Think back to the goals you have for your work or business. Do you want to accomplish more? I know lots of people who want to get more accomplished. I’m not one of them. Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing less. I even think that doing less will help my business, not hurt it. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you have a project to complete. If you’re organized, you’ll make a plan and figure out what you need to do for your project. You’ll schedule the time and then move through the project tasks. Before you begin, will you ask yourself, “What can I eliminate from this project? What could I possibly avoid doing?” I think too many people are so focused on working faster, they forget about working smarter. Working smarter means doing less work.
I was talking recently with an information technology professional who works during the day and goes to graduate school at night. She’s taking one course remotely and watches videos of the class lectures. The professor talks a mile a minute. As a result, she has to replay the video over and over again to grasp what he’s saying. She’s been doing this for weeks and griping about it. “Why are you taking it upon yourself to replay the tape over and over again?” I asked. “Instead, why not ask the professor if he can talk slower so it doesn’t take you twice as long to do your work. Why aren’t you thinking about doing less?” She said she didn’t think of it that way. I think she needs to.
You can be thinking about doing less in different areas at work. Do you prepare proposals? Writing proposals takes a lot of time. Instead of writing a proposal, how could you do less? You could create a PowerPoint presentation with your points as bullets. Consider your presentation preparation. You may regularly prepare presentations and your process includes the number of times you practice. If you find your presentations are fine at the present number of times you practice, reduce the number of practice sessions for future presentations. Maybe you don’t even need practice because a review of your notes is all you need. Just ask yourself “How can I do less?”
Another way to do less is to learn to say “no.” Here’s a rule that served me well in Corporate America. I never said “yes” to any project that was pitched while I was walking down the hall. You can very easily get sucked into doing a whole lot more when you don’t need to. I would tell people either to email me with their request or I would say I would have to check my calendar and get back with them. The email requirement would make some requests go away. My calendar check allowed me to demonstrate that I didn’t have the time. As a result, I got to do less.
I’m not na?ve enough to think that doing less is always possible. There are too many meetings today that are time wasters. It would be nice to be able to say “no” and attend a lot fewer of these meetings. Sometimes you can’t. When your boss calls the meetings, you may find it political suicide to complain about attending the meetings. Instead, if speaking up with an alternative idea is not an option, you just might have to suck it up and go to the meetings. At those meetings, if you practice deep breathing exercises, that might be one way to better use your time.