Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

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I’m pretty guilty of being a perfectionist. That doesn’t mean that I do things perfectly. Rather, if I’m going to do something, I do it as perfectly as I can. It’s a habit that has served me well throughout my life and career. I’ve gained a reputation as someone who values quality and I enjoy producing great work.

Whilst this tendency towards perfectionism helps me to produce great work, it often stops me doing good work …. or even “good enough”  work. When I arrive at the “good enough” mark, I usually keep going, trudging past the “good”  and “better” marks (the words “you could do better” echoing around my head), with my sight set firmly on the unattainable “perfect mark” until I run out of steam, usually somewhere between the “good” and “great” marks.  I hate stopping at “good enough”.

The thing is, “great”, and “perfect” come at a price, and with increasing pressure on resources – time, money, energy – it’s a price I can’t always afford. It’s just not in the budget. Rather than cut my cloth to measure however, and do a “good enough” job, I give up before I even start. If I know I’m not going to have the time to do something the way I’d like it to be done, the temptation is not to do it at all! And that’s where perfect becomes the enemy of good – because ironically, sometimes in the pursuit of perfection you’re left with nothing.

For current and future employers, let me be clear! I’m obviously not talking about my work here! 🙂  That, I always do to perfection! Instead I am talking about all those little jobs that I never start because I’ll never do them to the standard I want. This blog is a perfect example. I’ve hummed and hawed for months now about writing my next post. I’ve started a few different posts and then abandoned them because they’re not quite hitting the standard that I’d like for myself. They’ve been fine… good enough… but not great or perfect. So I abandoned them. What I’m left with is a few “good enough” posts that never see the light of day and an empty blog-space awaiting the “perfect” post … with a growing gnawing certainty that I’ll never be able to the produce the “perfect” post. And so, for me, “perfect” became the enemy of “good”. 

The answer? Sometimes “good enough” is good enough; particularly in issues of low priority. Five people have asked me about the blog over the past week…. and I realised that I just need to get back to it and be happy enough with “good enough”. 

Thanks to those of you who gave me the nudge!

Reflect to prosper

Do you ever let perfect be the enemy of good in your life? Are there areas where “good enough”  could be good enough? Is there anything you can do to reset expectations? Or are you of the view that if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well?

2 thoughts on “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”

  1. Great to see you back blogging Catriona.
    Instead of settling for ‘good enough’ perhaps we need to aim for ‘as good as possible within the constraints of time and resources.’
    I have a memory from my convent school days that wanting to be perfect is a sin, a component of the sin of Pride, because only God can be perfect. The rest of us must accept our flaws!
    Forget perfect. Your demanding readers will settle for the excellence you serve up.

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