Productivity: How Doing Less Makes You More Productive

How To Be More Productive?

If you scour the internet you will come across numerous articles on how to be productive. If you were to take all the articles and group them the most common categories will be about:

  1. How To Deal With Procrastination.
  2. Effective Goal Setting & SMART Goals.
  3. Effective Time Management.
  4. X ways to increase productivity [Replace X with your favorite number]
Leisure & Productivity
Image Courtesy: Zach Betten @

Not that there is anything wrong with these articles or the information contained is incorrect.

It’s more like treating the symptoms than fixing the problem.

Then there are those fancy tools and leather bound planners and organizers.However no amount of planning is going to make you productive if you do not take action.Apps and Organizers like todoist, wunderlist, and Filofax aid productivity, but in the end they are just tools.
Sometimes all you need is a pen and paper.

So How To Be Productive?

Productivity Tools
Image Courtesy: Oscar Nilsson @

Before I answer that let me ask you
What does being productive mean?

Will you agree if I say Productivity means getting things done?
Now that we agree that productivity means getting things done is it reasonable to assume that you can either get things done by someone or do things yourself?

You need money to get things done.
If you have money would it not make sense to spend some money to get the work done, to free up your time to make even more money?
For Eg: If you earn $10 an hour and there is a task that will need 2 hours of your time but you can have it done by someone else for as less as $5 you should outsource it. If you use the time saved on earning more money, you are not spending $5 but making $15 more.

So by outsourcing the non-essentials and focusing on your core tasks you are making more money by doing less?

What if you don’t have money?

MoneyThis would mean that instead of spending money (which you don’t have) you will have to spend time to do things.

But you only get 24 hours each day and you can only do so much in one day right?
Well, if you have limited resource you would use it wisely wouldn’t you?

So in this case you will only spend your 24 hours doing things that matter?

Wait, so even if I don’t have money but only time, I will only do things that matter and not everything?

Productivity Is Not about Doing Everything, It is about doing things that matter.

Now that you know what productivity truly means, instead of making a To-Do List, create a “Not To Do List”

How To Set Realistic Goals?

How to Set Realistic Goals?
How often is it that we achieve the goals that we set at the start of each year?
Sometimes we are so caught up with life that we forget about our goals.

Then there are times when you don’t seem to me making progress fast enough and life seems to be stuck in second gear for far too long.

You are putting in the efforts but don’t seem to be making any real progress.

This could be due to one or all the reasons below:

  1. Not Taking Action
  2. Forgetting about Goals
  3. Setting Unrealistic Goals

While taking action is the foundation to being successful it is easy to get discouraged and disheartened when you don’t see the results you were hoping for even after putting in the efforts. This could happen if you have set unrealistic goals.

In the comment section Andrea asked me how to keep goals realistic?

A question that we often do not consider during planning & goal setting.
Is my Goal realistic enough to be achieved?

I do not mean question your ability or doubting yourself. It’s not the goal but the deadline that could be unrealistic.


Let’s take an example of weight loss as a goal.

The ideal way to lose weight would be slowly and gradually over a period of time. Yet people will sent unrealistic expectations and go on a crash diet. The problem with diet is that you can live on a diet for only so long. The loss of weight gets easily reversed when you stop dieting.

Here the expectation to lose weight is unrealistic [in a matter of weeks] and the method no sustainable.
So How Do You Set Realistic Goals?
What Is My WHY?
The most important step of setting your goal is to know your WHY.
Why do I want to do this? Why do I want that?
Write it down so that you always remember.
You are going to need it when you no longer have the motivation or will power to keep going.


Where Am I Now?

Assuming your goal is to be a writer. As a writer where do you rate or rank yourself now. What are the areas you need to work on?
If being wealthy is one of your goals, you should be clear on how broke you are.
If having a great career is your goal then your current state should be clear.


Where Do I want to Be? How Do I know When I Get There?

You have your WHY and you know WHERE you are right now but how do you know when to stop? Think of it this way.
You decide you are going to run a mile tomorrow morning, you set out in the morning and keep running but how do you know when to stop.
Yes you want to be wealthy but what is your definition of being wealthy?


These 2 questions will make your goal really specific.


Define the Timeline

Setting a realistic timeline can make a difference between achieving a goal or quitting without making much headway.
When you think of defining a timeline you also need to consider the resources at your disposal. By resources I mean time, money and how much of both you have at your disposal to achieve the goal.

You also need to consider that along with working on this goal there are other things that you might have to do. If you want to be an online entrepreneur along with having a fulltime job, you need to be realistic about the time you are going to be able to spend building your business. Also delay and procrastination is going to make sure that you don’t reach your goal on time.


In Summary:

  1. Know Your WHY.
  2. Measure Your Start Point, Set Your End Point.
  3. Allocate Time Based on your schedule
  4. Take Action & Measure Progress

What Have I Been Up To? My New Year’s Resolution for 2016


8 out of 10 people fail in achieving their new year’s resolution. 36% percent of the people don’t even get through the first month.

What happened to my last year’s New Year Resolution?

The same that happened every year, I forgot about until it was almost the New Year and I got to thinking about My New Year Resolution again.

I realized that after the 1st or the 2nd week of January had passed, I was so caught up the monotony of life that I forgot to my “why” and eventually I forgot about my the New Year resolution.

New Year Resolution

What have I done to ensure 2016 is going to be Legendary?

I created an visual representation of my New Year Resolution similar to the picture above.
I enrolled in an online class to learn how to be a better writer and I was acquainted with the pre-writing process.

According to the lecturer, pre-writing is the most critical and yet the most over-looked step in the writing process.
As I dug deeper in understanding this process, I realized that most of the time I had a faint idea of what I wanted to write about but lack of planning or structuring the main message meant putting in a lot of time re-working what I wrote and sometimes abandoning what I started with.

What if I applied the same process to my New Year Resolution for 2016?

The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.
– Melody Beattie

However setting goal is just a facet of a brilliant diamond, a single facet is not enough for the diamond to sparkle but nonetheless important.

Is your New Year’s Resolution congruous or in harmony with your inner desire?
After all why would you want to put in time and effort in achieving something that adds little value to your life ?

You are unique, why should your goals be any different?

What each person wants in life is unique and influenced by a variety of factors like a person’s current situation [mental, physical and emotional] as well as their life experiences.

The goals of individual who struggles to make meets end will dramatically differ from an individual who has relative financial stability but longs for a meaningful relationship.
Also as each of these factors changes, so do a person’s desire, needs, wants & goals.

The beauty of time is that it does not discriminate.

For time, everyone is equal and everyone equally gets 24 hour each day. It cannot be stored or saved, it can only be spent.
Finding out what you want v/s what you need can help you focus your energy and efforts in area that need immediate attention. Life is about setting priorities, the right priorities.

Exercise Your Mind: Finding Out What You Want?

Free writing is one of the techniques I picked up while taking the course.
In summary, you set up a 5 minute timer and start writing anything and everything that comes in your mind  and then stop when time is up.

The key is you don’t stop or pause even for a second, if you cannot think of anything type “I am unable to think of anything” or “This is a stupid idea”. Spelling mistakes don’t matter and the backspace key does not exist.

When you are free writing you remove any sort of a self restraint and tap into your sub-conscious.

At the end of my free writing session which I titled “What Do I Want to Achieve in 2016”, I came up with a list of things.

I was consciously aware of most of the things on the list but there were a few things I observed that surprised me.
For example: Financial security was my top priority or worry however I was no longer as much concerned about having a better job.

In short I was content with my present job but at the same time very much concerned about my financial stability if something tragic and unexpected happened to me.

I highlighted all the points and made a list [99 in total]. As I went through the list I observed most were either repetition or related to each other and I grouped them together in a spreadsheet.

“You Can Do Anything, But Not Everything.”

Now I had my groups in place and a list of things that I wanted to do, but I could not do everything, at least not all of them at the same time. Also staring at a list was counter-productive for me as it made me feel overwhelmed with so much work that I needed to do.

“A picture is worth thousand words”

Now that I had a detailed list, I wanted “the big picture” that I could look at to remind myself of my goals that I set for myself. I used an excellent mind mapping tool that not only allowed me to create an over-view of my goals but also showed interdependency between task.

In the image representation below, I created a mind map of a goal  to show the inter-dependency of tasks as well as an over-view of the entire process of getting a book published that I could think of in a matter of couple of minutes to give you an idea of how easy it is to look at an image than read a list.Mind Map - Being An Author

Up until this point if you think that the process is too lengthy and cumbersome, then you are absolutely right, I too felt the same, but as I stated earlier, prewriting is the most critical and yet the most over-looked step in the writing process and it was at this point I understood why is overlooked even though being such a critical step.

What you cannot measure you cannot manage.

Each weekend I set aside some time and just take stock of the things I accomplished in the entire week, and I compare it with what I had planned to complete from my previous week’s notes. This help me measure my progress.

Then I go over my mind maps and pick an area that I would like to work upon and make a task list out of it. Some tasks would just take an hour; others would need to be done daily.

I don’t store them in my head I make a To-Do List for it.

It is important to measure your performance.
For example: One of my goals is to eat healthy and still lose weight and the way to do it is to track what I eat (I use My Fitness Pal for that). Recording what I eat not only helps me keep a track of my calorie intake but the logging also helps me measure my performance through the week.
Find ways to measure your performance, automate if possible.

How Much Progress Have I Made?

To be candid, I haven’t made much progress. But as each week goes by, I realize that time is fleeting and the next day I try to push myself a little harder than yesterday.

When I go through the progress I’ve made and compare it against the things I planned on getting done, I am holding myself accountable. It also helps me get realistic of the time frame required to get things done.

Most importantly it keeps me focused on my goals and every time I think I am having an off day, I push myself just a little bit harder knowing well that I have a long way to long and now is just the beginning.

If you’ve made it so far, then you are genuinely committed to achieving your goals.

Before you get started with the free writing, ask these questions to yourself and think about it for a couple of minutes. Do not restrict your thoughts and then start with the free writing.

  1. If I die today, how would I like to be remembered?
  2. What will it take to be the kind of person I would like to be remembered as?
  3. How do I go about it?

In Summary:
  • You are unique, why should your goals be any different?
  • Exercise Your Mind: Find Out What You Want
  • You Can Do Anything, But Not Everything.
  • A picture is worth thousand words
  • What you cannot measure you cannot manage.

Related Topics:

5 Principles Of Getting Things Done.
What Are The Daily Habits of Successful People?

Suggested Additional Reading:

How to Free Write? [Detailed description of free writing]

3 Surprising Benefits of Free Writing in the Morning

Your First Step To Success – Do You Have It In You?

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Do you believe that you can own & run a successful business?
The Thinking TurtleHave you ever asked these questions to yourself?

If we were sitting across a table right now, how would you respond If I asked you these questions?

Most importantly what is your response to yourself?

How did you or rather how did your mind react on being posed these questions the very moment you read it at the beginning here?

If you are someone like me and have a 9-5 job,chances are that the idea was quickly dismissed with not a million but a very few specific reasons or should I say perceived reasons why you cannot be your own boss and be successful.
Recently I’ve been having a lot of conversation about being allowed to work from home and it eventually leads to running your own business.I realized that a lot of people wish they could be running their own business but……..

There are reasons, not many, some are genuine, but are they showstoppers? I think not…..

How Can You Own a Successful Business & Be Your Own Boss?

I cannot tell you how to start a business or the things you should do to be a successful business man or a business woman, I simply cannot.


I could share insights, tips and habits you can build but in the end, it won’t work until you take action.

So if you’re really interested in eventually getting out of a 9-5 job, here’s a simple first step that you could do.

Go over the 2 questions again, take a paper and make a note of all the perceived short-comings/reasons/challenges/ obstacles and write them down.

[Don’t make these up, if you really have a passion for something or if there is something that you’ve always wanted to do, list what stopping you now]

  1. Draw a line next to it and in the next column write down, what can you do to get a meet the challenge, no matter how small a thing it is.
  2. Draw a third column and list how will you go about doing it & in how much time do you think you can get it done.
Table of Evaluation
Example of an Evaluation Table

“What is the one thing that I can do today that can get me closer to getting over my obstacles”

Get Your Mind To Work For You

Keep asking these questions as often as you can throughout the day. If that is not possible do it the first thing in the morning and the last thing when you go off to sleep. (preferably after going through the table you’ve created)

Soon you will either build enough momentum & confidence (by taking little steps each day) and might actually get started or the worst thing that is going to happen is you might fail.

Nothing bad is going to happen to you, you’ll fail but that is 10x better than not trying.

Remember it’s the first step that is the hardest!!!

How To Set & Achieve Long Term Goals.

Long term planning & goal setting is very essential to be successful in life. The earlier you plan and the sooner you get started, the higher the chances of you being able to achieve your goal. Your 20’s is the most critical stage of your life and the choices and decisions that you make at this stage is going to have a major influence on your future.If you are in your early 20’s or even mid 20’s, this is the best time for you to be setting long term goals and creating an effective game-plan to achieve them.

Time for a Story

Since it was a pretty slow day at work, I was going through my journal and reading entries that I had made in the first week of January. Not surprisingly there multiple entries that I had made about my progress on My New Year’s Resolution. I say “not surprisingly” because my goal of losing a few pounds also happens to rank topmost in a survey conducted by University of Scranton. It struck me that after working out so enthusiastically for the first 2 weeks I had completely forgotten about my resolution until now.

Did I really forget about it?

It’s very easy to get caught up in life and lose sight of our goals, especially the long term goals which do not yield results instantly.

As days go by, in our mind the bullshit happening around us takes precedence to a point that any long term goal that you may have is lost.

9 out of 10 People fail at achieving their New Year’s Resolution.

According to a survey conducted, only 8% of the people are able to achieve their New Year’s Resolution

While 75% of the people are able to maintain it through the first week, the number drops to 71% after 2 weeks. In a month it is 64 % and by the end of 6 months it’s down to 46%.

Talking about myself, why did I find it difficult to exercise and eat healthy when I know that in the long run it is most definitely going to affect my health in a positive way?

Here’s the thing, it’s just not me and if these are the numbers for a yearlong goal, I wonder what happens to goals that require you to plan 5 years, 10 year or even 15 years in advance.

Why are we not able to keep steady pace and enthusiasm towards achieving our goal even when there is an assured positive result?

We are wired to get bored very easily. Our mind constantly wants to keep doing new things and while working out is beneficial to our health, if you don’t add variety and keep mixing it up constantly you are going to give it up very soon because you are bored of the monotony.

Mixing things up and changing your routine is not going work always. Goals such as saving for retirement or to pay off your student loans leave little scope for mixing things up. In fact at times it would mean sacrificing things now so that you can reap the benefit later.

In such cases, how do you keep the same level of excitement and focus?

How do you ensure that you stick to your long term goals?

Post It notes help remember important eventsWhen you have an important event coming up, you set up a reminder or stick a post-it note somewhere that is easily visible so that you are reminded of it each day. 10 years from maybe a long time now, but you know it’s coming.

Reminding yourself is not going to be enough, you are going to need to take action as well and measure your performance.

What is your game plan to succeed?

Success Game Plan

Intention: State what is it that you want to do. What is your intention? A short one line intention can be a powerful reminder. It acts like a loud sound in your head each time you see it posted somewhere. Intention without a deadline is just a wish and life is too short for a wishful living. Set a realistic deadline for yourself.

Desire: This is the most critical factor when planning a long term goal, the stronger your desire (why) the higher the likelihood of success. Will Power is an exhaustible resource and motivation is not going to be around always, you are going to have days when you don’t feel motivated at all. Remembering the reason why you started is a very effective tool to just push through days when you don’t feel like doing anything. Your purpose and desire to achieve, gives strength to continue and justify the sacrifices that you are going to need to make.

Execution: Once you have your intention [what is it that you want to do] and your Desire [Why do you want to do it], the next logical step is to execution [how are you going to do it].

The upside of long term goals is that you don’t have to work on them daily or put in a lot of effort. It is a matter of being consistent.

Start by listing out the possible things that you can do to achieve your goal and then break it down to do-able chunks and get to it.

If your long term goal is to save enough money to buy a new car, the first thing that you might want to start with is with how much money are you going to need and what are the ways you either save or earn money to get to the amount you need.

List out the steps you need to take.

Your brain is supposed to be a fountain of ideas & problem solving tool, not a board to write all the things that you need to do. List as much as you can and free up your mind for things that are more important than remember that you are going to be out of milk soon.

Aftermath: It is very important to keep in mind that life does not turn out as planned and sometimes it can be straight up bitch. Are you going to always achieve a 100% of your goals? Not likely. Chances are that you are going to fail more often than you succeed. It is very easy to give up and not try again because you failed the last time and it wasn’t even your fault. Make you keep a track of your progress and measure your performance at a regular interval.


If you have a goal of having a corpus of a million dollar by the time you retire then tracking it every day or even every month is not going to make a lot of sense. Based on your goal and the actions, schedule an appointment with yourself to see how is it that you are driving your life towards success.

Should you happen to fail or no longer achieve your goal, go reflect on these self meeting and you will be surprised with the aftermath of the actions you took to achieve your goals.


If you like the I.D.E.A for achieving long term success, you can click on the The Game Plan Template to download the template. Feel free to modify it to your liking and use.