Why Doing Less Can Get Us More?

Lison Mage
5 min readAug 28

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains how we can adopt behaviours (or habits) that make us a little better every day, compounding over time and leading to massive results.

One of his most potent examples revolves around the British cycling team that implemented successive little improvements in all areas involved with their discipline (from the diet, equipment, schedule, and much more), rather than going for a radical transformation, which ultimately led them to win major competitions, back to back.

The idea could be summarised as trying every day to become 1% better than yesterday.

So, when discussing with team leaders about performance, this is a topic that is often brought up. In these conversations, I often hear:

“We want to become better every day” or “we are working on the systems to do better continuously”.

But as I dig a bit, I often find wishful thinking and botched execution.

One recurring reason for these issues is seeking marginal gains without making performance sustainable. Eager to do better, we fall for one of our cognitive biases — the additive bias, and instead of aiming at doing better, we end up pushing to do more.

Basically, in order to improve, we decide to add things.

We add more resources. We add more steps. We add more rules. And we keep adding, piling requirements one on top of the other, without ensuring we have solid foundations or that the addition provides a proven benefit.

Chasing for more is exhausting, and if we don’t pay attention, it will eventually lower performance.

So, when aiming at doing better, I like to flip the script and change the approach from “more” to “less”.

What is not necessary? What is slowing down the team? What is blocking progress and could be removed?

Rather than looking at productivity, namely the amount of work or deliverables that can be done in a fixed amount of time, we focus on efficiency, which is reducing the time needed to produce something.

Lately, I have been learning how to make candles to offer to friends and always have one lit up during my online deliveries. Being more productive would…

Lison Mage

I help people & teams lead strategic change and make better decisions. Read my book on Overthinking: https://lisonmage.com/act-before-you-overthink-buy/