OPINION: If this headline just got up your nose and made your head tilt like Lassie’s does seconds before a ‘save little Johnny who fell into the well’ action sequence, you’re probably an A-type personality who does it all yourself, because all of it’s important and, therefore, all of it must be done right, and done right now.
Or maybe you’re someone who’s always suspected that practically everything is unimportant – and that’s why you’re still reading. Maybe you often feel overworked and under-utilised, stretched too thin and getting too fat, because the only exercise you have time for is running around and bending over backwards.
So, here’s the thing: I’m convinced that the biggest favour we can do ourselves, and the people and things we care about, is to separate the ‘trivial many’ from the ‘essential few’ – whether in your professional, social or personal life. You cannot bath the dog, visit your mom, hang a picture, pick up some milk, go for a run, squeeze in a massage, meet your pals for a pint and do dinner with your partner – all between 5 pm and 7 pm on Saturday afternoon.
You cannot fetch the full moon with an eclipsing budget by high noon tomorrow.
Most of these many things that demand (and that, we firmly believe, deserve) our immediate and undivided attention are unimportant. And the few truly important things are getting left by the wayside as we rush around on our busy bikes.
The point being, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
You can’t say ‘Yes’ to everything, be everywhere, please everyone, and get everything done, and done well, right now. Life is all about making trade-offs. You can ignore the reality of trade-offs, but you can’t avoid making them. Sooner or later, something will slip off your full plate and end up on the floor. A graceful ‘No’ can be the one decision that liberates you from having to make a thousand more. True story.*
So, back to the demands of the world of marketing and advertising for a moment. Crude example: You cannot fetch the full moon with an eclipsing budget by high noon tomorrow. All three of these asks can’t be held as equally important – something has to give or everyone will end up looking silly and feeling sulky.
When you acknowledge and respect the reality of the need for trade-offs, you can choose which challenges, problems or requests to say ‘No’ to and which to say ‘Yes’ to.
You can channel your focused energy in one direction for maximum impact in removing one clear set of obstacles. Then, you can make your client look like a star by organising a moonlit dinner at a fair price, with bottomless sundowners thrown in. Everybody wins when we all respect the reality of trade-offs. And therefore, by definition – each other.
Well, that’s the theory at least. Now for the practice.
* Where does this all come from? From a book called Essentialism: The disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s probably one of the most liberating books you’ll ever read.
Dina De Vine is executive creative director at Mortimer Harvey.
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