Perfect Does Not Exist

How do you get shit done?

A friend asked this yesterday when lamenting the avalanche of tasks she needed to handle this week. As a writer, same as a founder, we have to get up and set our own priorities, find our own motivation, and push through on things we decide to get done rather than do what we’re told. Oh the responsibility (true freedom comes with lots of it)!

Motivation through tough decisions (and lots of rejection) is one of the most elusive sirens of both worlds. And we have so many lovely distractions to assist us in veering off our path! There are conferences, social media, and countless other useful tools that double as excuses for not getting shit done. Networking happy hour anyone?

So what’s a writer or founder to do?

First, give up the idea of perfection. You know why? Because it DOESN’T FUCKING EXIST. Seriously, we humans just made it up. Show me a perfect tree. A perfect river. A perfect human. Rather than striving for perfection, decide whether done is good enough or if you want to do something great. You know that saying “perfect is the enemy of done (or good)”? This is what they’re talking about. If you strive for something that doesn’t exist, you’ll never get there. However, if you strive for either great or done, you have a much better chance.

Second, and here’s the one that gets me unstuck…if the goal is overwhelming, then break it down and choose one tiny goal. Revising the manuscript too much to think about? How about this chapter, scene, sentence, word? What is your goal for it?

I’m in the middle of a BIG revision, as in cut the prologue and first six chapters, change an important reveal, and add another 30K words or so. Confession: I played a lot of spider solitaire and posted on social media like a madwoman last week. Why? Because I’m overwhelmed AF.

But my bigger goal looms larger than my fear and overwhelm. This book needs to be in print on bookshelves. So I started with one small goal yesterday. Add back some of the first scene. Why? What’s the goal? To ground readers in the story rather than throw them immediately into it with a protagonist they probably don’t care about yet. OK, check. So I tried another small goal and revised another scene. Then voila! Three chapters looking far more polished.

It sounds trite as I read this back to myself, but I so often lose sight of these small tricks that I figured it was good to write myself a reminder.

The difference between writing a novel and building a company is that the order of operations isn’t nearly as important. If I feel like writing this scene today rather than that one, nobody dies. Well, unless I want them to. Not that anyone dies in a startup, except possibly the startup itself. So founders have to add prioritization when choosing goals.

The weekly trick is Big 3. Set three, and only three, priorities for the week. I like to do this on Friday afternoon. At Tech Wildcatters we had a rolling spreadsheet to keep track of the company Big 3 and each staff members’ Big 3 for the week. At the weekly GSD meeting we would go over the Big 3 accomplished that week and the goals for next week (writing them down is the real kicker - memory can be a fuzzy thing). It’s surprisingly effective if you’re diligent about it. And it was far easier to blow through those three goals and achieve far more.

How do you get shit done?