Getting SH** Done

Tonight’s thought exercise is about capacity… what is the limit of what we can and cannot get done in a finite amount of time.  Being me (#Datanerd), I see an equation.  W=E x T
Lets call it W: “work”. I don’t mean in a physics sense necessarily, but in the amount of work accomplished. What you need to accomplish.
Next, lets say E: “effort” this is the amount of effort used.  Effort can be at a desk building a model, sorting data, or digging a hole.
Last, T: “Time” This is a finite amount.
So my equation is W= E x T… to finish a task (the work) is to expend the effort over a time period.

Where am I going with this one? I don’t feel like I have enough time in the day to accomplish all the “work” I need to get done.  How do I, That Planning Guy, find an analytics solution to the age-old problem?  Look at the 3 components.
First- the needed outcome, the work.  This is a hard one to shift, since it is rarely defined by self. My report is due Friday, my hole needs to be dug by noon, I need to capture a lot of food for dinner (thinking caveman times, not knocking over a Whole Foods)  I have to achieve the work by the time required.  For this exercise, let’s say there are no extensions.  Deadlines are just that.

That leaves either or both of the variables time and effort.  But time can’t be controlled, only added to or subtracted from.  If you dig 1 foot per hour, and you dig for 3 hours, you have a 3 foot hole.  If you need it in 2 hours, you have to change the E – which means either work very very hard (dig faster, type faster, build model faster, chase the deer down quicker, whatever) Or you have to change the ‘technology’ to change the effort, the other E being efficiency.

Efficiency can be either a better technique, or better tools.  What if you have a better shovel? Can you dig deeper, faster? Or a jackhammer.  Or a backhoe.  What used to be a 3 hour event is now a 15 min event…so YOu now need to dig 12 holes in the 3 hours.  Because the ‘new normal’, the expectations, just changed. Same in modeling, what if you have a better tool-kit, pre-made model, better solutions, better programs.  What we used to do in Excel, maybe now we do in a new BI tool, or R, or Python.  Or we re-puirpose a model we already had.  Or a better rifle for hunting.

In the 20’s all commerce had to be local because people had to get to work, to stores, to home as the limit of their ‘distance’ to travel.  When cars became common, people could move further from these locations. Same in trains, and later planes.  I went to a 3 hour meeting 1500 miles away last year, and ate both breakfast and dinner at home.  I can’t imagine 50 years ago people even dreaming that.

Henry Ford dreamed up and made the assembly line because he needed to create cars (W) in less time (T): Increase the E.

So the question comes, until we have better tools, in order to achieve better results all we can do is put in more time.  Or, force the advent of better efficiencies.  Build, buy, create, dream up. But whichever route achieves the W, the new normal is that is in fact achievable

Is necessity the really mother of invention, or does increasing technology/productivity change the expectations, forcing invention, or better still innovation?  Figure out how to do 12 hours work in 9 hours.

I am,
-That Planning Guy
PS- Sorry its been so long, I will try to get more pen to paper, just need to find better efficiencies.

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