I’ve been rather busy for the past few months.
I know what you’re thinking.
But Ludvig, being busy is no indicator of productivity. It’s about working smarter, not harder. I think you’re confusing this.
No I’m not.
When I use the word busy I really mean it.
I like being busy because it means I’m getting shit done.
I’m not busy if I have time to piss away on Facebook or Skype chatting to old-time friends.
I’m not busy if I have time to check my phone for calls, text messages, or other notifications.
I’m not busy if I have time to engage in meaningless small talk with uninteresting people.
It’s a semantic difference, but it matters a lot to me because I see many people saying they’re sooo busy and yet they seem to find time to waste on doing these kinds of things.
So, how did I become this busy?
That’s what I’m going to tell you about in this post – how I’ve been using a great strategy for the past six months to become more action-oriented.
By consistently using this strategy I’ve also become less of a “perfectionist” – meaning that I’m more focused on the process of execution than I am about getting everything to be “just right”.
For the most part, being a perfectionist is a huge time-waster and is therefore a foolish thing to pride yourself on. But knowing that doesn’t make it easier to stop…
6+ months ago, when I decided on buying my video camera, I struggled in making that decision. Mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about video equipment. I had to read quite a bit before I understood what it was that I was looking for in a video camera.
I probably spent 10 hours in total, just researching the topic.
I ended up purchasing a cheap video camera for around 1500 SEK – which is a about $230.
The main reason I wanted the video camera was to shoot video logs, but I wasn’t sure about what I needed because I’d never had a video camera before.
The point here is this:
I wasted a lot of time on such an unimportant decision. You can get money back, but not time.
I did the same stupid thing when I first transferred this blog from WordPress.com. I spent way more time than I’d like to admit on getting the right theme – it had to be just perfect.
Like I wouldn’t get another shot at it…
A theme costs between 20-80 dollars, and I almost wasn’t willing to invest that money in myself.
What does that say about me?
- That I didn’t fully believe in myself.
- That I was pissing away time at non-80/20 activities.
It’s like my web designer friend told me the other day:
I don’t waste time customizing my clients theme so that it can look like another theme. I buy that theme and bill my client for it, if I don’t already own it.
It would take my friend hours to fix some of these theme-specific customizations. In that time he can solve many more problems and earn more money by just buying the theme – and he knows this so he has no hesitation in doing so. People pay for his know-how, not for his grunt work.
Time is money, and he knows that – because he’s a busy dude.
The 40 < P < 70 Principle
I could have solved both of those two problems much quicker had I stuck to the 40 < P< 70 principle.
It would’ve shattered my pathetic illusion of perfection and kept me on track – it would’ve kept me in momentum by just going with it and trusting myself to think on my feet.
So, what is the 40 < P < 70 principle?
I’ll let Colin Powell, who came up with the concept, explain what it means:
Don’t take action if you only have enough information to give you less than 40 % percent chance of being right, but don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100% sure, because by then it is almost always too late. Today, excessive delays in the name of information-gathering breeds “analysis paralysis.” Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.
– COLIN POWELL –
(If you have a whiteboard go write this on it immediately and start considering it when you’re making your daily decisions.)
After reading the quote, you’re probably wondering:
How do I know when I’ve achieved 40 to 70 % certainty?
How do I know if I go overboard, above 70 %?
The short answer is, you don’t.
Drop your desire for absolute certainty in taking the right action. It’s better to make 10 decent moves than it is to make 1-3 good moves while missing opportunities.
Drop your wanting to find the perfect answer – it doesn’t exist. Deal with it.
Drop that shit like a rock and learn to just go with it.
- If you’re slightly uncomfortable about doing a thing it’s usually a good indicator that you need do that thing now. Do NOT wait to do the thing until it’s become fully comfortable – that means you’re wasting time and productivity by prioritizing your sense of comfort over your personal development.
- People who succeed do so because they’re willing to go through more trial and error than those who don’t want to succeed as badly.
If you’re willing to do 10 decent moves you’ll likely fail with a few of those.
But that’s a good thing. That comes with being an executor.
That’s a good thing because in failure you learn things. Your blind spots become visible. You notice the things you tend to screw up with after a while as the pattern emerges – and that means that you can fix it faster than you would’ve been able to otherwise.
It’s better to fix your errors now – as early as you can in life – than it is to wait until you reach the breaking point.
It’s the people who don’t fix these things that wind up with midlife crises.
When you start thinking in terms of the 40 < P < 70 principle you will eventually condition yourself into becoming more comfortable coping with uncertain situations. After you’ve lived in alignment with the principle for some time you’ll soon find relief in the knowledge that:
Yes, I might not have taken the best possible action here. But I executed to the best of my knowledge and that’s all I can do.
Now that I’ve acknowledged this, I can more quickly move on to doing the next thing as a result of having dropped unnecessary thoughts that stem from being uncertain whether or not I took the right action.
That means I’m becoming more secure in myself continually taking action.
That means I stop pissing away time trying to find enough information to make me 100% certain of my choice.
The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.
– SETH GODIN –
Don’t strive for perfectionism or total security in your actions.
Don’t waste time trying to find a magic pill or a fool-proof solution – trust that you will eventually find the answers by taking a ton of action and learning through trial and error.
Ship before the product is finished.
Pull the trigger before having a perfect aim.
Act while you’re still feeling slightly uncertain or uncomfortable about a thing.
Use the 40 < P < 70 principle as a strategy to govern your decisions and as a guideline for when to take action.
Seth Godin: Ship it.
This is a free 26 page text that will take you about 5 minutes to read and maybe 30-60 minutes if you really think about it and do the exercises. I recommend it. Start by reading the final page.
Colin Powell: Leadership Slides.
This is a Slideshare presentation of 20 pages. It will take you 10 minutes to read. It contains some of the best lessons from Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, which is a great book. On page 16 you will find the 40 < P < 70 principle.
Question: Do you have any strategies for taking action and avoiding information overload?
Photo credit: Stuhillphotography