Stever Robbins on How to Live on Purpose

A few weeks back, I attended Stever Robbins’ book launch for 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More, at Porter Square Books, in Cambridge, MA. Earlier that day at Podcamp 5, I’d heard the Get-It-Done Guy talk about his interesting transition, from podcaster to published author.

I decided to follow Robbins on over to Porter Square later that evening, first off, because it’s been forever since I explored Cambridge, or had the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Indian dish, which I knew I’d discover somewhere along the way.  And second, here was someone I could relate to. Self-proclaimed “reformed nerd” (p. 177), Robbins spoke the introvert’s language, in a way that was as wise, as it was simultaneously funny, pragmatic, and personal.

Since that night, I’ve been enjoying Robbins’ useful advice on getting organized and staying focused—especially important to me right now, as applies to my job search, but which will be just as important later on, balancing work and family again.

Live on Purpose

At the Porter Square reading, Robbins read excerpts from a few chapters, including what he noted was the most important chapter in the book, Step 1: Live on Purpose.” The central thesis of Robbins’ entire book can be summarized in this line: The key to working less is being on purpose” (p. 11).

Build Strong Relationships

Chapter 8 alone, Build Stronger Relationships,” is worth the price of the entire book. It’s a must read, for anyone interested in better understanding communication differences or how to build closer relationships, despite those differences. Introverts and extroverts alike can also benefit from Robbins’ advice on how to end conflict quickly and how to prevent conflicts from occurring, in the first place.

Content Focus versus Task Focus

Robbins’ description of the two types of focus, content focus versus task focus, especially resonated with this blog’s themes as well as my natural work style. According to Robbins, it’s best to group tasks, according to the type of focus required:

Focus around single content areas when you need to keep an entire content area in mind and completeness and depth are what’s important…Project management, writing, proposal writing, helping a client fix a problem, and completing a college application all would benefit from content focus.

Focus around the task when the tasks don’t involve keeping a lot of details in mind, and it would take a long time to switch between types of tasks. Running to the post office, shopping, sorting stacks of incoming mail, and cooking several courses of a meal would all benefit from focus around task (pp. 93 – 94).

Stop Wasting Time

Robbins advises that we can apply the 80/20 rule to stop wasting time. According to Robbins, it means “when you look over your Life Map (or even just your current work goals), you’ll find that most of your progress will come up from just a few actions” (p. 137).

“If you can identify those most important actions, simply do more of those and less of the busywork, and you’ll be home free” (p. 137), Robbins explains.

Recommendation: Business, Self-Help, & Comedy (All in One)

At the Porter Square reading, Robbins remarked that he wanted to write a book that could be categorized as business, self-help, and comedy, all at the same time. For me, Robbins definitely succeeded creating a book with that kind of multidimensional feel. His concrete steps, detailed examples, conversational style, and engaging wit make this book as much fun, as it is helpful.

As I look for ways to increase productivity in both my personal and professional lives, I can’t help but think how Robbins’ themes correspond to Thoreau’s often-quoted line: As if you could kill time, without injuring eternity.”

In my case, I am definitely re-evaluating how some of my social networking activities and other uses of technology are really furthering my job search goals. Are there better platforms I could be using? better ways I could be gathering information or building relationships on or offline, with the right people, which might involve less time? are there tasks I’m ignoring, that could better serve my job search?

Where is the busywork in your life? How can you apply the 80/20 rule to get more out of your respective efforts?

Postscript: I highly recommend Porter Square Books, btw, for a fun night out, if you’re into free book readings. Food for thought, intermingling with a nice-sized audience, and the opportunity for a cup of coffee, or glass of wine during the reading, depending on your preference. All that, within Cambridge’s bustling Porter Square, where I did find my sought-after Indian restaurant. Good deal.

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