Why Perfection Can Be A Worthwhile Goal In Personal Projects

We’ve often argued here at Lifehacker that pursuing perfection can be an excuse for procrastination and a major annoyance. However, that doesn’t mean that avoiding perfection is the right strategy in all circumstances. With a personal project, it can be the right approach to ensure you get something that satisfies you.

As part of a keynote presentation celebrating the virtues of geekdom that opened Microsoft’s Tech Ed 2011 conference in Queensland, author and developer Matthew Magain argued passionately against the notion that perfection was always a problem: “We often hear that perfect is the enemy of done. Bollocks.”

Magain argued that seeking perfection was a key element of the ‘geek’ personality:

As geeks, we’re all perfectionists, and we strive to make whatever we have perfect. Perfect is not the enemy of done and we should reset our baseline of quality back to perfect.

In particular, Magain argued that when pursuing a personal project — one which is free of workplace deadlines and pressure — setting perfection as a goal could actually be more inspiring than settling for finishing something. If you’re pursuing a passion project, why settle for inferiority?

Magain took that approach when writing a children’s book, Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine:

Charlie Weatherburn was a personal project and I wanted it to be perfect. It was the pursuit of perfection that drove me to get it done. I chose to self-publish because I didn’t want a publisher picking a different illustrator or changing the words.
When it comes to personal projects, I believe we should be allowed to embrace perfection. There are occasions when perfect is what we should aim for and nothing less is good enough.If you’re your own client, then you owe it to yourself to do everything you can to make it perfect.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts (perfectly formed or otherwise) in the comments.

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