How To Do More Work in Less Time
posted on October 16, 2017 | by Sam Brown
Earlier this year, I came to the realization that I needed to give myself a full day off blogging every week, not only so I could keep my social life alive (and I’ll be honest, it could still use a bit of work) but because no clear day off meant that I felt guilty whenever I wasn’t blogging – even if I was doing something fun!
The only problem was that, while I wanted to have a day off blogging every week, I didn’t want my blog to suffer (and I was already struggling to get things done when I was working everyday). So I sat down and figured out how I could do more work in less time. And what I came up with is what I want to share with you today.
In this post I’ll be talking about blogging, but the advice I’m sharing can be applied to absolutely any kind of work. I hope you find it helpful!
Do only the things that matter
Whether or not we want to admit it, a lot of the things we do are just busywork – stuff that makes us feel productive but isn’t actually getting us any real result. There’s this thing called the Pareto Principle which says that, for many things in life, 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts. And in my experience this principle holds pretty true.
The 80/20 principle can be applied to pretty much every area of life (say, for example, the fact that I wear about 20% of my clothes 80% of the time) and it definitely applies to work. This means that if you identify what things are actually worth your time, you can potentially do only one fifth of the activities and get nearly the same results – pretty revolutionary if you ask me!
I don’t know what will work for you, but these are the questions I now ask myself when I’m working:
-Will doing this task actually help me achieve my goals? (What will happen if I don’t do this task?)
-How much does the benefit of doing the task decrease each hour I spend doing it (for example, when I’m creating a Pinterest graphic, anything after 30 minutes and I’m usually just indulging myself)
-Is there a better way to do it?
-Am I constantly switching between tasks? (It’s often more productive to batch types of activities together when you can so you can stay more focused and don’t waste time switching between things again and again)
As you can probably guess I am a HUGE proponent of working smart, not hard. And I’ve found these questions have really helped me do that.
I also just want to mention that busywork can be a form of self-sabotage. If you’re scared that you’ll fail, you’ll be rejected and your best won’t be good enough, you might find that you’re filling a lot of your time with busywork just so you don’t have time for the important tasks (and can therefore use the excuse that you’re ‘too busy’ to do them). Which means you can stay safe and sound in your comfort zone.
It can be really hard to admit that some of the things you spend hours doing (and have gotten pretty good at) are a little meaningless. These tasks often aren’t worth your precious time, especially when you consider what you have to give up (like weekends) to do them! So be kind to yourself and be honest with yourself about how you’re spending your time and see whether there are some tasks you can let go of so you can do more work in less time.
Know what time of day you work best
This has actually been a major revelation for me. I’ve always thought that anything could be done at any time of the day. But in my recent experience, this is totally the wrong approach.
I think it’s probably fair to say that most of us find that our energy and concentration fluctuates over the day. We don’t think the same way at 7am, 2pm and 2am. Most of us would say that at one of these times we can really get things done, at one of these times we’re ‘ok but not great’ and at one of these times we’re just blah (or fast asleep). So why don’t we pay much attention to it?
I’m a morning person – I can do stuff super well at 7am and I’m not too bad at late night study sessions either, but 2pm is my ‘blah’. So now I organize my day around that.
You probably already organize your day like this to some extent, but if you really start paying attention to how you feel and operate at different times of the day it can really, really help you get more work done in less time.
If you’re a perfectionist, procrastination is the biggest thing stopping you from doing more work in less time! Before you can stop procrastinating, it’s important to understand what procrastination is and what it is not. It is NOT laziness, it is not a lack of willpower, it is not a love of Netflix and it is not a short attention span. None of these things are the problem. Procrastination is simply something we do to avoid uncomfortable emotions like boredom, frustration, rejection, self-doubt, fear and anxiety. That’s it. Procrastination is just our way of avoiding discomfort and failure.
Do you have any tips on how to do more work in less time? Let me know in the comments below!
And just so you know, I write more posts like this on my blog Smart Twenties!