If we weren’t naturally born “type A,” most of us learned to be “perfectionists.” It seems like the current way of the world is that in high school you have to do absolutely everything you can to ensure you get into college because (how many times have you heard this?) nothing is guaranteed. The question is, now that we’re in college, can we take a deep breath and relax? The answer is yes, and we probably should have taken that breath quite some time ago.
We have been led to believe that the harder we work and the more grueling our labor, the better off we are. Many of us, myself included, never even thought to question how this affects our productivity and the actual results of our efforts. Well, I can now tell you, after years of therapy and lots of trial and error, that the amount of hours you work is not necessarily positively correlated with your performance.
Perhaps the most challenging part of unlearning one’s deeply engrained perfectionist tendencies is challenging them for the first time. By challenge, I mean allowing yourself to stop working after a given period of time. It’s recognizing that to maximize your productivity; you have to recharge with rest and activities that you simply enjoy.
Last Spring quarter, I did just that. I mustered up the courage against all of my learned instincts, stopped working (on average) by 10:00 PM each night and allocated myself breaks for meals (actually eating mindfully rather than typing frantically between bites). I used weekends as actual free time, with at least one day blocked off just to relax and have fun. My work-life balance had never been better. My grades? No change.
It took not just acknowledging but personally realizing that limiting the amount of work I spent on homework actually made me more productive. My energy was refreshed, my mind happy and my brain more capable of focus. Being as involved as possible in what you are doing, whether it be “work” or “play,” is the key. Setting clear times to strictly do work (and to strictly not do work) enables you to focus better on both.
All in all, the scariest thing is simply breaking the habit itself. When you’ve spent years stifling your inner voice, trusting it can be difficult. But I guarantee you’ll be grateful you gave yourself a chance.