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Doing More by Working Less

Ages ago, when I was in Architectural school, modernism ruled the day, and most students embraced the motto “Less Is More” (Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe).  This aesthetic of minimalism had a foundational philosophy of simplicity – don’t surround people with too much complexity (in design) and they will be more in harmony with the simple, natural order of life.

I recently wrote a blog called Multi-tasking vs. Focusing to point out how we really don’t multi-task.  Multi-taskers are really “switch-tasking”.  Human beings like simplicity.  We are structured to do one thing at a time, and that is how we do things well.

I have a key employee (the one who suggested the topic of working fewer hours) who is a model of efficiency.  She gets everything done, does it all well, and never works more than 8 hours a day.  She stays on task, really focuses, lets go of things that shouldn’t intrude in her consciousness, rarely wastes effort or energy, is not easily distracted, and is committed to a quality outcome.  She takes regular “mental” breaks between tasks by posting on her blog, or finding something to pin to her many idea boards, but 90% of her effort is simply getting things done, one step at a time, in a methodical manner.  She embodies Deepak Chopra’s “Law of Least Effort” in the best possible way.

A recent article called Why Successful People Leave Work Early (Aimee Groth on Business Insider) points out that excellent people do more with less.  She cites violinists who practice less and writers who write for fewer hours, as demonstrating better results.  They are able to excel with precision focus – since they feel they must achieve the same result in 4 hours that others take 7 hours for, they do it.  This supports an adage I love: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Another article 9 Ways to Work Less and Do More by Martin Zwilling, cites author Steve Robbins’ similarly titled book 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.  This article cites the usual things, like avoiding distractions and procrastination, but also mentions a few ideas you might not have thought of, like utilizing others to identify your blind spots, and networking to set up better relationships to avoid future (time-wasting) conflicts.

Every time I come in at 7 am, I’m able to leave at 4, but when I come in at 9 am, I end up at my desk until 7 pm or later.  That math doesn’t work.  What is the difference?