Doing Less, Slowing Down, Makes for the Happiest New Year

Doing Less, Slowing Down, Makes for the Happiest New YearDoing Less, Slowing Down, Makes for the Happiest New Year

EXPOSE | Must… Go… Faster…

Has the rush of tackling your “wish list” for the New Year passed?  It may be the perfect time to consider another approach.  Productivity seems to be all about quantity and pace. Do more–and faster.

I was so relieved over Christmas break to find myself not even remotely concerned about creating, what ends up being, a “wish list” for the New Year.  Instead, I gave more thought to a few things, and was both relieved and inspired by it.  Here’s the brilliance in doing fewer things: it means you’re doing fewer things!!  And, because you’re attempting to do less, you also have the benefit of being able to slow down.

EXPLORE | How About a Balanced Approach to Productivity?

I was intrigued by this particular article on productivity because it involved Seinfeld. No doubt he would have some snarky comment about it, revealing, with hilarity and precision, our collective gullibility in chasing productivity. In fact I could almost hear him saying: “what’s the deal with productivity?”

To which I would agree. How much more are we supposed to be able to get done anyway?!

However, the article focused on an often told story about the advice Seinfeld gave to a young, up and coming comedian: “The way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.”

The advice seemed so simple, and, honestly, a bit of a let down.  But applied to the idea of productivity, it becomes empowering.  A balanced approach to productivity could be in our being better about keeping focused on, and accomplishing, only what you need to.  Do well in doing only what you should be doing.

So, as you think about your “wish list”, maybe hearing this side of productivity will come as a relief.

EXECUTE | The ‘Must Be Done’ Items

So, if it’s not about how much we get done, but what we get done–What do you have to get done? Asking this question points us back at our priorities.

What Do I Need to Do?

When you try and answer this question, you end up creating two lists.  One list includes those things that need to be done, and the other is a list of things that probably don’t really matter.  Of course, being able to prioritize requires that you ask the right questions.

Wanda Thibodeaux provides a good line of questioning for identifying our priorities.  You can consider how it affects people, or your finances, or your time, but the crucial question is, Does the activity fit with your vision and/or goals?

Which, may be the real issue. If you don’t have an overarching plan, then how will you know what to focus on?

Now, Slowly, Thoroughly, Attack It

With that in mind, here some principles to consider when attacking what must be done:

Do it daily.  Do what must be done, every single day.  That way, it becomes a habit.  Listen to that: you habitually do what must be done every single day.  By removing the unnecessary, it leaves more time to remain consistently focused on what you need to get done.

Stick to process.  This relates somewhat to the point above.  It’s creating the means to the end.  Focus on what you will do, not on what you want to have happen.  Instead of setting a goal of losing 10 pounds, create the habit of exercising every day.  That ‘process’ propels you to your ultimate intention of losing weight.  The process, or system, gets you there.

Be aware of Parkinson’s Law.  By doing less, you’ll find yourself with more time.  However, you don’t want what you’re focusing on to “expand to fill the time available for its completion”.  Be consistent, but don’t be consumed by it.  Limit the time you give to ‘work’ the process you created.

Size up the next step.  Doing less means you’ll be less frantic, and, your mind will be freed up to be sure you stay on track.  You can more thoughtfully plot your next steps.  Jeff Hayden highlighted a quote from Ernest Hemingway, which, coupled with the previous point, allows you to know you need to do next: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.”  Jeff adds, “when you stop in the middle of a project, you know what you’ve done, you know exactly what you’ll do next, and you’ll be excited to get started again.”

If you’re all hopped up on “getting more done, more quickly”, this no doubt will feel like an assault on all that you hope to accomplish this year.  But putting a twist on a familiar verse, I’ll leave you with this question: what does it profit a man if he tries to accomplish everything in the world, but loses his soul?

Further reading:

11 questions that will help you prioritize your daily schedule

Study Seinfeld to learn everything you need about productivity

20 awesome productivity tips anyone can use


Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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