Published in 60 minutes

The Philosopher Developer

August 08, 2018

I realized something recently: I share my ideas with people every day in 1-1 conversations; but the rate at which I share my thoughts in written form is much slower. Probably 100x slower. That's not an exaggeration: in the past few years my rate of publishing posts on this blog is less than 2 per year. Meanwhile I have multiple conversations, both at work and outside of work, every day.

You've probably heard the expression "The perfect is the enemy of the good." A big part of the reason for the discrepancy between the value I provide in 1-1 interactions1 vs. written communication is the amount of scrutiny I apply to the things I write versus the things I say. Meanwhile, the value of the information I share in written form is nowhere near 100x as valuable.

I suspect the phenomenon of diminishing returns kicks in very quickly for me with written communication. Most of the value is captured in the first 50% of time invested; the remaining 50% of time invested only improves the final result by, say, 10 to 20%. This is what that looks like over time:

Impact over time depending on level of perfectionism
Impact over time depending on level of perfectionism

Over the course of my life, my hypothesis is that I would have a bigger impact by polishing less and delivering more. If you're reading this and you're a perfectionist, or even just kind of a perfectionist (which is how I would describe myself), this probably resonates with you. (We all already know this about ourselves. Part of the curse of perfectionism: we are too aware of our own shortcomings.)

Therefore, I'm trying a new thing. Starting once a week, I'm going to set aside one hour of uninterrupted time2 to start, finish, and publish something. At the end of the hour it's pencils down: I'll publish it, no matter what state it's in.

I am not imagining that this will replace me sometimes choosing to spend more time crafting something more thoughtful. In some cases the thing I publish in an hour will hopefully serve as a precursor to something more substantial to come along later. But at the very least, this should help me make a bit of a dent in the mental backlog I have of all the ideas I want to write about.

Apologies in advance for the subpar material this will inevitably produce.

  1. I mean, I think I provide value. Maybe I don't, but if that's the case then I'm delusional, and I'm not worried about solving for that problem just yet. 

  2. Side note: this should really not be as rare as it is—something else for me to work on.