Look around you. What can you see that is less than perfect? A chip on a chair? A scratch on the floor? A messy pile of magazines?
Does it annoy you? Do you think of yourself as someone who pursues perfection?
Even if you do, it would be fair to say you’re constantly surrounded by things that aren't.
Much of the time, we live with imperfections such as these because, deep down, we decide that they are not worth spending time and effort on.
They're good enough as they are.
The same often applies to your time management. Once you have decided what to do, the next questions to ask yourself are:
When will I do it?
How well does it need to be done?
Let’s focus on the second question…
Get into the habit of asking yourself this question whenever you decide to take on a task or project.
Hone your ability to apply an appropriate amount of time and effort to something. This is a key personal time management skill that is so often overlooked.
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to go too far, to spend too long or to try too hard.
This applies to things that are subjective and under your control, rather than objective tasks and projects that may not be.
For example, if you're washing a car you want it cleaner than before you started.
The subjective element is how much time and effort you choose to put into washing it. The trick is to hit the sweet spot between not too little (why bother?) and not too much (a waste of time and energy).
How do you what the sweet spot is? What is the ‘right’ amount of time and effort to give to something?
There isn’t one.
There is no magic formula. It's a question of practising your ability to judge how well you should do something.
But the simple act of asking yourself if you are doing too much is the best way to avoid doing so.
Okay, let’s get down to the detail -- take out your to do list (or make one) and scan everything on it.
What are you in danger of doing too well? What’s the cost? Is it worth it?
I’m not suggesting that you should ever do anything badly; that’s a poor use of time anyway. But it may be worth stopping to reflect on how you tend to do things.
Can you identify the types of tasks and activities that typically take too long in your work?
Meetings are a classic example. So many go on for so long with so little actually achieved by the end. And then there’s the after meeting conversations. How long do they last?!
The simple act of reflecting on your current habits could be all you need to change them.
From today, rather than always giving each task your best effort, aim to give each one the effort it deserves.