Productivity and the need to finish things

Done is better than perfect- Sheryl Sandberg

“If you want to be productive, stop starting things and start finishing things.”

Hmmm, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure that productivity really comes from finishing things. Ok, perhaps by the technical definition of producing things something is only valuable if its finished. And who wants a half finished cup or a pen they didn’t bother to fill with ink? So, whatever you’re creating, it needs to do the job its designed for, but it rarely needs to be perfectly finished. Finished can mean good enough.

The other problem I find with the idea that things have to be finished and the ‘sit still and be a good little school boy, don’t fidget, don’t get distracted’ mentality on productivity is that it isn’t natural for me. It actually creates procrastination because if you’re thoughts about the thing you’re working on get blocked you are supposed to continue to focus on that piece of work until you become unblocked.

When I’m writing or doing any kind of linear flow work, if my thoghts stop mid sentence I stop writing. I don’t try to force the thoughts and finish the sentence, I just just move onto the next thought. I acn come back later and edit but right now I want to get as many thoughts out as quickly as possible.

And when I go back to edit, am I aiming for perfection? No, of course not. I’m aiming for what I wrote to communicate an idea in some vaguely sensicle way. I’m not aiming for a perfect piece of writing. If I can convey the idea well enough in a short amount of time then that’s good enough for me. Time to move on.

The majority of the work I do is probably like this. I aim for the 80% of value from 20% of the effort, and when it’s good enough to its job I move on. I don’t have time to go back and polish it to get that last 20% of value out of the work. I could. I could validate my thinking more, double the words are familiar with the target audience, make sure the diagrams all line up, et., etc. I could spend ages making it perfect, but really, who has the time.

Done is good enough.