how to work less

9 Steps to Work Less and Do More

 

Like most people, my life has been spent balancing my yearning for laziness—tropical islands with fruit-flavored beverages figure heavily in my life goals—with a burning desire to achieve great things, like invent a robotic Bumble Bee. The answer has been finding ways to achieve great things, using as little work as possible. Fortunately, there’s ample room for finding ways to work less and get more done.

Here are nine simple things I’ve learned over the years about how to get results without working too hard. Indeed, there are nine steps because ten steps would be way too much work). If you’re still working towards your own tropical island paradise, I hope these put you speedily—and lazily—on your way.

Step 1. Live on purpose. Stop occasionally and ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Make sure your tasks align with your higher-level goals. If you’re emailing a friend, ask “Why?” If you’re doing it because you want connection, maybe picking up the phone is a better choice.

Step 2: Stop procrastinating. Easy to say, hard to do. Get a procrastination buddy. Every couple of weeks, declare an “Action day.” Check in hourly for just 2-3 minutes. Make sure you’re each making progress on what you’ve been procrastinating. (I hold free action days, as well. You can sign up at http://www.SteverRobbins.com/actiondays).

Step 3: Conquer your technology. If you’re reading this, you’re probably as addicted to technology as I am. Divorce your technology! Turn off your PDA, and move your computer away from your main workspace. Don’t think of your computer as a place to hang out; use it like a tool, for specific tasks. Get it out when you need it, and put it away when you’re done.

Step 4: Cultivate focus. Declare a part of your day (or a whole day) to be a focus time. Turn off email, unplug your phone, and close your office door. Then defer any non-life-threatening interruptions to a time after your focus time.

Step 5: Stay organized (mentally as well as physically). Organized doesn’t mean neat; it just means that you know where things are when you need them. If you have piles of “this needs a home” stuff in your office, stop and give it a home, even if that home is a pile somewhere. Just make it official, so when you need it something, you know where it is.

Step 6: Don’t waste time. Re-making decisions is a hidden way we waste time. For repeated decisions, pre-decide by creating an “Absolute Yes” list that spells out an automatic “Yes.” For example, “we’ll restock supplies with any pen that has a gel ink and .07mm tip will be suitable.” When it’s time to order supplies, you just grab the first pen that meets the specs.

Step 7: Optimize! Re-examine how you work every now and then. Ask how you can improve your own work habits. If you notice your mind is clearer in the morning, schedule your deep-thought activities before noon. If you notice afternoon is best for you, make that your prime time.

Step 8: Build stronger relationships. Ask for help! When you’re trying to reach a Huge Honkin’ Goal, ask friends and colleagues for help. Build the relationship in advance, however, by being there for them starting today.

Step 9: Leverage. Be on the lookout for ways to get big results from little work. If you can reuse content, create form letters that can be quickly customized, or help large numbers of people by doing work once that can be given to all of them, you’ll be able to reap oversized results from a  single effort.

These nine steps are broad categories. You can implement each one in many different ways. You owe it to yourself to get the most out of the work you put in; notice how you do work, and use these principles—and any others you know!—to rearrange your life so you work less and do more.

Stever Robbins (http://www.SteverRobbins.com) is a serial entrepreneur, the author of Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More (http://www.WorkLessAndDoMore.com), host of the #1 iTunes business podcast The Get-it-Done Guy, and an adjunct lecturer at Babson College. He is currently working on his 10th startup.

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  • http://www.foursides.ca James M

    Divorcing technology has given me a big step forward in terms of accomplishing more. I moved my laptop away from the usual sitting area to help me rely on it less, and when I do use it, be productive.

    I also had to cut back on the number of blogs I follow and pick more relevant ones that will keep me stimulated to work. Conversely, I’ve had to stop reading altogether and focus more on writing. So far, this strategy has worked well for me. I like the other tips you have mentioned here.

  • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

    Hi Stever,

    This is a useful post! I believe all of us can learn to work more productively and effectively. I like the following points you have made:

    Step 1. Live on purpose

    I am a firm believer in purpose. Purpose is the fuel and motivation towards getting things done. If you don’t know why you are doing something or for what greater cause you are doing it for, it is very easy to give up at the first sign of obstacles.

    Step 4. Cultivate focus

    Focus is essential to getting things done. Every so often, we lose focus and allow ourselves to be distracted by the things around us. I think it is a good idea to shut out all possible distractions and just focus on getting the job done.

    Step 5. Stay organized

    Staying organized is important because it reduces the time you spent hunting for things. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to be productive only to realize you don’t have the necessary stuff to be productive. Then you waste time and energy looking for the stuff you need to be productive.

    Step 8. Build stronger relationships

    No man is an island. We will all need help from others at one point or another in our lives. This is a prudent strategy to help you to save time by having someone to turn to when you need help. Investing in friends and colleagues who will have your back when you need them is one of the best investments you can make in life.

    Step 9. Leverage

    I love this step. Leveraging is a great way to save time and effort while getting more work done.

    Thanks for sharing this insightful post Stever!

  • http://www.transformationalmotivation.com/ M. A. Tohami

    Being on purpose is my top recommendation for anyone who wants to lead a meaningful and successful life. It is the ultimate source of endless motivation.

    I like the term “conquering technology”. Very interesting! Technology can help us become more productive and save a lot of time & effort. But overusing it causes the contrary.

    Thanks for this excellent article.

  • http://www.mi21.com Forrest

    Good list. Conquering technology is a good suggestion, although since everything I do pretty much relies on my computer, its difficult to do sometimes. I did get into the habit of killing the internet connection for a while, which really seemed to help, perhaps I should get back into that habit.

    I also really appreciate ‘Live on Purpose’. I often times find myself getting off track and working on items that really don’t matter for my long-term goals. I think this one may go hand-in-hand with the ability to tell people no.

  • http://www.SteveScottSite.com Steve@Lifestyle Design

    Very good list.

    Learning to “live” is often as important as work. If you are trying to have an online business particularly it is important to treat it as a business. Discover what the dreary mundane tasks are. Break them down into a simple process and outsource them.

    It can be a lot of work up front, but the idea of any business is that you get to a point where your job is “managing” and at least “some” of the aspects of your job are automated and/or outsourced.

    All of the steps you pointed out were wonderful and of extreme importance though, not to downplay them, just to add something to the list for when people are “able” to take that step.

    Have a wonderful week!

    Steve

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  • http://www.lifebalanceapplied.com Jamal

    The idea of leverage is absolutely huge and can be expanded upon in many directions. I experience leverage as looking at any situation – work, service, social, personal – and trying to find where the first unit of effort spent will yield the highest return or beneficial effect.

    I’ve recently read “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta. It talks about reducing things to their bare essentials and reaping tremendous productivity in the process.

    Best,

    Jamal

    http://www.lifebalanceapplied.com

  • http://collegethrive.com Dan

    Nice tips! I’m going to put them into practice. My biggest problem is my addiction to the internet. As helpful as a resource as it is, I find myself browsing too often when I should be getting work done.

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  • Andre

    Great life building stuff! Thanks.

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  • http://enlightr.com Craig Thomas

    Nice post. Living with a purpose is key to me and I feel it’s definitely the most important tip for getting more done quicker, especially when you realise how much time we don’t have! :p

  • http://www.planetnaveen.com Winning Ideas

    Excellent points.

    You may want to check out a similar post on my Blog
    25 tips to make you a super performer in your job

  • http://www.ezinearticles.org.uk/xfinity-internet-the-best-online-services-ever/ FeliciaCorrine

    Good post. Your tips are really great. As you said any
    technology is meant for the betterment of human life. If we use Internet, TV
    and computer wisely, then it will simplify our tasks and we can become more efficient.
    But addiction to these things can actually slow down your work.
     

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