How to Accomplish More by Doing Less

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Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything finished? You rarely get it all done, and it just gets added to the next day, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. And you honestly feel like you’re REALLY busy every day. It’s not like you’re sitting around watching Netflix, although there’s a little bit of social media surfing happening, but nothing huge that eats into your productivity. You feel drained at the end of each day, but your work isn’t moving forward the way you want it to.

What if I told you there’s a way to accomplish more by doing less?

A lot of us think because we’re “busy” all day that we’re being productive, but the truth is we’re not. If you haven’t moved the needle in your business the way you want it to, you may be productive, but you’re not being EFFECTIVE.

Tim Ferris explores this principle in his book the Four Hour Workweek. He talks about how when we feel overwhelmed by long to do lists, we’re wasting our time. Instead, by being selective and doing less, you’ll actually become more effective. He says, “Focus on the important few and ignore the rest”.

Pareto’s Principle

This is also known as the 80/20 rule. It states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means is that 80% of your results comes from only 20% of your effort and time.

What would you find if you were to take a close look at your business and ask yourself two questions:

What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?

Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my success and my happiness?

For example, you may have a few problem clients. Those few clients cause you more stress and headaches than your other ones. Which makes them cost you more, because you have to spend more of your valuable time and energy that could be spent helping another client or working on your business. Even if they’re a high paying client, it’s costing you more mentally and emotionally in the long run to keep them. And most importantly, they’re taking up space for another potentially amazing client.

Do yourself a favor- go through your clients and see which 20% are causing you the most stress and let them go. You will feel like a weight has been lifted off you, and a much better client will soon come your way. This principle also applies to your employees and other people in your life.

What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of your success and happiness?

Take a close look at what activities in your work generate the most success. You may realize that some things you’re holding on to doing, really aren’t growing your business and are just a huge drain on your time.

One of the biggest time drains is serving on multiple boards or leadership teams for groups you belong to. The amount of time and effort that each of these positions require take away from time you could be working on growing your business or your career.

Take a really critical look at what results you’ve been getting and see if it’s worth your time. Which one makes you feel happy and connected and is truly growing your business or your career? Choose the most important one and focus on that one, instead of spreading yourself thin and being less effective.

Your time is the most valuable thing you have. It’s finite, and there are only a certain amount of hours in your day and in the rest of your life. How do you want to be spending your time?

ROCK-SAND-WATER Time Management System

Imagine I’m holding a large glass jar and I have a bunch of large rocks, some sand and a pitcher of water. How can I get all three things to fit in the jar? If you put either the water or the sand first, then the rocks won’t fit. The only way to fit them all is put the rocks in first, then the sand, and last the water. This is the same way you should prioritize your to do list every day.

Take your highest priority items and make them your ROCKS- these are the most important things in your career or business that have to get done. ROCKS are the things that move the needle forward. If it’s something that can’t be done in a day, break it up into chunks and have a completion date written down to hold yourself accountable.

Now you also want to have some personal ROCKS. These are the things like taking care of your health, meditating, spending quality time with your family, connecting with your friends or doing your favorite passions. Frequently these things get pushed off, but you have to make them a priority or they end up slipping through the cracks.

Personal ROCKS are the things that if you lost everything else, your life would still be full. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Every day choose 1 or 2 ROCKS for your work and 1 or 2 for your personal life. These are the things that are the highest priority for you and have to get done. And even if you only completed your ROCKS, you should feel great, because you did the things that were the most important to you.

Your second priority items are your SAND. These are everyday tasks like less important things at work or at home. These are things we usually spend way too much time on. Do you know why that is?

Because it’s easier to do these tasks than face the harder stuff we know is more important. Instead, we fill our to do lists with lots of sand, and then we wonder why we haven’t made as much progress as we should have. Or we wonder why we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Or why we don’t feel happy.

The water is everything else—the small stuff that doesn’t really matter. If you put the sand or the water into the jar first, there isn’t room for the rocks. The same goes for life.  Take care of the rocks first and set your priorities. The rest is just water.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Parkinson’s Law

Have you ever noticed how sometimes a simple task which should take a short amount of time can sometimes end up taking hours? This is due to Parkinson’s Law, which states, “work expands to fill the time available for completion”. What this means is however long you give yourself to complete something is how long it’s going to take, even if you could do it in a much shorter time.

For all your work rocks, allot a shorter amount of time than you normally would. If you’ve taken the CVI personality assessment on my website and your first energy is Innovator, this is really important for you. Innovators are notoriously perfectionists, and will take forever to finish a task because it’s never good enough for them. Learn to be disciplined on how much time to give a task. I recommend starting by taking off one third the usual amount of time you’d give yourself. If you’re an Innovator, take off half the time. If it’s really not enough time, then increase it incrementally.

You’ll be amazed at the amount of work you can get done and how well you can do it when you have a set amount of time. Did you ever have a project for school that was due, that you procrastinated on, and still managed to finish it on time and do a good job? That’s because we can perform under pressure and get stuff done when we need to.

Put it into action

  • In your business, take a look at clients and your employees and see which ones are causing 80% of your problems and let them go.
  • Decide what things you’re doing that are taking the most of your time that aren’t really effective and stop doing them.
  • Determine what you can focus on MORE that’s getting you the most results and makes you the happiest.
  • Use the ROCK-SAND-WATER scheduling method and choose 1-2 business and personal rocks, and fill the rest of your day with less important items.
  • Shorten the amount of time you spend on tasks so you become more effective.

Start by implementing these principles, and watch your results at work and in your life grow.

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