The tenuous relationship between quality and quantity has always been at the heart of the productivity debate. The 8-hour workday is normal only because we are used to it. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way to do the most work. More importantly, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do the BEST work. In fact, in many parts of the world, shorter workdays result in better results and higher income.

Check out this map of the correlation between GDP and fewest average hours worked.

OK — sometimes we just have to put in long hours — maybe there’s a huge project on deadline or there’s a chunk of your day you have to commit to travel. Ugh.

But we wear hours worked like its some badge of honor, rather than quality of work done. Working hard versus working smart.

I’ve done some digging into this and here’s my distilled list of tips  that have helped me harness the power of doing more with less. Hopefully you find some value here as well.

  1. Get enough sleep. OK, new parents — sorry this doesn’t apply to you. You are screwed – for now. But for the rest of you, I guarantee you are able to cut out a portion of your screen time (checking email, social media, mindless TV) to go to bed a bit earlier.
  2. Wake up before everyone else. You are in this way creating a distraction-free space because no one else will think you are awake before the sun comes up. So they won’t bug you.
  3. Save your workout for lunch. For most of us, our brains are most focused for the first three hours after we wake up. Use it, not your other muscles, in the morning.
  4. Make a list. Identify the top priorities for your day, and add a few items I like to call “randos” — the random items that can seem overwhelming — (reply to Joe’s email about that thing, cancel that subscription you keep paying $30 per month for that you don’t use, etc.). The first thing I like to put on my to-do list is “write to-do list” — instant accomplishment when the list is done.
  5. Focus. Get something big done. A big report. A proposal. It will feel amazing.
  6. Check your time. Chances are your morning has flown by and you got more done before anyone else got to the office than you would in a typical 9-5 day.
  7. Now go work out and eat a healthy lunch. Healthy body = healthy mind. It also will help with #1.