Productivity Hack: Sometimes You Don’t Need to Do Your Best

A lot of people will tell you how important it is to “always do your best”. This is fine advice in some situations, but if you’re working in a fast-paced environment then you need to be cognizant of your productivity levels too. It’s counter intuitive, but according to this article by Kat Boogaard, sometimes your “best’ isn’t necessarily needed. Here are a few scenarios when you might find that’s the case.

When you can’t make up your mind

Classic indecision. Whether you’re preparing a pitch or editing an article, sometimes you’ll find yourself with two great ideas when only one can be present. It could be aesthetic (what accent color on this presentation should I use?) or stylistic (which of these closing paragraphs is the most sentiments?). Whatever the situation may be, getting tripped up on your choices takes you on the road to nowhere. Boogaard suggests arbitrarily picking one and sticking with it, because in all likelihood it’s perfectly fine. This makes sense because it is your regular work, projects can relay the same message with different underlying parts, and your experience is such that all your minor variations are created equal. It doesn’t matter if you pick one sentence over the other— what matters is that you knew to put that final touch in your letter to investors.

When You’re Operating On a Tight Deadline

This is purely conditional— anyone would advise against submitting a final project that represents subpar work. But scheduling conflicts, lapses in memory, and sudden requests with short turnaround do happen. In these instances, it’s not worth it to sweat the small stuff. You just need to make sure it gets done. Boogaard’s example? Heading into a meeting and quickly putting together talking points for later. It’s important have questions after a presentation or announcement, and if you are short on time it’s better to have a lot of something that one or two detailed questions. And if someone on the team has a small favor that you’d agree would be done this afternoon? With such a tight window, chances are it can’t be that labor intensive, so make it a priority to just get it to her desk rather than hold her up with the unimportant details.

When Everyone Else Likes It

You know the feeling. You finish a presentation and send it off to a teammate so they can put a second set of eyes on it. “It looks great,” they say. But you aren’t so sure. Is it fine, really? You ask someone else, and before you know it you’ve made your rounds through the department. Everyone said the finished version is great, but you’re compelled to take it back to the drawing board and make a few more changes. These alterations are wholly unnecessary, because there’s a good chance that if the team says your work is fine, then it is fact fine. Trust that your teammates will give constructive criticism where it is due, or reaffirm the quality if there is none to be had. Don’t waste time trying to find something wrong with the project— you could end up with a version that is worse than you started with.

When it’s Not Perfect but Still Gets the Job Done

You know what some of your best work is, and you love striving to replicate it. But the hard fact is that you can’t. If you were able to, then your “best” work would become your “average” work. If you’re a perfectionist, it can be difficult to just let go sometimes. But in a world that’s constantly moving, everyone can’t wait on a spark of genius that takes your work to that next level. If it is complete, of respectable quality, and gets the job done, then sometimes that is all you need.