Good Enough Versus Perfect.

I am sure I’m not alone in my perfectionist ways. I cannot be the only one who struggles with completing a task “exactly to the guideline I’ve put in my head” versus “good enough”. Sometimes I don’t realize I cannot distinguish between these two situations and I end up stuck trying to get that last 2% completed, which is just the gloss.

When I was a student, if I was so inclined I could work on an assignment for as many hours as I could squeeze into my schedule before the deadline. At work, assuming you work a standard work week of 40 hours, you cannot necessarily work 20 hours on one project just to tweak little things here and there.

But having been a grad student who more often than not took work and reading home with her, it’s been a significant change in my pattern. Over the last year and a half I’ve learned this lesson well. Having more rigid time frames and enforcing a strict “don’t take work home in the evenings unless it’s the very last resort” policy has made me a little antsy.

Now, don’t get my wrong… I am not creating and submitting shoddy work. I’d say they’re always above 90%+ “perfect”, but the extra polish that sometimes requires an exorbitant time commitment isn’t always fully there. And if the time is not on my side, then that’s where they land. Work assignments don’t bleed out over weeks and months when days are sufficient.

It’s not always worth it spending equivalent amount of work on the final polish of an internal update document than on the entire writing on the report. If it was an external document, or it was going to clients then sure, I’d spend the time polishing up the last little bit, but most times that isn’t the situation.

How does this relate to finance? Well, that is mostly due to the fact that I also suffer from “personal finance perfection” as well. I’ve had slip-ups, and it pains me when things do not go exactly as my projected spreadsheet shows. But many times I can get myself 90% there without too much extra effort. That last 10%? It can be a struggle, and requires quite a push many times.

I’m unsure if this would always be the case, or if I am putting overly aggressive goals in my spreadsheets making it difficult to reach. Is that extra 10% worth it if it encompasses all my free time? Or is it worth it for my finances always to be the first thing on my mind? Even if that is the case, I need to acknowledge to myself that 90% is way better than 0%, and progress is being made.

In both work, and in personal finance, what it really comes down to is a trade-off, and finding that balanced middle-ground. Can I live with the way things are going? And the answer is yes.

Do you struggle with “good enough” and “perfect” in your career and finances? How do you overcome it, and which side do you fall to?

avatarAuthor Bio ~ Alicia (40 Posts)

Alicia is a late twenty-something scientist living in Atlantic Canada, navigating her new career as a solitary female in a male-dominated field. After completing graduate school, she found herself owing over $30,000 in debt from severe consumer-related financial missteps. To keep herself accountable, Alicia chronicles her debt dig-out on her personal finance blog, Financial Diffraction. She is a fair-weather runner, a spreadsheet enthusiast, a reformed music snob, and admittedly on the verge of becoming a crazy cat lady.

12 Responses to “Good Enough Versus Perfect.”

  1. I think there may be a problem with the words “good enough” because for some people good enough could be rather poor. There’s a negative element – it’s not done right but it’ll do as it’s good enough for now and the wheel won’t fall off today.
    Instead I prefer to think of it as “good” and “perfect”. It’s important to do a good job but spending an extreme amount of time trying to do a perfect job takes away from other things that are also important. There’s a lack of balance. Of course, it does depend on the job at hand. We do want our surgeon or the mechanic to do a perfect job.
    I do remember high school exams when I would not be satisfied with 90% or even 95%. I wanted perfect. Since then I learned to be satisfied with a good job or maybe very good.
    A “good enough” job only applies to housework when I would rather do other things.

    • True, it can definitely be a semantics issue, and your “good” and “perfect” are probably better terms for what I’m describing. You’re right that the job does matter. For most people however, that last 5% doesn’t necessarily warrant the increase in time.

      I remember getting a 97.5% on a test (39/40) and my father legitimately asked me “where’s the last 2.5%?”. I wanted to smack him in the nicest way possible.

  2. I totally hear you. With my university education, you could always do better. They actually made a pact never to give 100% in something that couldn’t be measured (like an engineering exam) because a building is never 100% perfect, there are always compromises. (Budget, aesthetic, etc.) It was the perfect situation for a recovering perfectionist like myself. Now, it just has to be accurate. Not perfect. And since we aren’t perfect anyway, we should be able to forgive the slip-ups and keep pushing forward.

  3. There is a quote from Gretchen Rubin’s book, the Happiness Project (I think) … “don’t let perfect me the enermy of good” … or maybe it’s “don’t let perfect be the enemy of done” … in any case, these are great/true quotes.

    I am a perfectionist by nature. I have always been this way. I feel like it’s engrained in my personality. I am a first-born and a Capricorn, maybe these have something to do with it.

    I can remember as a kid getting 9/10 on something and when I challenged the teacher as to why, she said my writing “could have been neater” … I was appalled! My writing/printing is extremely neat. From then on I typed my assignments so I would get perfect, LOL

    I am a perfectionist with my job, my finances, and nearly every aspect of my life including how clean my house is, and other parts of my routine. It is always challenging for me to “let go” so to speak. It is something I am always mindful of… for example, sometimes I will leave dishes in the sink and head over to bf’s place for the night (the horror!!) … this is just a small example but I’m sure you know what I mean. My budget always has to balance to the penny. When my chequing account gives me $0.01 per month in interest I put it in my spending journal as -$0.01 so it balances!

    Good luck!

    • Those quotes are definitely on.

      Dishes in the sink make me so antsy. But honestly, what’s the big deal if one plate and a glass are sitting there (rinsed, of course!) until breakfast. I do the same with the interest as well… makes for many small transactions.

  4. “By the measure with which you measure…it will be measured back to you.”

    Perfection is a harsh master, when we stand in the shadow of it…because we simply are NOT perfect. There would be a holy hush in the room if anyone stated THEY were perfect.

    On the other hand, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” This has become the standard I run to. That last 10% that’s so hard to attain is the 10% Love asks us to give…and in return, Love supplies not only the ability to give the 10% but the other 90% as well.

    I’ve wrestled with Perfection and got “creamed.” That was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. I “gave up” and made room for the Perfect to come.

    I choose to clothe myself with Love.

    Learning how to “dress” takes all my attention now.

    • Yes, I do think it will be easier if I don’t have to work for that last 10%. I think I’ve wrestled with that perfection as well and lost the battle… which is why I’m working on this now :)

  5. p.s. @Rae I appreciated your comment!

  6. I see a theme here for you lately :)

    And I’ve written about it too:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going after your goals – but it’s more important to set attainable ones, so you can meet them and feel successful about doing so.

    You’ll find the balance! It just takes time.

    • Yeah, I might be a year behind you on the journey, but I’m trying to figure out the ropes. You’re always talking about trying to find balance, and I’m trying to do that too, with many things. Career, and getting my finances under control, a move… it’s a lot of change for someone who doesn’t like change!

      PS, now that you linked to your post, I do remember reading it. :)

  7. My personal motto is: if better is possible – good is never enough.

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