author:
Margien Matthews

How to trick your mind to ditch “perfect” for “just fine”

Ditch perfect for just fine

WASTING TIME AND NEED A SMART TRICK TO OVERCOME THIS? 

Do you find yourself guilty of spending too much time on the wrong things? That's why we suggest you ditch perfect for just fine and consider acceptable standards!

Being too perfectionist? Over-investing energy on stuff you know you shouldn’t? And getting really frustrated because you know you’re doing it but you. JUST. CAN’T. CHANGE? 

I’m going to share a technique with you that became a game-changer to me.  In fact it helped me finish this blog.

The starting point is not fancy productivity techniques but something much simpler. It starts with the psychology of how your mind works and what it responds to.

A LESSON FROM PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

But first, let’s look at a concept called Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It’s a phrase used in product development and means describing the desired minimum features of a product to put it in the open market and sell it. So it’s not about spending years developing the perfect product. Instead it’s about deciding what the least features are and getting on with it. Afterwards the product can be further refined, based on feedback from the customers.

So MVP is about chasing sufficiency and quick results, rather than perfection. The benefits are capturing early sales and getting your customers to help you identify improvements.

THE HI-TECH MINDSET CHANGE

Agile programming embraced this philosophy with a focus on quick useful releases that are good enough and that may be improved upon later depending upon User priorities.

As we use more technology, we’ve become tolerant of glitches as an inevitable part of our hi-tech journey.  It helps that most platforms have easy ways for us to report what’s gone wrong as well as tracking user experience in the background.  We increasingly expect technology to make things a whole lot easier for us.

We accept that the trade-off of quick convenience is ongoing change and development. So our global mindset is more tolerant of things that are a “work in progress” rather than a perfect finished end result.  Hold that thought!

NOW FOR THE PSYCHOLOGY

Therapists use a technique called cognitive reframing.  That’s a fancy way of saying that you can get different results if you create a different way of looking at a situation or person. Once you change your perspective, then your thinking and behaviour start to change along with it.  Anyone can do it if they have enough motivation. And if they want to!

So what if we reframed our current way of working? What if we decided that we want to aim for “good enough” instead of “perfect”?

But first, let’s make the argument for “good enough”.

A meta-study* comprising 95 studies on perfectionism found that performance and perfectionism were not related to each other. Perfectionists are not better or worse performers than non-perfectionists. Let that sink in for a moment.

LESS INSTAGRAM, MORE TIKTOK

This tells us that the perfectly polished promoters on Instagram are no more effective than their rough and ready TikTok counterparts. If anything, the pared down visual honesty that core TikTokkers strive for is, for us, more authentic and accessible than the Insta-gloss.

But wait, Voltaire told us this 250 years ago: “The best is the enemy of the good”.

INTRODUCING MINIMUM VIABLE OUTPUT

Output is the stuff you produce. Not to be confused with input or activities, because these are what you do but not what you achieve. So going to a meeting is an activity, as is most of the stuff done at companies every day. An output is a tangible result of all that activity, say landing a new client, publishing a book, reducing carbon emission instead of talking about it etc.

What if we used the same approach as those astute marketers who focus on their minimum viable product? What if we called this our Minimum Viable Output (MVO – trademark pending!).  In other words, what would your output look like if it were good enough (not perfect, but fit for purpose) for you to push it out there?

It’s a powerful way to reframe your mind. So you get to focus not on perfectionism but on completing something to acceptable standards. And then moving your energy elsewhere.

GETTING PERSPECTIVE

Now when it comes to your MVO, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So that means you need to think about the minimum acceptable output that would satisfy your company or customer or other third party.  Remember, it’s about the other party’s needs and not about your own self-imposed standards of perfection.

Remember, too, our lesson from hi-tech – everyone’s more tolerant of imperfection. So you will be forgiven if all is not exactly as it should be!

TRY THIS OUT FOR YOURSELF

  1.   Select an output that’s overdue.

2.   Describe the Minimum Viable Output from the other party’s perspective. Keep them happy with their acceptable standards but don’t exceed their expectations.

3.   Describe what you’ll be letting go of or not doing to get to your MVO. If the answer is nothing, go back to question 2 and get realistic.

4.   Set a non-negotiable delivery date.

5.   Keep your commitment to yourself.

6.  Celebrate!

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH ALL THAT TIME YOU SAVE?

So next time you find yourself over-investing your time to poor effect, ask yourself this question:  What does the minimum viable output look like for this task?

If you get this right, you’ll be freeing up a large amount of time to spend on more important stuff. You’ll have released yourself from the tyranny of impossible standards.  And that’s going to feel really good.

So, with acceptable standards in mind,

are you ready to ditch perfect for just fine?

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