Every day I get about 250 emails.
It looks something like this:
- 125 of them I can delete straight away. Email marketing, social media notifications, stuff like that.
- 100 of them result in small tasks that I can deal with quickly. Purchases at our online store, questions in our Help Center, blog comments, stuff like that.
- 25 of them are things I have to actually deal with. Work-related stuff, personal stuff, you know… actual emails that take time and thought to respond to.
And that’s just email.
On top of email each day is filled with a myriad of other things to do in both my personal and professional life. Every day household tasks like watering plants, putting the dishes away, running errands, taking the kids to school, on and on. Ordinary work stuff beyond email like bookkeeping, shipping/receiving, and stuff like that.
And then there is the work stuff that actually is “what I do.“ (The stuff that actually feeds my family) For me, this time of year, that’s a lot of strategy and execution on somewhat complex projects. Complex projects with deadlines and expectations both externally and within myself.
Getting Stuff Done in the Age of the Edit Button
It’s that “what I do” stuff that I want to draw attention to right now.
The ordinary stuff with it’s routines and repetition is very important, I would argue that until you can manage that well you’ll never really succeed at the “what I do” stuff because it acts as the foundation for excellence you need to have the “what I do” stuff be really, really good. So let’s assume we’re managing that.
How do I get stuff done– on time and meeting internal/external expectations?
How do I avoid hurry up and hurry up some more?
How do I find contentedness with an ever-stacked todo list rushing me to the next thing?
By letting go of “perfect” to embrace “perfecting”.
By weighing “this is my absolute very best” against “this is the best I can do in the time this is worth, I can come back to it if I need to fix something.”
Sometimes you need to let things go that aren’t quite the way you’d like them.
This is one of the joys of today. Technology makes this possible.
I remember back in high school, in a race against the deadline, madly typing my thoughts into an electric typewriter until I’d hear it chirp. The single line liquid crystal screen would flash “Memory Full“. You’d double tap the return key and your thoughts would quickly type onto the page. CRAP! There’d be a typo and you’d have to use the correction tape or White Out to fix it.
The problem was that this process would break your concentration. You couldn’t ever really get into a writing flow because every couple of sentences you’d have to stop for corrections. I remember furiously writing down my next thoughts on paper I kept next to the typewriter so that I wouldn’t lose it.
Do you even remember Wite Out?
You don’t need it anymore.
Now you can just press “edit” and fix it.
Every day, when I write, I just let my thoughts flow. My Macbook doesn’t have tiny crystal screen that only stores 250 characters at a time. It doesn’t chirp “Memory Full” before forcing me to put my thoughts onto paper. (Heck, my thoughts rarely even end up on paper at all!) Instead, I freely type as fast as my fingers allow and if I make a mistake it either automatically corrects itself or I can go back later, click the “edit” button, and fix it.
Perfecting Instead of Perfect
It’s this letting go ability that I love. This knowledge of being able to edit later which allows me to be productive.
While I have perfectionist tendencies I can relax knowing that almost everything I do doesn’t have to be perfect when I finish it. Instead of being hung up on getting things perfect I can relax knowing that the work I do can be perfected later.
If you think about it that’s how most of the products and services you love work. Software constantly evolves, perfecting as developers learn new things, folding in new features that customers want. Movies and television screen their product to select audiences than perfect it, editing and re-editing, until it’s finally ready for public consumption. On and on, we now live in a world where the “edit” button frees us.
The question facing most of us is simple: Will we allow ourselves to set aside perfect for perfecting? Will we embrace the edit button in what we do? For most of us, in most professions, we don’t have to do our jobs perfectly. Instead, we can get better over time– even going backwards to fix our previous mistakes.
Let’s live in and embrace that freedom.