Most people who want to become more productive and achieve higher levels of success assume that they need to do more. They think they need to crush more to-do’s, take on more projects and put in more hours. While in reality, this is actually counterproductive.
Rather, the key is to do less and instead focus with more intensity on just a few important things. That’s the way to get better results, faster than ever before.
“We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.” — James Clear
The reality is, too many high-achievers and ambitious individuals work much more than they need to. Both in terms of hours and in terms of the number of tasks and projects they take on. This leads to many negative effects that actually prevents them from getting the very success they desire. More about that later…
The Problem That No One Talks About
But why is it that hard-working ambitious people fail to actually be productive and achieve their most important goals? How come that, despite doing what all the books, seminars and motivational speakers say you need to do, you still haven’t gotten the results you thought you would have by now?
The answer is surprisingly simple…
It’s because of the ‘any-value’ mindset that 90% of high-achievers have. Yet, hardly anyone talks about this. In fact, hardly anyone is even aware that this problem exists.
The ‘any-value’ mindset is the belief that you should do any task, take on any project or pursue any goal simply because it offers you any value, leads to any amount of progress towards your goals or helps you improve your life in any way.
It’s the belief that you can only become successful if you do as much as possible — anything that offers any progress. At first sight, this mindset makes a lot of sense. When you’re determined to succeed, you think you need to do everything that gets you closer to success. However, this mindset is quite dangerous for your productivity.
The ‘any-value’ mindset is created by the incomplete advice that many motivational speakers, popular self-development gurus and even traditional & social media have conditioned you to believe.
In fact, we’re being bombarded from every possible angle — from Instagram posts to movies — with the message that we need to do more, work harder and take no days off if we want to become successful.
It’s no wonder that so many people think that in order to succeed they need to take on anything that offers any value or any progress. And it’s no wonder that people feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t doing many things, as they feel like they’re not doing enough and missing out on potential gains.
But remember, it doesn’t matter how hard you work and how much you do if you work on the wrong things…
In reality, becoming highly productive and achieving higher levels of success is relatively simple. We just make it way too complicated for ourselves. As Warren Buffett said “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.” and it’s exactly what we’re doing when adopting the ‘any-value’ mindset.
The Nasty Problems Of The ‘Any-Value’ Mindset
In reality, the ‘any-value’ mindset is actually the reason why many highly ambitious individuals fail to achieve their goals and have trouble performing at high levels.
First of all, by taking on any project, pursuing any goal and doing any task possible, you’ll spread yourself dangerously thin. Valuable resources such as your time, focus and energy are split over so many different things, that there’s hardly any left for the truly important things. This means that, by doing too much, you actually fail to give the important things the time, energy or attention that they require in order to succeed.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” However, for most people, the any-value mindset is exactly what causes the things that matter least to get in the way of the things that matter most. And in doing so, they only make slow and incremental progress as they complete many small and lesser important things, but fail to complete the big and meaningful things.
Furthermore, the any-value mindset is at the root of the current stress and overwhelm epidemic that high-achievers suffer from. When there’s simply too much going on in your work, you feel out of control and you quickly fall behind on at least one of your projects, which leads to stress and feeling overwhelmed.
Basically, it’s like juggling. Juggling too many balls simultaneously is a recipe for disaster. Eventually, one will fall and take the rest with them. However, if you only have to focus on juggling just a few balls, it’s much easier to keep going for a long period of time without dropping one of the balls.
And lastly, the any-value mindset leads to problems in your personal life. When your work is too stressful and time-consuming because you’re pursuing too many things, you’ll eventually see the negative effects of that in damaged relationships, decreased energy & vitality, experiencing less joy in life, falling behind on your passions and having no time for personal development.
All in all, this belief that we need to do more and take on anything that offers any value or progress does a lot of damage that actually hinders your productivity in the long-term. Even though it may offer a short-term boost, it’s simply not sustainable to work like this forever.
By Doing Less, You End Up With More
If you want to become highly productive and achieve the next levels of success, the key is to do less so that you can focus more. Especially in terms of the number of goals you pursue, the number of projects you take on and the number of tasks you do on a daily basis.
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” — Russian Proverb
This doesn’t mean that you can simply be lazy and procrastinate your time away. Instead, it means that you focus your valuable resources such as your time, energy and attention on just a few things that are truly important.
This way, you massively increase the odds of success as you focus on being truly productive instead of merely being busy. If you focus your resources on things that actually move the needle, you start to make significant progress. Finally, the most important things get the resources they require in order to succeed. As Nathan W. Morris said, “It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.”
Instead of adopting the ‘any-value’ mindset, adopt the ‘significant-value’ mindset. Discipline yourself to pursue the tasks, projects and goals that offer significant value and lead to significant progress instead of just any progress. Instead of doing many little things, aim to just a few big and important things.
Steve Jobs understood this when he returned to Apple in 1997, which was in a heavy downward spiral at the time. When Steve Jobs returned, he cut Apple’s product line with 70% so that only 4 products were left. He even said that “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
By prioritizing the few big and meaningful things (in this case, products), all efforts and resources could be focused on developing, improving and marketing the most promising products. This would eventually form the basis of Apple’s success in the following decades, and make it the most valuable company in the world.
When you stop focusing on quantity (number of tasks or projects and number of hours worked) and you start focusing on quality (value created and progress gained per task, project or day worked), everything will change.
Now Do It
For the sake of your productivity, I highly encourage you to identify which tasks, projects or goals you’re pursuing because of the ‘any-value’ mindset.
Which things are you doing based on the belief that you need to do more in order to achieve more, yet aren’t contributing that much to your most desired results?
Resolve to spend much less of your resources on those things and much more on the few things that actually matter.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab