Making Ripples: When Less Means More

Less is more. Progress is made through precise, persistent, and purposeful pushes – Scott Perry

An Experiment with Surprising Results

An article in Fast Company Magazine highlighted a new approach to increasing productivity in the workplace by introducing a four-day work week. This experiment was conducted in New Zealand by a trust and estate planning firm for two months and the results were eye-opening:

  • The work-life balance went up from 54% to 78%
  • Job stress declined from 45% to 38%
  • Employee commitment rose from 68% to 88%

Beyond the Numbers

Some intangibles were not quantifiable but of equal importance. Employee engagement increased, noise and distractions in the office went down significantly, and job satisfaction rose. Doing more with less approach became a trigger to make employees more creative. The extra day off was a prize to shoot for and motivated them to maintain productivity. What would you do if you had an extra day off and still got paid the same? The dissonance between less and more is obvious because we have been taught that to do more we need more. But the new challenge we all face, whether in career or business, at home or school, is doing more with few resources. More is always welcomed, but it is never a barometer for how productive one can become. How can we do more with less?

1. The Need to Evaluate

Do you constantly evaluate what you are doing and why you are doing it? Discipline connects action to meaning. This connection is crucial to sustained passion. When your “what” loses its “why” it’s only a matter of time before it runs out of gas and stalls. If you do too much of the unimportant, eventually the important will fall to the background and disappear, leaving you empty. 

Think about a farmer who continually plants seeds in his garden, but only a quarter of his field produces fruit. Now, he has an acre worth of seed in the ground but a quarter of harvest in the barn. He can choose to ignore and continue, or he can take an evaluation and ask why three-quarters of the land is not producing. Evaluation from experiences invites insight that leads to adjustments. It is these adjustments that bring change where needed. After evaluation, the farmer may conclude that the crop he is planting in the three quarters is not suitable there, and by changing the crop choice, he may get the productivity he needs. Or, he may discover that three-quarters of the acre is not as fertile, and adding more fertilizer will, in turn, aid in productivity in that section of the farm. Evaluation serves as a primer to introduce the change that leads to productivity. Are you evaluating your activities? 

2. The Priority of Effectiveness 

What are three things you do that bring you the highest return for your resources of time, energy, and money? Your to-do list should reflect the prioritization of these things. In addition, you should also have a when for your to-do tasks. Do you know when you are at your best? Is it in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Match your highest return tasks with the times when you are functioning at your best. There is a connection between your rhythms and returns. As a morning person, I choose to wake up early and maximize three hours before work to do my best writing and reading. 

Do you know your cycles? Understanding your cycle and when you are at your best, increases effectiveness even with little time on hand. The return you see, not just the time you put in, determines effectiveness. 

3. Looking Beyond the Surface

On November 27th, 2013, CBS aired a special that was also captured in an article called, “The Recyclers.” It was the story of how an environmental technician named Favio Chavez came to a town in Paraguay called Cateura. This town has trash everywhere. Upon arrival, Favio was exposed to the impoverished environment, but he looked past the surface and found treasure behind the trash. From the stench and rubble of trash, Favio engaged the help of a local trash worker and carpenter to make instruments using material from, you guessed it, the garbage dump. From that trash, violins were made out of oven trays, trumpets from old drain pipes, and cellos from oil barrels. Favio’s desire was to help the children in this town see past their surroundings by using music as a medium for them to dream. If you watch the YouTube video, “Landfill Harmonic” which is a trailer for a movie with the same title, you will see how these children have been able to do more with less. Innovation and ingenuity must travel through the imagination where you can see the possibilities even in the middle of mediocrities. Look beyond what you see with your naked eye, and you will find treasure in the ruble, worth in the waste, and the extraordinary in the mundane.

Increase your curiosity, ask more questions, and let your sense of wonder return, and you will see beneath the surface. These are keys to helping us create value out of what we otherwise view as waste. 

Final Thought: Let’s do an exercise. Calculate how many hours you have lived on this earth. I have done some of the work for you. There are 8,760 hours in a year. Multiply that by your current age. My number was 359,160 hours! When I thought of my life in terms of that many hours, I asked, “How effective have I been. and what adjustments can I make to increase my effectiveness with the time I have left?” That’s the beginning point of doing more with less; investigative thinking

Keep on Keeping on!


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