Achieving more by planning less

From perfectionist to Good-enough-ionist // 28th August 2018

I am the father of two toddlers and have a todo/wishlist multiple times the size of myself (in tiny typo). I do not have much time. My problem is that I am a perfectionist and spend too much time planning. Recently I tried some new way of "managing" my projects (that works for me) which I describe here.

I like planning and preparation

I do like planning stuff, creating concepts and writing down thoughts, ideas and plans of what I could do. In the past I had enough time to get along with this, although I already suffered from seldom-finish-anything syndrome most of the time.

Planning does have an upside though, so it is not a complete waste of time. But that is only when you have not defined your goal yet. Planning may help you specifiy what it is you are trying to accomplish and even more importantly: Why. If the goal is clear to you, the steps towards your goal will come naturally to you during implementation.

Planning is not doing

Planning is time not spent accomplishing anything of real value. It does not give you the same satisfaction as actually doing something and making progress on a project itself. In the past I created (and I still do sometimes, because its fun) a lot of plans, lists and concepts and it started to frustrate me that, with my very limited time available, nothing really got done and after a while the concepts became so overwhelmingly huge that it scared me to actually start work on them.

This is what I tried:

Find the real goal

launch When I have an idea, I write it down, as short as possible. If I feel like it I try to figure out what my actual goal behind the idea is, why I like it. That is all I write down, a short idea summary.

Adjust the work to the time available

When I have some time, I think about my ideas and usually there are some floating around in my head at any given time. If not, I always have my list of ideas. I pick one that seems fun and try to quickly think of a piece of work that might fit into the time at hand and would allow me to make some measurable/visible progress towards the goal.

Good enough and done is better than not done

Then I immedietly start doing the piece of work and I desperately try to finish it, no matter what. I usually have to make compromises along the way, discard certain things I liked at first but my work goal keeps me going. When I have to make a hard decision against some small detail I try to think of my new mantra "It's good enough". What really motivates me are two things: My final goal (because I know it is worthwhile and I really need and/or want it) and the fact that at the end of the time slot I will have something accomplished and there is progress.

From perfectionist to Good-enough-ionist

launch I do not waste that much time anymore. Also I found that most things planned at first are usually discarded or changed during implementation anyway. Let me say at this point that the size of the projects I am talking about varies from small programs to big building projects (stuff around the house) and it seems to work for all of these.

Give it a Try. It works for me, so maybe it does for you, too.

©2018 by Tom Kirchner

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