Have less to do

We’re a culture obsessed with hacks — time, work, life, sleep, and everything better and beyond. Everyone’s either looking for one or trying to invent one. But the challenge with hacks is that the focus is on squeezing in a lot of work in the limited time at hand.

And we know how that turns out over the long haul, don’t we? It’s a hit or a miss. Most importantly, none of the hacks addresses the real issue, which is that you still have a shit ton of work to do!

Over the years of studying productivity, leadership effectiveness, and workplace psychology, I’ve realized that the only way to get more done is to have less to do. Jason Friend also talks about this in his book, “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work.”

The big question is — how on earth do we go about having less stuff to do? It’s simple, say “no” to things. Often. So, if you’ve got 20 items in your todo list, don’t power through each of them in those 25-minute “time-blocks.” Instead, sit back and evaluate each of the items in your list. Categorize them into priorities and obligations. There’s a high likelihood that you will end up with just 6 to 8 things that are your priorities by the end of the exercise. Everything else is just hogwash, er, obligations.

Now, that’s your real challenge — obligation management and almost everyone struggling to manage time have tons of them. We forget that obligations as always tied to other people’s expectations and priorities. Not yours. So, you can still manage them.

You, however, cannot manage time. It will tick away regardless of how stressed, fucked up, and winded you feel. It doesn’t care about you, your expectations, priorities, or obligations. So, everything boils down to choosing between maximizing your time or managing obligations.

That’s why I recommend getting ruthless about eliminating the non-essentials, starting with obligations. You don’t have to invest time in something that never should’ve been done in the first place.

So, look out for the things that don’t have to get done. At your workplace, evaluate your current processes and figure out the steps that aren’t adding any value but takes a significant effort to execute. Could you get rid of them? You don’t even have to think twice. Repeat this with your day-to-day activities. Be ruthless.

If in doubt, throw it out. If it’s not adding any value, say “no” to it and move on. Give this exercise a few days, and you’ll realize that you have a lot less to do, which doesn’t mean life’s easy but that you’re able to focus on the most important things. Without all the overwhelm and stress.

It’s hard not to get tempted by hacks — they come with a lot of promise but do a pathetic job at resolving deep-rooted issues. Now, that’s something for you to deal with, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work.

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