How To Do More By Doing Less

Work is something all of us have to do and now more than ever it requires attention and focus, not multitasking. There are those who are able to focus on their work with little to no distraction and move to the next task without being deterred or distracted. The rest of us though, struggle. This article is going to help with reducing the struggle and end multitasking for good.

The average person today has 3.64 connected devices a computer, tablet, smartphone and if you’re really time conscious, a smartwatch. These devices allow the average office worker to receive 121 emails per day, 46 social media notifications and 94 text messages and if we have 420 minutes (I’ve included breaks) in our working day that equates to some form of distraction hitting us every 1.6 minutes.  The research tells us multitasking does not work for 97.5% of the population, yet we choose to be available for these distractions all day, every day. 

Your attention is a currency just like money and the more you spend it on unimportant things the less you have it for the important things. Being consistently available for others means you will never be fully present for them either. You’re going to learn to be unavailable so that you can be a better friend, parent, partner and money maker because all of these things require singular focus at the right time. 

This article is a combination of books, hacks and conversations with those who want to spend their time efficiently so that they can achieve more with less. This article going to be part of a series around a deep dive on personal productivity and will be expanded as the series grows and improves. In this article, we’re starting with the device that never leaves your side, the phone. 

Part 1: Your Phone

The technology in our pockets has been transformative for modern society. We can literally access anything, anywhere with our smartphones. The societal norms that have come with this transformation though have not moved at the same pace. 

Many people are annoyed if they can’t get a hold of another party assuming that it’s their right to simply access others whenever they wish. This assumption does not take into account that someone may actually be doing something that is more important and so not wanting to let others down, we make ourselves available not just for those closest to us but the media, social media and whatever other medium that wants your attention.

I’m going to show you the tools that will stop your phone from being the attention whore that it is. 

1. Make The Home Screen Useful 

This is my home screen in colour, it has the apps that I use most often and the ones that are important for me to use if I do ever decide my phone is the important thing to be on at that moment.

The goal here is to essentially eliminate all apps that: 

1. Serve other people’s purposes (essentially every messaging app on the planet) 
2. Distraction sinkholes (all forms of social media that start the process of multitasking)
3. Serve no purpose to help you complete whatever is on your to-do list today

Replace these with apps that: 

1. Meet your desired outcomes for me this is learning, tracking my time, reading and meditation
2. Have an immediate use that you will need at least one to three times during the day (usually phone calls or texts)

To find out where your time is being wasted and to start moving your apps around Apple has built-in usage statistics. 

Go to Settings:

Select Screen Time:

You’ll then get a screenshot of your biggest offending time-sink apps: 

For me, it’s always FB messenger and Instagram, fortunately, Apple has now introduced time limitations on the apps that you use. To access this simply scroll down to the “App Limits”.  I use social media for my work this is an important tool in curbing my social media use.

I limit my usage to ten minutes per day so that I can do whatever is required of me for my job and then avoid the rest of the time suck that is usually endlessly scrolling the Instagram explore feed. 

The other part of this is that I change my wallpaper to something less exciting so that I don’t end up going to my photos or get distracted by some memory of better times when I was using my phone for things outside of work.

2. Turn Off Notifications

One of the ways your phone becomes the incessant crutch that it is is when you’re trying to focus on just one thing and your phone decides to send you notifications whenever anything happens, anywhere in the world. As I mentioned earlier the average office worker will get a notification every 1.6 minutes and it’s impossible to focus if that’s your norm.

Here’s how to switch off all your notifications.

Go to Settings:

Go to Notifications and open the first app on the list: 

Flick the green switch and you’re on your way to intentionally focus your time. The only apps I allow to send me notifications are Google Calendar, Uber & my Airline App (Air NZ) as they are time-dependent apps and would cause me a lot of issues if I were to miss the cues from them. Basically anything that makes me multitask or divert me from the end game of getting shit done.

3. Go Grayscale

Apple has seemed to make this very difficult to achieve so I’ll screenshot you through this step by step process on a shortcut on how to make your phone go to Grey Scale and then hop back out of it when you need it.

Go to Settings:  

Go to Accessibility: 

Go to Display & Text Size: 

Scroll downward to Colour Filters: 

From here select Gray Scale: 

This little beauty will now allow you to not be swayed as much by its exciting colours and distractions. If you do find that you do need colour for something here is how to make this a shortcut. 

Go to Settings:  

Go to Accessibility: 

Scroll To Accessibility Shortcut: 

Then select Colour Filters. This will now allow you to switch back and forth between black and white by pressing the power button three times in a row. 

By simply doing these three things you’ll set yourself apart from 99% of the world who are getting hammered by their phones on a daily basis. 

Part 2: Optimising Your Day

For many of us, we wake up and take the day as it comes. We let other people tell us what to do and how to spend our time. We check social media for a quick dopamine hit, followed by checking our email for the urgent tasks that have been doled out by someone else while at the same time we cram something in our mouths and juggle whatever other priorities we have.

This is the way most people live their lives every single day. It is also analogous to walking into a pawn shop and asking the merchant, “What is your best deal?” 

You’re going to be given something else someone wants to get rid of at a very high price. We’d be mortified to be ripped off like this but we make these bargains every day with our attention by letting other people’s agendas dictate our lives. 

It’s time to take back some control of your schedule and plan your day before it even begins.

1. Introducing The Daily Review

A daily review is a simple exercise where you reflect on your day and simply plan for the next. Here is a picture of a similar one of my own:

 

The process of finishing your day by creating a starting for the next allows you to maintain your progress on the goals that are important. My form includes three basic questions or deviations of these questions:

1. What did you achieve today? (To reinforce your momentum)

2. Did you do something nice for someone? (To reinforce the type of character you want to have)

3. What are the three things you want to do tomorrow? (To set a plan so that you’re not waking up on a random tangent)

Answering these questions at the end of each day allows me to see whether or not I’m improving and gives me some data points for the end of the quarter to see how my momentum has been going.

If you want to adopt your own version of the daily review please just make a copy of the template here.

Let me know in the comments how some of these tools compound and share anything you’ve used to keep yourself on track! I’ll be coming back adding to this article with comments from our community and as I learn new tools myself so please do share anything you think that can add value here.

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