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MLA Full: "The Secret to my Productivity." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 27 October 2017,
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APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2017, October 27). The Secret to my Productivity [Video]. YouTube.
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I'm not saying that this is the best or only way. I have lots of friends who go to 100% every time and they are extremely prolific and effective creators. And they make things that are better than the things I make. I also am not trying to say that I don't think the stuff I make is good, I think "good" is a combination of time, skill, talent, and ability to choose and understand your own objectives. I just shave on time spent and do my best to optimize the other stuff.

This is what I do, not what I suggest other people do.

In general, when people try to sell you on some life-vision for being an ULTLA EFFECTIVE PERSON, what they're really trying to do is make you feel like you haven't accomplished enough or aren't awesome enough, and thus need them to become the thing you should be but which you're being held back from by some lack of knowledge. I hate that shit so much, and I really hope I'm not doing it here. Every person will find different ways of doing things that help the world and other people, which is the important thing.

But...don't let perfection hold you back from making things or doing things. Revel in your imperfection, because perfect doesn't exist.


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Good morning, John.

It is Friday. I've been thinking about making this video and not doing it for years.

For 3 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 your head but it's different in every person who's gonna consume the thing that you make. 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 not gonna be able to see it, like that's the future that's far away I wont know until I get there. The whole world is just me with my glasses off. I cant 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% 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 that the last 20% of getting to what I think is best is gonna be like 90% of the work, and 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 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 to 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.