The Secret to my Productivity

The Secret to my Productivity


Good morning John, it is Friday. I’ve been thinking about making this video and not doing it for years. For three reasons. One: I work too hard. It’s a problem. Content like this tends to assume that everybody’s gonna want to have whatever the person making the content has. and like, I have a fine life, but there are lots of other great lives out there. Two: I am extremely lucky. One of the keys to productivity is having financial and mental and social stability, and I have all those things. I just lucked into it. Three: my secret to productivity. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a little ashamed of it. Here it is: 80%. Everything creative I do, I do my best to get it 80% of the way to as good as I can make it, and go no further. I just don’t try to get it to 100%. In every creative project, we have, in our minds, and in reality, a place, where it can get to where we will think it is the best. It looks like this. And we can keep pushing and tweaking until we get it right into the center there. And that seems like worthwhile. Get it as good as you can get it. But this is a lie, in four different ways. One: no one knows what best is. Best is subjective. It’s one way in your head but it’s different in every person who’s gonna consume the thing that you made. And so it doesn’t look like this, it looks like this. Two: Not only are there different bests inside of everyone’s heads, there are different categories of best. Like, I want my videos to do multiple different things, And sometimes if I want to do better at one goal, I’m gonna have to pull away from another of my goals. Three: even if there are actually hard outlines to these things, I’m never gonna be able to see it. Like, that’s the future that’s far away, I won’t know until I get there. The whole world is just me with my glasses off, I can’t see anything And four: best is always changing. People’s opinions and ideas are always changing and so are mine. So trying to get 100% to the best that I can do, which is far away from perfect, Is even that an impossible idea? I’m not saying you can’t increase your odds of getting into the bull’s eye. Yes, you can. That’s what the 80% is about. But I am saying you’ll never really know where you’re gonna hit, until you actually throw the dart. And if you spend a ton of time thinking about how you’re gonna throw the dart and you never throw it, you might be doing a whole lot of work that isn’t actually helping. So, when I get to 80%, I throw the dart. Because I know that perfect doesn’t exist. I know the last 20% of getting to what I think is best is gonna be like 90% of the work. I know that 90% of what I’m gonna learn, I’m gonna learn doing that first 80% and releasing the thing and having it be out in the world. For me, those final tweaks, I’m not learning anything, I’m just scared. And maybe I am making it better, but also maybe I’m not. Now, stopping at 80% is hard, Especially when your 100% isn’t that good yet, ’cause you’re new to whatever thing you’re doing. And that’s even harder when you have that one thing that cannot be taught, good taste, because you know how bad your thing is. But worse than that, and this is sort of a separate tip, You are gonna know the thing you create better than anyone else will ever know it. You’re gonna know all of its imperfections, all of its issues, all of the things that it could have been but it isn’t. So you’re gonna see that flawed picture of the thing that you make, Whereas when you look at something someone else made you won’t see those things. So your things are always going to look worse than other people’s things. So in my mind, getting it done is success. Getting it perfect is not. Especially because perfect doesn’t exist. This is my secret of productivity, not just because it helps me do a bunch of stuff, But because it helps me learn a bunch of stuff, learn how to do new things. And get more data points as to what’s working, and what people like, and what I like doing. And as I get to 80% of the best that I can do, over and over again really fast, Suddenly my new 80% is way better than my old 100% effort could have been. John, I’ll see you on Tuesday. No, I’ll see you tonight. Also our Halloween show in San Francisco still has tickets available. And we’re having a Halloween costume contest. You know, it’s not required, but I am looking forward to seeing what people put together.

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100 thoughts on “The Secret to my Productivity”

  • Callum van Heerden says:

    This must explain why I think my handwriting is terrible, but other people see it as good, and I see other peoples writing as much better than mine.

  • I was just at a bullet journal workshop and the lecturer told us "remember, done is better than perfect". She's very right.

  • This video came at a perfect time for me.  I decided to throw the dart on a video I've been working on for a while and start my own educational YT channel!  Thanks for everything over the past 10 years, Hank.

  • I go for 90%, because any higher and I will put way too much in, and kill myself. Any less, and I'll be unsatisfied with my result.

  • YES! MAN LIKE HANK KNOWS THE TRUTH! I AM SO IN THIS CAMP OF PUTTING THINGS OUT THERE SOONER RATHER THAN LATER BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU TRY, NOTHING IS EVER PERFECT!!!

  • I feel like I do this too! Whenever I'm studying for an exam, for example, I get to a point where I'm like okay I'm not at a 100%, but it would take many more hours to study all the little details too and it's not going to make a big difference to my grade anyway. I see people revising twice as long and in much more detail and then getting around the same grade. You've definitely learned the most till 80%…

  • Adeline Barnault says:

    Thank you so much for this video, there might be a lot to discuss about it but for me it's really good to hear that because I always put to much pression on me to get to the best, to the 100% about everything I want to achieve that at the end, I'm to scare to fail so don't do it, don't even try to do it.

  • Andy van der Raadt says:

    When I was in design school I tried to take everything to 115%. I treated every project as if it were a thesis level project and, ultimately, it was my undoing. I worked an unreasonable 110+ hours a week on such a thin, knife-edge of anxiety, stress and lack of sleep that when happenstance led to my life becoming even more overbearing it all fell apart.

    I think people in the comments are getting hung up on 80% because it sounds, on the surface, like, "just don't try." In my more nihilistic times, I thought of this as, "its done when I can't stand to look at it any further." Now I'd say, rather than a project being a linear A——-B, it's A——B where B is at the apex of a exponential curve. Design perfection maybe does exist—but reaching it is a realm of diminishing returns. Aim as high as you can, but know that we'll reach new heights tomorrow.

  • The only times this has worked for me is when I've set a goal of 60% and finished the project at that point. This video reminds me to do that again!

  • I threw my dart and made a website so I'll write more but like now I feel like that wasn't even 10%, yet I already don't dare to move to the next step. 🙁 Does anyone know how to get rid of this paralysis?

  • iː ɛm wʌz hiːɹ says:

    That was a really solid video. Being somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I often find myself failing to reach even 80% because I'm so distracted by "the ideal" of what I should be doing. I spend too much time "lining up my shot", and it only serves to make me anxious. Deadlines become impossible to reach, and, indeed, I don't learn much from the experience.

    This is a useful video for me. Thank you.

  • I'm literally procrastinating on finishing my latest video edit while watching this video. Maybe it's already finished…. thanks

  • Hubbard's Handmade says:

    Brilliantly said, vague enough for me to put my thing-I'm-working-on in place of what you were saying and apply it to myself. Thanks for articulating what needed to be said.

  • Commenting now though I watched this when it posted. I've found myself thinking back to it. I think I remember you being hesitant to share this "secret" because you're choosing 80% over 100%. But as someone who avoids starting something that might not get to 100%? The acceptability of 80% is comforting and encouraging.

  • Is it bad that I spaced out like 5 times throughout this video and had to rewind a whole bunch of times because I totally didn't hear anything Hank said??? And not because I don't love listening/watching Hank's videos, but because my brain just simply likes to… wander about… doing it's own thing…sigh. Oh well, Brain

  • Catherine Boudreau says:

    This is actually a beautifully freeing way of seeing things for someone who does not even start for fear of it not reaching the 100% mark.

  • Andrew MadeAFilm says:

    I spent over a year making a film for YouTube channel called 'Entering 1,000 Competitions'. It was pretty much done, but I still spent weeks fussing over the final edit, trying to correct slight nuances. Then, to my horror, I accidentally finalised the project, and was forced to upload it as it was. In my mind it was only about 90% complete. I had released an unfinished video.

    That film then went viral. It turns out that nobody except for me cared about that final 10%.

    Now when I watch it back, I can't even remember what that final 10% was supposed to be.

  • The 80% part helped me a lot. I've been working on a book for almost 4 years now because I worked on the world, history and a lot of other things. This was a great tip and I think it will be easier for me to finish it now.

  • Probly a sweet potato says:

    The secret of my productivity is spite… Not just negativity from other people, but from myself as well. I will do the thing in spite of my own inhibitions and, sometimes, overwhelming negative thoughts. I know it can become destructive, but I will keep going.

  • Why do I have a sinking sad weird feeling that this is secretly the answer to my Dear Hank and John question????

    Please, no one ask what the question was I would rather not say…. anyway it is just a feeling.

    sigh

  • As an author don't you ever get into a situation where you struggle to find the PERFECT word or expression for describing a meaning?

  • David M. Johnston says:

    Hello Hank, I wanted to thank you for this video. I've seen it I would say a week ago and I keep thinking of it. I'm a student CG artist and I always felt "stuck" creatively, I couldn't get myself to start projects for a reason I didn't know. It felt like any step I took made my project worse. It doesn't make sense because nobody would call a blank page perfect. But yeah now I tell myself it doesn't have to be perfect and that I could push it to some percentage of where I think I could theoretically take it, and then go to the next step in the project. Well, I do much, much better this way.
    So yeah, great advice Hank, somehow it resonated with my subconscious and I feel much better creatively. Thank you so much!

  • Just to offer a slightly different perspective by another person I really respect (paraphrased):
    Adam Savage's philosophy is to put things on the side burner when they need to be, to get over that hump of "this is crap" and just keep going, and to embrace the final product, it's story, and how it came to be.

  • Autumn Rose Dearborn says:

    80% is my new life motto. As a perfectionist I really needed this advice, so thank you Hank! I'm in the process of writing a book and I'm trying to not let my OCD get in the way so I can just finish writing it. I need to remember I can go back to edit later on. I do not need to edit as I'm writing my first draft. That's why there is drafts! I'm going to take your advice and write to 80% of the way to as good as I can get it.

  • It’s been almost two weeks since this video was posted, and it’s improved my life. I had two major projects due in school recently, and when applying this method, I’ve felt better emotionally and physically. Stopping at 80% really does help. When I don’t pull an all-nighter to get that last page perfect, I still get a good grade (and I don’t feel like my brain is a puddle the next day in class!)
    Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • A professor of mine used to say "it's better than good, it's done." And this always intensely bothered me. Like who does finishing a shit project help? Won't that reinforce bad habits in your process? Because once a project is done, it kind of provides a litmus test for the next thing. Anyways, I like what you're saying here a lot better – kind of a "it's better than perfect, it's done." sort of thing, which is much more constructive.

  • So, after watching this video, I had an epiphany; this principle Hank discussed is THE EXACT SAME PRINCIPLE I use regularly in my power lifting training! If I max out to 100% EVERY session, I won't see any progress & I'll get burnt out, but if I keep it submaximal (70-80% of 1 repetition maximum, generally) I'll make consistent progress! And this also works in other aspects of life! WHO KNEW?! HOLY SHIT! THANKS HANK! DFTBA!

  • I’ve watched this video more times than I can count over the last month. Struggling with mental health and just life in general has me being rather unproductive, but this video makes me confident and more motivated. Thank you for this video. Thank you.

  • wow, this is actually, just … wow. it makes a lot of sense. i've been writing this thing for a while, or trying to, because i start it and i'm doing pretty good for a few days and then i just stop. because i think it's complete garbage and why would anyone want to read that? i'm always so afraid of it not being good that i don't really try anymore. and THAT isn't good. so thanks, hank!

  • I love the 80% thing, 100% is destroying my life. But. I've done 80% forever and it gets more done but drives me nuts. And. Which 80%? Makes a difference. If you don't tidy up, review, the lessons aren't learned and the next time isn't easier. I'm wondering if 80% needs to include the last 10%? Which turns it into a project where I stop at 70% and work that 10% to make 80, or stop at 80% which turns it into a 90. I think what I'll do is stop at 70% of the "meat" of the project then do my 10% so tricking my brain into thinking I've done 100. May even be the pickups I need to get the last 10% done will push the project meat to an actual 80, we'll see.

  • This could actually be a revolutionary concept for me, as a perfectionist who holds herself back too often. Thanks very much for sharing your methods, because other people will get a lot of use out of them as well. I'm going to try to adopt this strategy to see if it works for me.

  • I agree 80%. Engineers and Doctors and more technically skilled people should NOT use this approach; the more technically skilled you need to be, that percentage goes up dramatically. The less technically skilled, the more that percentage drops.

  • You can only skip the right type of 20% because the 20% can fail the Whole.
    Therefore make sure the 80% contain the critical 20% which can ruin the Whole.

  • "Endings are always sad."
    My issue is I frequently don't want projects to end because it means that I can no longer get what I got out of that project, and that stresses me the frack out.
    Fortunately, nothing's actually finished until you die(although in a way it still isn't) so I just have to remind myself that.

  • Thanks a lot, Hank. You got me moving forward with this one. I finally managed to hand over my screenplay to the first person to get a feedback 😱 accepting that 100% is not necessary 🤗

  • Emily Newhouse says:

    Thank you Hank. So inspirational. I am such a perfectionist I believe I don''t deserve to call myself that because NOTHING I've ever made has ever been perfect so I dare I say I have perfectionist tendencies?

  • Man, you are 100% correct! (or 80% correct, who knows)
    This video really resonated with me and the way I will choose to approach life and getting stuff done, so thank you

  • Holy shit this is what I needed to hear man. I just realize it sounds like sarcasm but it isn't lol. Honestly thank you this really helped!

  • My perfectionist brain: Nope, cannot compute….. let's return to binging on YouTube videos because I can't handle the fear of failure that actually working causes

  • I literally JUST used this video to (hopefully) help a student of mine.
    "But…don't let perfection hold you back from making things or doing things."
    Thanks very much!

  • Leela nonofyourbusiness says:

    My doctor actually recommended this to me as a way to help me function with my anxiety and depression (which can get triggered by my perfectionism). She called it "satisfysing" which is basically doing things so that they're done, not so that they're perfect. It's about changing the way you define completion and success, just like Hank talks about here!

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