Minutia, Core, and Epic
A year ago I quit my job and went full time at Quinn Popcorn. It’s been an incredible year, but Kristy and I are still learning how to run our own company. In truth, it’s a whole new skill set, and it’s a real challenge.
Kristy spends half of her average day on the phone. When she isn’t on the phone she is tending to all the little items that haven’t gone according to plan. My day is similar except instead of being on the phone I’m locked into my computer working on graphic design, social media, PR leads, customer service emails, etc. It can be exhausting , but we rarely walk away from a day with a sense that we moved Quinn Popcorn forward. While it’s not realistic to expect epic wins on a daily basis, we should be pursuing big more and patching holes less.
One of the issues is that this patching, mending, smoothing is, in the short term, quite satisfying. The complete cycle of challenge to solution is so fast. You get to experience “done” 100 times a day. A few months ago our desks were right next to the packing line. Even though the four of us full timers had enough work for ten, we found ourselves helping out on the packing line all the time. It was just too temping. Sealing up each box felt so good.
Minutia is addictive. It’s satisfying for a few seconds, but at the end of the day you feel like crap. We all know we don’t want to get caught up in it, but it draws us in.
We are starting to get better at fighting back. Kristy and I have adopted a strategy of defining buckets for the things we do. There’s Maintenance, then there’s Core, and finally Epic. Maintenance is made up of the crap tasks that don’t use your brain. It’s the minutia. Core is the stuff you are good at, the things that you can do faster and better. Epic defines the things that make you feel a little uncomfortable, and at the end of the day, they are the things that become part of your story.
It’s not about micromanaging ourselves. We tried that. It lasted one day. This is about creating a lens that allows us to see what you’re doing from way overhead. It gives perspective and meaning to our daily marathon. Now when I look at my to do list I feel good about the core stuff, I try to work in some epic, and I see the minutia as a nice break from the other two.
I know you’re thinking, but what about all the leaks in the dam? Someone has to scan those papers, mail that package, reply to the donation request, etc. Yes, but if there were two of me, both could crank 60 hour weeks and not get through it all. Minutia responds to the attention you give it. If you only have 3 hours a day for the little stuff, eventually the need will subside to fill those three hours.
It felt good to write this out, as I’m tired of preaching it to myself all day. It’s not easy to pick your head, think about what you are doing, and then change the way you work. We are getting better at it, and we’ll let you know as new minutia fighting strategies surface!