Wouldn’t it be great to do more work in less time, all the while feeling less stressed out? Well, you can. All it takes is a little leverage.
Let me explain.
Leverage is that thing that lets you do more than you should be able to do.
You can’t move that big rock in your backyard. It’s too heavy.
Then, miraculously, you rig up a lever and it moves easily. With a relatively small force, you can move a very large rock.
You can’t afford to purchase your dream house right now, even though you finally find the right place in the right neighborhood, in a great town. It’s way more money than you have on hand.
Then, you apply financial leverage, and you buy the house. With a relatively small amount of money, you can make a very large purchase.
You can’t just ring up any executive in town for advice and information. You don’t know everybody.
Then, you leverage your network of contacts, and viola, you can connect directly with just about anyone in town through a personal introduction.
You are using leverage all the time. And you know how ridiculously effective it can be.
The same is true for your work. Whether it’s a project or operational area or something else.
You can make a relatively small investment of time and effort and reap tremendous benefits.
Applying leverage to your work
First, leverage your time on task.
Spreading your time around various tasks at once feels like you are accomplishing a lot. But it is far more effective to concentrate on one thing at a time.
You gain leverage this way, just like a fulcrum and a long stick concentrate force on a specific point to move a heavy object.
In the case of work, this allows you to focus deeply, understand the details thoroughly, and emerge with a better understanding of this particular piece of the puzzle and how it fits into everything else.
When we don’t focus quite deeply enough or quite long enough, we don’t get the full benefits of that deeper work.
We get to “good enough” and then we hustle on to the next item. Hustling on to another task feels like being productive, but it lacks leverage.
By going deeper, building a more complete understanding, and generally improving the quality of work, you will get more benefits.
These residual benefits are things like a greater sense of confidence because you have better insights that strengthen your knowledge and experience. You did the job and made sure that it was done right.
You don’t need to second guess things, because you have already double checked your work.
And if you do want to re-examine your results when asked or challenged by others, you can do that based on stronger insights.
You will have already established a robust way of thinking about the problem, which makes it easier to either change your mind based on new information or to support your position more effectively because it proves sound in the face of this new information.
Your goal is to master various aspects of your job over time. It’s easiest to do that if you focus on one thing at a time. Use the short-term leverage of focused time and you will gain the long-term leverage of deeper understanding.
This will help you to gain better command of the situations you manage, the responsibilities you hold, and the underlying fundamentals of how everything works.
Those fundamentals will become clearer as you become more deliberate, more organized, and more thoughtful and analytical about each area.
And a mastery of the fundamentals will get you to where you want to go faster than just about anything else.
Leverage mastery into leadership
Mastery of the fundamentals is powerful in a couple of important ways.
First, your greater understanding gives you valuable insights that you otherwise might have missed. Those valuable insights give you greater confidence because you are truly growing your expertise.
Second, going to that depth helps you learn how to learn and how to gain mastery. This carries over to your efforts to go deep in other areas. Soon, you start to see patterns that you might have otherwise missed.
As you cycle through different projects, operational areas, technical skills, and other areas, you begin to build a significant arsenal of knowledge and experience. This further builds your confidence.
And building your confidence is critical. As you come to know that you are doing good work, you will become a stronger leader–of yourself and others. You will be able to better withstand criticism, contribute more strategically, and become more influential.
You will also gain a greater sense of calm.
When you are a confident expert, you don’t need to feel panicky. You get better at avoiding harmful knee-jerk reactions. You become the voice of reason when the going gets tricky.
All of this positions you to grow into bigger and bigger opportunities over time.
Spreading yourself thin is not the best way for you to improve performance at work. That leads to too much time doing shallow work, which restricts your ability to grow.
Instead, you should focus deeply in different areas over time. That’s how you will gain real mastery. And with that mastery comes confidence, knowledge, insights, and influence.
The two biggest secrets to achieving mastery are to 1) work on one important thing at a time, and 2) to go deep enough in that area that you personally gain long-term benefits.
By playing the long-game in this way, you will build incredible capabilities for yourself over time. Which will lead to many new opportunities.
You won’t be able to be great at all things all the time. Some less important items will slip a bit. But that’s ok, because you will cycle around to all areas eventually.
And when you do, you will have powerful expertise, and you will be a stronger leader of yourself and others.