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Focus on Progress and Not Perfection

Do you feel like a robot arm has come down out of the sky and grabbed hold of your head? Are you fighting the grip of anxiety?

Me too. Or at least I can relate. This happens to me. In fact, this feeling is common. It happens to everyone.

We all get overwhelmed as entrepreneurs. It may be something tangible, like not having enough cash-flow to solve a current need, but it can be something more abstract. Has an idea got its claws clenched tightly round your noggin’?

You may have to think about that for a moment.

The Claws of Perfection

The notion of perfection is an arch enemy of progress.

It can feel daunting to try to launch the next amazing authority blog, to dominate your niche, to write the perfect marketing piece, to land that enormous client, or to become a high earning creative entrepreneur. It’s really overwhelming. It is for me too.

I make a conscious effort to stop this type of worrying though, or at least put it on hold long enough to get things done.

Keep in mind, it’s not particularly important what your long term vision of perfection is in the context of today. We all have a loose plan really; it’s the future, and it’s not perfect. It’s a point far off in the distance; it’s blurry, and can’t be grasped.

Sure, you should have well-planned project goals, but what you do today is only an incremental part of where you’re going. All you can do today is push your project goals forward, knock off a few tasks on your to do list, and create. In other words, show up, make an effort, and make something just a bit better than yesterday.

The Importance of Iteration

In business, as in life, we iterate. We don’t hit perfection in one go. No one is born with a perfect baseball swing or the innate ability to win a Nascar race, instead we practice, we learn, and we work on it.

What’s helpful is to build reliable business habits. Develop repeatable processes with the aim of reaching your desired target, or in other words, iterate. What you can accomplish day in and day out is to reach a reasonable result, then tomorrow you reset and aim just a bit higher, or push just a bit harder, and strive for incrementally better results.

With a big project, like launching your site, or developing your branding, aim to improve one component of the overall goal. This approach allows you to focus on the progress you can make now, then improve later. By knowing that you will repeat this process—iterate again, improve again, or even revisit this later—it gives you the freedom to not worry about being perfect today.

The belief in your process of iteration gives you the confidence to focus on better, rather than perfect. It allows you to consistently move forward. Consistent, forward momentum is the key to success.

Remember, you can always modify your decision later, or even change it completely. Very few things you do in online business can’t be changed, really anything is doable on the internet. It’s so flexible, that’s why an iterative approach works so well online.

Productivity Systems to the Rescue

Businesses are defined by their business systems, such as: your processes, your procedures, your creative workflow, how you deliver products to your clients, and your implementation of customer service. Your online business will be defined by your business systems as well.

How you plan and put into action your day to day tasks is a critical part of your business system. It’s important to improve these systems little-by-little over time in an iterative fashion. Perfection doesn’t belong in an iterative system. In an iterative system, perfection today is just tomorrows starting point. Instead, reach for methodical and strive for reliable with your approach to problems.

Creativity can be given the same iterative treatment, and focus on reliable, quality results, without the tension of perfection muddying the process. The most creative illustrators re-draw their subjects multiple times before the final picture gets sent to the client. Writers edit, re-edit, and then edit some more before a draft becomes slated for publication. Creativity in action is a honing of craft, a development of process, and a trust in that combination of talent and system.

A creative at the top of their game delivers reliable quality results; and well perfection, if something like that even exists, may just happen in the constant pursuit of better.

Point out an art piece of Picasso’s overflowing abundance of creative output and say that it’s perfect, and well there are a hundred other quality specimens that sit very close beside it. He consistently pushed for better and refined his process over his lifetime. He did so incrementally, while focusing on that task at hand.

You can too.

Momentum is Contagious

You can find your passion, align it with your creative vision, marry that to your business goals, and generate momentum. Build systems that reliably output quality results, build them iteratively. If you put the time in, you can wow your clients, grasp the veins in your tribes’ hearts, and earn the income you deserve. You can do so on a consistent basis.

If you can keep hitting incrementally better, who gives a fuck about perfection.

Graphic Credit: Robot designed by Kenneth Appiah from the Noun Project.