Striving for Perfection? Don't. Just Get it Done!

In your professional (and personal life), do you find yourself striving for perfection?

Whether it’s a report, a project, or a graphic, it is important to understand that you’ll never reach perfection – no matter the amount of times you edit and revise. As Voltaire said, “perfect is the enemy of good.”

In a New York Times article, by Tim Herrera, argues that it is more harmful to continuously edit instead of completing what you need to get done.

“By agonizing over tiny improvements in our work — if they even are improvements — we prevent ourselves from achieving the actual goal of, you know, doing the work.”

In another article on Psychology Today, Dr. Alex Lickerman states that we must realize and remember that any changes we make to whatever we are working on, doesn’t quite necessarily make it better, just different. 

“Recognizing that inflection point — the point at which our continuing to rework our work reaches a law of diminishing returns — is one of the hardest skills to learn, but also one of the most necessary.

Herrera gives us a solution to combatting perfection: “the M.F.D., aka the Mostly Fine Decision”. 

“The M.F.D. is the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept as a consequence of a decision. It’s what you’d be perfectly fine with, rather than the outcome that would be perfect. The root of the M.F.D. lies in the difference between maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers relentlessly research all possible options in a scenario for fear of missing the “best” one, while satisficers make quick decisions based on less research.

But here’s the key: Somewhat paradoxically, research has shownthat satisficers are more satisfied with their decisions than maximizers are.”

So, people who strive for satisfaction (the maximizers) tend to be less content with their decisions, processes, and outcome that others that do not (the satisficers). 

Herrera goes on to give the readers two strategies to help us maximizers become more a satisficer.

Embrace the Magic of Micro-Progress

“Rather than looking at tasks, projects or decisions as items that must be completed, slice them into the smallest possible units of progress, then knock them out one at a time. This strategy relieves the pressure of thinking we need a perfect plan before we begin something — after all, if your first step is ‘open a new Google Doc for this week’s newsletter’ and not ‘pick a perfect topic, write a perfect lede and have a perfect organization,’ you either have achieved that micro-goal or you haven’t. There’s no gray area.”

Reframe the Way You Think About Your To-Do List

“Focus far less on the end result, and far more on the process — this allows you to be aware of the progress you’re making, rather than obsessing over the end result of that progress. As the writer James Clear put it, ‘when you think about your goals, don’t just consider the outcome you want. Focus on the repetitions that lead to that place. Focus on the piles of work that come before the success. Focus on the hundreds of ceramic pots that come before the masterpiece.’”