Why you need to do less to achieve more
Focusing on less can boost efficiency, producitivity and creativity
About five years ago, I had a burn out. I was working at home one night, when I suddenly felt my heart racing. I couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital. Juggling three side businesses, a full-time government role, working on holidays, and attending numerous social events meant I barely slept at night. Running around trying to be great at everything I did, eventually led the emergency room.
As I laid on the hospital bed, I knew what happened to me earlier was my body telling me enough is enough. So it was no surprise that the doctor told me to slow things down. That night in the hospital, was also the first night in a long time where I made up for my sleep deficit and recharged my batteries.
My experience came back to me as my cousin shared her aspirations to widen the scope of her activities. As a fulltime physician, she wanted to start a fashion design business. She needed to invest time in the venture, but was unsure about being simultaneously juggling her hospital job along with a busy social calendar, family commitments. My advice was to start the fashion business and expand it slowly.
As entrepreneurs, a lot of us are terrified of dropping the ball and reprioritising matters. Often, our fears are unrealistic. The world wouldn’t come crashing down the way we think it would if we dropped one thing.
After that night at the hospital, I took a couple of days off from work. My sofa was my home for the weekend. I just relaxed by watching TV and reading. Soon after, I re-evaluated my priorities: I merged two businesses into one, and offered fewer services. We focused on services that we enjoyed most and ones that were profitable at the same time. The third side business had to be shut down, because it was draining my energy, straining my budget, and I didn’t enjoy as much as the other two.
Then came the hard part, my social calendar. At that time, I was a member of a few associations and groups. Some of them looked good on paper, but frankly didn’t help me grow, and required me to invest a lot of my personal time. I formally withdrew from all except one. In addition, as much as I loved social gatherings, and meeting new people, I decided to practice more self-love, and put myself first. Attending social gatherings was a breather for me from my work, but it was at the expense of staying with my family, and took away from my personal time.
Holidays became sacred, work-free. When I’m on holiday, I take it religiously the same way I do with work, because I realised that if I hadn’t given myself a break, my work and my wellbeing will be jeopardised in the long run.
In the end, as you would imagine, I was doing way less. I slept more and felt better. Doing less I realised is not necessarily a bad thing or a sign of failure. It meant that I was now able to achieve more. With a narrower focus, I was able to see things more clearly. The breathing space I had in my schedule, gave me more time to brainstorm, think creatively and strategically about my business. With the changes, my streamlined business is more profitable now than when it offered more services.
The bottom line for entrepreneurs, is that just because you’re good at something, or you’re able to offer more, doesn’t mean you should. Focus on what matters most and drop everything that doesn’t.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi
Updated: July 20, 2019 11:22 AM