As the weeks of distancing, virtual schooling, and virtual working have drawn on, I think about how this year is different. My family and I have had less time with friends and extended family. I’ve had less need to buy new clothing and new shoes. I have less opportunity to buy a Starbucks coffee as I travel to the office. I even have weeks when I don’t drive my car.
So why not consider how doing more with less has become our new way of life? Why would stretching our resources be advantageous? How does this impact the way we can do more with less at work? My curiosity led me to look for research on the topic. After listening to Scott Sonenshein speak about his book on a Brene Brown podcast, I was drawn into reading Scott’s book, Stretch. (1)
Sonenshein writes about how we can approach resources in 2 ways: chasing or stretching.
- Chasing attitude: “Having More Resources = Getting Better Results” (1)
- Stretching Attitude: “Better Use of Resources = Getting Better Results” (1)
Our natural tendency is to be comfortable and chase. The chasing approach seems faster, easier, and often requires less thought. For example, if we need to build a house, we buy wood framing and use nails. But if these materials weren’t available, how would we build our house? Sonenshein suggests we would need to use a stretching mindset to break from the standard norms and find different materials and tools. “Stretching is a learned set of attitudes and skills that comes from a simple but powerful shift from wanting more resources to embracing and acting on the possibilities of our resources already at hand.”
In the current and post Covid-19 business environment, where business resources may be tighter and predictability lower, why not instate a stretching mindset. The ability to adapt to the continuing unpredictable environment can be useful to maintain a fresh and active business plan also. We sometimes hear, practice makes perfect. Even practice can not prepare you for these unplanned events. But practicing and instating a stretching mindset could enable you to adapt sooner than others. ” Research by Brooke Macnamera at Princeton University, David Hambrick at Michigan State University, and Fred Oswald at Rice University, examined all empirical studies evaluating the relationship between the number of hours of practice and performance. They found that practice explains 24% of a person’s performance for areas with the most predictability. Still, this number decreases to 12% for moderately predictable events and only 4% for low-predictability events. As challenges become less predictable – that is, as they become more like what we regularly face in many of our professional and personal efforts – practice doesn’t always make perfect.” (1)
Sonenshein suggests some of the following actions to begin to gain your stretcher skills.
- Say no to more resources. (Sonenshein, pg. 203)
- Find a sleeping beauty. Find a static resource, brainstorm ways to use this resource to advance your business cause, and define at least one action you will take to revive the resource immediately. (Sonenshein, pg. 205)
- Go Explore. Tap into the diverse experience of those around you. Form a group of outsiders with diverse experiences. Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. (Sonenshein, pg. 207)
- Take a break. Remove distractions and do something like cook, color, or even clean. (Sonenshein, pg. 209)
- Appreciate what we have, big and small. (Sonenshein, pg. 213)
Tony Robbins also promotes doing more with less. He looks at this topic from a time-management standpoint. If you are going to say no to resources, you may need to add a few other time management improvements to your portfolio. Even from the perspective of time management, he suggests that you learn to say no and focus on the most critical activities. His second suggestion, which I find helpful, is Chunking similar activities to avoid time lost while switching activities. (2)
Practice some of the ideas above by Doing More with Less and managing time. Share your thoughts and give feedback. An interactive audience enables learning for us all.
(1) Sonenshein, Scott. (2017). Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.