For the Indonesian War Cry - Achieve more by doing less

· March 18, 2014

DISCLAIMER for frequent readers of this blog: I now work for the Salvation Army in Indonesia and they asked me to write an article from time to time in the Indonesian War Cry (the Salvation Army magazine). I of course used my normal style of writing and wrote about the thing I’ve written about here. Oh, not Javascript or Nancy maybe but Limit WIP, Lean and Kanban. But with a Christian twist and message.

So if you don’t want to read this, please stop now. I’ll soon come back to my normal things. But if you want to please continue. Maybe there’s something that you can use in here. Or not. As normal on this blog, I use it to store my ideas and thoughts. END DISCLAIMER

Here is the second of two short articles that I’ve written for the Indonesian War Cry. You can read the first here. This article is about Achieving more by doing less. I hope you like it.

Achieving more by doing less

In my last article I talked about motivation and what motivates me. To sum it up it’s Jesus loves to me that wants me to be the best I can be. To do the MOST good.

The last sentence in my article was, quite intentionally, a bit cryptic. It said:

My goal is to do more by doing less.

Maybe “To achieve more by doing less” is a bit more to the point. Now I will reveal what I meant by this.

Let’s play a game, you and I: Go get three pens of different colors and a blank paper. You will also need a clock with a stop watch function (most mobile phones have one).

The game is about writing letters and numbers in columns as fast as possible; in the first column we will write capital letters A-J using a red pen, the second have roman numbers I-X using a blue pen and in the final column we will write normal numbers 1-10, using a black pen. (You can of course have other colors if you like).

We want to get the time it takes to complete all three columns (the total time) as well as the time for each individual column. The first round I want you to do as much as possible at the same time, attending to all the columns at the same time. So do the columns row by row. Like this:

A I 1
B II 2

J X 10

As a special treat to you people reading this online I include this as simulated exercise here:

Numbers simulation - less is more! from Marcus Hammarberg

When you’re ready, start the timer and go as fast as you can. Remember to time it takes to finish each column as well as the time it takes to finish all three. Go!

When you’re done you probably end up with times like these:

  • Letter column completed after 1:20 min
  • Roman numbers completed after 1:22 min
  • Normal numbers completed after 1:24 min
  • Total time: 1:24 min.

You probably felt that this was a very stupid way of working. And it was stressful. And you probably dropped the pen, or wrote in the wrong color a couple of times. I bet that you had a hard time remembering if 9 in Roman numbers is VIII or something else.

So, let’s do that again, but this time do the Letters first and when you’re finished with that do the Roman numbers and then the normal numbers. As before time yourself for each individual column as well as the total time. Go!

Done? Great, you probably ended up with a result like this:

  • Letter column completed after 0:12 min
  • Roman numbers completed after 0:14 min
  • Normal numbers completed after 0:08 min
  • Total time: 0:34 min.

What?! That’s just 1/3 of the time? And the first column was finished after 12 seconds compared with 1:20 min in the first round.

In the process the quality is most certainly better, you didn’t feel stressed or had to flip around with the pens. And this time you got the IX right for Roman number 9 (since we now have practiced).

So what is the difference here? It’s the same paper, same end result, same pens and same you. The only difference is the number of things you are doing at the same time.

I hear what you are thinking now:

“Hrmf, dear article author, sir; shouldn’t this have something to do with Christianity, the Salvation Army or Jesus? This sounds a bit more like a management book.”

If you read my previous article you remember that I think that we should be the best we can be for Him. Doing the MOST good. That both means that we want to optimize the value of our actions but also do less of the things that aren’t valuable.

What in our life could we stop doing, simply because it’s not valuable? Which of your “pens” could you put down?

  • Worries? Matt 6:34 - Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • Money? Matt 6:19-21 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Gossip? Proverbs 26:20 - Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
  • My own importance or position? Matt 6:5 - And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

These are the things that often blur my focus on doing the MOST good. But all of those pens can be put down. I don’t need them. That’s not “doing the MOST good”, now is it?

I think the Lord needs my time in better ways. I think he deserves my focus on one thing at the time, trying to do the best I can and complete it before I go on to the next thing.

What can you change in your life today that will help you to do the MOST good first? Which of your “pens” are you tired of and need to put down? Which of your “columns” are worth your full attention before you go on to the next?

God bless you in your strives to become more and more effective in doing the MOST good.

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