How to get more reward, for less effort
"Hard work brings results", "No strain no gain", "To get success you need to put the graft in"
Sound familiar? It's a commonly held view that to achieve your goals you need to put the hours in, that successful people relentlessly push themselves to get to the top.
But there’s a reason more and more people are experiencing burnout. There’s a reason more and more people are feeling less connected to the people they love. There’s a reason more and more people are lacking energy and focus.
Well in reality, it’s a myriad of reasons, but at the heart of them is a societal celebration of long hours and hard slogs.
What if there was another way? What if you could achieve your goals with less effort?
The new book from Greg McKeown has been a real eye opener for us this year.
Effortless is all about ‘making it easier to do what matters most’. McKeown rejects ‘hustle culture’ and believes there is an antidote to long hours, no sleep, and high stress. And that antidote is to do things smarter. To structure your work to make the most essential activities the easiest ones to achieve.
At the heart of achieving this is what McKeown calls ‘Effortless Action’. It’s a way to stop procrastinating and overthinking, to make progress by pacing yourself, and to overachieve without overexerting.
These are McKeown’s golden rules for Effortless Action:
Define – To get started on an essential project, first define what “done” looks like. Establish clear conditions for completion, get there, then stop. Take sixty seconds to focus on your desired outcome. Write a “Done for the Day” list. Limit it to items that would constitute meaningful progress.
Start – Make the first action the most obvious one. Break the first obvious action down into the tiniest, concrete step. Then name it. Gain maximum learning from minimal viable effort. Start with a ten-minute microburst of focused activity to boost motivation and energy.
Simplify – To simplify the process, don’t simplify the steps: simply remove them. Recognise that not everything requires you to go the extra mile. Maximise the steps not taken. Measure progress in the tiniest of increments.
Progress – When you start a project, start with rubbish. Adopt a “zero-draft” approach and just put some words, any words, on the page. Fail cheaply: make learning-sized mistakes. Protect your progress from the harsh critic in your head.
Pace – Set an effortless pace: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Reject the false economy of “powering through.” Create the right range: I will never do less than X, never more than Y. Recognise that not all progress is created equal.
No one needs a burned-out leader
As leaders it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘showing up’, of always being ‘on’, to support your team and to lead by example. But a leader that’s overwhelmed, lacking focus, and stressed is in no position to lead. However, a leader that is rested, present, and focused on what’s important is the example every team needs.
Getting ahead doesn’t have to be a struggle. Pushing yourself isn’t a badge of honour. The new year is a great opportunity to assess how you’re spending your time and if you’re putting your focus on things that matter the most. Try your hand at some Effortless Action and see if you can achieve more, by toiling less.