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July 14, 2008

Cutting the Fat

My fiancee and I (Tom) recently sold our car and signed up for the non-profit car sharing service iGo Cars. Our reasons for breaking free from the car chains were partly environmental, economical, and practical as we live in downtown Chicago. But three months into the program, I discovered another unexpected reason and it interestingly relates directly to my work with Swift Kick.

When we owned a car, the trip to the grocery store would take an hour and some change to complete. The goal was to get our weekly grocery supplies. That goal hasn't changed since selling our car, but the time it takes to do the task has. With iGo you rent by the half-hour, and I realized the exact same trip to the grocery store can be achieved in under 30 minutes. This gives me an extra half-hour to enjoy the better things in life.

Take this same concept and apply it to being an entrepreneur.

Everyday I have a defined set of tasks I'm working on that builds up to our established weekly, monthly and quarterly goals. Since I don't have a "boss" looking over me, the deadlines for individual tasks are set (or not set) by me and roughly have to be done by the end of the day.

"A task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for it's completion." - Ferriss, Timothy. The Four Hour Work Week. pg. 27. New York: Random House, 2007

Instead of just saying my daily tasks have to be done by the end of the day, I also put a minute deadline on each task. In the morning, before I open my computer to start working for the day, I estimate how long it should take for me to accomplish each task. Then I cut off 5-33% of the time and make that my new deadline. It forces me to "cut the fat" from the task and really focus.

I also downloaded Apimac Timer as a desktop timer to give me a visual cue of my deadline.

It's been three weeks since I started reorganizing my work flow and just like with our trips to the grocery store, I'm able to get the same goal completed in about 1/3rd less time.

Next I'll post about our process for deciding our quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals and the joy of ruthless prioritization.

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