What if you could actually accomplish more by intentionally procrastinating and slacking off?
Wouldn’t that be cool?
As much as we spend time trying to figure out clever ways to maximize our time, sometimes the least obvious approach is the most effective.
In other words, just doing more does not always lead to a greater value output.
The case for putting things off
If you’re having trouble creating much value in your life, it’s likely that you’re in need of some serious procrastination. If at the end of the day, you feel like you were really busy, but nothing important was accomplished, it just might be because you didn’t put things off enough.
It sounds weird, but this is a highly effective strategy. The more value I want to create, the more I realize that I will need to put off doing a lot of seemingly important things, that won’t matter in a few hours, days or weeks. Spending time doing what matters long term often involves procrastinating on short-term, trivial details.
I’ve learned that if I get too caught up in the short-term, I will drown in details. If you stayed glued to a highly detailed To-Do list, you quickly lose sight of the big picture. And the amount of real value that create quickly vanishes.
So, in order to do what will make a long term impact ”” writing a book, creating an album, working on yourself, or practicing your art ”” you will need to learn how to become skilled at putting off the minutiae.
I’m not saying let your laundry pile up so much that you wear the same socks for seven days, and make small animals run for shelter when you approach. Just don’t let having the laundry done ”” closet color-coded, perfectly matched, and ironed religiously until all wrinkles have been eradicated ”” keep you from doing the stuff that is going to make you feel fulfilled.
The case for doing nothing.
To a certain point, the more nothing you do, the more perspective you get on the things that are going to make a difference.
But most people do the exact opposite. In order to create more value, they think they need to put in more time. This is false. Value is not married to time. Its relationship is marginal at best and depends on how much you’re able to leverage your time.
Of course, in order to create anything, you have to show up. That much cannot be denied. And there is much merit in being bull-headedly persistent. Putting in the time is necessary to develop competentence or expertise at any endeavor.
But it only works up to a point. For the first few hours, focused time is highly effective. But if you don’t step away, recharge, and essentially do nothing for a certain amount of time, you’re running on an empty tank.
Doing nothing also often leads to the greatest epiphanies. It’s time spent where there is no direct correlation to the activity (walking, hiking, or taking a nap, for example) you’re pursuing that you allow ideas to incubate, grow, and percolate. If you’re trimming a tree all day, or constantly poking at a cooking fish, you’re going to ruin it.
It’s better to step away, and allow things to unfold.
If you could do nothing more, and get more done, wouldn’t that be a better way to work?
But we resist because it can seem scary when we’re not in control. It’s messy, and uncertain.
But if you want to be truly exceptional, it takes stepping away to gain perspective. Once you gain that perspective (by doing nothing) you’ll know the right path to take.
I’ve built my business on these two principles
I know that these ideas may seem a bit counterintuitive, but they’ve worked over and over for me. In fact, I would say much of my success is due to following them tirelessly. That and painstakingly killing my good ideas.
When I find that a day or week goes by and I’m not sure I accomplished anything of value, I take stock. If I didn’t really create much value, I find 99% of the time I was focusing microscopically on non-essentials. It’s at that point that I realize I need to do a better job of putting off the details and taking a more long-term view.
When I review and find that I didn’t accomplish much, but I was focusing on the bigger picture, it’s usually because I’m too close. I haven’t given my project (or myself) room to breathe. I need to let go, give it space, and allow it to grow without hovering over it like a micro-manager. And when I do that, when I do nothing for a while, I come back refreshed. I have new ideas and new energy to bring to my work, and the quality of my work improves dramatically.
Try it for yourself and let me know what happens.