Perfectionism and the 90% Solution

Perfectionism is a common psychological obstacle to productivity.  In the perfectionist's mind, the product, email, report, etc. she is trying to produce is not quite good enough just yet.  The perfectionist has a sense that her ideal is attainable, if only through more work.  Making things worse, she likely believes the sky will fall if she is not successful at attaining perfection.

The problem is that somewhere along the pursuit for 100% perfection, we face diminishing returns.  We wait to send an email until we get the wording right, and an opportunity passes us by.  While we're stalling on completing a project to our own exacting standards, our boss or funder is wondering where it is.  And when we ask our staff member for the fourth revision on that fundraising letter, we can see their morale take a dive.

When I see perfectionism of any sort cropping up in myself or in a client, I've begun to ask:

[box] What would 90% look like?

Are you at 90% good enough/complete enough?

If yes - you are done.

If no - strive to get to 90%.  [/box]

For most of us, doing a 90% job is good enough - great, in fact.  (I admit for some , it may not be good enough -- I have had surgeons as clients.  But for most 90% is just fine.)  Further, a conscientious perfectionist's 90% may be 100% acceptable or even outstanding to her colleagues and supervisor.

Give it a try: let go of the 10% that exists between what you must do and how perfectly you imagine it can be done.  Then look around and see if the sky is falling.