The Secret to Being More Productive While Doing Less

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Did you see this tweet from Lulu Cheng that blew up on Twitter last month? It cracked me up…

I used to have about a million tabs open at any one time, and I was always bouncing between tasks. I would race through my day feeling extremely busy but never completing anything. Just trying to find the right Google Drive document had me stressed out!

I was on the path to burnout. In my quest to do everything all the time, I actually ended up killing my own productivity. I was constantly multitasking and moving fast. I was experiencing brain fog, I couldn’t focus and I was disoriented.

It became clear I’d hit a bottom. So I said a prayer. And the Universe delivered.

Watch the video below for the whole story AND the secret to being more productive while doing less!

You can also keep reading below the video.

The day I said my prayer, I got an email from The Dr. Oz Show asking me to come on and do a segment with the lovely doctor and author Dr. Mike Dow.

brain fog fix mike dow|being more productive by doing lessMike has written books such as Heal Your Drained Brain and The Brain Fog Fix. I had known him for a few years because we’d shared the same publisher, so backstage we were chatting and catching up. I said to him, “I’m feeling so chaotic and I’m multitasking all the time. I feel like I’ve got brain fog and I’m forgetting things.”

Mike looked at me and said, “How many things are you doing at one time?”

I came clean. I told him how I was always doing a million things. I had a ton of tabs open and was jumping from one thing to the next all the time.

He was like, “These are big brain no-no’s.” And they’re also productivity no-no’s, he said.

So Mike gave me a tip that has changed EVERYTHING for me. He shared with me the secret to being more productive while doing less.

The secret to being more productive while doing less

The secret is to do just five things each day.

Make a list of the five most important things you need to accomplish each day, in order. Then to work your way down the list, completing #1 before moving on to #2, and so on.

daily list|being more productive by doing lessI committed to this method right then and there. Every day I make a list of my five most important tasks. If I don’t make it through all five that day, I just pick up where I left off the next day. I told my whole team that I was making this change, and I write down my list each day, making a conscious effort to stick to it.

Of course, sometimes unexpected things come up in your day, like a phone call or a problem you need to solve right away. That’s okay. If it’s urgent, take care of it. Then go back to your list.

But don’t make every little thing that pops up into an emergency that completely derails your list. If you do this, your productivity will plummet and you’ll be back into 99 tabs territory.

You may have heard that a minor distraction can disrupt your focus in a major way. It’s true. One study showed that it can take almost 25 minutes to get back into the zone after an interruption. That’s why committing to your list is so important! And if you do get completely taken out, you can center yourself with a short meditation or even by taking a five-minute walk.

Tweet: This is the secret to being more productive by doing LESS! @gabbybernstein #spiritjunkie

This rule has changed the way I work

Sticking to Mike’s rule of doing just five things each day has changed the way I work. Before adopting this technique I would try to do 30 things in a day, and I’d be totally stressed out and feeling like I was constantly catching up. Now not only do I get more done, but I’m also calmer, more intuitive and creative, and my mind is clear. As a result I have raised my vibration and my attracting power is stronger than ever!

This is the secret to being more productive by doing less.

Use this tip to be more conscious and mindful in the way you show up for your work and your life. You might even want to start by tracking how many things you are trying to accomplish today. This can be a major eye-opener in and of itself!

You can adapt this rule for your own workflow

egg timer|being more productive by doing lessYou can adapt it for your workflow, too. For example, maybe it’s important that you stay on top of your inbox throughout the day. Instead of letting every new email distract you from your list, you can set aside chunks of time during the day to dedicate 100% to email. Set a timer for 15 minutes, answer the urgent emails and when the timer beeps, go back to your list.

If you have the opposite problem from me and have a hard time motivating yourself to get more than a couple of things done each day, use your list of five things to keep you focused and energized.  The sense of satisfaction you will feel when you complete one thing will give you a newfound momentum and enthusiasm!

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  1. A lot of my day is taken up by people asking for advice or guidance which leaves little time for me to do my “day job” and leads to me working ridiculously long hours to try and catch up. I’m ticking off their to do lists but unfortunately not my own. I love the idea of only having 5 things on my to do list! When you work in an environment where other people’s expectations are that they wanted these things done yesterday and everything is urgent, how do you avoid burning out? Managing expectations seems to only go so far.

    1. Hi Jessica. When things feel complicated in this way, it can be helpful to go as simple as possible. Start by picking one thing to do for yourself to help you feel better at work, such as creating a boundary and sticking to it, or whatever first step feels most aligned for you. Know that small steps will add up to a big impact. <3

  2. Very excited to start this. I think my other problem is that I argue with myself about the scope of what ONE item is. For example there’s a difference between watch one Gabby video and find material for my demo. If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear!


    1. Awesome Alex! Always go with your gut. Make that list of 5 things and get into a groove. If it turns out that your 5 things are really 10, tweak it until you feel in your flow.

  3. Gabs, I totally get what you’re saying with doing 5 main tasks a day, but what if your job has you in several different roles and you have 20+ tasks to get done in a day? What’s your advice on that? 🙂

  4. I really need to try this! I know I try to fit too many things in to the day and often feel disappointed or frustrated if I don’t get things done or if things aren’t finished.
    Thanks Gabby

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