You should work less to do more, and as oxymoronic as it sounds, it is true.
Being busy is NOT being productive. We can do a sundry jobs and still not get anywhere near our goals. That’s because what we do is more important than how much we do.
Unfortunately, in a world of skewed priorities and false notions about busyness, we tend to do a lot of useless work that gets in the way of our “real” work. If we cut down on these unproductive tasks, we can get more things done by doing less.
Here are 5 ways you can work less to do more:
1. Do not read emails first thing in the morning.
The Cons: You end up working on other people’s less important agenda instead of your own projects.
Reading emails early in the day distracts you. You may find yourself still thinking about a sale or the funny cat images that your friend sent you when you eventually get down to work. And Heaven forbid if you happen to read your boss’s angry rants first thing in the morning; you will feel stressed throughout the day.
The Workaround: Plan your day or at least, the morning, the night before. Devote the first hour of the day to your most important projects. Let the emails wait. Also switch off the notifications, so you don’t lose your calm worrying about the mails that are lying unread.
2. Do not reply to every Email.
The Cons: If everybody marked on a mail replies with a “Thanks” or an “Okay,” it unleashes a torrent of purposeless emails that floods everybody’s inbox. Mail notifications are distracting and reading and responding to every mail takes up time that you could have otherwise spent working on mission-critical tasks.
The Workaround: Don’t reply to mails where you are on the CC line. If you have been copied in a mail, be assured that you are not expected to take part in the conversation. Also, you don’t have to reply to a “Thanks” or an “Okay” email. Reply ONLY if you have something more meaningful to say than “Okay.”
Don’t feel compelled to reply to mails as soon as they land up in your inbox. Set aside specific hours of the day to respond to mails. Let your co-workers and clients know about these times, so they don’t panic if your reply doesn’t come in as soon as they have shot the mail.
Remember, sometimes a 5-minute phone call can resolve an issue quicker than a chain of emails.
3. Network less.
The Cons: While connections are critical for your business, networking can sometimes get in the way of “real” work. If you are a writer, people will want to read what you have written; they won’t be impressed by the number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans you have. Networking takes up precious time and effort.
The Workaround: Devote only a few hours every week to check and post on social media. Turn off notifications, so you are not distracted or feel compelled to respond to comments and tweets.
You don’t have to attend every business meet-up that takes place in town. Prioritize. Enquire who’s attending the event before you decide you want to sign up. Handing out your business card to everyone you meet will not bring in meaningful leads.
4. Do not take work home. Say no to all-nighters.
The Cons: Your work-life balance suffers, and your family, especially your kids, feel neglected. This is frustrating because you feel as if you are losing control over your life.
Working right till you hit the sack is guaranteed to make you toss and turn through the night. There are countless scientific studies that prove that staring at the computer, tablet, and cell phone screen just before you go to bed disturbs sleep. You don’t get enough rest and feel tired and irritated the next day.
There are also innumerable research studies on the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. We need six or more hours of sleep every night. Else our ability to learn and remember is severely hampered. Night owls may get more work done, but in the long run, they ruin their brain health and increase their chances of developing diabetes, obesity, and anxiety disorders.
The Workaround: Prioritize and find smart ways to work. There are plenty of ways you can be more productive—create To-Do lists, delegate responsibilities, automate tasks, limit email and social media time, and most importantly, don’t work on what is important to other people.
And remember, sometimes, all you need to do is utter a firm no to your boss to restore work-life balance.
5. Do not multi-task.
The Cons: Multi-tasking does not let you focus attention on a single task. This increases the chances of slips and mistakes, and you end up losing precious time on rework.
Not many people realize this, but multi-tasking increases the time you need to complete certain tasks. How often were you interrupted just as you were thinking through an idea and found it difficult to pick up the thread when you returned to it afterwards?
Swapping your attention between multiple tasks imposes a false sense of urgency and increases stress. What is more, all that time you waste reworking and refocusing when you multi-task triggers frustration and more stress.
The Workaround: Chalk out a To-Do list and prioritize work. Work on one task at a time. If possible, switch off email and social media notifications when you work on critical projects. Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, or request your co-workers not to call you if the conversation can wait.
You might want to take up some mind-body relaxation practice to improve focus and concentration. After all, not everybody has the luxury of working in a distraction-free environment.
Busyness gives off the impression that we are important people. Juggling multiple tasks makes us feel more productive. We think that we are not doing anything if there is no hustle-and-bustle in our lives. These misconceptions make us take up more work than we can manage. We stretch ourselves too thin and end up under-performing but over-stressed.
You have to slow down and do less to achieve more. Be mindful and present in whatever you do and save your energy for work that matters.