Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Regain focus, power, productivity by.... doing less?

I am constantly peeling back what I do. That's how I get a lot done.

The temptation, particularly in today's multitasking, social networking, all on all the time world is to have a zillion things going on all the time. It gives us a sense of value. "Look at all I am doing!" we say to ourselves and to the watching world. It gives us a sense of doing something, of measureing up because we are doing so much, because we have so much potential. The world looks in wonder at all that is happening on our lives and work.

But the thing is, that all that motion is mostly an illusion.

My experience, and my experience in working with others that I have come to know personally and professionally, is that too much multitasking has a lot of downside, both professionally and personally. In piling our life full of potential and so much to do, we have the illusion of action, purpose and value, but what is really happening. Here's my take, based on both experience, and watching others around me.

Doing too much, we dilute our focus, energy and quality. When we focus on one thing at a time, we tend to give that thing, that person, that conversation, 100% of our energy and talent. We simply do a better job. People we interact with feel valued. We become much better at what we do. The work we do gains quality by our focus on it because we have time to step back, look at what we have done, tweak it, gain that "ah-ha" moment.
Doing too much, we dilute our relationships. We've all see it - at trade shows where the salesman is talking to us, but whose eyes are constantly looking around the hall for the next person he is talking to, or with the person who is taking calls and texts as we try to have a conversation. We become distracted when we do too much, and those around us feel devalued. They can justify it with "he's so busy", but the thing is, as humans, we are wired to want to be valued. If we are not, we go elsewhere so we can be valued. And that is the story of every lost client, every lost relationship. Focus and time build relationships. Distraction and moments erode them.
Focus and simplicity brings results. My dad "retired" about 15 years ago. Only he didn't. He arranged to keep his top ten clients and only serve them. This cut his hours way down to a comfortable semi-retirement. But a funny thing happened. It also increased his income, because that focus and simplicity meant that his attention was not diluted. He served his clients better. I didn't wait until I retired to put this to work, and have consistently focused on a few clients to serve, often generating enough revenue (and income) in part time sales work to allow me to do other things for my company, such as manage operations, build marketing, and develop strategic planning. All while building real relationships.
Focus and simplicity reduce frustration. When there is a lot going on, it's often hard to see progress anywhere. Things fall through the cracks. You are always playing catch up. Life becomes full of pressures to keep all those plates spinning, and that pressure robs you of doing the work as well as you could, robs you of relationships and in the back of your head, you are always wondering what you missed, what isn't getting done.

I am not saying that we have to do only one thing until that thing is finished. I don't think that works, as nice as the idea may seem. In my case, I break my day into hours first thing in the morning. Every task gets at least an hour. And in that hour or two, unless an emergency hits, the task or person gets my undivided attention. No e-mail, facebook, linked in, phone calls, or twitter. At the end of the hour or two, I stop, do a quick check, and then on to the next task or person.

I have to be honest. Shifting to this way of working brought me a lot of stress at first. All I could think of what was what wasn't getting done, what the next thing was, who I needed to talk to, what was not happening. But I gave this change in working and living thirty days.

Guess what. Everything got done.

In fact, over that thirty days, MORE things got done. And it got done better. And I enjoyed it more. And I found relationships, both professional and personal grow deeper.


Now, the challenge is to not let the world undo the progress. because it will try. There is a propensity in today's world towards complication. But simplicity is powerful. You have to be purposeful in achieving it, but it is powerful, freeing and potentially, if you allow it to be, even profitable.

Want to learn more? Contact me. I'll give you some time and perhaps, just perhaps, I can help.


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