While watching a Netflix documentary about algorithms last night (yeah, my evenings are that exciting) I couldn’t help but think how so much of what they described in terms of maximizing a computer’s efficiency also applies to maximizing our work day efficiency. If you’ve ever felt like you spend way too much time doing one particular task, read on.
Time Management Algorithms in Our Lives
The documentary defined “algorithm” as a procedure or set of rules a computer follows to complete a problem solving operation. (Example: you type “awesome time management blog” into Google, and Google performs an algorithm to take you to my site.) We have similar procedures we complete to solve problems in our day-to-day lives: how we complete projects, how we respond to emails, how we research a problem, etc.
The film went on to explain, however, that an algorithm’s success has two parts: the extent to which it is accurate and the extent to which it is fast. For example, Google could have the best search algorithm in the world, but if it took half an hour to find a web page for you, nobody would ever use it.
An example was the air traffic control process at London’s Heathrow airport. A complex algorithm is used at the airport to decide when each plane should pull back from the jet way, taxi to the runway, and take off to maximize efficiency. Here is the thing though: the mathematicians know the algorithm isn’t perfect but it works well enough and fast enough that they use it anyway.
The concept is called a heuristic algorithm, and it refers to a process that isn’t perfect, but is good enough because it’s fast and efficient.
What is Good Enough for YOU?
It got me thinking about whether I need to add any “heuristic algorithms” to my life. What am I spending way too much time on in the pursuit of perfection, when in reality, good enough would have sufficed if it was finished three days ago?
Perfect is great, but if it takes too long to get there, it isn’t practical. I recognize that this concept is particularly difficult for perfectionists, and some of us have perfectionist tendencies in one realm of our lives and not the other.
This week, I challenge you to find a healthy balance between perfection and practical. And if you have time, do check out “Algorithms: The Secret Rules of Modern Living” on Netflix.
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