The Pragmatic Perfectionist

Photo by John Hoang on Unsplash

You’re ready to launch your project—
as soon as it’s perfect!

Why does it never seem to be perfect?

You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon. The feeling that with just a little more effort, your work will finally be finished, and it will be perfect. And yet, it’s never quite perfect, is it? You may delay your launch to tighten up the last remaining details. Or something just needs one last tweak before it’s ready for the public. One more tweak. Then just one more. And finally, quietly, your mind tells you it’s not worth finishing after all.

You’re a perfectionist

And that’s okay! Accepting the fact that you’re a perfectionist is the first step in overcoming perfectionism.

Being a perfectionist can be a good thing.

You’re a high achiever. You set ambitious goals and work diligently towards them. Nothing less than complete success is acceptable.

You’re also likely very critical of your own work. Having the ability to objectively look at your own product, to see its flaws, to strive to take things to the next level— all of that is a superpower and should be encouraged.

Being a perfectionist can also be a bad thing.

Often, a perfectionist’s goals are unrealistic. Success is therefore likely unattainable, and failure is almost preordained.

You may also have a fear of failure. Anything less than perfection is considered a failure. And since perfectionists worry about creating something imperfectly, you start to procrastinate, paralyzing your progress, and further increasing your fear of failure.

How to be a pragmatic perfectionist

So how can you use all the advantages of the perfectionist mindset without sabotaging yourself with its faults? Acknowledging perfectionism is a start. You now know before starting a project that you will tend to strive for perfection, which may lead to a fear of failure, and procrastination, and finally abandoning it completely. Knowing this, you can avoid these pitfalls by changing your mindset.

Set incremental realistic goals

Ambitious goals are important. Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t reign in your aspirations. Reach for that moonshot. However, break your goals down into smaller, incremental milestones.

NASA didn’t put a man on the moon by attempting it on their first launch. There were many, many incremental achievements that eventually led to their ultimate goal where Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Announce your end date publicly

Having a specific deadline for your goals helps to supply a concrete timeline for each milestone. A vague aspirational goal without an end date leaves the maker unaccountable for procrastination.

Announcing your launch date publicly provides social pressure and serves as motivation to deliver on your promises. Documenting and building your project in the public eye can support this as well.

Promise to deliver on-time regardless of whether your project is perfect, and you’ll find it will end up close to perfect every time.

Learn to let go

Part of being a perfectionist is also being a control freak. You want to control every aspect of the project— because if you don’t, there’s a chance it may end up less than perfect.

On your next project, relinquish some of this control. Delegate some parts to others. This is much easier when you work with talented people you trust.

Getting to done

It’s not easy breaking away from those perfectionist habits, but it gets easier with each project you bring to a close. Remember to keep the reason you make things at the forefront of your priorities. Strive to disentangle your emotions from building the perfect project, and focus on why you wanted to make it in the first place.

Done is better than perfect


Take a look at The Done Manifesto. It provides a concrete set of rules based on urgency. It states the point of being done is not to finish, but to get other things done.

Isn’t that what we all want to do?

If you have experience getting over perfectionism in order to ship your work, I’d love to hear what worked for you.

Thanks for reading, and keep making! 🚀