I apologize for not being exact enough in my previous explanation of the 72-hour rule. By failing to emphasize the urgency of the last step, I feel I've let you down. Some time ago, I wrote a key to alert you to the existence of the learning window that opens when you encounter a new practice, strategy, approach, or skill. I suggested that you have 72 hours to make a new learning your own, and I described the four stages you must go through to do that: 1) receive, 2) understand, 3) apply, and 4) teach the new knowledge. In retrospect, I missed the mark by failing to underscore the acute urgency of moving without delay to teach the new knowledge to others.
If you don't apply and teach someone the new practice you've acquired inside the 72-hour window, you likely have aborted the learning and development cycle and lost the opportunity for change generated by the learning. Unless you apply the learning right away, it loses its power to mobilize development. That is why you must operate with tremendous urgency. Since our digital experiences have reduced our habitual attention span to about 10 or 11 seconds (or shorter), you must act right now.
The 72 Hour Rule Revisited and OKRs
Listen here: Episode 60: The 72 Hour Rule Revisited and OKRs
Last November I was speaking with Edan Shahar, my adviser on Aviv Consulting, about the OKR (objectives and key results) methodology developed by Andy Grove at Intel and used throughout Google. During that conversation, we decided to implement the learning by exercising the OKR muscle immediately. On the spot, we articulated my 2019 Objectives and Key Results for my business. Since Edan is the CEO of his own company, Test Innovators, we also formulated his 2019 OKRs while the practicing muscle still was warm.
I reflected to Edan that on a different occasion, the work we completed in 10 minutes probably would have taken three hours. He responded that it likely would have been more like three days or, more realistically, not come to fruition at all.
At the risk of it sounding like a Zen kōan, the lesson in this experience is that the time to do something is when you are doing it. The best time to engage in any activity, task, practice and or objective is when you already are inside that activity zone, when you are in the flow of that practice, when the neural circuitry is firing, and as a specific set of connections and focus become apparent.
The benefit of operating inside the aerobic flow zone is that you enjoy momentous focus (which is different than the habitual attention span) that shuts out the noise. By implementing the learning without delay, you will be able to recreate it at will in the future.
I see many people who plan their work and then plan the planning. For large and complex project, some degree of planning is justified. But most of the preparation simply represents a delay tactic in which the delay itself creates new work.
Delay aborts the learning cycle and serves as an alibi for not changing. It creates an excuse, such as this was not an effective approach, or the project could not be implemented due to a fatal flaw. The antidote to delay is to immediately implement the learning and teach it to others, thereby committing to, and taking ownership of, the learned approach and practice.
Socrates offered that "the unexamined life is not worth living." I double down on that edict with my own: "a life that applies no learning is devoid of the joy of progress." Every day we face choice points about learning. Which do you love more: maintaining the comfort of the status quo by repeating old, ineffective habits, or creating better performance and results by stepping outside your comfort zone?
Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Eliminate delay tactics. When you experience delay excuses, cut through them by immediately implementing the new learning. You get the best results when you shrink the 72-hour rule to 72 minutes and take action now.