Here’s the perfection predicament – we want to have work go out that’s well done and error-free, knowing that this is a representation of our business. Yet the push for perfection can drag down business progress.
How often do we get caught up in preparation, revision and polishing – but not finishing. It’s the ‘not good enough’ trap and can lead to total paralysis. This applies to written work, to making calls, to project work – in short to everything that we do in business.
And yes, it’s at least partly generational.
The over 40s crew was brought up to always provide finished work, meaning checked, revised and double-checked. But that can become an endless loop leading to perfection paralysis. In today’s hyper-fast changing environment, work can be outdated and irrelevant before completed.
The under-40’s, brought up on gaming, have an advantage. In video games, you generally fail multiple times when trying to move to the next level. But you don’t go away feeling that you’re a failure. The gamers have learned and internalized that missing the mark and trying again is how you make progress. Every miss is an incentive to try again, each time getting a little closer, a step better, focused only on the immediate next level. Carry that over to work – you put out the very best that you can at a given point and move on.
But where are the limits? What’s the dividing line between casual/authentic and simply sloppy? I’m sure that we’ve all seen resumes or other work come in with no punctuation, horrific grammar and nearly unintelligible – leading to immediate judgments about the person or the business. That’s clearly an extreme we don’t want to move to.
The solution is simple – stay in the Green Zone:

Here are 3 steps to productivity with ‘adequate perfection’
1) Know thyself. If your happy place is towards the PhD thesis end of the spectrum, consciously do only one revision before finalizing your next 4 or 5 communications or projects. Any negative consequences? Likely not. Now continue the practice and reward yourself for your new-found agility! If you’re on the text messaging extreme, do a reread and one revision before sending your next communications. Painful? Likely not, once started.
2) Know who’s on the receiving end. If writing an internal note to move a project forward, better done than perfect. If communicating with a senior exec about upcoming initiatives, move to the right end of the green zone.
3) Use an anti-paralysis partner. Have a colleague you can check in with who is your opposite on the scale. If you tend to the left of the spectrum find a ‘professor’ colleague to counterbalance. If you tend towards the PhD extreme, partner with a millennial gamer.

Dorothy Erlanger is a meeting facilitator, speaker and trainer who has worked with Fortune 100 companies in over 25 countries across the globe. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. For facilitation of global strategic planning, executive workshops or motivational speaking with lasting impact, contact Dorothy at 1-804-749-4100