The Greatest Secret to Productivity

that no one is talking about


There is no shortage of productivity hacks. If you want to get more done, spend more time reading about it.

You can learn how to be more productive by …

  • sleeping less
  • working longer hours
  • drinking more coffee
  • using a timer
  • multi-tasking
  • working in airplanes

You can learn all of that and more, all for the sake of getting more done.

What these productivity hacks forget to mention is that by becoming über-productive, you compromise your health and relationships, are in constant demand, and still never get it all done. Most productivity experts try to teach you how to get things done, but what they are really delivering are techniques to get things done faster so you have time to do more things. Insert vicious cycle here.

The greatest secret to productivity is …

LESS.

YES.

DO LESS.

Doing less will help you accomplish more.

We have to start by redefining productivity, because the current definition is clearly broken. When was the last time you finished everything? What was the last time you thought, “I’m so productive that I got it all done.” and didn’t have to wake up and do it all over again?

A new definition of productivity

The current definition may work when describing assembly lines, but we are people, not machines.

What if productivity was not defined by getting the most done, but by getting the most important done? What if productivity was not about doing it all, but doing the things we love and want to do? What if productivity was not about doing it fast, but doing it well?

If your purpose in life is to churn and burn, and that’s what really does it for you, none of the following advice is going to help. But, if doing it all is exhausting and overwhelming and you want to do things differently, keep reading.

How to be more productive by doing less

Edit. Edit. Edit.
We mindlessly add things to our lives and rarely subtract without great intention. It’s time to make an extensive edit list to clear away the things that really don’t matter. Look at your work, your life and your relationships and consistently edit to make room for the things that matter most.

Make a Love List.
What do you love to do and why are those things always on the bottom of the list? If you are waiting until you get everything done, until you work enough, make enough and have enough time, you will never do what you love. Start now.

Rest.
Without rest, you can’t do your best work. Without rest, you can’t give fully to your friends and family. You are less creative and motivated when you don’t rest. Just stop. Rest.

Have fewer ends
If you are constantly worried about how to make ends meet, it’s time to think about having fewer ends. What are you paying for right now that you don’t need? What if you got rid of those payments? Could you work less and make less? There are better things than to be than rich.

Drop more Balls
More balls in the air requires more juggling and more ball dropping. When you forget to do something or you accidently drop the ball, you feel guilty and unworthy. What if you intentionally dropped the ball, or simply removed them from your juggling act. I know you thought it was important to throw it up there, but if you’ve recently discovered that it isn’t, drop it.

Say No.
If other people notice that you are almost done, they will ask you for help. There is a saying that goes something like, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Likewise, if you feel like you are almost finished with doing things, you’ll add more instead of just being done. Say no and give yourself a break.

Single Task.
In my new mini-mission book, Brooke McAlary from Slow Your Home wrote a chapter about single tasking. She suggests doing one thing at a time, “Make time for that to be the one thing you are thinking about. The one thing you are experiencing. The sole purpose of that moment. And when you’re done, take a deep breath. Then it’s back to the day. Keeping balls in the air, food in bellies and colleagues informed.”

Stop measuring your worth by your accomplishments.
At the end of the day, we have a bad habit of measuring who we are by what we got done. If our to-do lists don’t have enough check marks and inbox zero is still miles away, we feel like we didn’t contribute enough and therefore, we aren’t good enough. Instead of measuring yourself by what you get done, measure by how you make people feel. Measure by what’s in your heart and not on your list.

I know that some of you are shaking your head (or your fist) and thinking that it’s easy for me to tell you to do less. You may have more to do than you can handle and think there is no way out. I used to think the same thing. I blamed my boss and my finances and anything I could thing of. As long as I had an excuse to do more, I did it. If there wasn’t more to be done, I created it. I did more to keep up, catch up and tread water. I did more to prove myself, climb the ladder and shoot for the moon.

It didn’t work. More was not the answer.

There will always be more to do. Choose less and do it well. Choose less and get it done. Choose less and do what’s most important.

If you could only accomplish one thing today, what would it be?


I originally wrote this for Be More with Less, my blog about simplicity in life and business.

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