Why Doing Less is the Path to Achieving More
True productivity isn't doing more, but doing what matters most.
WRITTEN BY: ADAM DANYAL
How many times have you started your day with a long list of tasks and ended it feeling like you accomplished nothing? As leaders, our plates are constantly full. There are always more emails to answer, projects to manage, and people asking for our time and attention. With so much demanding our focus, it's easy to get overwhelmed and spread ourselves too thin. But strangely, trying to do it all is often the problem, not the solution.
This is called the Priority Paradox. The more we try to get done, the less meaningful work we actually complete. Attempting to be all things to all people ensures we aren't much of anything to anyone.
So what's the alternative? Do less.
I know this sounds counterintuitive. But studies show people who focus on fewer, well-chosen priorities get more done than those who tackle endless to-do lists. Like a spotlight, shining your energy on what matters most illuminates a path to real achievement. As leadership guru Stephen Covey put it, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
This requires saying no. Decline meetings that don't serve your goals. Don't reply to every email. Avoid getting dragged into trivial issues or other people's priorities. Learn the power of a polite “Thank you for thinking of me, but I must pass.”
Defining your priorities also means playing offense, not just defense. Don't let your schedule control you - design it intentionally to align with your priorities. Block off time for strategic thinking. Schedule meetings for brainstorming new ideas. Have standing check-ins on key projects. Include family time and self-care.
Remember, you don't have to do everything others ask. But you do have to live with the consequences of how you spend your time and focus. So choose wisely. As Apple's Tim Cook put it, “Only say yes to the very best ideas.”
Like a golfer lining up a putt, keep your eyes and energy centered on the hole. The rest of the green will fade away. Don't get distracted trying to sink every ball. Just focus on rolling your priorities into the cup.
Here are three tips to help you master the Priority Paradox:
1. Only commit to goals and tasks aligned with your 3-5 most important priorities. Learn to say no firmly but graciously.
2. Schedule time for strategic thinking, innovation and creativity. Don't just attend meetings - design them.
3. Build margin into your calendar to handle the unexpected with less stress. You'll be amazed what you can decline or delegate.
Do less. But do it exceptionally well. That's how you turn priority into productivity. That's how you go from overwhelmed to accomplishment.
Give it a try - your priorities and your people will thank you.
From our Leadership Bookshelf:
WRITTEN BY: JULIA DANYAL
The book "The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan provides excellent insights on achieving extraordinary results by zeroing in on your single most important priority.
Get this book from Amazon
1. Focusing on just one priority at a time can lead to greater productivity and success. Keller and Papasan argue we get more done when we devote our energy to singular priorities versus tackling multiple tasks.
2. Success comes from extraordinary results on your top priority. Extraordinary results come from obsessive focus on a Big Goal. Saying no to almost everything is essential to accomplish your most important priority.
3. The 80/20 principle applies - 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Identify and put most of your time into that vital 20% and success will follow.
The key takeaway is that honing in on a single make-or-break priority at a time can lead to surprising productivity and achievements. This singular focus amidst distractions is a core discipline of effective leaders. Try picking the one priority that matters most right now and give it your relentless attention. You may be amazed by the results.