Why you should do less. Or maybe even nothing at all.

We’re always encouraged to do more if we want to get ahead in life.

To run further. To work out longer. To work more hours. It’s freaking exhausting!

What if the solution to our problems is to do less?

I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. How the heck do you accomplish ALL THE THINGS you want to get done if you do less?

Our culture has become addicted to “more.” If we don’t feel busy, we feel like we’re not contributing. We feel the need to tell everybody else how busy and stressed we are as if it’s a badge of honor.

In fact, I’m a recovering addict of “more” and “being busy.” I never had enough time and proudly told people how busy I was. It wasn’t until I started doing less that I got my act together and got MORE important things done!

It started with, “DO LESS YOU IDIOT!”

We’re going to tighten up our workouts, our productivity at work, and our lives. Ready?

Let’s do less!

Less is More: Strength

deadlift

Now, this “less is more” philosophy doesn’t apply for everything, but it totally applies to strength training, my preferred method of getting healthier. As we say, a strong nerd is a healthy nerd.

Instead of trying to pump your biceps with ten variations, sculpt your calves with four different exercises, hit three types of bench presses, and train each glute independently, do less. Do way less.

After all, why do 10 different leg exercises and spend an 90 minutes doing “leg day” when you can complete two exercises that give you the same or better results? 

For starters, there IS such a thing as diminishing marginal returns. If your first exercise is a compound movement like a squat or deadlift with heavy weight, you are pushing your central nervous system and every muscle in your leg, lower back, and core to their absolute limit. This negates the need for 10 more exercises, each less effective at muscle stimulation than the previous one!

Also, doing too many exercises for the same muscle group can lead to overtraining and injury if you’re not careful. Just ask our favorite anchorman, Ron Burgundy!

It’s no surprise Ron isn’t exactly the most efficient guy. When you target a single muscle group with 10 different exercises, you’re isolating muscles that never actually work in isolation in real life. Why isolate biceps when in reality, your biceps/forearms/shoulders/back all work together?

Compound movements recruit every muscle fiber, every tendon, and small muscle to prepare your body for real world activities and scenarios. Much safer and more effective.

These days I work out just 4 days per week, for about an hour each time, and I’m in the best shape of my life: two lower body days and two upper body days. Here’s what they look like roughly:

Lower Body Day 1:

  • Heavy Deadlifts
  • Higher rep front squats
  • Pistol Squats

Upper Body Day 2:

  • Weighted Chin Ups
  • Weighted Dips
  • Ring work

Lower Body Day 3:

  • Heavy Squats
  • Higher rep snatch grip romanian deadlifts
  • Pistol Squats

Upper Body Day 4

  • Overhead Press
  • Dumbbell Rows
  • Ring work

If you want results, try simplifying your workout. Stick to a few exercises, and get really strong with them. Cut your gym time in half, tighten your focus, and make WAY more progress in a faster time. Unless you’re a bodybuilder, stop worrying about sculpting isolated muscles and get strong with big movements.

Do more by doing wayyyy less.

Less is More: Life

changed priorities sign

Life got you stressed out? Never have enough time?

Stop trying to do everything! Instead, pick 3-4 things that are incredibly important to you each day and say no to everything else. Don’t worry, the world won’t end. I’m going to guess your things will end up something like:

  • Take care of yourself: Exercise, nutritionsleep.
  • Take care of your relationships: Quality time with family/friends.
  • Kick ass at work: I’ll get to that below.
  • Enjoy yourself: Listen to music, read a book, or play video games.

Every day, set aside time on your calendar for those things. If you get a request to attend an event, or help out with something and you don’t have time for it…SAY NO. DO LESS.

Remember, as Derek Sivers says, “It’s either a hell yeah! or a no.”

One of my favorite scenes in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has Paul Rudd’s stoned character teaching Jason Segel’s character how to surf:

The wisdom of Kunu seems a little goofy at the time, but has some real world value for us nerds: Instead of doing a million things and sucking at all of them, why not pick a few and get pretty dang good at them?

“The less you do, the more you do!”

Less is More: Work

Write

We’re all addicted to being “the busy one” at work, and wanting everybody to know how busy we are. Fun fact: nobody really cares! They’re busy too, I promise.

What matters: you are doing great work and getting the things done you said you’d get done, when you said you would get them done.

Want to learn the BEST thing I’ve done to explode my productivity and allow me to get more done? I stopped multitasking.

We pride ourselves on being fantastic at multitasking. Hell, I know I used to. In college I would study a text book while watching the Red Sox on mute, blasting music, and playing four tables of online poker at the same time. What an idiot!

Multitasking seriously makes us dumber. It causes us to waste excess brain power switching back and forth between activities. Stop it. Do Less.

Now, I’m not saying become Peter from Office Space. Instead, do less by pick three major things at work every day you need to accomplish, and shut EVERYTHING off whenever working on those tasks.

Personally, I don’t check email until AFTER I finish the first task. And I don’t let small tasks take priority over the important. My phone is literally on  “Do Not Disturb” mode.

This one change has revolutionized my work productivity (and you can learn more about productivity in this monster post)

Do less, get more done

bruce-lee

Chop the unessential from your life. It makes the stuff you keep far more powerful.

  • We burn ourselves out when we don’t take the time to actually recharge our batteries, so take time off.
  • Be unavailable when you’re not working.
  • When you’re on vacation or spending time not working, embrace itStay away from your computer, don’t check email, and spend time with friends and family.

These moments of “not busy” allow us to be WAY more efficient and productive during our work days and lives.

Next week brings us a new free 6-Week Challenge on Nerd Fitness, and I can’t wait to get back at it.

I hope you do the same. The next time you are overwhelmed, take a few minutes to do less. Or hell, do nothing at all.

What if you can’t do nothing for 15 minutes? How about 2?

Your turn: What’s one thing you can eliminate from your life right now that will allow you to do less? What’s one thing at work you can do to focus your mind and actually get the important shit done ON TIME?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

-Steve

P.S. – If you’re interested in coming to Camp Nerd Fitness, grab a spot soon! We’re down to fewer than 9 spots left!

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photo source: Addison Berry: Priorities

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