Doing less in order to do more paradoxically is the key to productive action and promotes creativity, I believe. We are actually so obsessed with activity which is generally not focussed on achieving anything in particular. Our society demands that we are continuously active – doing something, anything, stuff! We are even made to feel guilty when we are inactive. “The more you do, the more you can do” is a popular expression and “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.
Load on the activity, then add some extraneous pressure. This is just stressful, meaningless and usually lands up messy!
1) Prioritize Actions: according to impact first and then urgency. What serves your true purpose now creates the situation for taking responsibility for committed action,
2) Limit Activity: by being aware of and by dropping more and more activities that serve no purpose; those that consume energy, unnecessarily. We need to get our act together , prioritize our action and rationalize activity.
3) Allow Relaxation; create a state where there is no activity, nothing to be achieved, creating pure potential energy.
Then, doing less so as to achieve more, we do find ourselves in a different place having experienced the journey to the fullest.
While it helps to identify the strategies that help you do what you do consistently well, you probably need to figure out the things that cramp your productivity style, too. Are there particular things that throw you off track? A recent article on Mashable, Bret Terpstra suggests 5 things you should stay away from so that you can get more done, like not sleeping enough, and Deb Lee on Uncluttered shares six things that suck the life out of your productivity – things you should consider kicking out of your regular routine:
- Having poor eating habits
This one goes along with not exercising enough (or exercising too much), not drinking enough water, and not taking regular breaks. Lest you start thinking that I sound a bit like your mother, there are some statistics to back up this suggestion. A study published by Population Health Management found that …
Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to report having experienced a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Employees who exercised only occasionally were 50 percent more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers.
So, in order to be at your best, take care of yourself and refrain from…
- Moving at the speed of light
There are many benefits of slowing down and keeping your pace at a speed that doesn’t make your head spin. Taking your time means that you’ll likely be better at deciding what your priorities are. You’ll also be able to give your full attention to your most important tasks without feeling frazzled.
- Trying every productivity strategy
There are many strategies that can motivate you to get stuff done, but not all of them will be the right fit for you. For example, if you know deep down you’re a paper person, use a paper calendar, a notebook, and handwrite your to do list instead of investigating digital options. Gadgets and digital solutions may seem bright and shiny for a moment, but if they don’t suit you, they won’t really help you in the long run. The same is true for how you set up your environment. If you get tons done when you have music playing, go for it. But, if you prefer silence, then keep the music off.
Once you find “the one,” stick to it. Yes, you may need to use a new technique when your life changes, but when you find a system that works well with your learning and work styles, don’t spend any unnecessary time checking out other things.
- Working only on other people’s stuff
Sometimes it may seem that you’re getting a lot accomplished, but are those tasks that you’re checking off your to-do list yours? Or do they belong to someone else? It’s nice to help your colleagues, but not at the expense of your own responsibilities. Set aside time to assist others but ensure that you’re giving priority to your own projects. You also need to be careful so you’re not …
- Taking on too much
In the spirit of being helpful and wanting to be a team player, you may say yes to any or all opportunities that are offered to you. (Can you really take that board position and coach the basketball team?) Instead, be more selective about what you choose to take on and figure out if accepting something new will negatively impact your life in other ways. Think about the time commitment and, before you say yes, take a look at your calendar and task list to see if you really can accept new projects. Your stock response when other people make requests of your time should be, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Save the “yes” responses only for those rare times when you know your boss will be very upset if you don’t jump right in.
- Having no way to keep yourself accountable
Whether you’re working on personal or work-related goals, you will need to find a way to hold yourself accountable so that you can meet those goals. If you have no way of tracking your progress, you probably won’t accomplish the necessary tasks. An easy way to work toward completing your goals/projects is to set deadlines and/or milestones. Add due dates and milestones to your calendar (or project management program) and use “naked planning” to your benefit by scheduling regular check-in meetings others involved in the project.
If you can avoid these six productivity traps, you should be able to get things done on time and done well, according to Deb Lee.
Brett Terpstra, curator of the Productivity category for Mashable’s Innovation Index suggests that with rare exceptions, everybody wants to be productive. It means advancing your career, feeling a sense of accomplishment and even opens the opportunity for guilt-free vacations and rest. There are plenty of ways to circumvent your own productivity, though. According to Terpstra if you’re bent on sabotaging your to do list, here are a few options to consider:
- Set Alarms for Everything
When it comes to distraction, there’s nothing like having alarms go off while you’re working, urging you to do something else. It’s a great way to break your concentration and ensure that you have a persistent feeling of panic throughout the day.
Alarms are for events you can’t miss, not for tasks. The Pomodoro technique may be an exception if you’re using it to eliminate anxiety instead of create it. For everyday work, though, it’s important to train yourself to check your schedule consciously, and allow yourself to dictate any anxiety surrounding due dates. Chances are you’re not going to forget the looming task due by the end of the day, and having your next task ding at you isn’t going to help get either one done.
- Be Social
We all need a break now and then. Check Twitter, scan Facebook, and maybe fire off a few emails and texts to see how friends are doing. Keeping all of those outlets available all day is a guaranteed way to ensure that you’re never fully focused on what you’re doing. Chat rooms and IM are even better; it’s like a water cooler that comes to you.
When it’s time to work, shut off your Twitter client, turn off notifications on your mobile devices and close all those browser tabs that are going to tempt you into just “checking.” Go “dark” wherever you can.
- Lump Your Tasks Together
If you want to end a day feeling like you accomplished nothing, make sure that all of the items on your to do list are “big picture” projects. Overarching concepts with no sequential set of smaller tasks are a perfect way to make any job seem overwhelming.
If, instead, you want to make progress and see results, you might want to break that “year-end report” task into a series of smaller tasks that you can actually tackle. Mark them off one at a time, and keep moving forward. At the end of the day you’ll be rewarded by a series of check -marks and an easy way to see how far you have (or don’t have) to go to finish the project.
- Say “Yes” to Everything
If you say “yes” whenever someone asks you if you can “fit it in” or help out with something, you’ll easily ensure that you don’t get done what you already need to, with the added bonus of not helping anybody out successfully.
If you’re a little more thoughtful with what you agree to, you can keep life manageable and, ultimately, get more done. Remember, saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else, and vice versa.
Being constantly busy is not a sign of productivity. Being able to finish what’s on your plate and take a break is.
- Don’t Sleep
Working all night to finish a project can accomplish great things. Perhaps the next day is productive. Then, you lose two, maybe three days of productivity as your body and brain crash and struggle to catch up. Assuming that your life is a series of tasks and not one big, end-all job, maintaining a sleep schedule and finding a healthy equilibrium is vital to actually doing anything.
Set a bedtime. It doesn’t have to be strict, but let your mind stop for a while. Learning to clear your mind at the end of a busy day is a skill that can be honed. More often than not, the mind solves problems that were slowing you down while you sleep. Letting your subconscious do some of the lifting can help your conscious thoughts be even more productive.