Chances are, you are being pushed to get more done in a short amount of time. Find your workload increasing and your time growing short? Adopt the adage of “good enough.”
“Good enough” may look different for each project, presentation, or other deliverable. If you’re a perfectionist or pride yourself on your work’s quality, accepting “good enough” may feel like a challenge. How can you add more "good enough" into your daily workstream? Here are four ideas.
1. Delegate More
Good enough means that when you delegate, you understand the work will not be exactly as you’d have delivered it. Remember: you delegated the work for a reason. Empower your team to get the work done; don’t waste time over-editing work. If the work communicates what it needs to, it’s good enough.
If you over-edit, you run the risk of demotivating your team member. One former client told me that when they were younger, their manager would over-edit their work – the red lines were extensive! The client started to lose motivation, because they realized their work would all be rewritten to their manager's style. That’s why it’s incumbent on you as a leader to delegate, streamline how you provide follow-ups, and as much as possible, let your team members’ work stand.
2. Let Go of Items on Your To-Do List
Crossing items off your to-do list brings a sense of accomplishment and feels great, but not everything on your to-do list is of equal importance. First, rank your to-do list items in terms of how critical they are. Then, define your priorities further by being strict about what needs to get done. Sometimes, letting go of items is okay!
There isn't a universal set of parameters you can follow to tell you what stays on the list and what should go. Consider creating a decision tree: what’s your responsibility, and what you should pass on. Don't ruminate – just let go.
3. Set Time Limits
Do you go over and over a document to make ‘final tweaks?’ Many leaders tend to ruminate over a document or work problem for hours. It's easy to lose time in the quest for the ‘perfect’ new way of looking at a problem set. But using that extra time is not worth it.
If you tend to lose time working on problems, try setting a timer. Allocate a set amount of time to deal with the issue, and then move on. Prioritize your work according to what is most important to the company or will provide the most impact. Couple this analysis with setting time limits, and you will move through your work at a pace that won't keep you up all hours.
4. Define 80% and 5%
Consider the rule of 80% and 5%. If you look at a project that is at about 80% completion, this is good enough. Eighty percent is how you know you are done: stop. Forget working on that last 5% – in most cases, that 5% won’t yield a positive impact to the final product. Acknowledge the law of diminishing returns: an intense focus on the last 5% won’t yield an extraordinary bonus.
You don't need to accomplish the 100%, so what does the 80% look like? Be transparent with your teams as to what “good enough” looks like. Define good enough for you; don’t leave your teams to estimate good enough for themselves. Share all of the steps involved in the project and your expectations. Then, consider: what would happen if you didn't finish the last 5%? Forecast the possible outcomes. By using both measures, you can help with the output more efficiently.
There isn't always a ‘shortcut’ to your desired objectives, but these small techniques will help you and your teams get more good work done, more quickly.
About the author
Anne Sugar is an executive coach and speaker whose passion is helping leaders play to their strengths and manage their teams better. She currently serves as as executive coach for Harvard Business School Executive Education.
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