A lot of ambitious leaders in biotech got into the business because they were inspired to (at any level) be a working instrument in various initiatives that ideally would spawn great change to humanity, or at least to those living with a certain disease.
Some have built out great documents comprising concepts of product development initiatives or business plans, reworking the same few sentences, each time thinking the project is finally ready to launch. But in actuality, as time goes by, many never really make any progress in “real life”, conceptualizing while not actioning. We see this time and time again, where entrepreneurs want a project to be just right… Only to fall into an editing and re-editing spiral of their “v1.0” to be launched. But, of course, just right is a mirage that never materializes, and that mirage prevents from … actually launching the project all together.
Is the prose there any better for all of that incremental faux-progress? Probably not! With the best of intentions most wanted it to be. We have experienced that if those entrepreneurs had just gotten their project done when they first wanted to, instead of examining every aspect with a microscope, they would have been more likely to hit the market right – and importantly be able to adjust for real life feedback as opposed to for their own further ideas. And that needless obsession with perfection is almost the whole deal: By agonizing over tiny improvements in our work — if they even are improvements — we prevent ourselves from achieving the actual goal of, you know, doing the work.
“At some point, we must remind ourselves, any changes we make to a creation no longer make it better but just different (and sometimes worse),” Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote in Psychology Today on the topic of just getting things done. “Recognizing that inflection point — the point at which our continuing to rework our work reaches a law of diminishing returns — is one of the hardest skills to learn, but also one of the most necessary.” He added that “overworking something is just as bad as failing to polish it.”
By now, you are probably thinking of that quote attributed to Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” And yes, that is the idea. But we all know that, so what is the way around it? One solution is: the M.F.D., or the Mostly Fine Decision.
The M.F.D. is the minimum outcome you are willing to accept as a consequence of a decision. It is what you would be perfectly fine with, rather than the outcome that would be perfect. The root of the M.F.D. lies in the difference between maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers relentlessly research all possible options in a scenario for fear of missing the “best” one, while satisficers make quick decisions based on less research. The principle is often confused with the 80:20 rule, which however is rather meant to say that 20% of causes drive 80% of results (and only as a consequence thereof an inverse resource allocation of putting 80% of resources on those 20% of items that matter takes place).
But here is the key: somewhat paradoxically, research has shown that satisficers are more satisfied with their decisions than maximizers are.
In other words, just getting it done — whether that is a decision you have to make or work you have to do — will leave you more satisfied than if you had agonized over the task in the pursuit of perfection. Even better, you will actually finish.
“Easier said than done,” you are probably thinking. True. So here are two strategies that might help you out shared by New York Times columnist Tim Hererra:
- First, embrace the magic of micro-progress: rather than looking at tasks, projects or decisions as items that must be completed, slice them into the smallest possible units of progress, then knock them out one at a time. This strategy relieves the pressure of thinking we need a perfect plan before we begin something — after all, if your first step is “open a new Google Doc” and not “pick a perfect topic, write a perfect lede and have a perfect organization,” you either have achieved that micro-goal or you have not. There is no gray area.
- Second, reframe the way you think about the things you have to do. Focus far less on the end result, and far more on the process — this allows you to be aware of the progress you are making (and equally to be conscious of the process with an ability to adapt along the way), rather than obsessing over the end result of that progress. As the writer James Clear put it, “when you think about your goals, don’t just consider the outcome you want. Focus on the repetitions that lead to that place. Focus on the piles of work that come before the success. Focus on the hundreds of ceramic pots that come before the masterpiece.”
In the end, just do the work. It won’t be perfect, but you will be far happier, and it will be done. And done is better than perfect.