Done Is Better than Perfect

Viewed from afar, a small boat makes its way through tranquil waters, leaving a curving wake behind it.

Perfection is a trap that I’m aware of and still manage to fall into time and time again. I think a lot of business owners do this, based on my experience building websites for lots of different folks. There’s an idea that we should all be striving for perfection and achieving it is the way to find success as a business.

But I’ll tell you something you probably already know, even if you’re not ready to admit it: perfection is always out of reach.

Why perfect is so tempting

Despite knowing that perfection is impossible to achieve, humans almost all try to some degree to be perfect in some part of their lives. For a lot of business owners, their work is one of the main places where this shows up. 

The illusion of perfection ✨

Imperfection is at the very core of humanity, but we manage to maintain the illusion that perfection is achievable if you just try hard enough. Imperfection becomes evidence of your own shortcomings instead of just an inevitable outcome of living life. 

Talking about this idea with our copywriter Amy, she recalled how we would take standardized tests in grade school and how she would get frustrated when the results came back and she’d have scored in the 99th percentile for some subjects. A true overachiever, she wanted to get that perfect 100! 😤 She couldn’t get over it until her mom explained that there was no 100th percentile; 99 was the best you could get.

Perfection as the solution

A lot of times, perfection gets treated like the simple solution to all problems. If we did _____ perfectly, we wouldn’t have to worry anymore! And I guess maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t really matter because perfection isn’t possible. 🤷 Having a magical portal from your house to your office might solve your terrible commute, but good luck getting that magical portal.

It’s frustrating that things can’t be perfect. But it’s better to feel that frustration when things go wrong and then start looking for actual solutions rather than spend time being upset that imaginary ones aren’t possible.

People expect perfection

Maybe the worst part of the perfection trap is that people do honestly expect it from you sometimes. When we’re working with clients on their websites, they sometimes want things to work or look exactly the way they’re picturing them in their head, but that’s not always possible. It’s hard to work on a way forward when someone is expecting perfection from you. 

Underneath this, though, is the reality that everyone knows that perfection isn’t possible. So when it comes time to push back against unrealistic expectations, you might just need to acknowledge that you’d like it to work out perfectly too. But you’re operating in the real world and need everyone else to join you there.

Why done is better than perfect

So we’ve thrown out perfect. What do we replace it with? You might think I’m going to say something like “excellence,” but I’m actually just going to say “done.” Here’s why:

Perfection spirals 🌀

When we aim for perfection, we often get stuck going in circles, trying to make just a few more changes to improve things. But things can always be improved, or people disagree about what is better and it’s impossible to please everyone. 

Even aiming for some high standard short of perfection can land you in a perfection spiral. It’s just a slightly lower bar that isn’t well-defined which means that the project never gets launched or the message never goes out.

In the meantime, whatever is in place is probably bad. 🙃 We try to stick to our launch dates for website projects because even if everything isn’t exactly how the client wants it, it’s almost certainly better than their existing site.

Done teaches you lessons that perfect never will

Putting things out there for the world to see and comment on can be scary. I totally understand this hesitancy on a personal level—ask me why Valerian hasn’t been posting on social media 😅—but the fact is that you learn best by doing, even if you do it imperfectly. 

Putting something out there, calling an effort “good enough” and pushing send, will almost certainly teach you how to improve. You’ll see what didn’t work, along with what did. You’ll be able to take those lessons into account for the next time and do the thing better because of it.

Although it isn’t fun, sometimes you also get a lesson in how to fail, and hopefully you learn how to do that gracefully. You can’t know how everything is going to land and sometimes what you do just flops (or worse). There are a lot of lessons about being a good human in Failure 101.

Burnout loves perfection

Both Amy and I have a perfectionistic bent. I’ll try to optimize the hell out of our workflows and tools and everything that goes on behind the scenes with Valerian. Amy could probably work with a bit of copy for a week and still be convinced that there’s a better way to do it if she just had 2 more hours. Because of this tendency, we’ve both experienced our share of burnout.

The crushing weight of constantly chasing perfection can really wear you down over time. After a while, you’ll find yourself so worn down that you’ll begin to think that it’s better to not try to do something at all than to put in all that effort just to fall short of your perfect goal.

We need to celebrate wins and see what our hard work is doing to be able to keep going. And if the only thing you’ll accept is perfection, you don’t get any wins. Refusing to chase perfection is crucial to keeping your work sustainable. Done lets you check something off the list, close the task, celebrate the milestone. 

🌿

I joked earlier about social media, but that’s truthfully a place where we’re trying to get out of a perfection spiral right now. Keep an eye on our social channels because we’re choosing to do something (done) rather than nothing (perfect). 

Let me know in the comments where you still find yourself trying to chase perfection in your business.

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