When is good enough, enough?

Just about every trainer, writer, creative person I know has shared that one of the biggest challenges faced is knowing when something is good enough. How many of you write blog posts that you never publish because it’s not good enough? How many of you work on digital images or websites that are never quite perfect enough?

There is a lot of time wasted on striving for perfection, and I would guess that most of us lack the time to achieve the level of perfection we strive for. Look at some of the most successful people you know. Do they strive for perfection for months and months until the idea is no longer relevant? Or do they accept good enough, collaborate with others to achieve something close to perfection, then move on to the next big project? Where would we be today if Steve Jobs had not released the ipod because it was not good enough?

Source: Productivity 501

Lately I’ve controlled my perfectionistic tendencies with strict, and I mean STRICT, deadlines. I plan my schedule carefully. I start by allocating every minute of my working day in my calendar. I schedule time to check email, attend meetings, then allow a few hours of time to respond to customer needs. On any given day that schedule could change in an instant!  When I am working on large projects I use a spreadsheet for project management and estimate time to be spent on each phase. Then I schedule that time on my calendar given realistic time available. Often there is not enough available time and that’s when the tough decisions come in to play. Can I delegate, change deadlines, adjust priorities, or do I need to change my own self-expectations?

Don’t get caught up in the trap of trying to perfect of time management so that more time is spent on planning and managing tasks and spreadsheets than actually accomplishing anything. This is another common challenge for perfectionists.

Perfectionists have a lot to offer to an organization, but they/we need to learn how to balance our need for perfection and decide when is good enough, enough.

How do you do to combat perfectionism?

Here are some quotes to ponder:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Strive for progress, not perfection.”

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
~Thomas Edison

“When you aim for perfection, you discover it is a moving target.”
~Geoffrey F. Fisher

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. When is good enough, enough? http://t.co/Z2Kmxcjb via @lorireed

  2. I love this. I have at least 7 blog posts that are *mostly* completed, but I haven’t posted them because I don’t think they’re good enough. But your point about the deadline is what really works for me. If I have a deadline, I tend to get a little more accepting of what I’ve produced 🙂 One thing I’ve done as I begin to write more is impose *multiple* deadlines- separate deadlines for each draft (usually 3 before the final). That way, I can say I’ve reached the deadline, but can amend it if I need to.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Sarah I have a bunch of draft blog posts too and to be honest it’s held me back from blogging. From now on I am making “unperfect” my goal. If I were striving for perfection I would spend an hour researching imperfect versus unperfect. Just posting this comment is a huge step for me! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. George Lucas modified a common adage about one’s creations when he said that movies are never finished, merely abandoned. Like buildings, bridges, and legislation, movies are monster projects.  But perfection is very personal.  The ultimate, variable benchmark that anybody can hold up to his or her own standards.  As a goal, it’s tyrannical.  But as a compliment, it’s .. perfect.

    • And to think Star Wars almost never made it to the silver screen and now it’s making it to the silver screen over and over and over again … the search for perfection never ends.

  4. RE: And to think Star Wars almost never made it to the silver screen and now it’s making it to the silver screen over… http://t.co/Do7Hmn0E

  5. New post: Perfectionist? When is good enough, enough? http://t.co/FGlWPljm

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