Focusing: The “Do Less” Attitude in Action

Equestrian sport: show jumping / young woman and sorrel stallionI’ll bet that at the moment this photo was taken the rider shown here had hundreds of email messages in her in-box, a To Do list a mile long, and a blog post she thought she’d like to get out on January 1st that she hadn’t even started to write yet. In short, like you and me, she always has many things vying for her attention at any one point in time. But at this moment, her focus is 100% on the event in this arena.

As my friend, colleague, and Exceptional Horsemanship owner Lauren Woodard explained to me, the rider put all her attention on this jump, lined everything up and then turned it over to the horse so he could do his job and get them over the fence and land. As he’s doing so, she’s now focused on the next fence they’ll have to jump. Those email messages are nowhere on her radar right now. The rider (along with her horse) is demonstrating what I call the “Do Less” Attitude.

In my book, Seven Sacred Attitudes, I explain that the “Do Less Attitude” is founded upon the Chinese Law of Least Action.

This Law advises us to Do Less of the unimportant stuff. To Do Less of the unnecessary. To do only those things that have the greatest leverage for us-just as the wise ancient butcher did in China when he dismembered an entire ox with just four simple cuts of his knife.

So, can doing Less teach us to come to our entrepreneurial businesses More fully?

You bet.

The Do Less Attitude has to do with focus. It does not have to do with being lazy, letting important things slide through the cracks, or abdicating responsibility.

As an entrepreneurial business owner, you already know that you come to your Wellness Coaching business more fully when you have a clear and focused vision of where you are heading, know which activities are closest to your bottom line and delegate or dismiss the tasks that are not the best use of your time. This is the Do Less Attitude in action.

If you’re a Wellness Coach who works for someone else, the same idea applies. Doing more high-leverage tasks is the best use of your valuable time and energy.

You will come to work and life more fully when you adopt the Do Less Attitude, because there will be more of YOU (your energy, passion, creativity) available. You will be, as author Chin-ning Chu writes in her book, Do Less, Achieve More, “…elevated from the ordinary agitated state of consciousness into an extraordinary level where desired objectives and results unfold with an uncommon ease of effort, thus positively effecting our practical day-to-day performance in all arenas of life.”

These days, when we are bombarded by new information arriving every minute and everything seems to be urgent and in need of our attention, it can be easy to get distracted. But distraction is not a requirement.

The keys to focusing and the Do Less Attitude are:

  • First, identify what’s important (To do so: Hire a business coach, work with a friend or colleague, or take some time to yourself one weekend.) This means getting clear about which activities in your work environment are closest to your bottom line. The best tool I know for selecting priorities and dismissing the unnecessary is to ask myself: “Is this mine to do?”
  • Identify the activities that you can delegate or dismiss.
  • Ask yourself: What price have I been paying for trying to do everything and/or multi-tasking?
  • Ask yourself: How important is it for me to be relaxed, productive & clear-minded in my business and life?
  • Commit (preferably to someone else who is interested in your well-being) to saying No to those items that are not worth your precious energy.
  • Commit (also to someone who wants the best for you) to saying Yes to those items that have the biggest payoff to you (however you define this.)
  • Keep it simple. Cut out a few things at a time. Once you get the hang of this and make it a habit, the Do Less Attitude will become a new way of life…a new daily practice.

The question is: When would NOW be a good time to identify those high-leverage activities?

Focusing Experiments

Try this: Sharpen your focusing skills. Experiment with one or more of the following activities and get into the habit of focusing.

1. The Color Game:

When I was a child, my dad often took me to Candlestick Park during the summer to see the San Francisco Giants’ play baseball at the stadium that was then their home turf. I remember sitting in the bleachers, hotdog in hand, looking around in amazement. But I wasn’t amazed at the action on the baseball field.

What I saw in the stands was much more fascinating to me. The stands were the setting for the Color Game.

I would close my eyes, think of a color, and then look around the entire stadium and see just how much of that color was present. I’d say, “Dad, look how much blue there is! There are millions of blue shirts and hats.”

Between cheers my dad would say, “What blue shirts? There are thousands of different colors out there.”

I knew the secret though. He wasn’t focusing. I saw an entire sea of blue.

Not much later I would choose another color and open my eyes and see all the shirts in yellow, or red, or green. This kept me occupied for all nine innings and sometimes into the extra innings. I still play that game today. When I’m at crowded venues, or waiting on line, I will often look around and simply notice a particular color. Doing so keeps my focus sharp.

So when I am back in the office, and a dozen e-mail messages scream my name, a thousand distractions cross my mind and I must keep focused on the article I’m writing, I’m glad I practiced earlier with the Color Game.

2. The Selective Focus Video

Professor Daniel J. Simons conducted research roughly 13 years ago and produced an awesome video on the power of selective attention. There’s more to the research study now, and a great book to explain more. But if you haven’t seen the video, go check it out first. Do the exercise. You’ll be amazed:

http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/flashmovie/15.php

3. Books to help you focus:

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What do you do to stay focused and jump your own business fences?

To your Wellth,

ericasignature4

Erica

P.S. Big thanks to Lauren Woodard for sharing her Exceptional Horsemanship wisdom! Visit her at: http://exceptionalhorsemanship.com

2 Responses to “Focusing: The “Do Less” Attitude in Action”

  1. My “do-less” attitude is to doing less *thinking* and more actual doing. Thinking about something on the to-do list, stressing about it, worrying about it… even just repeatedly writing it down… all of that effort actually takes longer than actually doing the darn task. I have lots of examples from my business, but here’s a good example everyone can relate to: unloading the dishwasher takes, on average, 2 minutes. Time yourself next time, if you don’t believe me. Yet, we fight about who’s responsibility it is or moan about it or simply ignore it. And inevitably spend more time “not”-doing than the doing would actually take.

  2. Hi Lesa,
    Thanks for stopping by. Yay! I’m implementing that “stress less” “act more” philosophy right along with you this year! It’s amazing how much energy we free up when we are focused on right action! Here’s to your brilliantly executed 2012!
    Best,
    Erica

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