Chasing perfection leads to procrastination

Written by Jonathan Griffiths

Published 29 April 2022

That’ll Do (Perfection is an illusion so get it done)!

Like it or not, imperfection is the natural state of life, and as humans, we are flawed by our nature – and no amount of kicking and screaming will change that fact. When we focus on what is perfect, we lose our ability to be in awe, no one looks at a splendid rainbow and complains that the colours could have been brighter, and yet, in our modern culture, there is a constant emphasis on this elusive “virtue”. No wonder we spend so much time chasing it – it is the prevailing mindset. Yet, ironically, if you think about it, you would likely despise someone who has achieved this state of perfection and who’d want to be around someone who constantly reminds you of your own shortcomings (and chances are they won’t be much fun to be with either!).

“Perfect is the enemy of good”. “Done is better than perfect”. Or in George Orwell’s words, “the essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” You may have happened across various iterations of the same principle implying that striving for quality – or even just complete work – rather than perfection can increase productivity. Of course, you don’t want a surgeon to think done is better than perfect when performing life or death surgery, but for us mere mortals, entrepreneurs and business owners among us, changing your mindset about what is good enough can be a great productivity boost.

Have you considered that striving for perfection might even damage your business? Perfection and success are almost inevitably mutually exclusive – one does not relate to the other in any way, and here is why;

Nothing you work on will be perfect. Ever
This may be hard to read, but you can be the best in your industry, and you still won’t be perfect at what you do. No marketing campaign will make every consumer buy your product, and no call to action will reel in 100% of the forecasted clients. This of course does not mean that you shouldn’t strive for excellence, but finishing a project is much more important than sitting on it because it “isn’t just right”. This leads me to my next point;

Chasing perfection leads to procrastination
Because you hold yourself (and perhaps your entire team) to such high standards, starting a particularly daunting task is often placed on hold. You don’t know where to start, because it has to be perfect. As we’ve established, it will never be perfect, and doubting yourself and what you can realistically achieve will only lead to analysis paralysis, and ultimately, procrastination. Meanwhile, your competition swooped in during your lull, and they got the job done while you were nit-picking the details. Instead of trying to do it perfectly, just get it done. Here is another great quote; “Beginning is half done”. Just start, and give yourself permission to make mistakes.

Imperfect and done is better than perfect and incomplete
“A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.” Does this ring a bell? An unfinished project hobbled by a quest for perfect is no more valuable than a project never started! If you don’t pull the trigger on your latest creation, product, or campaign it won’t make you a dime. So long as you tinker and change the scope to get it just so, you will not reap the benefits of your hard work. Even substandard products sell more than ones never reaching the market. Yes, strive to do better, but know when to say “good enough” and move on.

You are killing your creativity
Many perfectionists consider anything less than perfect to be a failure. Indeed, this mindset is the antithesis of growing, learning, and inspiring creativity. Innovation, which is a critical tool to bring about positive and successful changes, are squashed by the crippling fear of not getting it done

perfectly. As a result, your business or project will stagnate if you are constantly worried about “failing” at what you are doing. Again, your competitors have no such qualms, and they are thriving on the gap you are leaving in the market while you are stuck in the devilish details.

You are never done so you will never rest
If you are a perfectionist in your job, it is highly likely that you don’t delegate. With the all-or-nothing mindset that comes with the package, you believe that you are the only person to get the job done right, so you take on more than you can realistically handle. So, you say you will rest or play when the job is done – except it never is because it is never good enough by your own high standards. If there is one way to commit career suicide, it is suffering from burnout.

Failure to launch
Seemingly wanting things to be perfect is rather counter-intuitive, as many perfectionists are driven by the fear of failure itself. They, therefore, adopt a mindset that if it can’t be perfect, it isn’t worth doing at all. The fear of failure is really a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Break the Perfection Bubble
Striving for perfection keeps you safely tucked in a little bubble where there is no criticism, great risks, or bold chances. It keeps you in the limbo of doing things over and over again without putting your creation on display for the world to appreciate. Growth and learning only come from doing uncomfortable things – in this case, bursting your bubble and just getting things done – no matter how imperfect you find the end result.

Reset your expectations. Even veteran business owners and entrepreneurs get it wrong, and they understand that launching anything new on the market comes with trial and error. Creating something great takes patience, resilience and learning. You can commit yourself to refine the result, as long as there is a result.

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