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What Can Software Developers Teach us About Crushing the ‘Perfection Bug’?

What Can Software Developers Teach us About Crushing the ‘Perfection Bug’?

    Imagine this: Your desk is full of paper and it’s all related to unfinished work. Also, your task list never seems to shrink – instead, it’s growing bigger and bigger.

    Even if you work hard on your tasks, you have this nagging feeling of incompletion in your head. You also feel that it is impossible to meet your inner critic; you are never satisfied to your results.

    You are frustrated and burnt out. And even if that’s not enough, you start to procrastinate on your tasks.

    You only wish that you could leave the office at 5PM and spend time with your family. And then you look at the piles of paper on your desk.

    It is going to be yet another night spent working.

    There is no finish line in sight

    Unfortunately, this image is way too common in offices around the world. Most people are overwhelmed by the amount of unfinished work they have.

    There are really four reasons why this is happening:

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    First, it’s because the amount of distractions. They don’t have a chance to work in a focused manner and their work performance slows down.

    Secondly, it is because working on too many things (tasks, projects, etc.) at once. When they work like this, they are unable to get anything properly completed.

    Third, they don’t have an organized way of handling the workload; they have issues with prioritization and they don’t know what tasks to focus on next. This in turn may be caused by a non-existent day planning.

    Now, even if those three previous conditions are met, there is still one thing that causes people to procrastinate and be overwhelmed: It’s the unfinished work and the fact that they are never 100% percent satisfied to the quality of their work.

    When they are unsatisfied to their work quality, they keep tweaking and tweaking the results but they are unable to finish anything. This is a sure way to overwhelm their selves and generate unnecessary stress.

    It is also a sure way to make other people angry – especially if their performance is dependent on the person who is never capable of finishing his/her part of the task/project.

    If it’s not perfect, it is not ready!

    Inability to let go of tasks and never finishing them are symptoms of perfectionism.

    The fact is that you are never going to satisfy your inner critic because you think that there is yet another tweak that you have to do until you can let go of the task.

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    What is causing all this?

    It’s the underlying fear that is holding you in its arms; the fear that others label you as a failure if you release something imperfect. The fear that you are letting yourself down (and not meeting your standards) if everything is not 100% perfect.

    Well, I have some news for you — perfection doesn’t exist!

    I admit that in certain circumstances (for e.g. professions) you always have to be striving for perfection, for example when you are an airline pilot or a surgeon.

    But in 90% of other cases perfection is not serving you. Instead, it is slowing you down, making you procrastinate and increasing your stress levels.

    Let’s talk Scrum

    If perfection is slowing you down, help can be found from a surprising source; from the world of agile software development and Scrum.

    “Hmm… Scrum? What is Scrum?” you are asking.

    Scrum is a software methodology that software developers use and one of its components is “Definition of Done” (DoD). It describes what a development team has to have ready by the end of the development iteration (also known as sprint).

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    When the team declares something as done, it means that the new functionality is fully tested, documented and could be even put to production.

    Even if the DoD is used in context of software development, it can be easily applied to individual productivity needs as well.

    Definition of Done describes clearly and explicitly what needs to be achieved until a task can be declared as done. And when you define your “done”, you can get rid of your perfection bug.

    What is your definition of done?

    Let’s take the concept DoD, simplify it a bit and put it into the context of personal productivity. To create your definition of done, follow these steps:

    1. Define a task you want to accomplish
    2. Explicitly describe (in written form) what requirements have to be met before it can be called ready
    3. Mark a task as checked when it’s ready
    4. When all the rows are checked, that particular task is done

    Let’s say that you are blogger, you want to define your “done” regarding a new blog post. In that case part of your DoD could look like this:

    Writing a blog post:

    • Outline a post [checked]
    • Write a post [checked]
    • Proofread the post [ ]
    • Create a compelling headline [ ]
    • Find a accompanying picture [ ]
    • Schedule the post in WordPress [ ]
    • Write an email message to your autoresponder [ ]
    • [ ]

    The previous DoD is clearly explaining what has been achieved so far and what still needs to be done.

    To make your DoD even more effective, share this with an accountability partner if you have one. This way you can make continuous checks on how you are progressing with your work and if the individual tasks have been accomplished or not.

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    If you still try to strive for 100% perfection, your partner can remind you of the agreement that you have created (your DoD). This way you are not endlessly wasting your time by making irrelevant tweaks to your tasks.

    Conclusion

    I have been guilty of striving for perfection and this bad habit has slowed me down on my projects.

    However, once I started defining my “done” (in a written form), I was able to see clearly which parts of the project were finished and which still required my attention.

    Once the item on the list is checked, it’s done and I can move to the next task or project.

    How do you handle perfection?

    (Photo credit: Program code on a monitor via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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