When It Comes to Work, Less Is More

Bob Goldman on

Just because I drink my kombucha from a Harvard mug while sitting in my Harvard sweats and waving a Harvard pennant, singing "Fair Harvard, we join in thy jubilee throng," people think I went to Harvard.

Can't imagine why.

The truth is that I didn't go to Harvard, but I did do the next best thing: I read an article in the online version of the Harvard Business Review. I read the whole article, too, no skipping around -- or not much, anyway. How could I not? The article was all about me.

The article that inspired me to load up on Harvard merch was written by Kate Northrup. Its title is an expression of my personal business philosophy, "Want to Be More Productive? Try Doing Less."

The goal here is to stop obsessing on what we need to do and start obsessing about what we need to not do. "But," adds Northrup, "this determination can't be random." So, if your first thought about what not to do was "get out of bed in the morning," stop reading. You've already gotten it figured out.

Because she wants our process to be "methodical and evidence-based," Northrup has created a "surprisingly simple exercise to help individuals decide what activities on their to-do list bring them the most value, and which they can stop doing."


Surprisingly simple? I don't think so. To utilize the Northrup method, you need to know how to tell left from right. In other words, it's going to be a challenge, so take a break, and take a nap. Let's get busy.

Step 1 is to "draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper, lengthwise."

Here we go. We haven't even started, and you have to get a piece of paper. In our digital world, paper isn't easy to come by, especially when you're working at home. If you have children and don't mind working on colored construction paper, you might be able to use the backs of your kids' artwork from the refrigerator door, but that has problems of its own. "Mommy took down my dinosaur drawing," your little darling will scream. "Mommy doesn't love me anymore."

In Step 2, you decide on an area of your work where you'd like to have better results and less stress. "For example," she continues, "perhaps you want to expand your thought leadership." Or, in your case, expand the idea that you actually know how to think and are not stumbling through life like a drunken wombat.


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