Confession: Kicking Perfectionism to the Curb

by Kate Brodock on 24 January 2009

Posted in: Random Thoughts

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I used to be a perfectionist.

After a while, I realized that there was a point of maximum return, and after that, the amount of time it took to complete the level of work I wanted as an output was disadvantageous.  It was taking too long, which means that, overall, I wasn’t pumping out quality work because the package wasn’t done. I’d spend so much time trying to increase the quality by 2% that I’d run out of it!

[Sidenote: I fully realize that part of this equation is my inability to get things done, and thus, a lower level of intelligence.  I refuse to accept this possibility and have therefore not taken it into account in my calculations].

At some point, I was able to identify (almost) the exact point at which my productivity began its decline.  And so that’s where I stopped.  This process isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.

What do I produce instead of perfect?  Good enough.

[Mom and Dad, if you're listening, I'm sorry!]

Don’t get me wrong, this is a super high-quality, stellar, totally awesome “good enough” that required a period of time dealing with my ego and accepting that this “finished product” was not really finished… but once the stress decrease and time increase was realized, the decision became a much more comfortable one.

How many of you do work that’s good enough?

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  • Casey

    Hey Kate. This got me thinking of a quote from Peopleware (1987),

    “Quality is free, but only to those who are willing to pay heavily for it”.

    The idea is that the personal standards of individuals rise to a high level with little external pressure. In the right environment, it becomes easy to achieve a quality result by simply nurturing this tendency in people.

    The downside to the idea of “free quality” is that when an individual completes a task that is “good enough”, yet does not reach their personal bar, then the work may become a demotivating force. This is because you begin to realize that the task you are working on will surely fall below your expectations. So I wouldn't always encourage this type of behaviour, as it could hurt more than it helps.

  • http://www.othersidegroup.com/adcomments Kate Brodock

    So a long term hurt? Interesting. That's not unreasonable. I'll have to think about that some more.

  • Casey

    Hey Kate. This got me thinking of a quote from Peopleware (1987),

    “Quality is free, but only to those who are willing to pay heavily for it”.

    The idea is that the personal standards of individuals rise to a high level with little external pressure. In the right environment, it becomes easy to achieve a quality result by simply nurturing this tendency in people.

    The downside to the idea of “free quality” is that when an individual completes a task that is “good enough”, yet does not reach their personal bar, then the work may become a demotivating force. This is because you begin to realize that the task you are working on will surely fall below your expectations. So I wouldn't always encourage this type of behaviour, as it could hurt more than it helps.

  • http://www.katebrodock.com Kate Brodock

    So a long term hurt? Interesting. That's not unreasonable. I'll have to think about that some more.

  • http://i-agreetodisagree.blogspot.com/2009/04/dont-practice-abcd-method.html Antonio Hicks

    I am a reformed perfectionist myself. It is a hard change to make.

  • http://i-agreetodisagree.blogspot.com/2009/04/dont-practice-abcd-method.html Antonio Hicks

    I am a reformed perfectionist myself. It is a hard change to make.

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