Physicians: It’s time to let go of perfection

If there’s anything I’ve learned about readers of my site, it’s that you are some of the most accomplished and motivated people on this earth. When I hear about some of the things you’re doing, I’m blown away.

Many of you run a successful practice while also being a dedicated parent and partner. People often ask me how I find time to do it all. However, I’m truly amazed at how some of you juggle those things above as well as run your own businesses, manage your finances, volunteer … the list goes on and on.

I also know that many of you are probably running on fumes trying to do it all. I know I hit that wall at times. It’s in those moments that I have to remind myself to focus on the important things and get help for the rest.

Why do we have a hard time getting help?

Let’s face it, successful people often have a hard time letting go. We’ve pushed and willed our way to where we’re at, and we know how we operate and how we like things. So It’s hard to give up that control, to delegate.

When we think about the effort it would take to teach someone how to do it “right,” we conclude that it’d be faster and easier to just do it ourselves. That can be true (at least initially), but in the long run, it can take its toll.

In reality, some things can’t be delegated. If you’re a world-class surgeon and your reputation is on the line, you wouldn’t rely on some else to do the procedure.

But if it’s a simple, repetitive task or something you don’t enjoy, why not find and teach someone else to do it? That way you can focus on the things that only you should do or things that only you can do well?

This will enable you to focus on the big-picture stuff that advances your goals and objectives in leaps and bounds. It might even be the key to happiness … more on that later.

But what if it’s not done perfectly?

The need for perfection is one of the hardest things to let go of. Fortunately, this is where the 80 percent rule comes in. If you think that another person can do a certain task up to at least 80 percent of the competency as you can (and you don’t find enjoyment in it), then you should delegate it.

Of course, this sounds like you’re leaving 20 percent to be poorly done. But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, in most cases, the essential parts of a task are done in that 80 percent. The extra 20 percent only results in marginal gains and often isn’t worth the extra time you put into it.

Starting to make some sense? But that’s just the beginning. Here are a few more things that this kind of delegation can do for you.

You can focus on what’s important to you

I’ve heard it said that if you want to know what’s important to someone, see what they spend their time on (and money too). After all, time is our most precious resource.

Take a moment to think about how you spent your week. I’m sure you were extremely busy. But how many of those hours would you have rather spent doing something more important to you?

We’ve all worked so hard to get where we’re at and sacrificed quite a bit. So, at what point are you going to reap the benefits by taking control of your time?

Well, there’s no better time than today. It all comes down to balance. Rather than delaying your gratification to the point where you burn out, take some time and enjoy it now. After all, you’ve made a little money, so use it to free up your time to focus on the things and people you love.

Teaches you how much your time is worth

Have you put a dollar value on your time? Maybe you haven’t explicitly, but by your actions, you have put a monetary value on it.

For example, you may not enjoy shoveling snow off your driveway, but because you didn’t want to pay someone $40 to shovel it for you, you ended up taking an hour or more of your time and effort to do it yourself. Well in this situation, you determined that your hour is worth less than $40.

What else could you have done with that hour? Well, maybe you could’ve spent it reading with your children by the fire, or you could’ve spent it working on your side hustle. In any case, you made a monetary trade and determined how much your time is worth to you.

So think about it – whenever you decide to take on a task that you don’t enjoy, and you have the chance to outsource it (done well), you’re placing a value on your time.

You have to realize your time is extremely valuable. Have you ever calculated how much its actually worth? If you can free up some of that time to focus on other projects, and if the essential qualities of a task you don’t enjoy can be completed through delegation, then you’ll feel less stress, you’ll get more done, and you’ll feel more accomplished.

Frees you from always having to be perfect

Some people have a hard time with imperfection, whether that be in themselves and/or in others. I’ve failed so many times in my life at various things that I’m better at letting some imperfections slide. But my wife, who is perfect at everything she does, has a harder time with this.

I do believe that once you have children, though, you’re forced to learn to let go of this a bit. You realize that not everything will go as planned and you start focusing on the critical things.

Then once you start delegating, you start to realize that within every task, there is an essential element, and the other parts don’t matter as much.

A realization like this can be very freeing. It takes away a lot of pressure and stress. You learn to find victories in imperfect situations.

You’ll learn how to communicate better

I work in an academic setting where I teach residents and fellows. Nothing reveals to you how well you know a topic or a procedure as when you teach it to someone. The old mantra, “see one, do one, teach one” comes to mind.

I learn how to communicate what’s in my head better, as well as how to get others to replicate it. Teaching is definitely a skill, and it takes practice.

When you communicate well, you can indicate exactly what you need and how you need it done. This means better results for you when delegating, and more time to spend on other things.

You’re also helping someone else out

I’ve found help for all sorts of things. One of the simplest is internet research for my businesses. How many hours do you spend googling answers to your questions?

Well, after a couple of larger projects, my “researcher” emailed me and thanked me for helping to pay for his wedding. It had been a stressful financial time for him and having a little extra money made a big difference. Here I was thinking I just saved myself a ton of time, but then I realized on the other side is someone who benefitted as well. It’s a total win-win.

You will be happier

Ashley Whillans, a Harvard professor, has performed significant research on over 100,000 working people all over the world. Her studies have found, in her own words, that: “People who are willing to give up money to gain more free time — by, say, working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks — experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy, and overall, live happier lives.”

Don’t know what more I could add to that except to say I wholeheartedly agree.

Make it happen

Learning to let go is the hardest part of this process. The next part is finding someone to help you out. Good help isn’t always easy to find, and it’s good to recognize that it may take a few tries to find your team.

However, let’s start with recognizing that it’s time to let go. It’s time to let go of perfection. Time to let go of the frustration at how little time you have, and it’s time start buying your time back. It’s time to enjoy yourself more, and spend time doing what sparks your passion with the people you love. It’s time to realize you need to stop doing it all and find others to help.

Passive Income, MD” is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Passive Income M.D.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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