“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently, that which should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker, expert in management education
“Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Does the following describe your life?
You know that time is your most valuable asset, and yet, most of the time, you don’t control what you do. You are overloaded by emails, texts and a constant stream of external demands. In part because you are somewhat sleep-deprived, you struggle to set and focus on daily and long-term goals.
If so, how do you take back control of your time and focus on the important goals you wish to achieve, including improving your health?
When you make a decision to do something, what thought process do you use?
Much of human decision-making is visceral, relating to deep inward feelings rather than intellect. What would happen if you could step back from your spontaneous answers, and think smarter?
Thinking Smarter / Continuous Learning is one of our top 23 Key Health Factors for 2023. Hopefully this article will save you time, earn you more money and provide a better quality of life, all things which, not coincidentally, increase your healthspan.
Here are some best practices to consider…
Free Up Your Time
To begin thinking smarter, create the structure around your life to support having time for continuous learning.
Can you save time by automating, delegating and getting more assistance on routine activities in your life? Can you reduce incoming information overload?
Here are some ideas. Which of them would save you time and energy?
- Bills — setup automated monthly payments including for your credit cards. You can still check and dispute payments online.
- Email — create email filters and use unsubscribe to limit what you see.
- Snail-mail — use CatalogChoice to unsubscribe quickly from unwanted advertising.
- Social media and TV — set a hard limit on how much time you spend each week.
- Grocery and household supply shopping — buy in bulk, subscribe to delivery services.
- Cooking and kitchen cleanup — everyone in the household is expected to help.
- Laundry — see above.
- Cleaning — hire a home cleaning crew every two weeks.
- Home repairs, landscaping and upgrades — hire trusted workers recommended on social media sites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Yelp.
- Travel / Commuting — work from home when possible. Arrange alternating carpools for kids transportation.
For more suggestions, see these 20 Great Ways to Find More Free Time.
11 Habits of the Most Highly Productive People
Even if you have no desire to be highly productive, you may still find some of these habits useful to save time and gain more from your routine. They also reduce unhealthy stress.
- Say “No” more often. Highly efficient people are really good at NOT doing things.
- Delegate tasks to others when possible. Do things yourself only when you must.
- Consider an Eisenhower quadrant to assist in your thought process.
- Surround yourself with a network of A-players who get things done for you competently.
- Where possible, reduce or eliminate your interactions with people, clients and activities which do not provide high benefit in return. Replace them with interactions which do.
- Get consistent quality sleep so you can focus and resist unproductive urges.
- Before you go to sleep, set your goals for tomorrow. Not all of them need to be highly important. Medium and low priority tasks can’t be forever ignored, otherwise they shouldn’t be on your list in the first place. Once your goals are set before bedtime, then, reward yourself by turning off your brain. Don’t continue thinking once you enter your bed for the night.
- Understand when are you most productive during the day? Block out those 2-4 productive hours per day on your work calendar to focus on completing your most important goals.
- Do the hard, but important things you don’t want to do. Eat the frog. Take on your big rock. Reduce the unnecessary stress felt from procrastinating.
- Use Elon Musk’s and Aristotle’s First Principle thinking, break your hard complex tasks into smaller, manageable chunks so you achieve progress and generate original solutions. Can any chunks be delegated productively to others?
- Find trusted sources for the best curated information you need instead of getting information overload. Have the right tools for the job available quickly.
- Do not put activities which take more than 15 minutes on your todolist. Instead schedule time for them in your upcoming calendar, even as placeholders to be moved later.
- Leave gaps in your daily schedule so you have flexibility to adjust for unforeseen needs.
Set the Right Important Goals Using Mental Models
If you don’t set the right goals, then brilliant strategy and efficient execution only get you to the wrong place faster. — Michael Simmons
How do you set the right goals and track whether you are meeting them? Do your goals align with your desired purpose in life?
- Do you want to set a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Or something more within your comfort zone?
- Do you make major decisions using Jeff Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework? If you project yourself to the age of 80 and think about your potential regrets, things get a lot clearer.
- Do you leverage the expertise from leading mental models to verify you are approaching important decisions optimally and without cognitive bias?
Best Books on Thinking Smarter and Continuous Learning
Here are a few fascinating and lively books to learn how your brain makes decisions:
- How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
- Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus
- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Hopefully this article has been helpful to you. As your reward for reading and caring about your health, we recommend the following based on the principle of addition by subtraction. For the rest of this year and beyond, give yourself the gift of politely saying “No.” or “No thank you.” to upcoming requests for your time and energy. Less is more.
With this additional free time, what more fun and meaningful activities would you like to do instead?