“Any Fu*ker can build a bridge out of solid gold blocks, but it takes an engineer to build one for the lowest cost – be that financial, environmental or time”.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a statement that was said to us during one of our first ever engineering lectures. I think it was a ‘Intro to engineering’ class, but it was a trend that held true for the entire 4 years of my course – engineers just love to optimise shit!
I’m a total sucker for it, too. I might not be working as an engineer anymore, but I’m always looking to optimise everything I do. I even have an “optimum” layout for my typing set up; I’ve got my cup of Joe to my left, my phone to the right, with my laptop centered in the middle. I’m in a comfortable position I could be in for hours and have easy access to everything I need. Beautiful.
I know I’m not the only one either, and the internet is just full of blogs and articles helping people optimise their lives.
This does beg an important question though: What are we optimizing for?
I like to optimise my typing set up because it eliminates a certain type of distraction for me – discomfort. Nothing pulls me away from writing more than knowing something is out of its place or just out of reach. When I know I’ve got everything I need and don’t need to move to get it, I could write for hours.
This keeps me productive, gets the post out the door and helps me share the information I want to faster than otherwise possible.
But there are times when I think optimization is just a distraction from our goals.
Every few months I fall into the trap of trying to optimise my website. I worry about what theme I use and if it’s SEO ready. I spend hours reviewing old posts and wondering what kind of key words and metadata I should use to increase readership.
Is there a time and a place for this? Absolutely, but given the low volume of traffic I get each month, this is just a distraction from what i should be doing – writing.
I see examples of this all the time. People searching for the perfect diet, training plan our schedule. Organisations looking to optimise their marketing direction and customer reach. Manufacturing facilities paying engineers to create the perfect excel spreadsheet to track every metric under the sun.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all key things that often make something world-class or not, but only if the work is being done in the first place.
Spending time trying to optimise has us feeling busy, which is dangerous because there is nothing inherent about being busy that means were achieving our goals.
“Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough”
I couldn’t tell you where I heard this first, but I think it’s absolute gold. Striving for perfect is admirable and all, but if all that time spending trying to be perfect is getting in the way of actually acting and doing something, then is it really worth all that effort?
The other issue is that these optimum solutions don’t leave much “wiggle” room which does bring its own pitfalls. If you want you’re life to forever be structured, have no room for spontaneous trips or plans to come about and always be unavailable to chill and hangout, then optimise your entire life.
Optimization leaves you without any room to move stuff around or fall short of the mark, and that has both pros and cons. Take with that what you will.
Now look, I’m not saying optimization is bad or that you shouldn’t do it. Not at all. All I’m saying is that you should pick and chose what you spend time optimizing, making sure to only do it when it’s the best thing to do, not just because it’s something you should do.
Don’t forget – don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough!