The 20/200 Rule

It takes about twice as much effort to improve from good to great. If you could write a good brief in ten hours, it would take at least twenty hours to write a great one. We may want to spend that extra time and energy; but, we can’t always do it and it’s not always necessary. The 20/200 rule states that optimal results for your life and your business occur when you put that highest, 200% level of effort into only 20% of your work. The rest of your tasks can be accomplished adequately with a more moderate degree of effort. One of the dangers of being a smart, high-achieving person is that you may always strive for excellence, even though that perfectionism doesn’t always serve you. Have you noticed that many of the most successful people are not actually the best at their profession? Mostly, clients can’t tell. As long as he or she does an adequate job, and has a competent demeanor, clients will be happy. Whether lawyers, doctors or coaches, many of the highest paid, most prestigious professionals are actually no better (and often less brilliant, less innovative) than many of their less feted colleagues. So, what is up with that? From my observation of clients and others over the years, it seems largely due to perfectionism. The people who are most focused on excellence often end up accomplishing less, sometimes due to the extra time required to strive for perfection and sometimes due to self-doubt. When anyone agonize over making everything perfect, they end up doing less; and frequently in life and business, just getting it done is more important than making it perfect.

You may disagree. After all, executing superior quality of work is what distinguishes you. Your clients and colleagues admire you; your sense of self-worth is tied to being excellent. Here is the thing to consider. When you are representing someone in court and their freedom or their financial future is at stake, absolutely, that is the time to give it your all. When you are making that pitch for new business or brokering a deal of critical importance to your clients, that 200% level of effort is completely appropriate. On the other hand, if you find your perfectionism coming into play as you try to write the ideal tweet, or craft the perfect email, or write out the policies and procedures for your newly opened law practice… consider that may be the time to aim for good enough.