Look at your to-do list, if you are like me, you'll see that most of the items have the "pending" state (sometimes noted as "x% complete" or "almost done" or "final review required").
Look at the age of each entry, if you are like me, you'll see that most of the "pending" tasks are quite old. If you don't see that, it most likely means that your to-do list lacks a "date" or "age" field ;-)
Zoom into each entry and see where exactly you got stuck. You'll be surprised that in most cases you are "almost there". What are you waiting for?
It seems that the cause of the problem is the eternal search for perfection. Usually you end up in such a state if:
- you're quite good at what you do, and whenever you do something, even a draft is pretty good
- you apply the keystroke conservation principle (mentioned earlier in optimizing task handling strategies) on a regular basis
- you aim for quality, and you don't feel comfortable releasing an immature product
- you know that if you invest more time into the project, it will be better than it is now
- you're distracted quite easily
How it works in the real world
- you come up with a great idea
- you feel inspired, you spend almost the entire day materializing the idea
- after reviewing everything numerous times, you save your work and decide that you'll get back to the project later
- the next day you are working on something else, you might think about switching to the previous project, but:
- "gosh, there's so much stuff to review, I better do it some other time"
- "my current latest greatest project is more important" (don't worry, tomorrow it will become your new "yesterday's latest greatest project" ;-)
- "the project is almost complete, and in order to improve it I must think really hard; now I just don't have the inspiration"
- in the meantime, your competitor releases a similar project, obviously - of a lower quality (even worse than your draft!)
What has just happened
You spent a little time to do most of your project (say, 80% were complete in a day). Now you're stuck with a "good but not perfect" project which is 80% complete. In spite of the fact that it is incomplete, it is still better than what most others could possibly do.
Even if you remove the bit about the competitor, the situation is not less painful - somewhere in your drawers lies a gem that ought to be shared with society, but you won't let anyone see it until it becomes a super-gem.
Morale of the story (as a set of easy-to-remember one-liners)
- Quick and good beats slow and perfect*
- Today's perfect is tomorrow's good
- There is no perfect
- Sometimes time to market is what matters most
- You are better than the competitors
- Even if the competitor is better, tomorrow you can release an update
- Today's temporary is tomorrow's permanent
The last one is there to put your feet back on the ground. Releasing something full of kludges and ugly hacks with the intent to update it tomorrow often ends with nothing happening tomorrow. In other words, the one-liners are applicable only when your original work was optimized for quality rather than for "time to market" [to the detriment of quality].
* obviously this does not apply to relationships, sending probes to Jupiter, developing life support systems, etc
Conclusions (that did not fit in a single line)
It seems that perfection encourages us to do things better, but is also slows us down, therefore we have to find the "sweet spot" of balance between "proximity to perfection" and "time to market".
Next time you work on something, try not to get distracted and finish everything in a single move; because if you don't, you're likely to follow the scenario described above. Keeping focus is quite difficult, especially with the myriad of pop-ups, notification sounds and appliances around us. A set of tips on how to minimize the distractions around us will be published shortly (it's been in a "pending" state for 2 months ;-)
You have to learn to do things once, and do them right. Be prepared to face the fact that if you don't finish today, you will most likely not finish tomorrow.
There's nothing wrong with releasing a sub-perfect project today. In a few days you will have feedback from users, you will see how your model deals with real world conditions, therefore you'll be able to figure out whether you're going in the right direction. Without this information, you can end up releasing a perfect solution [from your point of view] for which there is no demand.
Release even if you're 80% done, with time you will become better and you'll be able to finish 90% or even 95% in a single move.
“the project is almost complete, and in order to improve it I must think really hard; now I just don’t have the inspiration”
This happens to me a lot; it is especially annoying when the final result requires so much less effort than initially expected.
Comment from: gr8dude [Member]
I think I found out one of the major causes of this, and I will soon write a story about it; keywords: information overload, diluted attention, interruption overload, multi(fscking)tasking :-)
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