To Grow Faster, Practice Half-Time

No matter who you are or what industry you’re in, you already have certain expectations about how long it’s going to take to accomplish something (and again, it doesn’t matter what that thing is).

How long it takes to…

  • Write a letter
  • Create a marketing campaign
  • Design a new strategic plan
  • Prepare for a board meeting
  • Hire a new staff member
  • Complete a staff performance evaluation form
  • Move to a new location
  • Answer your email each day, etc.

Again, it doesn’t matter if you think a certain task takes an hour or four hours to complete, you already have certain expectations about what that time frame is.

So, what happens every time you set out to accomplish that task? Exactly. It takes you approximately that same amount of time. Interesting, isn’t it?

Now, are there people who do that same task faster than you? And others who do that same task slower than you? Interesting, isn’t it? And are you doing that task today faster than you did ten years ago?

This is critical because when it comes to growth, the #1 driver for growth is by far, speed of implementation (see Breaking Through Plateaus for details). Yet, we all have speed limitations that we rarely challenge.

Speed in Action

For example, in Fortune Magazine this month, Kevin Ryan (Chairman and CEO of AlleyCorp a New York City Incubator) shares his “Best Advice I Ever Got” about how he had previously been a part of large companies. But at age 32, he was working for Kevin O’Connor (we’ll call him Kevin C) at DoubleClick and one of his first jobs was to find new space for their offices.

Based on his previous experiences at larger companies, Kevin R figured this was a multi-month process (nine to be exact). But Kevin C’s charge to him was, “I want you to find a space in four days!”

In Kevin R’s world, this was impossible. You can’t interview executives, meet with brokers, look at all the options, and negotiate a lease in four days. But Kevin C’s advice was, “The only advantage a startup has is that it moves faster.” And guess what? Exactly! Kevin R got the space in four days. He reduced the amount of time that task took by 95% because someone challenged him to get it done faster.

Half-Time in Practice

So, here’s a practical idea for you to speed up the pace at which your business gets (or you get) work done.

If you remember my post on Practice “Double It Thinking” to Grow Your Business (where you take whatever you’re planning and you double it–for example, if you’re a $2M business, you double it and ask, “How would we be acting if we were double our size today?”), this is a similar practice.

In Half-Time, what you want to do is take whatever the task is that you’re working on, estimate what it would normally take—and then you half that number.

So, for example,

1. If it normally takes you three months to find a new executive team member, what could you do differently to cut that time in half.

2. If it normally takes you one hour to write a report, what could you do differently to complete that in 30 minutes?

3. If it normally takes you a a day to prepare for your board meeting, what could you do differently to complete that in four hours?

4. If it normally takes you a month to launch a new product, what could you do differently to complete that in two weeks?

5. If it normally takes you an hour to process email every day, what could you do differently to complete that in half an hour.

6. If it normally takes you a week to prepare for a big event, what could you do differently to complete that task in two and a half days?

All of us have built-in expectations about how fast something can done—and that expectation rarely changes unless that expectation is forced to change (as in the case of Kevin R above).

Making It Real

Rather than doing this with everything, why don’t you pick one task that you is dogging you (maybe completing an employee review or writing an article or creating a new marketing campaign).

Once you have that task, ask, “How long does this task normally take me?”

Once you have that number, cut it in half (i.e. practice half-time).

Once you get past the gulp/shock/incredulity, ask, “So what can I do differently to get this task done in that amount of time?”

Chances are you’ll have to cut out certain things that you think are “necessary.” Or you may need to cut back on things that really don’t need as much time as you normally give them. Or you may need to leverage the time, talent, resources, and intellectual property of other people. Or you may need to leverage technology. Etc. But whatever it is, you are not allowed to do it the same way you always have.

So, what is your one task that you’re going to practice half-time on this week?

To your accelerated success!

P.S. This is a great exercise to do with your staff and employees. Not everything can be completed in half the time, but if you (or they) never ask the question, nothing will change.