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TODAY’S STORY
27 Sep
,
2022

Too much order is chaos.

A little heads up before we begin.

Looking for a small interesting business challenge you can solve in 15-30 minutes and see where you stand in terms of your selling ability?

Play the role of Sumit Agarwal: a sales development representative at Coursera India who wishes to impress Gojek's Chief Human Resources Officer over a cold call and convince them to sign up for a 'Coursera for Business' plan for their company.

How would you write the sales script for this call? Read the full details of the challenge here.

The submission deadline for the challenge is tomorrow, 28th September, 6 PM.

You can submit your response before 6 PM tomorrow via this form.

Free vouchers to the top 3 winners! Treat it as a little warm-up before you attend our event Master the Art of Selling Fearlessly,  tomorrow evening.

We will be discussing a model solution for this challenge in the session. So, more than anything, it's an opportunity for you to solve a real business problem and see where you stand in comparison to experienced operators. If nothing else, just going through the problem statement will help you contextualize what you learn in tomorrow's session much better.

All the best! I'm looking forward to your submissions. Now, let's get to today's piece.

There are two famous, oft-quoted laws.

1. Murphy's Law:

"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

2. Hofstadter's Law:

"It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."

So, how do you think about productivity when the danger of these two laws always looms over your head?

To understand this, here's an analogy. Look at the pictures below.

The picture on the right represents the conventional idea of ordered and structured productivity, where you try to break down something creative into a bunch of tasks and hence suck all the joy and creativity out of it.

It's just a superficial idea of order.

The picture on the left is what you're able to do when you structure things only to the extent they're absolutely needed and not anymore.

It represents real order.

We hate micromanagers. And yet, it is easy to micromanage yourself if you're not careful.

A good rule of thumb while setting your rough schedule for the day, especially if you're a creative worker:

2-3 large blocks of 2 hours each, and unstructured exploration within. Do not try to schedule your time in 10- or 20-minute chunks, like many productivity gurus say. It's stupid.

Often, you need 20 minutes just to switch context and build some momentum. And once you're sufficiently engaged, it's easy to work for 2 hours on a trot — something a lot of over-optimizers and planners miss.

Just imagine: you got into flow and were really starting to get into the rhythm and the joy of the work and another 30-minute block assigned to a different task comes in the way. Sad, right? Stop getting in the way of your own creativity by imposing a superficial idea of order in you day.

What an unstructured-ness allows for is the space and the play that's needed for creative thought processes to flourish. And the best way to not be creative is to force your mind to be creative.

You need to build in good allowances and tolerances in your systems. Failing to do so means you will get a process that looks ordered, but the output it generates is chaotic and crappy.

The more finely you optimise and chunk, the more opportunities you create for things to go wrong.

Going wrong has a bad effect on morale. Lack of morale breaks momentum. Lack of momentum spirals into breaking everything else in the schedule.

So, the only way to counter Murphy's Law is to design your system with as few moving parts as possible.

In the case of productivity, it can mean having just one single priority for the day, let alone having multiple 2-3 chunks.

Illustration credits: @OzolinsJanis

Take as much time as is needed to execute the first priority well. The only way to counter Hofstadter's Law is to not impose a superficial time limit at all. Because it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law!

With creative work, you never know how long something is going to take — especially if you're doing it for the first time. And when you're starting out, you want to feel as less of a failure as possible. Failure can be a real demotivator. And failing is easy when you sign up for too many things. By stretching yourself thin, you're simply increasing your chances of failing.

Don't try to do too many things at once. Do one thing and see it to fruition. The best way to build momentum is to build it off of good feelings from a job well done.

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