With Michael flying solo for this episode, we take the opportunity to reflect on a piece of advice that we’ve emphasized in several past episodes, but never taken much time to explain why. This week, we look specifically at what the mantra “Do Less Better” means, and why it’s worth taking time to consider how you might be spreading yourself too thin by trying to take on too much when it comes to your job and life.
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Do Less Better (10:25)
- Do Less, Better
- Do Less, Better: 4 Ways to Do Less in Your Business + Your Life
- Do Less, Better: a Strategy, a Culture, and 20 Reasons Why
- Do Less Better, and This Time I Mean It
- Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World by John R. Bell
The following is a machine-generated transcript of this episode. It will contain errors until it has been reviewed and edited, and we apologize for the difficulty that may cause for screen readers. Do you want to help us speed up our transcribing process? Consider sponsoring an episode.
Well, hello everybody and welcome
okay, so I said this episode was going to refer to a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. And this is something that goes back years, at least for me. I recently just got back from high Ed web, and I had some sit down time with several folks and this conversation came up if you are, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me tweet about this very recently, I wrote a very small little post on my blog at Fienen calm about this. I’ll link that in the show notes for anybody who wants to go read it. What this centers on are three very simple words. Do Less, better, do less better is something that I started pushing back. The earliest reference I found to it in some of my writing was back in 2012. So that’s about seven years ago. I think I was doing it before that, but that was the first time I really codify that in some form of writing that I could go back and reference. When I wrote that Originally, it was in an article, I was still writing for higher ed. And there was a topic that was going around because one thing that higher ed was really big on at that point. You know, we’re we were six years into a lot of this stuff at Pitt State. Schools, were getting a handle on Twitter and on Facebook and YouTube and all these different places. They were learning how to use them, they were learning how to use them strategically. And more tools were starting to pop up. The big one that was starting to hit for places in 2012 was Pinterest. And so one of the constant conversations I was seeing in groups or other folks who were working at universities asking for advice for how to integrate Pinterest into their strategic initiatives in marketing. They were wanting to promote the university. They were thinking, how do we do this with Pinterest? Everybody’s using Pinterest. We have to use Pinterest to we can figure this out. My response to most of those folks was to do less better. The reality of the situation was for most universities, they were still they were using Twitter, they were using Facebook, they existed in those spaces. Many of them existed on YouTube, but they hadn’t completely figured out yet. How to really leverage them. They were still figuring out the advertising on Facebook, they were still figuring out media production for YouTube. They were still figuring out engagement practices with Twitter. You know, measuring sentiment and all of this kind of stuff was still a very new concept for everybody. And as often happens when you’ve got a lot of administrators, a whole lot of managers a lot of money involved. There’s this shiny mentality that tended to come up with tools. And so when this conversation came up this idea of Oh God, let’s go to another social media platform and operate our website there. I put my foot down in these conversations, because I said, you know, until you are engaging in the spaces, you already exist, and you’re doing it as well as you possibly can. Why are you spreading yourself thinner by going to other places that you’ll only be able to do barely okay. So that was where this came from. And I have over the years, use this phrase over and over and over. I’m sitting here talking to you right now, I’ve been thinking about I need to get the hashtag do less better tattooed on my arm, but let’s face it, I’m a 37 year old man at this point, and a tattoo of a hashtag might be a little passe. And that’s okay. As the years have gone on, I’ve thought about this and I have kept it very close to me, and it’s something that I say a lot. And I’ve used this phrase a lot. But I have found in my own practice, I was not very good at it. And in the last few months in particular, I have really been thinking about this and how I apply it to myself, not just to my web development, but to my overall work life, and my overall home life, to my social engagements. And the more I commit to it, the better off I feel I am. So I want to spend the rest of this episode talking about how I’ve done this, how you should do it or can do it and why that is a value. Let’s talk about the podcast. I’m talking about something very directly relevant, you’re listening to it now. And so there’s a way this has applied to this very show. Now first and foremost, I said this is going to be a shorter show, because it doesn’t need to be long. I’m I’m just talking I’ve got a couple of websites pulled up in front of me because I want to reference a couple names and make sure I get them all Right. But outside of that no show notes. I’m just doing what IO comes to mind. On top of that with the podcast, if you go back rewind to the end of season one, and the very start of season two, we discussed two other segments that you haven’t heard in a long time. Those are real time overview and build process. They aren’t dead. Although it may seem that way.
At the end of last season, I had commented on how I wanted to approach those and what my plans for the more the reality was. Those segments took an enormous amount of time to produce even though they were incredibly short, at our peak, this This podcast was producing up to eight segments every month between this core show, and then a weekly real time overview and a monthly build process episode. That’s a lot. It’s a whole lot of media production. And that’s a lot of media production for somebody who has a full time job. has a side company and has other things that they are involved with. And so my goal was to slow down and do less of that. The reality is doing less of it actually turned into doing none of it. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, not because they didn’t do well, quite frankly, real time overview, in particular, the numbers on that particular segment were fantastic. I think in part because it was short, it was easy to engage with, and people enjoyed that format. But for me, me personally, it was just very hard to commit to that much extra work. And it was starting to compromise the quality of those segments, in my mind at least and even the quality of this show, because finding the time for all of those things to get everything recorded every week was very labor intensive. So in in my mind, I originally thought I will do those less Let’s turn into none. And I’m okay with that. We’ve kind of incorporated real time overview a little bit into this show. We’ve started doing a segment every once in a while, where we will just cover three topics over the course of the show. And that comes very much from the spirit of real time overview. And, in fact, in our own analytics, two of our top 10 episodes are actually two of our top five episodes are those little popery kind of segments. So I do see that influence in the way we’ve changed, but it was important to me to make sure that we were doing the best we could with this show and and making sure that we weren’t compromising the overall quality. As we have rounded out Season Two you might have noticed our episodes are getting a little shorter. That is intentional. I enjoy an hour and a half long Show Me personally, you don’t you the listeners, I am able to see the listener analytics and there’s a lot of drop off by the end of an hour and a half and rightly so that’s a long episode. And while we do try to keep that engaging and interesting and fill that time, realistically, it’s just too much that’s too long. And so we are working on shortening that. by shortening it, I can do a lot of other things, I can make sure that what is in there is valuable every second year listening it making it quicker to produce means I can make sure that we are producing the right things. It also means that you’re getting the most value out of your time as well. And it also just prevents burnout. When you record an hour and a half long show, it means you really need to record closer to three hours of content. Then you need to edit all of that and review it then one episode of the drunk new x podcast easily takes eight 910 hours of production to put together If I can cut that down, I can do a better job with the show. And so that’s a very real way that this sort of mantra is impacting what you’re listening to right now. Right in this second.
That’s stressful in its own way. Because I am a little protective of my personal time, I think about things like the podcast and the hours that I take out of my evenings to make this show a reality. And I realized, I was saying yes to everything that came my way. And in the same way that you know, work in web development and code suffers when you’re trying to do all the things and learn all the patterns and learn all the code. My ability to commit to different boards and different projects was beginning to be compromised. And not just in the the quality of the output and my engagement in committees and all this stuff, but I was being compromised. And this is where I, I say this phrase, and I don’t say it lightly, but it was damaging me. Frankly, my anxiety was going up. It was having a real and physical effect on me. I’m on blood pressure medication. This is something I’ve that has, you know, been following me around for quite some time now. And it’s not something I like. And the first time a few months ago Unknown Speaker that I
sat down and I was in a group of people, and it was noisy, and I started having a panic response to that environment was the moment I realized I was doing something wrong. And that’s the point where things kind of turned for me and I started thinking about this phrase, do less better, because my attempt to do everything was harming me. And it’s very freeing to be able to say that and promote that and I’m trying I think And this may sound bad, but I’m giving you permission to do less better yourself. Because I think people do need to hear that from other folks. Because we sometimes do feel that obligation when when other people need us, we feel an obligation to give them a part of ourselves. And we don’t have to do that. In the past two weeks. I’ve had three different opportunities come my way. And they were nice deals, they weren’t work related. They they had to do with the local groups and things. And I said no to all of them. And the best part of that was knowing that the sky didn’t fall. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself and we feel I think all of us have that moment where it’s like, well, I have to say yes, because if I don’t do it, who will? And the answer to that question is somebody else there is somebody else to Do the thing if you don’t do it. And you don’t have to compromise yourself and your health and your mental health in order to accommodate that, because those people will still be there and they aren’t going to lose faith in you. Because you decided to prioritize yourself over everything else. Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of other people. It’s the, you know, the police mantra, the firefighter mantra. I can’t run into a burning building to save everybody. If it’s dangerous, and I hurt myself, I only create more liability for everybody. I put the people I’m trying to help in harm’s way. And I’m putting everybody behind me in harm’s way who then has to take care of me. And so give yourself that permission. I this is what I wrote about in my blog post and this idea that we have to acknowledge that it is okay for us and for For you, for me to say, you know what, I’m going to find the things that are important. And every time something is put in front of me that says, hey, do this thing. stop and ask yourself, would I be better off doing more of what I’m already committed to? And making those things better and making those things the absolute best they can be? Because saying no, is incredibly empowering. Saying yes, feels great saying yes to all of these things. And because you get used to it, when whether it’s work related, the boss comes in, they’ve got a major project that’s going to make millions of dollars, but they need somebody to jump on it and help with it and you say yes, and you make that a success. You get this reinforcement of I did a good thing and I and I made the deal. I made a success. And when you’re getting involved in your community, you know, with your schools with your city, local government, with private XR of our boards committees, and you help them be a success. You do that by saying yes. That can be a very dangerous thing when you don’t realize where your own line is and what your own capacity is. So take your time, think stuff through, it’s okay to ask somebody, hey, you mind if I give you an answer in a week? Let me think about it. Because one part of that is this fear, right? We call it fo mo fear of missing out.
We worry if I don’t say yes to this thing, and I’m not a part of it. And it’s successful without me that I’m not going to have that. I can’t hang my hat on that. Or it’s going to be a fun thing or it’s going to be you know, something that builds on something I believe in. I would hate to miss out on that or even I don’t know what it’s going to be. But I want to know I want to be a part of that. fo mo can drive a lot of our willingness to over commit, and our desire to always have our hands dirty with that stuff. But when you stop and give yourself that time and give yourself that week, seven days, I’ll get back to you. It’s Tuesday. Let me talk to you by next Tuesday, and I’ll let you know, you sleep on it. You think about you think about the other projects that you’ve got going on the other commitments, the things you want to do for you, and to make you a success. When you give yourself that time, you realize, okay, to walk away from those things. The way I wrote it in the blog post, I said, doing less better is about making it okay to do your best work without compromise. Because it’s not a compromise to say no to something that’s put in front of you. At the end of the day, it means that you are prioritizing your success and that you’re committed to what matters the most For you. It’s important to me. It has made me better, it has made me feel better. It has improved my energy, it has improved my outlook. And it doesn’t mean giving up everything. I still have a ton of stuff going on. But I acknowledge that I have a capacity. I have a load limit. I’m like a server, a server that gets too many requests goes down, you start throwing 500 errors. And believe me, when your brain starts throwing a 500 error, it’s not a good feeling. And so taking that step back and I joke about this in the you know, I’m 37 years old, I’m an old man practically in terms of web development, but the reality is, it’s taken me a long time to become okay. I was very much a Do as I say, not as I do, kind of person when I would use that phrase do less better Because I knew I wasn’t doing less better, I was always trying to take care of what was in front of me regardless of whether it was going to make everything else better. So that is why I wanted to talk about this tonight. And I wanted to make sure everybody knows if you’re listening to this now it’s okay to make sure you’re focusing on the things that will make you a success. Because if you do that, it will. You can’t be a success by trying to commit to everything that comes up. I hope that that helped. I hope that it makes you feel better. I hope that it can be a lesson. There’s a book I haven’t read it, but I’m gonna go ahead and throw it out there. It’s got very good ratings. I’m going to pick up a copy for myself because I do want to read it by john our bell, it’s literally called do less better the power of strategic sacrifice in a complex world. It’s on Amazon author will link to it in the show notes. If somebody has read it. I would love to know what you think of it. It’s got five stars. So I’m going to take that at least me that’s Maybe good. I’m going to read that because I have time for that. Because reading makes me better. And I enjoy that. And I want to commit Unknown Speaker to that.
That’s one of the few things that I want to make sure as a priority to me because that’s what will make me better. So, let me know how you do less better. Is it D cluttering your office? Is it focusing on one technology? Is it giving up extra, you know, hobbies that you aren’t really paying attention to? I have three guitars. I don’t play guitar. In fact, I’m really bad at it. But I have three of them. And I don’t know why do less better. I should get rid of those guitars. I should declutter them from my life, and enjoy the fact that that lets me commit to something else. This episode of the drunken UX podcast is brought to you by something really cool. It’s an alternative to.com. It’s the dot design domain name. I’m a Big fan of interesting unique website names. So if you’re a designer and you thought of the perfect name for your website and it isn’t available under.com check out dot design, chances are the domain name you want is waiting for you head to Portland calm and use the coupon code drunken UX on the checkout page to get a free design domain name for your website. Face it, there are no good comms left years down the road. We’re going to care about cool, nice URLs that are relevant to the website you’re going to. And the fact that there’s so many to these to choose from, you really can get a domain name that’s right for you and right for your business. dot design is a great one. Visit Portland. com now and use the coupon code drunken UX at checkout and literally get a year of a dot design domain name for free. It’s bundled with free email hosting who has privacy and SSL certs. That’s a lot for nothing. Forget comms design is widely used. There’s Airbnb design. Facebook design, Uber design, Adobe design and so many more. Google doesn’t care. It functions the same way as a.com or.org. It’s just more interesting. It’s better branding. It looks great on resumes or business cards, and it looks awesome on email addresses. Design reflects what you do as a designer. Did we mention it’s free and includes a year of email hosting, who has privacy, and SSL certs and all of that stuff? Just go to pork been calm and use coupon code drunken UX at checkout. Thanks for sitting down with me this week. This was sort of a fireside chat. I hope the format was fun for you. I hope you enjoyed listening. If you did, let me know if you liked this format. If you think we should do this more often and do it with other topics. I’d love to know about that. Because this is it’s a very different approach to doing an episode and I like experimenting and trying new things. So let me know what you think about that. If you want to do that, you can find us on twitter facebook, where slash drunken UX, Instagram slash drunken UX podcast slack. Let’s go to drunk and ux.com slash Slack, it’ll get you an invite into our slack chat room straight away. Outside of that, we’ve been saying this quite a bit. We’ve got a little bit left in the season. We’ve got a couple guests, we got a couple topics. I’m excited about the way we’re going to end this season. I just want to throw that out there and tease it a little bit because I’m very proud of what’s on the way. So stay tuned for that as we get a little bit closer into December, outside of that, you know, do less better. I can’t say it easier that I love it because it’s only three words. I can’t do that any better with less words, so do less better. Let me know how you’re doing in your life. If you tweet hashtag do less better. I I follow that on Twitter because I like seeing that stuff. Otherwise, the other advice that I enjoy With consistently because I believe in it as well. I want to make sure that all of you out there are keeping your personas close and your users closer. Bye bye