Over the weekend, we ran an opinion piece by Cal Newport arguing against the common notion that getting started on a project is better than waiting for the “perfect moment”. In his words: “an instinct for getting started cripples your chance at long-term success”. It’s an interesting read, but I think the basic premise is dead wrong.
Picture by jayneandd
It’s not that I don’t recognise Newport makes an interesting case, or that he’s the only person who thinks that way. Joss Whedon, for instance, argued for a pretty similar position on his recent trip to Australia. It’s that Newport fallen into the common trap of much productivity advice: assuming that an approach that works for him is the best idea for everyone under all circumstances and with all kinds of projects.
People are different. Knowing absolutely everything about a topic before diving in can work well for some people, and it might avoid making mistakes others have already made. But for others, experimenting a little and planting lots of ideas — while happily accepting that many will fail or not be a source of huge wealth — is a more amenable approach. Success has many measures, and also many approaches.
I suspect I fall somewhere in the middle: some projects I start and complete very rapidly, others percolate for months or years with lots of interim research. I can’t find a hard-and-fast rule that sums that up, and perhaps that’s why I resist any easy summation of “the best way to get things done”.
Would you rather wait till you’re consumed with passion before starting on a project, or will you happily dive in when the mood strikes? Share your thoughts in the comments.