DRMacIver's Notebook

First decide what’s good enough

First decide what’s good enough

One of my common pieces of advice is that when doing something or making something, you should separate your planning into two distinct goals:

  1. How good do you need the thing to be?
  2. How good would you like the thing to be?

Your first priority is to come up with a plan that all but guarantees that the thing you make will be as good as you need it to be. For example, when giving a talk, you don’t need a lot. If your talk is coherent, vaguely interesting, and doesn’t run over time, you’ve succeeded. You’ve given a talk that is good enough, well done.

Once you’ve ensured that, you can stop feeling anxious about it, because you’ve removed any uncertainty about whether you will succeed. You will succeed, it’s just up for you to tinker with the details. You can make it better for as long as it’s worth making it better, and when it’s not worth it any more you can just stop there and declare your planning done.

Generally I find you actually produce better results by doing it this way, because removing the anxiety reliably improves performance.

You don’t have to though. One nice thing about this approach is that you get very good at making sure something is good enough without having to put much effort on it. Then, when you have times where you really don’t feel like putting in a lot of effort, you can massively phone it in, and that’s fine too.