Perfectionism: The Enemy of Productivity

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"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

"Strive for good enough."

We've all heard these phrases before, but what do they really mean?  And why is perfection such a bad thing anyway?  Don't we tell our kids that "practice makes perfect"?

Here's why perfection isn't something we should strive for: 

1) We'll never get there. 

No matter how hard we try, we're always going to find something that we could have done better.  That font could be cleaner, my word choice could be better, the image could pop a little bit more.  Striving for perfectection is simply an impossible goal.

2) Striving for perfection hinders our ability to actually get things done. 

When we strive for the impossible, we are doing so at the expense of everything else we want to get done.  The amount of time it's going to take you to bring a project from 90% to 99% is worth less than spending that same time getting a couple of other projects to 90%.  You're going to have a lot more impact if you focus on getting lots of things to a "good enough" standard, than if you get one thing to 99%.

3) No one is going to notice the difference between a 90% job and 99% job. 

By the time you get to 90%, that's typically "good enough".  That's the point where you have no typos, have no obvious errors, your work makes sense and is clear and concise.  Will you notice that you aren't at 99%?  Probably.  But will anyone else?  Very unlikely.

(Now, if you are a brain surgeon, ignore this advice.  If lives literally hang in the balance based on what you do for a living, then you want to be striving for perfection.  Or, at least, I want you to be.)

 

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