The Fallacy of Doing More

14 November, 2022

Doing more.

That seems to be everyone’s goal. Whether getting a little extra work done, writing an extra article or blog post or three, trying to learn to code or speak a new language, getting in a longer workout, or … whatever. It’s almost as if we’ve been conditioned to try to cram as much as possible into the day’s 24 hours.

But does doing more really matter? I don’t believe it does.

I keep prattling on about what I call assembly line productivity — where you’re tackling task after task in a seemingly endless slog. Sometimes because you have to, but often you do so because those tasks are there. It all becomes repetitive and has little (if any) deeper meaning or significance. You’re doing all that work not just because you want or have to, but because you can.

That’s not a good way to work or to live.

There are a number of factors influencing that view. The biggest of these is the struggle between quality and quantity. While you could jump on the assembly line (at least as far as filling your days with tasks), I seriously doubt that all of those tasks would be of sufficient quality for you to be proud of, or even feel good about. You’d be spreading myself thin. You’d be doing work that you don’t care about.

Instead, try to focus on a smaller number of tasks. More importantly, work on those tasks to the best of your ability. Create or complete something you can be proud of, rather than creating or completing something because it’s an item on your to-do list.

If you can’t get to some of the things that you want to do, your choices are clear. You can shuffle your schedule around to make room for what you want to do. Or, you can drop those things. If you can’t find time for those tasks now or in the near future, putting them on a GTD-inspired Someday Maybe List won’t help. You still won’t get around to them, even if they are on a list. Your best, and I’d say only, option is to abandon the tasks that you’ll never get around to.

Doing more doesn’t mean that you’ll do more and better work. It just means that you’ll get through an awful lot of items on what’s probably an overstuffed to-do list.

Instead of doing more, focus on doing what’s important. Complete those tasks to the best of your ability. You might not get as much done as the so-called hyper/super/ultra-productive folks out there, but you’ll probably feel a lot more satisfied about what you do finish.

Scott Nesbitt