What Is The 80/20 Rule For Perfectionism? - Here's How It Can Help

Last updated by Katie M.

Perfectionism is a paradoxical trait, and it's for that precise reason that it has ruined my life for such a long time. On paper, it may seem like a positive quality to have and implies meticulousness, however, in reality, it is closely linked to anxiety and can cause huge problems in our professional and personal lives. In my personal experience, my need for everything to be faultless meant I'd spend hours and hours working on projects and worrying that nothing was ever good enough. The truth is, by putting in so much extra effort, I was wasting my time and making myself ill, whilst neglecting other important tasks. I eventually realized that something needed to give, and that's where the 80/20 rule for perfectionism came in and saved the day!

What Is The 80/20 Rule For Perfectionism? - Here's How It Can Help

The 80/20 rule is a coping skill for perfectionism

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, is a simple technique used to overcome tireless meticulous impulses in every walk of life. It consists of believing that 80% of your results do in fact come from 20% of the efforts you put in. In other words, if, for example, you are aiming to work on something for an hour (60 minutes), in the first 12 minutes (20% of the time), you'll have already completed 8/10's of the task. The most important principle to retain from the 80/20 rule is that the more time and effort you put into something, the less effective you'll become, and the more you'll begin to doubt yourself and the quality of your efforts. (Thanks anxiety 😔...)

How the 80/20 rule helped me

I've been ridden with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and my anxiety coupled with my need for perfectionism made even the simplest tasks impossible for me. Even the easiest of tasks would take me three times longer than anyone else, which wasn't exactly something my demanding boss was happy to accept. Now, I can't deny that I was secretly aware that I had control issues, yet it was only when my boss assigned me a new important client dossier that I realized I needed to find coping mechanisms. Whenever I'd have to send emails to my VIP clients, I'd spend hours trying to find the best way to turn things and would write hundreds of drafts on my phone at night, ready to send in the morning. 

Perfectionism was drowning me and making me completely ineffective when, in reality, I had plenty of ideas to share, yet I couldn't get any of them across because they were never ready. Whilst opening up to a friend about the vicious circle I'd been dragged into, she told me about the 80/20 rule, which eventually went on to relieve me of my worries and stress. Now, it didn't work straight away for me, but by keeping the principle in mind, it eventually changed the way I viewed things and modified my approach to what seemed like daunting and endless projects.

5 Reasons why perfectionism is the enemy of progress

Perfectionism may seem harmless, but it does in fact toy with our mental health and multiplies the doubts that we face. Here's why it's more of a hindrance than an asset.

  • 1) It increases procrastination in our tasks - A simple task is never simple for sufferers.
  • 2) It paves the way for disappointment - Perfectionists expect to be great at everything right away, which is of course unrealistic.
  • 3) It increases stress and anxiety - The disorders are intrinsically linked and constantly fuel each other.
  • 4) It means you are never satisfied - Perfectionists always believe that they could have somehow done better, or that their results are never good enough.
  • 5) Sufferers are critical of others - Nothing is ever good enough for them because their standards are so high...

They say 80% is good enough, but is it really?

Quantifying our results and efforts can lead us into a spiral of negativity and self-doubt. For me, focusing on such figures and percentages plunges me straight back into my high school days when I’d constantly worry about my grades and if I had achieved a high enough score on said test etc. Whilst some people love the idea of evaluating their performance with percentages, others hate it and feel very uncomfortable when they are required to do so. I like to think that if 80% is good enough for you, then that’s perfectly, likewise if you continually aim for 70 or even 90. However, what counts the most is that we are proud of our efforts and the things we do to achieve our goals.

What do perfectionists do when they fail?

Being good at everything, doing things right, and not getting out of the way, doesn't make you better. Think, for example, that the more you strive to be a perfect person, the less perfect you are. People aren't perfect, and we should see our imperfections as something that makes us unique. Only by embracing imperfection can we achieve perfect happiness. It is not by forcing oneself to be someone that one is not that one will succeed in being happy. Such behavior will only frustrate and stress us out.

Guilt, pessimism, and obsession are three words that define her perfectly. Indeed, she will never get what she wants, since absolute perfection cannot be achieved. As a result, perfectionists often fall into depression, and disappointments and other frustrations often follow. The perfectionist person, therefore, becomes very inflexible and just as little spontaneous. When they fail, they are no longer natural, and becomes someone rigid, without any charm. Like many other syndromes, perfectionism can be overcome. For this, the person must be aware that such an attitude will not help him to achieve happiness.

Editor's opinion - Give the 80/20 rule a go!

This technique may seem a little surprising, but, the only surprising thing about it is how effective it is. In my case, it really helped me at work, and succeeded in changing the way I approach tasks. Plus, applying it has also given me an extra coping method to use against my anxiety. So, if you are a self-confessed perfectionist, what are you waiting for? Learn to prioritize your time and efforts, as I did!

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!


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I try to be 80-90% satisfied with my work, and call it 'good enough', and try to let it go. Because there is not a thing I couldn't improve on, and it can be a never-ending cycle, so not directly related to your article the rule is. If i'm 90% satisfied, then it's good enough. Even then, I will remove something I shared because no matter what, it's never good enough anyway - and that can be validated/qualified if your work online is ignored :D There is no rule or winning.. At best find a job or career where others tell you its good enough - and get you on the next task. They can benefit from your high standards and work ethic, but can guide you to the next task.

JohnnyTryToBePerfect 2 years ago

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How to detect a narcissist?

How to detect a narcissist?

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde