So, you are a perfectionist. And proud of it! And in some ways, that serves you really well. You maintain high standards, delivery quality, and people value your level of expertise. But sometimes, that perfectionism is causing you stress, procrastination, and depriving the world of receiving your great ideas and content. So what to do?

Adopt the mantra, “done is better than perfect.” Now before you get defensive, let me explain what I mean by that statement. I am not advocating that you use this mantra as an excuse to pump out shoddy, low quality work. That wouldn’t feel very authentic. After all, you’re a perfectionist, remember? What I am advocating is a relaxing of your unattainable standards. Allow yourself to make an objective judgment call as to when something may be good enough, even if you could make it slightly better if only you spun your wheels a little longer.

When it comes to productivity, I see a lot of clients that actually could be mo re productive if they permitted themselves to finish projects to completion. So what’s stopping them? Perfectionism. And what’s behind perfectionism? Well, a whole host of issues, some of which are trivial and some of which are deeply psychological.

Try this exercise. Pick a project that you have been hoping to finish, but that you have not completed yet because you want to get it “just right.” Now finish it. Not to perfection, but just to completion. Then release it into the world. There. The earth didn’t stop turning on its axis! Am I being sarcastic? A little. But really, that is what goes on in our heads. “I need to make this perfect,” “It is not good enough to share with anyone,” “If I only had a little more time, I’d get it right.” And so on. And while sometimes that may actually be true — a particular project may not be “ready” yet — other times, it can be “done” even though it may not be perfect.

Or is it perfect because it is done? The word “perfection” derives from the Latin “perfectus,” which in turn comes from “perficio” — “to finish,” “to bring to an end.” Perfection thus literally means “to finish.” So in that sense, done is equal to perfect! The oldest definition of perfection is attributed to Aristotle. He distinguished three meanings of the term, or rather three shades of one meaning. That is perfect:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

So ask yourself if you can carry out a project to completion and allow it to attain its purpose even if it may not be the best of its kind. Could you improve upon it later? Could you use its imperfect state as a learning tool for you or anyone that you are releasing it to? Could you honor its imperfect state and ask for feedback, assistance, or guidance?

Next time you feel perfectionism breathing down your neck, ask yourself if done is better than perfect in that instance. If the answer is yes, then let it go… and see how it feels.

About Lisa Montanaro

Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and enjoy productive and profitable businesses. To receive her free Toolkit, Achieve Powerhouse Success with Purpose, Passion & Productivity, visit www.LisaMontanaro.com/toolkit. Lisa is the author of "The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life" published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help you be purposeful, passionate and productive, contact Lisa at (530) 302-5306 or by e-mail at Lisa@LisaMontanaro.com.

10 Responses to “Done is Better Than Perfect!”

  1. Sue Donnelly

    Hi Lisa, Luckily, most of the time I’m a get on with it girl as I know it’s never good business sense to ensure everything is absolutely perfect every time. As you say, there is that sense of never getting finished and what is ‘perfect’ anyway? I think my problem is that I hurry things too much sometimes, just to get them off the ‘to-do’ list. What I’ve realised is this is usually more concerned with tasks I don’t really like doing. When I enjoy them, I give them more time and effort. A big lesson for me here. Thanks for the reminder. Great post

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks for your comment Sue. You hit the nail on the head! Some people tend to procrastinate over the things they do not enjoy doing, while others just pump them out quickly and do not pay enough attention to them if they don’t like them. Almost like pulling the band-aid off quickly because you know it will hurt! 🙂 Glad you got an a-ha out of this post. Thanks for your honesty!

      Reply
  2. Kimberly Englot

    “I am perfect in all my imperfection” is a mantra I had to learn early on to survive in business!
    I’ve found that the best way to do a job I don’t want to do (since the anticipation of doing it is actually more agonizing that the job itself!) is to make my environment as tantalizing as possible.
    I had a client who disliked paperwork and it was bringing her business down big time. I told her to make a date with herself to file her paperwork…that is, to make it enjoyable: Pour a glass of wine. Light some nice candles. Put on her favorite music and get comfortable. Ensure she had all her supplies (and if necessary folders, pens and anything else she’d need in fun colours and patterns to amp up the excitement) and just do it.
    She said that going in with that mindset made all the difference and now makes weekly paperwork dates with herself!
    Sometimes you just need a bit of momentum to get going!

    Reply
  3. Lisa

    Kimberly – Love that! Such a great piece of advice you gave your client. And it worked!

    I have done that with clients too… sometimes for the most annoying tasks. One client hated doing the laundry. But she never had time for herself, so we implemented laundry ME time. She would put in a load and for the 35 minutes that the washer was going, she allowed herself the time to read, watch a TV show, take a bath, take a walk… anything that was totally ME time. It completely transformed her idea of laundry! 🙂

    And I agree with you about how the idea of doing a task is almost always worse than the actual doing of it. I noticed that more so when I was practicing law. I hated the idea of writing a huge brief to the court or prepping for a case, but once I did it, it wasn’t half as bad as I had made it out to be in my head! Ah… the games we play.

    Thanks again for your comment – Lisa

    Reply
  4. Jeanne

    Another recovering perfectionist here. What’s worked for me is to simply put a MVP (minimum viable product) out there as soon as possible.

    Our fear of being judged prevents us from releasing our “baby” out into the world. I solved that problem by reminding myself that it’s better that I know sooner rather than later whether I’m heading in the right direction. Just get it out there and let the world decide. If they knock it down (for good reason), then I’ve saved myself a lot of time perfecting a flawed product.

    It’s better to have an unbiased opinion telling me I’m heading in the wrong direction at the beginning of the project than find out that I’ve devoted too much time to something that should’ve been dead in the water months ago.

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    Jeanne – Love that approach! Using the world as feedback to test your beta programs. So smart! More people need to do that instead of holding onto things until the very last minute and then releasing something they could have “perfected” in the right way. 🙂

    Thanks for your comment!

    Reply
  6. Lisa

    Nadine – Glad you love the post so much! I think your questions are spot on! Moving ourselves forward, and doing it with intention. Great trigger questions. Thanks for your comment!

    Reply
  7. Christine Marmoy

    Hi Lisa, I have to admit I’m a recovered perfectionist. And one thing I learnt from that is this. Most of it is pure fear…fear to go out in the world, so I used to pretend that whatever I was doing was just not good enough….I turned it around when I realized that not crossing the finish line was everything but perfection!!!! And I made a point to finish whatever I started then improve it…now I work faster and I feel so much better…Thanks for the great exercise…love it.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Christine – Thanks for your comment! Yes, I can totally see that fear would play into perfectionism. Makes sense as if someone is fearful of bringing their creation out into the world, that will hold thm back. And they may say that it is due to perfectionism, and in a sense, it is, but it is really the underlying distrust and fear holding them back. Love how you are now crossing the “finish line”! Love that. And yes, we can tweak and improve even after we’ve released it into the world. So true!

      Reply
  8. Nadine Nicholson

    Lisa, you’re a woman of my own heart! I love, love, love this post. I like to think it’s about progress. Are we moving ourselves forward? Are we doing it with intention? If yes, great! Perfect is a mental construct. Progress is real, tangible and measurable. Thanks for a great article!

    Reply

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