Getting More Done By Doing Less

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Often, it's the pursuit of those things that we love that winds up making our lives more complicated. Going to the gym, meeting friends, going to church, taking care of personal errands, paying bills, waiting on hold, working on home projects, maintaining a blog, writing a book. So many things, so little time. In looking at the people around me, and the people I work with in my private practice, I see that anxiety or depression are often driven by a sense of either not doing enough things, or having too many things to do. So where's the happy medium?

Leo Babauta's book, The Power of Less demonstrates what can be accomplished by focusing on establishing realistic expectations and injecting routine and rhythm into your life. Leo advocates that you use smaller behavioral changes as a motivator for major behavioral changes. In other words, start smart to seed the right habit. In the beginning the habit is more important than the result.
  • Do only one habit at a time. Do not break this rule, because I assure you that if you do multiple habits at once, you will be much less likely to succeed. Trust me - I've tried both ways many times, and in my experience there is 100% failure for forming multiple habits at once, and a 50-80% success if you do just one habit at a time - depending on whether you follow the rest of these rules.

  • Choose an easy goal. Don't decide to do something really hard, at least for now. Later, when you're good at habit changes, you can choose something harder. But for now, do something you know you can do every day. In fact, choose something easier than you think you can do every day. If you think you can exercise for 30 minutes a day, choose 10 minutes - making it super easy is one of the surest ways to ensure you'll succeed.

  • Choose something measurable. You should be able to say, definitively, whether you were successful or not today. If you choose exercise, set a number of minutes or something similar (20 minutes of exercise daily, for example). Whatever your goal, have a measurement.

  • Be consistent. You want to do your habit change at the same time every day, if possible. If you're going to exercise, do it at 7 a.m. (or 6 p.m.) every day, for example. This makes it more likely to become a habit.

  • Report daily. You could check in every 2 or 3 days, but you'll be more likely to succeed if you report daily. This has been proven over and over again in the Challenges.

  • Keep a positive attitude! Expect setbacks now and then, but just note them and move on. No embarrassment in this challenge.

You can read more about Leo's suggestions at this post at Leo's website, Zen Habits, and at Tim Ferris's website, The Four Hour Work Week.