A new article in the New York Times’ “Smarter Living” section argues perfectionism can actually harm productivity. It’s called: “It’s Never Going To Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done.”
The article, written by Tim Herrera, says putting too much research and time into a project, whether writing an email or making a presentation, can damage the end result.
“The idea that we should be obsessed with achieving a perfect result for everything we do is kind of a mirage and it’s something we’re never going to achieve,” Herrera told “CBS This Morning,” “It’s unrealistic. And even if we got there, what looks perfect to us may not look perfect to somebody else. So rather than putting so much effort in, going over such minor details that are incremental improvements, if even, focus more on just completing it, being satisfied with what you’ve done. And doing the good work behind it.”
Herrera said people obsessed with perfection and achievements set themselves up for failure, and instead of obsessing over lofty goals, they should be thinking about the journey. So how do you know when good is good enough?
“It’s just one of those things where you have to have a little bit of introspection, a little bit of self-awareness and realize when you reach the point of, kind of, diminishing returns,” Herrera said. “Where you’re making changes that you think are improvements, but really maybe you’re just making it different rather than making it better.”
Herrera talks about maximizers and satisficers, with maximizers relentlessly researching their decisions and satisficers more often focusing on a quick decision. Herrera said research shows satisficers are generally more satisfied with the decisions that they’ve made.
In order to become a satisficer, Herrera says you need to change your mindset.
“You have to be okay with the realization that it’s not perfect but it’s done and hopefully it’s good enough,” Herrera said.
In order to do that, Herrera said it helps to focus on micro-goals.
“Slicing up a given project or a given task into the tiniest units of progress so that along the way to your achievement you’re racking up a lot of little wins, you’re making sure that you’re keeping yourself accountable, you’re making progress and you’re not so focused on the end goal but rather just the process that’s going to get you there,” Herrera said.
Herrera also emphasized making more ‘mostly-fine decisions’ or ‘MFD’s.’
“That point where you think you’ve invested probably a little too much time in something,” Herrera said. “And you just think, ‘Ok, I may not reach the absolute most 100% perfect conclusion or decision but it’s a mostly fine one and I’m satisfied with the outcome.”