Being Less of a Perfectionist
Episode #6 of the course Efficient time management by Chris Croft
The final option to consider if you can’t say no to something or negotiate over it, you have nobody to delegate to, and your systems are already pretty good is to be less fussy.
Some jobs need to be done really well—in fact, as near as you can get to perfect—while other jobs are less important: You have to do them, but doing them perfectly isn’t good use of your time. For example, although mowing the lawn might perhaps be urgent—maybe it’s going to rain later, or if it gets too long, it’ll be impossible to cut—but:
• Is it IMPORTANT?
• Is it something you WANT to spend lots of time on?
• Are there things right now that you could be doing that would be a better use of time than mowing your lawn?
So, the answer is yes, you do need to mow the lawn—probably today—but it’s not important, so you would ideally spend only the minimum amount of time on it.
Remember: “HAVE to do” is not the same as important.
Life is full of things that have to be done but are not important. For example, buying food: You do have to do it, but if you can, do it quicker than perhaps you think you should. Maintaining your car, paying the bills, even going to the toilet—we think these are important because we have to do them, but actually, they are just unimportant things that have to be done. Some could be delegated, some cannot, but whatever happens, if we can get them done in minimal time, it’s a time management victory because we can then spend more time on things we do value, like reading, seeing friends, playing or watching sports, being creative, or having fun.
Of course, importance is a matter of opinion: Some people think football is important while others don’t; some people think jazz, opera, or gardening are important while others don’t. But if it’s not important to you, then don’t let your natural tendency to do everything really well lure you into spending too much time on it.
Some people are more prone to this than others. They have what’s known as the “Be Perfect Driver.” This is a voice in their head that says, “Everything I do has to be done perfectly.” Do you line up the cans in your kitchen cupboard with the labels to the front? Are your CDs or books in alphabetical order? Do you clean your car a lot? Do you get really upset about one scratch on your iPhone?
In moderation, the Be Perfect driver is fine—after all, producing quality work is important. But if it starts to take over, then it becomes a problem. If it makes you take too long over everything, even unimportant things, or if it gives you stress and makes you unhappy, then it has become too powerful. And it does tend to grow, since “feeding it” by being more fussy doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it bigger!
Remember that you are already doing most things imperfectly, and that’s fine. You could spend twice as long on anything that you do, and do it slightly better, but you’ve already decided not to because you know it’s not worth it. So, it’s okay to be imperfect; life is too short to do everything perfectly. The only question is, in which areas have you slipped into being too fussy?
Tomorrow, we will be looking at how to tell what’s important and what isn’t—and how to affect the future course of your life! See you then.
Homework: Your homework for today is to think about what’s important and what isn’t. What are the things you spend too long on, more time than they deserve? Are you too fussy? What could you do a bit less well and it would still be fine?
Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies
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