Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The One Percent Delusion

Last week a co-worker was explaining to me, in veiled terms, his exciting new business plan. "In five years, this will be a $40 billion dollar industry," he told me. "If I could get just one percent of that, I would be a rich man."

The one percent delusion is a common one for the drafter of a business plan -- it's one that I myself suffered from some years back when I was writing a business plan. People fall into it because it sounds so modest. "Only one percent." And yet if the reason one wants to achieve this goal is because capturing one percent of an industry means running a business with annual gross revenues of $400 million, it doesn't make it any easier to get to that $400 million figure that that represents "only one percent" of the industry. One still has to build a $400 million business, and that's very hard.

It occured to me the other night that there's also a personal version of this, which I think might be called the thirty minute delusion. I gazing at my bookshelf and noting all the books which I really ought to read or reread one of these days, I formed in an instant a vision of a system by which I would put together a list of great books that I would read over the year, and devote thirty minutes a day to working through these. Surely I waste thirty minutes in any given day, and yet this is three hours a week (taking Sundays off) and thus 156 hours a year. Think of all the great reading I could do in those 156 hours!

The problem, of course, is that although thirty minutes is a short period of time, and one does indeed waste thirty minutes several times over in any given day, that does not mean that it is actually easy to successfully schedule a thirty minute block in six days a week. The fact that thirty minutes is only 2% of a day does not mean that it comes free.

Certainly, you can pick a couple of activities which you'll fit into a spare thirty minutes here and a spare sixty minutes there. For me, clearly, one of these major ways I spend that time is writing. Bits also go to reading, studying Russian, walking, cycling, etc. But unless you're already massively uncerscheduled you really don't have thirty extra minutes every day to devote to some new project without deprioritizing something else.

Because the period of time (Just thirty minutes!) sounds so short, and because most of us don't actually have a very precise understanding of our schedules, we almost always feel confident that we must have that extra bit of time available somewhere. Sure two or three virtuous thirty-minute-a-day commitments could be added! But it's not so. Just because thirty minutes is only 2% of a day (assuming you never sleep) does not mean that you can simply grab those thirty minutes without cost.

2 comments:

discalcedyooper said...

If you google "Chinese math", you'll see a variation of this.

Christopher said...

It occured to me the other night that there's also a personal version of this, which I think might be called the thirty minute delusion. I gazing at my bookshelf and noting all the books which I really ought to read or reread one of these days, I formed in an instant a vision of a system by which I would put together a list of great books that I would read over the year, and devote thirty minutes a day to working through these....

You and me both. =)