How Doing Less is More

career growth strategies Mar 11, 2021

We've all heard that less is more, living simply is key but how many of us are actually doing it. We are all like an octopus with our hands in every pot. And if you look closely, nothing is really getting done.

As Latinas, we are great multi-taskers but as the saying goes "Jack of all trades, master of none." So, then why do we feel that by doing more we're doing more?

There's a variety of reasons WHY it feels like we're doing more, it partly has to do that we are doing more but not finishing anything at all.

We get into a cycle where we feel:

  • Busy all the time. "I don’t know what I did today but I was busy”
  • Exhausted & depleted daily. “I’m drained from being so busy.”
  • Like our mind is going nonstop. “I have so much to do and not enough time.”
  • Constantly on the go. “I need to pick up the kids, go to the store, cook dinner, help the kids with homework…”

Doing “more” is NOT always better. Multi-tasking certain tasks can lead to poor quality.

We can all think back to a time when we had a bad server at a restaurant. What made this server provide us with poor customer service? Instead of debating, the reasons why a server may provide us with bad service.

Let’s think about the last time we had great service. What was the difference? The server stop and focused their attention on you and your party at the table. They made sure to greet you, made you feel comfortable, like you were their only patron, and you didn’t feel rushed. You didn’t feel like the server were anxious to leave to get something else done.

Let’s continue on, and think about a pit for NASCAR do you think they value multi-taskers, or do they value someone’s expert skillset instead? Imagine, trying to multitask at a race, that would definitely not lead to Grand Touring win. They need pit workers that are laser-focused on what they are doing, so they can meet that 11.5-sec pit stop.

Multitasking leads to burnout and poor quality. What happens when your energy is spread through multiple activities at once, you give less than 100% of your focus to each. This can become a perpetual cycle that depletes your energy and can lead to more frustration since nothing seems to be getting done, though you feel busy all the time.

So, if the quality is so important why are we so focused on quantity? This goes back to the cave(wo)man days when survival relied on having plenty because there was no telling when the next food supply would come. More recently in our time, it is also a norm in a Latino household that our mothers were grand multitaskers. We were raised with our mamas doing everything at once; making dinner, cooking, rearing the kids, and all this after work. Something, that we may fail to see is that while our mamas were going to work, their work was most likely not like our work is now. As a professional, I am constantly learning, pivoting to keep up with the changing markets. What does this mean? This means that constantly having novel tasks at work leads to the inability to become fully proficient in these new tasks. Ok, in plain English? Our brains are drained by the end of the day, learning all these new skills, pivoting and handling our regular day-to-day work-related tasks, that doing it all like our mamas is just not that easy.

This can be seen in factories, each factory worker is focused on one step of the process. Each of these workers is focused on becoming efficient. The more time they do it, the more proficient they become, they begin to get in a flow-state. This flow state leads to be “in the zone.” This can only happen we have all of our focus on one thing at a time. This efficiency leads to getting more done at the end of the day.

Moving towards being laser-focused on activities that matter has many benefits:

  • You will have more pride in your results
  • You will have more fun as your creativity will get reignited with focus
  • It will lead to having less stress, as at the end of the day you will get more done
  • You will get in the “flow” more often as your brain moves towards an autopilot state

The “flow” is in the focus. If we focus on one thing at a time, not only will we get more done, we'll do it more proficiently. Being more proficient will allow us to become more efficient and get more done in less time. So how do we learn to do more in less time?
We need to learn how to manage our daily tasks.

Tasks to Autopilot
These are tasks that we can do in an autopilot state. These are tasks that you have done so many times that you can now do in your sleep. This will be different for everyone. Make a list of tasks that you can get done with multiple distractions going on. For example, for myself, this would be cleaning, driving, screening emails, and sorting tasks, to name a few. During those types of tasks, multi-tasking would be ok and would not reduce efficiency as proficiency has been reached in those skills.

Tasks to Curate
Proficiency can only be developed when we focused our attention on novel tasks. What trumps us up, is trying to get everything done at once, like someone who has more experience. When a task or skill is new to us, we need to focus all of our attention on that one task, to become proficient. By attempting to multitask we are slowing down our learning curve and lengthening the time it takes us to learn a new task. This reminds me of when my mom makes tortillas versus when I do, in the same amount of time that she can make a hundred tortillas I can only make about 25 if I’m lucky. This is why I don’t make tortillas, I don’t make them faster than we can eat them. But if I continue to practice I would become an expert too.

Take this information and apply it to your tasks to be able to do more in less time. What are two ways you focus on getting more done in less time? Have you tried any of the methods discussed?

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