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Perfectionism And Memory Training


    Are you a person that is not happy until something is “perfectly done”?

    Of course, perfect is subjective in a way and more in tune with a feeling that you need to cross every t and dot every i and still have another look because you just don’t know what you may have missed.

    I coach many people who are perfectionists. Unfortunately, being a perfectionist means you’re also using up a lot of time. Most of it, wasted.

    Memory championships and perfection

    What I’ve learned from doing memory training exercises and competing in championships worldwide is that you can cover more ground and get more work done by sidestepping perfection.

    For example, one event in the memory championship is memorising as many numbers as you can in 5 minutes. The perfectionists would memorise up to 2 to 3 minutes max, then go back and revise to ensure they have memorised perfectly. This means they do not see 5 minutes worth of numbers, they only see the 2-3 minutes worth.

    The other lot (usually the champs), simply memorise the whole 5 minutes straight without any revision. This means more mistakes in general, however because they covered as many numbers as they could, they memorise a lot more. With practice, the mistakes become less and less, which means the numbers they end up memorising in the end are much more, hence breaking their personal bests.

    Not just a strategy, but ability to trust oneself and learn

    This approach is not just a strategy. It is about confidence in oneself to be ok with mistakes and know that by making the mistakes there is something to learn from.

    A student of mine recently told me she takes eight hours to write a 2000-word essay because she is trying to make every sentence perfect. Trying to make it all count.

    The problem with this is that going at this pace trying to perfect significantly slows down the finish time and eats up into the other subjects and assignments time.

    Just like the champion memory athletes, writing the essay in full without perfection and completing it in an hour or two, then gives them the opportunity to go back, look at any mistakes, improvements, add references, research, and so on. For those familiar, this is similar to the iterative approach used in agile project management.

    This non-perfectionist approach has many benefits:

    – It motivates the student to complete a task
    – It gets the student to have a deeper understanding of the work
    – It reduces procrastination

    The procrastination reduction is a huge problem solved as many people I’ve worked with don’t end up doing tasks, not because they don’t want to, but because mentally they are playing stories in their brain and trying to justify to themselves how taking a break on their phone or viewing another YouTube clip is what they need at the time.

    By completing a task quickly, it then gives further motivation to complete.

    What you can do

    So if you are a perfectionist and things are taking longer than expected, ask yourself, how can I get this done quicker? Because chances are you will not only get it done quicker, you will go back and then perfect it in the end!


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