3 Signs Your Optimization Is Working Against You

Know if you’ve reached a tipping point with your optimization.

Clement Brian
Feb 27 · 6 min read
Image by Shahid Shafiq from Pixabay

This was me. I had created a sophisticated optimization routine. I thought I had figured it out. As I saw it, I had known it all. There was a problem though, my optimization efforts didn’t reflect in my progress.

At that point, I knew something might be wrong. But I didn’t know what it was. Not until I decided to take a step back.

After taking a step back everything became vivid. I could clearly see what was wrong. I was held in an optimization routine that was working against me. I unraveled a number of red flags that I was previously blind to. Below are three signs that can help you know when your optimization is working against you.

1. It Pushes You to Too Much Perfection, This Is Not Good

Are you taking it too far with your optimization? When you are too optimized, you tend to chase too much perfection. The philosophy of it is simple.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” — Martha Beck

You will be on an extreme end of perfection. This can be detrimental. It can even affect your mental health. You can even be pushed to chase unrealistic perfection. This can turn into a mental health issue that requires professional help.

Business-wise, chasing too much perfection is a throttle. Working with a throttle is counterproductive. You need to be able to toss the hot potato. Basically moving fast.

“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.” — George Will

One of the most popular cultures in the start-up world is to move fast and break things. No matter how perfect you want to be, you can never avoid mistakes. They will always be there. So instead of worrying about mistakes, you learn from them.

In a nutshell, you can identify if your optimization is working against you if it pushes you to too much perfection. This is often characterized by slow progress. If you notice your optimization is pushing you to too much perfection slowing you down, you should highly consider making some changes.

What a change means

“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” — Kim Collins

If you move away from such an optimization, you will also move away from too much perfection. You will be on a path to strive for continuous improvement.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence — only in constant improvement and constant change.” — Tom Peters

This also has the benefit of moving fast. Tossing the hot potato. This translates to accelerated progress. Moving fast and accelerated progress is the only thing that can push you closer to your goals.

2. It Becomes a Vanity Life Metric — You Think You Are Making Progress but in the Real Sense You Are Not

When I was in my optimization bubble, I couldn’t think beyond that bubble. I thought I had figured it out. That gave me confidence. I thought my life was headed in the right direction.

Boy! Little did I know I was wrong. My progress was slow and I couldn’t diagnose what was wrong. What saved me was taking a step back.

“Take a step back. Life gets distorted when you examine things from too close up.” — Richelle E. Goodrich, Being Bold

If I had stayed on that bubble, probably years would pass. Meanwhile, I would have made very little progress.

When on that bubble, I used to comfort myself. Even when making slow progress, I told myself everything was going to be fine. I couldn’t face the reality head-on.

My mourning routine and my optimization gave me that confidence. It gave me a sense of false reassurance. That everything was okay. It’s just a matter of time.

Comforting myself was so bad. My optimization was working against me. If it was working for me, I wouldn’t comfort myself. There would be nothing to comfort on. I would have faced my challenges head-on.

Ultimately, my optimization felt like progress. That was a vanity life metric. In the real sense, I was not progressing. Taking appropriate actions is the only thing that brings progress.

As Tony Robbin puts it:

“The path to success is to take massive, determined actions.” — Tony Robbins

What a change meant

A change meant eliminating the vanity metric. There would be nothing to comfort on. Nothing to look up to when I take minimal actions.

This would push me to take massive actions. In return, I would get accelerated progress as I desired. What this means is being on a completely different wavelength. Being in a state of taking action. Being on a path to success.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso

It’s also good to remember taking action is never always a smooth process. Challenges will always be there. What is important is embracing the journey. Falling in love with the process. Knowing that feeling uncomfortable is fine.

“Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears.” — Gillian Anderson

Less can be more. Simple optimization can be beneficial than sophisticated optimization. Winning by elimination. This gives you more clarity throughout your day. You can easily get more done.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hofmann

3. It Drains Your Energy Points — You Are Left With Little Energy To Focus on the Things That Matter

In a day, you have a limited number of energy points. Once they are depleted you become less productive. Highly successful people are very frugal with their energy points. Examples include Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. They have been observed wearing the same type of clothes multiple times. They don’t want to use the slightest of their energy points in deciding what they will wear.

Once our energy gets depleted, most people just pack their bags and call it a day. Others try little hacks here and there to recharge. At night when we rest, that’s when we recharge. We get enough energy to take us through the day once again.

What I noted is that, I had put a lot of focus and attention into my optimization. This included my mourning routine and all the other things that I did to stay optimized. Ultimately, the focus and attention drew my energy points.

“Where attention goes, energy flows; Where intention goes, energy flows.” — James Redfield

By 9 a.m. when I started my work, I was often left with little energy to focus on the things that matter. I could only make few concrete decisions till around 12 p.m. After that, decision fatigue caught up with me. This was mainly because I had spent part of my energy points in my optimization routine.

This affected my work and progress. I had little energy to focus on the things that matter the most. Another factor was my optimization routine consumed the most important part of my day — My mornings.

What a change meant

A change meant putting all my energy points into the things that matter. Basically, working every waking hour.

“Work every waking hour” — Elon Musk

Now when I wake up I only focus on the most important things, not my optimization checklist. I make sure I have utilized my mornings appropriately. Getting all that juice from a fresh mind.

Working every waking hour doesn’t mean not taking breaks. I take breaks. I rest a little when necessary. What it all narrows down to is checking where the energy points are spent.

If your optimization is taking away your energy points instead of adding to them. You should highly consider making a change.

Optimization is not bad. But there is something far more important we tend to forget. How to know when we’ve reached a tipping point. What should we check and what are some of the signs?

The next most important thing is checking how we spend our energy points. This can make a huge difference. The things we focus on are the things that consume our energy points.

Conserving our energy points should not be underrated. Just like the way highly successful individuals are frugal with their energy points, so should you.

Winning by simplicity is a path to success.

“Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well — that’s work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about.” — Bruce Hamilton

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