I try to remember this quote every time I am thinking about starting something new, buying something, or signing up for something. This quote is a reminder that the best way for me to increase my efficiency is to limit what I do, what I have, or what I participate in. When we start a hundred projects, buy another material object, or sign up to do something, we are adding more to a list, that if you are like most people, is already too long. What ends up happening is things are added to the list faster than they are taken off, resulting in a half-assed effort, or never even getting done. This is not the “height of cultivation.”
I remember when I first moved to this little town. I was working my day job 40 hours a week, my own business 25-30 hours a week, exercising 3x a week, coaching my son’s soccer team, going to school, and was the publicity guy for the Boy Scouts. “Look at the 5and2Guy. He does everything.” Well, what should have been said is, “The 5and2Guy does everything half-assed.” The problem was that I had so many things on my plate that I did everything mediocre at best. When I was actually working on something, I was pretty great at it. But when I switched to another project, the previous project was not really touched again until it was urgent. This resulted in a whole lot of reacting to things rather than planning things out and executing. The latter will take you farther in life, where the former will leave you looking like a half-whit. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do these things, I just could not do them all. My thought was that I could get involved in more things and have a positive impact, whereas in reality, I should have limited what I was doing, so that I could do those things very well.
The Efficiency Expert???
Another very recent example was just a few weeks ago. I have always called myself sort of an “efficiency expert”, but when I stepped back and looked at my life, I noticed that although I could help companies become more efficient, my own approach to life and work was very inefficient.
So, I read a couple books on minimalism and it pointed a few things out to me. All the things I had were either distracting me or taking too much time in maintenance. I decided it was time for some minimalism. I started with my office. I looked around and counted eight computers, only one of which was turned off, and six computer monitors. They are sitting there, collecting dust, requiring electricity, and software maintenance. When I stopped myself, set up some think time, I found that I only needed three computers. One for personal stuff, one for my day job, and one for my own business. I also found that I really only used one computer monitor, whereas I had six. I decided to remove the extraneous monitors and computers. Sure, it took me about four weeks to get everything down, moved, etc…, but I sit here today in an office that is more energy efficient, requires less maintenance, and has increased my work output simply by decreasing what I have and simplifying my work space.
I use to think having more computers and monitors looked cool and techie, whereas, at the end of the day, the simplicity of having exactly what I needed and nothing more, is what Bruce Lee was talking about.
A Small List Is Key
Another thing I noticed was by having less things to do, the more of it I could do. Basically, by not being distracted by a million things, I can do a small list of things very well and get a lot more done on those things. I use to think, “if I can be a jack of all trades, but a master of none” I would be able to get a job anywhere and do anything. I would be the guy who knows everything and the one everyone looked up to as the best computer geek around. The problem with that thinking is that I ended up knowing a little about a lot of things, and that does not really make you tons of money and can pretty much make you a cog in the big company wheel. Then, as I read a variety of success, business, and self improvement books, I understood that I should only pick a couple things and do them better than anybody. That was I should specialize, be an expert, and be paid more money to do such. This is what I have started doing and it’s paying off.
We have all heard it before, “You are spreading yourself too thin” or “You have too much on your plate.” This is often worn as a badge of honor, a symbol that you can do everything. I’m afraid that I learned the hard way and wasted so many years being inefficient and unfocused.
I challenge you to step back, look at your life, what you are doing, and what you have “on your plate.” Can you take Bruce Lee’s wisdom and apply it to not only simplify your life, but also to increase your efficiency? Can you focus on a few things in order to maximize your efforts and move forward faster, more efficiently in all aspects of your life?
Do what I did and take some time to reflect on everything you have and everything you do. Is it all needed or are you working too hard to maintain things that you really don’t need or really don’t matter?