And I know many people, even those in my inner circle, who struggle with perfectionism.
It’s okay to admit it. You’re in good company.
The question is – how can your overcome it? Can you reframe your perspective? See things from another point of view? Distinguish your fears or hang ups?
Here are three ways I’ve successfully overcome perfectionism.
I have found one of the best ways to overcome perfectionism is to publish more.
Don’t like your voice? Record 100 podcast episodes and put them up on iTunes.
Don’t like how you look? Film 100 videos and upload them to YouTube.
Think your music sucks? Make 100 songs and distribute them through CD Baby.
I promise you will feel differently about your work if you just focus on creating and publishing for a while, without getting caught up in anything else.
I’m running a tight ship here on my blog these days, but trust me, when I was getting started, there was no form, no plan, and no intended audience. I just started writing. And my early posts are still in the archives for anyone to see.
Even though I’d had over a decade of experience building niche sites and building traffic to them, I still had to find my voice for this new undertaking.
Some will say one amazing piece of content is worth more than 100 pieces of terrible content. But what if you can’t get to that amazing piece until you’ve gone through the 100 terrible pieces first?
Trust me, all your heroes have practiced too.
If you really feel you need to create a spotless record, then publish under a pseudonym. You can always take the “greatest hits” and publish them under your real name or artist name.
One of the reasons you’re worried about perfectionism is because you haven’t published enough. Because when you publish frequently, you realize people don’t care that much anyway, and you were better off getting started yesterday to build some momentum.
Lately, I’ve been working on a new website/membership platform. I’ve spoken elsewhere about this, but for whatever reason I kept putting it off even though it represented a great opportunity.
Sidebar, I’ve recognized that there’s a big difference between unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Unfamiliar is when you’re treading into unknown territory. Uncomfortable is when you don’t know how to act in a situation.
Distinguishing the two gave me access to something I didn’t have before. I started to see that I wasn’t uncomfortable building my new website. I was unfamiliar with the new platform. And I was kind of dreading having to learn new tech.
So, getting back to the point, we often feel like we should work on something until it’s perfect before the world ever sees it. It’s amazing how much this can slow you down.
Instead of trying to get everything perfect on my website, developing all the copy, getting the graphics to sit and look right, working on all the boring disclaimer pages, I just started blocking everything in.
Logo goes here. Menu goes there. This button leads to that page. And so on.
It wasn’t perfect. I knew I would need to adjust the size of the logo, swap out the typography, add more copy, flesh out the boring content pages, and more.
But I realized there was no need to put makeup on something that wasn’t even out there working for me.
I’d heard about starting with an MVP before. I just didn’t fully understand the wisdom in that until now.
If you start with the basics, you’ll be able to bring your project to market sooner, get feedback on it, and even start making money with it, if that’s your goal.
Plus, you can still make it better later. But that extra 20% of greatness probably won’t matter to most of your audience, and it probably won’t make your project that much more appealing either. Patreon CEO Jack Conte expressed similar sentiments with me regarding his musical efforts.
Remember How Good it Feels to Finish Something
Until you make the decision to get started, stay started, and remain started until something is finished, goals and to-do items are allowed to sit on your calendar indefinitely. And the longer they stay there, the more anxiety they can elicit. No wonder we begin resenting our own projects!
It has been my own experience that, over the years, I have not always been the best finisher of projects. I have started many, and many were completed. But I’m acutely aware of the books I have yet to complete, the music I have yet to release, the courses I have yet to launch, and more.
Sometimes I overestimate what I can do in a year. Other times, I just don’t prioritize well enough (remember the unfamiliar/uncomfortable distinction from earlier – it helps!).
In times like these, I try to remember how good it feels to finish something.
My biggest accomplishment in 2020 was launching my latest book, The Music Entrepreneur Code. Although I did complete other projects, the main reason I feel this was my biggest accomplishment is because though I teed up a bunch of other projects, I never finished them (hopefully, I’ve set myself up for an amazing 2021).
My second biggest accomplishment would be publishing daily since the end of July.
The point is that you can make finishing a habit. You can learn to focus on one thing at a time (recommended), and you can get in a powerful momentum cycle by doing so. Doesn’t that sound great?
Well, not if you ask me. Because I procrastinate. A lot.
It’s just a matter of knowing what to procrastinate on, and why.
Not sure what I mean? Let me introduce you to productive procrastination and why it’s a must in your creative efforts.
A Bias Towards Productive Procrastination
I admit. I have a bit of a bias towards productive procrastination.
Emails are responded to late. Bill payments are made at the last minute. My space only gets a thorough cleaning twice per year.
And this has had certain drawbacks, though not the ones you would expect. I don’t have terrible credit. People aren’t constantly on my case about unfinished projects (I finish most if not all on time). And my home is not infested with creepy crawlers.
The main drawback is there are always tasks on my to-do list that take up too much mind space and cause light anxiety if left unfinished. But because they are low priority, I procrastinate on them.
Then, there are some decisions that could have been made that you regret not making. When you use productive procrastination as a tool, your default position is omission. But there’s always that social event you wish you went to, that friend you should have helped, that rare opportunity you missed.
Well, you can’t do it all anyway. And if you’re an ambitious creative, you shouldn’t aspire to. It takes too much work, you don’t get the things you want to get done, and it can even lead to burnout.
If you’re the type that needs to know everything in advance, and things hanging in the balance drive you nuts, productive procrastination probably isn’t for you. But otherwise, it has certain benefits that are hard to deny.
What is Productive Procrastination?
It’s about leaving the less important, low value tasks until later (and in some cases, “never”).
You’ve got to be clear on what low value tasks are to you. To me, emails, texts, voicemails, errands, paying bills, and the like all tend to fall under this category. It doesn’t mean I don’t deal with them. It just means they don’t come first in my day, or even my week.
There are a couple of books that can add a meaningful layer to this conversation.
The first is Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (affiliate link). Covey’s famous four quadrants form the foundation of my prioritization and productivity habits. You can Google “Covey’s four quadrants” to get a good sense of how this works.
The second is Tim Ferriss’ essential, The 4-Hour Workweek, which details how Ferriss was able to run a business as he was traveling the world. And you will find productive procrastination at work in a major way, especially as applied to communication.
Ferriss points out that most communication isn’t an emergency, so getting to it later or never has fewer consequences than you might be inclined to believe.
Now, I said that you should be clear on what low value tasks are to you. But this is of little consequence if you don’t know the opposite – tasks you would consider high value.
Writing is my highest value task, and, true to form, it shows up first in my calendar too. My day begins with writing because it is just that important, so I give it the best part of my day. And all other things can wait until I’m done writing.
Why Procrastinate Productively?
The old model of productivity (productivity 1.0) was just getting things done. And getting things done is a good starting point. It’s worth getting some practice in this area if you’re new to it.
But what people realized was that even though they were getting a lot done, a lot of important things weren’t even being touched. If anything, the urgent seemed to take over available time for the important.
So, then came productivity 2.0. This proliferated in many forms – Covey’s four quadrants, Priority Management, Brian Tracy’s The Science of Self-Confidence (affiliate link), and so on.
In productivity 2.0, we saw a movement towards getting the right things done and prioritizing high value tasks in one’s day. People noticed that, if it wasn’t scheduled, it wasn’t real. So, they started putting everything in their schedule.
Productivity 2.0 strove to put the important back on main stage.
The main drawback of productivity 2.0 was that people ended up working insane hours just to fit everything in! And this led to a net productivity loss, because by midweek, they’d be all out of steam.
To be fair, some managed to find a meaningful balance, and 2.0 was certainly better than the original model.
Productivity 3.0 is where productive procrastination started to show signs. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (affiliate link) methodology, lifestyle design as taught by the likes of Tim Ferriss and James Schramko, and more. Finally, life was put in its rightful place again – taking center stage.
With 3.0 arrived the age of creating the life of your choosing. Many opted for a life of joy and balance, though, and it was available through rigorous systemization.
Productivity 4.0 is doing everything by intuition. Listening to your heart and doing things that feel like a 10 out of 10 instead of a four, seven, or eight. Vishen Lakhiani and Kyle Cease are both proponents of 4.0.
But getting back to the question, the main reason to procrastinate productively is so you can face the blank screen or canvas and finally do the work that matters.
At first, productive procrastination will probably seem lazy or maybe even fun. But then you realize it’s something else completely. It’s about facing your fears.
Because there’s something scary about launching that course, finishing that album, writing that book, or otherwise.
You probably don’t even realize that fear is the reason you’ve been putting it off. Until you’ve blocked out all distractions and given yourself space to work on what you say is important to you, you aren’t even present to it.
Now that you’ve created the space, you realize you’ve got to face the fear to move forward.
In this case, though, the fear is telling you that you are on the right track. If you felt indifferent, or normal, or sterile, you would probably be working on something that amounts to thumb twiddling.
If you feel fear, you are working on something that has the potential to matter. And it will most certainly matter to you, even if it doesn’t matter to anyone else.
And while some might consider the content “basic,” I have read this book several times, and each time different parts of it have spoken to me more clearly and loudly.
Spaced repetition is good practice with any material you intend to internalize, but this type of magic isn’t present in many books. The Magic of Thinking Big is one of those rarities.
So, even if you think it might be too basic, too commonsense, or too obvious, give it another try. Read it all the way through. Likely, some passages will be highlighted just for you, and you will be better off for having read them.
2. As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
As A Man Thinketh (affiliate link) is a personal development classic that lays everything out in black and white. Its core tenant – that our outer world reflects our inner world (the mirror principle) – is also echoed in age old philosophies and wisdom.
More in-depth reading will be required to flesh out this concept in full. The Secret, and more importantly, Reality Transurfing Steps I-V. But jumping into these books without some context and endurance (Reality Transurfing is over 700 pages long) is going to prove lofty.
I believe author James Allen’s intent to be pure. That said, you can still take this information the wrong way, believing that all “bad” thoughts must be banished lest they manifest in your reality. That is a tall order for the best of humans, and let’s face it – that passing thought you had about your friend’s head exploding isn’t coming true.
That’s why I say it may be a good starting point, but only that.
3. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
So, what is the secret to adulthood? How can we remain productive and effective? How can we find the internal resources required to make our dreams a reality?
You’ve heard much about compound interest. Well, The Slight Edge (affiliate link) shows you exactly how it works as applied to life decisions, ranging from business and finances to health and relationships.
The Slight Edge is an easy read. But you will get something from it that no summary can provide. You will gain a sense of motivation as you never have before, and a clearer plan for the achievement of your goals.
If you can find an early edition, that’s what I recommend. Newer editions are needlessly repetitive.
4. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect (affiliate link) picks up where Jeff Olson’s The Slighted Edge let off. First, you will be schooled again on the importance of the compound effect. But reinforcement is good.
Fortunately, this is not the same book. It’s just that Hardy and Olson both hold motivational speaker Jim Rohn in high regard.
In this short volume, Hardy unpacks choices, habits, momentum, influences, acceleration, and how understanding these components leads to jumpstarting your income, life, and success.
Great reading for newbies and personal development fiends alike.
5. Beyond Positive Thinking by Robert Anthony
Robert Anthony is required reading if you claim to be a self-improvement enthusiast, and in Beyond Positive Thinking (affiliate link), we find him in prime form.
Positive thinking can spark ideas and help you see possibilities in challenging situations. But maintaining positive thinking is a herculean task at best, and many have keeled over at the alter of positive thinking.
This is beyond positive thinking, though, and author Anthony doesn’t sugarcoat it. He tells you exactly what to expect as you begin climbing your personal mountain towards desired outcomes and results.
You will be inspired. But you will also understand that the path to your goals isn’t paved with unicorns and rainbows.
6. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
Best known for his success with the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and appearance in The Secret movie, here author Jack Canfield explains the 67 principles, how to apply them, and how Canfield himself has seen them at effect in his life and the lives of others.
How Canfield expects you to remember or even apply all 67 principles is well beyond my grasp. That said, I don’t think you need to be a devotee to every principle to find success on your own terms. The book offers both inspiration and practical steps you can apply, and both are key ingredients to a better book.
Despite the critique already given, The Success Principles (affiliate link) is a great read for those who aspire to more. Pay special attention to the Rule of 5, which can basically be applied to any aspect of your creative projects, business, health, relationships, life, or otherwise.
7. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (affiliate link), author Mark Manson comes out swinging, showing the reader in daylight clarity, how personal development hasn’t made a single soul happier. Ouch.
But he does not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The subtle art is a subtle shift in perspective – seeing self-improvement from an angle that’s often missed by motivational speakers parading standout successes and abnormal achievements.
Manson says instead of trying to measure up to the gurus, the prodigies, and the geniuses of the world, work on you. Embrace the ordinary that you are, stay curious and ask questions – never assuming you know it all. Then you will never run out of growth runway.
You have more to gain from Manson’s loving tough talk than many a fluffy personal development book.
The above list should not be considered definitive or comprehensive, and depending on what you’re working on right now, there are more great books to choose from. If you need a recommendation, just leave a comment below and I will get back to you.
What is your favorite self-improvement book? Are there any you think I should read?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
It’s like if someone came to Music Entrepreneur HQ and pitched a guest post about the environment (oh wait, this actually happened!).
Sorry, though many musicians are environmentally conscious, trying to sell them your recycling services is going to prove an uphill battle.
What are musicians interested in? Growing their fan base. Getting listeners for their music. Bringing a crowd to their shows. And so on.
There might be an opportunity to sneak in some tips about reducing their carbon footprint in an offer that covers one or more of the topics just mentioned. But it would be best to assume no opportunity, because you want your content to be focused and targeted.
Who is interested in recycling services? That’s what you’d want to figure out before pitching your offer.
In like manner, if you wish to create an irresistible offer, you must know your audience and what their needs are. If you can, go and ask them now.
This book has instant magnetism to anyone who a) blogs and b) wants to make money blogging.
I bought a copy many years ago, because both a and b applied to me.
As I began reading it, I soon figured out that there were no secrets (at least none which I didn’t already know), at which point the book became a little less valuable to me. But the copy still hooked me and that got me in the door. And overall, I don’t regret the purchase.
So, consider what would be valuable to your audience.
Are business consultants looking for more clients? Almost always!
Are podcasters looking to build a bigger audience? Unless their name is Joe Rogan, and they’re just doing it for fun, the answer is yes!
I would suggest taking a little more of an investigative approach to figuring out what your audience truly desires (don’t just assume), but I think you get the point.
Once you know your audience and what problem you’re solving, it’s just a matter of wrapping it in a sexy outer coating.
Let’s go with the podcast example. You could name your product:
How to Grow Your Podcast Audience
How to 10x Your Podcast Audience in 90 Days or Less
Which seems more attractive to you?
Build Authority & Credibility
Again, I feel as though I’m beating a dead horse.
But I’ve thought back on my purchases over the past year, and I must say, most of them were based on my partiality to certain personalities. Meaning, I bought from those I know, liked, and trusted.
And that’s generally how business works. People don’t just buy randomly. At least not very often.
Sure, people binge and go on shopping sprees. But even then, most of the time, you could say their behavior was predictable based on interests and past purchases.
So, the question is, how do you become known by your target audience? How can you be seen favorably by them? What signals would they be looking for? What achievements, accomplishments, or experience would speak to them? How could you position yourself uniquely in the market?
These are critical questions. And they all deserve thoughtful answers.
I’ve seen marketers make up B.S. backstories to appeal to their target audience, and sorry, that’s just not my thing. If you want longevity in your niche, I’d warn against such fabrication.
Earn your authority. Earn your credentials.
And until that day, just keep documenting your journey. Your audience will come along for the ride. And to your delight, they will buy your stuff anyway, especially if they see you in your transparency and authenticity rather than your bravado.
More isn’t Always Better
Writing definitive long form guides has shown to be effective. This statement is problematic.
Yes, it was the wont of yesteryear marketers, and to an extent, it still has its place. It can certainly help with SEO, though it shouldn’t be thought of as a silver bullet.
But let’s look at this with regards to an offer.
If someone had 77 Marketers Reveal Their Top Marketing Secrets for 2021 as their offer, it could seem overwhelming to prospects instead of being irresistible.
It depends, at least somewhat, on who the featured marketers are. But chances are I won’t know all of them, I won’t heed all their advice, and I probably won’t gain much by listening to all of them either (focus is spelt Follow One Course Until Success).
Even if you find you get a high conversion rate with an offer like that, chances are your engagement rate will suffer. And that’s not what you want unless you’re after a “quick buck.”
Something like this would probably work better as a lead magnet. Even though it might have the density of what some might consider a product, people aren’t always looking for denser material.
If you focus instead on helping your audience get quick wins, and stack on those, I think you will find your infoproducts more engaged.
Although I’m all for sales funnels, big bonus stacks with inflated value and gigabytes of content aren’t universally appealing. Again, assume people want fast results, and if you can get them wins upfront, they will stick with you for longer. It’s all about whether to play the long game or the short game.
And as I already said, it’s not necessarily about the value stack either, though there can be something attractive about an eBook that comes with three expert interviews and 10 video tutorials, just as an example (Nathan Barry has something like this).
Nathan Barry’s three-tier offer.
If the value stack is our chosen strategy, then we need to ensure it is in fact valuable (each product should solve a problem the last one created).
But let’s face it – many people sell “fake” value stacks. They just break one product broken down into six – three core pieces and three bonuses.
An irresistible offer can be at any price. It doesn’t need to be cheap. But it does need to reflect the value offered, be something the market can bear, and be more customer oriented than seller oriented (that’s key!).
Irresistible Offer, Final Thoughts
So, if you:
Understand your audience
Create a valuable offer
Build your authority and credibility (presence) with your audience
Give your audience exactly what they need
Price it at a rate your customers would be delighted by
You’ve got your irresistible offer.
Note that it can take time and effort to put all these pieces into place, but if you want to make an awesome product that also sells, you’ve got to put the work in.
What offer will you be creating in 2021?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
I reviewed my content responsibilities for the week. If you’d like to learn more about this, check my projects page. I also brainstormed some ideas where they were needed.
I went over the progress I made on product development this week, satisfied with what was accomplished.
I reviewed pending admin items. I still have several that have been on the docket for a couple of weeks, but I did make some progress this week.
I speculated on how to double my business in 2021.
I time blocked in Google Calendar to get clear on the lay of the land for this week.
Was there anything interesting that came out of this week’s reflection and planning session?
#StrategySunday planning sessions seem to improve with each passing week. I’m able to execute faster, and now I’ve identified four major “rocks” that need to be accounted for each week – content, product, music, and admin duties.
Speculating on possibilities is valuable no matter how tired you might feel. But it seems to work best when you choose one priority to brainstorm, instead of trying to generate ideas for many.
Time blocking always seems to provide some productivity benefits as you can end up finding unused time in your schedule. Certain time blocks can also be made “multipurpose” depending on what needs to be completed most.
Were there any ideas that came out of this week’s session?
Splitting tasks and action items under four major categories. Simple but powerful.
I had several great ideas (or at the very least, the beginnings of great ideas) regarding how to double my business in 2021. Much of it will revolve around the support and help of others.
I used to have a challenge with time blocking because I couldn’t seem to account for everything that needed to be done without working ridiculous hours. Now I see that multipurpose blocks pave the way to a meaningful solution, even if imperfect.
Between late nights, a bit of alcohol, and another productive week, I was feeling tired for #StrategySunday. But planning was still worth it!