Part of my Knowledge Repository.
- Say you're a college student, and you have a paper due. The quality of the paper will depend upon the amount of effort you put in. We'll say that you know the project pretty well: you can get an A with only moderate effort, and with significant effort you could produce something much better than the usual A-grade paper.
- The first group (the "slackers") rejects the implication that quality=preferences.
- The second group (the "triers") are the ones who accept the premise that quality=preferences, and strive ever rightwards on the quality line.
- If you want to be highly effective, remember what you're fighting for.
- But no matter why you're there, your reason for being there will pick out a single target point on the quality line. Your goal, then, is to hit that quality target — no higher, no lower.
- Your preferences are not "move rightward on the quality line." Your preferences are to hit the quality target with minimum effort.
- The slackers fail to deploy their full strength because they realize that the quality line is not their preference curve. The triers deploy their full strength at the wrong target, in attempts to go as far right as possible, wasting energy on a fight that is not theirs. So take the third path: remember what you're fighting for. Always deploy your full strength, in order to hit your quality target as fast as possible.
- Half-ass everything, with everything you've got.
- Given any project, always aim no higher than the quality target, and always strive for minimum expenditure of effort.
- I'm decidedly not saying that you must always identify the worst outcome that you'd grudgingly accept as your target.
- What I am saying is, don't conflate the quality line with the preference curve. Don't get confused when the teacher labels one quality-point "pass" and another "fail," for these are just labels, and your deeper goals are likely only tangentially related to those labels. Remember what you're trying to achieve, identify your quality target, and aim for that: no higher, no lower.
- Also, remember that the planning fallacy exists! If you shoot for a D, you might get an F. Humans tend to be overconfident. When you pick your targets, be cautious, and leave yourself comfortable margins.
- Reject the dichotomy. Keep your eye on the preference curve.
- Succeed, with no wasted motion.
How I’m applying this
This concept ties in closely with that of slack, recognising that it is very important to protect your time and energy. Quite often I’ll find myself investing far more time than required into trying to make things perfect (writing, personal projects, planning-type activities) and I need to remember that learning rapidly and making mistakes quickly are critical to long-term success.