Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing By Doing Less

Warren Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. For most ambitious people, we want to accomplish things. We are driven for results, doing more, learning things, getting promoted, and starting new ventures. Say yes to the few things that truly matter.

Steve Jobs agreed. It’s about focus.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. Jim Collins, famous author of the mega-bestseller Good to Great, once suggested that instead of to-do lists, we should make “stop-doing” lists.

  • They say no to opportunities and things that don’t excite them, speak to their values, or further their mission in life.
  • They say no to spending time with uninspiring, critical, or negative people who drag them down.
  • They say no to overworking. They aren’t workaholics who neglect self-care and family.
  • They say no to doing all the work. Aka D-E-L-E-G-A-T-I-O-N.

Take a leaf out of Buffet’s three-step rule of focus for success.

  1. Write down your top 25 goals.
  2. Circle the five most important goals.
  3. Then completely eliminate the other 20. Buffet says any effort invested in them steals away energy from your five highest-priority goals.

Be an Innovator of Work

When conducting a five-year survey of 5,000 manager, Wall Street Journal found that the common practice among highest-ranked performers was a mastering of selectivity. They applied intense, target efforts on those few priorities in order to excel. Hard work isn’t always the best work. The key is to work smarter. In their study, 24% of people blamed their inability to focus on bosses who set too many priorities. People who focused on a narrow scope of work, and said no to maintain that strategy, outperformed others who didn’t, by almost 25 percentage points.

The goal is to reoriente work around its actual value rather than internal goals. The best performers ask a crucial question before they draft their goals: What value can I create? What key benefits can I bring to customers and others? Redesign your work to make it smarter by confronting a “pain point.” While the best performers work hard (about 50 hours a week) they outperform and simplify in order to purse value. Be an innovator of work.