Is getting more done the right goal?

Productivity & Workflow

Spend any amount of time studying productivity, and what you’ll find is a lot of advice about how to get more stuff done.

It’s an attempt at control. We hate the idea of going through our day, having only accomplished 10 things instead of 11. Or 3 instead of 4. Or 49 instead of 50.

We need more, more, more in order to feel accomplished.

What if there’s a better way, though?

To hijack an idea from one of my favorite philosophers, Ian Malcolm:

We spend so much time thinking about what could be done that we fail to consider what should be done.

The ability to get more done is not evidence of a superior way of doing life. That’s what most productivity experts get wrong.

In fact, it’s easy to buy into these ideas subconsciously. I know better, and yet I’ve caught myself making comments about how unproductive my week has been.

Why? Because I checked fewer things off my todo list.

But the things I have done are precisely the things I intentionally cleared my todo list to do!

That is, spend time thinking. Planning. Moving chess pieces. Sightseeing into the future. Clarifying my role. Resting. Encouraging my team.

That stuff doesn’t fit nicely into a todo list, and yet for the operator of a company, it is the work.

“More” is a horrible goal. It’s a slavish mindset, too.

What about “less?” Is “less” a better goal to shoot for?

I don’t want to make an absolute pronouncement, so at the very least I think I can agree it’s better. Better less get done than more, because that gives you free space to just be.

And after all, we’re human beings; not human doings.

My sense is that “right” is the best goal. Getting the right stuff done, at the right time, in the right timeframe. That’s optimal.

It raises the question, though, what is “right?”

Now—that’s a good question. And it has an answer. “More” leads nowhere. “Right” leads to consideration. Right invites questions like:

What is my role here?
What do people need from me?
How should my day be structured?
Am I working too much?
Am I working too little?
Do I need something before I can do this work?
What’s an acceptable timeframe for this goal?
Should I do this task at all?
Can this task wait?

There may be an endless series of questions to ask, truth be told. But those questions don’t make sense in the context of, “Should I work more, or should I work less?”

Those questions are a dead end, and yet I fear this is how most people are trying to organize their lives.

So as you endeavor to clean up your schedule and determine a reasonable workload, ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?”

And then let that question be informed by the host of followup questions you could ask. The more you do this exercise, the more likely you are to arrive at an appropriate daily schedule.

Feb 23, 2023

About Me

Hey, I'm Steve — a Christian, entrepreneur, thinker, and creator. Thanks for stopping by!

Learn More.

Did you get value out of this post? 

If so, I would like to invite you to join my email list.

Here are three promises, if you do:

  1. I will only send you an email when I am fully convinced there is a lesson of value for you to learn.
  2. I believe in my products and services. I will occasionally let you know when something new and/or valuable is available for you.
  3. I will never give your personal information to someone else. It is safe with me.
Newsletter Subscribe