Ease vs Effectiveness

30 May

This is a dilemma I find myself in far too often.

A lot of people who know me also know that I am ridiculously lazy. The easy way of doing things is VERY appealing. A lot of these people also know that I am a perfectionist and have a fear of failure. Therefore the way of doing things that would be the most effective is equally as appealing. This tends to cause inner conflict and frustration.

Part of me screams “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOD DAMNED MUCH WORK! I HATE THIS! GAH! JUST BE DONE ALREADY!” while another part of me thinks “God, this really is taking too long, but if I just add these three more things, and change that, and reformat those, it. will. be. perfect.” That part of me always wins.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I enjoy completing the task, just because I am taking the time and making the effort to get it as polished and as perfect as I can. I simply cannot bring myself to share something with a peer, teacher, colleague, etc. without it being the absolute best that it can.

Recently, this issue has been working its way into a project that I’m collaborating on, The Guide to Nerdfighting. It had a bit of a rough patch with people not pulling their weight, a lot of the staffers being too busy to give 100%, and a slight feeling of hopelessness (for me) that we’d never get the promotion we need and never achieve what we’d set out to do.  I didn’t share these fears with many people, but I felt them and I know I wasn’t the only one.

Because of this, my new attitude on this project is focus, focus, focus, work, work, work (being a perfectionist with a goal and free time is like being a heroine addict with a great dealer and cash to spare). However, that is only because I enjoy the work that must be done. One of the conversations today was discussing whether we should proceed with a task in the quickest and easiest way, or create a little more work for ourselves in the hopes of greater results in the end. If the task weren’t something I liked to do, my opinion probably would be to do it the easiest way possible. Otherwise it would feel like a chore, or homework–ew, and, really,  defeat the purpose of the whole endeavor. I hadn’t even thought of this until talking to one of the other staffers about it afterward. My bad, I didn’t acknowledge where other opinions were coming from, and I should have.

The dilemma of ease vs effectiveness also plagues my entire academic career. This past year it played a serious game of rivalry with my mind and mental well-being. Not only was I completing assignments for professors, but I had to PLAN and TEACH lessons and units to ACTUAL KIDS! Having never done this, the easy way of doing things (throwing together boring lessons that aren’t engaging, interesting, or fun) seemed, honestly, like a divine offering to calm my troubled soul (trust me, this is not an overly melodramatic statement. If you went through this with me–you know who you are–you know this). But the idea of presenting such a piece of shit to my students… I just couldn’t. I sacrificed a lot in my attempt to make the most of things, to really teach something, to be effective. God damn it, Meg! Why can’t you just let me be a guilt-free slacker once in a while!

This post really wasn’t supposed to be so long. If you’ve followed me this far into my mind, congratulations. You win a golden sheep and a map back to reality, as soon as I learn the directions myself. Really though, I feel like this is one of my biggest frustrations in life. I HATE putting effort into most things. I HATE being imperfect at anything. It’s a rather unhappy marriage. I think the entire concept of having to choose between making something easy (and sacrificing quality), or making something effective (and sacrificing time, energy, [a social life…]) is something that comes up in pretty much every aspect in life. Except caffeinated beverages. Easy AND effective.

But seriously, if someone could forward me the divorce papers…

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5 Responses to “Ease vs Effectiveness”

  1. Sam May 31, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    I’ve had the same inner struggle with myself on many occasions. Perhaps not in the epic proportions you have but I will say this: You don’t always have to sacrifice quality for ease. That beign said I think your unwillingness to teach boring lessons to your students I think shows character and enthusiasm for the job, something that perhaps in the thick of it you forgot you had. Thats why you went into this in the first place right? Furthermore I’ll bet you’ve sat through more than enough boring lessons to know how off putting and discouraging it can be if what is being taught is not gripping. I think the “divorce papers” (lovely way of putting it btw)have to come in the form of the realisation that yes there are some things that really do require ten tenths of your effort to be good but there are those things out there too that will be just as good without that. Its like this: Being the best at something is not important there will always be someone better somewhere, somewhen. The point is to but good enough when it counts. Thats all that matters. If you are satified you can do something as simple as writting a blog post without worrying too about it being perfect you will fine the rewards just as great. Knowing the author of this piece as I do I know thats easy said than do sometimes but its worth it in my opinion to invest the time to do that because it will save you the pain and aguish you’ve experienced in the past. And no one needs that when they’re trying to give their best.

    • megnorris May 31, 2010 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Sam. I know you don’t always have to sacrifice quality for ease, but for many of the things that really matter you do. What you said about things being “good enough” (and I’m assuming here that you meant not perfect, but acceptable) is not something I can allow myself to do. I never do anything perfectly obviously, but I tend to work and work and work at something until I absolutely cannot think of anything else I have the skill/ability to do in order to improve it.
      “If you are satified you can do something as simple as writting a blog post without worrying too about it being perfect you will fine the rewards just as great.” And I can’t (sorry for the overuse of italic in the reply) write a blog post without worrying. I reread and edit and change things and contemplate whether it’s worth posting at all, much like I do with my videos. Fortunately it’s something I like doing, so I don’t have to think about doing things the easy way or the hard way. Plus it’s a fairly basic task.
      And now I’m off to perfect some other things. Ciao 😉

      • Chelsea June 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

        haha! i edit my blogs, too! sometimes it takes me 10 minutes to write one paragraph!

  2. Chelsea June 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    i’m the same way. and i had the whole hopelessness thing regarding the Guide too. (get out of my head!!! XD) but yeah, it’s so annoying! my big problem is i’ll go over the top perfectionist, run out of time to finish whatever it was, and (unable to put out something imperfect) i just give up entirely. i’d rather nothing to something that’s not right. so, yeah. that’s the story to why i often seem like an underachiever.
    bugs the hell out of my mother. the only one who sees how hard i work at things. :/

    • megnorris June 1, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

      Aww!! Chelsea! You underestimate yourself! Your “imperfect” work is a million times better than 99% (I researched it. True stats.) of people’s idea of perfect.

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