In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains how we can adopt behaviours (or habits) that make us a little better every day, compounding over time and leading to massive results.
One of his most potent examples revolves around the British cycling team that implemented successive little improvements in all areas involved with their discipline (from the diet, equipment, schedule, and much more), rather than going for a radical transformation, which ultimately led them to win major competitions, back to back.
The idea could be summarised as trying every day to become 1% better than yesterday.
So, when discussing with team leaders about performance, this is a topic that is often brought up. In these conversations, I often hear:
“We want to become better every day” or “we are working on the systems to do better continuously”.
But as I dig a bit, I often find wishful thinking and botched execution.
One recurring reason for these issues is seeking marginal gains without making performance sustainable. Eager to do better, we fall for one of our cognitive biases – the additive bias, and instead of aiming at doing better, we end up pushing to do more.
Basically, in order to improve, we decide to add things.
We add more resources. We add more steps. We add more rules. And we keep adding, piling requirements one on top of the other, without ensuring we have solid foundations or that the addition provides a proven benefit.
Chasing for more is exhausting, and if we don’t pay attention, it will eventually lower performance.
So, when aiming at doing better, I like to flip the script and change the approach from “more” to “less”.
What is not necessary? What is slowing down the team? What is blocking progress and could be removed?
Rather than looking at productivity, namely the amount of work or deliverables that can be done in a fixed amount of time, we focus on efficiency, which is reducing the time needed to produce something.
Lately, I have been learning how to make candles to offer to friends and always have one lit up during my online deliveries. Being more productive would be making more candles per hour. Being more efficient would be making my batch of five candles in less time.
In the end, the measured outcome is the same (namely, the number of candles per unit of time), but the focus is different.
If I wanted to be more productive, I could run two batches simultaneously, using two pots to melt the wax and so forth, to make more candles. To be more effective, I could look at steps I could combine to shorten the overall time needed to make my five candles.
In both cases, it would completely ruin the experience for me – which is a sort of active meditation – but you are getting the point.
Productivity usually focuses on “doing more” and efficiency on “doing less” to achieve better results. And my advice to achieve a high level of performance sustainably is that before following our addiction to addition, we need to look at what we can remove.
The benefits can be tremendous.
Imagine if you were able to work one hour less daily and still be able to complete (or progress) all your activities as intended. How would that impact you?
What would you do with this time?
It could be one hour more to look at other projects, or to recover better, spending time for yourself, going to the gym, playing with the kids or catching up with friends.
In 2022, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the median hourly earning was A$ 37. So, as a team leader, if you have a team of ten people who suddenly have one hour freed daily, that’s a whopping total of 2,400 hours yearly and saving $88,800 in wages.
Easier said than done? How to save one hour per day?
The most common culprits are long CC chains of emails and inefficient meetings. But each business and individual has its particularities. Things that work for them and wouldn’t for others.
The question is, do you know what these are?
If you aren’t sure, I would encourage you to be curious and experiment. Rather than listing what you should do (or do better), write down what you already do.
You could start by listing all the activities you are doing over a week and then ask yourself whether you should stop doing some of these. There may be a way to reduce the time they take or work out if someone can help you to fast-track things.
Start removing or reducing small things, knowing this is not definitive, and monitor the impacts of these changes.
Need to bring the kids to soccer practice? Is there a neighbour that also has his kid going, so you could do carpooling and alternate every week?
Instead of doing a weekly project review, can it be done fortnightly? Does finance need to be involved every time – or once a month is enough?
And you go on with each activity on the list.
To do better and improve performance, I recommend first stopping the to-do list and starting the to-stop list. Focus on what can be reduced rather than what can be added, aiming for efficiency first and, later on, productivity.
I hope you liked this newsletter and it will help you think differently. And let me know what will be on your to-stop list.
To your success xX
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Whenever you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:
- If you are about to make an important decision for yourself (or your team) – let me be part of your inner circle and work towards your success, book a call with me to discuss this.
- Book one of my workshops for your team to elevate energy and performance. More information here.
- With my first book Act Before You overThink to learn how to make better decisions faster and liberate your mind from the constant chatter that hinders your potential. You can buy it here.