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  • Writer's pictureBart te Nijenhuis

How to do less and achieve more

No, the title is not clickbait. It is absolutely possible to do less, way less and achieve more, way more.

If you are human you will find yourself regularly getting lost in the busyness of everyday life. Running around, not having a moment to yourself, being busy all the time yet at the end of the day having nothing to show for.

If you are curious about how you can change that, stick with me.

Why running on the treadmill of life is not getting you anywhere

Many of us run around all day chasing a to-do list which is usually nothing more than a wish-list. We complete urgent but unimportant tasks, take them off from our never-ending to-do list and get our daily or hourly dopamine shot. Yet at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month or even sometimes at the end of a decade nothing has changed yet we are exhausted. Exhausted from putting in so much effort yet finding ourselves stuck in the same place time after time.

How about I take you through five crucial steps to change this once and for all?

Write your definition of success

Zig Ziglar once said: If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. And he was dead right.

What are you aiming for in life? Are the things that keep you busy tasks that somebody puts on your agenda or are they intentional steps towards your goals? If you're reading this it's probably the first.

So how do you make sure that you know what you want to aim for? Well grab a pen and paper, sit down and…. write your own definition of success. This is about as personal as it gets. Don't let any influencer, Youtube-CEO or not even your own friends and family decide what success is for you. Look within and think about what you need to live your life with intention, purpose and a smile. What would make you pat yourself on the shoulder and say to yourself ´well done´?

Write this definition of success down and once you have it keep it with you all the time. This is your compass throughout your busy days and busy weeks. Make sure you include both what personal success would look like as well as what professional success would look like.

Don't read any further until you've done this exercise.

Set your priorities

Tim Ferriss once wisely said: If you don't have time you don't have priorities.

The main reason why we're swamped, shattered and overwhelmed (although my friend David Poole hates that word), is that we find it hard to say no and we run around with other people's priorities and wishes.

As a first step you've written your definition of success. What I want you to do is now write down three priorities that support the personal side of your definition of success and three priorities that support a professional side of your definition of success. No more than three. We are focusing here on the few vital things that move the needle, not the trivial many that keep us busy and other people happy.

Once again do not read any further until you have these priorities written down.

By now you have your compass (your definition of success) and the key things you should take on your journey (your priorities).

Say NO

There are many roads to success but one sure route to failure and that is to say ´Yes´ to everything.

NO appears to be the most difficult sentence in the English language for many people. And yes, it's a sentence not just a word. NO says everything that needs to be said and I can assure you that 99% of the feeling of overwhelm comes from the inability to say or accept NO as an answer.

I'm not asking you to be rude but I am asking you to be clear. There's nothing gained for anybody by you saying ´Yes´ to something and then not being able to do it because you said yes to so many other things as well. So saying NO to somebody could actually mean that you are doing them a favor. You are managing their expectations and that is vital. All disappointment in life and work doesn't come from the outcome but comes from how far the outcome is from the initial expectation.

So look at your definition of success, set your priorities and whatever comes in front of you; if it's not a clear YES it's a NO. And I can't take any credit for this wisdom because it comes 100% from Greg McKeown and his must-read book Essentialism.

Start practicing saying NO

Stop interrupting yourself

Unscheduled messages, meetings and conversations are the poison that kills your productivity and your sense of achievement. A quick check is just as damaging as a 20 minute one because it initiates the network switch in your brain. Stop interrupting yourself!

They say the most important thing you can give something or somebody is your time. That is wrong unfortunately. The most important thing you can give something or somebody is your attention. Giving a task or conversation your time without giving it your attention is a sure way to be mediocre. Busy, but mediocre.

So whatever it is you do, make sure you focus on that one thing and do only that. Multitasking is a myth. Multitasking is screwing up the various things at the same time. Do the following test if you don’t believe me.

Deep work will be the superpower of the 21st century. Ask Cal Newport.

Immerse yourself in the task ahead, switch off your phone, close the door and embrace the silence.

Celebrate success

Success momentum gets created by the frequency of your successes, not by the size of them.

So make sure that you are proud of every step you are taking in your journey to achieving more.

And it will not be easy to celebrate doing less because of two reasons.

First, it will feel weird being proud of doing less. But bear in mind that the goal is not to do as much as possible but to achieve as much as possible. So stop thinking about achievement as task performance and start measuring it according to the results you’re getting.

Second; we are raised in life and school with a focus on what we are doing wrong, not what we are doing right. This means that we tend to look more at the bad things than at the good things. There are good evolutionary reasons for that but we are not living in the stone age anymore… So snap out of it, look at the good things and celebrate every step forward.

Celebration is the bridge from small habits to big changes. Nothing feeds future success more than feeling successful. So celebrating success when you want to change something is absolutely crucial.


There you have it.

Five crucial steps for getting off the hamster wheel of busyness and start dipping your toes into the water of high performance.

Make sure you come back to this exercise every 90 days.

Every 90 days right or rewrite your definition of success and every 90 days set your priorities according to this definition.

Pivot when you want to but make sure it is because you want to, not because your surroundings force you to do so.

You are in charge of your own life.

Be intentional and be awesome!

Want a longer list of how to make your life better? Check out my blog

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Click the link below and we'll find you a great coach to suit your needs. There is no introductory fee and the coach will offer you a complimentary session to best understand your needs. Click here to proceed

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