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Getting your projects done by balancing task and goal [PODCAST]


PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.

This week Pete and Dom are in Florida visiting Rich Schefren at the Strategic Profits office. The topic of this week’s show is Serial vs Parallel – focusing on projects one after the other so they get done, vs spreading your focus and getting nothing done.

Pete and Dom talks to Rich about focusing on projects and getting them done

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Episode 058:
Serial vs Parallel

GPS Voice: Continue 300 feet, then turn left on Glades Road. Turn left on Glades Road, then take ramp ahead.

Dom: Hi, everybody, and welcome to this week’s PreneurCast. It’s another special edition because Pete and I are in Florida.

Pete: We’re actually together for the first time in the history of PreneurCast. You and I are not only in the same country, but in this case, in the same car.

Dom: Indeed, we are on our way to a very special location. Where are we going, Pete?

Pete: This week, we’ve been in Florida, in Delray Beach, working with Rich Schefren and his team on a whole bunch of stuff. So, we’re heading there for our penultimate day, which is very, very cool. Just got a Kalicious Green Smoothie from Whole Foods, and just heading the 10 mile journey to the office.

Dom: That’s right. We are living the Florida dream. And, if you heard the strange voice in the background, that’s our GPS, just reminding us where to go.

Pete: Absolutely. This week’s show, we’ve got a lot of cool stuff to cover. We’ve got some stuff about Rich and what we’ve been doing here with him, and the main purpose of the trip. But, obviously, as always, another PreneurCast episode with another fantastic topic.

Dom: This week, we’re going to talk about serial versus parallel, so look out for that in a minute. But first, Pete, let’s go into a little bit more detail about why we’re over here at the moment.

Pete: Sure. Well, I’m not quite sure if many listeners would have seen a presentation that I gave at a seminar in Melbourne, probably 18 months ago now. The title of the presentation was ‘Lessons in Leverage‘. It was all about how to actually get more out of what you’re already doing. And, I fundamentally just stood on stage for 90 minutes and did my work. I replied to emails, I created some content, we produced some video.

Did a bunch of stuff on stage, and allowed people to look over my shoulder as I got stuff done. Out of the three-day event, with multiple speakers and people from all across the globe, the presentation got the only standing ovation, which is really, really cool. People sort of, obviously, resonated with the frustration of having to get everything done and not knowing where to start, and that overwhelm and the feeling of uncertainty as well.

GPS Voice: Take ramp on right, to I-95 North.

Pete: Yes, ma’am. So, what happened was, that presentation got recorded and was made available for purchase, and it ended up on Rich’s desk. Now, Rich is the founder and CEO of Strategic Profits, which is a business, based here in Florida, that works with entrepreneurs to take them- I guess, the easy way to put it is, from opportunity seekers to strategic entrepreneurs.

Because there is that mindset shift that it takes to become a successful and strategic entrepreneur. He works with those types of people from across the globe, saw our presentation, thought it was really cool, and tracked me down to say, “Hey, you should come over here, spend some time with my team. Help us get more effective in getting stuff done, producing more content, and leveraging what we’re already doing…

GPS Voice: Drive 6.4 miles on I-95 North.

Pete: Yes, I hear you. And all that sort of stuff. So, it’s been really cool. That’s the crux of why we’re here. But, at the same time, Rich has had a team of technicians in the office putting together some live streaming hardware and software. He can actually do live steams. Not sort of like a webinar or anything, but live, face-to-camera, fully interactive, live streams.

So, what we’re actually doing on Thursday at 6PM, that’s US Eastern Standard Time, we’re actually going to jump on live and beta test this software for his high-end clients. We’re going to talk about a lot of the stuff that I spoke about in that original presentation, the stuff we’ve been doing with his team here this week, and a whole bunch of other things. That’s kind of the purpose of the trip. Does that answer the question, Dom?

Dom: Yeah, it does. It genuinely was a standing ovation. We have that video, can we let that video out?

Pete: Yeah, we’ll put a link to that [Lessons in Leverage video] in the show notes. For sure, we can definitely get that up and running.

Dom: I mean, there are some fantastic lessons in that on how to hack your workflow, and it really is what you do every day. It’s how you do what you do, and how you get it all done. It was real, as well, which is what I liked about the presentation. You genuinely did answer your emails, and deal with forum posts and things like that- all these everyday tasks for people that are dealing in an online marketplace. It was also the first time, I think, you kind of made public our little process for creating video as well, wasn’t it?

Pete: Yeah, I think it was. It was the very first time I let the cat out of the bag and gave people the opportunity to look over our shoulder of how we actually produce content for the various companies, whether it might be if you’re an information marketer and are producing videos and reports. We do this in our real-world company as well. We do training videos of how to use phone systems and sales presentations and things like that. We use that same process in my real-world business when we sell and install phone systems all around the country.

If you’re a consultant or even if you’re a tradesman; we talked about, in one of the previous episodes of PreneurCast, the importance of having high-quality proposals and presentations that you can take out. So, it’s not that crappy piece of paper that every single trader does when they’re quoting on some roof tiling or something like that. You can create some really cool video to go on your website for lead-generation and conversion, a great additional asset for conversion of proposals. There’s a whole bunch of ways you can use the content-creation stuff that will be available in the video that we’ll throw up on the show notes.

What we should also do too, is throw in the show notes, the link to the [Strategic Profits] live stream we’re doing. Rich has put this together for his personal and high-end clients only. But, I sort of said to him, “If I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, at least I want some of our community to be able to get the experience.” So, if you’re a listener to PreneurCast, to me, you’re a part of our community. So, there will be a link in the show notes of where you can get some information about the live stream.

Dom: And again, back to the original presentation; I think one of the reasons it resonates with people is because it’s all real stuff. You do it, we do it. Also, it’s applicable to any business. It’s not just about being in an online business. A lot of the techniques you use are applicable in any business. Which, again, is what we’re all about- we’re not just focused on online businesses.

Anyway, folks, that’s what we’re doing in Florida. For anybody who’s seen the various things happening- tweets and Facebook page posts, and random videos from car parks of health food stores. Just a second, I’m just going to have another bit of my Kalicious drink.

Pete: Beautiful. Get on the green smoothie- the health tip of the week. We should start giving some health tips. Green smoothie. This has got apple, banana, hemp protein, spirulina, kale, spinach. Is that it?

Dom: Yeah.

Pete: I think that was it. That’s everything that makes up the Kalicious, and it’s all just blended through. It’s a beautiful start to the day, very, very healthy.

Dom: Pete’s got me on the health kick this week.

Pete: You’re going to be a changed man, spending a week with me.

Dom: I certainly am. So, that’s what we’re doing here this week. But, let’s get back to the regular program, as they say. I’m really doing this American thing very well, aren’t I?

Pete: You are.

Dom: Let’s get back to our regular programming. I want to talk this week about serial versus parallel, and what I think is a really dangerous thing. A long time ago, a few years ago, I saw a presentation by someone- and whoever you are, if you’re listening to this, A) thank you for listening to the show, and B) I’m sorry. I’m not stealing your idea, I’m just telling everybody it was a great idea. I saw this presentation where this guy basically said, “If you’ve got three projects and each one of those projects is going to take you three weeks, what a lot of people do is start all those projects at once,” because they think they’re just going to get done faster, they’re going to shortcut.

They just think they’re going to get everything done in a short period of time. Some people actually genuinely believe that they’re going to do three three-week projects in 3 weeks. And, the reality of it is- and I can personally attest to this, Pete, hopefully you can probably bring some evidence to this as well- the reality of this is that it usually takes actually more than nine weeks, more than each of those time lines added together to get all of those things completed.

Pete: Well, the way I look at it, it’s almost like negative compound effect. Obviously, we’ve spoken about the compound effect in positive ways that you get from the 7 Levers. By doing little things, the compound effort actually gives you a greater result. Whereas, in this scenario, by actually trying to do three separate small tasks, one after each other, it actually ends up costing you more, because it’s just hard to juggle so many things.

It’s almost a negative effect, and you’re better off trying to a three-week project, then a three-week project, then another three-week project. It gives you the nine weeks, as opposed to trying to do all three projects at once and spread that implementation out. It actually ends up dragging longer because it takes up mindshare, and there’s distractions and a whole range of other superfluous things that pop up in that process that actually mean that the end result, the finish date of those three projects is actually greater than the sum of the parts.

Dom: Absolutely. It’s that dilution of effort…

GPS Voice: In .8 miles, take Exit 52 on right, to State Road 806.

Dom: Thank you. I think she’s done now. Yeah?

Pete: I think so.

Dom: OK. Better do what she says. It’s that dilution of effort, it’s the lack of focus. It actually reduces your focus, which is why I call it dangerous, this idea of doing things in parallel. I’m not saying don’t do anything at all. Obviously, you’ve got a business to run, you’ve got some day-to-day things you need to get done. But, you will find…

GPS Voice: Take Exit 52 on right, to State Road 806.

Dom: You will find that if you focus on one thing- we’re back to CFTs, really. It’s just a big version of CFTs. If you focus a lot of your effort on one thing, it will get done faster.

GPS Voice: In .2 miles, stay right on to State Road 806 East.

Pete: Let’s explain what CFT meant.

Dom: Sorry, just to hop back. We have talked about this a little bit before, but let’s just recap that because Pete’s right.

GPS Voice: Stay right on to State Road 806 East.

Pete: I’m going to turn her off. I’m going to roll the dice, and hopefully… Hang on, I turned the volume down.

Dom: OK, folks, if you don’t see us for a couple of weeks’ worth of shows, we got lost somewhere in Florida, because Pete turned off the GPS. Yeah, CFTs, Critical Focus Time. The concept there, let’s just recap, is this idea that we’re all distracted. We distract ourselves. We leave things like emails open, Twitter, Facebook, and we never really actually focus on what we’re doing. We never give it 100% of our attention.

So, the idea behind the CFTs, Critical Focus Time, is to block out a block of a maximum of 25 minutes at a time where you switch everything off, you tell everybody to go away and leave you alone for 25 minutes, and you focus on one single task. And, very importantly, that’s a task that will grow your business, or move your business forward. And, maybe we’ll do some more detail in another show. But, the point there is about focus. It’s about what you can achieve if you focus solidly on something. That’s what I’m saying with serial versus parallel.

Looking at some real-world numbers- let’s say you were trying to create three information products, or write three reports, or even write three quotes for a client- anything that has a deliverable on a date, but also that might earn you money. This is the important thing- it might earn you money. If you were to do these things in parallel, take the example we gave- three three-week projects, and they end up taking you 12, you then are running for 12 weeks without any potential money coming in to your business from those three projects.

But, if you were to focus on one at a time, in serial- one, then the next, then the next- in three weeks, you could quite realistically finish that first project, put it out, and either got the job from the client, sold the product, or whatever it is, and actually started bringing money into your business in three weeks instead of 12. If that isn’t a compelling enough argument to work in serial rather than parallel, I don’t know what is. That’s what sold me on the idea, because that’s the example that I saw in this presentation- building a product or something that’s going to bring money in to your business.

And, it applies across the whole business. It’s not just about these projects, it’s about anything. It kind of does go back and talk about the Critical Focus Time idea, where if you focus your time on something that will have an impact on your business, that will grow your business, but you focus in serial until you get one big thing done, or one significant thing done, before you try to move on to the next significant thing, then you’ll get a return faster. And, also, by the way, you’ll deliver better quality things to your clients. We even brought this today. We have a lot to do, folks. Pete and I have separate businesses, we also work together. We have a lot of things we need to get done.

And, we’ve launched, just recently, quite a lot of separate things. And, we’re continuing to bring things out to support the Preneur community, and also, for example, this project with Rich. We had to fly to Florida. We both had to up stakes, get on a plane, and find each other in the great expanse that is Florida, and deliver on our promise to Rich to help his team. But, while we’re here, we’re fully focused on Rich, and what we’re doing- other than this. We’re slotting a little bit of time here because we’re in the car. We’re just using our time, which we’re good at.

Pete: Trying to drive on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of road.

Dom: Yeah, folks. Pete’s not so chatty today because he literally- wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road. He’s doing very well, and he’s going commando because he switched the GPS off. But, in order to get to where we are today, we had a lot of things going on. We had the 7 Levers launch.

Pete: We did.

Dom: And, we also brought live Preneur Platinum, the Preneur community. But, what we didn’t do is try to do all those things in parallel. What we did is we both sat down, we agreed the important order that things needed to happen in. We focused on one thing; and then, when that was complete we focused on the next thing. Now, yes, OK, folks, we did launch Preneur Platinum and 7 Levers at exactly the same time. And, we’ve talked about why we did that. But, one of those things was ready before the other.

Pete: Absolutely.

Dom: It was finished and complete, and we focused on it until it was ready to go. That was really, really important to us, because I think we would have missed our goal launch date if we’d have tried to do two things at once.

Pete: I have absolutely no doubt.

Dom: It’s a very tough thing to do, because everybody has ideas. Everybody has things they want to do- ways to grow their business, products they want to make, reports they want to write, or even just responses for quotations.

Pete: Yeah.

Dom: Just to do the high-quality quote that we talk about, to put the effort into it. A lot of people kind of have like 10 on their desk and they go, “I’ll do a bit of that one, I’ll do a bit of that one.” But, in reality, if you can focus for a period of time on anything, you’ll get that one thing done faster- if you have all the resources; obviously, if you don’t have the resources, you have to put it back down.

Pete: I’m very excited. I’m actually getting to turn right on a red light. In Australia, you’re not allowed to do this. One of the many things I love about the US is the ability and the smart allowance when you turn right on a red light.

Dom: Actually, the first time I came to America, without a word of a lie, I sat at a traffic light and there were cars behind just honking their horn. I’m just like, “It’s a red light, buddy. What’s the problem? I’m not going to go through a red light, get lost!” And, eventually, I got where we were going and I got out to the office and said to them, “Hey, look, I got all this grief from these guys beeping their horn at a red light.”

And they were like, “No, you can turn right at a red light.” And I really thought they were joking. I really thought it was like, “Let’s play with the foreigner. Let’s get the foreigner to do something silly like turn right on a red light.” No, it’s actually a good way to keep traffic moving.

Pete: It’s very efficient. It’s very Preneur.

Dom: It’s very Preneur. And, that’s what we were talking about. We were talking about we’re recording the podcast in the car, in downtime basically. We’ve got our microphones up- we’re all hands-free, folks. It’s perfectly safe.

Pete: I love how you just looked at the GPS like it was a camera.

Dom: That’s such a reflex, I’m sorry. It’s like, because the voice comes from it. I’m apologizing to the lady in the GPS.

Pete: She’s been very helpful for us this week.

Dom: She has been very helpful for us, definitely. I would never have even gotten out of the airport. I’ll be honest about that. OK, folks, let’s wrap this up, because we are now at Strategic Profits. We’re now at Rich’s office. We’re heading in for the big day. But, we just wanted to update you, keep you in the loop with what we’re up to, and pass on a little lesson.

So, try and focus on serial implementation rather than parallel. Apply yourself to one task. Even if it’s to use a CFT idea, just focus on 25 minutes doing one thing, or whether it’s getting a whole product out by doing a series of focus time slots throughout your day. But either way, focus on serial rather parallel, and you’ll see the results. Well, one, you’ll see results, and two, you’ll see those results faster.

Pete: Absolutely. As always, PreneurCast, the show notes is available at PreneurMedia.tv. So, check that out. We’ll put links through to the Standing Ovation presentation, so make sure you check that out. That’s going to be the biggest takeaway from this week’s episode, having access to that. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming, in about two weeks’ time, I think it will be. We’ve got another special episode planned for you for next week.

Dom: Yeah, let’s not jump ahead too much. There may be a little surprise in the feed for you guys. Let’s put it that way.

Pete: OK, fair enough. ‘Under-promise, over-deliver’ is the mantra that Dom keeps planting in us here. So, thanks for listening. PreneurMedia.tv for the show notes. And, when we’re both back to our various sides of the globe, we’ll be back into our regular scheduled programming.

Dom: Yep. Speak to you all soon. Do give us some feedback, as always, and thanks for listening!

Pete: See you guys!


http://www.strategicprofits.com/client-only-livestream/ – Pete and Rich Schefren Live
http://www.preneur.co/leverage-presentation – Pete’s original Melbourne presentation

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