Jamie Hill
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UX Designer, CSS Wizard, Ruby on Rails Developer.

Embracing perfectionism as a long term goal

I’ve suffered for a long time with a condition known as perfectionism. It’s a debilitating disorder that hampers productivity through a constant pursuit of perfection.

There are many problems that come with being a perfectionist. Firstly, there is the aforementioned productivity impairment. It’s also hard to be happy with anything you produce or anything you’ve achieved in life, as you always believe you could have done better. This has the benefit of driving you toward your goals, the problem being that — as a perfectionist — your goals are always evolving and often unrealistic.

I’ve fought with the productivity/perfectionism conundrum for a while now, and have come to terms with the fact that I will always be a perfectionist on some level. Both my parents are perfectionists, it’s in my DNA. Instead of fighting this innate condition — as I have done over the past few years — I’ve recently found a way of embracing perfectionism by treating perfection as a long term goal.

Let’s take an oil painting as an example. First the artist starts with a thick brush and large blocks of colour to give a general overview of his subject. At this stage he is much more agile and can easily change direction should he need to. Later, after the paint has dried a little, he adds more detail. He repeats this process until he’s working with tiny brushes, on the minutest details. There is a great deal to be learned from this technique.

I am suggesting the long term goal of a perfect project, without getting bogged down by tiny details at the outset. Do just enough to fulfil the project requirements with a view to tweak (and perfect) further down the line; there is no point perfecting something that is subject to change. Giving yourself permission to let stuff go until later is the key, however it’s important that the tweaking phase is included in the overall project plan.

Perfectionism is managable as a long term goal, just don’t let it hinder in reaching those goals in the first place.