Less Doing, More Living

Summary Written by Matt Tod
"The idea of Less Doing is to reclaim your time and – more important – your mind, so you can do the things you want to do."

- Less Doing, More Living, page 4

The Big Idea

The Keys to Less Doing

"Keep in mind that when I say ‘optimize,’ I’m talking about getting the maximum benefit for the least amount of time."- Less Doing, More Living, page 104

At the core of the Doing Less approach are three keys: Optimize, automate and outsource.

By optimizing you’re breaking down your projects, tasks, or commitments to the bare minimum. You’re simplifying it in such as way that it eliminates everything that’s not completely necessary. By breaking down the tasks to those bare essentials, you’re able to tackle them in bite-size chunks and, possibly, even delegate or outsource them later on.

Automating is about creating systems or processes so that you don’t need to waste valuable time and energy on replicating results that you’ve done countless times already. You’re able to set it and forget it.

Whatever is left can get outsourced to generalists or specialists. You can spend more time on those things you’re passionate about and love to do (and you feel a bit like a rock star doing it). The key here, though, is to make sure you’ve done the first two before outsourcing anything.

This whole framework is designed to free up your time and your mind so that you can do the things that you really want to be doing and not just the things you feel like you have to do.

Doing less allows you to spend time and energy on the more important things such as idea generation or creative projects. Part of the Doing Less system has to do with taking care of your brain and treating it as a precious resource. By doing this, you build the foundation you need to be doing your best work.

Insight #1

Eliminate Your To-Do List

"The problem with the way most people use to-do lists is that they become a dumping ground for things that can’t actually be done."- Less Doing, More Living, page 30

I’ll wait a second for you to get over the shock of the above statement. Good? Ok.

Meisel gets real here. Most of us have become so attached to our to-do lists because they make us feel like we’re accomplishing things. For many of us, our to-do lists are the first measure of our success. If we can knock off everything on our to-do list in a day, we’ve been successful, right?

Not necessarily.

The problem with most to-do lists, Meisel says, is that when you look at your long list of things you have to do, including the things you actually can’t, it creates cognitive dissonance. Meaning we put everything on our to do list, even if we know we’re not going to be able to get it done. This makes us feel pretty unable and tends to hold us back.

The key to addressing this is timing.

Every task we set out to do has a time associated to it: when to start it, when to check on it, and when it needs to be finished. If you can create the habit of actually bringing those tasks into your focus when it’s appropriate to deal with them (and actually deal with them), you’ll never need to worry about it again.

Meisel suggest asking yourself the following questions as you attempt to attack your to-do list: “When is the right day and time for me to do this?”

After that, choose one of these four options:

  1. Do it now
  2. Defer it to the right time
  3. Delegate it (to a virtual assistant, for example)
  4. Email it or manually add it to a note taking app to view later

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Insight #2

Get organized: Set limits

"To streamline your life and help yourself get organized, always set reasonable limits for the things you do."- Less Doing, More Living, page 88

We often think of setting limits as something that is negative. Meisel helps you see setting limits as something that can be both.

The idea is to focus on setting both minimum and maximum limits on the things you do daily. For example, setting minimum limits on how much you exercise in a week (a minimum of three days) or setting a maximum when it comes to how much time you’ll spend watching YouTube videos of cats doing…anything.

The key here is to set and stick to your upper limits and lower limits as each have a place and can be useful in their own right. You need to set and abide by a reasonable limit for yourself in any task you complete.

Limits can be set on anything and everything: email, time spent on Facebook, your workweek or how much money you spend each week eating out.

It’s important to note that everything can and should have a limit – even time spent relaxing.

Limits can refer to times or amounts, whatever makes the most sense.

If you’re stuck on steps to take based on what the book tells you, don’t worry, Meisel provides an ample amount of resources, sites, services and apps that you can access to start to really optimize your life. You don’t have to go to the extreme and do them all, you can choose one or two from the list and experiment to find out what works for you.

Read the book

Get Less Doing, More Living on Amazon.

Ari Meisel

In 2006, Ari was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an incurable disease of the digestive tract. Ari’s case was severe, and required over a dozen daily medications and several hospital visits. After reaching a personal low point in hospital, Ari decided he would do everything in his power to strengthen his by then weak body. Through a combination of yoga, nutrition, natural supplements and rigorous exercise (Triathon and Crossfit) he was able to fight back the symptoms of Crohns until he was finally able to suspend his medication. Eventually Ari was declared free of all traces of the ‘incurable’ disease, and competed in Ironman France in June of 2011. Ari has since spoken at seminars and at a regional TED Talk about his struggle against a seemingly insurmountable opponent. Through the process of data collection, self tracking, and analysis, Ari helped develop Less Doing. This was a way of dealing with the daily stresses of life by optimizing, automating, and outsourcing all of his tasks in life and business.

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