Perfection is the Enemy of Good Enough!

Perfection is the enemy of good enough is the insistence that perfection often prevents implementation of good improvements, satisfactory work, or even achieving anything at all. What is often referred to as the 80–20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. 

Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient. 

I experience this often as I write these posts. I write, re-write, change positions, and eliminate. My grammar is never good enough. I am constantly researching and looking for additional information to include. I question its relevance. Most of all I fret if it is all worth the effort, is anyone reading this and do my thoughts and words make any difference?

Perfection is the enemy of good enough, however, because it can prevent us from completing our tasks or projects in any form of a timely and efficient manner. When we strive for perfection, we may spend too much time and energy on details that are not essential or may not make a significant difference in the outcome. We may also become frustrated or discouraged by our inability to achieve the ideal standard we have set for ourselves, which can affect our motivation and confidence. 

Most of all, perfection can lead to procrastination, as we may feel finishing something will never meet our expectations. On the other hand, good enough might mean that we are satisfied with the quality of our work, even if it is not flawless or optimal. Good enough means that we have done our best within the given constraints, such as time, resources, or skills. Good enough means that we have met the requirements and expectations of ourselves and others, without compromising our health, happiness, or integrity.  

A recent article I read explored the setting of strict guidelines for educating children to color within the lines. What are we coming to? This article proposed that we judge factors such as the colors used, the amount of white space remaining, and how long it took. 

Standards are important in many situations, but innovation and creativity come from coloring outside the lines. We set goals to guide our work and establish specific objectives to meet along the way. What we often fail to do, however, is to establish strategies to be effective. Effective work is about moving toward the desired destination, and not necessarily about ensuring that nothing gets spilled or knocked over in the process. We may not always hit the mark. Mistakes will happen. 

So how do you get more done, faster, while remaining effective and responsible, and ensuring the quality of your work? Focus on the process, not the final product. When you put too much emphasis on the final product, you fall into the trap of idolizing the result. You begin to imagine it as this perfect end, which isn’t what it’s supposed to be, nor is it what will most likely take shape.

Sometimes the best we can hope for is a 1% improvement, a slight increase over the past year, or even just not losing as much as we thought we might. Are we moving towards our objective, meeting a need, or solving problems? Then maybe good enough is good enough; perhaps we should not punish people for all their hard work that resulted in not making the goal.