How often have you decided to launch a project and by the time you’ve got everything you think you need in place and ‘just so,’ the unproductive days have turned into months. In seeking perfection are we really nursing our fear of failure?
And why does everything have to be perfect?
A little while ago Mark and I were driving our 18 year old son, Elliot, and his chum John, to the airport to start their backpacking trip to New Zealand. Mark and I stared at the road ahead feigning nonchalance as they chatted through the contents of their backpacks…
A pair of slippers – each
2 face flannels
15 T shirts
2 pairs of jeans (please note it was the height of the New Zealand summer)
2 dress shirts – for evening dining (we had to ask)
Elliot had also packed – a collage. Yes that’s right – disparate paper and material cuttings gummed onto a piece of card to produce a wall hanging without any practical backpacking use which I can behold.
They were, let me remind you, backpacking, and yet those items usually considered crucial to comfort and survival such as sleeping bags, pillows, towels, rain gear and shorts for instance, hadn’t made it onto the list. And that was the real crux of it. The List.
If you make lists, how old were you when you decided that productivity demanded a list?
Had our teenagers made a list? Absolutely not, but did that really matter. Just the act of compiling the list takes time and then you need to gather the items on your list, probably with a special trip to the shops. Several trips if your list keeps growing in fits and starts. With a list you generally end up with EVERYTHING you can imagine ever needing. Which takes hours of planning and loads of cash.
The alternative is Elliot and John’s trecking plan – get a bag and put stuff in it. I am witness to this taking around 5 minutes, and that included finding the bag. Anything vital which got left out was picked up as they traveled. But Elliot and John had everything necessary to execute the plan. The objective was trecking in New Zealand and the three vital ingredients were a visa, passport and flights. Job done. The remaining incidentals fell into place along the way.
If Elliot and John had made a list – highly unlikely for two 18 year olds – it would have included costly items which appeared critical when considered from the comfort of the couch. The reality was they picked up a couple of sleeping bags and a pair of shorts each and improvisation filled in the gaps.
Some of you may think I’m missing the point and may be asking- what about the thrill of the planning? If the goal is to spend your time planning for a venture, then fine. But if the goal is to achieve a tangible outcome then the planning must be conscious and proportionate. By conscious I mean that you understand when you are using the planning stage to avoid the actual implementation which is when you might finally discover that your dreams are not going to come true after all. But the boys did plan. They planned to go backpacking in New Zealand. They worked out that to make this happen they needed 3 things which they collected and then they got on the plane.
I am not for one moment suggesting that you don’t use lists to plan your day, your project, your year or even your life. A well thought out list can keep you on track and make sure you don’t avoid those horrid jobs you really don’t fancy. Just be ready to call a halt when you have lists about lists and The List is now King.
The time needed to do the job is equal to…the period of time you first thought of – divided by three – plus 1 full day to neglect it completely – followed by less time than you ever thought possible to tweek it into perfection.
Here’s to your productivity.