Why is Parallel a Pipe Dream?

There is always more to do than can be done. This simple fact can lead one to work on multiple things at once with the false belief of ‘doing more’. This manifests in splitting a day into tiny chunks and incrementally advancing a laundry list of tasks. I have caught myself doing this recently. I am coming to understand that parallel sucks. Instead of running multiple projects concurrently I now tackle the most important project until completion. Then move on to the next most important project.

The benefits are profound. While there are indeed many things to get done, there are usually only one or two that are critical at any point in time. The opportunity cost of sacrificing attention on the high priority tasks just to feel like you are ‘getting more done’ is economically irrational. Answering a random email or taking a coffee meeting are rarely the most important things.

The secondary benefit is psychological. Completing an important task feels good. It feels good to ship. It feels good to sign the deal. It feels good to hire. Days and days without that mental satisfaction is grating.

Technology companies hack the daily routine of parallel to get to serial, they are appropriately called ‘Hack Days’. They are wildly productive and energizing because they focus all attention of a team on one goal. They allow the team to cut scope to ensure high quality. And the end post is clear — the project will be completed before moving on.

At Yobongo we are working hard to stay serial. Focusing our effort on the key task and blocking out everything else. It is hard. But that is the point. Which opportunities are you willing to sacrifice out of the endless possibility set. If you tried to do everything, you might feel like a superhero, but what you choose not to do is definitional. Thinking deeply about what you direct your attention to is critical.

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