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Accomplish More by Doing Less

‘Less is More’. We’ve all heard that saying and have an appreciation for its meaning. But let’s take it one step further- to the ‘how’. What exactly could applying this approach at work look like?


One of the most common challenges our clients share with us is the day-to-day struggle to get things done. Trying to move forward when there are just so many things on everyone’s to-do list, that they feel swamped and sometimes paralyzed. Where to even begin?


What it really comes down to is not managing time, but managing ‘focus’. Hard-working people frequently take on more than they can handle, with the best of intentions. And unfortunately, this is encouraged by a world that seems to value quantity over quality much of the time. Instead of moving things along more rapidly, having too many things on the go actually slows everything down. Attention is split in many directions and time is wasted simply trying to decide what to tackle next. It may seem counter-intuitive, but focusing on doing less allows you to accomplish more.


Here are a few ways the ‘less is more’ approach could have the most impact in your workday.


1. Unproductive Meetings:

We’ve all been to countless meetings with packed agendas, and when they’re finally over, we walk away feeling like nothing was accomplished. So we’ll say it again- it comes down to focus! An hour-long meeting with three items on the agenda, gives you time to have some decent discussion about each one, and then get down some thoughtful follow-up steps- which is key! Getting together to chat is a social event. Taking action, is the point of a meeting.

2. Overwhelming Emails:

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time crafting a detailed message and then having your audience take one look and click ‘close’ or worse ‘delete’, because there’s just too much there and they can’t be bothered. The less key messages in an email, the better. Two to three is the magic number, with a short intro (setting the context and why the reader should care), then the messages themselves. Concise, clearly separated and easy to read/re-read without having to go through the whole email again. Think bolded headings. And lastly, a call to action. Tell them specifically what you want them to do.

3. Strategic Implementations:

The plan is solid, with multiple objectives and tactics designed to achieve them. But trying to do them all at once spells trouble. They are strategic after all, so you should be able to prioritize them, then tackle them one or two at a time. Get the first couple done or at the very least well underway and solid, then move on to the next. Better to accomplish a portion of them well, then all of them poorly or not at all.

4. Initiatives on top of Initiatives:

Don’t pile on. We know it’s difficult, especially if there’s some really nifty new approach or project you believe will make all the difference in the world to your team. But if an existing project(s) hasn’t been completed, first figure out why. If it’s an easy fix, finish it off. If not, decide which effort is going to have the most positive impact on your organization. Choose that one and set the other aside to re-visit later.


5. Never-ending Projects:

Those projects that seem to continually expand, extend deadlines, spin because of other dependencies or fight for resources. STOP! If it’s not done yet, stopping to re-evaluate is certainly not going to put anything else at risk. Break it down. Smaller scope, less dependencies, firm realistic timelines…all much more manageable and far more likely to be accomplished. Eat the elephant a bite at a time, rather than choking on the whole thing at once.


As you can see, doing less is all about being selective and having the confidence to make hard choices. And just because you set something aside for the right reasons now, doesn’t mean you will never come back to it. It just means that it may not be the right course of action at this moment in time. The freedom that comes with simplifying your workload and focusing on what’s essential, rather than beating yourself up and feeling guilty for what you haven’t done, will give you energy and motivation. Guaranteed!

So, to repeat one of our favourite mantras….

“Focus on doing the right things instead of a bunch of things.”

-Mike Krieger

©2019 by Compass Leadership.