Being a Perfectionist - When Done is Better Than Perfect
Ok, I’ll admit it...I’m a perfectionist. I dot every “i” and cross every “t” and I sweat every detail. I honestly think that being a perfectionist was the key to my early success. My colleagues and my bosses knew that they could count on me to get it done right, no matter what it took. I wouldn’t let anything fall through the cracks. I’m still that way to some extent. What I lacked in intelligence and experience, I made up for in hard work.
To some extent.
As the years have gone by and as I’ve worked through my career, it’s admittedly gotten harder and harder to be a perfectionist. My workload and responsibilities have expanded well past the point of being able to do it all. Being a perfectionist at this point would end up not getting it all done. And we know that’s not an option.
So what’s a perfectionist to do in this new world of endless work?
I follow the 80/20 rule...
Prioritize. Let’s face it, we all have a lot of busy work. And we can all get pretty busy with our work. So I’ve learned to prioritize the 80% of my work that is the most important and I de-prioritize (read: ignore) the 20% that isn’t really going to matter. Or at least won’t matter that day. I allow myself to let go of about 20%, and I save it for later. If later ever comes. And if it doesn’t, then at least I’ve nailed 80%, which I make sure is the most important priorities.
Get the little stuff out of the way. Along with our busy work comes a lot of little stuff. Administrative stuff. Paperwork stuff. And while it may all be “little,” it can also be pretty important. The problem is that all that little stuff clogs our mind space and occupies our thoughts...blocking our energy for the bigger issues that we also have to face that same moment. So my MO is to get the small stuff out of the way right in the beginning of the day. I cross as much of the easy stuff off of my to-do list as early as possible, leaving lots of brain space to tackle the more taxing tasks once I’ve gotten a few things out of the way. I find that this energizes me because it makes me feel incredibly productive. Productive people get the most done. With all of those new found accomplishments, I can then dig into what that really counts. And it feels good.
Know when done is better than perfect. I’ve also come to realize that there are diminishing returns when it comes to perfection. It’s far more important to get something done than it is to try to make it perfect and potentially never finish it. 80% just might be enough so that it gets done. I find that the extra 20% is often not that meaningful. So settle for 80% and move onto your next priority. Now don’t get me wrong...sloppiness and incomplete isn’t going to solve anything either. But we all know that sometime all that extra effort doesn’t pay off if it means delays and the inability to get the rest done too.
Spend a little time planning. Here’s where I’m going to flip the ratio. You should spend about 20% of your time planning your time and organizing your activities. I keep extensive lists and I am crazy organized. I know where all of my files are located and I know exactly what I need to get done every single day and every single week. And I really do get it done, because I’ve planned it out and I’ve organized my resources. You’ll be amazed how much time and energy that a little planning can save you. And good planning also allows me to multi-task because I know exactly what I’m doing and where everything is located. It’s pretty fabulous, actually. That 20% allows me to efficiently get the 80% that I’ve prioritized done.
Feeling overwhelmed? Can’t see through your lists? Got too much to do to be perfect? #Same. Just follow the 80/20 rule and you’ll get it all done...or at least what’s most important.
Makes sense? What’s your experience? JIM