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Why Less Is More

STOP – why less is more

We are running an increasing number of skills courses right now.  We always seek to make these practical and useful as possible and there’s no better way than to get delegates to commit to an action plan at the end of the session.  Asking people to think about three things that they will do differently:

  • What will they STOP
  • What will they START
  • What will they CONTINUE

The most difficult of these is always the Stop!

Why is that?

Well, there is a reason – psychologists have found that we are all in some ways pre-programmed to always do more, not less.  It’s easier and feels more rewarding to have a go at something new – and that tends to be our default.

In recent research, people were asked to take part in a number of games to test this.  A simple challenge was presented, ranging from a Lego model that needed to be made more stable or a grid of shaded squares that needed to be made symmetrical. In both cases the ‘easiest’ solution was to take away bricks or shaded squares.  But the vast majority of people added.  Added more Lego bricks rather than the simpler solution to take just one brick away.  Shaded in more squares on the grid rather than rubbing out the shading on just a couple.  (For those interested see ‘Subtract – the untapped science of less’ by Leidy Klotz.)

So, we’re pre-programmed to do more.  But it’s not possible to constantly find more time in your day to always do more, to keep adding on the ‘To Do’s’ on your list – you really can’t do everything without risking burnout!  For me a good reminder here is that ‘todos’ is Spanish for ‘everything’!

So have a look at your ‘To Do’ list – do you really need to do everything on it!  What’s stopping you letting something go.

Three practical challenges are:

  1. Delegation is hard!
  2. We like the job, its in our comfort zone and we don’t want to let it go
  3. Building new habits takes a lot of effort

Which one of these is stopping you stopping?  Here are some tips:

1. Delegation – why aren’t you doing it?

Usually people don’t delegate because they want to keep control or because they don’t want to dump on others.  Try to think about delegation as development.  A chance for others to develop their skills, under your supervision.  Good delegation takes up your time too – you won’t save all the time you would have used if you’d done it yourself – but you will save some and the other person will have learnt something.

2. Should you drop stuff you enjoy?
Think about your development.  Are you holding on to a comfort blanket, a task that you know you can accomplish and do well but perhaps someone else could do it just as well?  Meaning you can focus on something more challenging?
3. What about making taking a regular break your new habit?
Again, there is research to back this up.  Neuroscientists now tell us that we are likely to perform better when we take a break. Giving our mind and body a break makes us:
  • More focussed
  • Less stressed
  • More productive and
  • Boosts creativity!

Apparently, our brains really do perform better when we take breaks.  You know how sometimes when you’ve been trying to solve a tricky problem all day, leave it and then the answer sometimes comes to you when you return the following day.  Taking a break allows the subconscious part of our brain (the bigger part) to work on the problem ‘in the background’.

Make no mistake, though, that stopping rather than starting stuff is always going to be a challenge and a new habit.  New habits take time and effort to instil – but it will be worth it!

Nicky Clough, July 2022

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