Perfectionism - Enemy of Priority?on Jul 14 in Priority, Understanding tagged Analysis, Prioritisation by Keith
Business improvement thoughts come to me in the strangest places…
We’ve just had a period of sunshine and rain that has been great for the grass in our horses’ field, but it has also caused the ragwort to sprout. Ragwort is poisonous to horses and needs to be thoroughly eradicated from fields (I think it may even be an offence to knowingly let it grow).
This means going out with a special fork to remove the plants including the deep roots. My wife asked me to concentrate first on the plants that had grown enough in the week to flower, to prevent them going to seed and exacerbating the problem.
Being my usual self, I set out with the wheelbarrow and fork, determined to clear every last vestige of ragwort from a 3 acre field.
After an hour, maybe a bit more, and getting less than half-way, I was struck with a thought.
This was a great analogy for the need to balance quality/perfectionism against getting stuff done/priority.
Even though I am a perfectionist, I found myself asking if perfectionism is the enemy of priority?
Does unthinking perfectionism create its own problems?
I wanted to compeltely clear the field (perfectionism/high quality). However I know that as ragwort seeds can survive for many, many years there will pretty much always be more growing. So, I’ll have to keep going back with my barrow and fork. Extra effort would perhaps not appear to be wasted in the short term, but within days, the situation would return. My extra time could be better spent elsewhere (priorty/getting things done).
I realised I would be as well following my wife’s advice, and just taking out the larger plants.
As my natural bent is to be a perfectionist, this thought made me come back home, look at my diary for the next week, and for the goals I’ve set for the next month, quarter and year, and have a conversation with myself about what really did need to be perfect, and what could be done to 80% - and why.
Yes, 80/20 works, but sometimes you need to take the right thing to 100%.
The challenge, I think is to work out which 100% tasks are ”pulling ragwort” and could simply use up all your time to stay still, and which are going to make a step-change difference when you do them.
Maybe, selective perfectionism is the answer.
Planning brings together perfectionism and priority. Not rocket science, but that’s a different way of relating and thinking of things…