I would describe myself as a perfectionist in most, but not all areas of my life. So much so that it frightens me to say it out loud in case you find mistakes in my work (and you will…). But does designing a brochure which is pixel perfect and writing a marketing plan which is formatted with precision really the best use of your time? Or is there a point where it’s already perfect in everyone else’s eyes, even if it’s not quite faultless in yours??
I’m a believer that everything we do, say and put out in the world represents us, so doing half a job says something about your brand, be that your personal one or that of an organisation. I’m talking about the minutes and sometimes hours we all waste (myself included) ‘fine tuning’ everything we do – when in reality it won’t make any difference to the level of return on investment.
I was listening to the radio last week and they were interviewing book authors, one of which said that “if you don’t move on from the opening paragraph until you think it’s impeccable, you’ll never finish your book”. Now I know that they’re talking about a particular level of perfection here…they’re not saying don’t do your best, far from it – you should always strive for excellence, but it’s more the finer parts of perfection which can be a waste of your time. Not always, just sometimes.
A counter argument to this is in something like the 110m hurdles…where a seamless performance is the real difference between 1st and 2nd, and although I’m not an athlete, I do love playing sport and I am competitive (so I’m told…), which is why I sometimes have to stop ‘tweaking’ and ask myself if this is really going to make a difference.
To give you an example of when I’ve wasted time seeking a super shinny finish, was when I created a monthly Marketing benchmark report in Excel – I caught myself doing it the other week…messing around with borders and coloured cells which had absolutely NO impact on the management reports! I’m a marketer and like my spread sheets to look clean, but I never present the ‘data’ worksheets to the board, only the pretty graphs (which should be well formatted). I didn’t waste loads of time, but it could have been better spent elsewhere.
Only you know where your time is best spent – but as you climb the ladder (and take on more) you’ll need to be ruthless with your time, otherwise you’ll soon get bogged down and become inefficient.