“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”Alan Cohen.
Fully embracing the idea that perfection is a myth has enabled me to become more productive and more confident than ever about my creative output quality and value.
It is getting better for me all the time.
My main productivity philosophy is my, “make it good enough plus now and perfect it later” routine.
Here’s why it works for me and how it could work for you.
My war with perfection rages
I am writing a lot right now, and therefore I am always battling my constant nemesis which is perfectionism or the seeking of perfection.
The more I write, the harder perfection seems to fight to stop me putting my work out there. It constantly whispers in my ear that my work is nowhere near good enough.
Left unchecked, perfectionism’s efforts would exhaust me. Too much friction would inevitably lead to my simply giving up. It was certainly the case in the past.
How about you and your relationship with perfection?
Do you try to get to perfection before you release your work to the world?
If you are great at starting projects but poor at finishing them due to the friction of perfection seeking, then the “make it good enough now and perfect it later” approach could help.
There are many ways a project or goal gets derailed, but the pursuit of perfectionism causes a huge problem for many people.
This article looks at some of the many internal processes involved and how using such a personal philosophy approach as guidance can help you immensely.
BTW – if you prefer an audio version of this, I have included one just for you at the end of this article.
Here is some shocking news if you do aspire to perfection
I hate being the bearer of unwelcome news but here it is anyway. There is no such thing as perfect. Perfection really is a myth. Therefore, if you are trying to make something perfect, you will fail.
“Perfection does not exist. To understand this is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.”Alfred de Musset
For example, this article will never be perfect no matter how much I rewrite it. The harder I try to perfect it, the longer it will take to finish & post and the more chance I will have of saying “the hell with it” and giving up.
I can only do my work to as high a standard as practicable and in as sensible a period as possible, then get it out into the world. I am only human, and I can do no more.
Some useful perfection concepts to consider
Consider the 80:20 (or Pareto) Principle* which in this case equates to 80% of the maximum results achievable obtained through 20% of the potential time, effort, and resources which could be expended. The green arrow on the diagram shows this point. This would be a reasonably “good enough now” point at which to get your work out there.
*If you want to learn more about the 80:20 Principle, then you could do a lot worse than check out this excellent book. “The 80/20 Principle: Achieve More with Less: New 2022 Edition” by Richard Koch. This is a link to the paperback edition on Amazon UK.
There is also something called the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” This law states that beyond a certain point you get an ever-decreasing improvement in something per unit amount of time, effort, and resources invested to get that improvement.
Put more simply, if you get something as good as you can then more work won’t make much difference. The diagram shows the zone of diminishing returns with an amber lattice. It links very well with the 80:20 principle.
The red arrow on the diagram indicates that obtaining around 97% of the maximum results achievable would require expending 80% or more of the potential time, effort, and resources which could potentially be expended.
Trying in vain to get something perfect takes a lot of time, effort, and resources for not a lot of actual improvement.
Some imperfect thinking about perfection
Do you think that if something is not perfect, people will notice and either ignore you or, worse, criticise you? People may well ignore you and criticise you whether you achieve perfection or not. People are people.
If you do aspire to perfection, as I once did, then this thinking could not be more wrong or self-defeating.
It is only right and proper that you strive to provide the best output you can for the intended recipients of your efforts.
Notice I said, “best output you can” and not “perfect output.” Trying to get something perfect is understandable but misguided.
What is not understandable, however, is never providing those intended recipients with anything at all, because you never feel your work is perfect. Do you expect perfection in others? Do you really believe they expect it of you?
What do you fear about not being perfect? Do you fear failure, success and/or criticism? Most of us do and I can certainly empathise here. Work hard on overcoming these and any other fears you have. If necessary, seek professional help, but take ownership and begin your efforts today.
Empathise with and understand your audience
Things you may see as potential defects and shortcomings will not even be noticed by your audience. Remember, your audience is not perfect either.
If what you give or say is valued and valuable, then people will value it for its own sake and/or for what it can do for them. Very rarely will they value it just because you reworked, edited, or polished it to near perfection.
Pour your passion and love into your work and people will get it, value it, and love it likewise. Or they won’t. You’ll never know until your work is out there.
Once again, if your work is never out there, then nobody will ever get it.
Aim for “good enough plus then perfect it later”
I call this philosophical and practical approach my “good enough plus then perfect it later” routine. I run it in three steps.
Firstly, establish the minimum quality standard which would make your work acceptable to and useful for your intended audience then add some more to that for contingency. That is the “good enough plus” part.
Then make your output as good enough plus as you can, by any practicable and reasonable measure. Make sure it meets the standards you set and, here is the key, stop right there.
Lastly, get your work out there. You can always improve it later if you really want or need to. This is the “perfect it later” part. People will give you feedback if you just ask.
For example, I know that I can always edit and improve this article based on feedback. However, if a reader does not read the article, because I have not published it, then I may as well never have written it at all.
What valuable work are you holding onto because it is not “perfect” enough for you?
Get your good enough plus work out there for everyone’s benefit.
Why “make it good enough plus now and perfect it later” works for me
I call my approach a philosophical one as I use it to guide me on every piece of output I produce. It is getting a thorough workout right now as I am currently launching a YouTube channel. Subscribe to the newsletter if you want updates on that adventure.
My analysis of my own psyche always leads me to conclude that I am playing a constant trick on my perfectionism.
It seems happy enough to take the promise of perfecting things later in lieu of actual perfectionism. Once I start to produce another piece of creative output, perfection forgets all but the last two or three promises I made and goes all in on the new content.
The trick for me is to keep producing more and more and beat perfectionism into submission through sheer weight of effort.
Whatever works and I really do get a lot done now. I can always make it perfect later.
Are you ready to start your war on perfection?
Does “good enough plus and perfect it later” sound like a plan?
You will always have to find a way which works best for you, but I hope this article has given you some things to consider. Over to you.
That is all for this one
I released this article to the world because it is, for me at least, good enough plus.
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PPS Here is the audio version of this article if you would prefer to listen.