Do Less. Do Better. Know Why.

That's the work / productivity philosophy of Cal Newport. He targets it to students but all should consider it:

Maintain a small number of things that you return to, and do hard work on, again and again, over a long period of time. Choose things that actually interest you, but don’t obsesses over choosing the perfect things — as perfect goals, like perfect majors, probably don’t exist. Keep this hard work quarantined to a reasonable number of focused hours each day, and harness the rest of the time to recharge, relax, and, in general, enjoy life. Or, to put it in a more familiar wording: Do Less. Do Better. Know Why.

9 Responses to Do Less. Do Better. Know Why.

  1. Akshay Kapur says:

    I love it! Didn’t take too long to say either. This philosophy is completely opposite the multi-tasking do-it-all mode at work and even in college. Yet, I love the “in general, enjoy life.” That’s missing everywhere.

  2. Also really enjoy this. Many of us that participate in ‘this space’ are relatively intelligent/talented people (at least we think we are), and because of that we have lots of interests and try to do too many things.

    Most times it doesn’t make sense to have 3 blogs and be on 4 social networks. I know I need more rest and re-charging.

    Thanks for sharing. Cal’s a sharp hombre.

  3. R says:

    Thanks for the great post. I wonder, can Cal’s “grit vs. grind” apply to leading a large team or organization? Or is it that traditional careers are for suckers and this is why you should be a student/writer/serial entrepreneur?

    link to peopleandresources.blogspot.com

  4. Ted says:

    I’m unconvinced.

    I enjoy shallowly exposing myself to many college seminars and speakers on a variety of topics. Life would be too boring if I only spent time learning about a few subjects.

    (I hope I didn’t erect too large of a straw man here.)

  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    I think Cal’s point is that at some point you need to focus and get good.

  6. Cal says:

    Ben’s reply captures my thoughts well. It’s not that you shouldn’t expose yourself to many different things. It’s just that, eventually, you have to seriously limit the number of things that receive regular, hard focus over a long period of time.

  7. “Better, even, to listen and ponder while sipping green tea and staring pensively up and to the right.”

    That’s what I do, except I stare pensively up and to the left.

    You would think that the gist of Cal’s advice was self-evident, or that at least it should be.

    Recognizing that there are only so many minutes in a day, then deciding what your priorities are and how to allocate that finite time is common sense.

    It seems more than coincidental that almost every twenty-something male I’ve ever hired has informed me, at some point in our relationship, that he ‘has’ [that criminally over-diagnosed disorder] ADHD. I’m sure I would have been so labeled growing up if I’d been born twenty years ago.

    Too often crew seem to use this labeling as an excuse for laziness or obstinacy.

    I don’t feel sorry for them, though… an excess of neurons firing can be an advantage, if all that energy can be focused.

    Although hardly anyone’s attention is more scattered than mine, I have intense powers of concentration.

    But they’re nothing compared to my real advantage– tenacity.

    Funnily enough, almost all the ‘sufferers’ who challenge me are intelligent, creative types who are also possessed of intense powers of concentration, but only as focused on an object of their own choosing.

    So my battles with these soul rebels are always over definitions, and the conflict often seems to devolve to the definition of ‘work’. Some of them don’t understand the literalness of the adage, “Time is money.”

    If we can’t work out an agreement on that energy exchange, I propose that we have a couple of drinks in a relaxing environment.

    Then we can work out a parting of the ways, and sometimes I even get laid in the bargain.

    That’s when I discover some of their other powers.;-)

  8. I would prefer to go with “Do Better, Do less, Know Why” and even have come so far by doing this. I havnt achieved anything great but looking in to the circumstances, have done a lot. The famous Philosophy of “Progress is made by lazy people who try to find easier ways to do the same stuff” always fascinated me. Hardworking people are everywhere and I believes that hradwork pays but if you can do the same thing other ways round in a quick and better way, why dont go for it. and this is only possible if you are concentrating over quite few of the tasks, not the whole management. As if you do one thing in a efficient and proper manner, it reduces the chances of coming back to that thing to fix it up later and hence reduces the time and energy consumption. Rather than doing multitasking, in which you are just passing the ball in the other court an moving on that if something goes wrong, the person behind me have to handle that, increases the chances of error and reduces efficiency.

  9. Forgot who said it, but it reminds of being a “professional specialist and intellectual generalist”.

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