How to Do Less and Get More Done

When we think of productive workplaces, we usually think of fast-paced, busy offices where the best execs arrive at 7am and work well into the evening. Where phones are constantly ringing and everyone is too busy to even stop and say hi.

I’m sure people who work like this do get a lot done. They are certainly productive to some degree. But are they efficient? Are they healthy? Are they happy?

Rushing around and trying to do more than you’re actually capable of will leave you disappointed, stressed and at risk of burnout. None of these will have a positive effect on your productivity.

More and more workplaces are beginning to understand the benefits that employee happiness and wellbeing have on company productivity and are encouraging their teams to slow down and work on being efficient not busy.

Here’s 6 ways that you can slow the pace to help you get more done without having to burn the candle at both ends…

Plan

Productivity Pro, Laura Stack, believes planning is key to time management

“Planning will keep you on course in achieving your goals and objectives… You have to take time to make time. Planning is the difference between being REACTIVE and PROACTIVE. When you don’t plan, you end up responding to the day’s events as they occur”.

If you start doing something without a plan of action, chances are, you’re going to end up wasting a lot of time. For example, I spend a lot of my time writing blog posts. For a long time, I was starting a lot of posts and finishing few. I would get half way through a post before realising I didn’t like it and scrapping it.

Now, I plan each post, starting with an idea, then a rough draft and finally filling in the gaps. I’ve found this saves me a lot of time and lets me shelf bad ideas before I waste too much time on them.

Meditate

The pursuit of productivity can leave you feeling tired and stressed. Pushing yourself to the very limits of what you’re capable of, and still not achieving what you’d expected, is disappointing and demotivating.

Instead of worrying about what you have to do next, or what you could have done better in the past, being mindful and living in the here and now can help you to become more focused, less stressed and generally more productive.

Try taking up meditation or yoga to improve mindfulness and start reaping the productivity benefits today. Don’t know where to start? Check out this guide on how to meditate by Chris Bailey of A Year of Productivity.

Review

As Aaron Lynn wrote for Asian Efficiency

“There is only one metric that truly matters when it comes to productivity: your time”.

If you don’t already have an in-depth understanding of how you are spending your time, chances are, you’re not spending it efficiently.

There are plenty of ways to track how you are spending your time, including apps like RescueTime or keeping a done list.

The key is figure out where you are losing time and how you can get it back. For example, if you’re checking Facebook every 15 minutes throughout the afternoon, you could schedule one 10 minute Facebook break to keep the temptation at bay and save your mind from having to recover focus after switching between tasks.

Stop multitasking

There’s plenty of research out there suggesting that, no matter what you think, you just can’t multitask. If you’re trying to do several tasks at once, or constantly switching between tasks, you’re probably just stressing yourself out without any real benefits for your productivity.

Make sure you schedule in time for each task and try to finish each job before starting a new one. Group small tasks together and set a time to go through all those pesky 5 minute jobs.

Leo Widrich from Buffer took on ‘singletab browsing’ as a way of tackling his multitasking habit…

“One strategy I put in place is something I call singletab browsing. I would limit myself to only keep 1 browser tab open whenever I am working. That way I had to really prioritize what the most important task was that I had to work on.”

Say “no”

Unfortunately, you just can’t do everything. If you want to stay productive and efficient, you’re going to have to learn to say “no” every now and then.

When someone asks you to do something, consider if you are the best person for the job, if it needs doing now and if you can schedule it in. If the answer to one of these is “no”, you probably shouldn’t take on the job.

Nonprofit speaker, trainer and author Beth Kanter recognizes how important saying “no” can be for your productivity. In a post for LinkedIn, Kanter suggests keeping a “no thanks journal” where you record instances where you say no as well as times where you said yes but should have said no…

“Writing it down and reflecting on it on a regular basis not only gave me the words to say no nicely to future situations, but also helped me push the pause button. This pausing helped me understand situations and patterns where I should change my initial yes to a no. I also am able to look back at what I said no to and feel good about it and realize that nothing bad happened as a result.”

Delegate

You need to accept that you’re not the best person for every job. Sometimes, there is going to be someone who could do a better job than you, or someone with more time who could do an adequate job. In these instances, you might want to consider delegating, giving you more time to focus on what you need to do.

“Effective delegation makes you replaceable, and although it sounds a bit strange, this is what you want. It allows you to spend time growing–rather than simply maintaining–your business.” – Dave Lavinsky, author of Start At The End.

For every task, consider if you are best placed to do it or if you can delegate it to someone else who has more time. However, be careful that you’re not just dumping your workload onto someone else. Delegating is not the same as shirking your duties!

Have you tried working slower? Share your experiences in the comments.

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