Procrastinating “good enough”

I wrote on perfectionism in an earlier post, and how identification with such a description is a crippling mindset for those who want to be starters/doers/entrepreneurs.

Perfectionism is a habit

Really. Perfectionism is just a habit of procrastinating the completion of something that is good enough.

Being a skeptic (cautious when adopting new information), I have to be careful that my skepticism does not leak into “real world” productivity.

I value my skepticism, but when it comes to defining and creating a valued service/product, assumptions have to be made. Some of my most successful friends drill this into me through expressions like “go with your gut” or “don’t think too much.”

And though my initial reaction is to disagree—fear of less accurate perceptions—it is a pragmatic way of learning enough to do enough to get sufficient results fast… or any results really.

This is a heuristic mindset.

A heuristic technique [from the Greek εὑρίσκω, “find” or “discover”] often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution.

Heuristic, Wikipedia

For those of us who are idealistic

This is an important philosophy to embody. And like all mind-sets, it is one that can become mechanical/intuitive/unconscious/engrained with some time and a bit of mindfulness.

While the premise of heuristics is a strategic method of rapid problem solving for early stage projects through trial and error, I’m framing it to be a sub-conscious mindset for those who are successful in business and leadership.

The goal is to procrastinate the desire to optimize. Optimization is awesome! But it is only warranted if a lesser-version of your idea has already been released into the world. Optimal optimization comes with feedback from external sources.

“Good enough” is mathematical

We can use the standard-normal-distribution-bell-curve as a model to imagine when enough is enough.

Empirical_Rule copy

Imagine each deviation as a measurement of time, and the curve-area representing potential-audience capture. If you’re spending the extra time to realize 99.7%, chances are the markets/trends/ideas have already evolved to leave your idea antiquated.

We all know this!

The concept is iterated throughout many schools of thought. For good reason, as it is simply nature: curves, waves, probabilities, distributions. In economics, it is the law of diminishing returns. In quantum mechanics it is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. In education, it is the forgetting curve. All it takes is knowing when the sweet spot is less sweet than we imagine.

Mindfulness.

If it’s good enough, procrastinate optimizing [branding, details, etc.] and prioritize moving forward. A good friend wrote a concise post on prioritization that I recommend—its a 2 minute read.

If your are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

– Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn

Agree? Disagree?

This has been an ongoing lesson for myself. One that I’ve been reckoning with for the last 3 years. I am now starting to see fruit buds, and I can’t wait to taste!

  • Suhaila

    I like this idea of procrastinating perfection and moving forward with “good enough.” Especially with projects that aren’t close too close to my heart. I might have difficulty with this when I’m creating something that is meaningful to me in a more personal way, but I’m going to keep practicing this and see where it takes me. Thanks:)

    • http://www.benprindle.com/ Ben Prindle

      Yes, I think this only applies to “work”—or value creation for others. Being artists, this type of thinking is not at the core of how we think and create. Nor should it be. But, IF one want to be effective at creating value for others (apart from sentimental or aesthetic values), it is a worthy philosophy to graft into oneself.