Perfect Is The Enemy of Done

Perfect is Your Enemy

Problem: You suffer from the malady of perfectionism.

You have a contract due by the end of the week. That gives you three more days to get it done. You created your rough draft already. You figure one more pass and you should have it ready to go. Into the work-in-process folder it goes for later review.

The next morning you pull the contract back out to review and edit, and boy do you edit. Back into the folder.

The next morning it’s the same story. But the contract is due today! Every time you read it, though, you find something else you want to change. You want this contract to be perfect before it goes out the door.

Your stress is at an all-time high. Why can’t you get it right?


Pull back a minute and ask yourself, “Are all the relevant details in the contract and correct?”


Are any of the edits you think you need to make critical to the work you’re going to be doing?”


So why the pressure for perfect? The contract is done and ready to go, right?

There is no question that no matter how many times you review any written document, there will always be something else for you to change; something to add or take out that you think will make it better. But the truth is if it’s done and correct, it’s enough. Let your perfectionism go.

Ask Any Author or Artist

I had one author, Susan, share that she’d secluded herself for a month to finish a book manuscript. When she’d completed it, she did a review and edit, as any writer will and should. But she didn’t stop there. Susan continued to read and re-write chapters and no matter how many times she’d read one, she always found something she wanted to change. She was making herself crazy in this process. Susan recognized the cycle she was caught in and stopped herself. She realized that she could always find something to change, something to make her book better, each time she read through it. But if she wanted to get her book published, she needed to send it off. Susan finally put the pages in an envelope and sealed it, sending it off to her publisher. Her writing was complete and good enough to call done. Aiming for perfection was a moving target she’d never hit.

Carmen, the Painter

And then there’s Carmen, a painter of abstracts. She went through much the same mental gymnastics as Susan, only on canvas. After ‘completing’ a piece, she’d stand back to view it and decide it needed just a little more color in the top right corner. Then it needed a little more definition on the left side. Or maybe a little less definition. Every time Carmen looked at her canvas, she saw something she wanted to change.

Could she keep making her changes to make it perfect? Of course, she could. But that would also mean it never went on display, never got sold, and she would never see any money going into her bank account. Carmen had to get out of her perfectionist state-of-mind to see her painting was done.

For all of us in business, we need to recognize that if we’re aiming for perfection in everything, we’ll always feel frustrated and stressed at not being able to quickly and easily grow our business; at not being able to get work out the door timely.

Winston Churchill said it: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Aim, instead, for good enough and reap the benefits, see progress. Perfectionism has no place in business. Because what does perfect look like, anyway?

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