We have been taught that in order to get more done, we need to invest more time. If we work a ten hour day, we are sure to get ahead of our colleagues who are working only seven hours. If you practice an instrument for three hours a day, you will surely eclipse someone who practices 1 1/2, right? More work = more results.
Working intelligently and mindfully beats working hard every time.
Working less and accomplishing more can seem counterintuitive at first, and feel strange. It requires thinking creatively to find more effective ways of doing things. First, you have to be open to the possibility that your way of getting stuff done may be inefficient. Also, creating a to-do list is not the way to fix everything either.
Here are a few ideas:
1) The 80/20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle)
In short, the 80/20 rule means that anything few (20 percent) are vital, and many (80 percent) are trivial.
Obviously some things, however trivial, still need to get done. Here are some ways to apply the 80/20 rule:
2) Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Basically, we tend to do busy work instead of completing projects. Giving yourself strict deadlines and cultivating a desire to finish projects helps. Checking off a to-do list minimizes this impact.
- Set a timer for X amount of minutes to finish a small project. When the timer sounds, you’re done. Maximize your time! When I practice a piece of music, I literally say something like this out loud: “my goal is to do X with this section; I am giving myself 20 minutes to complete this task.” Try it. It works!
- Chunk larger projects into smaller pieces. Strive to complete those pieces, rather than just working on the project aimlessly.
3) Energy Management
Energy management forces you to think of results as a function of energy, not time invested. Working intensely for a short period of time can accomplish more than working for days while tired and distracted.
Being well rested and on top of your game is key. Try this:
- Work in bursts. Take small breaks equal to the work time (work for 10 break for 10).
- Knock them out. Sit down and finish projects in one sitting as opposed to spreading them out over days. This focuses your energy.
- Rest, sleep, and exercise. Learn to meditate. Start the exercise habit. Get good sleep. Master the ability to recharge yourself when you need it.
Helpful articles on working less and getting more done: