accept that stress is always around me. I have to remind myself that I have a choice. If I choose to accommodate the trivialities, I need to be ready for more stress.

Or, I can choose to simplify and be content with what is doable, even if it means setting aside my plans to prioritize what is essential.

To conclude, I would say that:

Life is better when I accept imperfections, define my boundaries and limitations, and anticipate the unknowns.

NOTE: It takes courage to publish an article which is not perfect as I want it to be. But it doesn’t have to be perfect, right? Imperfect as it is, I hope that you still learned something. Thank you for reading.

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Alvie Balquin

Alvie Balquin

Agile Practitioner * 20+ years in software management * Technical trainer * Always a teacher by heart. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alvie-balquin-33a41251/