The Curse of Perfectionism
by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
There's a rule known as the Pareto Principle. It teaches us that 20% of our efforts produce 80% of our results. The additional 80% of our efforts will only yield an additional 20% of results. The first thrust of effort then is the most productive use of our time. The latter thrust is very costly.
For example, let's say you allocate 2 hours (which we'll represent as 20% of your time) to clean a room, a basement, or a garage. Let's say that will you will be able to get it to be 80% clean. It won't be perfect, but it will be acceptable and a job well done. However, to squeeze out an additional 20% of results, to make it "perfectly clean", will require an additional 80% of your time, or 8 hours. The additional results are sixteen times more costly than the initial results from 20% of the effort, not to mention that while you're trying to squeeze out those additional results, you are kept from doing a lot of other more productive things.
This rule has a lot of application to you as a time manager. Ever notice if you're in sales how 20% of your customers give you 80% of your sales and the other 80% of your customers give you the remaining 20% of your business? Where then should you be spending 80% of your time? With the 20% of the customers who are giving you 80% of your business.
Ever notice how 20% of your relatives give your 80% of your headaches?
It may not always work with exact mathematical precision, but, typically, the small chunk of input yields the biggest chuck of output or results.
Most of us benefit from this rule intuitively. When you and I approach a task (clean a room, prepare a term paper, write up a project, etc.) we decide to put in a reasonable amount of time and effort to achieve a reasonable result. The result may not be perfect but it will be acceptable and this will free us to devote our time to tackling other endeavors.
We put in a reasonable amount of time and produce a pretty decent report. It may not be perfect, but putting in a whole lot more time to make it a little better is not cost-effective and therefore not worth the effort.
Those who suffer from the Curse of Perfectionism do not understand this principle. Their goal is always perfection, which, realistically, is unattainable. For example, you cannot clean a room perfectly. As you clean it, it's getting dirty as dust settles. Any written report can be polished and improved upon with more time and effort. Striving for perfection is then always stressful and frustrating.
Their overall productivity suffers as they spend an inordinate amount of time on a few things, trying to make them perfect, rather than a lesser amount of time on a lot of things that will multiply their results.
The curse is cured when they abandon the need to do their tasks perfectly, when they understand that excellence in performance is attaining a degree of perfection, not absolute perfection. This does not compromise one's standard of excellence in performance. It enhances excellent performance with increased results.
For a humorous break for you and to share with others, get your free copy now of my short article, "You Just Might Be A Workaholic". (If you use your cell phone in the shower to return business calls in the morning before work, you might just be a workaholic. If you set your alarm for 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. so you can check your voicemail, well, you just might be a workaholic.) It's free and fun. To get yours now, email your request for "might" to firstname.lastname@example.org
Receive your free Timely Time Management Tips on a regular basis in your email to increase your personal productivity and get more out of every day? Sign up now for your free "TIMELY TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS." Just go to BalanceTime.com
Debt from my past is preventing me from saving for my future! Tell us: Yes, debt is hindering my ability to save and I could use help dealing with it! or No, debt is not a problem but I am trying to get ahead financially!
More Money Tips & Tools
- 10 places to look for $500 in savings
- 9 savvy strategies to save for a rainy-day fund
- 5 big bills you can cut fast
- Money-saving secrets of the rich and frugal
- Do you pay more becasue of variable pricing?
- 5 financial strategies from King Solomon
- Getting a reluctant spouse to consider credit counseling
- This week's Readers' Tips