Why and how to be effective at a few things

Other than the prodigies that nature has gifted human beings, if you need to master something, you need to do a few things that others won’t do.

Malcolm Gladwell in his Outliers book wrote about the Beatles who spent more than 10,000 hours in creating music. They did more than 1200 shows back to back before their first breakthrough. Most bands don’t do 1200 shows in their entire. This helped them improve by spending more time than others while having audience feedback. Benjamin Franklin started writing when he is very young for his brother’s press on a pseudo name. Later in his life, he Influenced public through his writings. Starting to write early helped him become a master of words.

Once Steve Jobs was back at the Apple, he cut down all processes and put emphasis on only four products. Two in consumer and two in enterprise space and get rid of many other products that did not seem important. This Intense focus on few things helped apple to regain its stature as a leader.

Tony Robbins said – “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

If you see the above, they focused on a few things but for a longer time. For example, the Beatles spend more time practicing than others. Steve Jobs cut down many things to focus on a few things.

Many people don’t stick to a few things for the long term, it is because they are not immediately urgent but are important. The lack of urgency makes people go Haywire in sticking to their plans

You need to put down as many thin as possible from Q4 that is your not important not urgent quadrant like watching TV, etc. While you want to reduce or eliminate Q1 which are important and urgent like paying your phone bills etc, by delegating or doing them in advance.  Q3 is the one that won’t help you anywhere like getting an email or notification. You need to reduce the urge to act on them immediately. Leaving us with Q2 which have important but not urgent things. Your relationships, long term goals, Mastering a skill, etc

By eliminating or minimizing Q1, Q3, and Q4, leaving you with few things to do at Q2 that are important but not urgent things, you can become a master and be better than 99% of the people in that field. Here are a few ways to be effective at a few things that are important for you.

Be effective at daily essential rituals

Good roads don’t help a bad car to pick up well. Good intentions and actions won’t be effective if you are not effective that is your sound body, mind, and soul.  

Naval Ravikanth , founder of Angel List, exercises every day, he spent a lot of time cutting down his junk food and he kept priorities as his body first, then mind, then himself and then the family. Billionaire Naveen Jain reads, exercise and mediates in the morning. He says business is like going to war and you need to be completely prepared for it with your mind, body, and soul.

Keep yourself ready for the day. Have 3-4 liters of water, have good food, exercise and sleep for 7-8 hours properly. If possible, get into reading or meditating in the morning.

Track your time

Alcoholic Anonymous has 12 step process to get alcoholic to sober and it helped millions of people that way. The first step in that is to acknowledge they have no control over alcohol. Once they Identified they have a problem, then they go on to work on the other steps. You need to Identify where your time is going and you will find where your time is being spent.

If Michael Phelps practiced swimming without a stopped clock, he would not have gone on to become one of the greatest swimmers. But sure, he would have been a good swimmer without tracking his improvements.  

To be effective at a few things, you need to know where your time is spread over many things. Tools like RescueTimeApp will help you track your time that is spent on mobile and your desktop.

Aim for a free time

As NN Taleb wrote – you want maximum free time, not maximum activity. While his colleagues are having unnecessary meetings, he keeps himself higher benchmarks to do. He says he is a freer. Warren Buffett has most of his calendar free and reads around 500 pages a day. He spends days and months studying and makes a decision in a day that will stand for decades.

Meet fewer but important people, watch fewer movies.

Free up your time from –

* Responsibilities – Don’t sign up more than what you can.

* Dependencies – Delegate decisions.

* Bad Routines – cut down on movies, meeting wrong people, etc,.

Important things before Urgent things

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important.” – Steven Covey. GopiChand made PV Sindhu quit phone for almost eight months before the Olympics. He said, extreme results need extreme preparation. She went on to win a silver medal for India.

According to The Pareto Principle 80% of the results come from 20% of the work. If you are working on fitness, adding whey protein in breakfast or chicken in your dinner can improve your muscles drastically. Most of your customers can come from a few of your marketing channels. Few friends will add value than the rest of all people put together. Gopi Chand knows it would add 80% of the value by avoiding phone distractions while he made this decision. Explore and Identify them and let go of many other small things that don’t add value.

Kill your daily darlings

Stephen King wrote – “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings”. He told this to eliminate a few parts of writing even if they feel like a darling to the writer but don’t add up to make a great story.

In real life, your daily darlings are the pleasures you get Indulge and have Instant Gratification. It is like eating food while watching a movie. It is like your extra cup of sugared coffee while you get stressed. It is your Amazon Account in a weekday which is making you sleep deprived the next day. It is like the endless social media scroll you do mindlessly every day.  Get rid of things that hold your mind, health and time back. Kill your daily darlings(Instant Gratifications) that aren’t necessary.

Avoid Shiny Objects

When you start something before completing something else. Just because it looked exciting. Probably, you are facing with Shiny Object Syndrome. This needs to be eliminated from your life.

For your business, you may want to spend time trying new marketing channels all the time without giving the necessary time to learn the platform. Or it is like your new hobby changing twice a month because you always see some hobby better than your current one.  You need to check with your objectives when and see if the new activity will add value to you. If it does, then you need to plan till the end and see you want to do it and give enough time to it.

Say No Gracefully – Respect your own boundaries

As Oprah Winfrey said, just because you are getting requests every week doesn’t mean you should do them. You need to decide where you will use your energy, money and time.

Set boundaries on what you want to do and what you should not. Saying yes to more than what you can handle will stress you out and you give a bad output to deliver.

There are a lot of ways you can Say No to. If he is a close friend, joke about the invitation and Says No. If he is an acquaintance, tell them you will check your calendar, get back to him after a while and Say No. Tell them, you like to spend time with them but you got something else to do. As Derek Sivers says – Either it’s a Hell Yes or a No. Think about it before you say Yes the next time.

Keep it going

Do those few things you want to do every day repeatedly. You may have Atomic Failures but go past through it. Remember why you are doing it. Going to the gym and having sore muscles isn’t fun but having great health is worth it. Sometimes you may hate the process but you need to love the outcome. As long as it gives you the deserved results, keep it going.

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