I’m sitting at my laptop in my office, staring at a screen filled with a long to-do list.
As I take a sip of my coffee, it starts to happen: I hit a roadblock. I try to think through it. I start thinking about how this project should be. I realize this is going to take two hours longer than I anticipated.

I start getting text messages and emails about problems in our business. Then I realize I have a phone call in 20 minutes I haven’t prepared for. 

Overwhelm starts to set in. 

This is a classic example of how perfectionism can be our greatest enemy to productivity. 

When we start thinking about how things should be, we get overwhelmed. Overwhelm leads to distraction. We love to move to distraction – for many of us it’s a safe place to check Instagram, Facebook, emails, or take a trip to the water cooler.

Distraction thus becomes procrastination, and procrastination is our worst enemy when it comes to growth and moving the needle in our work. Perfectionism, overwhelm, distraction, then procrastination: this is a cycle that stops us in our tracks. It keeps us from giving our best contributions to the world, our co-workers, and our loved ones.

So how do we overcome perfectionism? 

We have to give ourselves permission to mess up.

When we care for ourselves and we give ourselves permission to have imperfect work, we can start to make imperfect progress.

After all, isn’t imperfect progress better than no progress at all?

I want to introduce you to a phrase that changed my life when it comes to overcoming perfectionism and moving towards productivity:

Done beats perfect.

Done beats perfect means…

* Making deadlines for yourself and meeting them.

After all, deadlines are a tool to help you get what you want. Deadlines give us a timeline to create meaningful work. Even if your work isn’t perfect, it can’t help your customers or teammates if it isn’t finished.

Done beats perfect.

* Pushing through fear.

Worried that you don’t know enough to finish the project? The best way to learn is by doing. Get a rough draft out into the world and then get feedback.

Done beats perfect.

Are you getting my drift?

Here’s an example. Remember the first iPhone? You know, the big clunky 2G that looked like it came out of the original Star Wars movies? Did Apple perfect the iPhone on the first try? Heck no! Did Apple make $200 million profit in the first 3 days this thing came out? Yes, they did. And then they kept working and improving on their first draft. Now we have the iPhone 11, which is much improved, but still has flaws. Apple hasn’t let the imperfections keep them from moving forward and releasing a new product. They have embraced done beats perfect.

When we leave our shoulds, woulds, and coulds at the door and start working from a place of done beats perfect, our whole world starts to change.

We move from a place of impression to connection with the people who will use our work.

We move from a place of anxiety, stress, and comparison to a place of groundedness and focus on one project at a time.

If we truly want to help people through our work, we have to put it out there. If keeping it perfect means keeping it to ourselves, then we must move towards action and create imperfect work.

~ Josh Durham

Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash