Welcome friends to Episode #96 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. The trap we all run into as we start to take more ownership of our lives and careers is the doing syndrome. We work more and do more so that we can have and own more. Yet, there is a ceiling to this more in the sense of time. We start realizing that we can’t add more hours to our day so then we have to choose. What do we want to spend our time doing? How can we still have more impact when we have less time? Today’s podcast is on that very topic – how to do less but more as a leader.
The myth of working harder
The climb of the achievement ladder often looks like this. Start somewhere, anywhere. Do whatever is given to you and asked of you. Say yes to everything and the doors keep opening up. Whatever happens, just keep working. Work more than the people around you. Keep your head down and at some point you’ll look up and see that you’ve left people in the dust because other people just don’t have that same work ethic as you.
You realize that this work ethic is a positive attribute so you keep working hard. What happens though when you are getting more and more requests and responsibilities? Can we just work harder? Many people do. They rob time from their health, families, personal lives and their future to pay for the now. They believe they don’t need as much sleep as other people. I know because I’ve done this.
Working harder doesn’t always produce better results.
At some point, you suddenly look up and you realize that you not only left other people behind who don’t have the same work ethic as you at work, but you’ve also left parts of yourself and people you love or could love behind. You’ve missed out on life.
This is when you start to realize that you can’t just work harder, you have to work smarter. You’re not lazy, you have to be efficient and intelligent.
But this is not as easy as it seems. Many of you will tell yourself that you are really efficient and intelligent because you have got so many systems in place and your personal life is running so well, but you feel like you’re always behind.
You feel like you’re still missing out on something so you just try to do the same things faster.
The pace quickens in our lives and we suddenly feel like we’re caught in a trap of our own creation. Constantly moving from one thing to another in the fear of missing out on something. Of not giving yourself as many options or opportunities to achieve your goals.
This is where you will be the most challenged.
In order to do less, you have to do less. Something goes. This is true prioritization. The willingness to miss out and say no.
The hardest thing about prioritizing
We hate missing out. The hardest thing about prioritizing is realizing that at some point, you’ll have to say no to someone or something. We think we’re losing something from the opportunities that are given to us and that it would show that we’re ungrateful, but everyone has a full life and 24 hours. Everyone has the same amount of time and if we’re not intentional about how we use that time, we’re going to only do what is given to us in that time.
For many people, it’s work. Work is given to us. Work bleeds into everything. If they’re not at work, they’re thinking about work. They say to me, “May, I can’t stop thinking about all the things that have to be done even when I’m not working.” Or, it’s “Even when I’m working on one thing, I’m not really present because I’m thinking about the next thing I need to do or all the other things that have to be done.”
They keep working and believe that once I “fill in the blank”, I’ll take it easy. There’s a difference between work ethic that’s required to achieve a dream and the constant feeling that perhaps it’s never going to be enough.
When I work with clients, I take them beyond the limits of their current imagination to see that there is no “there”. You only hustle and work super hard because you think “there” will be better.
But true presence is what is required to be more intelligent and to create big ideas that will change everything for you and the people around you. True presence doesn’t exist when you’re frenetic, rushed and trying to prove something to yourself and other people.
I work with clients to have a #1 goal and that is often the toughest part for them. To let other things fall to #2.
How to prioritize if things keep changing
But what happens when things change. Priorities are great, but what happens when our priorities constantly change? I get this question all the time. The real question is how are you thinking about your priorities? Are they so specific and dependent upon the context of the environment that you are in, that they can change so easily? If so, we’re not thinking about priorities in the most effective way.
Instead of blaming that things keep changing in the outside world on your lack of prioritization, we look at what is within your control and doable no matter what. The ability to craft priorities and goals that can withstand a changing environment is critical because it means that we can alter the way we get there, but we still don’t have to change the priority. All the energy, work and focus still counts and adds up. You achieve the goal more quickly and you learn how to trust that even if you’re working on one thing first, you will eventually be able to focus on that next big goal and achieve that as well.
How to actually say no
That feeling of saying no is often uncomfortable. It takes courage to change the course of the way that you’ve been working to say no. Yet, you don’t have a problem saying no when you know it’s the right thing to do. The idea of doing less but more is that you are confident that the less is the right thing to do. You’re confident that if you can focus your efforts on this one thing right now for long enough, you can make a difference whether it’s to your health, wealth or relationships. If you’re someone who is empathetic to others, it might feel challenging to feel that someone else suffers because of you, but the fallacy is that we think this quick fix of working harder right now and saying yes to all the things is going to be sustainable.
It’s honest and truthful to state what is really going on. Whether something is really sustainable. It doesn’t mean that you lack the work ethic as a leader. It means that you have a grounded sense of how to manage the resources you have, wisely.
Big dreamers and practical realists often feel this conflict and tension. How can we get the big dreams and goals off the ground as big dreamers if the practical realists are pushing back? Or vice versa. How can we achieve these big goals and dreams without taking into account the realities of the current situation and what is likely to happen in the future as a result of these impractical decisions?
We need both sides of the conversation to come to a “no” that makes sense. We often want to avoid this conflict so we don’t say “no” but it’s more helpful to have the conversations. What does someone really need? What makes sense? Why are we trying to do this in the first place? Why is this other priority more important? These conversations will elicit priorities and reaffirm priorities. If we never hold boundaries, they don’t exist. It’s not other people’s fault for continuing to ask you and your teams to do more. It’s yours for not letting them know the answer is “no” or “not yet”.
Being willing to have a conversation where you say “no” is that first step to actually saying “no”. Maybe it ends with a compromise or a “not yet” but at least your position and reasoning becomes clear, not just to the other party – but to you as well.
In summary, living your life with a focus on what matters most is what doing less but more is about. As a leader, you are being asked to do what is harder for others to do. Solve these kinds of problems such as resource management and goal attainment. This is why you are here and whether you realize it or not, will be why you are successful.
If you’re struggling to do less but more, want to learn more about these topics, and how you can experience this in your own life, schedule a free coaching consultation today.
No matter what success means to you, coaching will help you get there faster and more sustainably. We work towards results in every area of your life. Time management – spending more time on what’s most important. Creating a mix of work and personal life that is sustainable. Career and Business – deciding what you want next and how to achieve it – whether it is more flexibility, purpose or deciding to start your own business. Energy management – improving your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health so you build confidence in designing your own life. If you’ve got some changes you want support in thinking through, book your free consultation at www.mayempson.com/contact today.