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Why productive people execute poorly, and my simple solution (so far)

Anything related to matters of the mind

WeeksOutstanding

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Hi everyone, I hope you're having a good start to the week! As a quick introduction, I've been a lurker on the forum on and off, but decided to take the plunge after reading @Andy Black 's posts - thanks for the encouragement

I'm happy to share my background, but I thought as a first post that I would start by sharing something that I thought might be helpful for everyone here.

Sometimes being "efficient" causes you to leave tasks and projects unfinished, and it's important to be deliberate about it.
I always stop early in projects and tasks.
Usefulness-Completion 1.png


But that's because progress feels great - with the law of diminishing returns, the first bit of a project tends to feel the best.

Usefulness-Completion 2.png

All together in a gif:

Usefulness-Completion Gif.gif

As someone that values being “efficient”, being guided by “making progress” is natural and sounds like a good way of operating. However, without being deliberate about taking things to completion, I think that mentality has led me to systematic non-completion of projects.


In addition to sharing the problem, here's something simple and actionable that has helped me fix it.

Before I start today's work, I look at what I did 7 days ago, and reflect on:
  1. Whether the work was helpful (sometimes it ended up being just busywork, that didn't move the needle aka action faking)
  2. Can I make it more useful? (Can I finish the project or push it more to completion, stay monogamous, rather than jumping to the next shiny thing? Good isn't good enough)
  3. Can I make today's work useful? (Is it an action fake, or on the critical path?)

Daily checklist.png

That's been working so far but I'm continuing to iterate on the process. I'll definitely update if I find a better version, but I thought for now that it's a quick win to review tasks from 7 days ago, given that many task managers allow you to look at a calendar view.

Do let me know if that makes sense, and I'd be more than happy to share the other blind spots I've uncovered (that upon fixing have really sharpened my execution). As a highly driven personality with a background in business (strategy consultant) and technical (startup operator + self-taught programmer) I've been frustrated with what I thought was a mismatch between my inputs and outputs, and have had several epiphanies from doing self-reflection.

Best regards,
Edwin

PS - long overdue but a massive thank you to MJ - if anyone found value in what I've shared above, it's very much from building off the thinking and concepts @MJ DeMarco 's has shared through his books.

PPS - it's night time where I'm based but I'll definitely respond to any questions and comments when I'm up! :)
 
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Panos Daras

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If the created value to the customer <= 0, then are wasting time. No need for 20 graphs.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Awesome first post, thank you for sharing and welcome to the forum.
 

Andy Black

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Hi everyone, I hope you're having a good start to the week! As a quick introduction, I've been a lurker on the forum on and off, but decided to take the plunge after reading @Andy Black 's posts - thanks for the encouragement

I'm happy to share my background, but I thought as a first post that I would start by sharing something that I thought might be helpful for everyone here.

Sometimes being "efficient" causes you to leave tasks and projects unfinished, and it's important to be deliberate about it.
I always stop early in projects and tasks.
View attachment 47037


But that's because progress feels great - with the law of diminishing returns, the first bit of a project tends to feel the best.

View attachment 47038

All together in a gif:

View attachment 47039

As someone that values being “efficient”, being guided by “making progress” is natural and sounds like a good way of operating. However, without being deliberate about taking things to completion, I think that mentality has led me to systematic non-completion of projects.


In addition to sharing the problem, here's something simple and actionable that has helped me fix it.

Before I start today's work, I look at what I did 7 days ago, and reflect on:
  1. Whether the work was helpful (sometimes it ended up being just busywork, that didn't move the needle aka action faking)
  2. Can I make it more useful? (Can I finish the project or push it more to completion, stay monogamous, rather than jumping to the next shiny thing? Good isn't good enough)
  3. Can I make today's work useful? (Is it an action fake, or on the critical path?)

View attachment 47036

That's been working so far but I'm continuing to iterate on the process. I'll definitely update if I find a better version, but I thought for now that it's a quick win to review tasks from 7 days ago, given that many task managers allow you to look at a calendar view.

Do let me know if that makes sense, and I'd be more than happy to share the other blind spots I've uncovered (that upon fixing have really sharpened my execution). As a highly driven personality with a background in business (strategy consultant) and technical (startup operator + self-taught programmer) I've been frustrated with what I thought was a mismatch between my inputs and outputs, and have had several epiphanies from doing self-reflection.

Best regards,
Edwin

PS - long overdue but a massive thank you to MJ - if anyone found value in what I've shared above, it's very much from building off the thinking and concepts @MJ DeMarco 's has shared through his books.

PPS - it's night time where I'm based but I'll definitely respond to any questions and comments when I'm up! :)
Glad you took the plunge and posted.

It's so easy to do busy work instead of making a difference. When I have to decide between paths I ask myself which helps people more.
 
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WeeksOutstanding

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If the created value to the customer <= 0, then are wasting time. No need for 20 graphs.
Fair point Panos - I realise I had implicitly equated "project completion" with "shipping the product" and putting it out there, so I could assess & adjust.

I hadn't even reached a point where I could accurately assess created value to the customer

Awesome first post, thank you for sharing and welcome to the forum.
Cheers MJ - lovely to hear from you and hope you're keeping well!

Glad you took the plunge and posted.

It's so easy to do busy work instead of making a difference. When I have to decide between paths I ask myself which helps people more.
Thanks Andy, much appreciated Indeed, it's surprising how much "work" I'd done last week that became obsolete within 7 days. The additional checklist helped with more deliberate action, without going into a planning rabbit hole.

PS thank you as well for the value you've added to the community so far, I've definitely got a backlog of posts to read.
 

WeeksOutstanding

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It's only been a day or two but I thought I would come back and provide an update - I discovered a fear of shipping, and it's helped clarify the path forward.

I thought to share, because I would never have thought that I had a "fear of shipping". If you haven't put yourself out there in a while, or like me you've been "refining your product" and "getting it ready", I challenge you to set yourself a deadline, if only to prove to yourself that this isn't an issue for you

More details below
---------
Context: as part of "not lurking" and putting myself out there, I've been writing some posts on Substack, and doing some things on Twitter. I started from scratch on those platforms (i.e. zero subscribers).

I realised that I found it easy to post things daily, and the lack of readers was not a hurdle to me - I could trust that it was part of the process and that everyone would go through that desert of desertion.

I then thought that I should promote it on LinkedIn as it’s the only social media I’ve got with any following at all, but when it came down to it, I felt this huge resistance and fear of how my post would be perceived.

https%3A%2F%2Fsubstack-post-media.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F1261ff18-6e8d-40b8-9bb8-afca881b08d5_512x512.png

^What the post felt like to me, even though I knew it was completely irrational

It was a feeling I rarely feel and I had thought before the experience that the reason I’ve rarely felt that, was because I had matured into someone a lot more comfortable in my skin, being who I am, doing what I do.

Now I think it might be because I was consistently living in my comfort zone. Not that it’s a bad thing, at least now I know.

Either way I posted it and I will continue posting until I'm no longer scared.

I would rather lose my privacy / look like a fool than give in to my fear - I think being visible is foundational for my longer-term goals and it’s not worth letting this become a stumbling block.

I'll keep you all posted.
 

Andy Black

Help people. Get paid. Help more people.
Staff member
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It's only been a day or two but I thought I would come back and provide an update - I discovered a fear of shipping, and it's helped clarify the path forward.

I thought to share, because I would never have thought that I had a "fear of shipping". If you haven't put yourself out there in a while, or like me you've been "refining your product" and "getting it ready", I challenge you to set yourself a deadline, if only to prove to yourself that this isn't an issue for you

More details below
---------
Context: as part of "not lurking" and putting myself out there, I've been writing some posts on Substack, and doing some things on Twitter. I started from scratch on those platforms (i.e. zero subscribers).

I realised that I found it easy to post things daily, and the lack of readers was not a hurdle to me - I could trust that it was part of the process and that everyone would go through that desert of desertion.

I then thought that I should promote it on LinkedIn as it’s the only social media I’ve got with any following at all, but when it came down to it, I felt this huge resistance and fear of how my post would be perceived.

https%3A%2F%2Fsubstack-post-media.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F1261ff18-6e8d-40b8-9bb8-afca881b08d5_512x512.png

^What the post felt like to me, even though I knew it was completely irrational

It was a feeling I rarely feel and I had thought before the experience that the reason I’ve rarely felt that, was because I had matured into someone a lot more comfortable in my skin, being who I am, doing what I do.

Now I think it might be because I was consistently living in my comfort zone. Not that it’s a bad thing, at least now I know.

Either way I posted it and I will continue posting until I'm no longer scared.

I would rather lose my privacy / look like a fool than give in to my fear - I think being visible is foundational for my longer-term goals and it’s not worth letting this become a stumbling block.

I'll keep you all posted.
It's funny. We have this fear of posting but once we do we realise no-one sees the posts anyway and our big struggle is to get our posts seen. I like that you'll post anyway. That's the right mindset imo.
 
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WeeksOutstanding

Contributor
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Nov 9, 2021
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It's funny. We have this fear of posting but once we do we realise no-one sees the posts anyway and our big struggle is to get our posts seen. I like that you'll post anyway. That's the right mindset imo.
Indeed the case, and a large part of why I think it's so irrational

I heard on a podcast once about how to get over yourself. The interviewee was recommending that you take your "phenomenal killer feature" (the one that's going to create incredible viral growth), do your best to tell your competitor about it, get them to copy it, and see if you can even get a response (you won't).

Everyone's caught up with their priorities and I think sometimes keeping perspective helps, so onwards with my journey :)
 

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