Less, but Better - In an Internship

by Madi Rinaldi

A week or two after starting my internship with Differential this summer, I was given a welcome bag. It was filled with the usual goods: a Di notebook, some Di magnets, a few Di stickers, a T-shirt, etc., as well as a book called Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.

The book discusses the importance of doing fewer things and doing them better. The slogan, “less, but better,” is one of Differential’s core values. I recalled learning about this and hearing it around the office a few times early on. I thought that the idea of this sounded lovely, and although the company culture was one of the major aspects that attracted me to working at Di, I was not sure how much this whole “less, but better” concept would actually influence my day-to-day in the office. I mean, it sounded pretty, but I had work to do. Did they really want me to do less work at my job? Allow me to explain.

Less, but Better Hours:

About a week ago I got coffee with my supervisor, Salem. We’d been working alongside each other for the past twelve weeks on various marketing projects, and it was about time to meet, catch up, and discuss plans for my last few weeks of summer. Any chance to go to our favorite cafe down the street and chat with that sweet and funny girl is something I gladly welcome, but what I did not expect was this:

“Yeah, so I know you have about two full weeks left and the workload is slowing down. Obviously, there is always more work we can find for you to do, but if you want to enjoy your last few weeks of summer you can start working shorter days.”

This was not her nudging/ telling me that they wanted me out, or to pay me for less hours. No, that was not it. She was acknowledging that I was starting to have more hours to spend at work than I had of work left to do. Rather than hit my 40-hour mark, and spend several hours at my desk in search of things to do and planning what comes next, or sadly spending longer hours of unfocused work on a task that could be completed in much less time, Salem wanted me to be spending less time on better work. Less, but better.

“WFCoffee Shop, Be in Later!”

This is something I hear a lot from my co-workers. We have a team Slack channel where every day we post our plans for the day and what we would like to accomplish. Differential has several different employees that have varying schedules, and with that comes a flexible work environment. People will often send things like “WFH today, feeling under the weather,” which stands for working-from-home, and even “WFCoffee shop this morning, be in later!”

Being able to “WFCoffee shop,” so to speak, was something that amazed and excited me right off the bat. During my first few weeks I timidly read these messages, too afraid to try out the remote morning my co-workers had spoken of. Me? Alone, for an hour - what if I had questions? Who would answer them?

A few weeks later and I was a working-from-the-coffee-shop pro, making my way through the plethora of downtown latte spots and tuning out from the buzz of the office while plugging into my work at hand. When I spoke of these work-time adventures to my other friends working at internships across the city, they were baffled. “What, how do you even get work done?” “Do you even work?” And the answer is yes.

In fact, I believe I get more work done. I head to a shop to work when I want to focus in on a specific task. Sometimes it is the lack of distractions that I would normally encounter in the office and sometimes it is just the simple change of scenery, but the option to occasionally work remotely allows me to zero in on what I need to get done. Yes, working solo does allow for some more distractions, but those are ones I have the choice to be distracted by. They are voluntary - for example, hopping on my phone for a few minutes of mindless scrolling or surfing the web. However, it is my responsibility to get my work done, distractions aside, and the company culture here allows for and depends on that kind of trust.

It is because of this trust that we have that I get to spend less hours physically in the office and get better work done.

Losing Social Media Followers:

Lastly, Differential has taken this “less, but better” philosophy and applied it to our actual work. One of my responsibilities as a growth marketing intern is to manage our social media. This involves content, planning, and strategy.

In the beginning of starting this task, there was a bit of confusion around who we should be targeting on social media and a need for greater strategy behind this. We were shifting our target audiences, and I was responsible for following through with said shift. However, all I wanted to focus on at first was increasing follower counts… that was growth, right? So then why did I start losing followers at a faster rate than I was gaining them when I started this new targeting strategy?

I was wrong. It was not all about gaining followers. I began to see that it was about gaining the right kinds of followers, those who are engaging with our content and good for business, as opposed to the wrong followers, those not in our target market. Even if it be at a slower rate that we gain these desired individuals’ attentions. I was gaining fewer followers than before, but they were better followers. Alas, “less, but better” became applicable and visible in my day-to-day work.

Many companies boast of their great cultures and quirky work environments. But with offices that brag of their ping-pong tables and organic snacks, you sometimes start to wonder how deeply their promises of company values are actually fulfilled. In the modern world of endless distractions, go-get-’em attitudes, and output being placed before value, it can be difficult to slow down and focus on what really matters.

I could go on and on about how Differential defies the norm and holds true to promise. I could further explain the many ways that each and every employee ingrains our values into their practice. But that could take a while, and by now I think you get the point: less, but better.

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