Book Review: Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less by Marc Lesser

In a month when my “To Do” list seems to experience a growth spurt, I needed a book that would help ease and focus my mind. October, I’m learning, is an overwhelming mix of events, deadlines, anxieties and exhaustion at the end of a particular work cycle. Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less, with it’s soothing green cover and simple table of contents, seemed to promise a light at the end of the tunnel.

Marc Lesser, author of Less and Z.B.A – Zen of Business Administration: How Zen Practice Can Transform Your Work and Your Life, is  a Zen teacher with an MBA. I certainly thought I could learn a few things from this guy!

Through his personal and consulting practice, he’s developed a Less Manifesto that involves transforming, minimizing and/or not devoting energy to fear, assumptions, distractions and resistance. The Manifesto involves, of course, a recommended meditation practice and self-care (exercise, “think time,” etc.), but Lesser (a lovely coincidence of name) also encourages readers to mostly focus on what actually needs to get done.  This could be a higher purpose in life, a true calling or just a larger strategic plan.

Thus, by focusing on “less” (i.e. what really needs to get done), one can accomplish more by avoiding what we all know to be distractions: e-mails, office politics, self-doubt, pessimism, poor planning, traffic jams, etc.

But Less left me wanting a little bit. The strategies and recommendations were great; I get the Manifesto too, but I detected something amiss between the author and his writing. Lesser very honestly mentions his struggles in the workplace, but it’s always from a point of authority. He frequently mentions his CEO or Director status of one organization or another. Maybe his intended audience is fellow CEOs, but I found this repetition unnecessary and slightly annoying.

However, I did earmark one page that did give me the desired light at the end of the tunnel. In the Harvard Business Review, Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal cite a study that shed light on what the most focused and energetic managers do.

What the most focused and energetic managers do

  • Schedule regular reflection into their life.
  • Keep disruptive information (e-mails, phone calls) to a minimum and only during certain times of the day.
  • Develop strategies for reducing stress.
  • Be intentional about the meetings they schedule and attend.

These strategies inspired me to:

  • Schedule meditation into my day, specifically right before lunch.
  • Commit to a full lunch period. No eating at the desk!
  • Look at my e-mail habits and see if I can only check e-mail during three periods of time each workday.

These strategies also confirmed some current good behavior on my part:

  • Going to the gym after work to relieve stress and get my body moving.
  • Scheduling only 2-4 meetings each day; I really prefer limiting it to one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • Scheduling adequate vacation time and even travel time around work trips.

So there was plenty of good stuff in Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less, especially since it was a quick read in a busy month. 

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