Why ‘Done’ is Better Than ‘Perfect’ for Tasks, Goals and Projects
Some people love it. Some strive for it. Some claim it, laugh, and carry on with what they’re doing. But is it a good thing?
However much we talk about it being great, perfectionism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I firmly believe that for short and long term goals, the focus should be on Done rather than Perfect.
This also limits perfectionism from being a self-sabotaging activity. One that stops us from moving forward with the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
The Problem With Perfection
I get it. I really do. The whole chasing perfection thing, that is. There’s an incredible amount of pressure on us as a society to have it all together; being successful in our career, having high-achieving kids, the immaculate house, flawless figure and wardrobe.
All of these things can be good - don’t get me wrong - but when having them hinges on your ability to deliver, then you run a greater risk.
If you set unrealistically high expectations for everything that exists in your life, you’ll either disappoint yourself trying to meet them or you’ll burn yourself out trying to. I’ve been there. It’s not fun.
If the standard you set for yourself when working on tasks, taking on projects, or setting up goals is ‘perfect’ you’ll either never start (because it has to be perfect right from the get-go and you’re not satisfied with your skills) or you’ll never finish (because there’s always more to do).
If you do manage to start, the self-sabotage can kick in when you review, rewrite and rethink everything, slowing down your progress as the finish line continues to stay firmly in the future.
How Did We End Up With This Problem?
In a phrase? The Comparison Game. The Comparison Game is a game we play in our heads all the time. The only rule of the Comparison Game is that nobody wins.
Have you ever tried a Pinterest project before, only to have it turn out drastically different from the images? I could visit Pinterest or Instagram to look for a way to rearrange my desk, and come back with twenty-four ways that everyone else can manage their lives better than mine.
The problem arises when you compare the very best that someone else is producing against your perceived worst work. It sets up a competition in your head that you can never win.
But because you want to be better than the things you compare against, you push yourself to achieve goals that are on par with the biggest and the best, regardless of available resources or skills, and as a result, end up pursuing an unattainable ideal.
What’s The Solution, And How Do We Get There?
The biggest problem with having ‘perfection’ as the standard for tasks, projects, or goals, is that there’s never a sense of completion, of having things done. The thing stays undone in our heads, taking up space and weighing on us. It’s no way to function.
The solution I propose, is that we shelve the concept of ‘perfect’ for tasks, projects, and goals, and work out how to decide when our progress is good enough to call it ‘done’. ‘Done’ is a much more achievable state, and it allows us to check that thing off our never-ending to-do lists.
So How Do We Decide When a Task, Project, or Goal is ‘Done’?
1 - Set Objective Criteria
This is easier for some things than others. For example, I might set a fitness goal that reads ‘be able to do a 5k run in 20 minutes by the end of the year’. That goal has objectives, and when I reach those objectives, then the goal is done.
However, a task like ‘clean the car’ has the propensity to take forever if I don’t decide what ‘clean’ means. It could mean taking the rubbish out of the footwells, or it could mean steam-cleaning the seats, washing and detailing the paintwork, and degreasing the engine.
If you want to be satisfied with the end result, decide what you want the end result to look like before you start.
2 - Set Achievable Criteria
Your skills and capacity are different from everyone else’s. And that’s okay. If you’re setting yourself someone else’s criteria for a project, without also accounting for time, resources, and skills, then you’re in for a hard slog.
You can only ever do your best, so keep that in mind when you plan tasks, projects, or goals.
Be realistic and pragmatic when you set out to do things, and work with what you’ve got. You’ll succeed more often when the bar is set at an achievable height.
A Word Of Encouragement
“I say ‘don’t set time limits for your art, but set schedules for what you deliver. …I started succeeding when I said “I’m done here, I don’t care how good it is - the product is what you see.”” - Monty Oum, 2013.
Although this comment was delivered regarding the work of artists and animators, the quote holds true for any kind of process-based activity. When you plan tasks, projects, or goals, set up your criteria. Once you meet those criteria, your adventure can be considered done.
We all start somewhere. While perfect is unattainable, you’ll find that over time and with practise, you’ll improve at what you’re doing.
Don’t ever stop trying new things though - it’s one of the ways we learn more about the world and ourselves - instead, work out when it’s okay for you to finish
You’ll actually finish off more things!
What have you been procrastinating about that you could take one step today to take you closer to the finishing line?