4 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time…#1 Seems Weird but Isn’t

What’s the secret to getting more done in less time? The secret lies in taking the path of least resistance, which is exactly how I helped a coaching client cut his work time by 20% and increase his productivity by 30%.

How to get more done in less time

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Whether you like it or not, human beings are wired to take the easy route. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s a survival mechanism ingrained in us from our days as hunter-gatherers.

The path of least resistance is why doctors trying to get their patients to exercise suggest having their gym clothes out in the morning. And not going to a gym at all. For me, taking 30-45 minutes to go lift weights at home or go for a run is five times more likely than getting me to drive 10 minutes to the gym, get out, find what I need there, and then…gosh, forget it, I’ll just eat this cupcake and watch a movie.

So the secret to getting more done in less time is to use this trait to your advantage. That’s what I did with Brian.

He’s the client I wrote about yesterday. If you want the backstory on how badly he was overworked and how poorly he was performing, read his story here.

The news sites, his cell phone (which was constantly buzzing), and his email were all within easy reach. To solve his problem and help him to get more work done in 45 hours a week than he was in 71, I just made it hard to access those things. We used the path of least resistance to his advantage and you can, too.

4 ways to use the path of least resistance to your advantage

1. Disable all the shortcuts on your computer.

I know, this sounds backwards. They are called “shortcuts” for a reason. They make life simpler, right?

Wrong. The ironic thing is that all those shortcuts make it easy to get distracted. By adding an extra step to checking email, opening a browser, or reading an RSS feed, Brian was less prone to distraction.

This change alone led him to checking the news and email 75% less often.

Often, the short amount of time it takes for your email to load or the website to load is enough of a deterrent.

2. Disable “remember password” on email and frequently visited sites.

One extra hoop I made Brian jump through was entering his username and password every time he checked email.

By the time he’d done this, Brian reported checking his email only six times per day. These two simple changes literally gave him five hours of his life back each week. Five hours!

3. Change your default home page.

What is your default home page? Is it a news site or some other distracting site, or even your email? If so, change it.

Brian changed his from his RSS reader to a blank page. That alone ensured he would start the day off right.

4. Leave your phone off and across the room.

Brian reported checking his phone an average of nearly 20 times per day. He also reported that having it on him at all times would lead to longer breaks as he would get sucked into news articles, emails, text messages, etc. (That’s why I don’t have a smartphone)

Leaving his phone off and away from him during the day reduced distractions by 10-20%, he said. And it can do the same for you.

If someone genuinely needs him (i.e. his wife), they just call his work line.

Action Item: Pick one of these ways to reduce distractions and act on it. Make it hard to do something that distracts you. Use the path of least resistance to your advantage.

Bottom line: the results

That third call, when we first started working on this, was five weeks ago. Brian was working an average of 65 hours each week and barely managing to keep up.

Today, he isn’t quite at his goal yet. He is still working on this. It will take time. But, he’s down to 52-55 hours each week and finally getting ahead on projects. His to-do list is getting smaller. He is happier and so is his family.

He even managed to make it to a baseball game last week.

In only five weeks, he is:

  • Working 20% less.
  • Getting 30% more done.

That’s what I call a win-win!

Taking the path of least resistance can be your greatest enemy or your greatest ally. It’s all a matter of how you use it.

If you are struggling like Brian and want to learn more about getting more done in less time, set up a one-on-one consultation with me to find out if personal coaching might be right for you.

Question: What have you done to reduce distractions and get more done in less time? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    I really agree with these suggestions. For me, I’m get so sucked into email as it comes it. Dealing with the little stuff is so much easier that working on a proposal or writing the book. It feels productive, so it is addicting. The problem is at the end of the day, less of the big stuff is getting done. Turning this stuff into a pull vs. a push is a great idea.

  • David Mike

    Very interesting! Creating the path to least resistance by making the easy to do stuff hard to do. As far as the smart phone, they can pry it from my cold, dead hand! (OK, a little over the top there.)

  • Stephanie Robbins

    Love these suggestions! I am going to have to try them out. I guess before I lose my email shortcut, I should start by closing it down when I am working. Baby steps. Recently I turned off the notification of a new email. Needless to say, that made a huge difference.

    How if only I get Facebook to not auto-populate my browser. lol

    Thanks for the great post as always!

    • That’s all I do, too Stephanie. I just turn it off throughout the day and check it at pre-defined times. What I suggested was extreme for an extreme case, but for me, turning it off means I usually only sneak one unscheduled peak per day :)

  • Great post Matt. I get sucked into email to easily. I am working on that…took it off my phone which has helped:)

  • Great ideas, Matt!

    I’ve kept my browser home page set to blank for years! I hated waiting for a default page (*cough*msn.com) to load before I could get to the work I needed to do.

    I also turned off most of the default notifications on my iPhone. So, I don’t get buzzed every time I get an email or a text. Then I can go through and adjust for the important people (wife, boss, clients, etc.) I can set a custom tone and vibration so I know if I do get buzzed, it’s from someone important and I can attend to it as soon as I can.

    One thing I need to do is turn off Firefox’s “Remember Password” feature. I used to use it, now I don’t and see it as a major security issue. Another thing I want to try is turning off the automatic email download on my computer and iPhone. That way I’m not seeing the email numbers pile up throughout the day and feel pressured to process them.

  • Having my phone in the other room is a great way I stay engaged in what is happening right in front of me and it keeps me from wasting time. I can hear it ring, so I don’t need to have it right next to me.

  • I realized I check my phone first thing in the morning, telling myself I want to know the weather forecast for the day. Next thing I know, I’m 25 minutes into FB and haven’t even gotten out of bed. I started by setting up an alarm clock and charging my phone in the other room. Small, doable steps are what works for me!

    • Good strategy. Acknowledge your weaknesses and find ways around them.

      For me, having an immediate purpose first thing in the morning (if I don’t write then, I don’t write), gets me going!

  • Dan Erickson

    I don’t have shortcuts. I never let my computer remember passwords. I don’t set my phone to a ringtone. This summer I’m going to go without Internet. I want to change providers so the idea came to me to see how long I could go without. I decided on 90 days: the summer. I’ll pre-post blog posts and still have access to Internet at work and at Starbucks. I hope to finish my first draft of my third book and publish my first book of poetry this summer.

    • Good for you Dan. That is awesome!

      I hope to hear how it goes :)

  • Very interesting, Matt. I love the idea of making it harder to check those things.

    One thing I did was change the notifications on my phone. Before, I would get notifications for every e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. update. I didn’t have a sound or vibration, but it would pop up on my phone and stay on my lock screen. I disabled all of those. I even set the e-mail on my phone to only be checked manually. It’s helped me to save time (not exactly sure how much, but it’s noticeable) and data usage on my phone.

    • That’s a great start. Ultimately, it depends on how much of a problem it is for you. If you are easily distracted or tempted to check email 10+ times a day, do what I suggest. Go all out.

      If you’re not and you already only check 4 or less times and aren’t distracted, doing what I suggest will actually do more harm than good.

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