In a similar way, productivity is all about what we are doing now. Productivity is not about what we plan to next week, next month or next year. Take me for example, I’ve been talking about writing a book for years. The trouble is, all I was doing was talking. I kept waiting for big blocks of free time so I could dig into this unwieldy goal.
The irony of course is that long stretches of time are not always ideal for getting lots of work done. I call this the Less is More theory – the less time we have, the less likely we are to let our mind wander, ponder inconsequential details, get distracted and procrastinate.
I’ve known about the Less is More theory for years now. However I’ll be honest – deep down, I never quite believe it to be true. I always felt I needed long stretches of time to tackle big goals. And unfortunately, free time is hard to come by.
When I reflect back, I see I have taken advantage of this theory when really necessary. During my university years, some of my best studying happened in the few hours leading up to an exam. Oh the things that I could cram into my head during that precious time! The same is true when I think about all of those other tight deadlines throughout my career when my colleagues and I somehow corralled unwieldy goals.
Sometimes less really is more. From concentrated TED Talks to the 7-Minute Workout – people seem to thrive on short bursts of focused attention. The popular Pomodoro technique is based on 25 minute increments of focused work. When we have limited time, we are more likely to focus our energy and get the job done. It has also been well-documented that breaks drive productivity. One study found that people who took more internet breaks were actually nice percent more productive than those who resisted going online. Generally speaking, breaks allow us to come back to work more refreshed and productive.
Most recently, I’ve been involved in a writing program with a minimum expectation of ten minutes writing per day. (I’ll admit that sometimes this is all I do.) Thankfully, this small, incremental effort is really adding up. In a few short months I have written almost half of my book. If I had kept waiting until a long stretch of free time, I likely would not have even started yet.
The next time you find yourself facing a mountain of work, do yourself a favor and adopt the stock-market mentality. Focus on the short-term. What can you complete today? Give yourself less time and you’ll get more done.