"Done is better than perfect" - Sheryl Sandberg, COO @ Facebook
If you've ever worked in software business, you've probably heard Sheryl's quote before. In essence, shipping your software/product/article on time is better than modifying and tweaking it until it's perfect. It never will be perfect, nor it should be.
Perfectionism in writing, which is creative work, has paralyzed my master's thesis' progression. Now, nearly a year after starting, I'm getting to a point where I understand the time I've wasted in tweaking, finding better synonyms, iterating and perfecting every word and sentence in my work. Why?
Thinking about it in retrospective, I find myself delving into the deep waters of the human psyche and the need for perfectionism. What I've found is utter bullshit. That's right, seeking perfection is bullshit. It keeps you tied to your project far longer than is needed. See, you have an initial burst of excitement when you start a new interesting project.
Perfectionism kills that momentum as it drags out and sucks you dry the further you allow it, that's why hard deadlines and milestones are a thing in the software business. You simply have to complete it on time with a "good enough" quality level.
What is a "good enough" quality level? Is it even quantifiable? Probably not, but your time is, your deadlines are. At a certain point in your project, if you're dabbling with perfectionism, you'll come across the point of diminishing returns. Simply put, it's the point where the more time you put in perfecting your project, the less overall progress you make - the input has lower output.
What we think about progression when trying to perfect our outcome:
Ok, now that we understand how perfectionism eats away your time and energy, how do we "drop" to a good enough level?
- Define your "Definition of Done", the DoD. This helps you understand where the finish line is. Why would you run any further than the finish line in a competition? But it's hard to stop or adjust your running speed if you haven't determined your goal.
- Start with your MVP - a minimum viable product. A term well known in the software business, which dictates the level of a usable product produced with reasonable effort and time. Basically you write your structure and add some flesh around it.
- While you're at it, use WUF when writing, which states that you should write it "Wrong, Ugly & Fast". When I initially read about this technique, I was wondering how anyone can write anything "wrong"? What it means, is that "you dont getto fix everywo rd you rtype". The goal is to write it Ugly and Fast! You'll have time to fix it later during the next iterations.
Use a system where you can follow your progression, and to which you can set deadlines and reminders! I'm big on systems - that's why I have systems for almost anything. Sometimes I escape and procrastinate the creation part by creating more systems - but that's a topic for another time.
Firstly, your system should allow you to create a top level task, which could be "Master's thesis". Secondly, underneath that top task, you should have multiple subtasks, which help you identify the stepping stones to your goal. If needed, use one more layer of tasks or checklists. Lastly, have minor and major deadlines and stick to them. You can build this system on a piece of paper or in your To Do application.
- And talking about sticking to your deadlines - accountability! Be accountable to someone else than yourself. When the ride gets tough we give ourselves slack, or worse - excuses. In order to meet your deadlines, have a friend or a group of people watching your progression and creating external pressure.
I could keep writing about this topic and go to all of the areas that are intertwined with writing, systems, accountability, time management and so on - but I won't, since I've reached my DoD for this article.
Who kept me accountable for getting here? Well, it's my Dream Tribe of course! If you want to get more done and more out of life - join a tribe!
Rasmus wrote his take on perfectionism, take a peek!
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