Get More Done With The MVP Mindset

MVP Mindset Dive - Ethan Elisara

We used to throw the term MVP (minimum viable product) around a lot during my time in the tech industry.

No, it doesn’t mean most valuable player. But yes, you could very well turn into an MVP of life if you read on.

We used to come up with MVP products all the time. Most times our digital skills courses were simply a hodgepodge of cookie-cutter subjects, which were then culled and filled as new needs arose.

But the power of MVP isn’t just confined to tech or business. It applies to everyday life as well. So let’s explore how this technical (and boring-sounding) jargon can improve your daily decisions.

My personal realisation

I learned early on in my writing career that just because you put effort into your work doesn’t mean it automatically qualifies as ‘good’. Conversely, the articles you drafted in fifteen minutes could be someone else’s definition of ‘amazing’.

Which is why, when it came to professional writing, I chose to churn out work according to the brief. Nothing more, nothing less. No polishing a draft five times or surfing the thesaurus for the perfect word. If my boss wanted a thousand words, they got a thousand words.

Because over-optimising would only mean hours of wasted time should there be a need for edits. And there were lots of edits. Rewrites, even.

So the best way to finish the job was to corral my editors down a path of least dislikes. It was like playing a game of Mastermind, guessing a different combination each time, working off the previous feedback that I got.

That’s how I fell into the MVP mindset. I began treating my initial submissions as a query, not the final product. And you know what? My workflow improved significantly after that.

The minimum way

The MVP mindset isn’t just applicable to the creative field. You’ll find its principles applicable to every other part of your life. In fact, I’ve written a variation of this topic a long time back.

But let’s focus on the present. So you want to learn a new skill. Okay. How?

Say you want to learn Chinese. Where do you start? Probably by memorising the 10 most common characters. Then 100. Then 500. Each step gives you a good-enough sample of the task—and with minimal investment too.

How you should not approach it, however, is by spending hours googling the best workbooks to buy, figuring out the cheapest prices on Amazon, learning about the different Chinese dialects, and then deciding that you’d much prefer learning French instead.

Will you fail by diving headfirst into a new pursuit? Of course. But that’s the beauty of the MVP mindset. You’re not putting out the final product. It’s a functional standalone, but it’s something that gets you to the next step.

So let’s say you’ve memorised your first 100 Chinese characters and decide that you’d be better off learning phrases instead of single words. You would only come to that conclusion after taking those first steps. Because how would you know that sentences suit your learning style better if you don’t even start?

Basically, that’s my roundabout way of saying ‘you’ll never know till you try.’

Pros and cons of the MVP mindset

Like everything else in life, the MVP mindset comes with its pros and cons. Let’s take a balanced look at a few of them.

Pro number one is simplification. It allows you to see tasks and goals as a step-by-step journey. Need to write a report? Okay. What are the bare bones required? And how do you build that skeleton? Goals are more attainable when they’re broken down and laid out before you.

Pro number two, action. With the MVP mindset, you become a master of action. You no longer wait for the perfect moment. Instead, you build a path towards the perfect moment through action. It’s like jumping off a cliff and building a parachute on the way down. Please don’t try this though. I just get carried away with my similes sometimes.

Pro number three? You save time and resources. The MVP mindset allows you to focus on the essentials, avoiding unnecessary work. Instead of spending weeks or months preparing for a project, you can get started right away because you’re not aiming to build the final product. Then, with all that saved time, you can learn to sacrifice goats (hi Betsy). Or summon demons.

Now the cons. The first is the lack of depth. When you have the brute-force mentality of acting first and thinking later, you could end up seeing all problems the same way: as trivial targets to h in the dark. Sometimes it’s worth spending some forethought and getting it right the first Example, your wedding vows.

Con number two is ample discouragement. To operate off the minimum requirements is to go into every project expecting problems from the start. And while letting go of perfection can spur you into action, it can also be a slog to face criticism all the time, which could leak into other parts of your life.

The final con: You could end up prizing instant gratification. The goal of MVP is to put out something quick in order to get feedback. This presents the danger of pandering to the crowd. Like picking blog topics solely off reader engagement instead of your interests, for example.

Quick-fire round: More ways to apply MVP to your life

1. Cooking: Start with basic dishes or techniques, such as scrambled eggs or searing meat before you move on to full recipes like Eggs Benedict or mushroom chicken.

2. Time management: Use something basic like pen and paper or the Notes app and try to make it work before you adopt large-scale tools like time blocking or apps like Notion.

3. Self-care: Try getting your major factors like sleep, nutrition, and exercise in order before you spend extra time trying to optimise through supplements, meditation, and cold showers.

4. Writing a novel: Try telling a short version of your story first, then slowly flesh it out to novel length. You could also approach it chapter by chapter, treating each as a standalone story (Chuck Palahniuk does this).

5. Home cleaning: Have a basic routine that covers the main problem areas of your home first, such as your living room, toilets, and kitchen. Take on the other chores like cleaning your fridge only after you’ve established an MVP schedule.

You choose the perspective

I’m sure you’ve heard of the term ‘How you do anything is how you do everything.’ You might think that applies to this topic, and you’d be right.

But on the other side of the coin, you have ‘Done is better than perfect.’ Or ‘The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.’

Okay the last quote has nothing to do with this topic, but I just thought I’d disclose the fact that I’m trying to put something in your mind. And that’s ‘life is as you see it’.

So, to MVP, or not to MVP? Ultimately, the choice is up to you. You can’t go wrong either way. As long as the path you take leads to action.

My newsletter is very much an MVP. If you’re looking for more examples, then this is it. Click the button. Do it.

55 thoughts on “Get More Done With The MVP Mindset

  1. This is a very interesting approach towards the we’ll renowned phrase in the self help genre ‘getting things done’.
    I’ll be going full MVP for a little while. Hope it works out for me!


    • There are benefit to thinking things through, but more and more, I’m learning that getting things done is just the way. More often than not, I overthink my way into inactivity. Doing and failing will teach me more, at least.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Exquisite and refreshing blog post Stuart. As usual you write amazing content that makes us feel capable and great as Bloggers with the aim of wooing our audience with writing our creative blog posts.

    The abbreviation of MVP is a nice touch and great example of how to get more done in your life. MVP can be applied in all sectors of our lives even cooking, time management and writing novels as you stated in this article. Well as for me, I am fortunate that I have practiced the MVP method because it just needs you to write without thinking a lot about the task before you. For instance, say I work as an Editor and I am expected to present 1000 words as instructed by the bosses, well one thousands words is nothing because as I am writing this I have completed my PDF book “6 OUTFITS THAT KEEP MEN SAFE FROM THE COLD DAYS” which will be released this Wednesday, 8 March 2023 and I just can’t wait to read people’s feedback about it. Well, I wouldn’t say the book will be printed and is perfect because 1 or 2 errors are bound to happen. The point is that the minimum variable product needs you to just start right away and there are cons or disadvantages of doing so such as receiving criticism from the public but alas I have written it and I am glad I faced my fears and I do expect some criticism🙌


  3. Really like how you suggested this could be applied to novel writing. I often end up with an overwritten “half-novel” before losing steam and leaving my work unfinished. The MVP method of making it a short story first could really help with this! Also, it sounds like I’d be in pretty good company with Chuck😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • I mean, the half-unfinished method is also a way of getting it done, but best to have a full product instead of a non-existent one, amirite? I’d love to hear about your progress if you do! Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t know if this sounds bad, but I’ve started doing this with lesson planning for my classes. In my first years of teaching, I would take forever to plan and try to get everything down to the last miniscule detail only to see it not go perfectly according to plan when put into practice in the classroom. I’m not putting a ton of detail in these days; just laying the groundwork, tossing in some cool activities and resources as time allows, and then seeing which direction the class takes us once we actually get started. It’s a lot less time spent planning, and the classes are much more enjoyable. Weird, lol. I probably had to learn my bad habits first, though, to know what I should and shouldn’t do.


    • Lol, you’re the second teacher that has admitted to this. Maybe it’s hard to plan things to a tee when you have a bunch of outside influences (a group of students, basically) that can change the course of your lessons.

      And it’s great that you’ve come to this point through experience. Sometimes, simply thinking your way towards a solution isn’t really the way to go, amirite?

      Always appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Sarah!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Stuart! Glad to hear I’m not alone. Yes, students have a huge impact on the classroom environment; I agree that when I planned too much, I left much of their input out (unintentionally). Now, I pull them in a lot more. Of course, that requires more effort and motivation on their part, which has its own interesting challenges!


  5. I’m thinking of changing up some of my curriculum for these final few months of the year – it’s really just a test run to see how I like it and then, if so, continue to improve it next year. This approach could have some value there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 100% agree. That’s how I write my emails, blog posts and comments. Write, then publish. Polish later if I want to or perhaps just write another one, better.


    • Yeah, I’ve found the MVP mindset to be especially useful in writing, because if I don’t do that, I’ll end up spending all my time editing my work into something different, and not necessarily better, lol. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow. Wow. Wow. Uuuum…. HONORED!!!! Second, Hi-larious! Thanks for the shout-out!

    This post reminds me of the one you did on perfectionism. (Though I suppose that was sort of the idea.) I so struggle with that, wanting to turn in absolutely perfect work to my boss even though I know full well she’s not as demanding as I am, and what I’d done three drafts ago was probably perfect in her mind. (She’s such a slacker. Kidding!)

    Your learning Chinese analogy does make me want to learn French. :P

    As far as exercising, I frequently remind myself of your “no zero days” phrase. That’s so helpful to me. I’m going out of town next week. I’ve been telling myself now to be sure to at least do some push ups and sit ups every night while I’m gone. And then I saw you on Insta at a gym while on vacation?? Way to make me feel like a slacker in advance!

    P.S. The only Chuck Palahniuk book I’ve and will ever read is the one on writing. I really enjoyed it.


    • No zero days have helped me maintain so many good habits I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Sure, it may seem like a pittance today, but tomorrow, you’ll be glad you at least did something. Then again, if I ever feel disappointed with my own efforts, then I know that my standards have grown, and it’ll be up to me to maintain them.

      Lol, I actually fell in love with the movie Fight Club before I ever got acquainted with any Chuck Palahniuk books. And I only read a couple of his books besides Consider This. I must say you chose well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Does that mean I’ll have to work up to “No One Days?” I’m joking, but that actually makes sense to me.

        I’ve never seen Fight Club beyond clips. I already know the gist of it, so I sort of feel like I don’t need to see it. But another part thinks it’s wrong that I haven’t seen it.


  8. MVP all the way. Build a framework first, if you have the backbone and some ribs you have something to work on. Feedback is vital, and to be productive, you need to deliver, and optimize with every round of edits. I work like this all the time. You can’t really wait for final perfect products every time. MVP, feedback, new MVP, feedback, final product. Boom. Next!


    • Yup. Even when my writing got torn apart in a publishing house, I still took on a craftsman’s mindset of ‘what next?’ No reason poring over all the tiny mistakes and wishing I could write better. Just reiterate and move on. I’m sure there are times when measuring twice before cutting is good, but for me, the bulk of my work comes from MVPing. Thanks for sharing, Robin!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I struggled with receiving feedback a lot when people criticized my writing. It felt like they were attacking me. Until I started seeing writing as a product. I also try to think MVP in my feedback. What are the minimal aspects that can be improved to make the product better. Less is more, man. Less is more!


  9. And here I thought MVP meant Montel Vontavious Porter. Jokes aside, I do think this can be applied to a web serial, though you need to be very careful of that. when you have more than 200 chapters, you won’t have the kind of chapters which are always hard-hitting, or emotionally touching. Though when you do approach such a stage of your story, I do think you should bring out everything.

    And of course, you in this context means me. Just in case it wasn’t clear. Thanks for the article, Stuart.


  10. I like the in-between of pros and cons. Keep it simple but add enough details to get clear. Keep publishing posts without obsessing over the idea of being perfect yet write slowly and patiently enough for bare minimum editing, by getting it pretty much right and complete the first time. Genuinely, it is a mindfulness training exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gotta be honest, I never took writing as a mindfulness exercise before. It either feels like work, or I lose track of time. Maybe I gotta keep that in mind the next time I write. Thanks as always for stopping by, Ryan!


      • My pleasure Stuart! Note; since I knew you’d read this comment I wanted to mention that comments are fully open on my blog as far as old posts. I’m running everything through there as far as the first place for a point of contact for questions, etc…so feel free to comment on older posts. Thanks for all of your help over the years my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post! I didn’t know the word MVP, but I’m definitely pro-MVP! As a perfectionist, I tend to get stuck in the “planning” stage and wanting to do everything in the best optimised way possible – which only ends up with me “losing” time!


    • Yeah, it’s surprising how much a programmer can MVP a product into existence. And sometimes, the ideas you think wouldn’t work are the ones that gain most traction. What a privilege to learn from them, lol. Thanks for stopping by, Juliette!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A most valuable piece of information. Thank you. 😉 For me, when I write quickly and edit briefly, I get better results. If I spend too much time faffing about over thinking and adding more, the spontaneity is lost.


    • The spontaneity that comes with a loose mind can surprise you, right? I often dread the word dump, thinking I can’t possibly use any of the sentences I’m writing, then out comes a gem and it becomes the turning point of my draft. ‘Just write’ really is underrated.

      Liked by 1 person

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  14. The whole concept of MVP is very difficult for many in the business world to grasp. We’re conditioned to make everything perfect but that often leads us to build products and solutions that no-one uses, whereas an MVP lets you fail fast and figure that out before spending months/years, and millions. I just finished reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits and that’s one of the points he makes “planning is not progress”. Yet, we tend to overplan everything and kid ourselves that we’re making progress. At some point, you just have to jump in!


    • A great parallel to this is world building your novel and not actually writing a story. It’s so easy to feel like you’re progressing when you spend all that time ‘sharpening your axe’. I have to remind myself sometimes too, that just because I’m prepping, doesn’t mean the actual work is getting done.

      Great perspective. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I hadn’t really heard of this concept before, Stuart, but I can see some real potential. I think I do apply it sometimes to focus on doing ‘good enough’ rather than striving for perfection. I think I’ve been coaching/encouraging my students to work this way without realising it.


    • I’m glad I got to see MVP in action. And by that, I mean actual products people pay money for. I was surprised at how much people were willing to pay for bare bones stuff. So yeah, perhaps the MVP mindset isn’t as taboo as many of us creatives would like to think.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Once out of writing for hire, I thought I’d be out of the mvp mindset, but then I learned it helped in the novel process. NaNo taught me that. First get out the words and then dive into the details. This process doesn’t always work, and that’s when I dive deep. But that’s okay, too. (another lesson I had to learn.)


    • Oh yeah! All my novels have been MVPed into being. Except this once where I tried being a planner for once. That book fell flat. Maybe it works differently for different personalities. I guess I have to dive in headfirst :P


  17. There’s a lot to be said about simplicity. Thank you for this beautiful application of this business term. Since I specialize in technology, I hadn’t heard it before – but often say to my clients when specifying what needs to be done “Let’s limit the scope because it doesn’t work when we start out trying to boil the ocean.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the way you put it! It’s so easy to run in circles only to realise that all your effort has just gone down the drain. I know that no work is ever wasted, but boy can it suck when you realise you could’ve spent your time so much better, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. That’s a good mindset that you just wrote. I like it. In some way, most of us do it, some more effectively that others, and eventually add to the improvement of their work. Setting in down in writing and allowing others to read it contributes a lot to the “aha” moment. Thanks, Stuart!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Some good food for thought here, Stuart. I like the suggestion that everything should be stripped back to basics and built up from there. In terms of writing, I read, on various social media sites, that elements of writing, like spelling and grammar, are no longer key. The focus seems to be more on writing to likes and follows. I think your third con on the list is perhaps one of the hardest to overcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would actually agree with the focus of grammar taking a backseat these days. After all, writing is about imparting knowledge or stirring thoughts and emotions, and grammar is surprisingly low on the list of priorities where that’s concerned.

      And yeah, it’s hard not to respond to that the market wants sometimes, right? I guess it’s a balance between staying true to ourselves and performing for the audience too!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Was at the dentist today after staying away for a whole year. She took one look and politely hinted that I really should heed her past repeated calls for me to floss! (Guilty as charged) Even if it’s just thrice a week instead of daily. Reading this I will now declare the floss to be my MVP! Haha…it’s all about taking first one step then another, even if they are baby steps yah? So as Jordin Sparks once sang “One Step At A Time”! Thanks again Stu for another great reminder post.


    • Lol I used to have the worst dental hygiene up till my late twenties. And now I floss every night. You’ll get into the groove (ha) soon enough! And flossing is very worth it. Because I’ve definitely noticed slower plaque buildup through this habit. Rooting for you!


  21. Starting with the essentials is a smart way to go – do you think the MVP strategy can be applied well to creatively artistic projects as well. Does your creativity and vision stay intact if you’re paring down to the minimum to start? Excellent food for thought, thank you!


    • I, for one, find more inspiration from the process itself than the ‘thinking’ part. It’s as if I get more things to write about, the further into my draft I go. If I try to plan everything beforehand, my work just ends up becoming somewhat uninspired. I do use a craftsmanship approach (outlining, prepping) when it’s work though. Must more reliable that way. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yup. And when those extra miles are needed, it’s much better to have the feedback to guide us rather than to take potshots in the dark. Sometimes we get so lost in our own plans that we forget that we need to aim. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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