Doing less

Almost everyone I talk to about priorities likes to speak about them in 3s.

“My top three things are…”

It’s an interesting idiosyncrasy that I never fully understood.

It’s as if focusing on 4 or more things means you’re spreading yourself too thin, and focusing on 2 or fewer things means you’re not doing as much as you could be doing.

But three — for whatever reason, no matter the type of work, the scope of your initiatives, and the resources available to you— three just feels right.

I’m less inclined to question why we wouldn’t do more than 3 things — if you’re not careful, high ambition will predispose the best of us to say yes to more things than we should.

But as for why you wouldn’t instead choose to focus on 2 things — or better yet just 1 high-impact thing — is less clear.

While the notion of firing on all cylinders and doing a bunch of important things is exciting, there’s a substantial cost associated with reorienting between initiatives that go unnoticed or, worse, is noticed but thought to be totally normal.

What if instead, you dedicated a day or a week to just focusing on one thing and giving yourself permission to treat everything else as noise?

Would there be any doubt in your ability to make serious leaps and bounds with that kind of unprecedented, undivided attention?

Sometimes being intentional about doing less is the right call.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)