A long long time ago…

Actually not that long ago, a friend and I were talked about perfection. During the half-joke half-serious discussion we came across the term “perfectly stupid”, which seemed to be one of the floweriest insults we knew at the time (we were secondary school kids at time, by the way). Since then I have heard of many jokes aiming at people’s lack of brilliance, though I haven’t heard any that I would call “perfect”. The word “perfect” is just that far away for me.

Then my friend suddenly thought about reversing the words, so we had “stupidly perfect” and start to wonder, which of the two combination carried more insult.

Stupidly Perfect

It’s easy to imagine something that is close to being “perfectly stupid”. Just about any joke involving blondes will try to say something about intelligence.1 But how about “stupidly perfect”? It turned out, there isn’t a lack of things that belong in this category. They are just a tiny bit harder to see. Here are some examples:

  • Putting plastic film on your phone to “protect” its surfaces: so you will be using subpar surfaces instead, which is easier to get scratches, doesn’t feel as good, makes your device looks dirty. And finally when you decide to take the plastic off, the phone is already too old and you want another one.2
  • Premature optimization: trying to make a program “faster” by using optimization techniques too early in the development process without proper testing, thus delaying features, introducing bugs and probably actually hurting performance.
  • Making a product that “everyone wants to use”: using least common denominators, resulting in a product with a lot of features, but all of which are mediocre so nobody wants to use it.

Here’s the common theme: if someone is trying to do everything in the best way possible, ey will miss the important items and/or the important timing. In the end, ey may create something that would be great when ey started, but because things have changed, the result won’t benefit anyone. The problem may have solved itself, someone else may have dominated the market, or the person simply runs out of energy and gives up.

Perfectionism As An Excuse

If you are like me, you like to tell yourself “I want this to be perfect”. So you stop at everything that is not perfect enough and tweak it. The thing will most likely be perfect for a while until you get bored of it. Then you will be too lazy to commit to the same level of perfection, but too proud to make your spiritual child imperfect.

The cure: get over it. There is no such thing as perfection, and perfectionism is just an excuse for procrastination. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Here are a few clues:

  • Make a todo list. Sort the items by priorities. Chew the list from top to bottom. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t have a todo list for your project, it’s not even a proper project, let alone perfection.3
  • Keep your items big/smalls enough. If an item takes more than half a day you will never start doing it. If an item takes less then half an hour to do you will be wasting time putting it in the list. Hint: todo lists don’t have to be perfect ;)
  • Be ready to delay/drop items down below in the list. It’s not going to feel good, one way to go about it is to tell yourself about the more important items that you have finished. After all, you have a limit of energy, and it’s better to drop the less important stuff.
  • Look out for trade-offs that you are making. Fact: you are going to make trade-offs, whether you know it or not. The trade-offs that you don’t recognize will hurt you. The concious trade-offs will help you beat yourself. The canonical response to “Never compromise!” is “Never say never!”.

Questions or comments can go to Google+ :)

  1. For the record I don’t think making jokes of blondes is nice.

  2. I know quite a few people who would disagree but hey, let’s agree to disagree.

  3. WorkFlowy (affiliate link) seems to be the perfect online todo list for me. If you don’t know what to use yet, give it a try!