Tip of the Week: Leave Your Desk Messy

Spend too much time worrying about getting your desk perfectly clean and your work perfectly excellent and you might put yourself at risk for psychological problems.

A slavish devotion to perfection can be psychologically unhealthy, according to Benedict Carey writing for The New York Times:

[Several] recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress — as Freud, Alfred Adler and countless exasperated parents have long predicted — but also suggest that perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction.

Some people are such perfectionists that their behavior borders on clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder, says Alice Provost, an employee assistance counselor at the University of California, quoted in the article.

What’s the solution? Allowing yourself to do less than the best, to be less than perfect:

Leave work on time. Don’t arrive early. Take all the breaks allowed. Leave the desk a mess. Allow yourself a set number of tries to finish a job; then turn in what you have.

I don’t feel my desk must be perfectly clean, but I do tend towards perfectionism in my writing, so I’ve been experimenting with timeboxing to get articles finished.

What are you a perfectionist about and what do you plan to do about it?

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