Have you ever noticed that most of the effort in getting something done comes in the act of getting started while most of the value of that task comes at the end — or in the case of a system that takes time to show results — perhaps a couple months from when the task is completed.
And it is ignoring this simple insight that creates huge barriers for our productivity.
Most of the fruits of our hard work lie at the end. Many a time — and this is especially true of creative work — we do not even know what the fruits of our hard work are going to look like!
This creates this massive chasm of uncertainty around “What even is it that I’m building towards?” that stops us from even getting started.
Here’s the trick to avoiding this problem:
Never consider that you’re ever going to complete or perfect a creative task.
The final 10% of any creative project takes as much time as the 90% that came before it. Perfection is a transcendent goal, you’ll never reach it. But perfectionism is crippling to productivity.
Hey, I don't think it's bad to want perfection; I just think it's unrealistic to expect it.
The metric you need to hit is "good enough," and after that, "better than good enough," if time permits. Forget that the word perfect exists. One good-enough project that got shipped is worth 100 projects that never saw the light of the day.
So, tell yourself this before you even start:
“Screw this. I’m going to ship this thing at 90%. I don’t care about being perfect in the first iteration itself, I can always iterate on the remaining 10% over time.”
And when you start, clearly know what that 90% is going to look like. It not only gives you clarity on the end goal you’re trying to achieve on that particular day, but it also gets you moving toward it.
Because it’s very hard to get moving without knowing where you wish to go.
You do not know what end result you’re aiming for. You lack a model to replicate. You’re short of creative ideas.
So, you wait.
But let me tell you something:
Procrastination is an emotional issue dressed up in business clothing.
All you need is a perspective shift. Instead of looking at the task from a
“This is too important of a task and I cannot F it up”,
you start looking at it from a
“Let’s have some fun and learn something new today.”
You have to switch the frame from
“Just having fun!”
Trust me, it will be enough to get you started. Treat it like solving a fun puzzle, instead of something with negative consequences.
Once you have something on your task list, start right away.
Create a blank document file, create a blank presentation file, collate all your raw material in a folder, arrange all the necessary ingredients on the kitchen table, start drafting the email...
Then, if at any point in the future, you're moved to work on it, the transaction cost of doing a little more work is near zero.
You want all the materials laid out before you, so that when you have the momentum, you don’t have to go on a fussy little side-quest doing prep work that breaks your momentum.
What I usually find is that once I've done the prep work, I simply start doing the task. For some reason, I fall for this every time!