Done Is Better Than Perfect


I was listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In on my drive a couple weeks ago. Lots of things to think about in her book (and not nearly as controversial as I was led to believe), but one small section stood out from the rest. At one point, she discussed a poster that she noticed shortly after starting at Facebook:

“Done is better than perfect.”

Interesting, I thought. Truth be told, I’m a recovering perfectionist and am perfectly content being quite type-A. But for some reason, I found myself resonating with what she was saying.

Is done better than perfect?

This summer I spent a good amount of time working through a few projects. Due dates were getting pushed back as we worked through the nuances of a word choice, a photo selection, or a slight color tweak. If I’m honest, it was a little draining at times. But more than that, I found myself wondering, is this extra time worth it?

I think that’s why I resonated with Sandberg’s comment. Our projects didn’t seem to be significantly more “perfect” even though we had spent an extra couple days or weeks.

Done is better than perfect.

But I still wasn’t sold. Embarrassing projects of the past floating into my head. Let’s just say, I’ve had my fair share of unfortunate typos, incorrect URLs, and email blunders. I may or may not have sent an email an incoming class of students, greeting them with the wrong name. Were these mistakes preventable with a little more time? A lot more time? How many rounds of proofing? How many rewrites and design comps? Where do you draw the line?

After some time to think and forget the mistakes of the past, here’s where I ended: Done is better than perfect—when something is done right. And something that’s done right is different than something that’s done perfect.

Here are the 3 keys to something being done right.

1. It accomplishes the goals/objectives

At the end of the day, the communication needs to do what it is intended to do. If an event postcard doesn’t entice people to attend, it’s not accomplishing its objective. What if there aren’t clear goals for a piece? Well, that’s a problem.

We need to have clear goals for our work, but also be willing to try new ideas and methods for accomplishing them. Some days our ideas won’t be right, but we need to try new things and new ways of communicating. In 21st century communication, “Tried and true” is rarely an accurate statement.

2. It’s within our brand and personality

Bottom line, what we do needs to sound and look like Bethel. No matter if it’s a prospective student, an alum, or a church partner, the recipient should feel like they’re hearing from the same Bethel.

Our new brand highlights a lot of great keys to making this happen, but here are two important ones—be inviting and not complex. Be inviting—I don’t care if it’s a gift receipt, a thank you note, or details about a financial aid package, the message needs to invite others into the conversation. Talk with others—not at them. Avoid complexity—people read, but they’re not going to read a novel disguised in an email, letter, or postcard (novel postcards are the worst!). Get the point, make it understandable, and be done with it. My wise colleague Kelsey Lundberg always suggests writing your content, cutting it in half, and then cutting it in half again.

Our new brand is just as much about design as it is content. It’s important that our visual representation reflects Bethel well and follows the same guidelines. So, when royal blue, navy, or Bethel gold get’s old—they’re still our colors and being consistent makes for a better brand experience.

3. It launches when it’s time to launch

Everyone suffers from some buyer’s remorse and a little bit of nervousness when it’s time to launch something—but that’s why we set deadlines. We could always edit, rewrite, redesign, and reimagine every webpage every day. But if we did that, we’d never have time for new projects. More challenging—would those webpages (or print pieces) be significantly better? Would the improvements justify the additional time spent?

Harvard Business Review did an article on What Really Happens When You Extend a Deadline and I’d encourage you to read it. Spoiler alert, more time isn’t as great as we think.

So, I’m going to try it. We’ll have ambitious timelines and some days will feel like a constant sprint. But I think it’s worth it. The message we are communicating is that important. As my high school math teacher would say, “Ready? Go!”

  • Andrew Elva

    I have gain something from this blog!!!!!!!!!!n