Last year, “crunch mode” would have meant long nights, little sleep, and endless amounts of worrying about how every little detail would come together.
But not this year, my friends. Thankfully I’ve learned a few things from my various project launches last year, and one of my intentions for 2016 was to make launching a lot less stressful and a lot more fun.
So today I want to share with you one of the biggest mental tools I use to remove stress from my business projects or my life.
But first, I want to kick things off with an illuminating story from one of my favorite books, Essentialism. (If you’re tired of hearing me talk about this book, go grab a copy (aff link) and then you’ll understand why I use it in just about every aspect of my life!) The story is called The Slowest Hiker:
Imagine a scout troop on a hike. The troop is 10 miles away from their final campsite and the scout master is in charge of getting all the scouts to camp before sunset. As they move through the woods, the scout master notices that some of the scouts are naturally moving faster than others. Before long there’s a large gap between the slow scouts and the faster scouts. The slowest scout named Herbie is so far behind that the scout master can’t even keep him in sight. So the scout master tells all the fast scouts at the front to stop and wait for Herbie, and once they’re all together he starts them again. Within minutes the problem is recreated. It’s clear he needs a new strategy.
So he puts Herbie in the front with all the other scouts lined up behind him in order of speed: slowest to fastest. This strategy succeeds in keeping the scouts together, as every scout can keep up with the one in front of him, but there’s one hitch: they’ll never make it to camp by sunset if they move at Herbie’s pace.
That’s when the scout master realizes that the answer is to do everything he can to make things easier for Herbie. With Herbie leading the group, every increase in efficiency for Herbie, however small, will benefit the pace for the entire group. So they remove weight from Herbie’s pack and distribute it across the troop, which does speed up the pace of the entire troop and they make it to camp on time.
In business and management, they use The Slowest Hiker story to deliver this lesson: if you can identify the true “constraint” — the one part of the process that is holding up the rest — than you can improve the entire system just by alleviating that constraint.
That’s a helpful reminder, but I actually glean an even broader lesson from The Slowest Hiker and it’s one that I continue to apply to my business and life. I think this story is about IMPACT.
Not all effort is created equal. You have to decide what effort will create the most impact in achieving your final goal.
This idea is beautifully described in an article that my better half Jason wrote to his list last week called “Put Down The Toothpick and Pick Up The Hammer.”
So often we approach our businesses or lives by making toothpick-sized changes. We nitpick at the imperfections on our website or we spend days tweaking one line of sales copy until it’s perfect or searching page upon page for that perfect icon.
What we really should be doing is looking for the hammer-sized changes. We should be tackling things that have a direct correlation to the goal we’re reaching for. Those kinds of changes might feel riskier or bigger, but they ultimately will result in an impact that can be felt and seen. Maybe it’s nailing down your ideal audience or finally committing to a content schedule and sitting down to write those blog posts you’ve been meaning to write.
With every single item on my to-do list getting ready for this pre-order launch, if I find myself at a sticky point, I simply ask myself these three questions:
- Is spending ____ hours doing _______ a good use of my time?
- Will this task of ________ have a tangible, substantial impact on my final outcome?
- And the kicker: Do I still have outstanding things to be done that WILL affect my final outcome?
That last one usually seals the deal for me and I realize that spending two hours searching for the perfect stock photo when I haven’t even loaded all the products into the shop is NOT an efficient use of my time.
I know it may sound silly and overly simple say focus on the foundational things, but I also know that there are tons of you out there who, like me, often find yourselves debating the minutiae as a way to hide from the big, scary stuff that matters.
And unfortunately, when we spend our precious time on stuff that doesn’t have a substantial impact, we end up down to the wire, beyond stressed, and wondering where all that time went. It went to the toothpicks!
My challenge to you this week is to learn to identify the Herbie’s on your to-do list.
Learn to evaluate tasks based on the impact they’ll have on your final outcome.
When you’re able to finally let go of all the toothpick-sized tasks and only focus on the things that will get you to your goal, you’ll be amazed at the time and mental energy you can free up.
Because making things should be fun, not stressful, right?!
There are just a handful of days before the first pre-order window goes live for the Art Shop, and there’s no scrambling, no sleepless nights… just pure excitement.
Thanks again for all the support, you guys! It means the world.