Do you find that perfectionism holds you back from being successful in life? You get that done is better than perfect. But despite your desire to do the very best work on anything you complete, trying to make it perfect actually ends up backfiring majority of the time.
Best case scenario, you turn in a completed project feeling anxious about all of the mistakes you’ve made or obsess over the possible adjustments that would improve it. Worst case scenario, you’re buried in a mess of self-esteem and procrastination.
That really doesn’t feel good, does it?
We justify it because it promotes meticulousness, dedication, and hard work. Despite this masterful cloak, perfectionism is a problem that prevents so many creative and intelligent people from showing their true capabilities, whether that be at school or at the office. The cloak of meticulous productivity prevents us from seeing the true benefits of getting work completed without worrying about all the worst-case scenarios.
Ultimately, if you want to succeed in life, you have to recognize that done is better than perfect. Thankfully, some simple mindset shifts can play a huge role in helping you justify why you shouldn’t obsess over perfection.
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Done is Better Than Perfect
When I went to community college, I had an enlightening experience that helped me realize perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In my English course, our class received a project to pick one thing about the school that we would improve. I created a perfect paper about the school’s cafeteria explaining why we should focus on healthier choices, along with creating rationale behind why the cafeteria should offer nutritional information on the food served. I put a lot of time and effort into this assignment.
Unfortunately, in my constant twiddling and tweaking of this assignment, somehow I did not write down the correct due date for the assignment. I turned the paper in 12 hours late.
When I received the graded paper in class, I got 100%. I was so proud of my hard work and effort.
Only to notice that, due to the assignment being turned in late, I only got credit for 50% of the assignment. No matter how much I begged, that grade didn’t budge. But it taught me a valuable lesson: done is better than perfect.
That’s only one of many stories I can tell throughout my teens and twenties about how perfectionism seriously inhibited my ability to turn in quality work. I didn’t know enough about perfectionism to understand why my behaviors were hurting me so much, and I especially did not know about different techniques to employ to help me retrain my brain to think about my actions.
Over the last decade, I’ve gotten much better with task completion, and this article will help you understand why it is truly better to get tasks finished rather than make them perfect.
1. Done gets results
Like I mentioned in my example about my English class paper, I realize had I not gotten so wrapped up in my perfectionism, I probably wouldn’t have missed the deadline for the project. Even though it was perfect, missing that deadline still made that ‘perfect paper’ a failing grade. It’s frustrating to think that somebody who put in what I believed to be mediocre work, yet turned it in on time got a better grade. But, in the end, most teachers are going to value the concept of done is better than perfect.
Why? Because people want the finished project. They don’t want to hear you haven’t had the time to finish it yet. Even if you’re doing your best to make it better!
Now, this is no excuse to quickly turn in sloppy work. You should still put in an effort. But it’s worth noting that as an adult, your supervisor is likely going to be happier with a quality result that comes faster rather than a perfect result that takes three times as long to complete.
2. Perfect creates paralysis
Stage fright exists because people worry they are going to make mistakes in front of other people. There is this fear that if you aren’t 100% perfect in your execution, you’re going to freeze on stage for everybody to see. Thus, people with stage fright avoid performing in front of others.
Perfectionism is a lot like stage fright. People get so worked up on how others may perceive their work that they aren’t able to complete it. For some people, this looks like procrastination. They wait until they are confident to work on the project the best way possible. For others, this means they are unable to turn in their work due to anxiety.
Not to mention, people with perfectionistic traits have a tendency toward low self-esteem and defensiveness. Neither of these traits necessarily make you want to work hard or put yourself in front of other people.
3. (Almost) Nobody will notice mistakes
Everybody fears that loudmouth who will point out your multiple grammatical mistakes because it’s embarrassing to get the grammar lecture. The point is though, the majority of people will not even notice that you switched from present tense to past tense.
A handful of people may catch your ‘your’ to ‘you’re’ error. But in all honesty, if it’s readable, most people aren’t going to care about the mistakes. If you are a strong enough writer to get your point through your words, that is all that matters.
And the people who are jerks about your errors aren’t the type of people you want in your life. Somebody who truly cares will help you and point it out tactfully. Don’t get embarrassed! Instead, thank them for their willingness to help make your work the best you can.
4. You can still fix after it’s done
Nothing is permanent. You can always fix things you don’t like later on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mistake you make in a paper, or a mistake on your last blog post. Virtual and literal “white out” options exist to correct problems later.
If you go back later through your work and notice grammatical errors, wrong words, misspelled words, most of the time you can correct it.
Even if you feel like your point is weak, it’s better to have it out there and shared rather than a strong point living in edit mode. You can always go back and strengthen your point as you gather more knowledge.
5. It shows you are confident
When you value ‘done is better than perfect’, you’re telling others you believe in your work. Being willing to display your work for the world to see, despite its various types of mistakes, is actually a bold show of confidence.
It shows you are willing to produce the product even if it isn’t perfect. And with the point above, you can go back and make adjustments later if something truly isn’t right.
6. You’re able to celebrate others success
People who are perfectionists often have a lot of internal criticism towards those who do complete projects. This happens for one of two reasons, and both are based on envy.
- Reason one is frustration that a ‘lesser’ item got praise. “I put in extra effort, thus I should have gotten recognition”
- Reason two is that they are frustrated by their own inability to complete tasks, thus are jealous the other person does complete the task.
As a bullet journal blogger, there are a ton of other amazing bullet journal artists who are much more talented than I. I can imagine a time in my past where I would have felt jealous if they were better than me. Fortunately, I recognize this behavior doesn’t help me feel better.
When you focus on completing your own work instead of being the best, you learn to value the work others contribute. Now, I enjoy many strong friendships with bullet journal blog owners. I love to celebrate these amazing people! In fact, I actually picked my favorite 18 bullet journal accounts out late last year and featured an entire blog post on these wonderful people. The sense of community provides a sense of pride and satisfaction!
7. You recognize the value of constructive criticism
Majority of the time the projects and assignments you finish are for the benefit of another person. Sure, you may enjoy the process of creating the work! But in truth, you’re either fulfilling criteria from another person, or making the item to improve somebody else’s life.
So why is finishing and producing a ‘less than perfect’ item a benefit here?
Let’s look at Facebook, for an example. Facebook is constantly rolling out updates. Likely knowing you are a Facebook user, you’ve probably experienced multiple glitches and problems experienced from various updates. But Facebook has the advantage here.
By putting out a quality project now versus a ‘perceived’ perfect project later, they recognize the likelihood there will be errors and features that its users don’t like. The sooner Facebook can address these glitches and create adjustments that please the users, the faster Facebook creates a result that actually does please people and reduces errors.
8. You connect with your work.
It’s not about the destination- it’s about the journey to get there. This concept can absolutely apply to your work! If you’re so focused on achieving specific goals, perfecting sentence structure, and building up your word count, you lose focus on what you work is all about in the first place.
People who believe that done is better than perfect are focused on quality rather than perfection enjoy the process of the assignment; they enjoy the concept of research and content creation. They actively engage with the world around them in the process and develop relationships with other people, find new interests, and create new ideas to share with other people. The joys of actually doing the assignment trump any concerns over trivial information that will likely only bring stress and frustration.
9. You recognize nothing will ever truly be perfect
Is anything truly perfect?
People who believe that done is better than perfect realize that perfection is actually subjective. Each person has their own tastes, style, opinions, and desires. We also all have flaws. Everything on our planet has some type of flaw, whether it’s natural or man-made. Nothing lasts forever.
Read: Why You Need to Stop Stressing About Being Perfect
Beyond that, you will never measure up to pleasing everybody on this planet. Your best, most valuable work may be revered by many, but you’ll always find some who will be quick to disagree or find fault in your efforts.
Is it worth worrying about perfection in the end?
Or would you rather work your hardest to achieve your goals and dreams, even if that means mistakes and failure happen? Some of the best lessons in life come from hurt, pain, and heartache.
It’s ok to want to do a good job, but relying on perfectionism is dangerous. Not only are you possibly creating significant barriers toward finishing projects, but you’re making yourself miserable in the process.
The concept of ‘done is better than perfect’ is a mindset shift that doesn’t happen overnight. But remembering how little it truly does for your well-being is a great start toward making positive change.
Is being the best truly worth the stress, procrastination, frustration, envy, and any other negatives that come out of perfectionism?Absolutely not. Focusing on quality is wonderful and you should do the best you can, but not at the expense of making yourself miserable.
If you have trouble determining whether you may be on the brink of perfectionism, here are some signs that may signal you need to back off and adjust your mindset.
- You have incredible ideas, but feel unworthy to put them into action.
- You become anxious at the thought of getting an acceptable grade (75-95%).
- You’re defensive when presented with constructive criticism.
- You’re focused on results instead of the journey of learning and growing.
- You feel depressed if you aren’t reaching your goals.
- You believe asking for help is a sign of weakness.
If you’re a perfectionist and you’re willing to read this article and learn, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’re one step closer to changing your mindset to believing that “done is better than perfect.”
Do you believe that done is better than perfect? Tell me in the comments and let’s talk!
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Thank you so much for this article, could not have been more perfectly timed! As a perfectionist it gives me good solid information to move forward. Thanks again 😊
Thank you so much! For me, the most important advice is to see my work as ‘a journey of learning and growing’. And another one – from p.5 : ‘When you value ‘done is better than perfect’, you’re telling others you believe in your work’. Great!
Julia I’m so grateful you found value and joy from this article. I hope you have a lovely day!
Thank you for writing this, Rachel. I couldn’t agree more, all the things you wrote enlighten me, it hit me -the perfectionist- directly in the face. I always have the thought of “it is not enough” on my mind. My superior once told me to not dwell and ponder on the things she gave me lol. Thanks again for remind me to get things done, keep moving forward. 🙂
Thanks a lot Rachel. I’m just beginning to realize that I could be having these traits, as I can connect with it. It’s time to make a mindset shift! I appreciate your effort for bringing this up for us. Wish you all the best! 🙂
I end up sometimes creating something awful because i was obsessed of perfection.
Another one really adding to this
I share your enthusiasm. Done is better than Perfect. The paradigm shift from perfectionism is sometimes an UP hill climb, but it’s worth the effort bcuz in the end to step back and identity perfectionism thinking is a step towards changing it, and in turn a step in the direction of done is better than Perfect.
I share your enthusiasm. I can see the simple answer is to get things DONE. Perfectionism is to be stunned from reality ; like having your head in the clouds and your feet floating.
Rachel, I am going to save your article and read whenever I am anxious about being perfect in my work. Thank you so much!