Doing less stuff better

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Over the weekend, a bunch of people tagged me in a Facebook meme about my top 15 literary influences. The first thing that came to mind was, “what an interesting opportunity to promote people I actually read”. The second thing that came to mind was, “I don’t have time to do this right”. What was a simple meme to other people was an opportunity to promote and support authors that I love, provide links to their works, and potentially even earn half of a penny on the occasional Amazon click-through. (the last bit was sarcasm)

The problem was, to do it right – assembling the list, linking it up, etc. – required a lot more time than I was initially willing to devote to the meme, so I didn’t participate. More and more lately, I’m faced with a choice that is binary – do it right at a significant time investment, or do it half-assed and very quickly. The choice isn’t actually much of a choice, not for things that matter.

For the work I do at work, doing it right is the only choice, which often means not doing something else entirely. For example, I spent over 6 hours recently working on a blog post, because there was a fast way to do it that was wrong, and a correct, slow way to do it right. I had to do it right, because it reflects on the people I work with.

For the work I do for myself, doing it right is the only choice a large percentage of the time, because other people rely on that work, from my newsletter to my daily social postings to my public speaking. I can’t get up on stage and do a half-assed job. I shouldn’t do a half-assed job on anything that other people need.

The idea of doing less stuff better comes at a significant cost, a hefty price to pay, and the price is doing less stuff overall. I had to make a difficult choice this past weekend, choosing to spend time with my family who I’d been away from for a week due to business travel, or choosing to attend a relatively rare seminar with one of my teachers, Stephen K. Hayes. I couldn’t do either half-assed, showing up for a little of each. Ultimately, I chose to do it right and commit to family first, but I know that I paid a heavy opportunity cost in personal development that I’ll need to pay more for later down the line. There will be a time when I can “do it right” for my training as well.

We cannot add more hours to the day. We can only choose what we do and how well we do it. At a certain point, we have to make tough choices about what we won’t do, from memes to things we want. May your choices be the right ones.

And for those people tagging me in that meme, I will do it eventually. When I do, I’ll do it right.

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