I believe one of the most important things to remember when it comes to the topic of time management in business is Parkinson's Law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." It's my Jiminy Cricket when it comes to productivity.
Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
If I were to ask you the question, "How long does it take to clean your room?" What would you say? A half-hour? One hour? Two hours? The whole day?
What if I told you you only had five minutes to clean your entire room?
Would you be able to get it done in the shorter timeline?
If I were to tell you at 9 AM on Monday morning that I'd like you to have the company Quickbooks account reconciled by 6 PM the same day, what time do you think you would finish reconciling the books?
What if I told you that you only had two hours to reconcile?
Would you be able to get it done in the shorter timeline?
It turns out that time can be a really funny thing. Sometimes, I'm sure you look back at the end of a day and wonder where the time went. Other times, I'm sure time seems to drag on and on and on and on. In the world of startups, it is likely 90% vs 10% in favor to things moving fast vs. slow. However, just because you think life is moving fast doesn't mean you're not falling victim to the effect of Parkinson's Law. It is likely you are.
Do this the next time you think about a project you'd like to get accomplished by day's end. Think about how much time you think you'll need to get the project done right. Now. Cut that time in half. Can you still get the project done right? Now. Cut that time in half again. Can you stillllll get the project done right? What would Jiminy say?
You'll often find that if you think a project will take four hours... it will end up taking four hours. If you think a project will take one hour... it will end up taking one hour. If you think a project will take five days... it will end up taking five days. No matter how big or small the task, if you set a time limit around a project, the task will often times occupy the space allotted.
So the next time you think about managing your time, and the next time you're looking to be "more efficient" or "move faster" or "be more productive"... just remember my Jiminy. Remember Parkinson's Law. It's the only "time management" lesson you'll ever need to know.
Samuel Johns is the Sr. Marketing Associate of Organic Search at Vistaprint. Samuel is from Australia, and has a strong Australian accent. My only regret in life to this day remains not having been born in Australia so that I could have his accent. I bet it pulls in ladies.
Samuel is a highly respected Marketing leader in Boston. The man drops SEO knowledge like Little Boy on Hisoshima. Total destruction. He's a great guy to have by your side.
I asked him recently to help craft a blog post aimed at helping young people in Boston who were interested in learning about SEO. And without further adoo... Samuel writes:
It’s the question Ryan asked me and it is the question I get from a number of people wanting to learn more about SEO: 'Where is the best place for me to get a basic understanding of SEO?' The question gets asked so often that I’d created a stock standard email of the resources to send out to people. Below I’ve taken the standard contents from the email and elaborated on each of them a little bit. Hope you find it helpful.
1. Google: The big brothers of search
Google Guide to SEO: A guide to follow and easy to understand for any novice. A great place to start, in combinations with the SEOMoz guide listed below.
Google Webmaster tools: With anything, you only learn by doing. Google Webmaster tools allows you to start getting your hands dirty and will provide great insight into how your website is performing from an SEO perspective.
Google Inside Search Blog - Worth checking out to learn about the history of Google’s changes to the algorithm and keeping up with new features they are launching. They’ll post every so often about a number of the updates made.
Youtube Videos: Matt Cutts is the Search Quality Specialist at Google (SPAM Police). He often answers common questions through some really simple and quick YouTube videos. Well worth looking through and seeing which ones are relevant to you.
Web Version or PDF of the SEOMoz guide to SEO. It is quite possibly the best guide to SEO for any beginner. The original version of this was written 2 years before Google even published their first version. Hence why the Google version has a lot of the same elements as SEOMoz.
SEOMoz Learn SEO: In the right nav of the “learn SEO” page on SEOMoz.com has some of the best and basic gems related to setting yourself up for success by building the base.
SEO Table of Elements: To get a quick snap shot of the elements and various functions within your company that can affect SEO. SearchEngineLand has created a periodic table of SEO elements. The table will help give you an overview of a number of SEO elements to think about.
Mike Miklavic is a very good buddy of mine. He also happens to work alongside me at my company. The second happened first. But the first takes over the second. Friendship is a beautiful thing.
Mike recently wrote a blog post titled Learn how to Code. Read the post. If it interests you in even the slightest morsel in your body, please contact Mike at email@example.com with questions / thoughts / comments / love notes. He'll be happy to speak with you. His goal is to help as many young people in the city interested in programming. Even if you haven't touched a lick of code...
Here's the recap:
1. Go toCodeAcademy. Try this puppy out. It will get you understand what it even means "to code."
2. DownloadNotepad++ if you are on Windows. This is where you'll type your code.
I've been really diving into this Lean Startup way of thinking, and I can identify with it through and through. Mostly because of the scarily similar problems we've dealt with in building our own business, and also through the massive opportunities I see that await when looking through the correct lens. I hope that I can help influence young people interested in building a business / startup / product to dive into this as well. If it is able to help even one person learn faster than they normally would, I will have accomplished my goal. To make all of this easier to consume, please watch this video. Maybe toss it on in the background while you're hacking through homework, while you're lying in bed, while you're ready to relax and listen to something truly great. Then dive into it more for yourself.
For more information on Eric Reis and Lean Startup, check out his blog here.
"Yeah. You know what this is. It's a celebration, bitches." - Kanye West
I've been told that entrepreneurs go through ups and downs. There are days of happiness and days of sadness. The "wild roller coaster of entrepreneurship," as a friend of mine calls it, certainly has it's days of fun as well as it's days of pure terror.
But guess what? I hate roller coasters.
I love speed. I love to drive fast (alright Mom, you're right, I admit it). Give me a stretch of highway with no cops and no children to run over and I'll happily take my old Pontiac Grand Prix from zero to hero in the blink of an eye. But I hate rollercoasters. Mostly because I'm terrified of heights. Secondarily, because I've never liked the feeling of my stomach being someplace I believe it shouldn't be. And thirdidandily, because the idea of being strapped into something where I can not get to a bathroom, quite frankly, makes me nervous.
I decided over the past two months to learn how to transform a roller coaster into the Autobahn. And I am happy to say I believe I have found my answer in two words: Lean Startup.
It turns out that I feel in control when going fast, but I feel out of control when going up and down.
When I was growing up, there was a joke I'm sure you've all heard before that went something like this: The patient says, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." Doctor responds: "Then don't do that!"
Traditional logic, and a smart doctor, might be quick to give you the same advice. If you feel out of control going up and down, then don't do that.
During the month of October I spent many days consulting with people I respected in the Boston community, with the goal of learning about their underlying business philosophies / life changing mentors / and life changing books and blogs filled with advice. Over and over again the "solution" did not come in a magic pill, but instead kept pointing towards understanding one particular segment of my business better and better: my customers. Not me. Not my employees. But the users of my service.
Time and time again I was recommended reading pertaining to Lean Startup, customer development, and validated learning. And so, I did what any young lad does when trying to learn. I immediately bought the following books as recommended by the experts I trust. And to any other young person in the city looking to understand the Lean Startup, I condensed these into an action plan for you.
Today, I finished Book #1: The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. I highlighted the book like crazy. Up, down, left, and right. That puppy is marked up beyond repair. And luckily, I now have what I consider to be one of the few Bibles of entrepreneurship.
To all you undergrads out there, wherever you may be. And to all of those startup leaders in Boston, NYC, the Valley, or Belarus. No matter if you're 20 or 25 or 30 or 40 or 80 years old, this is one of the few stamps of approval I have made towards something I believe will DRAMATICALLY and MEASURABLY affect my life in the most positive of ways. If for nothing else, I am writing this post to remind myself of the month in which I came to dedicate myself towards the transformation to Lean Startup. In future weeks I will dive into my thoughts on Reis book. But for now, I simply wanted to establish my game plan. If you have any other recommended reading, please send it my way. Who is here to join me?
My name is Ryan Durkin. I write so that I will never forget where I came from and what I stand for. I hope that this will motivate young people to realize their potential and become more productive than they ever imagined. That would make me truly happy.