by Sharon Hurley Hall
5 Ways to Do Less So You Can Do More
Productivity – it’s all about getting more out of your day, right? Well, not necessarily. The truth is that being overloaded can decrease productivity and efficiency by up to 68%, so that’s not the way to go. So sometimes, the best approach is to do less, and make it count. Here are some tips on the “less is more” approach to productivity.
1. Use Your Strengths
Most of us have experienced the drag of having a task to do that we’re not particularly good at and definitely don’t enjoy. The research shows that doing this, day in, day out, can leave people feeling disengaged and demoralized. In contrast, those who work to their strengths are 8% more productive than when they don’t.
So, know what you’re good at and focus most of your time working in this area. Plus, the great thing about working to your strengths is that you feel like you’re doing less, because it doesn’t feel like hard work.
2. Work From Home
“I love cubicle farms,” said nobody ever. While some people thrive on the constant buzz, for many this just makes it harder to get stuff done. And if you’re an introvert, you might need to go and take a quiet break at some point during the day. Instead of staying in the office, consider working from home.
According to Gallup, those who spend 60% to 80% of their time working remotely are more engaged in their jobs. And other research shows that when employees are engaged, their productivity can rise by up to 68%. Putting it together, that means that working from home can actually boost productivity, so why not try it?
3. Learn To Say No
Back on the subject of cubicle farms, one of the issues is that people are always stopping by for idle chit chat, or to get you to help them with something. Just. Say. No. Let’s face it; if you’re helping your colleague with their issue, you’re not getting your own work done, and that’s a huge productivity issue.
Instead, train your colleagues to respect your time by politely declining to get involved when it’s not the right time for you. Encourage them to make appointments with you, and ensure these take place in your least productive times. The afternoon slump, when you’re not getting much done, is a great time to help others and get reenergized.
4. Take a Break
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with making your own distractions. The science shows that people who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t. People who keep trying to power through are more likely to suffer from stress, and see declining productivity levels. If you want to be productive, taking the occasional break will definitely help.
How long should you break for? One suggestion is that you break for 15 minutes or so after every 90 minutes of work. Other research shows that working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17 worked for one group. You’ll have to experiment and see what works for you. You could also try the Pomodoro Technique. That means working for 25 minutes, then breaking for 5 minutes. After every 4 sets of 25 minutes, take a longer break.
5. Keep Your Daily Task List Short
There’s nothing more demoralizing than a long daily to-do list. That’s because no matter how far you get, unless you have secret superpowers, you’ll never achieve it all. That can lead to a cycle of beating yourself up about what you haven’t achieved, and lying awake thinking of what you have left to do. The resultant sleeplessness and stress really hinders productivity.
There’s a better way. First, write down your task list the night before. You can do a quick mental review of what you’ve already accomplished, then think about what you want to do next. Once it’s on paper (or wherever you want to store it), you can stop thinking about it, enjoy your evening, and have a good night’s sleep.
Second, and this is crucial, keep your list to just three items. It’s what some of the world’s most productive people do. As Vanessa Loder points out, quality doesn’t equal quantity. Keep your list manageable, and it’s more likely you’ll check everything off. That’ll help you feel good about your accomplishments, and make it easier to be productive.
As you’ve seen, being productive isn’t always about keeping your nose to the grindstone. Instead, it’s about recognizing when you need to rest and managing your time so that you get more from the time when you ARE working.
Sharon Hurley Hall is a veteran writer who prides herself on working efficiently and meeting deadlines. As well as productivity, Sharon writes about marketing, content marketing, SEO, social media, and analytics. See more of her work on her writing portfolio.