Where Are You on the Curve of Excellence?
How good is good enough? Does everything you do have to be perfect? How perfectly executed does a task have to be?
The answer to these questions probably depends on what we are talking about. Clearly, sweeping the floor, driving a car and landing a plane each demand different levels of perfection.
Bob Bly, copywriter and marketing specialist, uses a simple curve that can help you decide how flawless a given task has to be. This “curve of excellence” holds the secret to your productivity.
Let’s agree that point A describes someone who is efficient, point B represents a perfectionist and point C is someone with anal-retentive tendencies.
The Efficient Person
Most of what we do, whatever it is, is accomplished between zero and point A. This is represented by the majority of the exponential curve, and the work we accomplish here is considered “good enough.”
Depending on the task, a huge amount of progress is made in a variable amount of time. So your return on investment (ROI) is huge as well. Examples of jobs for which it’s OK to be “good enough” include doing the dishes, reading a book and mopping the floor. Those can be done 90% perfectly.
If you decide that you need to dedicate more time to your task — in other words, you have to go from point A to point B — then your productivity or ROI will drop significantly. Why? Because you’ve already accomplished 90% of your task. A few extra hours will only improve the quality of your work up to 95 or 97%. In addition, because the curve remains a curve, the more you work beyond point B, the more your productivity decreases.
If you feel that the task in question deserves more time, then that makes you a perfectionist. Tasks that fall in this category might include fine-tuning a blog post, preparing for an exam or rehearsing for a concert. Being a perfectionist will differentiate you from your friendly competitors.
The Anal-Retentive Person
Working from point B to point C is a similar dilemma. Is it worth it? How can you justify spending even more time after you’ve already invested so much in your work? This amount of time will only generate a minor improvement (maybe 3 or 5%) in the quality of your work. It also will keep you from moving on to (possibly) valuable work.
Spending more time re-re-revising the content of your website, a social media post or an email is most often a sure way to waste endless hours. That’s how deadlines get missed. We are moving into anal-retentive territory here.
Of course, there are times when true perfection is required, such as when writing your daughter’s wedding speech, delivering a baby or landing a plane. For most other tasks, good enough really is good enough.
The Bottom Line
Successful people work up to point A; perfectionists go the extra mile until they reach point B; anal-retentive (and some inefficient) people work late into the night until they reach point C and beyond.
Which personality type are you?
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit