In a world where being busy is often equated with success, it's easy to find ourselves drowning in a sea of tasks, meetings, and messages. We wear busyness like a badge of honor and it quickly leads to burnout and what we might call "professional indigestion."
In this article, I explore the symptoms of professional indigestion, the perils of constantly prioritizing urgency over importance, and the transformative power of subtraction in our daily lives.
The Epidemic of Professional Indigestion
"People suffer from professional indigestion rather than starvation." This thought-provoking statement from David Packard, of Hewlett-Packard, resonates because it provides a metaphor for the feeling we get from being inundated with:
Too many meetings, stand-ups, 1:1s, check-ins, and reviews.
Unanswered emails, texts, DMs, instant messages, and voicemails.
An insatiable desire to say ‘yes’, do more, or work harder
The result? A pervasive sense of overwhelm, constantly reacting to what's immediately in front of us rather than focusing on what truly matters.
The Problem: Prioritizing Urgent vs. Important
When everything is deemed a priority, we often fall into the trap of choosing the urgent over the important. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the easy-to-check-off tasks take precedence over deep, meaningful, and productive work. This perpetual cycle of reactivity hinders growth and satisfaction.
The Cure: "Less, Less, Less"
The antidote to professional indigestion lies in embracing simplicity and subtraction. The mantra "Less, less, less is the key to success" encourages us to pare down and prioritize the essentials. Here’s my philosophy: Choose 3.
1. Tasks Per Day: One of the most effective ways to combat professional indigestion is to limit your daily task list to just three critical items. By focusing on a smaller number of tasks, you allocate time, attention, and energy more effectively, ensuring each task is completed with excellence.
2 Goals in Focus: Beyond daily tasks, setting long-term goals is vital for maintaining clarity and direction in your professional life. However, applying the "less is more" principle is equally crucial here. Concentrate on three overarching goals for a specific time period, allowing you to make meaningful progress without feeling overwhelmed.
3 Scheduled Breaks: We receive so much data in so many mediums, it’s important to schedule those as well. Schedule your email time, your social media time, and your connection time. If email is checked at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 4 p.m., you can close it down at other times. If you give yourself a morning, afternoon, and evening connection break, those text messages, social media posts, and news articles will have time to be enjoyed rather than become distractions in your day.
What is something you can subtract from your schedule today?
It could be a redundant meeting, an unnecessary email, or a non-essential task. Embrace the power of subtraction and discover the clarity, focus, and productivity it can bring to your professional and personal life. In a world obsessed with addition, subtraction is the key to unlocking your true potential.