It may be a cliche, but lately, I’ve been finding it is true in my own life.
I’ve been allowing my flaw of perfectionism to stall my life. And lately, it’s stopping me getting things done.
I like perfect
I tend towards Type A. Giving my all is normal. Working on tasks, refining them and making the best I can is just the way I am wired.
I love doing my best. I don’t feel good if I only put in a mediocre effort. If I can spend a bit more time on something and make it better, I will. I am not saying here that I work oodles of hours, nowadays I rarely work more than 7 hours a day. But those 7 hours can be pure focused work.
As I’ve got older I have realised that for a lot of things my good is many levels above other peoples. And consequently my perfect is more than most people need. Over the years as I’ve worked in many different places with a variety of people this has become clear.
On the other hand, I sometimes I miss things others care about and concentrate on the wrong bits. And this is something I’ve become more and more aware of. Working in high performing organisations they expect perfection. But working in more mediocre places perfectionism becomes a problem and displaying those characteristics means you don’t blend in.
I also like getting things done
Getting sh*t done is one of my major strengths and I abso
lutely love completing tasks and crossing them off my list. Inbox zero is a regular occurrence around here – and I use my inbox to store tasks and reminders.
In the working world, especially as I work freelance, getting things done matters. When people are paying a high day rate for your services, they want you to be able to get things done quickly.
But Perfect is not correlated to getting things done
Making things perfect means everything does not get done.
As an example, In my current job, I completed in 2 weeks myself what a team of 2 had been trying to do for 6 months. As I reflect on how I managed this task so simply, and the previous people failed – the answer was perfection. They were trying to take into account every single possibility. And that complexity confused them.
Moreover, one of the things they failed to do was to framework the problem and check the understanding with the client. And they struggled thinking conceptually of what sort of creative solution would work. I came in and was able to understand the issue and create a framework immediately. Then within a few days, I had identified the pinch points and presented a solution to the clients, with the known limitations clearly laid out.
This was a clear example where perfectionism failed but a simpler solution agreeing and accepting known issues was preferable. Not to mention why I am comfortable getting paid well.
Cultural expectations differ
And again, the norm between high performing and mediocre workplaces varies widely here. High performing places always ensure that everything is done to the best of their ability, and they check with the recipient that it is all perfect. And are more than happy to make changes and tweaks afterwards as required.
However other places that I’ve worked for have displayed different characteristics. Where people need constant monitoring and supervision to complete work. And any sort of road bump or decision needed tends to lead to the work being shelved. Moreover, people in this sort of environment can also struggle to articulate the issues and explain why they have downed tools.
Ease off on the perfection
But lately, I’ve been feeling the I’m tending too much towards perfectionism myself and missing out on getting things done.
As an example – I love all the pics on this post, but they are all not perfect in some way. For example, see all the deadheads in the sunflower field? And then this orchard pic looks awesome. Except, the hoses. They are not symmetrical, and I feel they ruin the picture.
I need to stop myself from refining and polishing things and just get them finished. What springs to mind lately is blog posts; ideas are easy for me, but then when the words don’t sound right or convey the message in the way I imagined I double down. And probably spend far too much time on work that really isn’t adding any value.
Another place I’ve found this is podcasting. I love making the podcast, but I am far from a natural. Editing is great fun yet also very, very time-consuming. I want to make myself and guests sound like smooth talkers who don’t um and er. But that takes time. And possibly ends up with an unnatural sound in the end.
I’m also starting to slack on my Chinese, as I feel I’m not good enough. After a break, I am now realising perfect is overrated and it’s ok that I can’t hear certain sounds yet and my pronunciation is dire. I need to concentrate on getting it done and practising every day, rather then getting disheartened if it’s not perfect.
Perfect is not always your friend
I do believe perfect is the enemy of getting things done. And the truly successful can always identify the correct response for each situation; sometimes perfection is needed, other times things just need to get done. It’s a skill that I really value in others, and that brings a lot to the table.
So now I need to rework my balance between perfect and getting things done. Life is a series of many decisions we make on a daily basis – and I want to make them quickly and easily to give me an easy life. While I already apply this in many areas of my life – hello cleaning, my home is where the minimum viable housekeeping has been performed for years. And my sense of dress and unwillingness to pay the beauty tax and wear makeup is so far from perfectionism. But maybe I’ve evolved to give less f*cks in these areas?
And now I need to evaluate life more. And make sure I am making the right decisions and hitting the right balance for me.
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Do you have a perfectionist streak?
- Do you like getting things done?
- Should I ease up on the perfect?
- Do you feel you have the right balance?