Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Perfectionism wastes everyone’s time. Here’s how.

The goal should be satisfaction, not perfection—why good enough is good enough.

MELANIE KATZMAN: We often work to the point of exhaustion depleting ourselves, resources, taking up time that people don't have in the quest for this elusive perfect. The reality is that in most instances good enough is good enough. Research shows us that people who are satisfiers tend to be happier and just as effective as people who are maximizers. Maximizers are the people who are always looking for the absolute ultimate perfect solution. But it's not necessarily the best for the individuals or for the organization. I've also seen that groups will continue to work on something long beyond the point in which they're completed. Sometimes because they want it to be perfect. Other times they're just enjoying one another's company. We fall into a certain rhythm. Working on what we know is often easier than what we don't know. It takes courage to say completed. So I coach people to have the courage to say we're done. You can always recontract about the next set of goals, but scope creep is really debilitating for the individual who's delivering the work and sometimes for the person who's receiving it because they're waiting and you're taking longer in an effort to get something to a level of perfection that isn't needed.

Oftentimes in an effort to assert our value within an organization we seek to be more complicated than is necessary. The most beautiful answer is often the simplest, the clearest, the most parsimonious. But in an effort to demonstrate that we are expert, that we have knowledge, that we are in tune with the jargon we could create complex plans, flowcharts, PowerPoints that are not only exhausting to create but are exhausting for the audience to receive them. So I always encourage people to just stop for a minute and ask: am I asking the clearest, simplest question? Can other people tell you what the goal is in one sentence? If the group you're working with doesn't know where you're heading then you've got a problem. So can you put it onto one piece of paper, one sentence. That's a good sign.

People will sometimes hold back their work and refine it and refine it because they're not really sure what it is that they're meant to do. So take the time, clarify what the expectations are, don't get lost in your own thoughts, check it out with people and, if necessary, actually have a midpoint check-in and say am I on the right path. Is this the kind of information you need. Is this the quality and depth of work that is expected. And then you can make the adjustments. Don't wait until the last minute when you're right before the deadline to see whether or not it's good enough or perfect enough

  • According to business psychologist and consultant Melanie Katzman, being a maximizer, or someone who seeks and over works in pursuit of perfection, is a waste of time, energy, and resources.
  • Completion and perfection are often not synonymous, and it is possible to continue tweaking something long after it is done.
  • A desire to demonstrate expertise can overcomplicate the work and muddle the message. To avoid this pitfall, Katzman encourages clients to stop in the middle of a project and reassess.

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
Keep reading Show less

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

    Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

    Credit: Neom
    Technology & Innovation
    • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
    • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
    • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

    Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

    Videos
    • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
    • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
    • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

    Quantcast