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The Art of Doing Less to Achieve More

The Art of Doing Less to Achieve More - the key to productivity

“You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to the hour” – Jim Rohn

Did I RSVP? Maybe a quick cuppa first. A speedy scroll to settle in. He said what?! Ooohhhhhh Mecca’s having a sale!

If your workday is sprinkled with sneaky little time-thieving distractions, you’re not alone. Scientists and other very smart people have spent decades studying human behaviour in an attempt to unlock the secret to focus and productivity. And sure they’ve come up with thousands of great tips and hacks. But what if there was only one thing you needed to do to silence all the distractions, fears, stresses and mental blocks getting in your way – and that one thing was… nothing?

Before we explain, let’s take a little look at the issue. Do a few pleasant distractions and a slightly scatty thought train really pose such a problem?

According to Clockify research, employees experience as many as 56 disruptions per day. When you take into account that it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after an unrelated interruption, it turns out that the average office worker is only productive for two hours and 23 minutes each day. So out of an eight-hour workday, that’s five hours and 37 minutes of each day spent doing… well, stuff that’s not work. Sobering stats – especially if you’re the boss!

Yes, it’s a problem. Distractions and interruptions can wreak havoc on your focus and productivity.

So, what can you do about it?

A quick google will point you to a gazillion approaches, philosophies, tactics and hacks aimed at solving the productivity / focus predicament. From Maslow’s Needs theory and The Pomodoro technique to 90-minute work increments, following the 80/20 rule, silencing notifications, chunking time, batching work, using noise-cancelling headphones… you could try working your way through the endless list and see what sticks.

Or, if you don’t have a few years spare, you could try the deceptively simple solution posed by Performance Strategist, author and keynote speaker Darren Fleming. And that’s to do nothing.

Darren believes that the reason we’re such an unproductive bunch is because we’ve been so focused on trying to fix the distractions outside of us (emails, people, meetings, general time suckers), when we should have been focusing inside of us by fixing our thoughts and reactions to the distraction.

Rather than fighting the internal ‘energetic sensation’ we experience when we encounter a distraction, Darren argues that we need to deactivate that sensation so we’re not driven to follow it. And to deactivate the sensation, all you need to do is sit with it and just let it do its thing. That’s right – just sit with it. Feel the energetic sensation and pay attention to it. Just observe it as it moves through your body. Don’t act. Do nothing.

This goes for anything that’s holding you back. Stressed about your finances? Sit with the energy of it. Feeling like an imposter at work? Just sit with the feeling of it without making a story about it. When something pulls you away from your task, pay attention to what you’re feeling in your body that’s causing your attention to wander, but don’t act on it. Just sit with it.

Darren says that as you’re observing the sensations you’re feeling, you need to trust in the ancient Buddhist principle that nothing in the universe is permanent – everything has a beginning, middle and end. The same is true for the sensations in your body. They’ll rise and eventually fall away, allowing you to refocus on your task, having done nothing more than be 100% present in the moment. It may take 30 seconds, or it may take a few minutes, but it will happen. And by allowing yourself to see the sensations through, you can deactivate the distraction and move on without it triggering you again.

This technique, called Mindset Mastery, combines cutting-edge research and ancient teachings to remove the mental blocks that hold you back – or as Darren explains, it helps you “get out of your own way.”

Simply ‘letting things be’ is a concept wellbeing guru Deepak Chopra also embraces in his international best-selling book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

The fourth spiritual law of success, the Law of Least Effort, is the principle of least action, of no resistance – in Vedic Science, this principle is known as economy of effort or ‘do less and accomplish more.’ It’s based on the fact that nature functions with effortless ease and without intervention – grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Flowers don’t try to bloom, they just bloom. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Chopra believes that we should do as nature does, and accept people, situations and events as they are in that moment – and just let them do their thing.

How to successfully do nothing

Darren believes that we’re so used to reacting to distractions that it takes a bit of skill to just observe and ride it through. In his new book, ‘Mindset Mastery: Do Less to Achieve More’ (coming February 2023), he details ‘The Six Don’t’s’ – what not to do when you feel that ‘energetic sensation’ of being pulled away from a task. Darren is happy for us reveal these ahead of his official book release, so with a slight spoiler alert, we present the secrets to successfully doing nothing…

1. Don’t label it. Avoid labelling the sensation in any way at all. When we label a sensation with terms such as frustration, love, anger, excitement or anything else, we are introducing a story. When we say, “I am nervous about presenting” we introduce a story based on a past experience that adds nothing of value to the current situation. It also brings in every other time we were nervous. None of this is helpful, and only serves to increase the noise in your head and the sensations in your body. This makes it harder to just observe.

2. Don’t own it. We own a sensation when we say things like, “This is just how I feel when I have to present.” This is playing victim to what is happening with the sensation. It de-powers you. It then draws you into the story of how this has happened in the past. When we are drawn into the past we are not observing.

3. Don’t judge it. Don’t make the sensation right or wrong. The classic example of this is, “I should be more confident when I present.” When we assume that we should feel different to the way that we do it infers that the way we feel is wrong, which is not the case.

4. Don’t fight it. When the sensation wants to come up, let it. Don’t push it down. It may not be pleasant, but it is inside you. Until you let it come up and experience it, it will remain in you.

5. Don’t justify it. When we justify our feeling of nervousness by saying, “I should be nervous – this is a big presentation!” we are once again bringing in a story. This enables the ego mind to go back to one of its many thought structures such as “life determines one’s experiences”. When we are caught in justifying, we are caught in the thoughts around it, and this does not allow us to experience the sensations.

6. Don’t explain it. It’s tempting to explain the way we feel with a story from the past. “When I last presented to the SLT they tore me to shreds and that is why I feel this way.” Explaining allows us to be the victim and not have to take responsibility for how we are today. While you may have had a less than stellar experience last time, it serves no purpose now. It might remind you to prepare more thoroughly, but you can know you need to be well prepared without having to explain away the sensations you are experiencing.

There’s no doubt that productivity research has heralded some helpful ideas for staying focused and keeping those pesky time thieves at bay. But it’s a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole… you fight the distraction down and it just keeps popping up. So maybe it’s time we learnt how to take the mole completely out of the game. Or hell, not even play the game at all! Tips and hacks are great, but as Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Want Darren Fleming to show your team how they can achieve more by doing less? His Mindset Mastery keynote will give your team the tools they need to eliminate distracting thoughts, be less reactive, remove stress, manage their feelings and become laser focused. Darren’s presentations are always relatable, fun and filled with practical take-aways, making him one of our most in-demand motivational speakers. If you’d like to talk to us about engaging Darren for your next event, get in touch with us now!