How to Fight Perfectionism

Written by Azat MardanNovember 08, 2016

Most of us intuitively understand that better products and services is better for you as an employee or business owner. They can attract more customers and propel you to success, whatever that is for you. Some of us know the inspiring stories of obsessed entrepreneurs who drove the product to perfection amidst delays and budget overruns (e.g., Steve Jobs). Common sense tells us that the less flaws there is, the better. It could be due to our experience as a consumer of goods. It could be because we learned it in schools where we avoided errors in our homework and tests.

However, things are not as easy in life and business as in school. On the other side of the spectrum is the analysis paralysis and procrastination, never published manuscripts and never deployed code. Sometimes it pays off to do half-baked experiments and fail once in a while. There’s a whole methodology around it called Lean Startups. Unfortunately, almost none of us hear about myriads of other entrepreneurs who didn’t make it.

There’s time to polish and improve, and there’s time to call it’s done even when it’s not perfect. After all, done is better than perfect undone. Here’s a quick list of things you can do to fight perfectionism:

  • Take more projects: This will force you to finish the current projects faster. Commit and then decide how to deliver!
  • Set deadlines and share them with important people like clients, bosses, co-workers
  • Don’t sleep enough for three nights or work at nights: I noticed that my perfectionism goes down when I am tired and just want to finish a project
  • Outsource: Hiring is like buying time. It’s like cheat codes in video games only it’s better for everyone (you, your client and the person you are hiring)
  • Remember your WHYs: Why are you doing this?
  • Divide products and features into two categories: incremental improvement (perfectionism is the key) and ground-breaking (first-to-release is the key).

Making a better widget is fulfilling which in turn is important. But when you do so beyond a reason, ask yourself a question: Am I afraid of success? Is this a self-sabotage? Procrastination? If yes, then kill the perfectionism excuse and finish the project. In this case, perfection is a burden and an obstacle.