When you give a TED talk, you get 18 minutes to share your message. You get on your red dot, and when you start your talk, a big clock you can’t miss starts counting down. The good news is that you know this so that you can prepare for it.
When I prepared for my TED talk, I had divided my text into eight blocks. Breaking up the content made it easier to rehearse. You can pick and choose pieces, instead of starting every time at the beginning. It also helped me pick and choose the parts I would skip if I would get into time trouble.
Four minutes into my talk, having finished my first part, I was one minute behind. The clock relentlessly showed me the harsh reality.
Inspired by the power of silence between sentences, and unlike most people who speak faster on stage, I was slower than I expected.
But I was prepared.
As one of my fellow TEDxWassenaar speakers said: “Nobody will ever know which part you skipped”.
I ended my talk three seconds before my time was up. Nobody would have stopped me from finishing, but the editing process might have been strict and cut pieces out I didn’t want to cut.
The week after, I started to look back at my talk and reflect on the parts I liked and which parts I could have left out to make it even shorter. When you’re critical to yourself, you always find parts and pieces you easily could have skipped without anybody knowing or caring.
Less is more!
That’s the lesson. And one of the hardest things to do.
Ask any management team that’s trying to limit their priorities for next year. Ask any person who’s trying to declutter their wardrobe. Ask any speaker who’s trying to give a TED talk and leave parts out of her (or his) carefully prepared content.
Most of us know (if only deep inside) that less provides more focus, clarity, and energy.
So why don’t we do more of less? Because we’re terrible at letting go. Letting go of something you became attached to is hard. That’s the issue.
It’s hard to say goodbye to clothes in your closet because you have too many. It’s hard to say goodbye to one of your priorities, because you feel it’s essential. And it’s hard to say goodbye to parts of your talk because you think your audience needs to hear it.
When we do let go and go through the pain of having to ‘say goodbye’ to something we care about, it almost always leads to better results and more satisfaction.
When you say NO to something, you say YES to something else.
What remains has now gained significance. What remains gets increased attention and focus. And therefore, the chances for success have increased.
Your turn: Let’s do a little experiment. Instead of having a look at your to-do list for tomorrow, assign ONE thing you want to accomplish tomorrow. Just one, and one thing only. Whatever it is, do it first as your (work) day starts, and then see what happens.