in entrepreneurship

Working Less. Doing More.

Here we are in a new year. And while I have goals and resolutions, overwhelmingly, my mission this year is to work more effectively – and more efficiently – and by doing so, working less.

That’s right, I want to work less this year.

Why? Because I want to allow more space to think. More space to develop ideas. More space to write. More space to create. This means I’ll have to say “no” a little more often. That means I’ll have to be more deliberate in my planning and scheduling. It means I’ll have to be selective with my time. It means I’ll have to make sacrifices.

But with Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week and Sarah Bray’s 90-minute workday, I know I’m not crazy. Here are 5 things I’m doing to work less.

Avoid “lingering” emails

You know what I’m talking about. Odds are if you look at your inbox right now there’s an email someone sent you last week that you’ve been waiting to answer – for whatever reason. I’m happiest when I’m not procrastinating. I’m most satisfied when something is complete – when I can check something off the to-do list. Leaving an email unanswered when I’m perfectly capable of working up a response is self-sabotage. Today, this year, and moving forward, I’m making real time for email and making sure that, during that time, I’m not avoiding responses, allowing day after day to go by (which only builds more time for excused and distractions to creep in).

Scheduling time for email

Everyone says they’re going to do this and without a doubt it is one of the hardest things to follow through with (guilty). I have 5 times scheduled throughout the day that I will open my email. During those blocks of time I’ll focus ONLY on responding to said emails. Outside of that, it’ll have to wait. This will keep me sane and will (most importantly) set more realistic expectations to others who, right now, probably expect me to respond to an email within 30 minutes, even on a Sunday afternoon.

Creating “real” work space

We have an office, but I work from home a lot. If you’re like me, you know it’s pretty damn impossible to get a lot done when you’re sitting on your couch with the TV on in the background. This year I’m focused on creating “living” space and “work” space – and making sure that the two don’t mix (including leaving my computer in said “work” space). The most important piece here? Making sure that work stays in “work” space and living stays in “living” space.

Letting tech do more of the lifting

I’m pretty old school in a lot of ways. I still love hand-writing to-do list’s on my whiteboard. I use TextEdit to keep random notes way more than I should. You get the idea. Apps are a blessing and a curse – and I’m convinced our devices are good for two things: 1. Distracting us and 2. Increasing our productivity/efficiency. This year I’m going to make the most of the apps I have at my disposal, but haven’t really given the proper attention to – these include:

  • WorkFlowy – for to-do lists. Not the sexiest, but without a doubt the cleanest/simplest I’ve found.
  • Basecamp – for work/project management. We’ve been using this at Proof for months now and honestly, I don’t know how we survived without it.
  • Evernote + Webclipper – for branding, design, writing, and other random inspiration. Keeping it all organized and accessible from any device is a beautiful thing.
  • Pocket  – for saving articles I find online to read later. This app is beautiful and insanely simple, by the way.
  • Fluid – which allows you to turn any of your frequently-visited websites into “apps” accessible directly from your desktop. Those few seconds you’ll save add up.


One of Napoleon Hill’s key components to success in any endeavor is a “definitive plan”.

It’s amazing how a little preparation makes all the difference. Example, I’m much more likely to go for a run at 6 in the morning if I’ve got my running outfit set out and ready the night before. Having to stumble around in the dark to find my shoes, headphones, watch, etc. sounds like no big deal – but it’s a tiny little annoyance that can be completely avoided if I just think about things ahead of time.

This same idea can be applied to work. I’m making a deliberate effort this year to be more prepared. A little preparation will go a long way in saving time, building confidence, and removing unneeded barriers (excuses) to getting things done.

Doing more. Working less. Pretty novel concept, eh? Who’s with me? What will you be doing in your pursuit of a more effective, efficient work life?

(Photo credit)

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  1. I’m guilty of not having a proper workspace. I have a room for my home office, and sure I can close the door to leave “work at work”. But unfortunately I put a couch in it… bad idea. Now I can lounge around or watch netflix from my work computer… this will have to change when I move. Separation is very important.

    • I have just refined my office space, as well. I added a comfy reading chair (no couch) and I love it…Yet I still find I need to change up my location at times to create quiet in my mind. I have many modes of productivity (planning, organizing, idea dropping, reading, etc) and my space is effective for many of these modes. I have come to realize that my modes are like siblings. We come from the same gene pool, but we have different needs. A majority of them are satisfied in the new space, but when it comes to refining and shaping a creative thought, I need to out. I leave my office, get some fresh air and head to the library where I am alone in the silence and amongst the words and free thinkers who have pondered before me.

    • That’s a good one, too. I’ve tried several and keep going back to WorkFlowy. It’s just so damn simple – I think I prefer something without a ton of bells and whistles…

  2. So heres my thing, I get behind, because the incoming work flow takes me away from my tasks. On any given week for the last 6 months I have had up to 20+ things on my list. As i complete more has been added. Extra staff isnt an option yet. Any thoughts….

    • It’s no easy task – that’s for sure. Another thing to think about critically is what you’re deciding to say yes to – and if you should be saying “no” more often. I know it’s not easy – but the quickest path to burnout (I know from experience) is saying yes to everything. The money may be good – but at what expense? Sometimes it really does pay to do less.

  3. The saying “no” part, isnt really part of my make up. I work at a small (14 person)company, that has more work than we can handle. I have noticed while I don’t say no as much as I should I have been quoting some projects at retail + 30% In about 50% of these cases people still buy, our bottom line is up for last 9 months. I am more worried about the service staff burning out. We have had 3 folks quit and hired 1 in last 9 months. Its a good postion to be in. Will keep reading

  4. Actually, my main concern about my working time is Focus. I usually work about 8-9 hours a day. However, the real time is actually only 3-5 hours because I couldn’t focus mainly on my work, the rest of the time I watched Youtube or did other things.

    I think 4 hours right now is enough for me if I can learn how to focus completely during this time.

  5. Hey Matt… We’re in a very similar boat with with working from home and running our own career/future. Everything that you mentioned is great for people looking to work more effectively from home. I had to conquer the same obstacles when I went full time with my photography.

    One thing… Check out Unison. It’ll make you change your mind about Basecamp.

    Keep up the awesome work!

  6. Great tips.

    “I have 5 times scheduled throughout the day that I will open my email. During those blocks of time I’ll focus ONLY on responding to said emails.”

    I notice when gmail takes a while to load, I get impatient and start surfing while I’m waiting. Then I end up spending 5x the time surfing that I do actually emailing/working. . . trying to break that cycle and focus on completing one thing at a time.

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