We would all like to achieve our goals faster. But why is it often so hard to get things done quickly??
I believe the main reason we struggle with productivity because we don’t understand where speed comes from. Sometimes we are super productive. But what we lack is a recipe for being productive on a consistent basis.
Speed utltmately comes down to just 3 things: Focus, Urgency, and Trust.
Focus is all about limiting how much you are allowed to do. This is the most important part of speed. Effective people get things done quickly because they choose to do fewer tasks – not work faster. There are two pieces to zeroing in on fewer tasks:
- Limiting the SCOPE of the work
The first part is to cut all todos that are not absolutely, can’t-live-without, essential for getting what you need done. You only have focus when you physically can’t cut anything more from the list without certainly failing the goal.
- Limiting how much of the work YOU get to do
This part is about asking yourself: “How can I achieve my goal by not doing ANY work?”. This question helps you identify work you need – but which don’t have to be done by you.
For example, when my thesis partner and I were deciding our theis topic, we settled on doing a study with machine learning? Why? Because 1) the AI program would collect the data for us, and 2) a previous paper had already written 80% of the AI code we needed so we could just build upon their work. This decision saved us weeks of work.
Urgency is the twin of Focus. When you are forced to do something quickly, you limit the scope of the work and how much work you get to do. But Urgency also has a second gift – it forces you to settle for GOOD ENOUGH and move on. When you don’t have time to perfect the details (a.k.a unnecessary fluff) you have no choice but to say: “Good enough. Next!!”
The mother of Urgency are deadlines. Deadlines can be either internal (we set them ourselves) or external (someone else sets them for us). But external deadlines are always best, for they leave you with no place to hide without disappointing someone or missing an opportunity. To get more done in less time, you can create external deadlines by:
- Promising someone that you will fulfill it by date X, or
- Having someone else set the deadline for you
I just started a project at work I knew would take unnecessarily long to complete without a hard deadline. So I promised my boss I would have the report done by Wednesday next week, and wow did that force me to work fast!
The saying “Things move at the speed of trust” is repeated often for a reason – it is so true. Trust is what allows us to work faster together because we don’t have to spend any effort on protecting ourselves. There are 3 things that create trust:
- Mutual connections
- Shared values
- Giving to help
A personal example is how I got a job offer just 2 weeks after meeting the company – and without interviewing. First, the company’s CEO and I had a mutual connection with one of my professors at school, who gave me a personal introduction to the CEO. Second, the CEO and I connected immediately over our shared passion for helping young people find their life passion. Third, I then spent a week writing a report for solving an issue the company was struggling with just to help. My only goal was to contribute what they were building, and I gladly did that work for free. Within 2 weeks of meeting her, the CEO invited me to her home(!) and personally gave me a job offer.
If you want to get more done in less time, think about how you can use Focus, Urgency, and Trust to increase your speed. Can you:
- Limit the SCOPE of your work?
- Limit how much of the work YOU need to do?
- Promise someone to complete the task by Date X?
- Use mutual connections, shared values, and giving to help to gain others’ cooperation?
When all 3 speed principles – Focus, Urgency, and Trust – come together, it’s remarkable how fast things can happen!