Can You Trade Off for Ease?

I was thinking of how I make tradeoffs. In many projects, people often think we need to optimize for time and against quality. It’s a fake tradeoff, because the cleaner the project environment, the faster the team can proceed. If you’re a software person, you know that the time you invest in build automation and enough automated tests, the easier it is for you to change the software and know that your changes work.

Another personal example: if I keep the kitchen clean (or clean enough) as I cook, I still have access to the sink and all the space around the sink. If I pile up too many dishes/pots/pans in the sink or near it, I limit my available workspace.

I agree that it’s an “it depends” answer, but the more we optimize for ease—in this case, the quality of the work—the more time we have. We’re not cleaning up later when the cleanup is large. Yet, we persist in continuing to think about time against quality.

These tradeoffs often appear differently, depending on the work. In writing, I often invest in more learning and research time in advance, sometimes years in advance, so I can fly through the project. I’m already familiar with the ideas and I have my references. “All” I need to do is write.

I suspect many tradeoffs are context-dependent.

I often optimize for ease. I make tradeoffs that make my life easy.

In projects, I optimize for ease of release. What do I need to do to keep this work “clean” so I can release it at any time? For books, that means I write clean and edit at the end. I’ve learned to write clean enough, that even if I don’t do an edit pass, I can release the book (in beta) at almost any time.

I optimize for ease of living in my personal life.

I don’t optimize for me leaving the house; I optimize for ease of living, period. I use two monitors so I have enough screen real estate and a comfy chair so I can work with ease. I also drink a ton and I’ve been walking during my bio breaks to optimize for increasing my steps. When I optimize for hydration and more steps, I optimize for more health. I create more living ease.

Our optimizations are tradeoffs. We decide what matters most and optimize for the other attributes beyond that one.

That’s because not everything is an equal attribute.

In projects, we often think about optimizing for one of cost, quality, speed, features. (Mistaken people think you can get two out of whatever. No, you optimize for one attribute and manage the others.) It turns out that when we pay attention to quality, especially when we start, we can often achieve cost and speed targets.

When I think of optimizing for ease, I don’t think of happiness. I think of satisfaction. I’m satisfied when I get all my steps in and maintain my health. I’m satisfied when I finish more projects. I’m satisfied with my experiments. The more satisfied I am with my accomplishments. the happier I am.

We each optimize for what we think makes sense. We decide on our criteria—what we value. We make our tradeoffs based on which criterion we value most.

That’s the question this week: Can you trade off for ease?

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