Advertising

Less Is More: How to Become Productive with Less

Less Is More: How to Become Productive with Less
Advertising

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:

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

10 Green Tea Benefits and the Best Way to Drink It 7 Wise Ways to Find Focus and Get Things Done 15 Quick and Healthy Snacks to Help You Stick to Your Diet How Mindfulness for Productivity Can Improve Your Focus This Is Why Taking Action Creates Success

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next