One of the most beneficial soft skills one can develop is to complete a task well enough that it may ensure mission success. Whether it’s finishing a work project, going to the gym, or even doing laundry, when it comes to completing a task, how much effort is too much, and how much is not enough? 


We, as humans, are predisposed to expect a certain level of quality based on the task at hand. The higher the price tag for failure, the higher the performance expectation. The odds are that you’d have higher performance expectations from a surgeon or an airline pilot.

When it comes to finding that middle path of getting the job done and getting it done right, three considerations would help keep you between the white and the yellow lines of personal performance – set an objective, meet a standard, and acknowledge the price tag.

Set an Objective

Generally, you wouldn’t get into your car and drive around aimlessly without a set destination. You cannot know how to get somewhere if you don’t know where that place is on a map. The same applies to taking on a task. 

The only way to know how to get there is by determining what exactly it is that you’re trying to accomplish. If you plan on going to the gym, for a walk or run, or a bike ride, then knowing small details such as where or how far and what time can help with reverse engineering what you need to achieve that objective. 

If the objective is to change a lightbulb in your kitchen ceiling before nightfall, then you have established a timeline, the need for a replacement lightbulb, which you may or may not have on hand, and possibly a ladder or step stool. Setting a specific objective helps develop a timeline, tells you what you will need to accomplish that objective, and provides mission parameters (guidelines) specific to that objective. 

You may even have a to-do list “OK, today I’m going to get the car washed, do laundry, and go grocery shopping.” If those are your set objectives, you need to know which car wash, its hours of operation, and its cost. Which clothes will you toss in the laundry, and how long do you have to do it? What exactly are the grocery list items that you plan on purchasing? Which one and where is the best store to shop for these items?


Meet a Standard

To what standard or expectation will you be held? Are these the expectations of your boss? Your significant other? A friend or family member? Without a known standard or expectation (such as it must be done in this amount of time, this amount of funding, utilizing these available resources, et al.), how would you ever know if you’ve met that expectation or standard? Is it something that you would set for yourself? For example, “I’m going to run three miles today.”

 To what extent will be that work effort? Going back to the car wash example, is the expectation a Super Deluxe Wash with every add-on option they sell, or is it just enough to brush off the dirt? In setting the standards for your laundry, you must fold and possibly iron after washing and drying. 

Grocery shopping takes on a whole new meaning if everything needs to be organic, gluten-free, or vegan. Such expectations, standards, or requirements will determine where you find these items, how much you will pay, and the quality of each item.

What would be considered a good enough car wash, a good enough basket of folded laundry, and a good enough bag of groceries? What is not good enough? What would be considered over the top? Did you pay too much? Did it take too long? Did you do everything that was expected? Did you meet that standard, expectation, or requirement?


Price Tag

Last but certainly not least is the acceptable price for failure. What is it? What if you never got around to changing that burnt-out light bulb? Didn’t have the time in your busy day to get the car washed? The produce at the grocery store was either unavailable or extremely low quality. 

Do you believe that you, your boss, or your significant other would be willing to accept the price of total or partial failure? If not, therein lies the motivation to get the job done and done right because failure is not an option. 

When setting out to accomplish any task, it is imperative that all three considerations, including objective, standard or expectations, and price for failure, are each known by you and the person requesting your services. Each of these is a guideline in itself, but combined will help answer the task completion question “Is it good enough?”