What to Do, and What Not to Do

“Time is our most precious asset, we should invest it wisely.”
– Michael Levy

I like this quote.

It’s from Dharmesh Shah and his VentureBeat article “10 Things Business Schools Won’t Teach You“.

There are always more things to do than there is time to do them. Startups are a continuous exercise in deciding what not to do. You can sometimes win by just not doing things faster than your competition.

There is never enough time. I’m sure you’ve felt the pain of that statement. At the same time, it’s real easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything. “Otherwise,” you tell yourself, “we’ll miss something important and a competitor will do it.”

That kind of thinking is going to put you behind the competition. What you do is just as important as what you don’t do. Sure, you want to do everything, but that’s impossible. Time is a scarce resource in the marketplace. So what can you do?


Prioritize prioritize prioritize.

For feature development, here’s an example:

  1. List all of the features you want.
  2. Prioritize the features according to what solves your customer’s problem best and what satisfies your business requirements. Defer to what your customer needs if there is a conflict, then change your business model to accommodate the customer. After all, without customers, you have no business.
  3. Ignore what the competition is doing. They may sway you in the wrong direction. Feature parity isn’t that important. Be a company that others emulate, not the other way around.
  4. Decide on the barest essentials that will solve your customer’s problem. Keep cutting features until you can’t cut anymore – until the next cut changes the fundamental nature of your product. This same advice is given to journalists & authors (cut until you can’t cut anymore).
  5. The barest essentials should be your next release. The other important features can go into future versions based on priority and effort.

In a world of time scarcity, it is not about doing it all. It is all about what you do AND what you don’t do.

Photo by: laffy4k

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.