01 May How to Get More in Your Career By Doing Less
As an entrepreneur, focus is everything. In the past, I have certainly suffered from “say yes to everything” syndrome. I was overworked and underfocused. Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with fellow LinkedIn influencer and author Greg McKeown, whose new book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, stresses the importance of focus in business and in life.
Here’s my exclusive interview with Greg – on getting more, by doing less.
Dave: In a nutshell, what is essentialism and why is it essential to LinkedIn readers?
Greg: This is best answered with a story. An executive I interviewed for the book was trying to be a good citizen and saying yes to everything. He found his frustration going up and the quality of his work going down. So he tried an experiment: focus on those few essentials where he could contribute at the highest levels. Eliminate everything else he could. What he found was his performance reviews went up! He ended the year with one of the highest bonuses of his career. As an added benefit, he got his life back at home. He ate dinner with his wife. He went to the gym. This is essentialism.
Dave: What are three pitfalls to avoid in becoming an essentialist?
Greg: First, the number one mistake I see capable people make when they want to change something is trying to go big with it. These efforts inevitably fail because they are unsustainable. My view is that to become an essentialist means making tiny adjustments in the things we do often. So
Change something small in your daily routine.”
Second, it’s easy to oversimplify the message in essentialism and think it’s just about saying no. It’s not. It’s about saying no to the nonessential so you can say yes to the essential. It’s about designing our lives and careers around what is essential and meaningful.
Third, trying to do this alone. To accelerate our journey to become an essentialist we need to take the journey with someone else. Read the book together with someone so you can encourage each other and celebrate small wins.
Dave: Give me an example of someone who accomplishes more by doing less?
Greg: We’ve been conned into believing that top performers try to do it all. One example of this is the idea that, “Successful people sleep four hours a night.” What I have found in my research is that highly successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.
In K. Anders Ericsson’s famous study of violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as the “10,000 hour rule,” Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. What is less well known is that the second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good ones was actually sleep. The best violinists averaged 8.6 hours of sleep in every 24-hour period.
Dave: Ha, I only sleep 4-5 hours /night myself. Maybe I should get more sleep. What’s the most surprising thing you found in researching and writing your book?
Greg: Essentialism is more than a coping mechanism for the mad, mad world we live in. It is more than a strategy for survival. It can be those things but it is more than that. It has the power to supercharge our lives and our careers and enable us to break through to the next level of contribution.
Dave: Anything else you’d like to add?
Greg: I was once asked what the one thing is I would never spend time doing. The answer is “Listen to The Stones.” I am a Beatles man to the core!
Now it’s your turn. Are you saying yes to too much? How can you simplify your career and your life? Please share your thoughts in the Comments sections below!