Order the Combo! It’s a Better Deal

Accountability Contribution Productivity


Key Point: Embrace your very hectic and busy life by considering the following two ideas. I’m suggesting you order them up as a “combo deal” for your life going forward: Deep work and essentialism.  

The formula for “Deep Work” is: High quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus). Essentialism, as I refer to it is this context, is about taking control of choices and intentionally deciding where to focus energy.  It involves learning to filter through all of life’s options and select only those that are truly essential. When we have the combo of understanding and applying BOTH concepts, you and I will get more of the results we most want in life. I see so many people who allow their life to be controlled by the many distractions around them. And FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) adds to the conundrum. I actually worry about people’s emotional well-being because the shiny baubles of unlimited opportunity populate people’s dreams and yet they allow much of their time to be dictated by default rather than intention. Time passes and little of what they have dreamed about has occurred. Their life has been dictated by the rationalization of default, (“I will think about doing it later”), and the rut of a routine that’s often meaningless to what’s really important. (“It’s so less stressful when I just do what’s in front of me”).

Adam Grant became the youngest professor to receive tenure at Wharton and within five years, became the school’s youngest full professor. Grant is also a New York Times bestselling author and prolific researcher who performs at a very high level. In his book, Deep Work, Georgetown professor and author Cal Newport notes that Grant decided early in his career that productivity was a scientific problem that could be solved, and one of the fundamental components of his solution is doing “deep work.” Grant batches hard but important, intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches. According to Newport, rather than continuously work on research throughout the year, Grant reserves the fall semester for his teaching responsibilities, and the effort that he puts into his classes and students has resulted in him being Wharton’s top-rated professor for four straight years. The spring semester and summer are then dedicated to research. When he’s working in his office, he’ll sometimes spend a few days working in total isolation. During these stretches, Grant will set up an email auto-reply telling people he’s not answering messages for a few days.

In his exceptional work, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown draws on the experience and insight from working with truly exceptional leaders who have achieved the disciplined pursuit of less. Essentialism according to McKeown, is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. It involves distinguishing the vital few from the trivial, recognizing that if we don’t prioritize our lives, someone else will. Sometimes what we DO NOT do is just as important as what we do! And we know that some efforts just produce exponentially better results than others. As leadership Sherpa John Maxwell has stated, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” 

Character Moves:

  1. Honestly answer the following: What are the BIG things in life you DEEPLY want to do? If you can’t write this down in less than a few minutes, you haven’t defined it. Are you able and disciplined enough to batch deep work when you want and need to focus on your essential things?
  1. To discern what is truly essential, you need space to think, time to look and listen. However, you also need to give yourself permission to play, have the wisdom to refuel, and the discipline to apply the above highly selective criteria to the choices you make. Remember that there is something self-propelling and powerful about visibly seeing progress toward a goal. You’re worth it!!

Eating the Combo in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I think some Millennials are often told that it’s ok not to be “hungry” yet. We live as if it’s 4 p.m., we’d like a “combo meal” later, but we’re not ready to eat till 8 p.m. and we haven’t really looked at the menu yet. We’re encouraged to try appetizers. But, sooner or later, our waiter is coming to take our order and if we don’t know what big things we want, they might just move on to another table. I guess it’s never too early to develop an appetite.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis