by • May 24, 2012 • ProductComments Off90

Scoping down

Scoping down gives us huge power.

If you plan to fill all your available time with work, it can only over-run.

How many times have you arrived one, three, or six hours late on a transatlantic flight as opposed to one, three, or six hours early? This explains why deficits tend to be larger, rarely smaller, than planned.
–NNT, The Bed of Procrustes

I don’t know if this holds true for everyone, but projects which take me 3 days of programming actually take 2 weeks to get out the door after accounting for all the testing, tweaking, and thumb-twiddling.

We plan to use our time well, something unexpected happens, everyone works heroically to overcome, and then we realise that we were too frantic to learn from what we’ve already done and are too tired (or out of cash) to effectively continue.

When I first read 37signal’s stuff years ago, I though “Pfft, easy for them to say, they’re already successful! I need to work harder.” Seeing that the book wass freely available online, I’ve been flipping through it again.

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.
–Einstein (supposedly, though attribution is murky)

Trying to “start a business” is like trying to “save the world”. It’s a poorly defined problem, so you end up running around like a crazy person doing everything that might somehow be involved. Understanding the problem allows you to scope down. Maybe saving the world just means cutting the blue wire or fixing the red phone. That’s very doable.

Scoping down is a huge leverage point. But it’s against our natural inclinations to fill our time. Scoping down becomes possible (and natural) when you really understand–in mundane and thorough terms–the shape of the problem.

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