The biggest reason people have hired me in the past is to help them do more.
“We need to be bigger”
“We need to be faster.”
“We need to get MORE done.”
Of course, the secret to doing more, whether it’s your business or your personal life, is right in front of each of us.
It’s strange because as soon as I say it, every client I’ve ever had always lets out a huge groan.
I say: “We can do more, but we can’t talk about that yet.”
Then they say, “What? Why not? That’s the whole reason you’re here.”
And then, I say there are 3 ways to get more done:
- You can pick things to do that are easier or take less time.
- You can hire more people to do the work.
- Or we can talk about all the work we’re NOT going to do.
It’s always that third one that is the hardest to digest.
But why is it so hard to eliminate things from your to-do list?
I’ve found that there are 3 main reasons why we choose to ignore this obvious problem.
- The “It’s my baby” syndrome
- “I have no time to think about that”
- You just gave me 2 ways to get more done without subtracting work
Let’s break these down one-by-one.
Number 1. It’s my baby.
I can’t let go. It’s beautiful even if you tell me it’s ugly. Can’t you see I have an emotional connection with this baby? I’ve invested in this baby and I’m never giving up.
Guess what? While that might be the ethical and logical move for a literal baby, it’s a dangerous mindset for a project.
After Johnson and Johnson became successful developing medical products, they got so big that they started buying up companies who could move faster and produce higher quality products than they could. It meant that JNJ became an investor. One of the reasons JNJ is so successful today is because of how clearly they can look at the market and make the decision to buy or sell.
This means they’re not afraid to kill a business they just bought for $50 million if the market tells them to turn around. This is hard! It actually comes from a strange psychological effect in the brain called “the sunk cost fallacy.”
It means after we’ve invested in something, even just a little bit, we’re more likely to stick with it until the end instead of dropping it and starting new.
Here’s a simpler, real-world example:
“Finish your dinner. There are starving people in the world.” Remember that? That’s another example. It doesn’t help those starving people to eat the food on your plate. By buying that food at the market, you’ve already made your economic impact. What you do after that has no impact (unless you store that food for later, presumably to avoid buying your next meal).
Number 2. I have no time to think about that.
I only have time to move forward. I only have time to develop new features. I only have time for the things that are generating profit, today. I only have time for what’s urgent and in my face right now.
We’ve all had days like these, or worked for a manager like this. I call it “Fire of the day” management style. Some of the symptoms include: feeling like you’re being pulled in a million directions, feeling like you’re always busy, feeling like you have a ton of things to do, and yet somehow, at the end of the day, you can’t really think of anything you got done. What did you actually do today? It felt like a lot, but can you write a list? Probably not.
When you are only reacting to whats in front of you, you are ignoring looming threats and you’re missing otherwise visible opportunities. When you are a slave to urgency, you have no control over what you’re doing. You’re just answering emails as they come in, picking up the phone when you get a call, and your pile of tasks never gets touched.
Number 3. You gave me 2 ways to get more done without eliminating work.
I’ll just hire more people. I’ll just work later. I’ll just ask more from my team.
It turns out that hiring more people can be more of a burden in the short term, as they learn the ropes of your processes. And it can actually be pretty miserable if you haven’t already taken the time to create clear protocols that are scalable.
Working later can solve short term problems, but won’t help you grow or sustain future stressors. I’ve worked 100 hour weeks. It’s awful. I didn’t expect the physical or emotional tolls it took. Plus, your ability to do high quality work during your first hour isn’t the same as the last hour. Making stupid mistakes can cost up to 3 times more work in the long run.
In the same way, asking more from your team can solve a short term problem, but sooner or later, your team is going to be fed up–even if you give them cash incentives.
So why eliminate any work at all?
It turns out that taking the time to work on tasks that don’t directly impact your project is a huge time and energy drain. Not just because you could be spending time on something that doesn’t help you move forward, but you could actually be building something that detracts from your work in the long term.
Taking time to define “WHY” you’re doing something will save you a lot of headache later. It just costs a little time, right now.
This is called intentionality. It’s called deliberating.
It’s easy to come up with a million ideas. It’s a lot harder to figure out what fits your mission, your brand, is profitable, is ethical, is helpful, and adds value or richness to life.
If we just take a little extra time to make sure what we’re doing is aligned with our true goal, but calibrating your work to your mission is critical.
And the first step is isolating all the work you’re doing that isn’t helpful, part of your main mission, or adding long-term value.
2 Minute Action
It’s too hard to write a list of things you should stop doing in 2 minutes.
Instead, I just want you to write down one thing that is costing you 80% of your energy/time/money and only giving you 20% of the benefits/profits/results in your life.
What would you do if you got that time back?
Would love to hear what you come up with in the comments.