August 9

Defining the Edges

Imagine that you are about to run a race. As you step up to the starting line, you can’t see the finish line, so you turn to the person next to you and ask, “How long is this race?”

“I don’t know,” they reply. “We just keep running until they tell us to stop.”

That would be silly. There can be no race without defined terms of engagement. But we often do a similar thing in our work. We lack clear edges. We don’t know how to tell when something is complete. Instead, we keep working until we run out of time or money or until someone else tells us to stop.

This is what often happens when we think about our work in terms of projects to do instead of problems to solve. Projects are open ended. They can always be made better or more complete, which is a challenge to creative pros, especially if they struggle with perfectionism. “Is this finished?” is a difficult question to answer. However, it’s much easier to answer, “Did I solve the problem?” If so, then the work is complete.

As you consider today’s work, have you clearly defined the problems that you’re trying to solve? If not, how can you clearly define them so that you have clear edges for your work.

Your mind isn’t wired to do projects. It’s wired to solve problems.


How can you break up your important work today into prob­ lems to be solved instead of projects to accomplish?

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