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The three toxic P’s

by Bree Daniels

Stacked eggs
As marketers, we spend our days juggling the four P's: product, price, place and promotion. But in our pursuit of marketing mix mastery, we can sometimes fall into the trap of adopting three unhealthy P's: perfectionism, paralysis and an obsession with productivity.

Afflicted with these three P's myself, I’ve started experimenting with ways to refocus and re-energise. Marketers feeling the pressure might find them useful, too.

The communications industry is experiencing unprecedented transformation. Between navigating a changing landscape and the demand to demonstrate our effectiveness, it’s easy to fall into what I like to call a ‘Vicious P Cycle’. Striving for perfection can lead to paralysis, while inactivity can weigh heavy on a marketer who aligns their worth to consistent productivity levels. Let’s step it out so we’re aware of the signs.

  1. Perfectionism

    As a culture, we tend to reward perfectionists for their insistence on setting high standards, so it’s no wonder perfectionism is on the rise. Even if you’re not a fully-fledged perfectionist, you may exhibit these tendencies. As a recovering perfectionist, I know the need to accomplish can be all-consuming. Not only can it see you setting unrealistic goals for yourself, but worse, it can lead to you rejecting in others what we can’t accept in ourselves.

    Many of us live with a ‘go big or go home’ mentality. We lean into situations that are within our control. We like to be strong and in command of everything, including our feelings, which can keep us from engaging in challenging experiences and force us to play it safe.

    Perfectionism can suck you dry and inhibit creativity. If you’re always focused on your own performance, how will you pick up new skills? In a marketplace where innovation is king, adaptability is key. But when perfectionism gets its hooks in, it can hinder flexibility and blinker perspective. We’d all do well to remember that the opposite of perfectionism isn’t mediocracy, it’s clarity.   

  2. Paralysis 

    We’ve all heard of ‘analysis paralysis’ and many of us have felt stuck by over-thinking. Analysis paralysis describes any situation in which we overthink different outcomes so much that we are paralysed when it comes to making a decision. 

    We can thrive in the world of big data, and apply methodical step change to our programs, or we can drown in the vortex of data. Mapping out every potential scenario from a sliding-door moment, including those with negative outcomes, can cultivate fear that sends some of us (particularly perfectionists among) into avoidance mode. 

    While failure is one of life’s greatest teachers, at CHE Proximity we don’t necessarily buy into the mantra of ‘embracing failure’, or any of the other hype around ‘failing fast, often, better’. Instead, we believe in embracing resilience and the ability to bounce back. 

  3. Productivity obsession

    Pair paralysis with an addiction to productivity and it’s a recipe for self-defeat. As marketers, we’re constantly challenged to increase the productivity of our programs. Apps promising to thrust productivity to new highs flood the market. Ironically, overstuffing your to-do list out of guilt or a desire to keep pleasing is counter-productive.

    The ‘cult of busy’ started after the Industrial Revolution, when time was suddenly equated to money. In the knowledge-economy we associate our value with how in demand we are. However, like substance-abuse, a productivity obsession may provide initial gratification but it can quickly infect and interfere with life.  When you respond to the simple question ‘how are you?’ with a tirade of how ‘crazy busy’ you are, you’re effectively seeking external validation. Needing approval from others is an indicator of underlying insecurity rather than strength. 

    When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands you place on yourself and align self-worth to a consistent churn of productivity, negative inner chatter can kick in. 

 Balancing the P's 

So how can you get yourself out of the ‘viscous P cycle’ and back into balancing the marketing mix? It may be tricky, but there are things you can do when you see you’re getting stuck in a pattern.

Check yourself

 If you’re having a moment of self-doubt, stop and consider:

  1. Are your thoughts factual, or are they interpretations?
  2. Are you jumping to negative conclusions?
  3. Is the worst thing that could happen even likely?

 We tend to build elaborate lies in our heads while awaiting external validation, confusing compliments for deep and authentic sources of self-esteem. Doing a simple reality check makes you accountable for you own reassurance.

Success isn’t absolute – stop seeing it that way

Understanding the relativity of success can help you see the bigger picture. Is a program effective if you’ve improved monthly revenue targets but decreased customer lifetime value? Start to see your successes in true colour.   

Create rituals

Fear of failing can make you a passenger in your own life. Kick that affliction by adopting fear-beating rituals. If you can make the start of a sequence familiar you can empower yourself to march forward. In practice, this might be as simple as always lightening the mood of a meeting with a playful comment before you start your presentation. 

Avoid constant task setting

Accept downtime as ‘recharging’ time. Instead of anxiously piling more tasks onto your to-do list or triaging emails, enjoy the moment of quiet. Let anticipation give way to fun every now and then. The most meaningful ideas normally strike after you’ve given yourself a chance to refuel and refocus.

Start zeroing in 

Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking isn’t necessarily productive. If you start zeroing in on one thing at a time and consume only the information you need to finish the task at hand, you’ll get there quicker.  

Be true to yourself

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, showing up and letting others see you (yes, even the bits you’re least proud of) can feel like freedom. Instead of persistent pleasing, start saying ‘no’ to things that don’t serve you. I don’t mean rejecting your manager or client’s requests, rather give up behaving in contradiction to your feelings or beliefs. Being authentic can turn into self-acceptance and may even quiet the inner chatter of your harshest critic. 

Once you escape the self-reprimanding that comes with the ‘Vicious P Cycle’ you’ll find the space to adapt, innovate and become truly productive - creating real value in today’s world.  

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