Done is Better Than Perfect!
Written by Lisa Montanaro | March 16, 2012

So, you are a perfectionist. And proud of it! And in some ways, that serves you really well. You maintain high standards, delivery quality, and people value your level of expertise. But sometimes, that perfectionism is causing you stress, procrastination, and depriving the world of receiving your great ideas and content. So what to do?

Adopt the mantra, “done is better than perfect.” Now before you get defensive, let me explain what I mean by that statement. I am not advocating that you use this mantra as an excuse to pump out shoddy, low quality work. That wouldn’t feel very authentic. After all, you’re a perfectionist, remember? What I am advocating is a relaxing of your unattainable standards. Allow yourself to make an objective judgment call as to when something may be good enough, even if you could make it slightly better if only you spun your wheels a little longer.

When it comes to productivity, I see a lot of clients that actually could be mo re productive if they permitted themselves to finish projects to completion. So what’s stopping them? Perfectionism. And what’s behind perfectionism? Well, a whole host of issues, some of which are trivial and some of which are deeply psychological.

Try this exercise. Pick a project that you have been hoping to finish, but that you have not completed yet because you want to get it “just right.” Now finish it. Not to perfection, but just to completion. Then release it into the world. There. The earth didn’t stop turning on its axis! Am I being sarcastic? A little. But really, that is what goes on in our heads. “I need to make this perfect,” “It is not good enough to share with anyone,” “If I only had a little more time, I’d get it right.” And so on. And while sometimes that may actually be true — a particular project may not be “ready” yet — other times, it can be “done” even though it may not be perfect.

Or is it perfect because it is done? The word “perfection” derives from the Latin “perfectus,” which in turn comes from “perficio” — “to finish,” “to bring to an end.” Perfection thus literally means “to finish.” So in that sense, done is equal to perfect! The oldest definition of perfection is attributed to Aristotle. He distinguished three meanings of the term, or rather three shades of one meaning. That is perfect:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

So ask yourself if you can carry out a project to completion and allow it to attain its purpose even if it may not be the best of its kind. Could you improve upon it later? Could you use its imperfect state as a learning tool for you or anyone that you are releasing it to? Could you honor its imperfect state and ask for feedback, assistance, or guidance?

Next time you feel perfectionism breathing down your neck, ask yourself if done is better than perfect in that instance. If the answer is yes, then let it go… and see how it feels.

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.