First time someone told me ‘less is more’, I was a kid, and it was a friend of my parents explaining why having myself covered with many fake rings, bracelets and collars was not a good idea: ‘nothing shines if you don’t make the space’.
Some years later, at the office, a guy simply had this motto as his signature for corporate emails. It was a kind of compass to reflect his way of working: focused on what really mattered.
Last year, I read a book ‘Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less’ by Greg McKeown. Again that ‘less is more’ in terms of objectives, business and consciousness: ‘you cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything’, he wrote.
I must confess I’m truly in the disciplined pursuit of less. In my journey I have discovered some insightful things that can be helpful in the conscious development of leadership. This is what I’ve learned.
Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting! – White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865).
Time is, probably, the only thing we have all the same, 24 hours a day to waste or invest. How you manage it will determine what you can achieve. And, making the space in your diary is mainly about discarding what shouldn’t be there; as usually said: don’t tell me about your priorities, show me your diary.
Same way when I was a kid, and I was playing with my fake jewellery, the question is ‘what do I really want to shine?’ It will shine what has my energy and my time invest in it. As I very soon discovered, making room for what matters imply saying no to many other things (even some that I really liked but were out of focus).
I can only do that if I’m clear about what is important; therefore, I made myself a kind of compass based on my priorities: three ordered-by-importance conditions to meet for something to have a place in my diary.
Therefore, making decisions about what to do or what not to do is key and so is planning. It helps me to not going through the decision-making process again (at least, not daily basis).
Of course, this is not a 100%-proved-against-wrongs method and at times, I need to just abandon something that is not worth at all after start working on it. This takes me to the next lesson.
A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How a nice game of chess? – Joshua (WarGames, 1983).
Failing to accurate assess a work’s importance, scope and implications is part of the learning’s game. Sometimes, after a time working on something, this becomes a dead-end. Or simply, I realized it’s not aligned with my priorities, although it seemed to be; just out of focus. It’s time to quit.
Quitting something is difficult but necessary. That’s why I go into a periodical review of what I’m doing: to adjust. This includes not only quitting what is not working for me but also reframing things to work better. And again, this reframing has to meet my three former said conditions.
Going through all this feels tired at the beginning and entropy tended to win.
Hakuna matata – Timon and Pumbaa (The lion king, 1994).
The great lesson behind this Swahili language phrase is that tomorrow will be another opportunity to do better. Understanding that I can fail today and try again tomorrow expands my consciousness, therefore my resources. At the end of the day, there are a few things that really matter, and we tend to overestimate the importance of almost everything.
By permitting me to fail, I fail less in the sense that it is less important. What really matters is the decision-making process and the ability to review, stop and reframe if something is not good enough.
And these are the main leadership lessons I’ve learnt from this conscious searching for focus: your time reflects your priorities, quitting and reframing are as important as working on something, give yourself permission to fail without remorse, so you can improve.