Do less, ship more

If we all shipped more stuff, we’d be more successful. It’s one of Seth Godin’s mantras – “Ship it!”. So why don’t we? Because we are doing too much stuff. Our focus is all over the place.

We’d actually ship more if we did less. If you only have one project to work on, then you have complete focus. There’s nowhere to hide, your progress is evident. You ship, or you are going nowhere.

OK, so that’s not realistic for most people or businesses. Even in a start-up, there’s a myriad of things that have to be worked upon. But we all allow projects and activities to accumulate. We let our day get filled up with stuff. So it’s time to weed out those projects and get back to the vital few.

Here’s a quick and dirty way to review your projects and get that focus. Firstly, list out all the projects you have on the go – and I mean ALL. Development, marketing, admin, people, IT, contracts, facilities – the lot. Then ask 4 questions:

  1. Is it still relevant?

Projects have a life of their own. You would be amazed how they keep going when the reason for starting them has been forgotten. It was a great idea when you started it but what impact is it going to deliver today?

  1. Does it have a completion date?

This is a sign of a project out of control. If you don’t when it’s going to finish, how can you know what resources it will take? Or when it will deliver the benefits? This will tell you straight away that it is not relevant, or badly managed, or probably both.

  1. Is it realistic?

Often, we start a project because we want what it will deliver, not because we know we can achieve it. So ask the hard questions – can it really deliver what it was intended to? Do we have the skills, knowledge and talent to pull it off?  Or are we just fooling ourselves?

  1. Can we live without it?

The vital few projects are the ones that are critical to the business, they underpin the business plan, the sales targets, the financial plan. If it doesn’t affect the numbers at the end of the year, or deliver a specific business objective, then you don’t need it.

So now you have a list of projects that are irrelevant, out of control, unrealistic and unnecessary. Easy. Now comes the hard bit. You just have to stop them. Now.

There will be loads of reasons why you should keep them – we’ve put so much into it; it’s nearly there; it doesn’t need much resource; it’s your favourite project because you started it; it might be the one that delivers a big, new client.

You have to ignore these siren calls and emotional hooks and kill them all off. Even your little pet ones. Or they will continue divert you from doing the one thing that will make you successful. Shipping the ones that matter.

Start doing less. Start shipping more.

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