When we talk about achieving success and producing more results, the first thing that comes into our minds is none other than working longer hours and working more. But do you know that working more isn’t the answer?
Imagine if you are driving your car with the handbrakes on. You feel the car is underpowered and you feel it is difficult to accelerate when you push the pedal.
So, what do you do if you want your car to go faster? Do you press the pedal more so the car can accelerate?
No, what you need to do is to just release the handbrakes. Once you released the handbrakes, the car will accelerate and travel smoothly.
The same principle applies to every aspect of your life.
Sometimes, you don’t have to work more or longer hours to achieve more.
You just need to identify the constraint that is stopping you and get rid of it.
What is Stopping You in Achieving Your Goals and Dreams?
I want to share a story I learned in this book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It is a great book that I strongly encourage you to read.
In the book, the author Greg McKeown shared an interesting business parable about a guy named Alex Rogo, a character who is overwhelmed by the responsibility of turning around a failing production plant within 3 months.
At the beginning of the story, Alex doesn’t see how he can turn things around and make the production plant profitable. But then he met a mentor who told him to find the plant’s “constraints”, which are the obstacles that hold the entire system back.
The mentor also told Alex that even if he improved everything in the production plant, as long as the constraints are still there, the production won’t go far and he won’t get the results he wanted for the plant.
As Alex is trying to understand what his mentor told him, he went on a hiking trip with his son and other friends.
And in the hiking journey, Alex’s mission is to take the boys to the campsite before sunset. But as we all know, getting a group of young boys to keep up the pace can be challenging. And Alex has a problem – some boys go really fast while others are slower. And one boy named Herbie is the slowest of them all.
The gap between the front hikers and Herbie, who is at the last of the line, grows farther.
At first, Alex tries to solve the problem by getting the boys at the front to stop and wait for the rest to catch up. This keeps the group together for a while, but as the moment they start climbing, the gap becomes bigger again.
And then Alex got the idea of putting Herbie at the front of the line and the fastest boys at the back of the line. He places the boys in line in order of speed: from slowest to fastest.
It may sound counterintuitive to place the slowest boy at the front and the fastest boy at the back, but things begin to work in a single group.
Every boy can keep up with the boy in front of him. The great thing from doing so is that now Alex can keep an eye on the whole group. But the downside is that Herbie is slow and the whole group has to follow his pace.
The solution? As Alex discovers, is to do anything and everything to make things easier for Herbie.
With Herbie at the front, the slowest boy, if Herbie moves faster, the entire group will move faster too.
As a result, Alex focused on Herbie. Any improvement with Herbie will improve the whole group immediately.
This is a great insight for Alex. He then helps Herbie by taking weight out of his backpack, distributes the food and supplies throughout the rest of the group.
This instantly improves the speed of the whole group. Eventually, they make it to the campsite ahead of Alex’s planned time.
Identify the Constraints that Stop You from Progressing Forward
From the story shared above, you now know that if you want to move faster and achieve more, you have to identify the “Herbie” in your journey.
The “Herbie” is the constraint or the obstacle that stops you from getting ahead of your plan. And when you get rid of this constraint or improve this obstacle, every aspect of what you do will improve.
As for Alex, he applies this principle by identifying which machine in his production plant has the biggest queue of materials waiting behind it and finds a way to increase its efficiency.
The key to your success in life, regardless of whether it is in your career, business, finance, or relationship, is to identify the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you.
Once you know what is stopping your growth, and by removing it, you will be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.
But you can’t just go ahead and try to improve everything and anything. As what Greg wrote in his book, Essentialism…
“But this can’t be done in a haphazard way. Simply finding things that need fixing here and there might lead to marginal, short-term improvements at best; at worst, you’ll waste time and effort improving things that don’t really matter.
But if you really want to improve the overall functioning of the system – whether that system is a manufacturing process, a procedure in your department, or some routine in your daily life – you need to identify the ‘slowest hiker’.”Greg McKeown, an excerpt from his best-selling book, Essentialism.
You have to identify the obstacles that slow down your progress. Ask yourself, “What is getting in the of achieving what is essential?” And then focus on improving or getting rid of those obstacles.
Get Rid of the Obstacles that Stop or Prevent Your Growth
Let me give you an example. If you have a training course and you want to sell it online. But you have no idea where to begin because you are new.
The technical stuff is the core obstacle that you need to get rid of immediately.
You already have the product and ready to sell, but because you don’t know how to set up a website or a funnel to sell and collect payments, you crack your head, waste weeks and months learning how to do it, and eventually, you lose your motivation for it.
Don’t let that happen to you. You have to learn how to remove the things that stop you from getting to your goals.
You can easily hire someone to set up a website and get rid of all the technical work so that you can move forward faster.
Most of the time, to achieve more and to make greater progress has nothing to do with working more or longer hours.
Think about it, we all have 24 hours a day. So if you want to achieve more, you can’t rely on just working more and longer hours.
What if you already maxed out and you can’t put in more hours?
This is why it is important to find out the ‘slowest’ hiker in your progress.
You want to identify the one obstacle that stops you from getting ahead and work relentlessly on improving or getting rid of that obstacle.
Just like if you are earning $100 an hour, it will be counterproductive if you have to work on low-impact tasks like cleaning your office.
You can get someone to do the cleaning for $10 an hour, and you use the time you have to work on what is important and essential to you.
Don’t let the low-impact work stop you from doing the high-impact work.
Focus on doing what gives you the most result. And remove, improve, or outsource the rest of the work that slows you down.
That’s how you achieve more by doing less. And that’s how you can produce greater success without having to work more.