One of the things that leaders often grapple with is the constant pressure to do more. The modern work environment is rife with distractions, demands, and a never-ending to-do list.
Hustle culture is real and well-practiced. The idea of downtime is almost unheard of in most organisational settings. But what if the secret to achieving more isn't about doing more, but rather doing less?
Five ways to achieve more
- Start your day the night before
It's challenging to be productive when you begin your day in a whirlwind. The alarm sounds, and before you know it, you're rushing through morning routines, battling traffic, and arriving at the office with an inbox overflowing with emails. By the time you sit down, your energy is already depleted. But what if there was a way to reclaim the calm and set a more intentional tone for the day? The secret lies not in the morning itself, but in the night before.
Before winding down for the evening, take a few moments to reflect on the upcoming day. What are the critical tasks that need your attention? Which meetings or commitments are non-negotiable? By identifying and prioritising these elements ahead of time, you're not only preparing yourself mentally but also ensuring that you start the day with a clear roadmap.
2. Get up on the balcony
Leaders often feel like being stuck in the weeds of daily operations. Imagine if you could rise above and get a bird's eye view of everything? This concept, introduced by Ron Heifetz in 'Leadership without Easy Answers', suggests that leaders should occasionally step back from the dance floor of daily tasks and ascend to the balcony.
By adopting the balcony view, leaders equip themselves with the ability to spot opportunities and challenges long before they become apparent on the dance floor. It allows for proactive decision-making, ensuring that choices align not just with the immediate needs, but with the long-term vision and goals of the organisation.
3. Leverage your most, and least, valuable time
Not all hours are created equal, especially when it comes to productivity and it's essential to recognise and respect these natural ebbs and flows of energy.
When you're in the zone, when your mind is sharp, and your creativity is flowing, that's your most valuable time. These are the moments to dive deep into strategic planning, brainstorming sessions, or any task that demands your full cognitive prowess.
On the flip side, when your energy dips and your attention starts to scatter, that's your least valuable time in terms of high-intensity work. But that doesn't mean it's wasted time. Instead of fighting against this natural decline or artificially propping yourself up with caffeine, leverage these moments for less demanding tasks. Simple administrative tasks can be perfectly suited for these periods and these tasks, while seemingly mundane, are essential for maintaining order and efficiency.
4. Understand your capacity
The more we become conscious of our own working styles and the volume of work we need to complete, the more we recognise our capacity and our limits.
In an eight-hour workday, it's unrealistic to expect a full eight hours of uninterrupted work. By aiming to operate at 85 percent capacity, or roughly seven hours in an eight-hour day, we allow ourselves a margin to handle unexpected interruptions and tasks.
This 15 percent buffer can also give you the space and resources to avoid burnout and take care of yourself. Imagine the possibilities if you were to focus 100% on fewer things. Deadlines are essential, but it's your capacity that will drive your projects.
5. Reduce decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is the deterioration of our ability to make good decisions after a long period of decision-making. The more decisions you make, the harder it becomes to weigh all options and make an educated choice. So, how can leaders combat this? By reducing the number of decisions they make in a day. This could mean deciding what to wear the night before, planning meals for the week, delegating decision-making authority, blocking specific times in your day for tasks, setting reminders, or creating checklists and routines. By streamlining decisions, leaders can create a living space that allows them to move effortlessly through their day.
Achieving more by doing less isn't just a catchy phrase - it's a strategic approach to leadership. So, the next time you feel the weight of endless responsibilities, take a moment to reflect: Could you achieve more by doing less?