The Shortest Distance Between Two Points, or How I Learned to Love Efficiency

I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.

-Mark Twain

This quote is one that stuck with me for quite a long time. What's the subtext here? Simply that editing, and revision, and the thought process of knowing what to eliminate and what to keep, is hard work.  It takes time and experience.  Anyone can write a 1,000 word essay, but can you convey the same content and message in 500 words?  That's the difference between an amateur and a professional.  Concision.

The other day I was sitting in my car looking at the odometer.  There are over 181,000 miles on my Nissan Pathfinder.  I bought it in summer 2013, pre-owned, of course with about 33,000 miles on it.  That means that in five years, I've traveled 148,000 miles in that lumbering beast of an SUV.   As much as I love that truck, averaging 29,600 miles per year is undesirable.  The mileage has been almost all business related, because when you are in a startup mode with a small law practice you have to hustle.  You drive to where the work is.  You make house calls.  You do the road work. 

If you look at those 29,600 miles, and assume they were travelled at an average speed of 40 mph, that would take you 740 hours, which is also 30.83 days in the car.  Over one month of the year sitting in the car in traffic!  When viewed from that perspective, the driving and traveling isn't a badge of honor, but a huge chunk of time that could be better deployed other ways. 

To stay off the road, in my case, I have to simplify the business footprint.  Stay in a place where I can be maximally productive (i.e. not in the car) for that amount of time.  Once you carve out that time, be productive and focused and most importantly prolific. I have a plan and will share that with you in a month or so.  

This leads us to the lesson for today: Simplicity is really, really hard.  You have to give up things you that you have sweated and stressed over.  Ideas that initially seemed like home runs turn into foul balls and ground outs.  Or perhaps you have a strategy for a product in your business that is simply more trouble than it is worth?  The idea is sound, but the sales demand is not generating enough revenue for it to be worth your while.  There are many examples. 

Not everything works as intended.   This is true not only in business but in life.   How many times have you looked at a piece of furniture in your house that you felt like someday you would get rid of, yet you have taken no action towards that goal?  How many times have you written a letter, or email, or announcement and then realized it could have been stated more concisely, and thus more elegantly than your original version?

The discipline to edit yourself is elusive.  Some people never attain it.   When you look at the Apple iPhone and realize the engineering, brainpower and creativity that went into creating essentially a phone with almost no control mechanisms at all, it astounds.  Before the iPhone, Blackberry was the dominant piece of phone hardware.  It was riddled with keys and buttons and one had to become very adept to be able to quickly type on it.  An iPhone, on the other hand, did away even with the need to type through voice recognition technology.  Total efficiency.

Take a critical look at how you spend your time.  You only have less and less time remaining with each day.  There are habits and circumstances in your life that you can eliminate which will create space and time for you to accomplish your goals, whether those goals are work related or personal.  

Write a shorter letter.