How to work less and produce more?
When I was nearing college graduation and anticipating what lay ahead, I was not afraid of entering the “real world” and getting a full-time job, but I was afraid of falling into the picture of what society tells us a full-time job should look like.
“The bad news is that time flies by. The good news is that you’re in command.”
I didn’t want to be told that I had to sit in front of a computer between the hours of eight and five, with two fifteen-minute breaks and, if I’m lucky, one half-hour break. I desired to be productive in an unconventional manner.
So, after reading Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Workweek, I set about streamlining my time management, identifying where I was wasting minutes, and removing the guilt I felt for not clocking in exactly eight hours every day.
After all, I wanted to work to live rather than live to work.
The truth is that most of us do not require eight to nine hours per week to complete tasks and move closer to our career goals. In fact, when we waste time that could be spent elsewhere, we often dilute our effectiveness.
So, how can you work less and be more productive at the same time? Here are six pointers to help you get started.
1. Set aside specific times of the day to check email
Checking and responding to emails can be time-consuming, especially if you drop everything every time one arrives.
Instead, check your email twice a day, once in the morning and once at the end of the day. This will ensure that you respond in a timely manner without having to switch gears while working on another project.
2. Allow for less time for projects than you believe you will require
If you set aside four hours to complete a task, chances are you’ll find a way to make it take that long. However, if you give yourself less time than you might think you’ll need, you’ll most likely be able to find a way to get it done in less time.
This does not imply accepting shoddy work — if the task isn’t completed, adjust to accommodate the changes. But you’d be surprised how much extra time we give ourselves that could be spent elsewhere.
3. Remove any potential distractions
Receiving text messages in the middle of a project is one of the most distracting factors for me. This can completely stop my train of thought and make it nearly impossible to complete any task in a reasonable amount of time.
What is your most significant distraction? Find a way to remove it from your workspace so that your attention is not diverted in an unfavorable way. This works wonders for taking at least some of the sting out of your workday.
4. Finish your most important tasks first thing in the morning
Before I incorporated this tip into my daily routine, I would waste a ridiculous amount of time avoiding tasks that I actually needed to do. Then, after eight hours of completing pointless errands and phone calls, I’d have to deal with the guilt I felt for not completing the most important tasks on my to-do list.
If I complete my most important tasks first thing in the morning, the rest of the tasks will be completed on time and not pushed off for later.
5. If you can’t find motivation or ideas, try again later
This tip may not apply to every job, but as a writer, I know that I could spend hours staring at a blank computer screen and end up with nothing to show for it. As a result, I know that if the ideas aren’t flowing, I should do something else and come back later.
This prevents me from wasting time pushing for something that simply isn’t working.
6. Allow yourself to be free of guilt and think outside the box
We frequently think of productivity in terms of hours worked rather than actual work produced. This traditional way of thinking made me feel guilty for closing up shop at 12 p.m. and spending the rest of the day doing everything I really wanted to do.
But the reality was that I had completed the same amount of work that would normally have taken me a full day, and the guilt was only preventing me from living the life that I had envisioned.
I now understand that the extra time I have to create a fulfilling life outside of work actually helps me to achieve more professional success.
What are your suggestions for working less and producing more?