You”ll be more effective the less you do

5 Ways to be More Productive While Doing Less

I was 33 and CEO of a venture-backed startup.  I thought I had it all figured out.   10 years of consulting experience, I knew what to do and how to do it and I was incredibly productive.  In fact, I was ON FIRE.  Then came the reality.  The reality of so much work to do with people I had just recruited and no process, no culture, and very little experience dealing with the complexities of a new technology in a new market.

So, I did what anyone else would do.  I wrote lists.  A LOT OF LISTS.  I assigned tasks, created systems for assigning tasks, followed up, and made sure we hit our deadlines.  Only one problem:

I thought I controlled it all and I was dead wrong.

In one moment of mentoring our chairman and board member, a crotchety older executive from Texas Instruments just looked at me and shook his head.  He said

You know, you’ll be more effective the less you do.

I thought, what?  NO WAY.    Well, he was right.  And now later in my career, his words ring true almost every week.

As such, I’ve developed a number of processes and methods based on trial and error from many different sources and philosophies.   Covey’s 7 Habits, Rockefeller Habits, Tony Robbins, Getting Things Done, Tim Ferris and many others.  They all work, but you MUST implement them in a concise and consistent way.

Here’s What I have Learned

(1) Make a weekly MAP

This is straight out of Tony Robbins philosophy.  A MAP is a “Massive Action Plan”.   List out, on a single sheet of paper three things.  WHAT you want, WHY you want it and your MASSIVE ACTION PLAN to get there.   I do this weekly as a habit now.   Even Covey recommended a similar weekly approach as far back as the early 90s so we know this works and works well.   For me, getting the most effective things on a list that will have THE MOST IMPACT on what you are doing NOW is the best use of your time today, not in a month, not next week.  Today.

(2) Prioritize your List

This sounds obvious, but without this discipline, I almost always default to the fun things on the list or the things that will give me more pleasure than pain.  I still use Covey’s Urgent/Important matrix to do this.  It’s simple and easy to use.  The idea is really simple, don’t do the stuff that’s not important.

(3) Scratch Off the Bottom 20%

In life the Pareto principle rules.  As a general principle, I find that 80% of my results come from 20% of my efforts and 80% of my pain from 20% of the same sources.  The goal is to simply exit the 20% causing you the most pain and amplify the 20% creating the most results.    It’s a really simple idea.   I got this idea originally from the Four Hour Work-Week by Tim Ferris, who makes an excellent case for redefining your relationship with work.   Elimination of work-for-work sake sounds easy, but if your mindset is one that YOU need to be doing the “thing”, it’s very hard to overcome.

This is also really simple.  Scratch off the bottom 20% completely.  If it’s unimportant, don’t do it.   Simple as that.

(4) Delegate or Automate the Middle 60%

Of the middle tasks, delegate or automate.  If you don’t have someone to delegate to, get one.   I use Virtual Assistants all the time to tidy up lists, follow up on sales, do billings, write letters, organize my contacts, etc.    Many of these tasks are able to be automated as well, so many weeks, I’ll spend some of my top 20% time simply automating more of the middle 60%.  A good example of this was keeping my contacts up to date.  I now use full contact, which automates much of the social mining, and email scraping required to keep my list up to date.   The time before was at least 2 hours per week of my VA, now, 0 hours per week.

For delegation, it is essential that you use some form of delegation tool and/or follow up scheme.  I use for all our projects, which helps us stay up to date, assign tasks, track follow-ups and keep deadlines visible.   So that’s actually where I manage my delegations.  May use and like others, like Trello or even SharePoint.  It doesn’t matter, so long as you are consistent.

Some examples are below:

(5) Spend ALL your time on the remaining 20%

The remaining 20% is where your awesome is.  For me, this is about innovating, training new team members, building automation, nurturing key customer relationships and taking care of your health and your family is here.   The model is quite simple, actually.  Do less, and be more productive.


Obviously, you can tailor these tools and techniques to your taste and need.   But remembering the wise words “You’ll be more productive the less you do” will help you stay focused and on target.

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