Six months ago, one of my rental property tenants burned down part of his home as he was moving out.
Whether it was intentional or not, we’ll never know — but the end result was the same: $60,000 of damage to the kitchen. (Thank God for insurance!)
Within 24 hours of the fire being put out, I called a local fire-restoration contractor to handle the rehab of the property. This week it’s finally getting finished… six months, almost to the day, after the fire.
If I were to ask you how long this restoration project took, you would likely say “six months.” However, did it really take six months? Or did it actually take far fewer days, spread out over a six-month span?
If you guessed the latter, you’d be correct. The actual work done to restore the home took about 20 days of actual work. Those 20 days, however, took place over six long months.
I tell you this story today not because I want to convince you never to buy rental properties but because it perfectly illustrates something that has been stewing in my mind for quite some time; a business principle that, if applied to your life and business, will help you accomplish significantly more in drastically less time. I call it: Dead Space.
If you want to accomplish more in your life at a rate faster than you’ve ever imagined, you can. You have to kill the Dead Space. Here’s how.
Dead Space: the silent killer.
Most tasks in life are significantly easier than we’d like to believe. In fact, nearly every goal you have is really just made up a series of small decisions followed by short actions. However, it’s the in-between that consumes the most time. That’s the Dead Space.
- When it takes you three months to read a novel — did it really take three months? Or did it take three hours spread out over a three-month period?
- Or for those looking to write a book — does it really take two-years from conception to publishing or just a few hundred hours spread out over a two-year timeframe?
- Or for those looking to raise money for their startup — does it really take six months or a dozen meetings over that six month period?
When you break apart a large task, how many actual physical hours of work are needed to accomplish this task? Probably not a lot. So why do tasks take so much time?
Because of Dead Space. It’s all the waiting that lives between moments of action or decision.
Dead Space could manifest itself in numerous ways, such as fear, uncertainty, lack of focus, distractions, limiting beliefs, waiting on other people, or even physical restraints. It doesn’t matter what form this Dead Space takes, nor does it matter who caused it. The cause could be 100 percent your fault or 0 percent your fault — but if you want to accomplish significantly more in far less time, the solution is 100 percent on your shoulders.
Dead Space is the real reason you aren’t accomplishing your goals. It’s the real reason that the latest John Grisham novel is still sitting on your nightstand, why your half-written book manuscript is still sitting on your desk, why your startup is six months from running out of money.
So the simple truth to accomplishing more, faster is this: when you reduce the Dead Space, you reduce the time needed to accomplish your goal.
Dead Space is the reason why Parkinson’s law exists. Parkinson’s Law, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the adage that “work expands to the time allotted for its completion.” When you have less time to complete a task, you subconsciously decrease the Dead Space and knock it out quickly. When you have more time — you fill almost every moment.
Think of it: the last time you had a looming deadline, did you stop to check your Facebook every five minutes? Did you take a break to read the newspaper? Did you wait a week for a phone call back from your company’s legal department? Of course not! You got it done, no matter what it took.
So how do we reduce this Dead Space? It’s easier than you think.
Three steps to reducing Dead Space
If reducing Dead Space is the one thing that will help you get significantly more done, what’s the best way to do that? I’ve identified three painfully simple steps for reducing your Dead Space. Follow these three tips, and you’ll immediately reap the rewards.
1. Identify the next task.
Moving your goals ahead requires that you first identify the next step on your journey. What’s blocking you from finishing your goal? Get specific!
David Allen, author of the Getting Things Done, calls it the “Next Actionable Step.” Gary Keller and Jay Papasan call it “The One Thing” in their incredible book by the same title. I like to call it my “MINS” — my “Most Important Next Step.” Regardless of the name, this is the very next item you need to accomplish to move forward toward your goal. And surprisingly – it’s usually something quite quick and easy to do.
It could be as simple as “pick up the phone and call mom” or “send an email and ask for a status update” to something more complex like “sit down and write chapter two” or “call Bill into the office and fire him.” Right now, for me, my “MINS” is to finish this post and submit it to Entrepreneur. What’s yours?
If you can’t accurately identify your next task, don’t feel bad; sometimes this can be tricky. I’d recommend asking a friend, mentor, business coach, or mastermind group to help. Sometimes others have a vantage point and can see the path more clearly than the wanderer trudging through the weeds.
2. Do that task now.
If you can do that incredibly important next step right now – do it. Not tomorrow, not tonight – now! If you cannot do it now, time-block the task into your calendar and hold yourself to it like you would a meeting with the president.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until success is achieved.
Repeat these steps over and over and over until the goal has been met. The faster you can identify your next step and the faster you can schedule time to accomplish your task, the sooner you can get to your next step, followed by the next, followed by the next.
Before you know it, the project is complete, the book written, the new employee hired, the money raised, or whatever else your goal is — you’ve reached it.
Dead Space is required in nearly every large project, but when you seek to minimize its potency, you will increase your own productivity. Projects that seemed overwhelming at first suddenly become bite-sized and manageable because the fluff has been removed.
So get into the habit of always asking what the next step is, and know that the clarity you find will lead you toward getting more things done in far less time.
Now, if only someone had told my restoration contractor this concept six months ago, I might not have lost six months of rental income.
[This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.]
Any tips and tricks you have for boosting your daily productivity? Will you try out the above techniques?
Leave a comment below, and let’s talk!