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. So simple, yet so profound! I definitely needed this to be able to “uplevel” to bigger & better things. I am absolutely prone to creating lists that just seem to keep getting longer, rather than focusing on completion of one task at a time — recipe for overwhelm!! No more. 🙂

  2. OMG I LOVE this and could not agree more! When I feel like I have more to get through then hours in the day I end up so frazzled, all over the shop between tasks and WAY less productive…or happy! I love that we are seeing a movement from the whole “hustle and multitask’ to less is more and less but done WELL and with greater flow and results! Thanks as always for your insights Gabby xx

  3. So this sound great and all but often an item on my list that is a must get done, has several smaller tasks that have to be taken care of in order to cross that one thing off of my list. I’m drowning ..

    1. If it’s a big task, make your 5 items those “sub-tasks” you need to work on in order to complete the bigger project. Break it down and take it step by step, item by item. You will feel relief and get clarity about how to manage your time. You may discover you have too big of a workload, at which point you can choose a next step (such as sitting down with your boss with a plan), or you may realize that it’s much more manageable than you thought. Break down those big tasks into small tasks and you will no longer feel like you are drowning. xo

  4. I thought I was the only one with all those browser tabs! Thank you Gabbie. So simple.
    -will write down my list in PM for next day.
    -am taking a “breather” every two hours (stretch, walk, and taking a moment to breathe.)
    -attending to guidance during breather
    – closing tabs each day.(ouch)
    Thank you for your help.

  5. The Universe is SO incredible. I have been so overwhelmed lately from feeling like I have too many things to do.. to the point where I have been having trouble sleeping. My mind just won’t shut off. I have a todo list thats multiple pages long which leads to me going in circles each day and not hardly getting anything done. I opened up an email this morning from a completely unrelated source and its title was “the magic 6” and it said the same thing!! To pick 6 things each day. NO MORE and just focus on those, one at a time. Then, a few hours later I read this. It brings me so much relief to think about how productive I can be by focusing on just 5 things each day! Thank you Gabby!

  6. Gabby! This is brilliant! I am a single mother of two teenagers as well as an independent yoga instructor and marketing consultant. I read The “Universe has your Back” and started trusting God to bring into my life that which is mine and the means to sustain myself financially. I’m so grateful for the abundance of fulfilling work that has come my way. BUT… with this abundance I have been spinning my wheels and not doing my best work in any area of my life. I am thrilled to begin implementing this method TODAY. I am already feeling mental and emotional peace, like someone just tossed me a life preserver. THANK YOU!

  7. I love this idea! Anyone know of an app that would let me “pull forward” only 5 of my “to-do’s” each day (keep an entire list, but pull forward only those I need to focus on today?) I like to keep a running list of what I want to tackle, but like the idea of getting so much accomplished each day.

    1. My team uses Asana, where you can assign each task a due date (you can change it), which could be helpful!

  8. Thanks Gabby! I own supportive housing for severely mentally ill men and women in recovery. I get a million phone calls and emails a day from clients and programs that I get sidetracked so easily from my actual tasks, plus I am launching a new informational website and a new sober living home. This will definitely help me prioritize things and close some tabs on my computer! Also your recovery journey was pivotal in how I run my sober homes! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I am so happy and honored to learn that these stories and resources have helped you. Thank you for doing such beautiful and important work. You are a lightworker. I know this will serve you!

  9. I love this Gabby!

    I just recently launched my Health Coaching business, and I’m working on finding my niche. In the meantime, it is too easy to get wrapped up in doing 100 things at once, but not really doing anything at all lol. You know what I mean? My mind pulls me in all different directions, but the key is exactly what you’ve just said…focusing on 5 solid actionable items each day. I’m excited to put this into action and let go of that frazzled “busy” way of working. So thank you!!

  10. Thank you, Gabby and Universe! I was just thinking about this and my commitment to make everything a priority got me burned out in the first place. The timing for this post is perfect. Of course 🙂

  11. Thank you for answering my prayer today! I’ve just experienced a few months of feeling uninspired , stressed, and trying to do everything, but achieving nothing… Got this anxiety attack this morning and I decided to find that email from you that I recalled have seen a few days ago. I used to practice something similar to this, but I’ve fallen back in old patterns and behaviour. Thank you for reminding me and reassuring that this is the way to go!

    1. We all get taken out. Just come right back to love. You’re going to want to check next week’s blog for more on this… 🙂

  12. This is great! Thank you so much for this simple tip. 5 Things a day will be the goal of the month. I have wonderful things in store and this is just the tip I needed. All the best! (PS- reading Judgement Detox now, THANKYOU!)

  13. Hey Gabby.
    I’ve been reading and listening to your lesson about “Less is More”. I am a medical student, I study about 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. I really give it my all, but I don’t end up getting the results I should considering my efforts. I need some guidance about what to do next. I feel like I already do everything I should to have good grades and succeed in what I do. Nevertheless, I feel stuck.

    Thanks for your help

  14. I feel like I have my tasks at work and in my personal life that I need to get through. Would you say to have 5 for each or how do you balance both since you are working 8 hours a day?

    1. Find what works for you. This is a tool I use with work-related tasks but you can create 2 separate lists or combine them into 1. Try a couple of different ways and see what keeps you focused and feeling good!

  15. YES! Thank you for this. I just started my own biz and am taking a conscious “steady pace”. Earlier I was feeling guilty thinking I was being a slacker for only having such small lists every day, but now I know I am on the right path as my main goal was to keep my sanity and hair! Thanks Gabby. <3

    Recovering 24/7 Multi-Tasker Karoline

  16. OMG!!! I will start doing this right now!!
    It’s been a crazy couple of month for me, trying to solve hundreds of things at work! I feel like an octopus some times!

    Thank you Gabby for the tip!

  17. Thank you for sharing this practice, Gabby! You are someone that I admire and looked up to as a model of making LOTS of good things happen and it’s refreshing to hear that you too, are slowing down. We live in a culture where everything is so fast and rushed and I prefer this message for my well being and happiness. Thank you!!

  18. Hi Gabby;
    Thanks for your beautiful message as it was perfect timing as overwhelm myself with 20 to 30 tasks a day. Being more productive by doing less is such an eye-opener to salvage my life. I will implement this procedure starting the day, and for the rest of the time, I am here on this earth. Be well and thanks again.

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