7 Winning Tactics to Do Less and Achieve More

Do Less and Achieve More

Do you find yourself thinking, “How can I get more things done?”

You’re not alone. These thoughts especially crop up when we’re overwhelmed, tired, and stressed. It’s like a seesaw, trying to find the ideal balance – how can we do less and achieve more? Let’s break it down on each side so you can figure out how to find your best equilibrium.

Ways to Do Less – Productive. Not Busy!

Figure out where your time is actually going.

People often think they know where their time is going, but can you replay the last 24 hours from memory, hour by hour? Probably not and that’s totally understandable. This is where tracking comes in handy.
Track your next 24 hours, starting right now. Write down or type in an app what you spend your time doing.

Reflect on:
  • Did you surf blogs like this one for an hour? Two hours in spurts throughout the day?
  • How much time did you actually end up watching those Game of Thrones episodes?
  • Did anything surprise you about your day?
  • Was this a typical day?
The simple act of reflection on tracking helps you get ready for the days ahead of you.
Think of a small tweak you can make. Don’t aim  to “perfect” your schedule immediately. Make slow and steady progress. Maybe instead of spending 3 hours on Facebook, try to aim for 2 hours instead. See how it goes for a week.

If you make that one, small change, we’re already talking about reclaiming 5-7 hours of your week! It adds up quickly, doesn’t it?
The more you track, the better you’ll get at seeing the overall patterns.
I know I need to do difficult tasks in the morning, when my brain is fresh and energy is high. Repetitive and easy tasks need to happen in the afternoon. You may find you have the opposite pattern.
Maybe you realize you get the same distraction every Monday morning like clockwork and it throws off your whole morning. Recognizing it allows you to make changes in preparation for the following Monday. One thing I see it all the time with my coaching clients is,
Small changes can really be big game changers for people!

Assess what you don’t actually have to do. 

Task outsourcing Checklist for Entrepreneurs

I hereby give you permission to not do everything for everyone all the time.

 

Yep, I said it. Now do you believe me? If you need more inspiration that you don’t need to do everything, especially if you’re a busy mom, check out Tiffany Dufu’s book, Drop the Ball. She discusses making lists of tasks that you think only you can do and then stepping back to see if that’s really true.

Do you really need to be the one to make dinner every night? Often moms dismiss these questions because they think they should do it or can do it better than their partners. Even if you don’t have a partner or family to help, are there tools or resources that can help make this task easier for you?
Delegating and outsourcing tasks can feel overwhelming, so be sure to seek out others who are doing it well.
If you struggle with making change on your own, I highly recommend working with a coach to commit to following through on making improvements. Delegation has many levels to it and there are always ways to improve your systems. I recently discovered the joy of outsourcing personal tasks like meal planning and organizing digital photos. I was spending entirely too much time doing it myself and I wasn’t even enjoying that time!

There are so many people online  who can help you with a variety of tasks virtually. Take advantage of the technology around you to help you do less work.

Sometimes doing less means saying “no” to new opportunities.

Many of us overlook this as a way to do less. I know I struggle with saying no when a new, shiny opportunity comes along. “Why yes, I would like to work on that new project!” Sometimes I instantly regret it. Other times I only start to regret it when I’m in the middle of the project.

The solution – don’t leap into the immediate yes. Tell someone you’ll get back to them before you commit.
You need to look at your schedule and evaluate how saying yes to something new will change your priorities. Are you saying yes because you want to avoid working on an older project that is tougher? Or are you trying to please someone important? Taking the time to pause and reflect before you say yes can make a world of difference for your time.
Yes, you can do less and be more effective!

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Achieving More – Are you a Goal Digger?

How can you get more done on a regular basis?
Just like tracking was such a foundational step for doing less, there’s a basic bedrock for achieving more.

Take the time to really think about what you want to accomplish within a specified time range.

I love this activity, so I regularly do it for the year, quarter, month, and week. I recommend starting with the quarter if this practice is new to you.

Ask yourself – in the next 90 days, I want to:
  • Change something in my family life?
  • Improve my physical or mental health?
  • Fast-track my career trajectory?
Add other or more specific areas that are relevant to your life, like spirituality, nutrition, the way you parent, sleep habits, etc. With a specific 90 day goal, then you can start to work backwards on what needs to happen to accomplish that goal. You have three months to make the change. As you list out the smaller tasks that lead to the goal – is it realistic? Do you actually need six months instead of three months to achieve that goal? Break it down into manageable chunks.

Keep an eye out for barriers when you’re trying to achieve more

I’m a professor, so my calendar follows an academic pattern. I have more time in the summer to accomplish big goals and I have very little time in the last quarter of the year (October, November, and December). Instead of trying to fight these patterns to achieve more, I plan accordingly. I’m very strategic about what I want to get done in each of those “seasons” of my life.

Does your life follow a set of patterns? Have you been able to figure out which times of year are more productive for you than others? Wanting to start a running habit outside for your physical health might not make that much sense if you have a cold, snowy January.

Recognizing the roadblocks helps prevent you from making goals that are too big or don’t make sense with your lifestyle.

Let’s say you’ve made it to the point where you have a specific goal and dedicated time to work on it. You’re ready to conquer the world and achieve more! You’ve thought of all the ways that you can make it happen. But then you sit down to your computer and get distracted by an email that comes in. Or a text message. Or a child needs attention right now. There are so many distractions that pop up when we are trying to achieve more in our lives. Can you minimize those distractions?

Are you a Goal Digger?

Ideas to minimize distractions:

  • Keep your phone in an entirely different room.
  • Go to a new location where no one can distract you, if it’s possible.
  • Download apps that can help you do this.
    designed to help you limit your time on social media.
  • Set a timer to keep yourself focused on the task at hand.
You may be thinking, “Oh, I don’t get distracted that much.” But that’s probably not being honest with yourself. Cal Newport, Ph.D. talks about these issues extensively in his book titled, Deep Work. It’s my favorite resource for reminding me how important it is to avoid distractions so I can achieve more in my day.

 Achieving more is also strengthened by an accountability partner

Can you find someone who has the same goal as you do? Is there a colleague or a new friend in a Facebook group that can help you stay accountable? Experiment with a system that works for the both of you. Do you want to check in daily or weekly? Do you want them to encourage you no matter what or be strict about their praise on your progress?

As you find new tools and resources to help you minimize distractions and achieve more, it’s important to remember that you can always iterate and continue to try new things.

Often people ask me what is my ONE strategy or ONE tip for being super productive. But it really isn’t about ONE thing or tool. I’m always trying new ways to be more productive. Sometimes the new thing sticks for decades and sometimes I give up on it immediately. I don’t view it as failure, I view it as experimenting.

Constantly experiment with finding what works for you

I do this all the time and find it very effective. And that doesn’t stop just because I help others with purposeful productivity. I highly recommend continuing to try new things after you implement some of these tips. Revisit something you tried once and gave up on too. Maybe this new season of your life is ready for that resource. It doesn’t usually hurt to try.

So what’s your next step on your purposeful productivity path?
Tell us below in the comments so we can learn from each other as we all strive to balance the seesaw on the playground of life. I’m looking forward to hearing what works for you!

Caitlin Faas, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of psychology and coach who helps busy professionals integrate graduate school seamlessly into daily life with career direction and productivity hacks.

Download her guide for reclaiming your time and conquering your to-do list here

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    19 Comments
    1. Collette 4 months ago

      Goal digger haha love it! And also the ‘Assess what you don’t actually have to do’ one. Both of those definitely lead in to the are you just busy or are you actually being productive. Eye opener!

    2. Lisa Rios 5 months ago

      That’s right, I’m a goal digger. LOL I love the efficiency checklist. These are all great tips.

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Thanks, Lisa! I love that term – goal digger! 🙂

    3. Tiara Wilson 5 months ago

      I really needed these tips. I feel like I’m constantly overwhelmed trying to achieve everything and overdoing everything!

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        So glad you found these tips helpful, Tiara! That’s why I’m on a mission to share tips like these – we don’t need to feel overwhelmed and overdoing everything! Keep me posted on your progress. 🙂

    4. Jia Shin 5 months ago

      Thanks for the great tips I really need to sit back and start thinking about this.

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Great, Jia! Of course, I recommend having someone hold you accountable. Send me a note if you need one-on-one help! 🙂

    5. Lucy 5 months ago

      These are such helpful tips. I particularly like the one about figuring out where your time goes. Will be using these!

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Excellent, Lucy – keep me posted on where your time is going!

    6. Claire 5 months ago

      Great tips – I think achieving and having certain goals in your life is so important. Sometimes saying yes to the opportunities you find are great, but at the same time you should learn when to say no as well.

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Thanks, Claire! Saying no to new opportunities can be a challenge, but so worth it!

    7. Sandy Brandon 5 months ago

      I love the tip of learning to say No. You don’t have to be the one that always says Yes. It took me years to figure that out, and I still struggle with it occoasionally!! You have some great insight on this article!! Thanks for posting

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Thanks, Sandy! I still struggle with it too, sometimes, but it’s so powerful! 🙂

    8. Avery Fisher
      Avery Fisher 5 months ago

      You are so right! We need to constantly tweak what works for us. There is no right answer. It’s just its difficult to prioritize time management when there is so much that demands your time besides work too- family, friends etc…

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Absolutely, Avery! Finding that balance can be tricky, but making those small changes to one area at a time can really add up quickly.

    9. Nicole 5 months ago

      I love the fact that you separated the difference between productive and busy! Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t understand that. But thanks for sharing your tips, I I will be putting these to good use.

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Thanks, Nicole! Keep me posted on how it works for you!

    10. Ana Simmons
      Ana Simmons 5 months ago

      Very very Timely. Thanks for penning these!

      • Author
        Caitlin Faas 5 months ago

        Thanks, Ana – keep me posted on how it helps you! 🙂

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