Being a perfectionist is one of those traits that people like to humble brag about. It's a false negative that many believe makes you successful and better at your job. And sometimes it does. But being a perfectionist is not great for your productivity. Analyzing over minute details can sidetrack you from the bigger picture and leave you with little time for much else.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, and suggested the INO technique to Fast Company. INO stands for Investment, Neutral and Optimized. One of the issues perfectionist often run into is understanding that not every task and/or project requires the same amount of time and effort. Thinking about the INO forces you to take a step back and consider where the importance lies.

Investment Activities: These are the tasks with a big ROI. You can spend more time on these activities because it can garner a larger return.

Neutral Activities: These are the type of activities that you get out of it what you put in. Think of something like a staff meeting or a monthly report -- these are standard things you have to do, but may not be of the most importance.

Optimized Activities: These are tasks that won't have any return on your time investment. Something like responding to emails or administrative duties -- complete them as efficiently as possible and move on.

Saunders suggests asking yourself a few of the below questions in order to better understand what category a task belongs to:

  • Does this align with my priorities?
  • If so, how important is this?
  • How much value is there in doing this to a high level versus just getting it done?
  • What’s the minimum required I need to do to accomplish this task?
  • How much time do I have to spend on this?

Try out this technique the next time you find yourself mulling over a task. Better yet, categorize your to-dos into the three headings above and give yourself time limits for each.

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