Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.

This post was previously published. It has been updated.

“Over the piano was printed a notice: Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.”

Perfectionism is a deadly enemy of productivity. Whether it is self-imposed, or imposed by others, the quest to get things absolutely right is a waste of energy and time.

Consider the Pareto principle. While the original principle applied to wealth and economics, it has been expanded to all other sorts of areas. In the area of effort, 80% of the results will be generated by 20% of the effort. So putting in the 80% more effort will only yield a diminished return. Simply put, you will get a much lower rate of return for that last bit of effort.

So why do it? It seems to me that it would be better to spend the effort doing something with a better rate of return.

So the next time you find yourself going down the road of perfectionism, cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be “good enough”. Put in the effort you need to get to the point of diminishing returns.

And while you’re at it, cut others some slack too. They are doing the best they can.