Here’s how to get more done — by doing less
For most of my child and adult life, I believed that the more time I spend working, the more job I will have done, and even the more I will receive. That’s why phrases like “no pain, no gain” or “It is not enough to work, it is necessary to exhaust yourself every day at work” exist.
Now that I work from home in my full-time job and various personal projects, I understand that the purpose is not to work more to have more done but get the same results by working less.
While most people try to be more productive by adding more things, I realize it is much easier to start by deleting what kills productivity. When you look at highly productive people, they always avoid useless tasks that everyone else does.
In fact, working more than necessary is basically pointless. One study from Stanford University explains that productivity per hour declines abruptly when a person works over 55 hours a week:
After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless. Those who work up to 70 hours a week are only getting the same amount of work done as those who put in the 55 hours.
If working for a long period of time doesn’t make sense, the best way to be productive is by managing better our productive hours. Here are 5 ways you can get more done by working less.
Work for objectives, not for hours
Right now, I am working on a lot of simultaneous projects. I’m doing trading, I’m writing, I’m a full-time employee in a Software company, and I’m planning to grow a YouTube channel.
Many of my friends always ask me how I can manage my time to do all those things every day. The answer is simple: I don’t work every day on it.
For example, a YouTube Chanel doesn’t require you to be active every day. At first, I started editing a video every day for 20 minutes. But then I realize that if I only focus on it for one hour straight, I can finish it faster than 20 minutes for 5 days (1 hour 40 minutes).
That’s because when you stop doing something and then try to focus again on it, you have to take time to process where you left it and what you are going to do.
Studies say that it takes 25 minutes and 26 seconds on average to really focus on a task, so concentrating your day on one single task is more effective than divide it into small goals.
Also, when you only work on something for a period of time without interruption, you will do it faster because your brain memorizes the repetitive steps while doing them.
Instead of making daily tasks to complete an objective, start making weekly goals. For example, if you want to upload a video every week, instead of work on the video every day for 20 minutes, use one day to record, and another to edit the whole video.
Delete all the things that do not add anything to your day
Although our bosses say they are important, there are many tasks that don’t really add much value to our day. Some of them are daily meetings, notifications, lack of organization, confusing tasks, and unpunctuality.
This study by Harvard shows the percentage of time we waste on these unnecessary tasks:
- An average employee wastes 41% of their time at work on low-value tasks.
- Slack’s average user sends 200 messages every day.
- 53% of employees waste at least one hour every day dealing with distractions.
- Workers spend 1 hour and 5 minutes of their workday reading news sites on average.
- Social media takes up 44 minutes of the average worker’s day.
So the best thing you can do to work less time and achieve better results is to find out what those distractions are and delete them from your day.
“The major improvements in your life will come from taking stuff away not adding more into your life.”— Deep Patel
To find out how much time I was wasting on those tasks, I tracked my productive hours with Pomodoro and write everything that happened to me in the day for a week.
I realized I was only focused on work for 3 hours straight. For the other 5 hours, I was constantly distracted. By knowing and deleting all those useless tasks I had, now I only focus on the things that really matter.
For example, I was wasting a lot of time planning my day. Now I try to start my day working on the things I have to do without a list, and then I think about what other things I can do after I’m done with the primary tasks.
This has helped me finish important tasks first and then plan what other things I can do in the day.
Block your time
Multitasking and switching tasks ruin your productivity. According to some research, humans are not destined to multitask. In fact, there’s just a small percent of people who are good at this.
Arthur Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, says:
Dividing attention into multiple activities is a strain on the brain and can often come at the expense of actual productivity.
It is much better to work for short periods of time and rest than to do many things simultaneously.
For this, I choose what are the important things that I have for the day, and try to concentrate for 25–45 minutes only on it. Then I take a break to rest, and then I come back to it for another 25 minutes.
Use the “Time Theming”
Time theming is basically giving your day a focus or a theme. For example, Monday might be writing day. Tuesday for edition, Wednesday to rest and study.
Instead of worrying about what do you have to do today or that you have so much to do and you don’t know where to start, this approach allows you to actually focus on one thing at a time, giving you the freedom to actually do it.
This, combined with working for objectives, helped me to have exactly the same amount of things finished at the end of the week as working on many things every day.
It even helped me not to get overwhelmed by having too many things to do in one day. And my mind already knows that it should focus on only one important thing.
I’m a software programmer, which means that I’m constantly looking for ways to automate all the repetitive tasks I had to do.
Whenever I have to do something that takes the same steps, I ask myself: How can I do it automatically, so I don’t have to lose time and energy taking care of it?
Thanks to technology, even something as basic as replying to an email can be done automatically in the settings.
For example, things that I have automated so far are:
- In trading, I have alerts when a stock goes up or down. This way I don’t have to watch the market all day. In the morning, I only do the initial analysis and what alerts I want to receive.
- On YouTube, I upload the videos I have for the week and set a schedule so I don’t have to publish them one by one.
- For my social media, I use the automatization business tool of Facebook. I don’t even have to upload anything for an entire month if I plan correctly.
If you do something repetitive every day, you can automate it and not waste time on it.
After a certain number of hours, worker productivity levels off or even drops. Boosting productivity through longer hours is less effective than finding ways to get more done while at work.
Knowing how to manage our time better will help us to be more productive, and we will avoid fatigue overload from extra work that does not make sense for us to do anyway.
Remember that the objective is not to work more to obtain more income. It is to work smart to do what we need to in less time.