Dmitry Fadeyev
October 8, 2008

Fighting Perfection

If you’re like me, you probably often find yourself never fully satisfied with your work — always making tweaks and changes, always finding things you don’t quite like and reworking them. This applies to a lot of creative endeavors — perhaps you’re working on an article for your blog, putting together a report or writing an important email.

The thing is, even after making changes, there are still things you can tweak, things which aren’t quite perfect yet.

This of course is good, you’re setting yourself a high standard. If you’re not satisfied with your work then why should your visitors or customers? 

Perfection is a good thing to strive for

The two most important tools an architect has are the eraser in the drawing room and the sledge hammer on the construction site.

- Frank Lloyd Wright

Steve Jobs wasn’t satisfied with the first version of the iPhone. He made a difficult decision to scrap the first design because he didn’t love it; he felt this wasn’t the best Apple could do. This caused a lot of problems for the development team as they had to put together a completely new design in a very short timeframe.

The new version turned out a success, and had he not made this difficult call, the iPhone would unlikely to have made as big a mark on the phone industry as it has, thanks in part to its iconic design.

But…

Perfection is difficult and time consuming

Perfection can be dangerous and misguiding. When is something good enough? When can you go ahead and release that new version of your app or publish your new article? Perfection is too high a target because it’s just too hard and time consuming to achieve.

If you fall slave to perfection you’ll find all your time depleted. You’ll be making tweaks after changes and changes after tweaks — things just won’t get done on time.

How do you fight perfection?

Consider priorities — what are the things that really matter? Something like an iPhone is a critical product for a very large company; if you mess it up, it can cause serious damage. Getting this product right is vital. Setting a very high standard would be a pretty good idea here.

What about much smaller things like the design of your blog? In the end, it usually doesn’t matter all that much, unless this blog is your primary business. Simplicity is your ally here. Simple things are difficult to mess up, so create something simple and gets the job done.

Your most precious resource is your time. To fight perfection you must prioritize time and focus on the things that matter. If you keep working on and reworking things that aren’t all that important then those things won’t get done. 

Getting things done

Done. Start to think of it as a magical word. When you get to done it means something's been accomplished. A decision has been made and you can move on. Done means you're building momentum.

- 37signals, Getting Real

Execution is much more important than ideas. Getting something released that’s good enough is better than working on something perfect and never finishing it. Don’t seek perfection in everything you do — reserve it for the things that really matter. Tame perfection — get everything else done faster and use the time you save on your most important projects.


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