Of course, we all want to do our very best work. But, is there a difference between simply striving for solid quality and obsessing so much over every last detail that it becomes completely counterproductive?
To put it simply: yes. A big difference.
While I never want to be the one to discourage you from putting your all into something (hey, your dedication is admirable!), there are a few specific instances when it’s acceptable to stop chasing absolute perfection.
“Uh, like when?” is likely the question you’re asking yourself now. Well, here are four times you have permission to stop fixating and just settle for plain ol’ good enough.
1. When You Keep Changing Your Mind
You’ve finally settled on a color scheme for those presentation slides you’re working on. But, then you decide they need one final tweak. You make a change, but you’re not totally convinced you love it—so you switch it back. Then you change it once again, only to undo that, and so on and so forth.
Sound familiar? If you’re continuously flip flopping back and forth between two different alternatives, that’s usually a good sign that there’s not one single option that’s the best—things aren’t always that clear cut.
So, if and when you find yourself stuck in this endless loop of revisions, you’re better off just picking something and committing to it. Because, honestly, either way is likely just fine.
2. When Urgency Is More Important Than Quality
Alright, so this might not happen too frequently—more often than not, the quality of your work is important. However, I’m willing to bet that you’ve found yourself in those circumstances when you just need to get something cranked out.
This is one of those situations when urgency trumps quality. And, you don’t want your desire for flawlessness to slow down the train.
So, whether your boss just needs to see some progress on that big project or you need to get a few thoughts down so you don’t walk into that meeting totally empty-handed, now’s not the time to obsess over details. Sometimes done is better than perfect, and good enough will suffice—for now, at least.
3. When Everybody Else Thinks it Looks Solid
We can all be our own worst critics, can’t we? You look at that completed project and see all of the things you’d like to do better next time. But, your co-workers? They think it looks fine just the way it is—there are no glaring improvements jumping out at them, unlike the ones that have been haunting your dreams for the past three nights.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your work that every single minor detail seems like an earth-shatteringly big deal. You’re way too close to that project, and you’re quickly losing sight of the bigger picture.
In those moments, it’s best to listen to the feedback of your colleagues. If everybody else is telling you that your final result looks perfect as is, they likely aren’t lying or trying to maliciously sabotage your career. Instead, they’re simply attempting to assure you that you did a good job and don’t need to continue obsessing—you’re already in a spot to meet the expectations of even your pickiest co-workers.
4. When it Gets the Job Done
When you have such high expectations for yourself, it can be tough to be reminded of the fact that not everything you do is going to be a jaw-dropping, award-worthy masterpiece.
I know that can be hard to hear and accept—especially for all of my fellow perfectionists out there—but it’s true: Not every piece of work can be your absolute best. And, if you’re operating under that assumption, that’s an exhausting way to live and work.
If you know you’ve reached the point where your end result will undoubtedly get the job done, it could very well be the perfect time for you to just wipe your hands of it and take the next steps—rather than continuing to tweak, change, and refine.
Remember, your presentation doesn’t need to inspire a standing ovation and that proposal doesn’t need to move people to tears. If it accomplishes what you set out to do, then that’s all you really need.
Settling for “good enough” might seem like a completely counterintuitive or even apathetic approach to your work. But, rest assured that there are definitely times when you’re completely justified in giving up on that quest for perfection and just accepting things the way they are.
After all, knowing when to call it quits and label something finished doesn’t always make you lackadaisical. In fact, it can actually make you that much more efficient and effective.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Xavier Arnau/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author