Written by: Graham Honeycutt

We live in a culture that tells us doing more means having it all. But studies tell an entirely different story.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that employee productivity has only grown an unfortunate .3 percent over the past three years, yet we are working longer hours than ever. The average work week has increased from 40 hours to 50 hours, in fact.

The key to productivity doesn’t lie in trying to do more and get more done, but rather in doing less and getting the right things done. “Hustle” is a buzz word, but what if it is a direct road to failure? We cannot succeed in any area of our lives by working on only a few of them. Compartmentalization is a myth. Therefore, we must realize that how we do anything is how we do everything..

Productivity lies in spending considerable time in the short term to bring more awareness to what is most important in one’s life, then putting systems in place to execute these items. The most effective tool I learned for this comes from Greg McKeown’s book entitled “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”

The exercise is as follows: Take a seat, get still and list out every time-consuming activity in your life. If you are married, do this with your spouse. Once all items are listed, place a numerical value of importance of one to 10 next to each. Once you have completed the activity, physically cross out those activities with a value of eight or less. Stop doing these activities.

The time has come to say no to all activities which are not part of your highest point of contribution. If as you read these words you feel a pit in your stomach or are thinking this task sounds far-fetched, you likely need this message. Trust me; I heard those same voices and had those same thoughts which enabled me to postpone doing the exercise. However, once my wife and I completed this activity and began eliminating the values of eight and below, our lives changed dramatically.

We eliminated a vast number of time-consuming engagements from our lives – including cable television, fantasy sports leagues, friend gatherings, book clubs, church activities, among other things. We also began evaluating new requests on our time and filtered it through our revamped gauge of what we determined to be important. We thought we would be disappointing other people by saying no gracefully. What we found is that people began to have more respect for us when we gave an honest “no,” rather than half-heartedly acquiescing out of a feeling of obligation.

We learned to stop doing things out of mere obligation, and began focusing on things that we love and deemed truly important. As a result, our lives became exponentially better. The items we gave up were mere distractions to the most important parts of our lives.

Our result has been incredible: We no longer feel like our lives are spinning out of control, going from activity to activity.

The moral here is simple: Make time for what is most important to you and let go of what isn’t. We often wear badges of busyness like it is an honor. It doesn’t have to be. You have permission to live differently – more fully, in fact. True productivity lies in doing less and ensuring that the things you get done are what are most important to you.