There is a trait that most graphic designers possess. Although it is a great strength, it can also be a debilitating vice. It can distort the balance between work and life. And it can destroy relationships.
It is perfectionism.
We designers pay a keen attention to detail. And we desire to create work that is visually beautiful and effective. As a result, it is very difficult to know when a project is done. When is it perfect? Are the arrangements of text, images, and colors just right? How do I know I've achieved my best possible work?
So, no matter how small a project, it will get our best attention and work. But this attitude can lead us to lose perspective and time. And will lead us into making overtime while putting aside those things that are most important.
How do we avoid this extreme?
1. We need to watch how we think.
Perfectionist tend to believe that perfection is achievable by sheer will-power. "If you want it enough you can achieve it." The problem with this thinking is that many factors are not in our control. Factors such as the amount of time we have, the client's desires, our health, and project parameters can all hinder our quest for perfection. And what is in our control — like our skills, attention to detail, and creative talent — will be tempered by those same uncontrollable factors. Sheer will-power will not get it done. It only results in frustration.
Accepting reality is a better option. Working within the parameters of reality creates a less stressful design experience. Be realistic. After all, there are diminished returns when overtime, pressure, and frustration are added. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
2. We need to maintain the proper perspective.
What we value plays a significant role in keeping a healthy perspective. Having healthy values is about putting things in their proper order. This will make the difference between a stressed-out, over-committed designer and a designer who is healthy and happy. Perfectionist tend to let their values get out of whack. They can spend hours getting that line just right, and miss a deadline or a misspelled headline. They can spend time trying to please everyone at work, but neglect their own family.
Why is that? Tunnel vision. It's so easy to get focused on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. In pursuit of the perfect, it's easy to forget the "why". Such as: Why are we doing what we do? Why does it matter? Does this matter less than something else? What matters most? Sometimes we need to stop and think rather than react. Think about this: If you suddenly couldn't design anymore, what would you be doing? If you can't answer this, your priorities are probably out of whack.
3. We need to have a plan
I've talked about the value of planning before, but we need to be better planners. Look at the amount of time you realistically have for a project and give adequate time for each activity. And don't work over your allotted time. I know there are time when overtime might be necessary, but it shouldn't be all the time. If it is happening more than 50 percent of the time, you are either planning poorly, or aren't negotiating with your client appropriately.
We need to pay attention to how we work. Perfectionism can harm our lives and our work. It's better to harness perfectionistic tendencies to do good work rather than let it rule our lives.
Photo courtesy jppi of morguefile.com