#1 Skill for a Productive Life

Nina Wieretiło
11 min readAug 15, 2022

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter.” — Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

This article is a short recap of one of my speeches on productivity. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange this kind of talk at your event.

Generalists vs specialists

Some people call me a one-man band. It is indeed useful to be a generalist with multiple skills, able to complete various types of tasks on one’s own. Being the “Jack of all trades” is a must-have for solopreneurs — people who set up their own business which is bootstrapped (no external funding) and are forced to do everything on their own (at the beginning, before they are earning enough to employ people) by default. I do not want to generalise but oftentimes, people in corporate jobs get used to enjoying the benefits of specialisation — the better they get at their narrow field (say, marketing or sales), the higher the rewards in their field (both in pay and position), and hence the greater the incentive to stay focused there. In contrast, in most cases entrepreneurs need to be generalists and I think that the benefits of this kind of skill set spill to life beyond work.

Importantly, though, being a one-man band is a double-edged sword. Once others realise you are quite successful, they will want you to join their orchestra. They will realise — “I can have this one-man band instead of five other people on my team — I can pay them double the salary and still make a great deal!” You will start receiving many tempting proposals. And you will end up agreeing to too many. Remember where you started — you were growing your own thing and putting all your energy and varied skills there. Now, suddenly, because of monetary or prestige factors, you want to reemploy these resources. But do you want to trade off your grand vision and plans against the rewards from realising someone else’s dreams? It is obviously your decision, it all depends and there is no one right answer. But the implication is clear — it is enormously important for the generalists to be able to say “no, thanks.” That’s what I consider the #1 Skill for a Productive Life.

Essentialism

“You can do anything, but not everything.” — David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done: Mastering the Art of Stress-Free Productivity”…

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