Minimum Effective Dose

Bill Gates said:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

I am not so sure about the virtues of being lazy, but I am all for finding the easiest ways to get things done.

Minimum Effective Dose

The more you do something the better you get. Therefore it makes sense to do things as much as possible. This is true of magic tricks, this is true of juggling, this is true of most business tasks.

The less time, energy and resources it takes to do something, the more often you will be able to do it. Therefore it makes sense to work out how little you can get away with while still doing something properly.

This is the concept of Minimum Effective Dose (MED), a term borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry.

Any More is a Waste

You may wish to take vitamin C supplements to boost your immune system. Up to a point, this will increase the level of vitamin C in your system and you will benefit from it. However, beyond a certain point you will have absorbed as much vitamin C as you can for the day. Any extra that you take will merely end up going down the toilet! You will have exceeded the MED.

At sea level, water needs to be heated to 100 Celsius to boil. You can add more heat after that, but it is a waste of time and energy. It won’t be any more boiling.

Efficient Circus

As part of my entertainment offering I run circus skills workshops at children’s parties. Juggling, plate spinning, diabolo. And that’s it. Maybe occasionally some poi twirling. I know other entertainers who run much bigger circus skills workshops for corporate fun and training days. They involve tightrope, unicycling and walking on stilts. Much bigger props. 

Why have I gone simple and small?

Well, my aim at a kids party is to get maximum participation, maximum engagement and maximum opportunities for parents to take photos. I have found that I can get all the kids and many of the parents involved and smiling with lots of colourful props flying around with only juggling balls and scarves, diabolos and spinning plates. 

The beauty is that I can carry all this in three shoulder bags. I can wheel my show case in at the same time. Only one trip to the car. Why do more? Big props would need me to have a van, take multiple loading trips and carry more injury risk. No, thank you. I don’t need all that to meet my objectives.

I have discovered the Minimum Effective Dose.

How much is “Effective”?

When do you go minimum and when not? The key is in the word “effective”.

If your aim is to be the best athlete there is, then there is no minimum level of fitness to achieve this.

If your aim is to be a recognised expert in your field then there is no limit to the amount of study and preparation that you need to do.

If you are building a bridge, you don’t build it so that it is only just strong enough, you engineer in a hefty safety factor.

However, given such exceptions, with most things you do not need to achieve 100% every time. If 70% will achieve the desired or expected result then go for that and then do it again. Achieving the extra 30% will take extra time, effort and resources that could be used to repeat the exercise, thus building more results, experience and expertise.

Perfection is rarely required for effectiveness.


As an example, think about how you respond to enquires: 

  • You could spend a lot of time getting to speak to the enquirer on the phone, having a lengthy phone call, transcribing what they say.
  • You could respond by email, typing everything out longhand.
  • Or you could use an email template, warmed up with a little personalisation.

How much would the prospect notice the difference? In many cases, not much, if at all. But the template approach could save you hours. Minimum effort, but still effective.

Consider Your Dosing

Have a look at your processes and business activities, Are you exceeding the MED anywhere?

Once the water is boiling, use the heat source to do something else.

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