Business (and the world in general) is getting more and more complicated all the time. It often feels like it’s too much and we all want to hide someplace clean and quiet. From a practical standpoint, if you want to get more done you need to start thinking about doing less. It’s not as counter-intuitive as it sounds. Because of the external (and often internal) complexity business owners face, it’s easy to fall into a situation where you feel like you have to be doing a hundred different things every single day just to keep up.
At that point, feeling overwhelmed and become less productive is right around the corner.
The alternative? Start doing less. This isn’t a new idea – in fact I wrote about Doing Less almost 3 years ago. Things are even more complex today but there are some new resources that can help you navigate becoming more productive by doing less.
Specifically you should check out The Power of Less a book by Leo Babauta. Leo is also the author of Zen Habits, a blog on simplicity, focus and creating a different kind of life. Leo’s an interesting story (you can learn a lot more on the blog) – I don’t think most of us can completely embrace the life that he’s built for himself, but I definitely think everyone can benefit from his ideas.
Here are 3 key ideas that business owners should embrace from The Power of Less:
Set Limitations –> Choose the Essential
I guess that’s actually 2 ideas, but they are really 2 sides of the same coin. The idea is simple in theory, but it can be very challenging in practice. If you want to be more effective and you have limited resources, then you need to set limitations on where you spend your time and efforts and focus only on what’s essential for success.
There are a lot of implications here – first of all, do you know what success looks like? If not, it’s pretty hard to narrow down what’s most likely to get you there. Secondly even if you have a clear vision / destination it’s not always obvious what’s going to have the most impact on your success (what’s essential). And finally – in order for this to be useful, these limitations have to be solid…it’s not about setting soft priorities, it’s about dropping things that aren’t non-essential – brutally saying no to the less important.
If you can address all of those implications and narrow your focus down to a handful of things that will really make a difference in your progress, you will be amazed at how much you can get done (either as an individual or as a team)!
Develop new habits 1 at a time
Another strong insight out of The Power of Less is a process to help you adopt new habits…and habits are critical if you want to sustain effectiveness.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.- Watch your words, for they become actions.- Watch your actions, for they become habits.- Watch your habits, for they become character.- Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Charles Reade
The key (according to Babauta’s experience) is to only make 1 change, adopt 1 new habit at a time. Pick the change that you’re most excited about and only focus on that 1 thing for the next month. If your new personal focus is the idea to start exercising, find an exercise that you can do easily every day, make it easy and commit to it for a month to establish a habit. As an example he suggests starting with 5 to 10 minutes of walking a day and slowly ramping up from there.
The last key idea that I think business owners need to adopt is embracing simplicity. Is there an easier way to do routine tasks? What can you automate or outsource effectively? Often businesses do things a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done. With the advent of apps and technology there is likely a better alternative for a lot of the time consuming things you’re doing today.
Finally the easiest way to simplify is to get better at saying ‘No’. How many things are you spending time and energy on that you should be saying no to?
The Power of Less is a quick and easy read (as you might expect) and although it’s unlikely that many will completely embrace all of the ideas, business owners will pick up at least a few things that could make a big difference and help them get more of the right things done.
Have you purposely tried doing less? Have you read the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments – share them below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach
Photo courtesy of Monk – USA Network