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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

Less Is More: How to Become Productive with Less

Less Is More: How to Become Productive with Less

I’ve just spent the past two weeks in South Africa. I love South Africa, its people, its diversity, its beauty. But one thing that I am reminded of every time I visit is how life in Africa can be much simpler. Time moves more slowly and life takes on a different rhythm; the majority of African people have learnt to live with less. This is my goal and my current journey; to live life with more simplicity, to unburden myself and to eliminate the excess in all areas of my life.

In the first phase of my journey to become more productive. I sought ways to work faster, to do things in a more efficient manner. I never thought to rid myself of the excess, to eliminate the unnecessary or to minimize and simplify. Phase two of my journey is in progress and it’s focused on simplicity. I am actively trying to eliminate the excess in all areas of life which will create freedom from stress, complexity, and excess.

Here are the areas which I am currently working on:

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Less Information

We are constantly bombarded with information of all sorts from all realms of life, Modern life has been coined the “information age”. We have it at our fingertips, the phones which we carry in our pockets connect us to the answers of the Universe ( or rather will connect us when we find the answers). We can play a game, book a flight, call in dinner, buy a tree or anything else at the click of a button and all the information required to make those purchases lies in the palm of our hands. Fantastic yes, but overwhelming at times. One page or link leads to another and another. When is it enough information? When can we say stop?

Suggested Solutions

  1. Reduce the number of newsletter and websites you subscribe to, only subscribe to websites you can’t live without. Rather than let the information come to you, go to find the information on your own time and terms.
  2. Consume less media. Rather than reading a daily newspaper or watching the daily news try reducing it to once a week catching the highlights. (This won’t be possible for everybody in every country but for those who can, consider it)
  3. Reduce the number of meetings you attend, try to get summaries or minutes instead. Only go when your presence is totally necessary
  4. Introduce one low tech day a week. A day where you don’t use the internet, email, or electronic device. If this is impossible try it for just a morning. It’s an amazing way to reduce distractions and create an environment for focus.

Less Stuff

We all have too much stuff, too many clothes and shoes, CDs and DVDs. Excess goods tend to cause clutter and clutter is negative energy. Learning to live without too much stuff is a lesson everyone should learn early in life. Your things do not define you, who you are or who you intend to be.

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Suggested Solutions

Clean as you go

  1. Regularly de-clutter and donate or recycle your possessions you no longer use.
  2. Use the one in one out rule. Every time you make a purchase you must throw something out. This is a great habit for children to implement, it makes them aware of the value of the things they have and the things they want.
  3. Don’t go to shopping centers/malls unless you absolutely can’t buy something elsewhere. If you are in a mall you will always find something you think you need and most of the time you could actually live without it if you hadn’t seen it.

Less Work

Working too hard or too long is usually counter productive. If you are constantly overwhelmed with work the next step is illness or burnout. You need to take steps to eliminate time wasting activities and reduce your workload where possible

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Suggested Solutions

  1. Schedule your work. This will show you what can physically get done in the time you are prepared to spend working daily. Remember when you say “yes” in work what are you saying “no’ to in your personal life. Is your family suffering because you have agreed to take on extra work?
  2. Take regular stretch breaks, if you can go for a short walk or get some fresh air this will be even better. Do a yoga pose or simply breathe deeply. This will prevent muscular and mental fatigue which will help you stay alert and focused for longer.
  3. “Only do what only you can do” I don’t know where this quote comes from but I love it. A regular reminder to delegate and outsource where possible. Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you work for a company and can delegate do so. If you are self employed only do what you are good at, use your strengths and let the experts in other areas do what they are good at. And if you have no control over your workload, do your work to the best of your ability with the highest quality so that you can be proud of what you achieve in a day. As Robin Sharma would say “Be the Bono of the Mail room”
  4. And of course the most important suggestion of all. Take it easy – life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

The Bottom Line

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand…” — Henry David Thorea

If you can reduce the noise and clutter in your life, and eliminate that which is unnecessary and excess you should be able to see through the woods to focus on what matters. In this way you will get more of the important work done in less time with less stress.

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More About Less Is More

Featured photo credit: Norbert Levajsics via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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