How to Use 'Good Enough' to Beat Perfectionism

Perfectionism is caused by the illusion of immortality. Take away that illusion, and you'll get things done, pronto.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #497

When you ask that question, you have to change your approach. Instead of getting every little thing perfect, you need to step back to your big-picture project plan and review the major tasks and completely reevaluate how you do them.

Find the “good enough” version

"Put up a gorgeous, beautiful website with professionally written copy and a gorgeous design" becomes "Add a page to my existing web site, with a five-minute smartphone video recorded in my water-damaged basement, in one take." Write the page the way I’d describe the program to a friend, in one pass. Total time to website: 25 minutes.

Or: "Create shopping cart, linked to my credit card processor merchant account, able to accept payment of all sorts, integrated with a back-end automated membership site" becomes "Put a one-click 'pay with Paypal' button on the web page. Gather the names from receipts as they come in, and add them by hand to a spreadsheet to track membership."

Or one more: "Find world-class collaboration platform that can handle every possible collaboration need in existence" becomes "Hey, I use Discord to chat with friends playing World of Warcraft. Getting things done is just like World of Warcraft, right? People will love the cute little Space Invaders icons. Discord, it is!" 

And so on. Every day-long step in building this product had a ten-minute equivalent that was good enough, and could be put in place with almost no effort.

Be prepared for failure on the backend

The moment the program started and the first 14 attendees showed up for our kick-off webinar, I still had over an hour left on my timer. I’d managed to find quick-and-dirty ways to get everything done. 

The program started, everyone dialed in to the webinar and…and…and some attendees had never used Google Docs, so sharing files wasn’t as easy as planned. Then Discord, my collaboration platform, started showing attendees pictures of sexy mermaids. None of my attendees were really into sexy mermaids, and some found them downright unprofessional. I had to agree. Padded shoulders? Professional. Padded seashells? Not so much.

When you use the timer method, you may end up cutting corners. That’s deliberate. Taking an extra five weeks to get the perfect solution is exactly what we were trying to avoid. 

Non-perfect can take less time

That means, however, that when you use the 3-hour technique (or 2-hours, or 8-hours), be prepared to scramble on the backend to clean up the details of your non-perfect solution.

By the end of the first week, everyone was up and running on Google Drive. Discord hadn’t exactly been tamed, but we had already found a better tool to use next time, so the mermaids will have to find an audience elsewhere. (I suspect their regular teenage boy audience will be willing to take on that role.) 

Even though it was a scramble for a few days to deal with the not-quite-perfect solutions, the program was a success. The total work—preparation, launch, and dealing with the issues—was far less, and happened far, far, far faster than shooting for the perfect would ever have done.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow Get-It-DoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re self-employed or run a small business and you want to finish certain tasks or projects more quickly, check out my “Get-it-Done Groups” that provide support and accountability for blasting through your blocks. Learn more at http://GetItDoneGroups.com

Image of perfectionism quote © Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.