Parkinson’s Law

Back in 1955 a British naval historian by the name of Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote his first article on what would eventually become Parkinson’s Law which states the following: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”…without producing significantly better results.

The basic idea here is this…don’t take 30 days to do something that can be done almost as well in 24 hours. Work will always expand to meet the hours in a day that you give it. So, work with a deadline, even if it is an artificial one. Shrink your timelines…constraints are a good thing…they force you to do more with less.

So, the next time you are given a project, severely shrink your timelines and you will be shocked at what you can achieve. You can see this in practice every day by all of the greatest companies and inventors…Elon Musk with SpaceX and Tesla, Jeff Bezos at Amazon, etc. One of the greatest inventors ever even took it a step further…Thomas Edison would talk about his ideas to the media before they were even ready…this would force him to get after it and stay on task.

One way to tackle this is to consider that the hardest thing to do is get started. If you can get the wheels in motion, consider that you might be able to get a project 85-90% of the way along in 24 hours, but the entire project may take 30 days. The second hardest thing to do is to conquer that last mile. So, maybe you can get things to 85-90% and hand off or outsource that last 10-15% that eats up more of your time.

So, continually apply Parkinson’s Law to find the shortest feasible path to completion, given the necessary trade-offs required by the work. Soon, you’ll be wondering what to do with all of your free time! Here’s one of the best posts I feel I’ve written on how to Get To It!

 

Creating Separation…NBA-Style

Here are some of my favorite NBA ankle breaking moves to create just enough separation from the defender to get an easy bucket. These guys exemplify what we’re talking about…you have to do something to get your competitors off balance just enough to give you some space to make your move…

Steph Curry Fakes out Chris Paul

CP3 Loses Defender on Stepback 3-Pointer

Kyrie Irving Under The Legs Pull-Back

In all of these, they didn’t create miles between themselves and their competitors, but just enough room to get an advantage. That’s all you need is some breathing room, but you need to know what it takes to create that separation and get to work.

 

 

5 of My Favorite Short Reads

If you want to create separation between yourself and your competitors, it’s time to think differently. Here are 5 fabulously written theories on how to focus and invest your time and effort…

1000 True Fans:Brilliantly written by Kevin Kelly a while back, the basic point is if you can find 1,000 True Fans for whatever it is you are doing, you are off and running.

No, but really, How Do I Get an Agent: One of my favorite short reads from Brian Koppelman (the co-writer of Rounders, Billions, and a lot of other fun stuff). What he is trying to get across is just making something great won’t sell it, but if you put in the work, anything is possible. Don’t think you can just create something and everyone will beat a path to your door…it doesn’t work that way!

Hell Yeah, or No by Derek Sivers: Derek Sivers wrote this clever post that can be summed up by the title itself. Your time is precious…if you can’t say “Hell Yeah, I really want to do that” to something, just say “No”…you will be much happier for it and be able to put much more time into the “Yes’s”

Small Wins by Karl E. Weick: One of my favorite articles was written in 1988 by Karl E. Weick on the power of small wins. Others have written articles on the same subject, but this one is my favorite. The overall idea is that taking small bites out of a bigger more daunting challenge will get you where you want to go, whereas just trying to jump to the top in one giant stroke is near impossible. It’s a little bit of a longer read, but I posted a quick summary here too if you want to check it out…Law #5: Small Wins

Becoming an Idea Machine: My last in this list is a great post from James Altucher who talks about just coming up with 10 Ideas a Day. To keep yourself fresh and relevant, you should work every day to come up with 10 new ideas (not nearly as hard as it seems…read on). It’s a little longer, but worth the read, but I’ve also summarized it here at 10 Ideas a Day

10X Thinking…Really Enjoyed This Short 10 Minute Podcast…

It’s all about perspective shifts…don’t focus on smarter focus on thinking differently, not thinking incrementally, not chasing immediate ROI, making science fiction reality, dreaming and thinking BIGGER…

 

“Perspective shifts will unlock more than smartness will.” – Astro Teller This is a very short, roughly 10-minute, episode. It explains how to 10x your thinking and your goals, or — put another way — how to escape incremental thinking and think truly BIG. I loved it so much that I now listen to it…

via Astro Teller, CEO of X – How to Think 10x Bigger — The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

If You Ain’t First, You’re Last!

Ricky Bobby famously said this in the movie Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Now, that might be a bit extreme, but being first can make a big difference.

ricky bobby

Consider this…all brands in a category have rungs on a ladder. #1 tends to have 1.5 – 2X the share of #2, #2 is 1.5 – 2X  that of #3, etc. Of course this varies, but pretty amazing how much it plays out. Think about examples like:

  • Fast Food Burgers: McDonalds vs. BK vs. everybody else
  • Internet Seach: Google vs. Bing, Yahoo, etc
  • Smartphones: Samsung vs. Apples vs. everybody else
  • Coffee Houses: Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts vs. everybody else, etc.

Ricky Bobby was right that being first is a big deal, but if you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category…Bert Hinkler was the second person to fly across the Atlantic… Amelia Earhart was third, but she was the first woman.

If somehow you find room for yourself to be first in a new category, pick a name that can work generically: Advil (ibuprofen), Tylenol (acetaminophen), Q-tip, Band-Aid, Kleenex, Jell-O, Saran Wrap, Crazy Glue, etc…that will give you a much longer life and create that separation between you and the competition.

When considering when to try and insert yourself in the mix, consider that it is even better to be too early than to be too late. It is better though to be first in the mind than first in the marketplace… even if you are late to the market you can still be first in the mind.

So, get out there and be more like Ricky Bobby…”Shake & Bake”!

Again, if you haven’t read either of these, do it (I’ve borrowed liberally from both…these guys are brilliant!)…

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

 

 

 

 

Small Wins

One of my favorite articles was written in 1988 on the power of small wins. You can read it in its entirety here…

Small Wins by Karl E. Weick

Others have written articles on the same subject, but this one is my favorite.

The overall idea is that taking small bites out of a bigger more daunting challenge will get you where you want to go, whereas just trying to jump to the top in one giant stroke is near impossible. Here are some examples of this in practice:

  • Sobriety: AA focuses on staying sober one day at a time.
  • In sports, equivalents are baseball singles instead of home runs, in football first downs instead of hail mary’s. In basketball, one year Pat Riley asked each player on his team to get just 1% better in five different categories…seems small enough but by getting each of his players to slightly up their game they won the title the next year.
  • Consider the challenge of counting sheets of paper: if you are counting 1000 sheets of paper with periodic disruptions, you may get to 888 and have to start all over. If instead you break it into 10s or 100s, an interruption doesn’t set you back near as much

Deliberately going after small wins reinforces the perception that people can exert some influence over what happens to them and produces change of manageable size that serves as an incentive to keep going. It is initially less stressful and over time builds significant traction. Small wins are easier for people to work toward. If you break down the big problem into a series of small wins:

  • Not near as much fear of failure as failures are less important
  • It reduces the pressure (“just do this one small thing, not a giant one”)
  • No fear of lack of skills (I can do this by myself… I have the ability)

A small win by itself may seem unimportant, however a series of wins at small but significant tasks reveals a pattern that may attract allies, deter opponents, and lower resistance to subsequent proposals. Additional resources also flow toward winners.

Small wins are easier to comprehend and digest. Once a small win has been accomplished forces are set in motion that favor another small win. When a solution is put in place the next solvable problem often becomes more visible. This occurs because new allies bring new solutions with them and old opponents change their habits. I recently watched the movie the Martian and this was his game plan when stranded on Mars, “That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math, you solve one problem. Then you solve the next one, and then the next and if you solve enough problems you get to come home.”

Consider also, that a small win is also someone else’s small loss, the stakes are reduced, which encourages the losers to bear their loss without disrupting the social system. If you take a small win from Amazon or Apple, the may not notice, but boldy attack their core business and you may awaken a giant. Big wins can lead to unexpected negative consequences and big countermeasures.

Finally, just get started, because you can’t plan it all out. Careful plotting of a series of wins to achieve a major change is impossible because conditions do not remain constant. Go for the first win and see where that leads. String a couple together and you may start an avalanche! Get Started!

1% Better Every Day = 38X Better in Just One Year

The Japanese use a term called “Kaizen” that is translated as “continuous improvement”. The idea is to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve overall efficiency and quality. I love this idea that really small improvements every day (baby steps) can produce such enormous results over a short period of time.

Consider this…if your only goal is to just get 1% better every day than you were the day before, after just one year you will be 38 times better!! Talk about creating separation from your competitors! It may not feel like much on Day 2, 3, or 4, but on day 365, look at your result…WOW!

1-better-every-day

What is it you can focus on to just get 1% better every day that will pay huge dividends? Get started!