Category Archives: Project Management

Capacity is Not a Myth

Andrew Carroll recently shared an old post on capacity in which he wrote the following:

Capacity. You hear the term in business a lot:

“We are making mistakes because we are above capacity”
“We are having cash flow issues because we are below capacity"
“We are investing in building out our capacity so we can grow”

The secret is capacity is a myth. The only really limit to your business’ capacity is the limit of your ability to think, dream, and work.

Capacity is far from a myth. Individuals, teams and businesses alike have limits. We all do, even you. Regardless of the context, not acknowledging and not respecting these limits will be just as harmful to your effectiveness as succumbing to them.

Ignoring capacity leads us to take on more than we can manage. It leads us to burn ourselves out. And when working with a team, it often leads us to push others beyond what is reasonable.

Capacity is a Friend

Not only is capacity a reality, it can be a tool. Sure, we can push through and “expand capacity” by working ourselves to death in the service of achieving a potentially unreasonable goal—it might even work out once or twice—but continually ignoring capacity will negatively impact relationships, health and, more than likely, sanity.

Capacity, when used correctly, can be a guide. It can force us to consider all of our various goals against available time and resources. When used as a filter, it helps us to make better choices. We just have to make sure we see things clearly.

A Clear Sense Of Capacity

The true myth isn’t that capacity doesn’t exist. It’s that there are two versions: what we believe our capacity to be and what capacity actually is. What we refer to as our capacity is often a combination of realities and challenges. It balances the (likely) excessive number of goals we’ve taken on with a (typically) flawed approach to accomplishing these goals. It traditionally only factors in some of our ambitions, rather than forcing us to consider a holistic view of our goals.

You have to discover where you currently stand in order to move past the myth. Don’t ignore it, consider it. Pretending capacity doesn’t exist will only lead you astray. Learn your limits, then consider ways to improve in order to push against them.

So how do you know? How can you tell perceived capacity from true capacity? Start by understanding your current capacity, regardless of its truth. Then begin to push against what you believe to be possible. Unless you’ve consciously tested the limits of your capacity, unless you’ve taken the time to learn how you go about doing your best work, and unless your team has a process that allows for effective collaboration, it’s unlikely you’re there.

You also have to be careful as the desire to push can be a double-edged sword. There’s pushing beyond what you believe to be possible and then there’s pushing beyond what’s reasonable.

Working vs. Wanting To Expand Capacity

As Andrew points out:

Capacity is a myth. If you think you can’t or won’t, it is not because you don’t have the capacity. It’s because you don’t want it bad enough to stretch beyond your current capacity.

In case it isn’t clear, the point of this piece isn’t to say you can’t push beyond what you believe to be possible in service of achieving your goals. In fact–regardless if it is personal or professional–if what you are doing is even remotely ambitious, you’ll likely have to push against your current limitations.

When it comes to stretching, Andrew has a point: What we believe to be our capacity, almost always isn’t. But ignoring the fact that capacity itself is indeed a reality . . . well . . . it might help you push through some barriers in the short run, but ultimately it will cause you to break.

Understand your current capacity. Then continually question it to see just how far you can push your boundries. Just be sure to understand that, at some point, even the best of us have our limits. And respecting those limits can do just as much to help you to push past them.

What Am I Actually Doing?

Who is this for? Those who struggle to find a balance between what they feel they should do and what they tend to actually do.

From Chase Reeves:

Innovation comes from discovering what a thing actually is. It always starts with something and then goes deeper, closer to the core of what that thing is.

It’s not blue sky solutioneering or spit-balling. It’s, “hmm, I think people will actually behave this way, not that way …”

And that phrase shows up wherever innovation happens.

“People don’t want that. They ACTUALLY want this.”

I’m busy right now. Busier than I’ve been in a long time. This reality has contributed to the slowdown here, but I’d be lying if I said that was all that has kept this site quiet.

Before starting this site I looked at what I had been doing (which was essentially slowly and methodically dealing with my own challenges in public), then I thought long and hard about how to take that work to the next level (helping you more effectively deal with your own work). I determined what I thought would be the best way to build upon the work I’d been doing on the web. Despite still believing in my initial assumptions for Workflowing, it turns out I don’t care enough about them.

In his post, Chase makes a great point about what we assume others will do versus what they actually end up doing. I also find that the sentiment holds true for myself. I have to let go of what I think I want and embrace what it is that I’m ACTUALLY doing.

The more I think about this site, the more I think about the role I want it to play in my life, the more I consider what I want to say, and the more I consider what it ACTUALLY is that I do, the more I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to build a better site about productivity and workflows. What I really want to do is continue to push myself and hopefully inspire one or two other people out there to ACTUALLY do better.

I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out. I hope you’ll continue to stick around and, more than anything, I hope that whatever comes next helps us both to do better.

The Best Reason To Quit

Who is this for? Those who have a difficult time deciding when to stick something out and when to quit.

Gabe Weatherhead:

[T]o me, quitting always means that I’ve found some structure and priority where previously there was a lack. I don’t quit so I can start something new. I quit things when I remember what I want my life to be about.

Like Gabe, I’ve always struggled with the phrase “saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else.” Easily some of the best thoughts I’ve read on quitting since Godin’s The Dip.

If you’re considering quitting, be it a job or a project, read this first. If you’re not considering quitting anything, read this anyway. It’s Gabe at his best.

The Benefits and Pains Of Creating In Public

Who is this for? Anyone considering launching a project and iterating it publicly before it is ready. This also may apply to those whose fear of making mistakes keeps them from ever making their ideas a reality.

When Mike Vardy and I first had the idea for Workflowing, we intended to form a plan. That plan would be thought through again and again and again until we felt it was sound enough and we were prepared enough to implement it. Once we started implementing, we would have had a clear vision of what we wanted to create and have every next action carefully plotted. From there, it would have been up to us to do everything in our power to execute on our plan and turn the idea into a reality.

Just as we started to plan, we were inspired by Patrick Rhone to take our early vision and allow ourselves to iterate the concept publicly. Rather than creating the shape the work would take, we wanted to let the work help create the shape. We had a strong sense of what we wanted to do, but we were unclear on the details and far from ready to implement them. We jumped in anyway.

And How Did That Work Out?

The honest answer: good and bad.

The Good

The site exists. The value of this cannot be understated. It’s not something we might do. It’s not something we want to do. It’s something we are doing.

We’ve created a few original posts that we’re proud of. We’ve been able to get the link posts up, running and sharing properly on social networks. We’re experimenting with the running list concept to see how we can make better long term use of short-term link posts. We have a design that, while imperfect, is a sound starting point. We’re learning more about what the site is with every single day and every single action. We’re creating work that we’re proud of that we believe meets the spirit of our initial idea.

The Bad

It doesn’t exist as it would had we waited. The value of this cannot be understated as well. You only ever get one chance to make a first impression.

The accelerated timing made it difficult to dedicate as much time to Workflowing as we should have. The concept of creating in public allowed us the freedom to make mistakes, but it also gave us enough room to neglect our new baby when things got busy. As mentioned in the previous post, it also happened to align with a particularly busy and challenging time for both myself and my partner in crime, Mike Vardy who has now moved on from the project (so the we I keep mentioning is more of an I). The newsletter, something we believed would be a core feature for the site, has proven difficult to properly express to potential contributors and would require far more time and attention than we ever could have anticipated.

Would I Do It Again?

As I’ve been talking with Vardy and other trusted souls to figure out how to proceed moving forward, I’ve found myself questioning if creating Workflowing in public was the right decision.

In theory, had we kept this quiet I wouldn’t be shuttering a newsletter I never launched and we probably would have figured out that this project wasn’t ideal for collaboration long before anyone even knew that a collaboration even existed.

In reality, I don’t regret it one bit. I sacrificed a first impression, but I care more about the lasting one. I’m changing things, but that was the plan. I did things this way so I could work my way towards a clear picture of the project. I started something that I really wanted to do and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve it. I’m building something that I’m proud of, I’m testing my desire against my reality and am forcing myself to clarify the kind of work I want to continue to do moving forward. This is worth any early loss or minor embarrassments.

The truth of the matter is this, had I been patient the initial impression may have been better and the initial vision may have been clearer to others. Still, that same patience could have led to procrastination, which could have led to abandonment and this project may never have seen the light of day. I may have gotten started, but there would be no guarantee that I’d ever actually get it out there. It very well could have been yet another thing that I really wanted to do, but didn’t.

I also cannot understate the value of all of the amazing feedback I’ve received. When I shared the early idea with friends, I was met with encouragement and enthusiasm. When I launched Workflowing, I was met with ideas as to how to make it better and had an actual place to test them. When it really comes down to it, this is why I will never regret the approach I’ve taken and will likely create in public again the next time I’m serious considering a new idea.

If you’re struggling to get your idea to a place where you feel it’s ready for the world, consider getting it out there. It may be uncomfortable at times, it may be imperfect, but whatever it is, it will exist. And once something exists in the world, its far more likely to get better.