Last year I was coaching an executive team who shared with me their motto of ‘80% is good enough’. Their goal is to get their work done and delivered to their workforce as quickly as possible, without working towards perfection. Then they adapt and evolve as they go. This was mind blowing for my little perfectionist brain. Their approach made me realize all the ideas that I wasn’t developing and all the writing I wasn’t doing because I was trying to make everything perfect before I put it out into the world. So I figured I should give this concept a try and I tripled my productivity within the first month.
This executive team has over 500 people working for them, huge financial pressures and there is a lot at stake if they don’t do their work well. Frankly, it is way more important for them to get it right than it is for me. I figured if they can produce at 80%, surely I can too. As much as I value my work, I’m pretty sure if I misspell a word or create a mediocre powerpoint slide, the results won’t be dire.
Yes, it would be ideal to have all the time and resources I need. But I don’t and neither do you. We have to work in the circumstances we have. Otherwise we’ll be waiting for the right conditions. Those may never come. Which means we won’t do whatever it is we really want to — we’ll miss out on sharing something valuable that will add to our lives and the lives of others.
I’m not a perfectionist in all aspects of my life but there are certain things, usually writing or courses that I’m teaching that I am strongly identified with, that I want to be absolutely perfect. I think a lot of us fall into this trap, we don’t want something associated with us that isn’t the absolute best that we can produce — particularly work that is creative and requires being vulnerable, like writing. I’m slowly getting over this. I’m here writing away, much the way I leave the house each morning, racing out the door with my socks mismatched, my hair not quite dry, my make-up hastily applied, yelling at the kids to hurry up, but I’m showing up and feeling good about everything I’ve produced in the last year — things that would never exist if I’d been aiming for perfection.
I’d rather get things done than get them perfect. Before working with this executive team, half of my projects never got completed, or worse yet, never got started. After seeing how the team worked and the amazing quantity and quality of work they produced, I took a completely different approach. I started aiming for production over perfection. Since then I’ve written and published two e-books, 9 Strategies for Dealing with the Difficult Stuff and 9 Strategies for Dealing with Stress, started my blog https://www.stephanieberryman.com and posted almost every week. I’ve also finished writing a novel I started three years ago. And by mid-September, my next e-book ‘9 Strategies for Dealing with Stress at Work’ will be on Amazon. None of it is perfect but it’s all out there. The e-books are 30 pages long and I can live with that. They are in the world because I realized that 80% is good enough. Everything that I produce these days is my commitment to delivering my work at 80% because 80% is better than not at all. In most classes, that’s an A.
I pushed myself to create my e-book — ‘Nine strategies for dealing with difficult stuff’’ about my experience with my mother dying of Alzheimers and growing up with a disabled younger brother because I really wanted to share it. I had the idea for that book in my head for over eight years, waiting for the perfect conditions to bring it to fruition. The 80% concept freed me up to just go for it. When your work doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s a lot easier to produce.
It’s not as long or as detailed as I would like — it’s 80% and it’s a whole lot better than leaving it my head to wither and die. Almost a thousand people downloaded ‘Nine strategies for dealing with difficult stuff’ and the Amazon reviews told me I’d helped people by sharing my story and my strategies. Over 2,000 people downloaded my ‘Nine Strategies for Stress’ book and it hit #1 .
So I’m committed to sharing my writing, not as perfect, but as real. That’s what living the good life is about — following our passions, getting what we feel and think and create out into the world, not as perfect but as perfect reflections of where we are at in that moment.
What about you? What would you produce if you let yourself deliver at 80%? Go for it! I can’t wait to see what you create, the world is waiting for your 80% effort.