Is Perfection a waste of Time?

Dart hits the Bulls Eye
If you aim for perfection in everything you do, you will get nothing done. It's a recipe for a wasted life. If you aim for perfection in one thing you are far more likely to achieve excellence in this area. What's more, you'll do more in other areas too. Working out what is important, what really matters, is the key. This is part of a series titled "Do more than you can". Make sure that you've read the article on doing more by doing less.

Go for perfection only where it's going to count

Aiming for perfection can only be done for a few things because of the huge extra time and effort required. It doesn't take an extra 10% time and effort to go for perfection. You may have to spend three times as much or more. So it makes sense to choose carefully when you're going to go for it.

Do things right - not perfectly

It is important to recognise the difference between doing things right and doing things perfectly. There are occasions where the time to fix a problem is disproportionately greater than the time to get it right in the first place. This means that if you don't do it correctly, it will take a huge amount of time to fix the problem. At my work we would often send out electronic Surveys to thousands of staff. Before clicking that "Send" button our team would make absolutely sure that we had thoroughly tested that application. Even a bug which only affected 5% of staff could wipe out the team's time for a day. Worse still is the damage to the team's reputation. I once made a mistake where the options for several questions in a Survey were incorrect and it took a long time to rectify this apart from having many annoyed staff. I never made that mistake again! An extra hour ensuring that everything was right first time meant that we didn't ever again need to spend days trying to fix the problem. In testing our aim was to remove all preventable problems. So while we never achieved a perfect Survey, we did do surveys that were free of preventable errors.

Continuous improvement is more important than perfection

Perfection is impossible! Once you decide what really matters, aiming for perfection and then working on improving is a better strategy. Continuous improvement is more important than perfection. This is especially true when learning a language. I am currently learning Spanish and someone early on told me this... "It's okay to do something poorly while you practice to do it perfectly". People who feel they have to get things right when they speak in a new language usually take much longer to learn. People who are willing to make mistakes and keep improving learn more quickly.

Perfectionism wastes time

When deciding what to buy, it is better to a satisfier rather than an optimiser. Purchase things that satisfy your need rather than having to find the best. I remember hearing of someone who spent two years researching the best refrigerator to purchase only to find that model had been discontinued. It also affects how clean you want your house. You can waste a lot of time trying to keep your house perfectly clean. See the article on Why cleaning is a waste of time?. You can do more than you think you can by choosing when you aim for perfection. "Doing a thing well is often a waste of time" - Robert Byrne

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