Productivity isn’t just about finishing long to-do lists; it’s also about finding clever ways to shorten them. Productive people focus their attention on just a handful of important tasks. The other, less important tasks are either eliminated or delegated away.
So as you approach your own to-do list, think of any unproductive chores you can cut out. Pay special attention to the time you spend maintaining your possessions. Most of our belongings contribute very little towards our wealth and happiness, yet they consume a disproportionate amount of our valuable time and energy.
Consider how much time you spend each year:
- Maintaining your living space (vacuuming, cleaning, dusting)
- Maintaining your house (mowing the lawn, repainting the walls, fixing the plumbing, installing new countertops)
- Organizing your wardrobe, books, tools, movie and music collections
- Owning a car (tuning the engine, replacing tires and motor oil, maintaining the garage)
- Setting up an office (fixing your printers, stocking up on stationery, assembling office furniture)
- Shopping (bargain hunting and coupon clipping)
Each of these burdensome chores are a direct result of the possessions we own. The more stuff we own, the more overhead we are forced to deal with. Accomplishing these pointless tasks isn’t being productive; it’s a glorified way of wasting time. Time spent mowing the lawn could have been time spent earning money or time relaxing. So by owning fewer possessions—a smaller house, fewer cars, less clutter—you can minimize your chores and reclaim your valuable time.
Look around your room and identify any possessions that are totally unnecessary. Almost all of our clutter falls in this category. In fact, even tools often waste more time than they’re worth. For example, if you’re setting up a home office, new desks and chairs are more likely to be a distraction than a real need. Instead of wasting several hours assembling new furniture, you should just use an existing table instead.
For tools that are genuinely necessary, shift the burden of ownership onto someone else. Every possession increases the need for storage space, maintenance, and repairs. To shorten your to-do list, have someone else own your possessions for you. Just rent something when you need it.
Living small looks attractive from this vantage point. If you rent an apartment, the burden of home ownership rests entirely on the shoulders of your landlord. Instead of spending your weekends fixing the sprinkler system, you could spend your time relaxing. When you feel like moving, simply return the house keys and travel as you please.
In fact, you can avoid the hassles of ownership for just about anything. Instead of owning a car, you can rent one or take the bus. There’s no need for insurance, a garage, or visits to the auto shop. Let a gym handle workout gear for you; you don’t need to store and service fitness equipment yourself. Visit the copy shop to print documents: after all, do you really want to be fiddling around with toner cartridges? You have better things to do with your time.
Your main to-do list should center around what’s important. Everything else is just a distraction. Rid your life of excess clutter. Focus.