Several of you have asked me to write about my tips on how I work at overcoming perfectionism. I've been working on a post about my battles with perfectionism, but one thought comes up over and over again.
“Today’s Solution is Tomorrow’s Problem.”
I'm not sure who said it first, but I first heard it in 1989 from our Managing Director when I was an Education Manager at Arthur Andersen's Center for Professional Education in St. Charles, Illinois. It has stuck with me all these years because it seemed so profound to me at the time. It was one of those Light Bulb moments when you have to unlearn what you thought was true and start reframing your mind to understand things in a completely different way.
In 1989, the quality movement was in full swing and my perfectionism was feeding on it. The pursuit of perfect quality was causing me to work 100+ hour weeks and I was stressing badly. My health was suffering in a big way. I was rapidly burning out in the name of quality.
One day my managing director said, "Ariane, quality is important, but perfectionism is a losing game." I was quite taken aback. He went on to counsel me that it was just as important to balance the amount of effort and time that you put into things according to the true potential lifespan of the solution. Why? Because today's solution ultimately becomes outdated or outgrown and becomes the problem you have to fix or rework in the future. And because if you don't get solutions to market at the right time, all of your work will be for nothing. It was then I started really learning the concept of choosing what not to do at all, and what not to bother to do perfectly.
Today whenever I catch myself spending a lot of time at something trying to make it perfect - I think about this concept and consider the following 8 questions that help me conquer perfectionism (Kara, this is for you!) : )
- Will anyone get hurt if this isn't perfect?
- Will anyone get hurt waiting for me to get this perfect? (this includes me...like will I lose sleep? miss out on time with my family and friends?)
- Does the lifespan of what I'm working on justify the time it's taking me?
- Will this solution lose its value to others if I don't finish it more quickly?
- Will I miss a deadline or other commitment if I don't ease up?
- If I don't put a solution in place quickly will the problem keep getting worse as I try to get the solution to be more perfect?
(This is a good one to remember when agonizing over paint colors or organizing solutions. I've been known to take years to choose a paint color and meanwhile the walls get dingier and dingier - not anymore!)
- Will the solution take more time to implement than coping with the problem will take?
- In 5 years, will I feel the time I spent on making this perfect was worth the sacrifice of other things that I could have been doing with my time?
So now, without any further attempts to make this post perfect, I'm moving on to my next thing to get done - like get some sleep!! : )