done is better than perfect

Today is April 4th, and I just finished my taxes.

My next actions list tells me I’ve been putting off my taxes since January 3rd. Not my proudest moment, especially since I, you know, have a blog about productivity. Come on, Vieker, this is a little embarrassing. What’s the problem?

The problem is perfectionism. I struggle with trying to do things perfectly instead of just doing them.

If you read this blog, I’ll wager you deal with perfectionism too. Shall we look at perfectionism up close and examine its glaring flaws? Let’s.

Perfect Is an Illusion Anyway

There really is no such thing as perfect, because we can always do a little better.

  • There’s no perfect blog post, that’s for sure.
  • No perfect golf shot.
  • No perfectly-fitting pair of pants.
  • No perfectly-frosted cake.
  • No perfect Saturday morning.
  • No perfect job.

We quickly hit a point of diminishing returns when we chase perfect: the closer we get, the more energy is required.

To use my “pants” example from the list above: finding a pair of pants that fits well is easy, fast, and cheap (Levi’s 513s on Amazon, baby!).

Finding a pair that fits perfectly is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive (doing extensive research, ordering several pairs of pricey boutique jeans, sending most of them back).

Since I don’t make a living wearing perfectly-fitting pants (and who does?), I’ll take my 513s and be on my way, thank you very much.

Most Situations Don’t Require Perfection

If you manufacture pacemakers, design airbags, fly commercial jets, or perform surgery, I’ll take perfect, please (or very, very close).

For most things, though, plain old excellence gets the job done just fine. And for some things, good enough is good enough.

Even taxes don’t require perfection. I have a good accountant, and he’ll let me know if something seems screwy.

Done is better than perfect, and besides, we rarely find ourselves in a situation where perfect is really required.

We’re Limited by Time

Time is our most valuable resource, no question.

Even if we ignore the first two reasons (and I’m real good at ignoring them), there’s no avoiding the fact that there just isn’t enough time to do everything perfectly. We’re forced to pick and choose.

It’s worth taking a hard look at what we do on a daily or weekly basis and asking ourselves a couple of questions:

  • “Where can I save time by substituting excellence for perfection?”
  • “What am I putting off because I’m dreading the work required to do it perfectly?

As for me, I’m going to try to remember this next January. But for now, I’m off to bask in the warm glow of done.