“Done is better than perfect”
This phrase is something I have been hearing quite a bit lately. As a bit of a perfectionist myself, I must admit that when I first heard this I struggled to get on board with the concept. But as it came up time and time again, I started thinking about it more. Maybe there is some merit to it after all. Especially if the idea of perfection is actually holding you back and stalling your productivity.
I mean what is “perfect” anyway? Who gets to decide what perfect is? What’s perfect for one person might be completely wrong for another – and that’s ok because we are all different! Everyone’s idea of perfect is different. Even our own ideas of perfection are not set in stone either. It’s an ever-changing concept that evolves and develops as we grow and learn as individuals. What’s perfect for your business right now might be completely different in 6 months time. So why is there so much importance placed on achieving perfection anyway? And why do we let this “ideal” stop us from getting things done?
Let’s have a look at an example. Say you are putting together a website for your business. You spend hours searching for the perfect template and layout. Days developing the perfect content and images to go on your website. It looks great, but you keep putting off launching your website for weeks because it’s not quite perfect yet, so you keep working away on it.
Meanwhile, while you are busy trying to make everything perfect, a competitor comes along and launches their site. Sure it’s not as fancy and polished as yours is, but it still looks good and it’s functional with no issues or mistakes. Most importantly though, it’s DONE and it’s out there for everyone to see. Guess who your potential clients are going to find first – yep the website that’s done. Not the one that’s a “perfect” work in progress which hasn’t been launched yet.
In this case, having a good website that is DONE is better than having a website that isn’t even out there because it’s not perfect. Especially when the reality is that you can always make changes and improvements to it once you have launched anyway (and I can guarantee that you will change your website as your business develops). So instead of letting your desire for perfection hold you back, learn to recognise when it’s “good enough” and call it done.
But let’s just delve a little deeper here for a moment. What is the real reason behind your quest for perfection? I know for me personally, sometimes my perfectionism has been used as an excuse. It was a way for me to postpone something. But why? What was the real issue? For me it came back to fear – I was afraid and hid behind perfectionism as an excuse. I used it to procrastinate, rather than just getting things done. It was the fear of putting myself out there, the fear of what people were going to think or say, the fear of rejection or even the fear of failure. That was the real issue. I felt like everything I did had to be completely perfect so I would be accepted or approved of, which is crazy because no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all have flaws.
Now I absolutely still believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. And I will always continue to work that way. I have high standards in my own work and don’t believe in only half doing things. But, maybe there is room to relax a little without compromising quality or my standards. Maybe almost perfect is good enough after all. I mean no one is going to see my vision of perfection in exactly the same way as I do anyway.
So, if you are looking to relax your idea of making things perfect in favour of getting more things done, here are a few things to remember:
- Recognise if you are using perfectionism as an excuse for something else, and then uncover the real reason behind it
- Everyone sees perfection differently and even your own ideas around perfection may change
- Achieving greatness is different to perfection. Things can still be amazing without needing to be “perfect”
- Don’t get in your own way. Learn when it is “good enough” and call it done so you can move on to the next thing
- Find the balance. Don’t go too far the other way and allow your standards to slip in order to just get something done
- As a minimum, make sure there are no mistakes, faults or errors in your work before calling it done (this will look different for everyone depending on your line of work)
- Don’t be so hard on yourself – we are often our own worst critics. Change your perspective and take a look at your work from your client’s point of view
- Evaluate the importance of the task vs the amount of time you spend on it. Are you spending your time wisely or is it time to move on?
So yes, I have come to accept that the concept of “done is better than perfect” certainly does have a place. But I have also realised that it doesn’t have to mean compromising on your standards or the quality of your work either. And just because something isn’t “perfect” it doesn’t mean that it’s not wonderful in its own right.