Earlier this year I read a great book – Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. And it clarified my thoughts on an idea that has been dancing around the edges of my mind.
I like to do many things. In varsity, I did so many different things…taught dance school, involved in church activities, led cell group, designed on the side, attended classes, had a social life, etc, etc.
I liked doing many things because I liked the rush of being busy and trying to cram a thousand things into an impossible space of time.
Over time, some things fell away and I became more focused. My life was centred around designing and trying to make a living from that. For the past few years, I have been very undisciplined with my work. I would take on as many jobs as came my way, while trying to work on my personal ideas and projects. The price of this indiscipline was I was always frantic and at the mercy of my clients, and email. I burned out regularly as evidenced by my blog posts around mid year, every year. I never had the chance to slow percolate ideas and projects the way I really wanted to.
Last year however, I had the experience of being able to work on one project for months, building it from the ground up and designing multiple collateral for the idea. It was a nice change of pace from trying to fit 10 things into a month of time. I liked it, the pace of work was both challenging and easier. Challenging because it takes discipline to work in this way…pushing past resistance and fighting distraction. Easier because I didn’t feel so frantic and rushed. Better because my quality of work was higher.
As the third month of the year begins and we continue to plow through, I want to make great impact this year. I recognize that that means working on the right things. But you can only know what the right things are if you know what you truly want and what is important to you. Then you can identify what paths of action would take you there. You can sacrifice short term gain for the long term goal, and move steadily towards your aims. But this way of doing things is not always natural and is something we must develop a discipline in. You have to decide where your greatest level of contribution is, and where the greatest need is and where the two intersect. Eventually, you can do less and achieve a lot more, because the essential few things have a great pay off.
Having many options and opportunities is a blessing and a curse. Its great to be able to explore all these possibilities, but at some point, you have to close off some doors and focus on the essential few. Otherwise, your energy will be scattered in too many directions and you will not make any impact.
Focus on the essential few.