What’s the least you can do?


There just isn’t time to do everything.

How do you know what you are doing is having an impact? And then, how do you know when you have done enough.

A model from pharmacology may help.

The concept of an effective dose (ED) is a measure of the smallest amount of a drug to produce a desired response in a patient.

Anything more than the ED does not help – having 3 painkillers when one is enough is probably not going reduce your pain by three times.

Much more than the ED can be harmful – that’s why you aren’t sold massive packets of painkillers in supermarkets.

So, there are three things to figure out when thinking about what needs to be done:

  1. What’s the baseline – the normal level or business as usual?
  2. What’s the least required to produce a required result?
  3. At what point should you stop?

It’s very easy to do a lot and look very busy, but it’s more interesting and useful to be effective.

And being effective means doing just enough – not too much. Doing too much is a waste of resources.

In the startup world, this model is referred to as a Minumum Viable Product (MVP).

The MVP is a product that has the least amount of features that make it viable and usable by a customer.

Once you have that, find a customer, get them to use it and use their feedback to improve and make the product better.

Many companies spend too much time and money building a perfect product, only to run out of both just at the point when they are ready to ship.

Take another example – one that many of us face – how to change a behaviour?

Whether it is exercising more, eating better or doing something more, just how long does it take to create a new habit?

First – its obvious that if you select too punishing an exercise regime or too strict a diet, the chances of you giving up increase. The right behaviour is one that you can sustain over a long enough period.

Then if you do that minimum daily behaviour every day it turns out that it takes between 18 and 254 days to make that a habit.

That’s quite a wide range. If you’re at the top end of that range, the less you have to do and the easier you make it on yourself, the more likely it is that you will be able to stick it out.

Once you start to look around, you can see applications of this approach everywhere.

Do you really need to check your phone 46 times a day to stay informed? How much news do you really need to watch every day to know what is going on? How much time every day do you need to spend checking out markets to be aware of trends?

Paradoxically, by doing less you may find you have the time to do much more.

As Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the French aviator and author of the Little Prince wrote, “It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

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