Working less to produce more

What if we could work less, but produce more? What if by saying no to everything but the very best projects, clients, invitations, or assignments, we could be happier, feel more fulfilled, and do better work?

In my many years of observing my peers across various workplaces, as well as observing friends and family members, it strikes me that there are two types of people. There are those who seem to thrive on muchness. They do best when they have lots to do. The overload motivates them to greater heights of energy, resolve and production. They are the people of whom the saying “Need something done? Give it to a busy person,” applies. Cranking through their work and checking things off the list gives them a high. Lets call these people the Busy Producers.

And then there are those for whom long to do lists and mountains of work is overwhelming and has the opposite effect. They begin to slow down, feel inundated and swamped, or even depressed, and they may eventually seek escape through procrastination or other diversions. These people do better — meaning they produce more, and are happier — when they carefully manage and pace their workloads. If they start saying “no” to things, they actually empower themselves to do more. Lets call these the Paced Thrivers.

Does one of these sound like you?

I see many people who regularly operate in Busy Producer mode. They say “yes” to everything. We know we can do it, so therefore we should. And, we don’t want to miss out. There are many pressures that push us toward saying “yes”, and many short term rewards when we do. 

Saying “no” is much harder. It may be a skill worth acquiring, though, since it’s hard for most of us to operate as a Busy Producer over long periods of time. Trying can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and the gradual awareness that we are busily going in a million directions and yet missing out on a deeper sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Over the long term, I suspect the Paced Thriver strategy is ultimately more successful in building a consistently satisfying life and body of work. Life is a marathon. Sprinting can be satisfying and fun in short bursts, but it will wear us out if we try to keep going at that pace.

All of this musing makes me wonder… what am I saying “yes” to that is actually reducing my ability to produce my best work and live my best life? How about you?

And there it is, your thought for the day. Hope you make today great!

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