Do a Shitty Job

I’ve gotten thrown in the deep end this year. My executive’s responsibilities have ballooned and as a result, he’s leaning on me more and more. A lot of the things I’m being asked to do, I have no idea HOW to do. But time is of the essence and I simply don’t have time to fret and stress about the perfect way to go about doing things.  Among some of the things I’ve done this year: contact the governor’s office to request help for a business associate, diplomatically guide a senior executive in a new direction, summarize our executive team’s thoughts from a strategy session I did not attend, and lead a project in an area I was unfamiliar with. And in every single case, there was moment in which I was frozen. I’ve simply not done any of those things before! I don’t have wealth of experience that would inform me of the proper protocol. Further, my preferred method of doing things is with excellence, right out of the gate.

In these scenarios, though, I didn’t have that option. I didn’t have time to come up with my 10-point plan for success. Even worse, I didn’t have anyone I could call on for help. This is intense on-the-job training. Trial by fire!

This has led me to championing what I like to call: Do a Shitty Job. I can’t take all the credit for this approach through. It goes to Anne Lamott (I love her books – if you are not familiar with them, check her out!). In her book, Bird by Bird, she encourages would-be writers to pen a “shitty first draft.” She contends that there is power in just getting your work out there. Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by fear, thinking that you must have the perfect words in your head before you commit them to paper. Instead, write them down and trust that the creative process will allow time for you to clean things up and to make your ideas clear. In a similar vein, I am approaching my work with that same permission jump right in.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not setting out to do a crappy job. In my mind, that would be producing work that is flawed and unprofessional. In contrast, a shitty job means that I am bringing all the things I am good at to the table. The difference between a crappy job and a shitty one is that you are just not resting on your laurels until you feel like you can do it perfectly. When you do a shitty job, you trust that it will all work out. If there is a mistake, you can fix it. If there is ambiguity, you can trust your gut to guide you through .

Need to plan a 200-person party and have 6 weeks and $50,000 to accomplish this task? Take a deep breath, know you can get it done and just dive in. Use the tools you already have (agendas/timelines/your friend who’s a creative whiz) and get started!

There is freedom in this approach that translates when you are away from the office too. Worried that you aren’t quite sure how to handle your kids, crabby neighbor, grieving friend, stressed-out spouse? Just commit to doing a shitty job and take a step forward. There is incredible freedom in allowing yourself to be imperfect.

Now, let’s go out there and give it a shot!

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