March 01, 2018
I started writing this post as soon as the narrative started to dictate itself in my head. Not a day after or several weeks later when I could make it “perfect” and not in the morning when I’d have had my beauty sleep and gotten seated at my desk with my preferred tool of choice- my laptop.
How many things do we think of doing then post date because we think we’ll need more time than the moment to plan and execute “ properly”? And is our delay really in the interest of perfection or in the service of procrastination?
For instance, a few minutes ago I was going to jot down the title for this post in the notes folder on my phone to develop into a blog post “later” so I could get back to reading 72 pages of annual letters written by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to shareholders. I estimated it would take too much time to log into my blog’s back-end, construct my thoughts into words and go through the process of polishing it into a satisfactory version I could publish. I even imagined I could struggle to conceptualise my delivery and the thought of finding, plugging in and powering up my laptop was enough to demotivate me. While making this split second decision, I was largely unaware of this permutation taking place in my mind and had it not been for the counter thought to eat my own dog food and launch sooner rather than later as the title of this post suggests, this much needed blog update might not have happened.
How many times I have engaged in this thoughtless assessment of how long it will take to do something and how difficult it would be, I don't know. And how often I have let a formulaic approach to a task that could be done in different ways and in non- linear steps deter me from starting, I can’t tell but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in miscalculating how much it will cost to have something or how difficult or complicated it will be to attain something based on untested assumptions.
I’ll give a good example of how my own miscalculation frequently led to procrastination and consequently under performance. I used to be intimidated by the volume of reading material I had to digest for my MBA modules until I realised the number of pages do not equate to reading speed or time needed to complete the reading. I discovered I could consume a large portion of material fairly quickly if the content sufficiently captured my interest and was easy to digest and could retain from quickly scheming through material that was more difficult, sufficient information to help me ask informed questions, search easier sources or decide if it was not relevant to my objectives for reading.
Essentially, I didn’t need to know everything to pass or understand everything in detail to function in my academic environment. But setting the perfectionist goal to do so would not only have been self limiting but could set me on a vicious cycle of discouragement from doing the very thing I was trying to do- learn. More to the point, I was often wrong about how long this learning would take and almost always found that an hour and half could get me really far.
Like the message of my end of year post last year, some things you think you’d need a year to do can be done in 8 weeks, others you think you’d need years worth of savings to accomplish can be done in months worth of instalments and things you think you’ll only be able to complete when your skills are at expert level or when you have more experience, education or resources may well be satisfactorily executed at the level you are right now.
But you won’t know until you subject your assumptions to questioning and instead of concluding based on them, find out the facts by asking someone who’s done it before, going to that place where they are doing it and making enquiries or actually engaging in the activity to assess your performance, speed or potential in real time. And where there is a real skill gap, you won’t know if it can be covered pretty quickly if you don’t take a step. It’s surprisingly easy to learn new skills in this era of knowledge sharing and with detailed how- to videos, books, courses and articles available for free online. Many self service platforms have unbundled the mysterious world of complex industries like music and book publishing, making what was not available to us before today’s possibilities. The answer may not still be ‘No’. While we might need to let go of our traditional ways of doing things (e.g blogging on a phone rather than a laptop) or push ourselves outside our comfort zones, there is definitely a way out there to do, have and be what we want.
I started this article by writing it as soon as that writer in my head started narrating it to me. Not a day after or several weeks later. Not after the inspiration had waned and long before I would have ruminated over it, regurgitating and chewing till it lost its taste. And no, it didn’t take more than a minute to log into my back end as I skipped powering my laptop, and I didn’t struggle with articulating my thoughts but rather enjoyed polishing sentences and organising paragraphs so hardly noticed the passage of time. While its possible that a later version of this post would have been more perfect, I doubt that my level of satisfaction with it at this moment will differ significantly, more so because it is no longer an idea sitting in my notes folder like several ideas yet to be executed, but it is now a completed piece of work- launched!
So I’m throwing out the challenge. Over the next thirty days, whatever your mind thinks to do, be it as little as sending an email you’ve decided needs sending or executing an idea you have clarity about, it might not take as long, be as hard or cost as much as you think- launch with speed!