Being disciplined about the critical path

Whenever I have a list of things to do, I find it very tempting to knock off everything except the one I need to be working on. It is always easy to justify doing something else (“I’ll have to do it anyway”).

Over the past weeks, I have, however, attempted to become more disciplined about working through the critical path. And, I do this by resolving to work on nothing but the highest priority item.

3 notes from having done so –

1. This approach makes negative stress caused by things you control non-existent. With this approach, you know you’re always making the right decision and that feels great.
2. You give yourself more time to iterate and polish since you’re not pushing things till the end. As long as you take the time to prioritize frequently, this approach enables you to get ahead.
3. And, by getting really ahead of stuff, you can proactively push items early in the critical path so you get started and let subconscious processing work its magic.

Fighting the resistance, and thus building your willpower muscle, is a habit. It is one I’m working hard on.
critical pathImage Source

(A long PS: Critical path is a term that makes a lot of sense after taking a course in Operations Management. I was, however, fortunate to learn about the concept before graduate school from a story from Seth once shared on his blog . The technique of doing nothing but the higher priority item/”MIT” as in the image above is another one I learnt two years ago from Roy Baumeister’s fantastic book on Willpower. It sure has taken me a while to implement both these lessons and is a good reminder of how long it takes for me/us to really learn, synthesize and act on important ideas.)

Red and green buttons – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea from Seth’s blog

Seth Godin was leading a team of forty people building a complex series of products which had to ship before Christmas. The stakes were high – if they missed by even one day, the entire company was going to fold. They approached it by doing an analysis of the “critical path” and quickly realized that it was a relay race and right now, there was one team carrying the baton.

So, Seth went out and got some buttons – green and red. The deal was simple: if you were on the critical path, you wore a green button. Everyone else wore red. When a red button met a green button, a simple question was asked, “how can I help?” The President would get coffee for the illustrator if it saved the illustrator three minutes. In other words, the red button people never (ever) get to pull rank or interrupt a green button person.

 An understanding of the critical path and an early urgency ensured they made it. As Seth says – “Rush early, not late. It’s cheaper that way, and better for your peace of mind, too.”


Source and thanks to:

‘Once you’re aware of who’s on the path, you understand the following: delaying the critical path by one hour at the beginning of the project is the very same thing as delaying the entire project by an hour at the very end. ‘ | Seth Godin