If you’re holding out for perfect, you’ll never get anything done.
I don’t have the luxury of firing on six cylinders any more.
Most days I fire on about five. I can get by with four. If I really have to, for a day or two, I can get away with three.
It’s not that I’m getting older. Well, it’s not just that I’m getting older. It’s more that these days I actually have to plan around working with reduced capacity.
The days where you’re firing on six cylinders – where you’re in your flow, in full health, and every element of your regular life is supporting your productive life – are actually pretty rare.
If you’re strategy for success is built upon delivering results firing on all cylinders, then you’re leaving a fair bit up to fate. You’re kind of banking on the project window coinciding with a rare purple patch.
It’s probably not going to come off.
So, like anything, you need to factor in a bit of redundancy. Allow for some contingency in your scheduling.
Because what I’ve found is that as your capacity expands – as you get more done with your days, as more of your life becomes geared to your productive passions, and as you find yourself with more fingers in more pies – the chances that something will go wrong multiply.
So if you’re working on 6 projects rather than just one, the chances that something major will go wrong increase by at least 6 times. It’s just maths.
And then enter the obstacles from your regular life – you catch a flu, one of the kids breaks a leg, your mother in law breaks a hip etc. etc.
Put it together and the chances that you’re in ‘perfect flow’ at any point in time become practically zero.
So what can you do? You either try and reduce your output to an amount that can be squeezed out of your perfect days.
Or you just fire on fewer cylinders, and just work with that reality.
There are disciplines to help you be more productive – to get more done with less. You can look after your diet, mind map your activities… I’ve written a lot about these things before.
But what I really want to talk about today is a mindset – a mindset that accepts impairment. A mindset that treats it as normal. A mindset that says, yes, I’m limping today, but that was always part of the plan, and its not going to stop me moving.
It’s a mindset that treats any setback – a sudden stomach ache, a snotty kid – as normal, just par for the course.
And not as something that’s going to derail the whole show.
The discipline here is being able to know when it’s good enough. To be able to deliver something on a 4 cylinder capacity and go, well, that’s good enough for now. It will have to do.
That’s a daily discipline. It might be tempting to turn that email you’re writing to the plumber into a literary masterpiece, But don’t give him six cylinders if you can get away with four.
Or you might want to make sure that new kitchen reflects the creative uniqueness of your soul, but is it worth it?
The challenge is to recognise when you’re cutting corners because you just can’t be bothered vs. just getting it done because we’ve got to keep moving.
I’ll leave that to you.
But the only point I wanted to make is to accept that you’ll rarely be at full capacity. Don’t let it be an excuse. Prepare and plan to deliver, even if 3 cylinders is the best you can muster.