Scott’s Thoughts: Trimming Nonessentials

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.”

-Lin Yutang, Writer and translator

Scissors.The middle of the year is a good time to check-in with your goals and your habits to see where a course correction might be in order. It’s important to block out at least a few hours of uninterrupted time to ask ourselves what’s working, what isn’t, and what has been essential in terms of our success or failure.

While we all like to focus on what went right, I frequently learn much more by spotting what went wrong. If we have the courage to look back with 20/20 hindsight, we often discover how often we get in our own way more than anything or anyone else. Here are three questions I ask myself when I’m looking to tune up my year:

1. Where can I simplify?

Complexity for its own sake is a waste of energy. If you have a process which gathers lots of data you don’t use or goes through several gatekeepers, ask yourself: What (or who) is essential to this process? If there’s anyway you can reduce the complexity of a system without damaging its essential outcome, do so immediately.

2. What is the net impression to my clients/customers? How do I improve that?

Clients don’t particularly care to hear about your problems. With every experience, it’s only important that you ask yourself: How did the client perceive the outcome? Anything you can do to improve their perception of your efforts goes solidly in the win column.

3. Is finishing everything I start wise?

There’s enormous pressure to try new technology, approaches, and platforms. In fact, you should try lots of new ideas. You should try them to the point you recognize their potential or lack of promise. As soon as you determine they seem unlikely to succeed, move on. There’s no shame in saying, “Maybe we don’t need to see this through.” As Thomas Edison once famously said of his time working on the incandescent lightbulb: “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

I hope these questions help you gain a little altitude over your business and help you finish the second half strong. People say “focus is the key to success,” and it’s true. One of the first steps toward focus is trimming away the nonessentials.

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