How to work smarter, not harder, to get more done

Over the years, I have reviewed all of Morten Hansen‘s books and articles. There is no business thinker I admire more. Here is a brief excerpt from one of his most recent blog posts. To read the  complete article, check out others, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

* * *

The upshot: by all means, work hard in 2019—put in those 40 to 50 hours per week if you have a full time job—but beyond that, do less in 2019. Here’s how:

  • Pursue the extreme few. The first part of the “do less, then obsess” principle is about ruthless prioritization. You can only become great if you choose to focus on very, very few tasks at work. You cannot do it all. You must choose. Here’s one way to do it for 2019: what is the most important goal you must achieve at work in January 2019? Write that down on a piece of paper and stick it on a wall where you can see it every day. When February 1 comes around, write down the most important goal you must achieve in February. And so on. By dividing 2019 into 12 middle distance runs (sort of between a sprint and a marathon), you can make progress throughout the year.
  • Cut wasteful meeting time, and then obsess. The second part of the principle is to go all in on the few priorities and do them exceptionally well. But you can’t do that if your daily life is filled with all sorts of busywork that disrupts your focus and depletes your energy. You must free up time. We found in our study that many people waste time in too many (ineffective) meetings. If we rid ourselves of some of that wasted time, we can better spend time on what really matters. Try to implement this rule: cut meetings in half. Cut the number of meetings in January in half; slash the duration of meetings in half (say from one to half an hour, or from 30 to 15 minutes); and reduce the number of people in meetings by half. That will free up time! Then use that time to go all in on the few priorities that matter: pay fanatic attention to details; double check your work; prepare presentations and meetings twice as hard; spend extra time with customers; and so on.
  • Spend your time dividend in 2019. In our study, we found that people who mastered “do less, then obsess” also had a better work-life balance. They scored much lower on the statement, “the demands of my work interfere with my family and personal time.” But, you can only realize this work-life benefit if you spend your time dividend wisely. By doing less and obsessing, you focus your efforts on a few tasks—and thus save time. You can reinvest that saved time in work (like a business reinvesting its profits into the business) or you can spend some of that saved time on outside personal and family time (like a business paying a dividend to shareholders). Split that saved time: Obsessing to excel requires you to reinvest some of that saved time into work, yet some of it you can spend outside of work. Practically, it means, “I cut out two hours of wasteful meetings every Monday; one hour I spend going over those customer reports one more time (obsessing) and the other hour I spend going home earlier to see my kids.” You do better work, and you have a happier life.

If we work correctly, we can achieve so much. Let 2019 be the year when we slash all that busy work that doesn’t produce much and go all in on the work that matters the most.

* * *

Morten Hansen is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley. He is the coauthor (with Jim Collins) of the New York Times bestseller Great by Choice and the author of the highly acclaimed Collaboration and Great at Work. To learn more about him and his own great work, please click here.


Morten Hansen, University of California [comma] Berkeley, Jim Collins) The New York Times, Great by Choic, Collaboration, Great at Work

Posted in

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.