Defining outcomes to ship faster

I need to get better at shipping fast. It’s not that I don’t ship today, I just have less time to work and want to have more shots at the goal.

I want to run more experiments. And try more fun tech. So I need to ship faster.

Just like when I learn anything, I believe I need to find some solid fundamentals and just practice them deliberately. So I read up on shipping tips, and pracice the most fundamental ones I find. This is the first of those:

Clarifying the problem first

There’s a famous quote by Einstein that captures this idea well:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” — Albert Einstein

Being very clear on what you are trying to achieve makes it much more likely that you can make progress. A really good problem definition usually contains the first questions or actions you need to do to make progress.

So this week before I start every task I will write down the answers to this checklist:

  1. What am trying to achieve / What is the outcome?
  2. What are the steps to achieveing that?
  3. How much time and energy do I have?
  4. Prioritise steps
  5. Do the work

Partly this will help me make what I’m trying to do explicit. So when I get distracted I can come back to it.

Partly this will make it obvious if I’m biting off too much. Maybe I need to set a partial goal instead, something that I can do in the allotted time?

One surprising thing that came out of starting this exercise is that I realised that every time I do work on something I should end with some sort of artifact:

  • A progress report
  • A finished design
  • A piece of research

If I’m not actually delivering an artifact, the task isn’t really done, and I will still be thinking about it. If someone is waiting for me to complete the task, they will still be waiting for it.

But if I ship an artifact, even if it only partially completes the intended outcome, at least there has been some tangible result. Real progress.

What can you specify today that will help you make progress?