PSA: Ladies, Done is Better than Perfect

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

July 23, 2017

This article was inspired by our recent reading of “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay. Kay’s book is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about the confidence gap between men and women, what causes it, and what we can do to close it.

Women, more often than men, become invested in doing everything they do in the most perfect way possible. This trait is found astonishingly more often in women than men, and doesn’t discriminate between work and home life. Women carry this need for perfection into all parts of their lives: work, home responsibilities, personal life, and everything in between. We’ve done it for so long that we believe something is only done when it’s finally perfect.

But, what about the tasks that never fully reach perfection? Where do those tasks go? Incompleted, or worse, still consuming our lives. We all have those unfinished proposals that never make it beyond the confines of our desk, partially completed organization projects, and the projects that seem to drag on for eternity.

Pro Tip: Focus on the forest, not the trees.

The forest vs. the tree analogy applies here. The trees, after all, are what we are dealing with day in and day out. Especially when you find yourself on the edge of a performance evaluation, or promotion. It’s easy to believe that perfection is what will get you ahead, in your career and in your personal life. But is it? Perfection can often be our worst enemy.

Why is that? Because when it comes to perfection…

It causes us to fall behind

Perfection is difficult to maintain. If you feel you must be perfect (or better, if there is such a thing) to succeed, you will find that you’re missing out. Women all over the world spend countless hours rereading their pitch or paper for the thousandth time, and they are completely missing that window of opportunity.

Meanwhile, men have no hesitation in taking that opportunity for themselves. Katty Kay’s example of this is from a Hewlett Packard internal report that showed that, most often, women apply to jobs when they are 100% qualified; men apply when they are closer to 60% qualified for the position.

In an effort to appear more competent and confident, women squander their potential by waiting too long. We shouldn’t feel like we have to wait until we are overqualified before we apply to a job or pitch a new idea. Pushing through that feeling and going for what we really want to do will help close the confidence gap between men and women that much more.

Disclaimer: Don’t take this as permission to start submitting half finished, low quality work because we are claiming that is what your male counterpart is doing. Instead, focus on the art of finishing what you started.

It hinders our confidence

Successes give us confidence. If we sit and choose not to try because it isn’t perfect yet, there is no chance for success. There’s too much going on, so if we can’t do it perfectly right now, why do it at all? Right? Well, no.

Reaching for perfection is just that, reaching. Perfection is something that we strive for to avoid failure; the failure of someone noticing a small mistake and deeming us unqualified. It’s our default safety mode.

It’s appealing, we get it, we do it all the time. But, how can we succeed if we never take action for fear of failure? The confidence code explains that “if you choose not to act, you have little chance of success. What’s more, when you choose to act, you’re able to succeed more frequently than you think.”

It Creates Clutter

Where do all of the unfinished projects go? The ones you were too stressed to send. They wait in a file folder in the back of your mind. You’ll get to them “one day when you have time.” Unfortunately, that magical moment of time may not be coming your way. The longer you sit on these unfinished projects, the more projects will build up, and you will be less likely to start. Because really, where do you start?

Pro Tip: You will be much less likely to start on something new when you have old business hanging around. Give yourself a clean slate and move forward. Maybe the finished products won’t be perfect, but they’ll be done. That is what’s important—being done.

It directly affects performance

Getting caught up in the fact that we are not yet perfect can cause us to shut out the world and focus on failure. The one mistake we made that one time tends to hang around in the back of our minds, lowering our opinion of ourselves and our work. When we focus on how we failed, we will find it more difficult to move forward with confidence.

“Ruminating drains the confidence from us. Those negative thoughts, and nightmare scenarios masquerading as problem solving, spin on an endless loop. We render ourselves unable to be in the moment or to trust our instincts because we are captive to those distracting, destructive thoughts, which gradually squeeze all the spontaneity out of life and work. We have got to stop ruminating.” - Katty Kay

Changing the way that we think about our performance can change how well we perform. By choosing to not strive for perfection, we are making the choice to not dwell on our failure and mistakes. This change of thought lets us act more often, and with more confidence, which will lead to a better outcome for everyone involved.

Have you read The Confidence Code? What was your biggest take away?

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