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”

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!!!

Take Responsibility Of Your Life – Because No One Else Will

What does it mean to be responsible for your actions?

Time for a StoryI started working as Help-desk technician in back in 2006. Since our client was a US based MNC I ended up working nights often. Pretty soon I began to hate my working hours.

Even though I did not like working at odd hours, I did nothing to change my present situation. Instead I blamed my dad for not letting me pursue engineering. In truth, as an act of defiance I took a break from college for more than a year and started working in a call center. Later on when things did not work out as planned, I did not want to take responsibility for my decision and found an easy way out by putting the blame on someone else.

Why the Blame Game?

Have you noticed that the people who constantly talk about not being Blame Game - It's Your Fault Not Minehappy with their life would usually have someone else to blame for their current situation. Ironically they are the ones who are “blaming others for not taking responsibility”.

The blame game is seen almost everywhere from politics, government administration, at work and even in our homes. Sometimes it is a defense mechanism to avoid the pain of admitting that you could have done better. Usually it’s our way of justifying to ourselves & others that we did everything we could do and we failed because of something or someone else.

Take responsibility stop blaming others

What if you happen to be in a situation where your life was in danger because you boarded a cab and the driver was totally wasted?
If you were to meet with an accident, would you blame the driver because he was drunk or would you blame yourself because you did nothing when you found out that he was in no condition to drive.

be proactive and take responsibility for your life

No matter what the current situation is as long as you don’t be proactive and take responsibility for your life,you will find it very difficult push yourself to the limit because in your mind there will always be something or someone stopping your from working at your full potential.

I find it very enriching when I hear the life stories of some of my friends who despite the odds never gave up. One common thing that I’ve observed is that while some of them acknowledge that life wasn’t being fair to them they did not stand in a corner and sulk but worked through some genuine obstacles in their way.

When life is hard and unfair it is easy to go into self destruction mode and undo everything you’ve worked. Assuming responsibility for your actions is key to avoid playing the blame game.

I don’t know what you are going through and may be life seems really hard now but it’s not going to change by blaming others (even though you may be right). Don’t let someone else be the cab driver of your life.

Be proactive and take responsibility for your life your life.