This year, I adopted a mantra: Do less. Do better.
Last year’s mantra was, “Crank out as much stuff as you can.” I ended up with a portfolio of awesome career tools, including an interactive career path tool, a podcast series, and a collection of ebooks.
I tried a bunch of stuff. Some stuff caught on, some stuff failed, and other stuff got tweaked a bit and then worked out great.
There was just one small problem: All of these tools only loosely tied to each other.
For 2011, I wanted to create a more Apple-like experience, where all of the tools in the ecosystem work nicely and support each other. “Do less. Do Better.”
Getting to Market
By doing less at once, I’ve been able to focus my energy 100% on cranking out something new and awesome. That’s good.
But since I’m doing fewer things at once, I have more time to think. Sometimes in a bad way. I start to over-analyze. I try to create something perfect. And perfect is the enemy of good work. More important than perfection is making something good enough, getting it to market quickly, and letting is evolve in the real world.
Some stuff works out. Some stuff doesn’t.
Failure is an essential part of creating awesome things. Failure helps you learn what works and what doesn’t. It helps shape what you do next.
And it’s better to get something out there quickly, let it fail, and fix it early on, than to spend months building something that ultimately meets the same fate. Let the market shape your product for you.
When Ideas Have Sex
Last year I watched this awesome TED Talks video on innovation called When Ideas Have Sex. The takeaway: Innovation is more likely to happen when ideas collide, mix and reproduce.
When you’re focused on fewer things at once, there’s less stuff bouncing around and colliding, and less new ideas coming out as a result. Pushing out lots of great ideas, often simultaneously, can actually lead to better stuff in the long-run.
As Pablo Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Just to be clear, I’m not advocating multitasking. In other words, you shouldn’t literally be working on two things at once.
But having multiple projects on your plate at once? That’s a great thing!
The Importance of Downtime
All that said, I still believe that at some point, you need the time to focus singularly on a project and crank it out.
You need downtime to think and process and plan. And then you need to take action.
For me, 2011 will continue to be an exercise in portfolio reduction. The one thing I’m probably worst at is getting rid of products that just don’t work anymore. When you spend time creating something and it has some great initial success, it’s tough to know (or admit) when it’s just not relevant or working anymore.
The “do less, do better” will continue, but more as a philosophy around product portfolio curation. Learning to prune the stuff that’s no longer relevant.
For the rest of the year, I’m going to get back to churning out lots of stuff.