Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Doing Less, Like Einstein

So, in my last TMT post, I wrote about whether slowing down  could improve writers' productivity and how most of what I found written on the subject seemed to be more about the amount of work people did, not working slower. I didn't see how people could work more slowly without doing less. So this week I'm forgetting speed and angsting on whether we can improve productivity by actually, yes, doing less. Yeah, wouldn't that be great?

While I found material about improving your work situation by working less, I didn't see a lot about how to do it. A shorter work week would be good. Don't multi-task. Working less means less stress, more peace. I, however, need nitty-gritty how-to details. Sorry to say, the i's must be dotted and the t's crossed for me.

The Einstein Principle

I did find something helpful in a blog maintained by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I'm talking about a post called The Einstein Principle: Accomplish More By Doing Less. I know! It sounds like exactly what I'm looking for!

Newport's point in his blog post is that for a three-year period, Einstein didn't do much beyond work on his theory of relativity. (Whatever that is.) The reality is, Newport says, that we're most productive when we focus on a small number of projects.

This seems as if it ought to be obvious. Yet think about how writers work. Piecemeal. There's the big writing project that we're totally into until we get this great idea for something else. And then there are the submissions of work we've finished and the marketing of individual projects and ourselves and the training and the appearances and maybe some teaching. When are we focusing on our theory of relativity? (Whatever that is.)

Productivity Purges

Newport actually does describe a strategy for doing less so you can do more. He calls it a productivity purge. I've been known to purge things, but Newport is talking about purging tasks. Next week I'll have some ideas for purging tasks specifically for writers. In the meantime, check out what Newport writes about how to list and analyze professional and personal tasks, analyze them, and identify which can go and which you can continue working on.

Apply The Unit System!

What seems to me to be one of the most important aspects of Newport's productivity purge is the requirement that for a month after finishing you not start any new projects. A month is a nice unit of time, something we're always talking about working with here. With Newport's purge plan, you identify the few tasks you're going to work on and commit to them for a unit of time.

Okay, so doing less to achieve more may be something we can do.

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