I never realized I was doing it wrong for most of my life. It seemed obvious to me that you peeled a banana by pulling on the stem. Then one day, someone explained to me that there was a better way. I needed to start peeling a banana like the monkeys do.
It really is easier to peel a banana this way. My life will never be the same.
It’s this kind of AHA moment that has inspired me to slow down and try to do less. You see, I used to think that in order to be more effective, I needed to do more. I thought “more” was the path to “effective.” But that’s not true – “effective” is the path to “effective.” And in order to be effective, I need to do less.
I think anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit has a lot of good ideas. There’s a whole list of options, things we could try or experiment with. So instead of actually doing something, we dabble. When that happens, we spend a lot of energy in a lot of different areas. Soon, we are overwhelmed with our busyness.
If I’m going to be busy, I want to be busy doing the right things. For me, that means doing less things. I need to simplify. Here’s some of the thoughts I’ve encountered that have encouraged me to get better in this area.
1. Narrow your focus, broaden your appeal.
I learned this one from my friend Justin Foster. He is a branding genius. He has helped me pinpoint what my focus should be. At first it feels counter-intuitive. I thought I could influence and inspire the most people by expanding my focus. But that’s not what my target audience is looking for. They want me to go deep and get as specialized as I can.
2. The less you do, the more you accomplish.
This bit of wisdom came from Andy Stanley. He really helped me to understand how to operate in the area of my strengths. He encouraged me to get better in the stuff I’m already good at. If I spend most of my time trying to improve or prop up my weaknesses, I will slowly become average in almost everything I do. By doing less and getting really good with my strengths, I create space for others to get involved in the areas I’m weak in.
3. Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep.
This is a familiar proverb. I don’t want to be superficial in a lot of different areas. If I truly want to make a difference in the world, it will mean deciding what my purpose and passions are and going deep in those areas. There will always be things I need to give up in order to go deeper.
4. 80/20 principle.
Commonly known as the Pareto Principle, this idea reminds me that I need to spend most of my energy on the areas of my life that will produce the greatest return. If everything is important, than nothing is important. I need to figure out what my 20% is and spend 80% of my time and effort on those things.
5. I’d rather do four events that rank an eight than eight events that rank a four.
This is something I tell my student leaders every year. I want them to strive for excellence. This means that they’ll need to do less. Once again, there are all kinds of great ideas they could pursue and try to implement. But at some point, they end up living from event to event. They end up doing only what’s required in order to just get by. Doing less provides more space for creativity, engagement, and excitement.
Think about all that you’re involved in. Is there something you need to give up? Are you attempting to do too much? Are there fewer things you need to focus on with excellence?