Do as little as you can to succeed

Last weekend I sat on a panel of business school alumni. We fielded questions from prospective MBA students. They all wanted to know…how do you manage your time when you’re studying part time and managing a full time job?

Clients don’t care that your studying and your lecturers and syndicate group members don’t care what your clients want. And what about your family and friends.

Somehow you’ve got to find a way to fit it all in. You sleep less, go out less and with a bit of practice you learn to produce much more, with a lot less effort. You simply have to.

You work out when to spend time reading thoroughly and when to skim. You come to understand the Law of Diminishing Returns and you stop re-reading and obsessing. You find the sweet spot of least input for maximum outcome.

Then you take that idea to work everyday and you start getting better results when you’re under pressure. You get great at fast and good work. And that is one of the best things about having no time, for years on end.

Hard Work

I’ve been thinking a little about hard work.

We all work hard right? The usual definition of long hours usually comes to mind. Fine…but you can’t build a competitive advantage by putting in more time. Anyone can decide to work longer hours and do it – low barriers to entry – no particular skill required (other than say, maintaining effectiveness as hours on the job build).

So how can you work harder in unusual ways to get a true advantage which is hard to copy?

Try working difficult.

It’s a subtle but important variation on working hard. Working difficult goes to the heart of what it means to create value. You choose to do the work that others avoid, you choose to do the work that requires thinking but you do not choose the path of least resistance.