Avoiding operating at capacity


For the last month, I've been running at, over, or near capacity. I hate this state of being, and am glad it is over for a while (I think!). I try hard to avoid it, though it is not always avoidable in the short-term without consequences.
I hate it because I feel it gets you farther away from serendipity, which is at least for me the most surefire input to innovation. Without the extra capacity to grab startup micro-opportunities and generally mess around, I feel I'm missing out.

The problem is, especially in startup land but also beyond, it is just so easy to fill up to capacity and beyond. All you have to do is open up your to-do list, or even inbox. There are infinite things you could do as a startup founder, and tackling something on that list seems more productive than messing around.

How do you avoid it? I've talked a lot about productivity hacks, but that doesn't really cut it. That just allows you do to more stuff at capacity. Same with the maker's schedule. I think you have to consciously not work on things, which is always hard to do.

Part of it for me is synthesizing feedback to figure out what to work on next and then focusing on critical path. This allows me to just put stuff off until more data is in or something seems really compelling.

Part of it is working at a pace I can sustain for the long-term. I've been at DuckDuckGo now for five years, and it feels in a lot of ways we're just getting started.

Part of it is delegating, which has been a new thing for me as I've changed from being a single founder to part of a team.

And a large part of it I'm still trying to figure out. I'm pretty bad at putting down my phone, for example, even though I've turned off all notifications.

Update: also check out Daniel Tenner's response post.


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I'm the Founder & CEO of DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn't track you. I'm also the co-author of Traction, the book that helps you get customer growth. More about me.