Making It Stretch: Five Tips for Being More Productive with Less

“I think one key part of doing more with less is to be more strategic, to realize what the objectives you’re truly trying to accomplish are, and then to drive with greater focus towards those objectives.”– Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, American businesswoman.

While it was painful, the recent Great Recession taught us some useful lessons about frugality, hard work, and productivity. It also taught us to be agile, flexible, and fast. Like NASA, the mantra of modern business has become “faster, better, cheaper.” We do more with less than any generation of workers before us.

The important thing is making sure the lesson sticks—through thick or thin, good times or bad. So in this blog, I’ll focus on tips for maintaining high productivity with fewer resources. Here are five favorites:

1. Avoid busywork. Business and busyness are NOT the same. Too often, we find ourselves just staying busy, checking items off lists as we do what one writer calls “fake work.” Study your tasks closely. Drop the minor ones to the bottom of your to-do list. If they’re below your pay grade, jettison or delegate them. Focus on the high-priority tasks, so you can better use the resources you have. Remember: how hard you work doesn’t matter. You can work hard at useless or minor things. Only one thing matters in business: results.

2. Cut duplicate processes. Automate anything if possible, whether it involves invoicing with a template or inserting signatures into your emails as standard replies. If similar tasks require similar preparation, try to do the prep work for both at the same time. Check to see how much your area of responsibility overlaps with other people’s. If you and a colleague both do the same task—say, you run the same report on the company’s profits for the previous week for different reasons—arrange things so just one of you does it, and gets it to everyone who needs it. This will save at least a little time, letting you do more with the time you have.

3. Simplify your focus. Boil every task down to its bare essence—and make sure it aligns with team and organizational goals. Focus purely on your objectives. Use the simplest possible terms and plan for the smallest amount of resources needed to get the job done in the minimum time. Forget the bells and whistles. If you don’t get your intended results, the extras don’t matter anyway. At best, they’re gravy.

4. Maximize your technology. Be an early adopter when possible. Who knew, ten years ago, that we could do so much with just our smartphones and neat little apps like Evernote? But look at us go. Managers, spend to your limit on the best technology for your team, from enterprise servers to new laptops or tablets people can take everywhere so they can work everywhere. If your company can’t or won’t provide you with the best equipment, buy as much as you can afford to maximize your personal ROI. You can work anywhere you want, whenever you want. However, remember…

5. Don’t kill yourself with overwork. With time more precious than ever, you’ll be tempted to cut into your personal time to get more done. That’s fine to an extent, but you require a significant amount of “me time” to recharge—and you can’t afford to cut into your must-have time for personal care, including sleep, eating well, exercising, and grooming. Don’t even think about work during personal care time, or you’ll end up running down sooner; you only have so much energy, no matter what you do to max it out. Take your daily breaks, your weekends, and vacations whenever possible. The better you feel, the more you can do with less.

The Shrinking Day
If it seems like the day has shrunk, no wonder: we’ve had no choice but to become more and more productive simply because we have more to do. These few tips can help you be more productive with the time and resources you have, even if both really are shrinking. And there are so many more tips that can help: stopping to reflect, communicating more efficiently, acting instead of reacting, organizing your workspace, and more. Let this blog act as your jumping off point for doing more with less, and doing less and accomplishing more!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland



  1. Barry Hall says:

    Many thanks Laura for a great post and information. Best regards Barry.

  2. Karen Rich says:

    The best productive tip I ever found was duplicating the software on my laptop and desktop PCs. Now I can work wherever I am, especially if I bring my scanner with me (an important tool when you’re preserving historical documents). Thanks for your website and blog; I am still using many of the original tools/tips you gave me 10 years ago.