Don't let perfect be the enemy of good

Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

Don't let perfect be the enemy of goodHow many of you consider yourselves perfectionists? Or at least the kind of person who isn’t satisfied until every little thing is taken care of?

How often has that actually helped you? More than likely, it hasn’t helped in a way you’d like. Being a perfectionist usually means taking much longer on things than you normally do, out of a desire to get everything just right.

Let’s state the obvious here – not much, if anything, is perfect in life. And “perfect” is subjective.

I’ve read so many quips from other bloggers who have said that posts they’ve spent hours on didn’t receive half the attention that posts they spent maybe an hour or two on did.

Ironic? Sure. It also goes to show you that sometimes, the effort you put into things doesn’t guarantee the end product will turn out the way you want it to. That sometimes, perfectionism isn’t worth it. Getting caught up in the details takes our focus away from the bigger picture.

Perfectionistic tendencies can be a hindrance

From the ever wise Wikipedia:

 In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal, and their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

I’ll give you a few of my own examples.


I doubt many of you noticed, but I stopped posting my monthly goals. Exactly as Wikipedia says, when goals aren’t reached, I really feel down about it. It sucks when you don’t accomplish something. However, it’s important to look at the reasons why. Things aren’t always in our control.

It’s even worse when you declare something publicly, and then you feel ashamed when you don’t accomplish half of what you set out to.

Don’t get me wrong – I think goals are still important, but how we go about setting them and accomplishing them is a different story. Everyone has a different method. And if you can’t find the motivation, you need to dig deeper and find out what’s going on.

Maybe your goal wasn’t as important as you originally thought. That has nothing to do with how awesome you are as a person! Don’t lose yourself in your goals.


I’m sure many of you can relate to this one: Whenever I set a budget, I’m always hoping I’ll come under budget in every single area. Seeing all those numbers line up perfectly, without any red marks, would make my month.

Fact is, life happens, and most budgets never turn out perfectly. Does that mean we should completely abandon them? No, but many people feel tempted to give up after their first few tries don’t go well, because it’s discouraging. (Or, hopefully, they find a better alternative!)

The “trick” is to be realistic. You can’t shoot for the stars where budgets are concerned. As I said, life tends to get in the way, and things are bound to crop up. I’ve had maybe two good months so far this year, but we all start over new next month. There’s no reason to completely give up.

Blog posts

Not exactly finance related, but writing blog posts has been driving me crazy lately, which is (sadly) why I haven’t been posting much. Every time I finish a rough draft, I want to scrap it completely. This is crap, I tell myself.

Now I’m sure none of you would be that harsh on me, but I have always tried to achieve perfection when writing, and while I did ace my English classes, I usually got some version of “too detailed” jotted down on my essays. Since, oh, sixth grade. And I was usually the last one to finish any essays we had to write during class.

I agonized about what I should include. Halfway through writing, something else would pop in my head, but for the sake of time, I couldn’t go back and start over. I had to push that little nagging voice out of my head.

And that was honestly probably for the better, but it would really help to do that all the time.

Job interviews

Or even job applications. Have any of you came out of an interview thinking about what you should have / could have said that would have been better than what was said?

I know I have. Even on job applications – once they’re submitted, it’s like some magical fairy tells me what I left out; what I should have put in my cover letter. Then I sit there frustrated, knowing my only chance is gone.

This is bound to happen with a lot of things (even writing, after something is published). But guess what? Unless someone has a secret time traveling machine that they’re keeping all to themselves, we can’t go back and change things. It’s best to learn to let it go. Whatever happens will happen regardless of you trying your best to build your own time machine to rewind and change things.

And the best part is, life is full of opportunities. The sooner you let something go, the quicker you can move on to what’s next.

So in the case of your goals – reevaluate your priorities. Is your budget a bust? Look forward to next month! Struggling to write a blog post? Let that one sit as a draft, and come back to it later. Bombed an interview (who hasn’t)? Keep looking for another job, and learn from the experience.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

At the end of the day, there’s only so much we can accomplish. We need to stop beating ourselves up over the little things. I know I have a tendency to do that. But what good does that really do? You already know you made a mistake. Kicking yourself for it only serves to kill your spirits.

What we can do is our best. Give everything your best shot, and move on if it doesn’t work out. Most things in life aren’t going to break us unless we let them. Remember that you can choose to be upset, or you can choose to rise above it and not take things so seriously.

I’m not saying you should simply “settle,” but if there are certain projects or goals that are getting the best of you, is it really worth the stress? The point is, we could all be easier on ourselves. We should focus on our accomplishments, even the small ones, and take stock of how far we’ve come.

Have you ever let perfect be the enemy of good?

Erin M.

Erin is a personal finance writer and virtual assistant who loves talking about money and how to use it as a tool to get what you want out of life. When she's not obsessing over numbers or working (which is rare), she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cat, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, or any random combination of the above.

67 thoughts on “Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

  1. OH wow–I feel like you wrote this just for me :) :)! I need this reminder constantly. Fortunately, Mr. FW is pretty good about boosting me up and getting me to “just do” whatever it is. Oh but how I struggle! I try to do the 80/20 thing–80% of the work to yield a good enough result and ignore the marginal 20%. But it’s so hard!!!!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted: Great Trash Finds: The Mom EditionMy Profile

    1. You’ll have to let me know how the sticky note is working out for you. I’m thinking of commissioning R to make a painting of it =). I’m lucky that he’s the same way as Mr. FW – it’s so important to have your other half balance you out, isn’t it?

      I completely bomb the 80/20 rule, especially when it comes to blogging (80% promotion/20% creation). It is really hard!

  2. Such a great topic! I was raised with that mentality of “give 100% to everything you do.” It wasn’t until I was an adult, working full time, that I realized how absurd that was. When you’re juggling multiple jobs, rental homes, side projects, freelance projects, relationships, etc, you have to be able to prioritize constantly. I wish I had learned that skill years ago!

    1. I somehow raised myself on that mentality; when I didn’t do as well as I hoped in school, I beat myself up over it, while my parents told me it wasn’t a big deal. No clue how that happened! You’re right – prioritizing is key, too.

  3. I love that phrase! I say it to myself often. My big area of applying it is in exercising. For a while, if I wasn’t up for doing a New Rules of Lifting for Women or HIIT workout, I wouldn’t do anything. But now I would rather do an easier workout when I have low motivation than pass up on exercising entirely.

    I decided to start doing some goal posts for while I’m funemployed this fall (the first is up today!) but I hope I will stick to it and not get discouraged when I don’t complete all of them, because I know that will happen. :)
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted: Funemployment Report: Goals for August 2014My Profile

    1. That’s a great way to do things! I try to write a bit every day and be happy with the progress I’m making. I’ve learned that taking baby steps is the best thing I can do to work toward goals. I wish you luck in your funemployment goals!

    1. I’m so jealous that you can do that =). I try and tell myself things are “good enough,” but I have a hard time believing it. The truth is, most people probably won’t care or notice as much as you think.

    1. That is the truth! There’s totally not enough time in the day to try and make everything as perfect as can be. I’m sure there’s got to be a poster with the quote on it somewhere!

  4. That is one of my favorite quotes! I definitely fall into the perfection trap too much. I feel you on the blogging thing– there are tons of times where I write an entire post then decide it’s not good enough and get rid of it! Such a waste of time and energy… I gotta just accept that not everything will be perfect!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted: DIY Makeup RemoverMy Profile

    1. It’s the worst. Seriously. I dislike devoting so much time and energy to a piece, and then scrapping it all together, but sometimes it’s more overwhelming to try and attempt to re-write it!

  5. Great post, EM! I don’t think I’m necessarily a perfectionist, though I do like being attentive and having things a certain way. However, I think over time I’ve come to realize that things aren’t always going to be perfect, but if I’m happy with the outcome then that’s all that matters. It’s not really worth getting upset or frustrated about for me, so I try to not to let it get to me. This being said, I still have my moments, so it’s all a work in progress. :)
    anna recently posted: Pregnancy Notes: The Good, The Bad, and The FunnyMy Profile

    1. I definitely have a certain way of doing things myself, though I think everyone does with something! You’re right that many things aren’t worth getting upset or frustrated about. If you’re sitting there spending half the time frustrated… it’s time to move on. It’s a work in progress for me, too!

    1. I know what you mean. I find myself fighting a constant battle wanting to perfect my blog posts, but knowing that sometimes, it’s not worth the energy and time (especially when it’s 3 hours later!).

    1. Yes, I don’t give myself enough credit for doing things sometimes. We focus so much on what we should be doing that we miss the fact we’ve made any sort of progress.

  6. I still put too much pressure on myself when it comes to my work (I’m a little anal about things being done in a certain way) but thank God my DH is around to remind me to relax and stop being too hard on myself. You are right about not giving up on the budgeting aspect. It takes time to find the “sweet spot” and even then life doesn’t always align with the numbers :)
    Kassandra recently posted: Is Your Spare Room Costing You?My Profile

    1. My boyfriend does the same thing, otherwise I’d probably drive myself up a wall. Most of the time, life doesn’t really care about our budget, so it’s up to us to get back up after a bad month.

  7. Yes! This is so me. I am a perfectionist on (almost) everything and it is a huge time and energy drain. I’m starting to step back and see that everything will be ok even if nothing is “perfect”. Sometimes perfectionists have the biggest messes because they can’t start organizing or cleaning unless the circumstances are perfect – they have enough time to do it with out interruption, they have a plan in place, etc.
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted: Guest Post: My Interpretation of Dave RamseyMy Profile

    1. Yes, exactly! It can be quite time consuming, and there’s only so many hours in the day…do we really want to waste them trying to get something absolutely perfect? Probably not!

  8. I always loved that saying, and how true is it about the blog posts? I swear there have been ones that came gushing out and thought, “no one is going to like this” and they are my most popular posts. Weird! I find myself being a perfectionist about some things but not others…it depends on how much I care about the task. But I’ve been better about letting things go, which is good. I think as far as what you write, it’s ok to feel vulnerable and ok to mess up, not have a great post, have typos,’ve put yourself out there, and not many people can say they do!

    1. I love your more emotional posts, Tonya! They always give me something to think about =). I agree – blog posts are certainly not the end all be all pinnacle of writing, but part of me struggles with going so off-topic when I want to be providing value at the same time.

    1. I wish there was a magic switch to turn it off sometimes, but I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, too. It seems like there’s a lot of us that are pretty hard on ourselves when it comes to blogging!

  9. This is such a timely post! Lately I feel like my perfectionist tendencies have paralyzed me – I’m so concerned that I need to do this, this, and this first that I’m actually doing NOTHING (or not doing the things I’m supposed to be doing). It makes me feel TERRIBLE. Maybe on the bright side though, people don’t notice the same things we do. Maybe what I’m freaking out about isn’t that big a deal to other people like it is to me!
    Melissa recently posted: Getting Lunch with Co-WorkersMy Profile

    1. I completely get feeling paralyzed by it! It’s very likely other people don’t care as much – and that’s not a bad thing to realize. I can be really anal about silly stuff to the point where my boyfriend thinks I’m being ridiculous. We have to ask ourselves if those things truly matter.

    1. I’m glad you’ve gotten better at it! Sadly, I think I have too – at least when it comes to other aspects of life. I clearly need to apply that to writing =).

  10. I needed this today! I wrote three posts today and hated all of them. :( The more work I get, the more it seems I hate what I write. Maybe I am just writing more and so it feels more mechanical, than creative? Not sure. I’ve literally spent hours on my posts. I’ve had near meltdowns over a typo. I’ve learned to relax a bit, but I HATE errors, typos, or feeling like I don’t have control over something or like it’s not “good enough.” But action is always superior to inaction, so just keep going. I actually heard from a pro freelance writer, that if you’re not making errors you’re not working enough. That made me feel a little better. Ha!
    Melanie @ Dear Debt recently posted: Knowing Your Spending TriggersMy Profile

    1. You’re SO not alone!! It’s very possible that writing can start to feel like a chore/mechanical rather than inspired. I hate grammatical errors and typos, too. I go through my posts with a fine-toothed comb, but it does take a lot of extra time on top of the time I’ve already spent writing. I think I’ve heard that saying, too. Honestly, making errors is part of being human!

  11. This is a constant struggle for me. I think I’m slowly getting better at it, especially at work. I would work really hard on something just for someone to change their mind or scrap the project.

    Such a great post. We all need to be reminded of this from time to time. Of course, now the perfectionist side of me will worry about whether or not I’m being too much of a perfectionist :).
    Autumn @ The Barefoot Budgeter recently posted: Money Won’t Buy You LoveMy Profile

    1. Oh man, it’s so bad when you work so hard on something and it ends up being for naught.

      Haha, it’s like a never ending cycle, isn’t it? It’s important to snap out of it and come to terms with things. I find the expectations I set for myself are way higher than what most people expect of me.

    1. It’s crazy how it works out that way. It’s true, though. No matter how iffy I feel on a post, people are still stopping by, so it’s likely all in my head!

  12. I feel you on this. I go through phases, and I’ll have times where I feel like every blog post I write for my site is not up to par. I usually just leave them in drafts and go back to them at a later date and fix them up.

    I also will send out an application for writing jobs, then think of something else that I should have mentioned. Hate when that happens!
    Lauren recently posted: 3 Tips for Thrift Shopping SuccessMy Profile

    1. It’s really tough to deal with! I think writing with the goal of providing value and a takeaway helps me focus. As for applications, I think there’s always something that slips through the cracks. Sometimes we just have to let it go and jot it down for next time!

  13. Yep. This is definitely me and blog posts. I have dozens of drafts sitting there, and each time I go back I wonder why I even bothered wasting my time writing it. The odd thing is, that is the main part of my life perfectionism finds it’s way into. I don’t care about looking perfect or being perfect, but for some reason, I can’t get over the blog hump. I guess I will just have to think of everything I write as junk, and then I can post it all without worry. But you’re totally right, I have seen too many people (myself included) not do something because of a fear that it won’t be perfect, rather than just going ahead and taking action. I always remind myself that done is better than perfect.
    Ryan at Impersonal Finance recently posted: 5 no-effort ways to save money todayMy Profile

    1. Ryan, I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one out there who struggles with creating decent content! You know what, though? We’re putting things out there and people are responding, so we must be doing something right =). I also think your blog posts have been fine! Everyone has a different style, and I know I’m prone to comparing myself to others at times, but if we were all alike that would be pretty boring.

  14. I heard that saying a few months ago and I just love it! I could apply it to so many places in my life, especially blogging. I took forever to start my blog because I wanted everything “perfect”.
    Kara recently posted: Our Preschool CostsMy Profile

    1. Don’t even get me started on blog design! I spent at least two straight days agonizing over how everything looked, down to asking my boyfriend if he thought the color scheme was good (he’s an artist). Sometimes, it’s best just to start. I’m glad you did!

  15. I struggle with this ALL the time. I literally write something and I will read it no less than 6 or 7 times and sometimes I will completely start again, and every time that I do, I dislike myself a little more. I have internal bruises from all of the times I have beat myself up over trying to be perfect. The older I get, though, the better I am at accepting my limitations or “settling” for good. It’s hard, though.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted: Sometimes You Do Not Want to KnowMy Profile

    1. Your blog posts are always awesome, Shannon! Just wanted to let you know that =). I completely understand, though. I certainly have a few of those bruises myself. I think it would be helpful to make a list of what things get to me, and make note of how I can either make things easier on myself, or not care *as* much. Kind of like talking some sense into my brain!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one in a funk, but I hope you get out of it soon! I’m sure you’re doing well Laurie, seriously. Your posts always have a way of speaking to so many people, and you genuinely seem like an awesome person to be around. I can’t imagine how much work you have to complete on the homestead, but take it easy =).

  16. Man, I struggle with this ALL THE TIME! I have for years really. I think part of it goes back to seeing my Dad be this way when I was growing up and know that my personality lends a lot to it as well. As you said, it can be absolutely crippling at times if you’re not careful with it. The crazy thing is that I’ve regularly found that if I spend more time on something trying to perfect it that it’s not as good as my first go at it. Sort of ironic on one hand, but also points back to the importance of being satisfied as opposed to always trying to be perfect – which is subjective and impossible. :)
    John @ Frugal Rules recently posted: 5 Ways To Save Money On A Beach VacationMy Profile

    1. Yes!! I find that the more time I spend on something, the more I’m overthinking it, and the more convoluted it gets. Perfect, good, great, etc. is certainly all subjective. You can’t please everyone, and trying to will get you nowhere fast.

  17. I am a perfectionist and it has defiantly cause me some headaches. For example I do wedding cakes as one of my side hustles and it the cake isn’t perfect to my standards then I will spend all night on it, even to the point of removing all of the frosting and starting again. The huge problems I see in my cakes are small little bumps or dips that no one else would ever see.

    I think I am going to have to take your quote and keep it close at hand! I may have just found my new motto! :o)
    Tennille F. recently posted: Checkout51 ReviewMy Profile

    1. I hate frosting anything because I think it always turns out horribly! I can’t imagine doing that as a side hustle. The best thing to remember (or I try to, at least) is that your time is money, especially as a freelancer. If we’re spending too much time on one thing, we’re likely losing out on money elsewhere, or other opportunities. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. This is something I struggle with and have been relearning over the past little bit. I’m bad for it work because as an academic you strive for the best, but in industry you strive for the trade off between efficiency and cost. Uh, what are those things? Hah :)

    I think I get frozen in spot sometimes because I don’t know the right answer. I felt that way when I started investing, but I knew that if I could just start something, it’d be better than nothing.
    Alicia recently posted: Ways I Make “Found Money”My Profile

    1. Yes, there’s always a trade off! I really had to work at prioritizing things at my old job, otherwise I would spend too much time on some things.

      That’s a great example! I’ve been caught in analysis-paralysis quite a few times, but when I finally take action, I feel a lot better.

    1. Oh I have SO been there. Or, I rehearse things constantly. It’s not bad to be prepared, but going through every single possible scenario of what could happen is so tiring.

  19. Beautiful, E.M. Perfectionism can be a good thing because it results in really good work. However, we have learned that a strength taken too far becomes a weakness, and this is exactly what happens with being a perfectionist. I am guilty in all of those areas, so thank you for the reminder. It’s easy to look at someone else and say they did so well, but we are our own worst critics. Here are my thoughts on your subtopics (the perfectionist in me can’t resist! hee hee):

    Goals – on my recent post on goals / accomplishments, some suggested to limit my goals to three which is not a bad idea. You can keep a long to do list, but just prioritize and then put the top three as your goals. Keep posting your goal posts, but only if it helps you to be accountable but not beat yourself up over it.

    Budgeting – As you say, get back on the horse next month. Consistent and/or across the board misses are really the key causes for concern.

    Blog Posts – your posts are flawless. You are a great writer. I don’t know how many rewrites or how much time you take, but maybe that is your concern. I certainly understand, because I don’t want to put ‘crap’ out either and it takes me a long time to write a post. Consequently, my blog visiting or social media or PF tasks suffer. I have a big list of potential posts, but every time I go to write one of them I go blah. Consequently, I never get a backlog built up which irks me. However, on the plus side, my impromptu posts seem to go quite well, so maybe it’s a good thing. I just hate the added pressure when I have nothing ready for my targeted publishing days (like today, ha ha).

    Job Interviews – If you prepare adequately and do your best, then let it go. I’m a big fan of fate in this regard. What’s meant to be is meant to be. Many jobs I thought I wanted, it turned out to be a good thing I didn’t get them.

    Anyways, I love this post so much I’ve made a little pic to tweet for it.
    Happy Saturday and good weekend to ya!
    debs@debtdebs recently posted: Thoughts on SuicideMy Profile

    1. “A strength taken too far becomes a weakness” – very true! I am guilty of being my own worst critic.

      I like your thoughts on goals. They can get to be overwhelming sometimes! 3 seems to be the magic number in a lot of things.

      “Every time I go to write one of them I go blah.” Yep, that sums it up! I completely get where you’re coming from here. I’ve been trying to write several posts to get ahead, but each time, I end up disappointed. Then of course, this topic came to me literally the night before, I wrote it, and it went well! Thank you for the compliment, though. Obviously, your blog has taken off, so I don’t think I’m alone in enjoying your work!

      Yes! I like thinking that sometimes when things don’t go as planned, it just wasn’t meant to be. I have learned to let go a bit of control in that aspect.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  20. I really needed to read this. I’m always so hard on myself when I don’t post so often, thinking my blog isn’t perfect because I don’t have a set schedule. But you’re right – perfect is subjective, and just isn’t fair for one to strive towards. I think I need to simply be satisfied with my effort, especially if I know I tried my best. This not only applies to my blog, but also my goals/budget/etc,

    1. I’ve started realizing that as well, especially when it comes to my posting frequency. So many blogs seem to post 2-3x a week (or more), but I’ve found a lot of people find once a week to be perfectly acceptable. You just want to make sure it’s decent quality!

    1. I see your point, Jayson, as I have a habit of doing a lot of things by myself, and not asking for help. I wouldn’t call myself 100% self-centered. While I think there’s a certain degree of selfishness in everyone, I help others when they need it, and have no qualms about sharing work when it comes down to it.

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