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  • Writer's pictureAmy

Do Less: Optimize productivity with fewer activities

I’m a huge fan of optimizing productivity and by ‘optimize’ I don’t mean ‘do more’. Optimizing productivity is about cutting activities that slow momentum. Andrew Church posted a great article on LinkedIn and one of his main points is to “cut back on business”.

While it seems counter-intuitive to optimize productivity by cutting back on business, it is essential if you want to reach your goals. Let’s look at it from the perspective of a world-class sprinter. Sprinters use the starting blocks to propel them forward but what is interesting is their body position during the first few steps. Watch the first part of the video and notice how the runner picks up his hands before forward motion begins. His upper body is almost parallel to the ground during the first step and his chin stays tucked in.

The average runner doesn’t run like this. We start in an upright position with head held high. We look forward because we need to see any obstacles in our way. We don’t drag our toes with the first step. And, this is the difference. Me and my peeps are average runners. World-class athletes are elite. If we want to break out of ‘average’ and gain momentum, we have to cut extra movements, replace old behaviors, and train relentlessly. Common activities that slow motion are multitasking, operating within a broad strategy, and difficult clients.



Multitasking is a myth. We can do multiple low-level activities at the same time such as washing dishes, help our children with homework, and keep an eye on the dog that is acting weird around the garbage can. None of the activities really challenge our cognitive resources because we are relying on previously programmed habits. However, conducting an analysis, working on your strategy, and answering the phone require greater amounts of cognitive resources and either the quality of your work will suffer or it will take longer to finish these tasks.

Minimize distractions when you are working on a higher-level activity. Shut the door. Work in ‘Composition Mode’ if you are writing. Turn off the television. Close your email. If you are working on a large project, give yourself a set amount of time to work (no more than 90 minutes at a time) before switching to your administrative tasks like answering emails and phone calls.

Operating within a broad strategy

If you haven’t fully defined your business strategy, you may be wasting time and energy trying to reach too many target audiences. Review your business strategy and clearly define your ultimate goals. Imagine the product and services you will ultimately deliver. While these products will change over time, we have to draw a line in the sand and create a crystal clear vision. Think about who will buy from you. What do they do? Where do they work, play, and hang out? Do they have families? How old are they? Start answering these questions and you will have a more closely defined strategy.

Working with difficult clients

Difficult clients. We all have them. They miss appointments, ask for excessive changes, and leave poor reviews on social media. Are they worth the revenue you generate with them? This isn’t just about generating revenue. This is about your mental state after they leave. Are you stressed, fatigued, or scatter-brained? Some clients will be better if they find a different business to work with. More importantly, you will be able to focus your attention on clients that fuel your passion.

A few tips about ‘firing clients’ …

…make sure your client knows that the change is about his/her success. Let your client know your skill set doesn’t synch up with their needs and you really want to see them succeed. If your client misses or cancels appointments, let them know that your schedule is getting too full and that you can’t give them the time they deserve.

…give your client a list of other businesses to work with. Yes, you are pumping up your competition but this isn’t about keeping score. This is about doing what is best for your business. This is about gaining momentum.

So, the bottom line is that we need to

  1. stop multitasking

  2. clearly define our strategy

  3. fire difficult clients

What keeps you from gaining momentum?

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