Lynne Cazaly (pictured below) is a keynote speaker and adviser on new ways of working. She’s also the author of ‘ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough. In this guest post, Cazaly argues your overthinking everything could be the reason you never start anything…
There’s nothing like a great response to your product, idea or service from customers, clients and the wider market. But what might you be putting yourself through on the path to launching that product or idea? We might think that ‘nothing good is easily achieved’ but recent research about working too many additional hours reveals problems that are worth entrepreneurs acting on … and leveraging.
Researchers Avgoustaki and Frankort collected data from 50,000 people from 36 countries between 2010 and 2015 looking at the effect of ‘work effort’. They found that the harder people worked, the more likely they reported stress, lower satisfaction and inferior outcomes.
Many entrepreneurs spend endless hours to get their idea ‘up’ and get it ready to go live out to market and it could be that this effort isn’t delivering great value or worse, is about pursuing perfect.
Perfection isn’t good
Excellence, quality and high standards are important – but the drive for perfection … not so much. According to further research from 41,000 subjects, PhD researchers Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill, found that perfectionism is on the rise. They explain that perfectionism is ‘an irrational desire to achieve along with being overly critical of oneself and others.’ The downside is that perfectionism can lead to depression and anxiety, sleeplessness, burnout and other problems like asthma and migraines.
Three dangers to be aware of
There are three main ways entrepreneurs let perfectionism hinder their efforts and get in the way of pressing ‘go’ on their ideas:
Many people have great ideas, but they don’t bring them to market. Rather than being all talk about what you’re ‘gonna’ do, put some of your ideas out there, even in an early form like a pilot or prototype. You’ll learn from these experiments about how to improve your idea and whether it’s viable. The startup world uses MVPs or minimum viable products for this very reason.
An extension of all talk is procrastinating on tasks or activities that could take you closer to getting your product or idea out there and firing. You’re not a startup if you’re not starting anything! The start of activity is vital, gaining you crucial momentum, motivation and energy that keeps you going through tougher times. Tick some things off the ‘to do’ list to get on the other side of merely hoping for a successful future, This could include approaching people for meetings, gathering solid research data for a first prototype or getting potential customers together to hear what they think of your idea.
The dangerous friend of procrastination (not starting) is perfectionism (not stopping). Thinking that things aren’t ‘good enough’ yet or need longer hours and effort to ‘make them perfect’ is a dangerous thinking, considering the earlier research on the problems with perfectionism.
Put the 80/20 or Pareto Principle to work – this is where just 20 per cent of your effort can yield an incredible 80 per cent of your end results. But also know that you could be wasting around 80 per cent of your time because it’s only delivering you a low 20 per cent return or output on your efforts. This is a true example of how to work smarter not harder.
Going live is everything
The ‘go live’ point is everything in an entrepreneurial business. You might think it’s all about the long hours in the lead up to going live, but hard work can go on forever. There’s always more to be done. Going live is no longer about things being ‘perfect’ or ‘finished’.
In today’s world, going live involves testing out your idea and seeing if it’s got ‘legs’ … do people want it, need it and will they buy it. Let’s agree to tone down the perfectionism; it’s harming us and our abilities to work well and it’s stopping us from taking our ideas, innovation and creativity to the world.