Get More Done (by Doing Less)

This one small trick changed my life, reduced my stress, improved my self-esteem, and made me much more productive.

Eric Edmeades resting on Kilimanjaro | Photo by Kersti Niglas

In this article, I will walk you through a super simple but highly effective task-management system that I use and give you a copy of my personal action template.

My friends and clients know me as someone who gets a lot done but also has a great deal of fun. I have two children, a great wife and a wonderful home on Kite Beach where I kiteboard regularly. I have also owned a variety of businesses including those in mobile computing, military research and development and Hollywood special effects where I got to work on movies in the Transformers, Iron Man and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.

And so, my friends often want to know how I get so much done while still having time left over for family and fun. This article will share one of my most simple and powerful strategies for inspiring productivity.

This article will share one of my most simple and 
powerful strategies for inspiring productivity.

Like many interesting discoveries, I stumbled upon this little trick after noticing something about myself that made me laugh and then made me a tad embarrassed.

That is until I found out that other people were doing it too.

Maybe even you?

In the past, I would often have a long to-do list on my desk and I would sit down to work. I would get something done, and check it off the list. The more checked items, the better I felt.

Sometimes, however, I found myself doing something that was not on the list but that seemed important at the time.

I would do it -> Get it done -> Add it to the list -> And then check it off. ✔︎

Yes, you read that right. I would do something that was not on the list and then add it to the list just so that I could check it off the list!

Do you know anyone that does this? Perhaps you know them quite well. ;-)

And do you know why people do this? I think they (we) do it because, well, it feels good.

In other words, by adding it to the list and then checking it off I was tricking my body into releasing some feel-good hormones. I found this fascinating.

Watching myself do this made me think about the relationship between To-Do-Lists, emotions, and feel-good hormones like serotonin.

And then it hit me. I could use this to my advantage; I could hack my productivity by using this observation.

And so, I created a new system for managing my lists that would change my feelings about my productivity forever.

I created a new system for managing my lists that would change my feelings about productivity forever.

I created a template — I will send you a copy if you like — to manage this new structure. And it works with this basic idea:

Let’s say you have 10 things that you need to get done today but you only do 6 things, how do you feel?

My guess? Not so great.

You might feel a bit frustrated.

You may also feel as though your day was not so productive.

This feeling might then go on to set the tone for your evening, the way you sleep and then, naturally, how you feel when you sit down at your desk the next day to start all over again.

This is an energy draining cycle, to say the least.

What if, instead, you take your 10 items and prioritize them into two lists: a list of stuff that you will do today and a list of stuff that you will not, or don’t have to, do today? (A not-to-do list.)

Imagine that you now have 5 items on each list and you manage to get 6 things done; all of the ‘today’ items and one of the ‘not today’ items. How would you feel?

Accomplished?

Satisfied?

How might that then impact your evening?

Your interaction with your family?

The way you sleep?

Your self-esteem?

Do you think that you might even feel better when you sit down at your desk the next day? You know, with one item already done?

This may seem overly simple to you but then I have to go back and ask: why do so many people add already completed items to their list only to instantly check them off? Because, as simple as it is, it feels good. And, the better we feel, the more productive we are.

This Not-To-Do Matrix can change the way you feel about your tasks. Your day. Your job or business. And yourself.

And, adding one more column to the template changed everything even more.

Adding one more column to the template changed everything…

The extra column is all about overwhelm prevention: Stuff I want the Universe to Handle.

This list is for stuff that you don’t want to put on any to-do list but that you need to keep track of.

If you don’t write these things down, you might keep track of them by worrying about them. And since most worrying is a strange combination of worrying about the issue and worrying about remembering the issue, this column is very useful.

This third column has another strange feature; the items on this list often end up taking care of themselves. Circumstances change. The right people show up. A new idea pops into my head.

However it happens, items on this list are routinely handled or assisted ‘by the universe.’

However it happens, items on this list are routinely handled or assisted ‘by the universe.’

If you would like a copy of my template, just click here and I will send one out to you straight away along with one more really great strategy for how to get more done in the same amount of time. A clue? Well, it is just as simple as the Not-To-DO matrix and it works by changing the way you feel about your projects.

In the end, it seems very clear to me that the more I try to do in a day, the less I get done in a year. So, I get a lot more done in a year by having a shorter list of things to do each day.

I hope you find this helpful; it certainly made a big difference for me.

Article Resources: Template-Not To Do Matrix (Download)

Not-To-Do Matrix Tempalte
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