Eighty Percent

Posted on Sun 31 December 2017 in misc

Hank Green recently shared the embarrassing secret to his productivity, which he summarises as:

Everything creative I do, I do my best to get it 80% of the way to as good as I can make it and go no further. I just don’t try to get it to 100%.

I recommend watching the video or reading the transcript, as he does a great job of explaining why and how this works.

I want to try to adopt this attitude in 2018. I have prided myself—perhaps without justification—on producing high-quality work but I expend way too much time fine-tuning and end up writing, speaking, and coding less than I would like.

That said, there might be a difference between creative projects that get released and then abandoned and software engineering projects that get deployed and then maintained forever.

With software projects like that, there’s an amazing power to continuously applying effort to the same code-base to make it incrementally better. Slow, steady, 80% efforts that acculumate over time to make something beautiful, maintainable and useful.

But you never know when the budget is going to be yanked from under you. In the worst case, you’ll be on the hook for running something in production without having the time or opportunity to fix the problems you find.

It’s the fear of this that sometimes drives me to reach for 100% as good as I can do. I guess the only thing I can do about this is ignore the fear.

Have you ever made conscious efforts to improve your productivity by lowering your ambitions around quality? How did it go?