Done is better than perfect

Picture of Matthew Stibbe
Posted by Matthew Stibbe

Here rolls the sea
And even here
Lies the other shore
Waiting to be reached
Yes here
Is the everlasting present
Not distant
Not anywhere else

These words are engraved in the gatehouse at Dartington Hall, near where I grew up. They made a big impression on me and I remembered them last week when I read about Facebook’s motto ‘Done is better than perfect’ in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

How many times do we let perfection get in the way?

Tips to avoid perfectionism

  • Just write that first draft now. You can edit later.
  • Don’t wait for a website redesign. Improve your existing site now.
  • Action today is better than a plan for tomorrow.
  • Decisions, even suboptimal ones, are generally better than indecision.
  • Synthetic happiness is more satisfying than natural unhappiness.
  • If you stay at home, you know exactly what is going to happen but if you go out, anything could happen.
  • Ask him/her out. Get over your loss aversion. According to economist Tim Harford, the cost of rejection is much less than the potential gain of a successful date.
  • There is no correlation between the number of pages in your business plan and the likely success of your start-up.
  • Remember: non-existent code doesn’t crash.
  • Go with the 90 per cent solution rather than double the length and cost of the project aiming for 100 per cent.
  • And yes, done is better than perfect.

In many cases, you get 80 per cent of the value from 20 per cent of the work. Often, just showing up or getting started or doing something is enough. You’re closer to the other shore than you think.

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