Whether you’re a teacher or an executive, the strategies in Ari Meisel’s book “Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier” offer an extensive approach to reducing and optimizing your work to make more time for the better things in life. In 2006, after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Meisel made the life-changing decision to focus on his health and work smarter, not harder. He now holds the following titles: best-selling author, productivity expert, CEO, real estate developer and green building consultant. While running multifaceted businesses and parenting three children, it became clear that Meisel simply needed more time to do more the “Less Doing, More Living” principle was born.
Optimizing, automating, and outsourcing are the three keys to reduce a large workload and clear up mental space. These keys apply to any problem area that may occur, whether at work or at home. To optimize a workload, Meisel suggests breaking a task down to the bare minimum requirements, simplifying it and eliminating any unnecessary details. Once a task is optimized, the next step is to automate. Meisel suggests using one of the many apps and websites he includes in the book to get the task completed without human involvement. The last step is to outsource. Outsourcing involves handing over remaining tasks to a generalist or specialist. With these three keys, no task should go undone.
80/20 Rule –Meisel suggests finding the items or tasks in your work that have a large return. If you are unsure of where to look for a large return, Meisel suggests tracking the workload, which can be done using RescueTime or other tech tools. You can then sort tasks into two categories, essential or optional, so that 80 percent of the workload is focused on the 20 percent of tasks that bring large returns.
Creating an “External Brain” –An external brain changes how you organize the amount of work that is yet to be completed. Relying solely on your memory to organize and complete tasks is not only unreliable but also a detrimental habit that Meisel suggests you break. Note-taking, emptying your inbox, eliminating your to-do list and hiring a virtual assistant are a few examples of how to free up mental space.
For some people, hiring a virtual assistant to complete various tasks may seem too far-fetched. A start-up company or small-business owner, for example, may not have the financial means to outsource tasks to a virtual assistant. When and for whom does hiring a virtual assistant become feasible? In response to these concerns, Meisel proposes activating a trial run for as low as $25 a month. If you are just starting out or are well into your career, he suggests working with an on-demand assistant. For people who are in the middle, a dedicated virtual assistant would be more feasible.
Customization –Three examples of Meisel’s customization approach are Vitamins On Demand, Indochino (suit company) and Ponoko (on-demand 3D company). Meisel encourages people to customize anywhere deemed necessary because it saves time, saves money and simply provides better solutions. On the one hand, customizing is a powerful tool that allows you to individualize numerous areas whether in the workplace or at home. However, for some people, customizing takes away face-to-face interaction and the chance to build better customer relationships.
Choosing Your Own Workweek –Working at a time that stimulates productivity is important for both those who work from 9-5 and those with more flexible schedules. Meisel suggests two key plug-ins that will make scheduling easier: ScheduleOnce and Right Inbox. However, keep in mind that your workweek is not definite, so the days or hours are liable to change at any given time.
Stop Running Errands –The No. 1 service Meisel suggests for eliminating errands is Amazon Subscribe and Save, which is a subscription service that allows you to set up standard orders of nonperishable items. For errands that cannot be eliminated or automated, you have to outsource, which can be done with services like TaskRabbit.
Finances –Just like tracking your workload, the Less Doing, More Living principle can be applied to your finances. Meisel suggests researching where your money is going and analyzing your spending to determine how to save more money, which can all be done with various apps.
Organization –For Meisel, organizing your workload means setting upper and lower limits to each task. Limits can refer to either the time or amount spent to complete a task, but the purpose is to complete the essential tasks without spending more time than necessary or stressing yourself out.
Batching –Batching reduces the amount of time spent on transitioning between tasks by letting similar tasks accumulate and then dealing with them all at once. When it comes to paperwork, for example, Meisel suggests 13 tech tools that can help lead to a paper-free life. However, you must be careful not to batch one task for too long or too many tasks at once to prevent overwhelming your workload.
Wellness The last fundamental in Meisel’s book encourages people to find an adequate balance of fitness, sleep and nutrition. He explains: If you eat more, you need to work out more and sleep more. If you sleep less, you need to work out less and eat less. If you work out more, you need to sleep more and eat more.
Despite the size of the book, which is just 115 pages, it provides extensive guidelines to reduce your amount of work time without losing business, money or sleep. Meisel’s strategy isn’t overly complicated, and workers in any industry can benefit from utilizing his tips. As mentioned before, his strategy makes people work smarter, not harder. These principles offer workers an opportunity to change the amount of work they do in a way that increases productivity. Some people may think the strategy does not or cannot apply to their workloads, but applying at least one principle to your work can significantly reduce your wasted time and energy.
Meisel himself says it best: “My mission is simply to make it so that you never feel guilty about doing the things you want to do because you should be doing something else.”
Melanie Prescott is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida. She’s an aspiring foreign affairs analyst who obsesses over dainty coffee shops and four-legged friends. When she’s not writing on deadline, she’s indulging in the latest celebrity gossip.