Four Warning Signs You Gave Less Than Your Best To A Task

Doing it well enough?


“I’ll give this my best”.

“I’ll see this through with everything I am”.

“I’ll give it my best shot”.

How many times in the past month have you said that?
Were you trying to impress someone? Were you beaten to first spot by a fellow competitor? Or did you just say it because you meant it, because you really wanted to give your best?

Pardon my bombarding you with questions. But let’s say you eventually began the task you had at hand, and maybe completed it successfully. How do you know you gave it your best? How do you measure giving your best at any task/project? Or rather, how do you measure not giving your best?

Here’s how you can tell in four ways:

1. You always felt you had little to no time for the task.

That was obvious right? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Look at it this way: giving your best means giving of yourself, using all your faculties and directing your energies to the fullest extent possible in a task/project.

Some months ago, I almost always had trouble making time for my writing, or so I thought. On some days I’d plan to write (I used longhand then) at least a thousand words each day. Unfortunately, sometimes I barely made a thousand words in a week. Did I really not have time? Far from it, as I learned thankfully.

One day I was narrating an incident to a friend via Whatsapp. Noting how lengthy the list of my messages to him was, a thought struck my mind. I copied all the messages I sent to him and that of everybody else on my list that day, and pasted it on my phone’s Writer app.

Was I surprised! I had typed well over 4,000 words on that day – 4,231 precisely! Yet I had believed I had little to no time to write a thousand words in one day.

Looking back now, giving my best to my writing would even have meant writing at least 2, 000 words daily.

My point? I had the time. I simply had to cut down on non-essentials. Some people would even suggest stopping completely, not just cutting down on non-essentials. Cutting down worked just fine for me. It meant pointless conversations had to be discontinued, and time spent surfing the internet had to be minimized.

It wasn’t easy for me, it won’t be for you either, but you can do it. Honest self-examination will help you realize if you really had less time for your task or you just didn’t make enough time for it.
If the latter is true, you did not give it your best.


“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is to say I don’t want to.’’
-Lao Tzu

2. All you cared about was finishing the task

It’s no crime that you wanted to finish the task at hand so bad. But if that’s the only thing that drove you, that’s bad. In fact, that was selfish.

Consider this scenario: Suppose your favorite blog accepts guest posts, and obviously they are of the highest quality. That is why you keep going back to read the blog. Suppose all it cares about is increasing the amount of posts in its archives. Any post will do, without much attention to editing, no matter how ill-written or badly thought-out it is. With each of such vile posts, your favorite blog would be slowly but surely paying lesser attention to you its readers, and more to its archives.

The problem with thinking only of finishing a task you have at hand is that it always backfires. In most cases you have to redo the work all over again.

In the above scenario for instance, the bad posts would have to be edited/re-edited or re-written as the case may be. At other times though, there is no second chance at making it right.

Imagine Henry is hurrying to work. He’ll run late if he drives at the normal speed limit. The only thing on his mind is get to work. Frantically, he drives faster than he should, hitting the steering wheel impatiently and honking loudly at any seeming barrier in his way.

He hastens to a T-junction.

Tires screech noisily as his foot strikes the brake pedal. Henry tries to steer away from a truck leaving the street to his left. Its driver had never noticed his onrushing car.

The roof of Henry’s car is torn off as his car fizzes under the truck. And Henry is lifeless in a moment.

Better late than never, uh? Henry’s actions never depicted he cared about his safety or that of others as much as he wanted to get to work. Sadly, that was fatal.

Okay, the latter story about Henry is a bit extreme. But you can ponder over areas in life where thinking only of finishing a task could be fatal. You’d surely only be limited by your imagination.
Remember, there’s always more to accomplishing a task, than just finishing it.

“When we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
– Daniel Goleman

3. People who know you tell you your performance was less than stellar

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”.

Ever seen that quote before? I bet you have. I’ve seen it on many types of wallpapers over the years.

And you know what? Many people actually believe it.

Oh! And there’s a Facebook page with that quote as its title.

Alas! It’s saddening.

No, I’m not saying that the quote in itself is completely wrong. I’m not saying that you must live your whole life waiting for the approval of others before you say a word or do a thing. But what I’m saying is: People who really care about you will care about not just who you are or what you do, but how you do it.

If they don’t mind, they really don’t matter.

“You can do better than that”.

“That wasn’t your best”.

Have you had someone tell you that after a project recently? How did you receive it? Was it a parent, wife, sibling, lover, coach, or friend?

Having someone who knows you as well as any of the aforementioned people tell you you could have done better is a big sign you did not do your best.

Criticism isn’t pleasant as you know, but it can help you determine how much of your time, energy and resources you put into a project. In other words, it can help you ascertain definitely if you did your best or not.

After my second exam in my fourth grade, my dad told me I could do better when he saw my examination report sheet from school.

Make no mistake, I was top of my class, with grades that were the envy of any student in the class. To my dad, I wasn’t giving my best.
And he had good reason to believe so. I was doing well effortlessly, without any additional studying or reading after school. I began applying myself to study, and it was no surprise my grades got even better – my average soared from 85.6% to 91.3%.

Dad was not the least impressed. He believed there was still room for improvement. And improve I did! An average of 96.9% tells the story – achieved with three perfect scores.

Your loved one need not be as fastidious as my dad was to push you to greater heights, or to help you give your best. Honest, sincere criticism from them can always help us in our quest to give our best to a job/task.

When your loved ones care enough to infer you gave less than your best to a project, more often than not, the least you can do is act on their suggestion (when it’s given).

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”
– Norman Peale

4. You feel you could have done better
You know one funny thing about being human? There’s almost always room for improvement in everything we do. In other words, if we’re always looking for faults, we will always find it.

No, I’m not talking about being an overly self-critical fellow. I don’t mean sulking or cursing when things don’t go your way. I don’t mean being unable to do anything else when things turn out to be less than you expected.

We must be realistic, consider our limitations, and judge ourselves in that light.

What do I mean by being realistic and considering our limitations?
Being a chronic stutterer and wishing you could speak as fluently as a non-stutterer is little more than being human and wishing we could fly like birds. (No offense, I’m a stutterer BTW.)

Sometimes, it’s even possible that you may finish a task and find others commending you warmly for how well you did it. Deep down, knowing your abilities and limitations, you know it’s not your best.
When you gave less than your best to whatever it is you were at, you can tell, only if you’re honest to yourself.

“Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret”.
– Miguel Angel Ruiz

Best is relative

Giving your best to a project can be very rewarding and satisfying. Bar the end result (especially when it’s positive), nothing beats the inner satisfaction, peace and ultimately, happiness you’ll have from knowing you gave your best to a task.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out well eventually, and there are no guarantees that you’ll always succeed.

But remember: the person you should try to be better than today is the person you were yesterday.

Share your thoughts. How do you personally determine you didn’t give your best to a task?