Chris Suave, of Shopify, gave a recent TED Talk about the three boring, yet important, habits of highly successful people. 1. Write things down. 2. Automate and eliminate what you can. 3. Question your system.
Chris says he was thinking about boring people; those who were boring in some ways, yet often did incredible things in other ways. He decided to take a look at the traits and behaviors they had in common.
First, Chris says, he noticed ‘boring’ people who did amazing things wrote things down. Why write things down? He says it comes down to looking at how many things we can actually remember. Citing research from George Miller, Chris says our short term memory is limited to about 5 to 9 items. With busy schedules, important meetings, appointments and classes, etc, folks on average are juggling about 50 things simultaneously.
All this activity is wearing on your brain. All competing for those 5 to 9 slots. Therefore, Chris says the logical thing to do is move to an external tool which can do it better for us. Things like agendas, calendars, to-do lists, or notebooks. Simple, boring things. Off-boarding this information to our tool set allows us to focus our attention back to one or two projects at a time.
The second thing these ‘boring’ yet successful folks do is reduce down to the essentials. Chis mentions Barry Schwartz’s ideas on the paradox of choice, taking a look at all the different things we can buy, or all the different restaurants we can go to, or all the different clothes we can purchase. Too many choices wind up hurting us because we’re often afraid of making the wrong choice. Steve Jobs wore the same ‘uniform’ every day for almost a decade. Former President Obama says he has two colors of suits; blue and gray.
What they understood was the idea of a mental energy pool. We only have a limited amount of mental energy we can devote to decision making. Chris says we become exhausted by choosing what to wear, what to eat, or what to buy — which bleeds over when trying to make good decisions on more important things. So how do those ‘boring’ folks manage this? He says if it’s something we don’t love and don’t have to do, eliminate it. What’s tough for most people is something you don’t love, but you have to do. Here’s where you need to automate. Make the same choice every time or let someone else make the choice for you. For example, Chris says he pretty much eats chicken and potatoes every night for dinner, and because he’s not worn down by all the extra decision making on mundane things, he’s able to dedicate his entire self to making amazing things.
The third thing is stopping and questioning your system. Chris says the problem with the first two things is people tend to do extremely well and their life sort of goes on autopilot. He says we need to continue questioning those things and make sure we don’t become stale. Are the things we’re doing still of value to us? You can view the full talk here. You can learn more about Chris at lemondesign.co