How my manager helped me overcome my perfectionism

My manager played a big role in helping me overcome my perfectionism, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

I think he recognized from the start that I had the perfection bug. I used to sit on tasks a bit too long. For tasks with multiple steps, he used to see me spend time refining the first step even when it was already up to the mark.

The problem with this approach is that you spend so much time perfecting the first step. Its only when you come to the next step that you realize you took some misguided assumptions about the subsequent steps. You may need to rework the entire task, or atleast a portion of it.

My manager, from his experience, told me to approach it differently. He recommended that I start with the entire task and try to get a minimum output. Once that process is done, there would be a very crude output but all the steps in the task would have been covered. This puts us in a better position to understand the different steps and how they interact with each other.

Writing about this, I remember the time I used to work in Blender, an open source 3D creation software. It had two modes to render the final output. One was called progressive refinement, where it would render the entire image in passes — starting at being very raw, and eventually rendering to perfection. In the other mode it would pick a small block of pixels and begin to render that block perfectly. Once that is completed, it moves on to another block. Here’s a video showing the difference.

So, it’s been this progressive refinement which has helped me take big strides in finishing my work faster. That first crude output gives us the details necessary to see the task holistically, and then its a piece of cake to work on the different steps individually. And at any stage in time, based on the business requirement, we can continue to make things more perfect, or stop when it looks to be reasonably good.

Do you think this might work for you?