How to achieve more by doing less.

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With a new year and decade in full gear, many of us have high expectations for the coming year. And rightly so. But how will we make sure that we succeed in our pursuit of “more”? We want more and better results. We want to increase our sales by 20%, 50%, or maybe more than 100%. We want to get more clients, create more products, attend more events, make more trips, get more out of life. More is growth. More is better. So we think. 

But there is an essential difference between achieving more and doing more. How many people do you know think they have more time at their disposal? How many people do you know that aren’t already more or less stressed out with the current amount of work at hand? Most of us are already putting in too many hours into the weeks, months and years.

The vital question to ask ourselves is, are we happy with the results we are getting for each time unit we put in? Are we reaching for more without knowing the consequences of doing more, when we feel we have no more time and energy?

The good news is, we have enough time. It’s just that we waste so much of it on dumb stuff. We can achieve anything we want, but we cannot achieve everything. We live in times where everything feels possible, and everything is available to us 24/7. This leads to overwhelm, confusion and complexity. We have to choose, but we have too many choices. We have to focus, yet what should we focus on? 

We all have the exact same amount of time available to us. Yet some of us achieve so much more than others. And time is of the essence, as they say, because it’s the only thing we will never have more of, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. 

If you want more, but believe putting in more time and energy than you are currently doing, then here are a few valuable ideas to consider implementing into your life.

First, start by realizing that not all things you do are of equal importance. In fact, only very few things actually matter at the end of the day. As John Maxwell said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” 

Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian 18th-century philosopher, famously discovered the 80/20 rule. It states that there is an inbuilt balance between causes and effects, inputs and outputs, and effort and reward. That imbalance can often be found at the ratio of 1/5. This means that roughly 20% of the inputs in any given situation will yield about 80% of the results. The key, then, is to figure out which 20% matters the most. 

So, what does this mean for your life?

It means that only a few decisions you make in your life really matters. 

It means that only a few meetings you attend will ever matter.

It means that saying yes to everything out of duty is a dumb idea.

Trying to make everyone happy makes no one happy, yourself included.

It means that you should stop sweating the small stuff and start thinking strategically about how you use your time. You have a finite amount of time and energy at your disposal every week. Choose carefully how you will deploy it. Don’t let other people run your calendar.

Second, realize that you have a choice. Other than breathing, you don’t actually have to do anything. It’s all by choice. So stop complaining about lack of time. Instead, assume responsibility for the choices and priorities you have made. Assess where your time and energy go, and ask yourself whether the investment is worth it. For at least one week, keep track of how you spend your time. You will likely be astonished at how much time you are wasting. Do you really need to binge-watch the latest season of Crown? Do you need to check Instagram for the hundredth time today? No. But you choose to. Everything in life is by choice. Sure, you cannot control your circumstances, but you can always choose how you spend your time and energy.

Third, reduce and simplify. Once you know what is really important to you, and you have a clear purpose and goals for your life, it is time to make room for achieving what you want. If you made a good assessment of where your time goes, you should now be able to look at all the demands of your time and start simplifying and reducing. Ask yourself what you can get rid of completely. Ask yourself what you can say “no” to. Make “no” your new superpower. The more you say no to the things that are not completely in line with your purpose and goals, the happier you will become. And in addition, the more you will respect yourself. And to your surprise, you will find that people around you will respect you more for it too. You have to make trade-offs. Cut off the noise. Be brutally honest. Outsource anything you can, and keep pruning. Weed out everything unnecessary until only the essential is left. Like the famous designer Dieter Rams would say “less, but better”. His philosophy of design applies to life as well. To achieve more, do less, but do it better. Subtract, don’t add — clarity and simplicity rules.

Fourth, design your life around routines. With clarity on your goals and purpose, work back from your goals and ask yourself what you must do, give the finite amount of time and energy you have. Focus only on the essential. It’s great fun to have new ideas and get excited about all possibilities left and right, but trust me, it will distract you. You need to discipline yourself. Get rid of all distractions. Avoid all shiny new objects that might steal your time. Don’t make them rob you of your dreams. And yes, this includes people too. Sometimes we are better off not hanging around negative people who just want our time. Ask yourself what you really want, and what you are willing to sacrifice for it. Create a crystal clear plan, then execute. Learn and adapt. Stay disciplined. It might sound boring, but your results come from action, nothing else. The trick is to develop healthy routines and habits. Habits are what you do on autopilot, in other words when your subconscious mind runs you. The subconscious is much more powerful than your conscious mind, so don’t even try to wrestle it. What is programmed in your subconscious is what will manifest. If you want to change the programming, then you can do that over time, but but it will not happen overnight. The important thing, however, is to start.

Fifth, tap into the incredible power of your mind. Whoever has acquired the best use of the power of the mind will achieve the greatest success. You must learn how to direct your mind on the work at hand with laser-like precision. Instead of progressing ten things by 10%, focus on one thing, and progress it by 100% at once. It will make you happy, and it will create momentum, and this will make you hungry for more.

You were born with magical powers, the faculties of the mind. Take your creative imagination, for example. No other animal has the ability to envision abstract future outcomes in their minds, then manifest them in the physical world. It is pure magic. Or consider your will, the power of desire, the power of feeling and thought that propels you forward in spite of adversity. In Finland, we have a great word for it, sisu, which roughly translates into grit. It means persevering despite adversity. Use your will as a powerful tool to direct every mental action toward the goal in mind. Don’t scatter your attention and energy around in many directions. Focus. Use your incredible mind to achieve your wildest dreams. 

In essence, whether you will achieve more will be a result of the choices you make about how you will deploy your finite resources, time and energy. Choose to focus only on the essential, and tap into the incredible power of your mind (your will, your perception, imagination, intuition, memory, and reason), and you have a combination that can achieve anything — just not everything. 

Have a great decade 2020!

p.s. I have incorporated this thinking into all the programs we offer at The Future Academy®

p.s 2 You can listen to this article as a podcast too, a slightly longer format.

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