Brownian Motion – and seriously, bear with me here – is the theory of molecular science that explains why particles in a gas will distribute themselves to evenly fill any container they occupy.
These are the fancy science words for describing complex probabilistic math that’s baked into the laws of physics… which makes gases in a container spread out as much as they can, until the gas is distributed as diffusely as possible throughout the container.
(I told you to bear with me!)
This is a crucial METAPHOR for entrepreneurial productivity.
When you inflate a balloon with helium, the particles you put in the balloon don’t hang out in one corner of it. They spread out as much as possible, filling the balloon evenly. When you smoke a cigar in an office – like an old timey entrepreneur fat cat – the smoke wisps and curls… but eventually spreads out to evenly fill the room.
This law of physics basically states that individual particles in a gas will always spread out, endlessly distributing themselves equidistantly from each other, evenly filling the container they occupy.
That’s “Brownian Motion”.
Entrepreneurs fill their days with work in the same way.
Your calendar is the container/room.
Your to-do list is the gas that spreads out into it.
“Entrepreneurial Brownian Motion” is in play when you have your to-do list… and you dive into your day with a loose plan to get things done.
What happens next?
Your work spreads out over the day, filling all your available time.
This is especially true for “important not urgent” creative work. The kind of growth-driving activity that takes courage and produces exponential leaps forward.
On any given day, you may or may not get everything on your list accomplished. Regardless, the available hours – the space inside the “container” of your day – will get entirely filled up by work.
Like that cigar smoke, uncurling and spreading out, filling every corner of the room… you’ll constantly feel like you’re working on something. Every inch of your schedule will fill up.
The whole day gets spent. Every time. The work seems to expand to fill it.
Entrepreneur “Brownian Motion” is why deadlines work
Have you ever wondered why a very real deadline has this magical power to 10x your effectiveness?
When you book a flight to take a trip, and you have to finish X project before you leave… it’s amazing how much you get done in those last few hours of crunch time.
It’s because a pressing deadline shrinks the container.
You have less time in which you’re able to do work, so the work you need to do compresses like a gas to fit the space available.
Brownian Motion is a principle of physics, aerodynamics and pneumatics that scientists and engineers take into account and plan around.
They don’t try to fight it.
Neither should you.
Entrepreneurial Brownian Motion is a principle that YOU should take into account and plan around.
Your work is going to want to spread itself out to occupy all the nooks, crannies and time available in your day.
The solution isn’t to wish for more willpower to fight this effect… it’s to shrink the container that’s available.
Parents know what I’m talking about
Over the last decade of my Shrink-for-Entrepreneurs client consults, every entrepreneur who’s had their first child while on my roster has described learning the true meaning of productivity.
They suddenly start getting WAY more done, in FAR less time each day.
It’s not that some faculty of theirs shifted or improved. In fact, sleep deprivation probably means they’re less energetic than before!
What’s really happening is the container – the time they’re actually able to make available for work to gaseously fill – has seriously shrunk.
Smaller container = less diffuse spreading-out of work. Their execution, in other words, is concentrated.
Why wait for life to shrink your container for you?
Do it now. Do it with volition and mindfulness.
You have the potential to get much more done in less time than you normally do.
You know this is true. It’s already happened on dozens of occasions where something external (like an impending vacation) shrunk your “container”.
Instead of urging yourself to be better – or trying to use more willpower or caffeine to “focus” – why not stack the laws of entrepreneurial physics in your favor?
Shrink your container.
That means putting other stuff in your schedule to act as the container walls.
The most effective entrepreneurs I meet have other stuff going on. They have to knock off work at 5:30pm on Tuesdays – instead of working all evening – to go to their Ultimate Frisbee league. Or they pick their kids up from school every day, because it matters to them.
They commit to things that make life worth living outside of business… and those commitments serve as strong bulwarks against the naturally ever-diffusing Brownian Motion of their to-do list.
Figuring out what your stuff should be – what would be worthwhile committing to – is the most fulfilling, rewarding part of all. It’s the whole point of entrepreneurship, remember?
The best thing you can do to make yourself more productive… is make other plans.
Completely clearing your calendar is not an opportunity. It’s not a good tactic for boosting focus. It’s an invitation to fluff around and do in 10+ hours what you’re capable of doing in three.
If you want to make an impact, and to find (and keep) Wealth, Freedom and Sanity along the way… you have to make Entrepreneurial Brownian Motion work for in your favor. You need a smaller container.