The truth is, 95 percent of the things we do in our lives can and should be done either by someone else or by automation tools. Successful people focus on the five percent of things only they can do: they optimize their time so that they spend most of it doing the things they do better than anyone else in the world. They don’t try to do it all. They know this only leads to disaster.
Most importantly, they’ve defined success for themselves. They aren’t trying to measure up to some cultural or societal standards of success. They don’t care what other people think of them. They live their life on their own terms.
The following are a few key things successful people do to do less and live more.
1. They don’t waste decades of their life off-course.
Most people spend years, sometimes decades of their life on an undesired path. They’ve in-authentically, following cultural and social norms and eventually found themselves in a mid-life identity crisis. Although identity crisis is fundamental to identity achievement, the goal is to get this out of the way sooner rather than later—like, in your 20s and 30s rather than your 50s and 60s.
2. They correct their course quickly.
Airplanes are off course 90 percent of the time. Yet, they almost always arrive at their final destination on time by incessant course corrections throughout the flight. Because they correct themselves so quickly, getting back on course is easy. If they weren’t so intense about their course corrections, they’d be extremely late or never make it.
Likewise, successful people have an internally correcting system. The more narrow and aerodynamic they can get, the less time and energy they spend getting where they want to go.
3. They remove non-essential garbage from their lives.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
— Leonardo De Vinci
Successful people live minimally. They removed all the non-essential physical, mental, and relational baggage bogging them down. Their lives are built on fundamentals. They avoid excess. They say no to almost everything.
4. They skip non-essential steps most people take.
Most people climb ladders vertically. Successful people switch ladders laterally. Almost all of the United States Presidents spent less time in politics than the average Congressman. The best, and most popular Presidents, spent the least amount of time in politics. Ronald Reagan was an actor. Dwight Eisenhower laterally shifted from the military. Woodrow Wilson bounced over from academia.
Rather than spending decades climbing the tedious ladder with glass ceilings, they simply jumped laterally from a different, non-political ladder. They reached the top by skipping the unnecessary “dues-paying” steps.
5. They focus on results rather than hard work.
The majority of the population still lives under the outdated industrial model. They work 9–5 and are compensated for the amount of time they work. No punching the clock, no dollars earned. However, successful people focus on the few things that generate the most results. Everything else is either automated, outsourced, or removed. Rather than getting paid for time, they are compensated for the value they produce.
“You could do most of what Richard and Steve do, perhaps better than they do it. Except for what they do for about five minutes a day. In those five minutes a day, they create billions of dollars’ worth of value. And most of us could not do what they do in those five minutes.”
— Seth Godin
6. They use automation tools.
We all do certain 30–60 second tasks multiple times every day. Successful people automate these tasks. There are endless automation tools you could use to remove the doing from your life to create more space for living. One example is Zapier, which is an app that makes automations between multiple web services. Essentially, if something happens at one place, something else happens at another. If someone buys something from you on PayPal, they are automatically put in a customer file. If someone important emails you, it’s sent to a place where you’ll see it.
7. They outsource tasks.
After optimization and automation, the rest gets outsourced. Like automation tools, there are limitless outsourcing options. Fancy Hands is a team of over 3,000 virtual assistants who are available 24 hours a day. The service starts at $25 dollars per month. Fiverr is another outsourcing tool where you pay $5 to get various tasks done like editing your blog posts or transcribing your audios.
8. They create automated income streams.
Successful people have established their life on their own terms. They are not governed by the clock. They consciously choose how they spend every minute. That’s because they’ve created automated streams of income.
There are several approaches you can take to doing this. Some take longer than others. You could build a large real estate investment portfolio. This may take a few years. Or, you could create online courses using tools like Aweber or Infusionsoft. You can even automate the marketing using Facebook Ads.
9. They set short timelines.
“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?”
— Peter Thiel
According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If you have a lot of time, you’ll be inefficient. If you have a little time, you’ll be intensely productive. Short timelines facilitate flow, which is optimal human functioning.
10. Get 7+ hours of healthy sleep daily.
Healthy sleep is essential for increased productivity and optimizing your life. Successful people ensure they get good sleep. They keep their room around 68 degrees and avoid eating too close to bedtime. They go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Most wake up between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m.
11. They have a killer morning routine.
Successful people have a bomb morning routine. They practice prayer and meditation to orient themselves toward the positive and abundance in life. They exercise and get their blood flowing. They eat a healthy breakfast, focusing on proteins and good fats. They take cold showers. They listen to or read content that instructs and inspires them. They review their life vision to get perspective on their day. And they do the most undesired task first, knowing if they don’t, it won’t get done.
Most of the time, this routine is complete by 8 a.m. and they’ve already completed the most important things they will do that day. They’ve put themselves in a position to succeed at their highest level the rest of the day. To be fully present and not bogged down by the urgent and unimportant.
12. They have a small to-do list each day.
Successful people do not have big to-do lists like most people. On most days, there is only 1–5 things that really need to get done. They usually have these things done before noon and have the rest of the day to attend to urgent and life stuff that naturally pops up.
13. They drop stuff that isn’t working.
Most people fail to understand what psychologists call the sunk cost fallacy. When people put resources into something, even if it’s a sinking ship, they stay in longer than they should. Sometimes to the death. Successful people, on the other hand, discern quickly when they are on a dead-end path. Even if they’ve put lots of resources into something, they see quitting as a win, not a loss. They move on quickly and don’t overthink the past.
14. They check their email and social media at a few specific times each day.
Most people wake up and immediately check their email and social media. They put themselves in a reactive mental state. Subconsciously, they’ve committed their day to other people’s agendas. Conversely, successful people check their email and social media at specific times each day. They don’t obsess over messages, page views, likes, or other statistics. At most, they check these things only a few times per day.
15. They completely unplug when they finish working.
When they are at work, they’re at work. When they’re home, they’re home. Successful people aren’t afraid to be unreachable. They have one or two key people who keep them in the know if needed. But when they finish their work, they are just as awesome and present with the ones they love. They make time for rejuvenating recreation. They aren’t workaholics.
16. They take mini-retirements often.
Most people take two weeks off per year. Successful people take multiple mini-retirements each year. At least quarterly, they take a one to two week hiatus. Often, they check out for an entire month. They aren’t afraid of taking long-periods of time off. Their lives are far more balanced than most people.
Successful people live their lives fundamentally different from the norm. Rather than being a mediocre generalist, they do a few things only they can do. The rest is automated and outsourced. They do less and live more.