“I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.” Abraham Lincoln (yes, he really said this.)
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi
“If the Leaning Tower of Pisa was straight, no one would care.”
Striving for excellence is one of our core values, and one of the pillars that make us who we are at Geraci. But sometimes, in that pursuit of excellence, some people want and demand perfection. Have you ever read the definition for perfection? It’s fairly simple:
Perfection (noun) — The condition, state, or quality of being free from all flaws or defects.
Free from all flaws or defects? That’s not a definition of reality; that’s a definition of insanity.
Imagine this: You’re working on your investment proposal or sales report, and you’re happy with it, but it’s not perfect. You want more information to support your point and you won’t rest until to find it. You want to ensure there are zero flaws, but at what cost? You spend hours of frustration and stress without a corresponding upside. Did all that effort move your needle?
So why do we aim for perfection? To avoid negative feedback. To provide a reflection of ourselves in the project, or at least the way we want to be perceived. And sometimes to avoid the more demanding, complex and unpleasant portions of a large project. Sometimes perfection is a mask for another issue: procrastination.
The real problem is this: Perfection is the enemy of action. In the drive for perfection, there is no exponential improvement for the time invested. Rather, it’s a completely negative return. Your client could admire your perfect proposal, but that admiration may turn to disappointment if the inclusion of every detail prevents you from meeting a deadline. If you consider productivity to be man’s primary purpose, do yourself a favor and get out of your own way. Done is better than perfect.
Today, if you feel the need for perfection, ask yourself these questions:
- Will the customer care? Perfection is not always rewarded by the customer. Will your customer be impacted by the detail you put into your work? Will they notice? How will it affect your relationship? Perfection can also be viewed as inflexibility, and that may be the last impression you’d like to leave with your customers.
- Will it improve the product in proportion to the time you invested in it? The product could be your loan documents or simply the act of client communication. Software developers used to delay release of a product to get all the bugs out. Now, given the speed with which software is created, it’s more beneficial to push the product to market, receive feedback from users, and continue to improve the product and release new versions. Separate perfection from production and consider the quick-to-market approach as a competitive advantage.
- Could I use that time to make a bigger impact elsewhere? If the task you’re working on is so small that it doesn’t matter, it may not be worth doing. Could you use that time to take care of a client and understand their wants and needs? Get new clients in the door? Or think about an innovative way to improve efficiency? Focus on what’s best for the company, product or service, and bring that idea to reality.
Time is precious. You have 86,400 seconds in a day. What are you doing with yours?