Secrets to achieving more in less time

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Everyone seems to notice how busy our lives have become — and how hard it is to allocate time to all the important things we want to get done.


“Sun Dial” by russellstreet (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You’d think, by now, in the year 2017, something would have been done about it. Where are our leaders on this issue? Why hasn’t our government done something and added at least two, maybe three hours to each day? With that bit of extra time, maybe we could all do those things we just can’t find the time for!

Of course, I jest. But while lengthening the day is not possible, some people try a close alternative: reduce the hours spent sleeping. For some people this seems to work … but most of us just end up tired, grumpy, and even less able to use those precious minutes and hours productively.

But what if there was another option — to take less time on each task?

For many people this is a very real option — an untapped boost to productivity just waiting for you to take advantage of it. The good news is it is also very simple.

Here’s the key to getting more done in the time you have:

Do less.

Don’t go away! This isn’t a trick. Read on …
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Motivation experiment days 19-21

On day 19 of my experiment with drawing every day and observing the effects on my motivation I again found myself without ideas for what to draw. Part of my commitment to this exercise from the outset had been that the important thing was to draw something each day, not to draw something “good” or “interesting” every day. So for day 19 I settled with drawing out a pattern in curving lines without too much thought, then adding a little colour:

Abstract swirling lines

Motivation experiment day 19 – drawn 9/05/2014

This was done very quickly. I didn’t like the result at all, but I’d stuck with my commitment to draw and was happy enough with that.
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Motivation experiment days 16-18: the joys of imperfection

On day 16 of my exercise in daily drawing I experienced a drop in my intrinsic motivation. After a few days of easily producing drawings I liked by tracing pictures, going back to drawing from my imagination meant struggling again with ideas for what to draw.

Drawing of a skull

Motivation experiment day 16 – drawn 6/05/2014

Having been involved in some planning for a pirate-themed birthday party, the idea of drawing a skull came to mind.
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Motivation experiment – days 9-12

Come day nine of my experiment in daily drawing I was now beginning to really enjoy drawing each day. On this occasion I started by scribbling a few lines and this quickly sparked the idea to draw an owl, which quickly developed into the below drawing:

Owl on a branch at night

Motivation experiment day 9 – drawn 29/04/2014

I took a similar approach on day 10 – not thinking for long at all about what to draw, just starting with doodling lines that I then developed into this angry face. Seeing that I could quite quickly go from no idea to a fairly simple drawing that had something about it I liked increased my interest in drawing even further.

Close up of angry man's eyes

Motivation experiment day 10 – drawn 30/04/2014

On day 11 I had a general concept in mind before I sat down to draw – I wanted to develop something with a sense of space and distance, so drew this canyon with a tiny figure in the distance:

Man standing at the opening of a canyon

Motivation experiment day 11 – drawn 1/05/2014

On day 12 I felt inspired before starting to draw something like the owl from day nine. I quickly settled on the thought of drawing a whale, but couldn’t bring to mind what a whale actually looks like So I did a google search for a picture of a whale, and found this at

… which I traced and developed into this:

Blue whale blowing bubbles under water

Motivation experiment day 12 – drawn 2/05/2014

Tracing sort of felt like cheating … but I learned a lot by drawing that way and quite liked the result.

Motivation part 2 – Rewards and Punishment

In my previous post on motivation – Motivation and the Secrets to Getting Things Done – I introduced the distinction between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. In today’s post I will try to briefly summarise some of what we know about extrinsic motivation. As a reminder:

Extrinsic motivation refers to external forces that influence our behaviour. Praise, financial rewards and punishment are all examples of extrinsic motivation. If I say I drove to the beach because my friend paid me $300 to give him a lift, I am referring to an extrinsic motivation.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning is the technical term used in the behavioural sciences for learning from consequences. If you repeatedly experience static electric shocks when you touch a particular door handle and this causes you to insulate your hand with your sleeve whenever you go through that door, or to use a different door, this is an example of operant conditioning: You have learned to alter your behaviour to avoid experiencing the unpleasantness of a static electric shock.
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Motivation experiment days 7 & 8

One week into my experiment with drawing daily and it’s effects on motivation the challenge for drawing ideas has gotten no easier. Drawing cartoon-style faces is a common absent-minded doodle I’ve done in the past; so I drew another cartoon face.

Smiling cartoon face with beard

Motivation experiment day 7 – drawn 27/04/2014

On day eight I decided to go back to doodling some abstract, bold black lines. I tried experimenting with the smearing technique I’d discovered on day three. I liked the effect and it reminded me of an eye. So I found a photo of a cat’s eye and traced it into the background:

Abstract cat's eye

Motivation experiment day 8 – drawn 28/04/2014

Now, for the second time I’d drawn something I quite liked.

I was posting daily on facebook and had some positive feedback on specific pictures on days five, six and seven, and positive feedback (likes or comments) on my drawings most days. That feedback, plus having drawn two things I liked myself in just over a week gave me a boost of interest in continuing this drawing exercise. I started to look forward to drawing, which meant thinking about it sometimes during the day – which finally generated ideas for things to draw.

Motivation experiment days 5 & 6

Come day five of my experiment in committing myself to draw a picture every day there was still no real inspiration for what to draw. I vaguely remembered seeing a “how to draw” video with my children and tried to replicate the steps as far as I remembered them to draw this face:

Cartoon face with beard and hat

Motivation experiment day 5 – drawn 25/04/2014

I’m not a real fan of it, but I was happy to be pushing myself to try new things.

Day six and once again I couldn’t think of ideas. I started with another drawing using abstract lines and shapes. Then I scribbled some wings around it, which made me think to draw a weird-looking bird. With an egg.

Abstract bird with an egg

Motivation experiment day 6 – drawn 26/04/2014

Again, I don’t really like this drawing. But I was doing something new and different, and I liked that because if I hadn’t pushed myself to draw daily then on the rare occasions I drew I would be likely to just be drawing the same style over and over again.

Motivation experiment days 3 & 4

Sitting down to draw on day three of my motivation experiment I couldn’t think of anything at all to draw. So I scribbled a few lines and shapes and played with smearing them:

Brown stripes and shapes

Motivation experiment day 3 – drawn 23/4/2014

I really don’t like this drawing at all. But forcing myself to draw something led me to experimenting with a technique that I later used in a drawing I did like.

Come day four I found myself again feeling completely uninspired. So I scribbled a few lines. Those lines made me think of a bat, so I developed them into one:

Bat against a night sky

Motivation experiment day 4 – drawn 24/04/2014

Four days into my experiment I had done the first drawing that I really liked something about. It was really not much more than a rough scribble … but I liked how it looked. That made me look forward to possibly drawing something else unexpected that I liked in the future: the beginnings of intrinsic motivation to continue drawing.