Despite my summer at the Triangle Community Foundation coming to a close in two weeks, somehow my to-do list keeps getting longer as I try to squeeze in everything I want to accomplish before I wrap up my time here. This week has been a busy one, with meetings, planning, data collecting, and report writing. The truth is if I tried to get everything completely perfect – nothing would ever get done. That’s not to say that we should apathetically accept mediocre work, or just label things as “passable” – but at some point you just need to realize that it’s good enough and move forward.
I have been working on a report for the past 8 weeks, probably the longest I’ve ever spent on a single document, aside from my senior thesis in undergrad. I’ve been collecting data from surveys, looking through old documents to learn about the Foundation’s past work, and researching other community foundations’ efforts. All of this culminates in a report on Sharing Community Information, a compilation of this information with recommendations based on my findings. I shared it with my supervisor at the start of this week to get feedback, and she said that as long as I thought it was ready I should send it out to the other staff members that were attending a meeting with us the following afternoon. I went back to my desk and spent a long time rereading, editing, changing words, moving graphs, and reading again. She hadn’t asked me to send it when it was perfect, but when it was ready – yet, figuring out what “ready” meant was tricky. Truthfully, I could have edited it forever and a day, but finally I decided (basically when I couldn’t bear to read through all 20+ pages any more times) that it was “ready” and I shared it with staff.
During an equity coaching session with the community engagement team later in the week, the equity coach stopped us during a moment of conversation to say, “Remember, perfection is the enemy of good.” That reminder was exactly what I needed to hear this week, and gave me such a sense of reassurance. The good outcome of the work I am trying to do will never be achieved if I focus on making it perfect. Perfection is realistically unachievable, and striving for it will leave me disappointed time and time again.
Thinking about this concept more broadly than my own summer projects, I think this is advice all nonprofits, and the public sector as a whole, should be mindful of. Perfection is never the goal, but progress is! When tackling big, scary, overwhelming problems like public sector organizations do – perfection or some ideal state is great to keep in mind. However, creating good and making progress is what needs to drive the work daily to make real change actually happen.
Thankfully, I have plenty of opportunities to put this new mantra to the test. I still have another survey to analyze and another report to finish up in the next two weeks so good – not 100% perfect – will be my goal.