Whether you’re working, job searching, or building a business, the commonality is that you no doubt have less time than you’d like to get everything done. A new book by author, entrepreneur, and activist Kate Northrup—Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms—offers a unique approach to time and energy management for busy moms, and her advice holds true for other workers and job seekers as well.
In an exclusive interview with Northrup, she revealed some of her strategies on how to step away from the concept that doing more is the only way to be productive and successful in your job and/or job search. Here are some key points that she shared on how doing less can pay back in greater productivity.
Avoid getting overwhelmed: Plug the drains.
Northrup explains that her “Do Less Method” is a new way of approaching your work and life that’s focused on reducing the amount of time and energy you devote to things that:
- Drain your energy,
- Don’t get you the results you want, and/or
- Don’t matter.
By doing so, she maintains that you can invest your limited bandwidth into energizing activities and projects that produce results and truly matter to you. According to Northrup, the best way to understand this is to first examine the data that proves that putting in more hours doesn’t actually net better results—and then actually prove it to yourself by trying it.
“For example, a study published by Business Insider showed that people who take regular breaks (about one per hour) are actually significantly more productive than those who push through fatigue,” says Northrup. “A way that busy moms and others can practice this is to set a timer when they’re working and get up and stretch, get some fresh air, or take some other kind of break away from a screen for every 45 minutes or so of work.”
Prioritize health: Body first, business second.
The author is a big proponent of taking care of your body first—for example, by incorporating breaks for rest, water, and/or a snack—to increase your productivity.
“Our bodies are our source of energy, and our energy levels source our best work,” says Northrup. “However, most of us have been trained to work as though we don’t have a body and push through fatigue and other needs. As a result, our work suffers and, over time, our health suffers.”
As an alternative to this punishing approach, she recommends the “body first, business second” philosophy. This involves asking yourself what your body needs at the beginning of the week—and then actually incorporating those insights into your schedule as you craft your to-do list.
For women who haven’t gone through menopause yet, Northrup suggests that this type of planning should include knowing which phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in, and prioritizing accordingly. “The data shows that our brains are wired to perform differently throughout the month,” she says. “The follicular phase is best for planning and brainstorming, the ovulation phase is best for communication and visibility, the luteal phase is best for detail work, and the menstrual phase is best for reflection and research. Organizing your schedule around the phase of your cycle can help you get more done in less time because you’re doing tasks that are optimal for your hormonal state.”
Everyone, though, should check in with their body throughout the day to ensure it receives what it needs, whether that’s sleep, exercise, nutritious food, time outside, etc. Northrup emphasizes that this will ensure a flow of optimal energy to devote to your work: “It’s better to take an hour out of your day to be outside and move than it is to waste that hour sitting at your desk without having anything to show for your time there because you were in such a brain fog from not taking care of your body that you were completely unproductive.”
Streamline your to-do-list.
A to-do-list can be a critical tool in productivity, but only if you know what belongs on it. Strategically streamlining your to-do list is an important first step to doing less and still reaching peak efficiency. Northrup recommends asking yourself the following three questions before adding any item to your list:
- Does this need to be done? “We’ve all been raised to think that the more we do, the more successful we’ll be, so we often fill our time with things that don’t even get us the results we want, but make us look busy,” explains Northrup. “Get in the habit of asking if the things on your to-do list result in the things you want to create in your life and work. If not, they don’t belong there.”
- Does this need to be done by me? Northrup notes that it’s common to think that if something on your list is going to get done, you’re the only one who can do it. But we’re mostly wrong about that, she says: “We have our spouses, our kids, our neighbors, and other folks at work who can all pitch in to do tasks or even take ownership of entire categories of things (like asking your spouse to be in charge of weeknight dinners, for example, during a season when you’re busier at work). Delegation and asking for support is key to the ‘Do Less Method.’”
- Does this need to be done right now? People often use a to-do list as a repository for anything and everything they believe they should or could do—ever. This is the wrong approach, says Northrup: “Your to do list should not be a dumping ground. You need to treat it as a sacred space where only the things that matter really belong. If something needs to be done, but at a later time, then it belongs in your project management system, not your weekly to-do list.”
“Less is more” only works if you figure out what to keep and what to throw away. By following Northrup’s model for jettisoning energy drains, prioritizing what your body needs, and figuring out what really needs doing in relation to your career and life goals, you’ll have a good start on how to achieve what matters without exhausting yourself.
Working parents are often faced with the decision of one spouse either staying at home and being a lead caretaker, or being forced to balance a traditional career while also prioritizing parenthood. It doesn’t have to be that way. With flexible jobs, busy parents and can work partially remote or fully remote positions that work for their schedule, not the other way around.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
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