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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)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on December 18, 2020

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Technology has taken a vantage leap in providing solutions for man. Before now, technology used to appear complex and would require a great deal of expertise to handle solutions available. Today, we have technology applicable in the simplest human activities as smart products with intelligent algorithms powering them as they make error-free judgments and provide intelligent and analytic solutions.

    Does technology have all the answers?

    This article from Credit Suisse, tells us that technology does not have all the answers because it has been found to exhibit “similar biases,” as humans. No one can discredit the impact of technology, but it is not totally free of human input and this is the reason we experience these biases in many areas we have technology holding foot.

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    Creating technological solutions transparently

    This article suggests that the process of creating technological solutions be made transparent and subject to contribution from many people who would end up as users of the product – male, female, young, old, learned, unlearned and all other preferences as we have them. It also underscores the importance of having women on product development teams. This approach is not sure to eliminate all forms of bias, but it is a good way to start in order to appraise the full benefits of technology.

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    Technology as the connecting tool

    Technology so far has been a major connecting tool amongst us humans. It is used and appreciated by all regardless of race, language and sex. In order to keep it less subjective to these arguments about human biases. I believe we should gather opinions on products and solutions before making them available to the public. This could be done by gathering input from intended target users and receiving feedback across the stages of production.

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    “Recognizing the problem is a start…success will depend on inclusive technologies that meet this vast untapped market.” This cannot be more apt especially at a time when we look up to technology for solutions. We should not muzzle our progress with technology by battling algorithm bias. The first way to avoid this battle is by reading this article here.

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