The desire to pursue the path of least resistance is a fundamental law of our universe. Successful leaders are hailed for their seemingly inhuman ability to ignore the path of least resistance and instead always take steps toward success, but what I think really happens is that they engineer a path of least resistance that leads to success. [pullshow]
[pullthis]The fact that electrons follow the path of least resistance allows electrical engineers to create computers, TVs, and smartphones that perform predictably. When I press the letter “A” on my keyboard, the carefully engineered system in my laptop creates a path of least resistance for electrical signals that display the letter “A” on my screen. [/pullthis]Hardware engineers have never tried to motivate electrons with stock options or given them performance reviews in the hope that they pursue a more noble path. Rather, they put the electrons in a system that is designed to operate properly because they follow the path of least resistance.
Similarly, if you design a workflow and environment where the path of least resistance results in your desired outcome, you will have no choice but to repeatedly and consistently hit your goals. My workflow has three components:
Focused Physical Context
If there’s too much going on directly in front of you, failure is just an alt-tab away. Here’s what my desk looks like when I’m having trouble focusing:
and here’s what it looks like when I’m being productive:
Bottom line? Get rid of anything that can distract you with little more than a glance in its direction.
If I start my day thinking about the 15 things I have to do, then parts of my brain will work on all 15 until each one is done, leaving a smaller percent of my mind to help me with what I’m working on in the moment. Every day, I decide what I’m going to do that day and the order in which I will tackle the jobs. Then it’s just a matter of clicking them off as I go. Because I trust my system to always tell me what I should do next, I don’t end up thinking about anything but what I’m working on at any given moment.
Delegation and Outsourcing
In reality, no one has 15 things to do; they have 1,500 things to do. While I serialize my task list, I look for things that could be better accomplished by someone else. My capable colleagues can implement marketing campaigns, call customers, and negotiate deals. Why should I hog all the fun? And why not hire a TaskRabbit to pretty up my PowerPoint presentation or run this signed contract over to our attorneys for filing?
Rather than spend all this time working against the nature of the universe, why don’t we just embrace the fact that we will be happier pursuing the path of least resistance? If we start there, then all we have to do is make sure that the path of least resistance always leads to victory. Here are some of my favorite weapons in the war on wasted time:
- Fullscreen mode in Mac OSX to focus my attention.
- Astrid for task management and prioritization.
- Pivotal Tracker for delegation.
- TaskRabbit for easy outsourcing.
Victor Echevarria is the Head of Business Development at TaskRabbit. Follow him on Twitter @etxeba.