Do you ever get that feeling at the end of the day that you were super busy but not productive at all?
Like you can barely remember taking a breather but you don’t really have a lot of progress to show for all your work?
(Here’s me raising my own hand. Definitely been there!)
This is the dilemma of the wanna-make-it-big-blogger – thinking that in order to succeed you need to do a million different things.
But the truth is you don’t.
And if you try, you might actually be hurting your chances of success.
If you’re sick of feeling stretched too thin, busy but not productive, and totally exhausted without much to show for it, I’m gonna make a suggestion…
Instead of trying to do more, try focusing on less.
In the land of super-sized everything we’ve mistakenly come to the conclusion that in order to get more, we need to do more. That if we want to get 10x the results, we need to put in 10x the effort.
But a lot of research and some great thinkers believe the opposite (and, if you ask me, it makes a lot of sense).
Why do more when you can do less and get even better results?
I know, right?! Pretty much a no-brainer.
And as someone who’s up to her eyeballs in gotta dos before Baby Girl gets here, I appreciate the idea of doing less and getting better results – especially when it comes to my business.
And one of the best thinkers in the do-less-get-more arena is Jim Collins.
He wants you to stop doing a lot of things (for a very good reason).
Create a Stop-Doing List
In Jim’s book – Good to Great – he talks about the “stop-doing list”.
This is a list of things that great leaders jot down so they stop doing anything and everything to try to get to where they want to be.
Mr. Collins suggests instead of trying to do more, and more, and more, we focus on less. A lot less.
In his own words…
“After five years of research, I’m absolutely convinced that if we just focus our attention on the right things—and stop doing the senseless things that consume so much time and energy—we can create a powerful Flywheel Effect without increasing the number of hours we work.”
Getting more out of less work? Sounds like a win-win to me.
But how do you actually get to that point?
Well, you need to think like a hedgehog!
Channel Your Inner Hedgehog
According to Jim you want your spirit animal to be more hedgehog-like than fox-like.
Apparently foxes think eating hedgehogs sounds like a tasty meal.
But the hedgehog is obviously in favour of not being the fox’s supper.
So, while the fox keeps trying to come up with clever ways to eat the hedgehog, the hedgehog keeps foiling his efforts by doing just one simple trick – rolling up into a prickly ball.
The hedgehog could try to get clever.
She could try something different.
But why bother?
She already has an effective trick up her sleeve and trying to come up with other nifty defense mechanisms could (literally) end up getting her killed if they don’t work.
Talk about high stakes!
So don’t be a fox. Be a hedgehog.
Instead of trying to come up with the latest, greatest, the-world-has-never-seen-this-before thing, figure out your prickly ball trick, and stick with it.
Do One Thing Really, Really Well.
At this point you get it.
Instead of trying to do more, you’re supposed to just focus on doing one thing exceptionally well.
But how do you know what that one thing is?
According to ol’ Jim it should come from you answering these 3 questions…
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you (or can you be) best at?
- Can you actually make a living doing that?
Let’s dive into a (totally pretend) example so you can really see how this works…
Cheryl owns a bakery called Sweet Treats (did you really think the pregnant lady wouldn’t use food as an example?!)
When she first opened she did everything. Donuts. Cakes. Gluten-free. No-Sugar. Lots of sugar. Nuts. Nut-free. You name it, she had it.
But after a few months she noticed that business wasn’t really picking up the way she’d hoped.
She wasn’t doing terrible. But things weren’t great, either.
And she was working a lot without getting the return she wanted so she was starting to feel burnt out.
So she decided to try a little experiment.
She followed Jim’s advice and answered those 3 questions…
- What are you passionate about? Old-fashioned, home-baked recipes that transport you back to sitting in your grandma’s kitchen eagerly waiting for a delicious treat to pop out of the oven.
- What are you (or can you be) best at? Baking delicious cinnamon buns (they always seem to sell really well).
- Can you actually make a living doing that? I think so. Let’s find out by doing some testing!
After diving into Jim’s questions, Cheryl stopped baking a ton of different kinds of things and focused on 1 core recipe…
Her grandma’s famous cinnamon buns.
For the next week that’s all she offered her customers.
Gooey. Delicious. Sticky sweet. Cinnamon buns.
She made them in small batches – just like grandma used to make – and soon she found herself selling out by mid-afternoon and needing to close shop because she had nothing more to sell.
This just made her cinnamon buns even more desirable since people knew they needed to get there first thing in the morning to get a taste.
Cheryl found her prickly ball.
Even though Cheryl’s story is totally made up, it’s based on the oodles of examples of companies that asked themselves “What should we stop doing because it’s not working for us?”
And, “What’s already working really well that we could amp up?”
Cheryl could have tried all kinds of different ways to boost her business.
But she was smart and realized that she already had a great recipe up her sleeve (just like the hedgehog already knew she could roll herself into a ball to protect her from getting eaten).
She had a treat that was already selling really well.
So she focused on it.
Honed it to absolute perfection.
And marketed the (sticky) buns off of it until everyone in town called her The Cinnamon Bun Lady.
What’s Your Prickly Ball/Cinnamon Bun?
The moral of the story is that it’s easy to get caught up in doing the latest marketing tactic that an expert recommends.
And it could turn out really, really great for your business.
Or you could spend 6 months doing it and getting terrible results. (And then moving on to the next “this is so hot right now” idea).
So find your prickly ball/cinnamon bun instead.
This could be about your marketing – instead of trying everything under the sun, you focus on guest blogging for 3 months.
It could be about an offering – instead of offering general, grab bag, “I’ll make you eat healthy” stuff, you focus on hour long sessions where you help moms of picky eaters – between the ages of 1-3 – get their kids to eat whatever they put in front of them.
It could be about anything. Anything at all.
The point is to stop doing a bunch of random things that aren’t working and start focusing on finding (and being awesome at) your prickly ball.
That way you can do it over, and over again and keep getting great results.
It may not always be the same.
Things may shift over time.
But if you keep thinking in this way, not only will you feel less busy, but you’ll actually be more productive.
That sounds like a double win to me!
P.S. Have an idea for your own prickly ball plan? Tell me about it in the comments below and let’s work out your plan of attack.