Remember the good old college days when doing more was the norm. I am not talking about just more work – I am talking about doing more number of things. Half a dozen courses in a semester, multiple projects, assignments, sororities, fraternities, science club, that extra research work, volunteering for the local school – all this in addition to working part-time jobs to make ends meet. At any point of time, there were a dozen things that you had on your mind.
And it made sense. There was so much to learn and do. The only possible way was to do more. Some of it was mandated for you (by the college rules), the other a result of your passion and eagerness to learn. You wanted to get your hands in many pies. You liked to brag about all the stuff that you were juggling and doing well.
The same continued as you started your first job (even worse if you started up your own shop). Although work was more streamlined, specially if you joined a larger organization, but still as a newbie you wanted to do tidbits of everything from doing your work to helping others to volunteering to peeking to see how others do their jobs. Doing so much – and so diverse of it – made you feel cool. Your learning was on fast track.
And still it all made sense. After all, life still has a heap to offer and you just did not know enough. The only way to fill that gap was to do lots of things.
This do more approach worked well – until it stopped working anymore!
That is when you get to the point of diminishing returns.
When that point comes is different for different people – but it does come. And it is important to recognize it and course correct. While you have been on the “do more” bandwagon forever, its time to hop on the “do less” one. This does not mean getting lazy, relaxing or doing less work – its just that you need to do fewer number of things as you move up the career path. While you continue to learn for life, the primary focus of your professional journey has shifted from learning to contributing.
Focus and prioritization become the key attributes for senior managers and executives. You need to reduce the number of things you do to a minimum – essentially those things that only you can do and what your organization needs. The rest need to be delegated, automated or simply eliminated. The biggest bane for managers and executives is that they miss this change point in their careers and continue to do everything – and simply stay ineffective.
And this doing less is not what you do on a day-to-day basis. Its what you do in the bigger scheme of things – in a quarterly, yearly or a job span timeframe.
As Drucker said that an effective executive only does one or maximum two things well. Three becomes a circus act.