Minimum Effective Dose: Stop doing more than you have to.

Warning: Applying the lessons from this post will require some self-exploration and analysis, as well as some acceptance of who you really are. If you’re not ready to do that, this may not be for you.

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions lately about how to manage time. How can you get everything done in a day? How can I effectively build a business to the levels I want with only 24 hours in a day? How can I stop burning out?

To answer this question, I’m going to bring out one of my favourite tools – an analogy! (Insert shock and awe here…)

When you visit the doctor with a specific ailment, let’s say an infection, the doctor will probably give you a prescription for antibiotics.

Now in this case, would the doctor prescribe you 6 metric tonnes of antibiotics? 4 pounds? 800 pills 3 times a day, by mouth? Probably not, because that much would likely kill you (in the first case, by crushing you like an infected insect hitting an antibiotic windshield.)

It is highly likely that the doctor will give you the smallest dose he believes will work for your infection. You’ll have a follow up appointment within two weeks to see if it is working, where he may increase or decrease the dosage as needed or change the antibiotic entirely.

In other words, the doctor will prescribe the minimum effective dose because anything more than that is simply overkill.

By this point I’m sure you can see where this is going. While your business is hardly an infection that needs to be treated, the principle still applies.

You have a goal – curing an infection or reaching a specific revenue goal.

You have a tool to meet that goal – antibiotics or selling more stuff.

You want to use as little as possible of your tool to achieve your goal, so that you’re not wasting resources and throwing your system out of whack.

So, how can you apply this to your business? By doing as little as you can get away with.

I know, I know – it sounds like I’m advocating laziness here. And in a way, I totally am – because we aren’t lazy enough in these modern days. But what I’m really trying to do is get you to cut out all of the unnecessary, the judgement, and the busy-work to get to the core of what is needed – and do away with the rest.

What would you do if you were running your business on the bare minimum? If you never had to “look busy” for anyone, you just had your goals and that was your only measure of effectiveness?

What would it look like if 60 hour weeks were no longer a badge of honour?

What would it look like if you stopped caring what work was supposed to look like, and just did as little as you could get away with?

This is your golden opportunity.

Look at your working style…

Do you work better in big, long days? Or in small, scattered chunks?

Do you prefer a rigid schedule, or to work when you’re inspired?

Do you get lost without routine, or do you get bored doing the same thing all the time?

Pay attention to how you feel, and use that to guide your working style.

Once you know how to work and when to work, you need to determine what to work on.

This comes back to your outcome – what will produce the value of your business in the lives of your clients and customers the fastest, easiest, most effective way?

Twitter is probably not it. Client sessions definitely are. Candy Crush, not. Newsletter, yes. See the pattern?

We do so much in our day to day that is just killing time, keeping busy, doing things we “should”. We literally judge ourselves into doing things that don’t serve us to meet our own unrealistic expectations.

To get started with cutting out the excess and finding the minimum effective dose, write yourself a to-do list. (There are some fantastic ones in my annual planner.) Then scratch off everything that:

A) Doesn’t feel good AND wouldn’t feel good to accomplish (you can delay or delegate almost anything that doesn’t feel good.)

B) Will not move you toward your goal in a real, meaningful way.

C) Is only on your to-do list because you “should” do it.

Then every day, following your own unique working style, scratch items off of the to-do list – without judging the items that remain at the end of the day.

That is the key to all of this, letting go of the feelings of failure or judgement when you don’t do everything you could or should have done. So what if you didn’t fold the laundry, finish your ecourse, or do 10 posts on Facebook? If the world won’t end and you’re no further from your goal, there is no sense dwelling on it.

Acknowledge and express gratitude for everything you can and do accomplish, and give yourself permission to take the minimum effective dose.