I start my explanation of The 80% Approach with a warning: The solution it offers is so simple and obvious that you may discount and ignore it. Here’s how this remarkably simple concept and method will help you eliminate perfectionism and procrastination for the rest of your life.
The 80% breakthrough for a lifetime of confident achievement.
On the facing page is a diagram of a square that has been divided into six “80%” sections. Each of these sections represents a stage of human effort and activity, and the whole square represents a single project. From this simple diagram, we can develop an entire philosophy and methodology for achieving results—without any procrastination. If you master and apply the meaning and implications of this single diagram, you will effectively eliminate all perfectionism and procrastination in your life on a continual basis.
The first 80% is often good enough.
The largest box in the diagram represents our first attempt at doing a project—any kind of project in our lives. It says that the first time we do anything, when we finish judging our effort, it is 80% of the way there, no matter how much preparation we do before taking action. We see it as only 80% because as we were completing the project, we immediately saw all kinds of ways that it could have been better. The first-attempt result may be great, but in our minds, it’s only 80% of the way there. Is one 80% attempt good enough? In many situations in life, just doing 80% the first time is good enough. You don’t have to go any further. People who are perfectionists, of course, would never accept this. They keep working on the project, making endless improvements until it is “perfect”—even though none of this extra work is necessary. This has nothing to do with the project itself or its usefulness to other people. It only has to do with what is going on inside of the perfectionist’s mind. The 80% Approach, then, gives us permission to nip perfectionism in the bud. If 80% is good enough, then that’s the very best result we need to achieve.
Get the first 80% result as quickly as possible.
Since just one 80% result may be all that’s needed, it makes all the sense in the world to get it done as quickly as possible so we can benefit from the result. If more than one 80% attempt is needed, it’s also important to achieve the first 80% result quickly so we can start involving the capabilities of other people in the overall project.
The second 80%.
This can represent further improvements to the project on our part or, even better, further improvements done by other talented people. Even though this is called “the second 80%,” it actually brings the overall project to 96% of the ideal result. Are two 80% attempts all that’s needed? In all but a few situations in life, the answer is “yes.” In a world filled with many sub-standard, shoddy, and unsatisfactory results, a 96%-quality project would look and actually be extraordinary. Delegate the second 80% attempt as much as possible: When more than one 80% attempt is necessary to produce a satisfactory result in the world, it’s crucial to delegate as much as possible to other people who have even better talents and capabilities than we do. This infusion of new abilities rapidly increases the quality of the overall result.
Three or more 80% achievements.
Although just two 80% attempts would be satisfactory in most projects, there are some areas—for example, surgical procedures and manufacturing processes—where as many as six 80% attempts are necessary to guarantee a minimally acceptable level of quality. These further attempts are indicated on the diagram by the four increasingly smaller 80% boxes in the upper-right corner of the square.