We all want to be productive. We all want our work to be as perfect as possible. But if our obsession with perfectionism is hurting our creative output, then there’s a problem.
Whenever we start working on a project, we often have a vision of how we want it to look like at the end. While this vision drives us to continue working on our project, if we are too focused on what it should look like, we sometimes don’t discover the possibilities of how it can look like.
What does it even mean to be perfect?
Is the sun perfect? Could it be better? Is the weather perfect right now? Could it be cooler or hotter? The truth is ‘perfect’ looks different for different people. You may find the weather perfect but I may not. I may find it too hot.
Not just different people, even different versions of yourself won’t agree on the same thing. You may find something perfect right now but five years later, you may not.
You may have heard of the term flow state in popular psychology. Generally speaking, it means being in the zone. You are so immersed in your work that you are not aware of anything else happening around you. Constantly seeking perfectionism can hurt your flow state.
Imagine a writer, instead of continuing to write their story, constantly re-reads their work to fix their grammar mistakes and typos. Such a writer would never be able to finish their story. The only way to finish a story is by writing a bad draft and then fixing it in the later steps.
As the popular saying goes, “You can always edit a bad draft but not a blank page.”
Outcome vs process
“When you think about your goals, don’t just consider the outcome you want. Focus on the repetitions that lead to that place. Focus on the piles of work that come before.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
The only way to get better at something is by practice. This applies to every skill in the world, whether it be writing, dancing, coding, painting, or anything else.
You are not going to have a perfect book the first time you sit down to write. It will take months and years of practice for it to be something publishable.
For instance, I’ve been wanting to start my personal blog for over a year.
Do you want to guess why I didn’t? Because I kept thinking that I didn’t have the perfect idea for it and that my writing wasn’t good enough and what if I don’t have anything to write about.
I won’t have anything to write about until I actually sit down to write and force myself to think. Ideas won’t pop up in my head simply because I want them to, sometimes I have to go looking for them.
Most of the time, ideas appear when we’re actively doing something. Like, the only way to become a better writer, is to write. And the more I write, the more I have to write about. And this can be applied to basically anything.
When I focus more on the process of, for example, writing, rather than the end result of my work, I’m less worried about messing up. This makes me find my work even more pleasurable. If I wait every time for a new idea to pop up in my head before I get to work, I’ll be waiting a long time.
Quantity vs Quality
James Clear wrote, “It’s not the quest to achieve one perfect goal that makes you better, it’s the skills you develop from doing a volume of work.”
The battle between quality vs quantity is old. Some people will ask you to be consistent while some people will ask you to focus on one project for a long time.
I’ve always believed in “quality” over “quantity”, and I still find myself leaning that way. But there’s definitely something to be said about quantity over quality. Now, when I say that I don’t mean you should keep throwing out bad work, but rather that the more you do something, the better you’ll become at it.
If you’re constantly obsessed with making your current project perfect, you will never move on to your next project. You will stop yourself from getting better because you’re too fixated on what you’ve done wrong rather than what can be done right the next time.
The only way we can become better at something is by making lots of mistakes and then correcting them. If we are too focused on preventing ourselves from making mistakes, not only do we struggle to finish our projects, but we also prevent ourselves from learning new things.
So don’t let your search for perfectionism affect your productivity. Stop overthinking about how perfect your work is and continue moving ahead.
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