Thinking about making a New Year’s resolution that will really make a difference? In 2020, commit to taking on fewer things but doing them better.
Consider making your 2020 resolution about doing fewer things, but doing each one better.
More is more, except when it’s not. Americans have a tendency to stuff 50 pounds into a five-pound bag. Our “more is more” culture feels like it’s an advantage, so we work more to do more to work more. If you’re an entrepreneur, this extreme version of multitasking is part of the ethos that unites us all. We even took a word that had no plural until the 1940s — priority — and added an “-ies” to it in order to communicate our obsession with more.
But is doing more really the road to accomplishing more?
The book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less essentially espouses the virtue of doing less, better. Author Greg McKeown focuses on the need to decide upon the few things that should command your time and the need to say no to everything that will divert your focus. As author Steven Covey states, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” This may sound like a word salad, but consider just how difficult it is to stay focused on something really important in a world of fire drills, constant interruptions and multiple priorities (there’s that plural again) all pulling at you simultaneously.
If you are ready to achieve more by doing less, start by focusing on these four key changes to your regular routine.
1. Have the conviction of focus.
Take a step back for a moment and consider this: what are the top 15 things you want to accomplish next year? Getting all that done would mean a really great 2020, right?
Well, that’s not going to happen.
If you decided to really tackle that list, but went in with the realization that you would only accomplish half of the items and didn’t know going in which ones would get completed, what would the year ahead feel like then? How much time would you have spent on all those unfinished goals that would be left behind, time that you could have spent making the ones that got completed, better?
That’s the secret laid out in Essentialism. Imagine instead you picked the three absolute most important things from that list and you just focused on those. You got each thing not just done, but hit them out of the park. Imagine that year for a moment. In the end, doing less but doing it better is the more rewarding, productive and successful path.
But it takes some discipline to create that focused scenario.
2. Say no, nicely.
In helping people and for much of my life almost any request was met with a resounding “I’d love to.” Looking back, the impact on my effectiveness amidst all this willingness to help was pretty dramatic. Priorities often took a back seat and as a result, we often live in “just in time” mode in which every deliverable becomes equivalent to writing a term paper the night before it’s due. You can hand something in but rarely is it your best work.
So when you get a request, take the time to consider whether it fits into your goals, and whether it’s something you should take on. Say no far more than yes, but give a real reason why you can’t jump in.
We all have God-given talents and passions, and the more time you spend doing what you are not good at, the less time you spend on what you are great at and love doing. Surround yourself with people who possess skills you don’t, set clear expectations and measurements, then stand back and let them go.
4. Run to the danger.
How much energy and angst is spent trying so hard to avoid confrontation?
As Kim Scott discusses in her book Radical Candor, this tendency we all have toward what she calls “Ruinous Empathy” can have a devastating impact on a business. When something isn’t working, find the courage to put it on the table in a way that is both caring and constructive.
The only way to fix something is to actually fix it: confronting it, running toward it and working toward improvement. Doing it ourselves — the alternative so many of us entrepreneurs fall back on — is a solution that only leads to us doing more of what we are not good at, and less of what we do best.
Take stock in 2020 of all of those things that are pulling at your time. Decide to take control, prioritize the important, face your fears and follow your passions. All of that starts with making a conscious decision that this is the year you will do less, better.