I guess somewhere along the way I fell under the illusion that I should be perfect.
My newsletter went out last month with five typos in it. I was mortified! Yes, my email program has a spell checker. Clearly I relied on it too much, however, and I shouldn’t have. I embarrassed myself and potentially caused some damage to my reputation, which could have been avoided by practicing what I preach.
So is the problem that I’m a perfectionist or that I am too reliant on technology?
It’s a bit of both, actually. And sometimes these dependencies can cause a problem. Fortunately, there are some things that can be done about them.
Wanting things done perfectly is not a fault. I think it is actually quite a good trait. However, there is a fine line between making things perfect, and knowing when they’re good enough.
Some things need to be perfect. And some things have a little room for good enough. The trick is figuring out which is which.
There are some things about which we can all agree. For instance, surgeons need to be perfect. There is no room for good enough in medicine. Pilots need to be perfect. Lifeguards need to be perfect.
House cleaning, on the other hand, can be good enough. Your morning exercises can be good enough. You can iron a blouse until it’s good enough.
Of course, most things in life exist in a grey area. What you think needs to be perfect may not need to be perfect for me and vice-versa. We each need to decide where our line is.
I think typos are unacceptable in a newsletter. When something affects your image, your reputation and your brand, you need to take the time to ensure that it really is perfect.
However, I know that not everyone agrees; several of my readers sent me a cute message telling me it wasn’t important and that they were happy to see that I was human after all.
If it takes X amount of time to get a job to 98% complete and 2X to get it to the 100% level, is it worth twice as much time?
Sometimes it is.
We can each decide for ourselves what is worth twice as much time and what really isn’t, but here are my thoughts about it.
What is worth twice as much time?
– Client documents
– Tax returns
– Legal documents
– Your resume
– Appointment bookings
– Travel arrangements
– Anything that could have a financial impact. If it is going to cost a company money to fix the mistake, take twice as much time to ensure it is correct. The cost of not doing it properly is more than just money; it could be your job.
What isn’t worth twice as much time?
– Anything that won’t cost money or your company’s reputation if it’s done incorrectly.
“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake—you can’t learn anything from being perfect.”
-Adam Osborne (American entrepreneur)
My problem wasn’t that I didn’t spend enough time proofreading (because I can honestly say that I spend quite a lot of time proofreading, but we all know how difficult it is to proofread our own documents). My problem is that I was far too reliant on technology and I got lazy.
Whenever I see those funny Facebook posts about AutoCorrect mistakes, I know I will have to get a Kleenex because I know I’m going to laugh so hard the tears will roll down my face. I also get a kick out of my own AutoCorrect feature and the assumptions it sometimes makes.
I have a friend who likes to use dictation software to send emails and texts. Unfortunately, her dictation software is really terrible and she doesn’t spend much (or any) time proofreading her work or fixing her mistakes. I always scowl when I read her emails, which are littered with typos. Even though ours isn’t a business relationship, her emails make me think she is lazy and I worry that she may be just as lax with her client messages.
By relying on the spell checker, we can all become lazy. I assumed the spell checker was working when I wrote my newsletter, so when I was proofreading I wasn’t proofing for spelling, I was proofing for grammar and content. It is really easy to miss spelling mistakes when you aren’t looking for them. I should have been looking for spelling as well—and since I wasn’t, I have damaged my reputation with my clients.
One way to proofread for spelling is to read your document backwards. That forces you to really look at each word individually. That way, your mind doesn’t automatically “fill in” the correct words.
I should have had at least one other set of eyes look at my newsletter. I didn’t, because I assumed that my assistant, Lisa, was too busy doing other things (which she probably was). We all know that we should work using the buddy system, having our co-workers double-check our important documents. Most of us don’t, because we either don’t have anyone to buddy with, or we know the other person is very busy. I should have written my newsletter the day before, filed it away, and looked at it again the next morning. It’s incredible how a little time and space can improve your proofreading.
The reality is that I didn’t have time to do that. That I didn’t proofread properly. And that I’m human.
“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Author of The Little Prince)
English translation by Lewis Galantière
Don’t be too reliant on technology at the expense of your reputation. It isn’t realistic to think that you should be perfect all the time. Accept when you mess up, because at the end of the day we are all human.
I’m sorry I messed up. I’m embarrassed, but I will not do it again—guaranteed. It was a tough lesson to learn and I’m hoping that I have learned it for the final time. I’m hoping you don’t have to learn it in the future either, but if you do, I’ll smile, and feel a little better knowing that I’m not the only one who sometimes makes mistakes.