Is Perfection Really Worth The Effort?


‘Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence’ – or burn ourselves out and drive ourselves crazy.

Trying to make something perfect is admirable and it’s going to get you a damn sight further than just putting up with ‘adequate’.

At some point though it’s going to become counterproductive and start to really impact your results, profits and sanity.

To be successful they say you have to be in the right place at the right time.  However, the pursuit of perfection can often bog you down and could mean that you miss out on the opportunity you’ve been working so hard for.


Time is money

Let’s say that you are working on a project that could earn you £100k IF you manage to pull it off PERFECTLY.  This means more work, more hours, more stress and more sweat than you’ve ever given before.

Now imagine that 90-95% of ‘perfect’ would net you £75k.  Even by my simple maths that’s a lot less return on investment.  Surely in this case you would be better off doing a little bit extra for a lot more return?

Well, it’s not always that simple.

To get to 95% might take you 95 hours (I like simple maths). Moving that to 100% is likely to double or triple the timescale.  So you’re now looking at a LOT more work for comparatively little return.

What’s more is that while you are obsessing over the minutia, your competition has stolen the next contract from under your nose or you have been passed up for another opportunity by the big boss.


Wait for it, wait for it……

You have the BEST idea for a new product or project and it’s going to be amazing.

Of course, you want to hit the ground running and make a huge impact when you launch it.  After all, you don’t want people to think that you’re an amateur.

So you set a launch \ completion date and set straight to work.

As the date approaches you decide that it’s not quite good enough or not quite ready yet so you push the date back.  The same thing happens next time round and probably a third time too.

Eventually you lose interest in it as it’s become a chore to work on it any longer and you’ve fallen out of love with it.

The end result is that your ground breaking idea never even sees the light of day.

Even if it does, there’s no guarantee all the tinkering and procrastinating will make it any better.

It’s probably not the best idea to just throw it out to the world without any care and attention but there’s certainly a middle ground somewhere.

If your product or service is in the public eye, then what better way to perfect it than feedback from your target audience? – your boss, colleagues, partners, clients etc?

That way you can be assured that it’s perfect for THEM.

Just sitting on it for weeks and months in the confines of your own office is unlikely to make it more appealing to anyone other than yourself.


Perfection vs procrastination

Not everything NEEDS to be perfect.

If you’re anything like me, you will love a good spreadsheet to make your life that little bit easier.

But does making it look pretty with shaded cells & perfect borders make it any more effective? Or is it just an outlet for your perfection and procrastination?

This can be true of almost any task on your to-do list.

No one is saying you should put less effort into growing your empire but just make sure you’re directing it in the right direction.

The actions you think are taking the quality of your work from good to perfect are more likely subconscious attempts to delay showing it to the world.

Don’t let the fear of failure and imperfection hold you back.


Sometimes slow & steady DON’T win the race

Would you rather be Haile Gebrselassie or Usain Bolt?

If your answer is ‘Who the heck is Haile Gebrselassie?’ or ‘Usain Bolt, obviously!’ then you might want to rethink your approach to planning and implementing your work projects.

As a perfectionist you probably set yourself a long deadline to allow you maximum time to get things just right.  The problem with this is you can feel a real lack of urgency and your creativity will remain dormant.

Many people find that they do their best work under the pressure of a tight deadline as it allows them to be really selective with their efforts and ensures you get all the important stuff done first, which is often enough.

The longer the deadline, the more time you will spend doing things you want to do rather than what needs to be done.  This approach can cause you to get so caught up in tinkering that you forget to nail the important stuff altogether and your work becomes sub-standard.


A tired brain is an ineffective one

The more you chase perfection, the further away it becomes.

Most people do their best work at the very beginning of a project as they are fresh, enthusiastic and thinking clearly.

The more you labour over something the more drained you become mentally and the quality of your work diminishes.

You will also start to lose that spark and excitement and no matter how much you tell yourself you want perfection you will in fact just be doing the bear minimum to get it finished.

Try and break your work into smaller more manageable sections and take regular breaks to keep yourself fresh.

Often I find that walking away from something is the best way to regroup.  That might be anything from 10 minutes to a few days depending on the size and urgency of the project.


Nobody’s perfect

It might sound like I’m telling you to do a half-assed job but I’m not.

It’s just there is a real difference between perfect effort and perfect results.  The former is all within your control, the latter is not always.

As long as you know you have given 100% effort, then you should be happy with the result.

Of course, you may strive to push your results and achievements to the next level and you wouldn’t be where you are now if you didn’t.

Self development and learning are vital to long term success but as long as you know that you gave it your all with the tools and skills you had available then you should consider THAT to be the epitome of perfection.


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