The Fast, Right or Pretty Principle

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The speed at which the virtual world turns for digital workers is phenomenal. It moves so fast in some instances that it is common, at least for me, to lose sight of what is always most important — doing the job well.



Part of my own nature is to keep busy. Making such constructive use of my time and energy often comes at a cost, however. It either won’t look very good, or read very well, or some valuable tidbit of information will be left out — which will not provide an accurate representation of the trend or idea I was aiming to express.

Because of this restless energy, a trait that I’ve repeatedly been told is shared by many, things often turn out in a way that I did not originally envision. And that is a problem. I attribute this failing to a principle that was shared with me some years ago. It’s called the “Fast, Right or Pretty” principle, and I fear it has done more harm than good in my professional life.

The principle is simple. When someone wants you to complete a project, they can have it fast, right and pretty — but they can only pick two of the three. In theory, it’s brilliant and accommodating to those with lots of work to do. In the real world, it’s downright dangerous when it comes to producing quality products consistently.

Several months ago I wrote a commentary titled, The 168-Hour Work Week. You may remember it, but in some ways I wish you’d forget. I believed the concept of the article was strong — that every hour you are awake should be spent in support of your business objectives.

For example, if you decide to improve or enhance your social profile, set aside time each day to make some genuine connections. Or start exercising because a healthy body leads to more energy and more energy leads to greater productivity. The concept was solid, but as a result of a looming deadline it was necessary to be produced hastily — even though I’d been ruminating the idea for many months.

The result was, well, not exactly pretty. The reason? I picked fast and right. Not pretty and right, and not fast and pretty, but fast and right.

In the rush to keep pace in the digital world, we’re forced to choose two of the three — at least that’s the case if you abide by the Fast, Right or Pretty principle. And that is where the problems begin.

Choose fast and right and you risk alienating those that place a premium on visual perfection. Choose fast and pretty, and the most detail-oriented will suddenly appear out of nowhere to tell you just how very wrong you are. Choose right and pretty and you’ll likely miss your deadline and everyone will freak out.

Face it, you just can’t win with the Fast, Right or Pretty principle. And you shouldn’t try. What is most important in your professional life is doing the job well and being confident that in every case it’s right to do so. So, take your time, do it right, and make it pretty.

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