The Secret to Doing More Is to Do Less

Seth Godin has famously said:

“The guys at 37Signals write in almost everything they talk that there are two secrets – actually one – to shipping something on time and on budget. And the secret is: When you run out of money or you run out of time, you ship. Then you’re on time and on budget. If your mindset is that I ship, that’s not just a convenient shortcut, it’s in fact an obligation. And you build your work around that obligation. Then instead of someone who’s a wandering generality, someone who has lots of great and ideas and if only, if only, if only, you were someone who always ends up shipping. … And if you’re proud of what you ship, and you do it on time and on budget, you get to do it again.”

These are wise words.

Why is it that we get the picture so clearly when it comes to money as a limited commodity? We have no problems with the idea that there’s only “Just So Much Money” in the bank, and we have to be careful about how we spend it. Yet, we can’t seem to understand that time has the same properties. We constantly try to do more things all at the same time, so eager to say yes.

The reality is, the more you say no, and the less things you do, the faster you get things done. When cleaning your house, you don’t wipe the upstairs bathroom mirror, then sweep the kitchen floor, then scrub the hall bathroom toilets, then vacuum the living room carpet, etc… No, you follow a methodical order. You do one room at a time. You see each room’s cleaning through to completion before moving on. This ensures you do each room properly and in reasonable time.

The added benefit to cleaning this way is that if you must take a break, there are some rooms in the house that are “done.” In other words, you have a deliverable. If this particular house were to take you 2 days to fully clean, you can bill on your first day, because you can say “cleaned X rooms”.

However, If you spend your time moving around, and not focusing, no single room is clean until all of the rooms are clean. You don’t have a deliverable at the end of day 1. Replace “day 1” with “series A” and you’ll see where this can be a problem.

Focusing – saying no – and buckling down methodically is the only way to ever have a deliverable, and therefore achieve success.

Say “no” more often. Don’t allow your company to not have focus.