Want To Be More Productive? Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Identify the things that matter the most, focus on getting 1% better, and reflect on your progress.

Felix Cabrera
Nov 22 · 5 min read
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

I finished it …

At least, that’s why I thought. As I submitted an assignment for my computer programming class in college, I verified that everything was perfect.

I started to read the code and making improvements. However, the code worked and it fulfilled the requirements according to the professor’s instructions.

On the other hand, I had other assignments to fulfill for my other classes, but I chose to keep “perfecting” the programming assignment. I wanted to get a good grade.

As a result, I received a good grade, but all the extra work I did really didn’t matter. I didn’t receive any recognition or extra points for the work.

Now, for the other assignments, I didn’t do as well, I received decent grades, but I knew I could do better if I allocated the time I over-invested in perfecting my programming assignment.

In hindsight, this was a good lesson for me. I have always tried to make things the best I could, often striving for perfection.

In this tireless pursuit of perfection, I have had my share of struggles. I am sometimes falling into a loop of endless perfection.

Now that I have graduated, I still try to make my work the best as I can. However, through the years, I have learned that perfection does not exist.

Moreover, that is better to focus on making progress than striving for a perfect version of what you are working on. That’s a better way to become more productive.

Does that sound like you?

No worries, we all are susceptible to fall into the trap of perfectionism.

Today I will share ways I have overcome my struggles with perfectionism.

Thus, becoming more productive by focusing on progress instead of perfection.


Identify The Things That Matter The Most

Sometimes, I have had days when I have done a lot of things. However, I have felt that the things that I did during the day did not help me achieve the things that mattered to me.

This has been an excellent lesson for me; being busy is not synonymous with progress to achieving my goals.

“Being busy is not the same as being productive.” — Tim Ferriss.

Since then, I have been more deliberate and intentionally of focusing on the tasks that contribute the most to achieving the life I want.

Here’s a series of questions I use and you can too as well:

  1. At the end of the day, if you did this task, how would you feel?

2. Does this task help you achieve your goal?

Question number one can help you visualize the outcome of your day. If you feel good and satisfied, then that is a good sign that you should prioritize and focus on accomplishing that task.

Question number two can help you block out all the distractions and less meaningful tasks and help you direct your energy on what helps me make more progress towards achieving your goals.

A principle that has helped me in focusing on tasks that help me make progress is the Pareto Principle.

This principle has helped me become more productive, as well.


Focus On Getting 1% Better Every Time

If you are working on a project for an extended period, focus on improving it 1% at a time.

For example, when I work on my YouTube channel, I always try to improve 1% on every video.

Sure, there is still room for improvement; however, by focusing on improving 1% at a time, there is still progress on every video.

On the other hand, if I spent my time making every little detail perfect, I would get caught up on improving smaller details that would not impact the viewer’s experience when watching my videos.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Choose one thing you can improve
  2. Improve that one thing
  3. Repeat if needed

Choosing one aspect to improve, the thing that you are doing can help you make progress and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by focusing on doing too many things at once.

“Don’t worry about getting perfect, just keep getting better.”
― Frank Peretti, Illusion

When choosing one aspect to improve, focus on selecting the most important thing that needs improvement. Then, commit and take action to improve.

Then, repeat the improvements if the project or thing you are working on requires to improve the same thing over some time.

If not, move on to the next thing that you need to improve and will help you make progress.

Here’s another tip that helped me, if you catch yourself trying to make things “perfect” on the task you are working on, set up a timer. Then, start working on your task.

Once the timer is over, move on to the next task.

This has helped me be aware when I start to over-invest time in details that don’t help me make progress in a project.


Reflect On Your Progress

When aiming for progress and not perfection, taking the time to look back at what you have accomplished can help you identify what you need to focus on next.

Also, by reflecting and acknowledging your progress, you can see the things that are working on your project. Thus, you can keep doing these things in the future.

”Self-reflection is the school of wisdom.” — Baltasar Gracian

I know it helped me to acknowledge my progress, that is, to see how far I have come. Hence, I was more motivated to keep working hard.

Something that has helped me recognize my progress was to keep a log of the progress I was making.

This can be in the form of a text document on your computer, or even a written journal, whatever works best for you.


Takeaways

To become a more productive version of yourself, focus on making progress, not perfection. Furthermore, direct your energy to get 1% better every time.

That is, find small improvements you can perform, do one at a time, and move on. Don’t keep working and changing all the details; this might slow your progress.

By training yourself to move on after you accomplished your task, you can prevent yourself from falling into a loop of investing your time on things that don’t impact your progress in a positive way.



Disclaimer: I am not a mental health or counseling professional. These tips and advice are based on my experience and opinion as a student, tutor, teacher, and software developer. Everyone is different, so, the advice shared in this article may or may not work for you.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Felix Cabrera

Written by

A.k.a. Felix The Dev. Software Developer. Programming teacher, tutor, and coach. youtube.com/c/FelixTheDev yadielcabrera.com

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.