Beware Post-Summer Situational Perfectionism!

A few people have told me they’ve been having trouble getting back to work after summer vacation.

They’re telling themselves (and others, unfortunately, are also telling them) stuff like: “Okay, summer’s over. I’ve had my break. Now, I’d better get back to work. In fact, I need to work extra hard to make up for lost time.”

That’s an example of situational perfectionism, which is any condition that causes your perfectionism to spike. And, like all perfectionism, it’s a dead end. Putting pressure on yourself only causes your creative, productive self to rebel and shut down.

Also, let’s not forget that many vacations are not actually that relaxing. One person I spoke with did a “service vacation” where she nobly but stressfully helped out a charitable cause. Another had to unexpectedly renovate an apartment that a tenant trashed. Still another spent part of her vacation in close quarters with difficult relatives.

They all needed a vacation from their vacation!

I myself had a terrific summer with none of the stresses mentioned above. We took a couple of trips, including one to Japan. But even a great vacation can be wearying. So it took me a while to recover and recover my productivity, too. (I knew not to push it.)

So, lessons:

1) Don’t try to make up time after a break. (Kind of defeats the whole purpose!)

2) Don’t put pressure on yourself, or let others put pressure you. The minute you put even a bit of pressure on yourself you’re being perfectionist.

3) “Re-entries” are tough. Be patient with yourself while working to regain your normal work capacity.

4) Perfectionism is always a dead end.

5) The most reliable way to increase productivity—and, for many people, the only way—is to get more nonperfectionist.

So many great lessons from such seemingly small incidents! Productivity work is always like that: rich with depth and meaning.

As always, look forward to your thoughts…


  1. Excellent timing! I just got this post by email and it really came at the right moment. Still battling my PhD thesis, still determined not to give up.

  2. Super useful article about how re-entries can be tough productivity-wise! Higly relevant for me now.

    One week ago I finished some very busy weeks of volunteer work, and I have found myself procrastinating heavily since. Which was NOT MY PLAN! Cause now I was supposed to be catching up with all the studies and small tasks I left for later during that busy periode!

    Thanks to this article I will instead remind myself NOT to try to catch up. It was such a relief reading that advice, so I might as well try following it!

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