Fitted Sheets

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“There are two constants in life, death and taxes.” So said Benjamin Franklin in a letter to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789.

I would posit that our esteemed forefather left out a third constant.


Generally, I don’t mind doing laundry. Especially at the marina, because there is a nice view overlooking the harbor. It’s relaxing to sip coffee and watch the ships go by, while the machines are humming along doing their thing.

Hidden in this idyllic setting, however, lurks a silent predator.

Fitted sheets.

Fitted sheets cause anxiety and stress. I can’t fold them. They violate my sense of order and neat, nicely aligned edges.

And please don’t send me YouTube instructional links. I’ve watched them. And I still can’t do it. I just don’t have the fitted sheet folding superpower gene.

But then, one day, I had an epiphany.

Neatly folding fitted sheets really doesn’t matter.

Once they are folded they go in a drawer, or right back on the bed. No one sees them until they surface again. A neat fold does not add value to the sheet, nor does it add value to its end use. It just makes it look a little nicer when hidden.

A basic fold on the sheet is actually good enough. Good enough to move on to the next item on your list.

This idea of “good enough to move on” has been captured in an acronym – GETMO. I believe it to be an excellent filter through which to examine your work.

Most leaders have high standards. This is right and proper, and is a large part of why we lead. But these high standards can also work against us if taken to an extreme.

Too much effort on any given project can result in “majoring on the minors” vs. “keeping the main thing the main thing.”

This is not a blanket statement. Each project is unique, and some require absolutely high standards of perfection. Illustrated thus – “How do you feel being launched into space in a rocket designed by the lowest bidder?” You get the idea.

As you are thinking through your work, here are a few clarifying questions that may help you in deciding how much effort to expend.

Will additional effort increase the value, or just make you feel better?

Most of us like producing things we are proud of. But if our pride eclipses the value, we can get off track.

What does the end user expect?

If most of your intended users will have their expectations met or exceeded by what you are providing, then it is appropriate to weigh the value of providing more.

What does the Pareto principle tell you?

All projects have a point of what economists call “diminishing marginal utility.” In other words, additional effort beyond that point results in increasingly smaller incremental benefits. Only you can decide where that line is crossed.

Is it good enough to get the ball rolling, and improve as you go?

Many things in life are like this. Getting the ball rolling creates enthusiasm, it shows progress, it creates valuable feedback from your end users about what else they’d like to see, which – if you really listen and provide what they need – increases their buy in and commitment to what you are doing. Usually a win-win.

Fitted sheets?

Nah, they don’t bug me any more. I still cringe a little whenever I fold them, but then I happily move on, knowing they’ll do their job when I need them.

P. S. – check out the cruise ship in the background of the photo, which was coming into port right as I snapped the picture. Couldn’t have timed it any better than that!

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