When it comes to productivity, less is more. Disorganization is often a result of misguided attempts at efficiency (meaning, trying to cram as much into a day as possible). In actuality, the best approach is to do less and do it better.
But how does that actually work?
It starts with cutting out the time-sucking activities you may not even realize are dragging you down.
Have you ever heard of "decision fatigue"? The more decisions we make, the less likely we are to make good decisions. So minimize your options and make decisions easier. Keep only the things in your life that spark joy—as Marie Kondo says. Create a weekly meal plan to lighten your load of daily decisions. Have a list of go-to restaurants for business lunches in every neighborhood, so you don't have to stress over finding the best one every time. The devil is in the details.
I used to think I was a great multitasker. Then I learned there's no such thing. It’s possible to juggle a lot of projects at the same time, but not to give your full attention to more than one thing. When you multitask, your attention is scattered. It can be dangerous, too—how many times have you walked or driven to a destination only to realize you don't even remember how you got there because your brain was on autopilot? Focus on one thing at a time. I sometimes have to remind myself over and over of the one task I’ve committed to, but it gets easier.
The other day on the train, I saw someone's iPhone had over 10,000 unread emails! Eek! Are you that person? Just thinking about that many emails makes me stressed. I firmly believe a clear inbox leads to a clear mind. Here’s what I did when I had too many emails to handle—I deleted them all. It’s not like I was ever going to go back through those thousands of emails.
When I suggest this, I often get the classic response: “I might need them later!” Which honestly makes you sound like someone from Hoarders, clinging to a bag of old cereal boxes. No, you won’t! If it’s meant to be, that email will find its way back to you. That’s what happened to me.
How many times have you spread yourself too thin, only to feel burned out and drained, and have to take a full-on break? I do it all the time. For a while, I was going to at least one networking event every night after work. I got cranky, cynical, and ungrateful. It’s important to be picky. You don't need to go to everything. Have time blocked out for yourself every once in a while.
To help me clear out the clutter in my life, I’ve started writing "just enough" lists. You write down only the things you have to do that day, so when it’s over, you feel like you’ve done just enough. These lists can be really helpful in times of stress or when you feel overworked.