Be More by Doing Less


Perhaps the key to accomplishing more… is doing less. Maybe “getting a lot done” is not the best measure of a work day.  This is counter-cultural for those of us that hurry to do as much as possible each day.

laptop on car

“Lucky…” (with this photo) was the text message from my wife after she drove a mile from our house with my laptop on the roof of her car.  I had lost track of something really important (my laptop) in a multi-tasking flurry!

Perhaps these four strategies would help us be more while doing less:

  1. Carve time. Every Friday morning, our office meets at 8:30 for our weekly Big Friday.  We each briefly declare how we will use the subsequent 90-minutes for proactive, strategic, non-urgent activity.  At the end of the period, we check back in on our results.  Some weeks it’s an admission that we were sucked into the whirlwind.  But many weeks, a calm sense of significance wins the morning.
  2. Change the structure. Robert Fritz suggests that we all generally follow the path of least resistance in life – like a stream flowing around rocks.  To change, we need to move the rocks rather than simply try harder to adjust the stream’s flow. Two years ago, I realized that watching Minnesota Twins games at home each night had become a distraction from what matters most to me – my family.  So I stopped our cable package.  Less baseball.  Better marriage.
  3. Create the culture. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy.”  Many company cultures celebrate working long hours and checking email at night.  As Tony Schwartz wrote recently in the NY Times, “In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time.  But that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive….  Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.”
  4. Choose to disappoint. Some leaders feel trapped by the need to hurry and be busy. One way out is to choose to disappoint. A favorite leadership expert, Andy Stanley, once said that his most important choices are about whom he will disappoint and what he will not accomplish.  As a people-pleaser myself, one of my mentors recently coached me to “practice disappointment” by doing things like “intentionally not responding to emails for a couple of days.” Letting go of the “good” will move us toward the “great”.

Let’s try doing less to accomplish more.  What’s one way you could make that happen this week?

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