I heard a story from a CPA who had an individual tax client that happened to be a perfectionist. Somehow, a $33 entry was carried over from a previous tax return. Whether it was there or not made no difference in the return, neither financially to the client or with the IRS code. But the client was insistent on removing the entry “because it wasn’t right.”
Removing the $33 wasn’t the issue. It was the fact that additional effort was being applied that added no value to the final product. The client still insisted on the removal of the entry. Hmm. I wonder how the client would have responded to the invoice entry: Removal of Irrelevant Entry: $33.
How many times is this situation repeated every day in your office, sometimes by you? “Because it isn’t right” is not a good criterion to determine whether or not to do something. The ultimate criteria for directed effort should be around adding value, within the principles of compliance (materiality), solving a problem, etc.
Perfectionism is illusive and alluring. It has the appearance of value that draws you to a false notion of “best.” But it is only a mirage. Your perfectionistic drive is not evidence of anything you think it is.
Not evidence of your competence
Not evidence that you care more
Not evidence you deserve a raise
Not evidence you should be promoted
Not evidence you should increase your fee
Not evidence your standards are higher
Not evidence you should be in charge
The only evidence it gives is that you may have the bug of perfectionism that’s running amuck. And no one pays for that—not your firm and certainly not your clients—regardless of how valuable you believe it is.
Please understand that excellence is essential. This is not an excuse for performing shoddy work or to take shortcuts that affect the result. You are a professional who has high standards. Just don’t dress up your perfectionistic tendencies as excellence.