Zenhabits: 8 Ways Doing Less Can Transform Your Work & Life

by Michael Cannon in Featured, Tech · 1 comment

Baoling - light at the end of the tunnel

I’m a busy guy, living in a busy society and like you, constantly distracted by activities that want more of us than what we’ve got to give. A major goal of my moving to Taiwan was to focus on family life and find myself. For the most part, it’s worked.

I’d like to recap Zenhabits 8 ways of getting more out of work & life by describing how I’ve integrated them into my life. Hopefully, they’ll spark inspiration in you that can lead to more time to do what you want and happier clients as well.

1. Less hectic, busy schedule, less stress, more peace. Doing less leaves free to schedule less, leave more space in your schedule, work at a more human pace.

MLC – Even before I started working from home, I gave up commuting as much as possible, preferably under 20 minutes each way. I found by not having to deal with every other rushing person in the morning by living closer especially when combined with an alternate start time, kept my day start happier.

Next, I became a “no” guy. When asked to do something that’ll take more than a few minutes effort, I usually will say “no”. This was hard as Westerner’s culturally consider saying “yes” the right thing to do. However, by following up my initial no response with a why or what are you wanting to have done, often times, the first request becomes moot or better understood as to what really needs to happen. Thereby leading to less work for me and better end results through less time required to finish for both of us.

Now, I’m still considered nice, but also the person that asks you to think.

2. More ability to focus, to find Flow, to work in the moment. When you are doing too much, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly interrupted, constantly distracted. Do less, clear away distractions, single-task.

MLC – Learning to stick with one task at a time or at least group similar tasks together is something I’m still struggling with. However, by doing so, I’ve found that I can get what originally needed done, done sooner and usually with better results.

When busier than normal, I schedule specific parts of my day to do things like a support request or project task. By blocking out those times, I find that I can more easily concentrate on those tasks and complete them because my mindset is to only complete that task. If more time is needed, schedule more time.

As an example of grouping tasks, my “morning start” tasks are personally orientated like blog reading, writing poetry and checking email.

Then there’s my “day start” tasks that are entirely work related. Within those, I’ll begin focusing on email, with the items that need reading, delegating, archiving, deleting or replying being handling first. For emails that would take more than a few minutes to complete, are delayed till all longer tasks are known and can be prioritized and in turn completed.

Through these groupings, every day tasks get done in a systematic process and rarely, nothing is ever missed.

3. Work has more impact and spreads further and wider. When you do too much, your work is spread thinner, you have lower quality, and people won’t spread your work or give you awards for low-quality work.

MLC – As I grow older, I’m finding myself to be more impatient and staying on task ever harder. As such, I’ve started identifying where my skills can really shine; high-level system architecture, troubleshooting and writing succinctly. When it comes time for me to program something, I’ve learned to be more upfront and complete with research and planning to have a better idea and understanding of the program start and end points.

By focusing on what I’m good at, interested in and better preparing for what I’m to do, I turn out better quality work with less time spent.

4. More pride in your work, which feels good. Feels awesome, actually, to create something worth putting your name on.

MLC – I want people to go “Oh yeah!” than “Oh no…” when my name comes up. As such, I don’t take sketchy jobs and am open and honest about my competencies and limits. Most importantly, I don’t sell ourselves short. I do good work at a minimum. If I can’t, I ask for help.

5. People appreciate higher quality. Customers rave. Readers enthuse. Reviewers glow. Bosses promote.

MLC – In software projects, quality is attributed to the software doing what it’s supposed to do and either working or failing nicely when the unexpected happens. In life, I find that quality has similar appeal.

To me, items 4 and 5 highly interrelate. In this, happily knowing your name is on something that clients brag about, feels good and helps create the basis of a customer testimonial and press release. Two very important marketing tools.

6. More time for family and loved ones. Not a small benefit. Be sure that if you do less, you use the saved time for something important. Like quiet time for the ones you love.

MLC – I married Peichi, to be with her, share our lives and love each other through it all. When I had let my work schedule overwhelm my life, our marriage faltered. By establishing a firmer work schedule and ensuring at least one “date night” a week, happiness reigns again in our marriage and I even have personal time to read again.

Interestingly, as a bonus for work, through my personal down time, I’ve found that I’m more creative and finding solutions in the background of my relaxing. Furthermore, these ideas oftentimes cut the last amount of work I have to do on a project.

7. More time for other things you enjoy. I use my time for exercise, or reading, and of course my family.

MLC – I bike and read science fiction voraciously.

8. Free yourself up to create amazing things. Creating is hard to do when you’re busy and distracted. By doing less, you can create something great.

MLC – I write poetry of whom, my Peichi is the precious muse. As a reminder per my last point in item 6, solutions come when your not focusing on them.

Please don’t forget to read original Zenhabits 8 Ways Doing Less Can Transform Your Work & Life post.


Please share your thoughts and comments on the questions below. I’m wondering if we can help each other be “better”.

  1. How do you think these ways can help you in life & work?
  2. Which of these would make the biggest impact for you?
Originally published September 21, 2009.

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About Michael Cannon

Hello, I'm Michael Cannon, Peichi's smiling man, an adventurous water-ratchief technology officer, cyclist, poet, WWOOF'er and world traveler.

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