Managing time: How to choose what’s good enough

At the end of the year, it’s a challenge to manage time. “Good enough!” as your mantra can help you shave some time off of common tasks and be a possible antidote to feeling depleted and overwhelmed with all you have to do.

Old habits

While most of what I share usually comes from coaching clients, this one comes from my husband. Years ago, fed up with how I shopped online, he urged me to read one of his favorite books: Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice.

Schwartz argues that having too many choices makes us unhappy. While we might increase our likelihood of making a rational choice, we decrease our likelihood of appreciating and enjoying the option we chose. This is because we keep remembering the others we didn’t get to select. Or, sometimes we resent having to make a choice at all.

Sadly, even though I’ve known this to be true for some time, I get caught up searching for what’s “best.” The perfectionist in me (Yes, clearly I’m still in recovery!) believes that if I hunt down all the choices, gather as much information as I can, review all the options, weigh the pros and cons, and I can make the optimal choice.

I’m still a slow online shopper. I end up wasting a lot of time.

Smart and caring women often have a hard time with the notion of sufficiency. I think sometimes, high-achievers equate it with mediocrity.

Moms, for example, have added pressure, to do what’s “best” for our children. There is a strong urge to do everything we can to maximize the happiness and well-being of our children. Of course, psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott is famous for advocating for “the good enough mother.”

We’re also always told, “do your best.”

We need to retrain our brains to accept that “good enough” is what’s best.

Manage time with “good enough”

Here is how you can streamline making choices and save some time:

  1. Figure out the two or three key features that are most important, if not critical.
  2. Select the first option that meets those criteria.
  3. Stop looking at any more options.
  4. No second-guessing. Enjoy your choice.

For example, let’s pretend I need to find a moving company. This would have been my old strategy:

  • Email all my contacts and asking for good experiences with movers.
  • Conduct a Google search on what to look out for when selecting a moving company.
  • Search online for at least a dozen recommended movers in New York City.
  • For each, read customer reviews and check out profiles on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.
  • Call my top three choices and ask them to submit estimates.
  • Discuss all the options with my husband, who, incidentally, wouldn’t care about most of the details I uncovered.

Instead, a new strategy would be:

  • Decide what matters most (e.g. can move a piano, is recommended by a friend or reliable source, is not too expensive).
  • Hire the first company that meets these criteria and is available on the day I want to move.

You can use this strategy not just for online shopping or selecting services, but also for what goes on your schedule, or whom you want to spend time with.

Your turn

How will you manage time by accepting what’s “good enough”?