Three-year is going to pass since I have started PhD at U. of Colorado. Here I am sitting on my desk preparing for presentation before our group – the first meaningful presentation where I will present data for two prospective publications. I have done the work in last three months. I am hoping to finish my work for another 3 publications by October, 2010.
So much in last 3 months, yet nothing in last 3 years. I could have given my usual excuses including, but not limited to recovering negative emotional impact of quitting PhD at U. of Hawaii, some personal problems, spending time to build my experimental set-up, not having my soil core (inherent part of my work) till June 2009 etc. However, if I have to sum up everything into one phrase that were stopping me to get any productive results, then it is “striving for perfection”.
Yes, you heard it right. Trying to be perfect is probably the single most attitude to destroy many people’s career and life. There is a clear distinction between perfection and excellence. Perfection is only achieved until there is no possible improvement of the work. Excellence can be achieved when the major goal behind work is done with some minor/not so important room for improvement.
Perfection can drive us to set impossible goal. Not achieving it can easily demoralize us and we end up quitting the work. It makes us doubt our ability and become under-achiever without knowing what is going wrong. You can get a lot of success by kicking out the perfectionist inside you as written by Cori Padgett in this excellent post (note: not a perfect post!). By doing so, you will save a lot of time and effort that otherwise would have wasted as discussed here.
Basically, it is like 80:20 rule. You can get 80% of your work done by spending 20% of the time a perfectionist could take to get the job done. You can spend rest 80% of the time to get only final 20% done. Problem lies on how you want to finish. Excellence can be achieved within reasonable time. Perfection will take tons of time as shown in this bar graph. You can spend 100% of a working time to do a perfect job, yet you could have done an excellent job by working only 60% of that time and save those 40% time for something else.
Therefore, we need to ask ourselves questions about achieving perfection. How much value will we compromise if we stop at excellent level? How much longer will it take to move from excellent to perfect? What cost we have to pay to meet perfection at work? Does the extra time and cost to achieve perfection worth it?
If extra time and effort have no worth, why bother getting to perfect level when we can do many jobs in the same time at excellent level – the level that is enough to lead us to ultimate success in any field. I am slowly kicking the perfectionist inside me.
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