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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How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.