The Logarithmic Framework for Building Things

Let’s dust off what’s left of high school math, shall we?

Logarithms. Remember such a thing?

A logarithm is the power to which a number must be raised in order to get some other number.

Source: University of Minnesota

Log10 (1) = 0
Log10 (10) = 1
Log10 (100) = 2
Log10 (1000) = 3

Log2 (1) = 0
Log2 (2) = 1
Log2 (4) = 2
Log2 (8) = 3
Log2 (16) = 4
Log2 (32) = 5
Log2 (64) = 6

The biggest obstacles beginners face when starting new projects

Nothing killed more projects than focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time.

Let’s say you want to start a business.

You go online and start watching YouTube videos, reading articles, reading biographies, and listening to interviews of people who’ve made it. 

They talk about business plans, building systems, hiring the right people, finding the right strategy, navigating product-market fit, setting up bookkeeping software, optimizing for taxes, etc.

These are good things… for when you make thousands of sales per day.

When you are just starting out, you need to have the knowledge to make your first sale. And the knowledge you need to have is not about hiring the right people, creating a great user interface, or creating a mission statement.

People listen to these interviews and assume that they need to have all these things figured out before they can make their first sale. This is simply not true. You won’t need to have all these things till you hit the levels of the people giving you this advice.

The same rule applies to other areas of your life.

Let’s say you want to start running.

The things and knowledge you need to complete your first run are minimal. You just need to find a pair of any running shoes, go outside, put some music in your ears, and just run. You don’t need to know the perfect running technique, have the latest Nike running shoes, and sign up for a paid tracking app. You don’t need to have the tools to measure your speed, distance, and heart rate. You don’t need to watch hundreds of YouTube videos just to have your first run.

Applying the logarithmic framework to building things

Let’s take logarithms to the base of 10 as our guiding principle to illustrate how the logarithmic framework works.

Log10 (1) = 0
Log10 (10) = 1
Log10 (100) = 2
Log10 (1000) = 3

logarithmic framework with basis of 10

Step 1 – getting to your first ____ (client/project/run/home-cooked meal/date/etc.)

First, focus on doing everything you can to get your first client. Just focus on that. None of the systems will be scalable. No color-coded calendars. No Zapier automations. No email sequences. No viral TikTok videos. Not even a website in some cases.

Single-mindedly focus on just getting that first client. That’s your goal. Ignore automation, enhancements, optimization, perfect tools, paid ads, etc. Don’t waste your precious time and mental space learning about these things yet.


My husband and I run a seasonal equipment rental business in Ontario, Canada. When I started, I asked myself, “What do I need to have in place to make just 1 sale?” (not 10, 100, or 1000). Just. One. Sale.

I figured I needed to:

  1. Make people aware of my offer
  2. Have a place for them to book and pay for their rental

I didn’t even have to have the equipment bought to make the first sale. I could buy it after a customer placed an order.

I utilized Shopify to build a simple website that allowed people to book and pay for their reservations. I posted my offer on free platforms such as Kijiji (Canadian Craigslist) and Facebook Marketplace. I didn’t have to pay a dime for that.

This was done in less than a sprint. I had my first sale a few days after.

I could’ve spent time and money buying all the equipment first, hiring a website designer, paying for Facebook and Google ads, creating automated email sequences, etc. But this is not needed on the logarithmic level of the first sale. 

Consume information and do the things needed ONLY for your current logarithmic level. This will guarantee speed. This will prevent overwhelm.


Step 2 – getting to your first 10 ____ (clients/projects/runs/home-cooked meals/dates/etc.)

Once you get your first sale, implement the systems to get the first 10 clients. Again, none of the systems will be scalable. When I launched Monthly Method, I worked with one-on-one clients for a highly discounted price. A lot of them stayed and became paying customers. This is not scalable. It takes a lot of time and work, but back then I just wanted to unlock that 10-client milestone.

Don’t even think about 100s of clients and thousands of dollars at this stage. Just focus on getting 10 clients.

Consume just-in-time information vs. just-in-case information. Most of the information you are getting from business influencers is NOT applicable to your situation right now. Just focus focus focus on your current logarithmic level. Is it 1, 10, 100, or 1000 sales?


Step 2 – getting to your first 100 ____ (clients/projects/runs/home-cooked meals/dates/etc.)

Once you mastered the level of “10 clients”, only then move to implementing systems to get 100 clients.

Now we can finally talk about investing in automation, hiring people, and doing all the other big-boy stuff.

Try binary logarithms

If the multiplier of 10 is too much, try the multiplier of 2. This works great with weight loss or any other slower-moving projects.

Log2 (1) = 0
Log2 (2) = 1
Log2 (4) = 2
Log2 (8) = 3
Log2 (16) = 4
Log2 (32) = 5
Log2 (64) = 6

binary logarithmic framework

  1. What do you need to do to get your first ____? (e.g., lose the first pound)
  2. What do you need to do to get your first two ____? (e.g., lose 2 pounds)
  3. What do you need to do to get your first four ____? (e.g., lose 4 pounds)
  4. What do you need to do to get your first eight ____? (e.g., lose 8 pounds)
  5. What do you need to do to get your first sixteen ____? (e.g., lose 16 pounds)
  6. Etc.

Overwhelm & analysis paralysis

This logarithmic framework when used in combination with Agile is the simplest and most effective tool to avoid overwhelm and confusion.

You put a mental boundary for how far you can go in your anxiety, overwhelm, and analysis paralysis. There is not much to stress about when you only need to make 1 sale, lose 1 pound, or get 1 job interview. All of a sudden, the whole adventure doesn’t seem so daunting and confusing.

You have much more confidence that you can unlock this first level, so you are more likely to actually start doing things.

Confusion brings procrastination.
Clarity brings action.

Once you unlock the first logarithmic level, you get enough knowledge to make you confident that you can unlock the second level.

It will save your money

The logarithmic framework guarantees that you only focus on the essentials and nothing else.

You won’t sign up for a bunch of paid apps and automation before it’s truly needed.
You won’t buy too much inventory “just in case we run out”.
You won’t spend money on business cards, office rent, or social media manager till it’s the right time to do so.
You won’t invest in a bunch of gym equipment you have no use for.

You won’t fall for marketing baits of an imaginary future where you live a perfect life.

With the logarithmic framework, you set a clear boundary for your spending. There is no way you can justify building a 10k website when you just need to make 1 sale. In most cases, you can make this first sale utilizing online marketplaces without even having a website.

Treat it as a video game

When you play a video game, you treat it one level at a time, don’t you?

You know that you just need to pass this one level and then the next level will be unlocked.

It will have its own challenges but you will also get more experience and tools to fight that level.

When you start a new game, you don’t get paralyzed about what would happen at level 10 and how you would play it.

You simply jump into your first level and start overcoming obstacles presented at that level. Then you focus on the second level. Then the third.

Treat the project you are working the same way. Focus on your current level and rest assured that you will gain enough knowledge, skills and resources to unlock future levels when the time comes.

When Shopify’s President accidentally confirmed the logarithmic framework

The first startup I worked for was in Ottawa, the hometown of Shopify. We once had Harley Finkelstein give a talk in our office (that used to be a Shopify’s office a few years prior). We were at about 20 people at this stage and going through a lot of change.

There is one thing that stuck with me over the years and influenced the development of this logarithmic framework.

He said, don’t get attached to the rules and systems you currently have at your company. You will have to change how you do everything every time you double in size. Just get used to it. 

When it’s just you, you have certain rules and systems in place to get things done.

When you bring in your first employee, you double your company in size. You now have to change how you do things. Suddenly, you need to work on your communication, right things down that you used to keep in your head, have meetings, etc.

When you hit 4-5 people mark, you have to change things once again.

And it happens every single time you double in size. However, a lot of startup employees get frustrated by having to change how they do things. “It worked perfectly fine before.”. Yes, but you were a different-sized company. You were at a different logarithmic level.


Logarithmic Framework & Agile

The reason why I’m such a big fan of this framework is that it fits perfectly with the Agile sprint planning methodology, my preferred productivity method.

A 3-week sprint is a perfect amount of time to implement systems in place to unlock the first level. Even the second level.

Yes, you can have your first sale/job interview/date/workout/trip/etc. within a 3-week period. (I teach a step-by-step system for planning and running your personal agile sprints here.)

Even if we look at the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (“The Bible” of Agile), we see how ignoring the things not needed at the moment is at its core:

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

One of the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

The step-by-step logarithmic framework

To summarize, pick a logarithmic base (2 or 10) and use it to define your step-by-step plan for building a business/workout routine/healthy diet/dating life/etc.

logarithmic framework

I recommend using Agile to execute these plans. Because ideas are cheap, execution is everything. And Agile is the fastest, most practical framework for shipping tangible results every 3 weeks.

You might enjoy this:
  1. How to be consistent. The Rule of 10. 
  2. Don’t break the chain rule with Agile twist.
  3. Mind trick for starting new habits and building consistency.
  4. The Happy Path Concept.
  5. The one-way to-do list.

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