By nature, I'm a perfectionist. I'll work on an article or a document layout until I'm satisfied I can't make it any better. I've spent hours searching for just the right illustrations to accompany blog articles or eBooks. I follow a proofreading regimen for every writing project and I repeatedly tweak the material before publication. This is great, but there's a price to pay. When perfectionism takes over, I don’t always produce as much in a day as I’d like.

A hard lesson for me to learn was that sometimes, the difference between perfect and almost perfect is imperceptible to anyone but myself. While workmanship and pride in your accomplishments are important, working on too many fine details isn’t always the best use of your time. Rushing the next project because you micro-analyzed the former job raises the stress level and sets you up for failures much worse than the impact of the minor item that put you behind schedule.

Sometimes, Perfection Is the Standard

In the mailing business, perfection is important (and expected) much of the time. The ability to insert documents into the right envelopes without mixing customers, for instance, can’t be right only 99% of the time. Here, you have to be perfect. This means you must have quality control processes in place that not only prevent mixed pages or double-stuffing, but you must also implement a way to halt the process should such a mistake occur.

Cameras and file-based inserting are the solution. Manual batch balancing isn’t enough to ensure the integrity of your mail insertion processes. Offsetting errors that manual balancing can’t catch can cause you to mail batches containing mixed pages, and you won’t know it until the complaints roll in.

With older inserting equipment, manual methods like counting finished envelopes or spot-checking was all we had, and mistakes would occasionally happen. Clients were never happy when an envelope was double-stuffed, but they understood the limitations imposed by the technology of the day. That’s no longer the case.

Customers now expect mail service providers to account for every page and every mailpiece. They want assurances their documents were processed, inserted, and mailed accurately and on time and that goes for all mailings. The standards that once applied only to transactional documents are now relevant all the time. Making mailing mistakes that should have been caught are sure ways to drive future mail volumes lower.

Let it Go

Make perfection the goal when it counts, but don’t let it impede progress. Some aspects of document production don’t call for results that are perfect every time. When the people who really matter, your clients and the document recipients, don’t notice the difference, it’s time to give perfectionism a rest.

Obsessing over a comma or spending hours adjusting and re-adjusting line spacing, when no one but you will notice, is a mistake. Assuming the documents are clear, accurate, and readable, I’ve found it’s much better to get the job done and start reaping the benefits of the work than to delay production. Have customers sign off on drafts or proofs appropriate for your application, but don’t hold production unless the job really has problems that jeopardize integrity or will keep the documents from being effective.

The busier I get, the more my perfectionist tendencies get in my way. I’m attempting to be more reasonable. That doesn’t mean I’ll let mistakes go uncorrected-I’d never do that. But it helps to step back sometimes and look at the projects from someone else’s viewpoint. Then decide what’s most important and take the proper action.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.