How to Get Better Results by Doing Less

In our fast-paced, uber-connected world, “more” is often synonymous with better. I need more clients to make more money. More networking events will give me a better chance of connecting with the right people. And the more projects I take on, the quicker I’ll become financially independent. In most cases, the “more is better approach” is a farce. More isn’t better. Only better is better. On this basis, here is a guide on how to get better results by doing less.

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Many of us work in never-ending cycles of to-do lists, inbox clearing, and zoom calls. As soon as we finish one task, the next one comes along. In short, we’re always playing catch-up. 

That’s why we need to start doing less but better

As such, the first step toward becoming more productive is to detach the notion of “better work” from “more work.” In other words, stop thinking that more to-dos will give you better results. Instead, find out how you can reduce your to-dos but improve the ones that remain. 

5 steps to get better results by doing less

The following are five ways in which doing less can significantly improve your results – both on a personal and professional level.

How to Get Better Results by Doing Less - diver in Indonesia
Picture by David Henrichs / Unsplash

Create a “to-stop doing” list 

The first step toward getting better results by doing less is the so-called “to-stop doing list.” 

In simple terms, it works like the contrary of a to-do list. Here’s what a classical to-do list looks like:

  • complete work assignment X;
  • clean email inbox;
  • do laundry;
  • call client Y;
  • work on project Z; and 
  • journal for 10 minutes.

Instead of filling your schedule with to-dos, create a list of things you’ll stop doing. At work, that list could consist of the following items:

  • Stop checking your emails every ten minutes;
  • Stop working on more than one task at the same time;
  • Refrain from saying yes to every new assignment; and 
  • Don’t allow interruptions unless they’re critical. 

The “to stop doing list” works wonders because it reminds us of productivity-killing habits. As such, every time an impulse or external factor takes our attention away from the activities that matter, we’ll receive a gentle reminder to stop. 

Become aware of invisible choices 

If you want to do less but better, you need to start curating your choices. Whether you call it prioritization, taking control, or adopting a minimalist mindset, you need to analyze your decisions – both conscious and invisible ones. 

In this context, Thrive Global writes the following: 

When you don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus your energy and time, other people will choose for you, and before long, you’ll have lost sight of everything meaningful and important to you.

Consequently, start assessing the choices you make every day. 

Are you adding more to your schedule without improving your results? Are you focusing on advancing toward your goals by concentrating on the things that matter? And finally, are you making value-driven decisions, or are other people in control? 

If you, for example, sacrifice evenings with your partner to impress your employer, you’re choosing more external pressure by adding commitments to your life. Is that “more” leading to measurable improvements at work? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate your choices by doing less. 

Focus on doing “less but better”

Much like curating your choices, getting better results is about understanding the “less but better” approach. 

Greg McKeown popularized the notion in his groundbreaking 2014 bestseller Essentialism. In this regard, he writes the following: 

“A non-Essentialist thinks almost everything is essential. An Essentialist thinks almost everything is non-essential.”

As such, the challenge resides in defining your essentials in life. It’s about identifying the tasks, habits, and time investments that will give you the best results. 

As a creative entrepreneur, it could be your content. If you’re a corporate employee, it could be your most impactful contribution to the firm. And if you’re in retail, it could be the number of sales you make. 

No matter your occupation, the essentials will have the most substantial effect on your work, finances, and mental health. 

In consequence, breaking these essentials down into a few well-defined activities should be your primary goal. Because once you’ve found your most vital activities, you can reduce the time you spend on non-essentials and get better results by doing less – or investing less energy. 

  • Read our review of Essentialism here.

Remove hindrances from your days 

The next step toward achieving better results by doing less is to get yourself into pole position every day. 

Take a look at your daily routine. You’ll undoubtedly find some habits and activities that do not contribute to your productivity, mental serenity, or enjoyment. 

Whether it’s watching too much TV, reading the news, or eating junk food, we’re all guilty of creating obstacles. 

Don’t get this wrong. Doing less but better isn’t about throwing your TV out of the window. It’s about removing hindrances from your daily routine by controlling their presence. 

If you regularly engage in an activity that doesn’t add positivity to your days, reduce its presence. Watch less TV. check your social media less often. And most importantly, control the number of hindrances in comparison to productive activities. 

The more you’ll get the pendulum swinging in the direction of positive activities – your essentials – the more productive you’ll become.

Know when to quit 

Finally, getting better results by doing less is also tributary to knowing when to quit. In other words, you need to find out when a goal, activity, or habit stops producing the desired outcome. 

Ask yourself whether an activity is improving your life or whether you’re just coping.  

In this context, Seth Godin states the following in his book The Dip:

All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy. If the best you can do is cope, you’re better off quitting.

Consequently, if you’re looking for areas where you can implement the “less but better” approach, ask yourself whether you’re coping. And once you know the answer, you’ll find out what to remove from your life to get better results.

Useful links on How to Get Better Results by Doing Less

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