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Simple productivity: Less but better

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

You can do fewer things, done better, do the most important things, feel a greater piece, feel a greater sense of control that your life is not at the mercy of the things that don't matter at all.This is one way to approach life, career, creative work.Burnout is real, and it's brutal. But maybe it can be halted.

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
Do you sometimes feel overworked and underutilized?
Do you feel motion sickness instead of momentum?
Does your day sometimes get hijacked by someone else’s agenda?
Have you ever said “yes” simply to please and then resented it?

This article is for you if you're tired of wasting time on things that aren't important and can't get anything done.

"Today's hustle culture"—the belief that in order to be successful, we must work ourselves insane. Long hours, no breaks, little sleep, high stress, no fun—these are things that leave the body and mind exhausted but are frequently celebrated by our society, particularly in the corporate, medical, sports, and academic worlds. "I'll sleep when I'm dead" and "no pain, no gain" are two adages that come to mind.

The Honest Truth about Productivity

One moment of distraction, you get a text, before you realize it, you've spent half an hour of what could have been quality time focused on something that really mattered. It's actually been spent on almost total trivia. Technology has sped up our lives, but it has also made us less productive because we are constantly distracted.

We are frequently stretched too thin at work or at home, and we frequently feel as if our day is being hijacked by other people's agendas. Most people are unaware that they are making a strategic decision to do everything for everyone without giving much thought to their approach to life. Because they observe that other people appear to operate in this manner, they believe that this is the way you live. They are unaware that they are engaging in a deliberate strategic trade-off. Every time we say yes to something less important, we divert our attention and time away from those few critical items.

People create to-do lists and schedules without first determining what is most important. Many still approach their to-do list as if it were all equally important. In fact, the most important item on any list should be twice as important as the next item on the list. Keep in mind that you simply cannot do everything. Being constantly interrupted by a variety of tasks will not make you successful, but will keep you distracted. So get rid of the distractions and focus your energy on the essentials in order to create something worthwhile. You'd be surprised to learn that when we only focus on things that are both important and energise us, we have strong concentration and focused attention, and we effortlessly enter a state of flow.

This simple question can help you find a lead in your life. The question is, what essential aspect of your life are you under-investing in? There is no correct or incorrect answer to this question. Each of us has our own voice within us that will guide us to what is truly important.

Only we know where our hearts truly lie.

Now, a few more questions to help you out. Why is it so important to you? Really, put it out there. It does not have to be a single major reason; it could be a combination of factors. But why does it matter? What change would you need to make in order to bring this about? Specifically, how much time is needed? Would you feel that you were investing appropriately in the item that you've identified if you spent how much time per day or week? What does success in this area look like for you? Concretely, how would you know you were done? After you've answered those questions, you'll be ready to move on to the next step, which is determining how to eliminate non-essentials.

The Less but better, quality over quantity mindset

Pursuing holistic and healthy productivity involves doing less, but better, in order to make the greatest possible contribution. The goal of this simple productivity hack isn't to get more done in less time. It's not a matter of getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is about challenging the core assumptions of 'we can have it all' and 'I have to do it all' and replacing them with the pursuit of 'the right thing, done right, at the right time.' It's about regaining control over where we spend our time and energy rather than giving others implicit permission to choose for us.

We have the ability to choose how we spend our energy in life. Unfortunately, we forget we have a choice and spend the majority of our days following other people's agendas. Making that shift is what this is all about. Little do we realise that most things in life are just noise, and that we have the option to spend time analysing many options and committing to a small number that truly matter. Our modern-day expectation of having it all is a myth. You only have so much energy, and everything you commit to comes with a cost.

You're making trade-offs every day, every decision you make, every time you say yes, you're saying no to something else.

The art of slow yes and fast no

If the first step was determining what truly matters, the next step would be to eliminate non-essentials from your life. We need to master the art of the slow yes and the fast no, because we usually do the opposite. Here are three strategies to help you stay true to yourself and protect your peace.

Take Pause.We create a slew of issues for ourselves simply by saying yes too quickly. The majority of us are too preoccupied with formulating our response to what the other person is saying to be fully present and listen deeply during a conversation. This is especially noticeable in business conversations. Many people have had the experience of being asked to do something and knowing with every fibre of their being that they should say no, but then convincing themselves why they need to do it after all in a nanosecond. They jump in and then wonder why they never have time for work that interests them six weeks later. If this describes you, building a pause into an overwhelming day can help your mind to slow down, reset, and recharge.

  • Pause to refresh: Before entering any in such as a meeting, or returning home from work, pause, take a deep breath, and set an intention to be completely present and listen.

  • Pause to analyze: Before you dive into any to-do list, ask yourself, "How important is this thing to me on a scale of 1-100?" How excited am I about this? Is it that I'm really enthusiastic, or that I'm just feeling okay about it?

  • Pause to reflect :Make a list of the times you said "Yes" and how you felt about it (include both negative and positive feelings).

Don’t be Afraid to Say No.The truth is that if you continue to say yes to everyone, you will become a slave to the agendas of others. Individuals' ability to say no when a refusal is required varies depending on personality traits and circumstances. Saying no appears to be a skill that can be honed over time as part of our personal development on the journey that is life.Here are some pointers on saying no:

  • Disassociating the response from the relationship You're declining a task, not a person.

  • Concentrate on what you must give up in order to complete the task.

  • Accept that you will not be liked by everyone, but they will respect you.

  • Recognizing that a concise no is preferable to an ambiguous yes.

“People are effective because they say no.”- Peter Drucker

Saying no to what is "not essential" to us, or saying no to opportunities because they are not a 100% yes, is ultimately a result of effective decision making and productive prioritisation of what we want to pursue in life at any given time. So again, the idea is to remember there is a choice, and in that choice is the space to negotiate, so that we can make sure we're being used at our highest point of contribution.

If it is not a clear yes, then it's a clear no.

Learn to uncommit.You said yes, but you now realise that you don't even have the means to do it, or that it stresses you out to no end, or that you simply will not deliver something on time or on budget in the way that you'd initially intended. What do you do? What options do you have? Uncommitting is something we suggest. Uncommit is an honest path of eliminating a previous commitment. Here's why it's so critical to do this: we're all guilty of overcommitting. The entire world has taken on too much. Continuous overcommitment is a sign of dishonesty. Uncommitting is the way of validating the principle of being honest with people. "I believed I was capable of completing the task. I miscalculated the amount of time I have at my disposal. I didn't realise how much work it would be. As a result, I merely require your consent to uncommit." Uncommitting is not a selfish act; on the contrary, it helps you to concentrate on the most important things, allowing you to serve others at your best.

Bend, don’t break

Overwhelm and stress have evolved into long-term health issues. The next time you're drowning in tasks, take a moment to reflect on "what's important now," and then go forward.

The pursuit of less allows us to regain control over our own decisions by applying a more selective criterion for what is vital. This allows us to focus our time, energy, and effort on the things that really matter. Finally, we hope that if you take anything away from this, it is that this is YOUR life. You have the option of despairing in the rush or pausing to become enlightened in the silence.

Eliminating non-essentials is all about getting your life back.

As humans, we are ever-evolving creatures and I believe we have to understand our fluidity in order to give ourselves, and others, grace. In taking care of ourselves, we can then be a brighter light and affect a better world. The next time you find yourself unsettled or overwhelmed, struggle to finish a project that’s been on your plate for a while, learn to bend, so you don’t break.

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About The Author

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Hey, I'm Elsa. I’m a fashion marketing and management student and the creator behind The Real Planner. I create content such as planning and personal development tips for those seeking to design a meaningful and joyful life over this platform. 

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