zen habits : breathe

4 Simple Principles of Getting to Completion

“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” ~Wu-Men

Post written by Leo Babauta.

When I hear about a great idea that a friend has, I get excited. I can’t wait to see that idea become reality.

Then I ask about the idea a few months later, and it often is not one bit closer to completion.

Ideas stop short of becoming reality, and projects seem to drag on endlessly, because of one thing: complexity.

A software programmer can allow the development of a new app he’s building to drag on and on for years (I know of cases where this happened), only to find Google release something that makes his app obsolete. The problem: the program grew and grew in complexity and features, but never shipped.

A web developer can work on a rad new website with killer features, but after months of work the website never launches. Problem: too complex, and too much of a perfectionist.

A writer can work on a novel, working in characters and plotlines, and then work on revision after revision, only to abandon it. The complexity of a book can become overwhelming.

If your project has been dragging on, or you’re having problems completing, try simplifying, and stop trying for perfection.

I’ve launched a number of projects over the last few years, and learned a thing or two about making ideas take life, and getting to done.

Here are some of those key principles:

1. Keep the scope as simple as possible. You don’t need to do everything with this project. In fact, if you can just do one thing, that’s perfect. As small a thing as possible. Don’t redesign an entire city — just work on one building. If the project starts to get complex or seem overwhelming, narrow the scope. Do less. It’ll help you get things done.

2. Practice ‘Good Enough’. Perfectionism is the enemy of completion. Nitpick and worry about getting it “just right”, and you’ll never get it done. Done is better than right. So if you start to nitpick and worry about perfect, say “screw it” and then just try for “good enough”. You can always make it better in the next version.

3. Kill extra features. Similar to simplifying the scope, you’ll want to try to make your creation do as little as possible. Want it to talk and walk and cook breakfast? Just try for talking. Want your website to publish great content and have social networking and podcasts and news and a newsletter and a membership area? Just shoot for great content. Whenever you find yourself adding new features, see if they can’t be killed.

4. Make it public, quick. Your goal should be to get your project in some working form out to your customers/readers/public as soon as possible. In as few steps, as quickly, as easily, as simply as possible. Remember: don’t worry about perfect, and don’t let this first public release be wide in scope or full of features. Release it with as few features as possible. Releasing it publicly will 1) get you to done faster and 2) put some pressure on you to make it better, quickly.



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