Would you like to learn how to get 5 times the results with half the effort?
Would you love to have just one more hour of free time in a day?
How about 4 hours?
This is not another one of those BS generic viral articles.
Sometimes I read those, and I know some of that stuff is ineffective. It’s bad advice.
Having studied thousands of successful individuals, I know that those “top ten tips” are not even close to what successful CEO’s actually do.
It always confuses me why average people believe that stuff.
Just because it is shared with hundreds of thousands of people doesn’t mean it is good advice.
Just because some random editor wrote the article and it’s on a website that get’s millions of views doesn’t mean it’s good advice. He could have just pulled it out of his butt.
In fact, the reason why some of that stuff works so well is because it feeds on itself: Viral content often caters to what the lowest common denominator of masses most engages with. Therefore, even if it is bad advice, people are more likely to share it and like it, so brands often continue to promote it.
I want to share with you my own version of a top ten list of productivity tips that’s actually effective in making you a speed-demon.
This is based on some of the most successful people in the world: Warren Buffett, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates. This is based on my research of some of the most incredible companies and individuals who actually get results.
This stuff may seem quite unusual from the typical fodder like “Spend time with your family” or “Wake up early.”
I try to make my free stuff better than people’s paid programs and I think this article will do productivity courses justice.
1. Make Small Decisions Rather than Large Ones
Let’s examine human psychology.
Studies have shown that people always tend to backwards-rationalize their poor decisions. They stick by their poor choices to protect their reputation or whatever else.
I have seen this play out in the dating and business world.
This is made even worse when you make a big decision.
A bad marriage or hook-up. A monumental business decision gone wrong. Even though it is clear that the marriage is terrible or the business decision lead to massive losses in profits, the decision maker sticks to his decision.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Now that you know, you can do better.
Make smaller decisions. Rather than these big monumental decisions, you can look to make small, incremental decisions that can be changed or fixed. You are less likely to attach your ego onto such things.
Having said that, you will still have to make some big decisions at some point. But with this understanding, you can realize that a great majority of these big decisions have the ability to be broken into smaller decisions.
And if you do make a bad big decision, the best way of progressing, learning, and becoming better is to acknowledge your responsibility and see what you can learn from this experience.
This applies to day-to-day activities as well:
If you have now dedicated 5 hours to a task that should have been completed in 25 minutes, don’t let your ego keep you working at it. Analyze the situation and stop working on it for the day if that’s the best route forward. Perhaps your task is not the best use of your time.
2. Know Yourself
To effectively schedule yourself, you have to know how you work best.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Are you most efficient in a crowded location, surrounded with successful people, surrounded with anyone, or alone?
I do my best work late at night, silent, with no noise. Other people like to do things in a buzzing coffee shop in the morning. Test and find out based off your results.
Stop being a perfectionist
Rather than helping you, it can cripple you. If you are trying to get thing’s 99% right, you are usually getting diminishing returns.
Even worse: you could be stalling a release.
I recommend the book the Lean Start-up for this. The basic idea is have a minimum viable product.
If your product is perfect in your eyes when you release it, you’ve waited wayyy too long.
It’s better to push it out first because you can always make it better later.
Plus, according to the Pareto Principle, 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.
3. Hack your productivity with short, time-sensitive, measure-able victories (STSMV’s)
Want to know how to stay focus on your goals?
If it takes a long time to accomplish, it usually delays you actually accomplishing it.
You want to be able to finish things.
To do that, you need to keep your motivation sparking. You can do this with quick goals that take less than a day to finish. By doing this, you can celebrate and see your results. This will keep you motivated and charged to continue.
Keep in mind:
These must be goals in line with effective results.
Baking a cake or leveling up in a video game is NOT a good STSMV when you are trying to get an A for the year in mathematics.
I’m a millenial, so I used to love to multi-task.
People older than me would comment on me and my peers. They would be amazed because they couldn’t do all the things I could do at once.
I used to think it was so cool to be able to text, talk, and do homework.
Guess what? Turns out studies show it’s horribly ineffective.
The people who multi-tasked the most performed worse on multi-tasking tests and were more susceptible to distractions.
A study from Stanford found that chronic multi-taskers paid less attention, had worse memory, and had more difficulty switching tasks. They had difficulty focusing on the task at hand rather than previous tasks.
A University of Sussex study found that frequent multi-taskers had less bone density in the region of the brain responsible for cognitive and emotional control.
Remove start-stop schedules.
Studies have shown that your brain has to re-orient each time you stop a task and start a new. They estimate we waste up to 28% of our day because of this start-stop dilemma.
This is a start-stop schedule: 20 minutes of work -> 10 minute call -> 41 minutes of work -> interrupted by coworker tapping your should -> 7 minutes of work -> lunch break -> walk back gets interrupted -> 39 minutes of work -> meeting -> 14 minutes of work
What is worse is that people waste more time in between activities in what I call Shift Friction: the extra few minutes that you add as you walk to lunch text messaging on your phone… the few seconds of small-talk on your call that shifts into 3 minutes of small talk… you get the point.
I don’t think you think you should be a time-Nazi but you should at least be aware of this concept.
The average person is not cognizant of any of this.
Here’s a digital example of start-stop multi-tasking you can cut out:
Switching between tabs in your browser, doing Twitter for 5 minutes, then back to writing a blog post, then to Facebook for 5 minutes.
Cut out social media.
Focus on just writing blog posts for the next 30 minutes.
The Hidden Traps of Social Media
The biggest social media platforms have been designed by genius programmers to do everything it can psychologically to get you to stay on there watching more videos and clicking on more recommended videos.
Youtube, for instance, uses watch time and session watch time as some of its highest ranking factors. Watch time is how long you stay on a single video and session watch time is how long you stay on Youtube.
These factors determine how well your video ranks in search results and recommended videos, both huge factors when you realize Youtube is the #2 search engine in the world.
Therefore, many of the content creators have been groomed to do everything in their power to psychologically keep you watching: eye-catching thumbnails and titles, attention-grabbing change of scenery in the videos, and calls to action to get you to watch another video.
It may be better to turn off Youtube to keep yourself on track.
Buy back time with delegation
If you make $100 an hour and your time is worth that much, why do you spend 1 hour a day cooking, 30 minutes a day cleaning, and 2 hours a day on a job that you could pay someone $25 an hour to do? You must be willing and able to delegate. Nowadays, you can get cheap, efficient, happy employees who work virtually overseas for pennies on the dollar. Sometimes, you may get better results having someone you meet in person, especially if you want to build a culture. But very rudimentary tasks should not be done by you anymore and should be paid off.
4. Identify the most effective, Eliminate the rest
Have you ever been just frustrated with your progress?
You’re doing a thousand things and getting ZERO or marginal results.
Your day is filled up to the brim with things you have to do but you just feel like you’re spinning your wheels.
I was like this for a LONG time. And quite frankly, it’s because that’s what average people do. They think they’re working hard but 90% of what they’re doing is fruitless and unproductive.
What makes it worse is that there are tons of guru’s who are telling you that you have to do a thousand things: jump on the latest social media platform bandwagon, start live streaming, etc.
It’s a bit of a tragedy when there’s so much bad advice out there and people follow it mindlessly.
Bill Gates learned from Warren Buffett to only do what’s critical.
It’s why Mr. Buffett has so few meetings. It’s also why you should make a checklist of the top 20 things you have to do and throw away the last 19.
The first person you will lie to is yourself.
There are things you could do that you will rationalize as important that aren’t the #1 thing.
You have to be disciplined in being truly honest with yourself and doing the things that are the highest impact only. Even if you don’t enjoy them.
Don’t lie to yourself.
5. How to Speed up your work with the 4-Bucket Identification technique
This is based off President Eisenhower’s Matrix box.
Here’s the technique:
Organize your goals into 4 buckets: Important and Urgent, Important and not Urgent, Unimportant and Urgent, and Unimportant and Not Urgent.
I suggest using a paper and pencil. There’s experiments done that show the greater results of writing down your goals versus just having them in your head.
Dump 2 buckets: Throw away the Unimportant and Urgent and Unimportant and Not Urgent.
Only do the Important and Urgent today.
Keep the other bucket list for next week.
Figure out what your priorities are. Don’t forget to take into account down-time and time spent with your family and on your own health. Those are vitally important and many entrepreneurs skip over these to make more time. It’s a short-term decision that screws you over for the long haul.
Also, as I say in most of my content, if you can make your career something you are ELECTRIFIED and love to do, it all becomes more fun and productive.
“By focusing on the things I am passionate about, having fun, enjoying some downtime, and prioritising the things I care about the most (my family and my health), I have been able to avoid having a work-life balance burnout.” –Richard Branson
6. Communicate Properly
There are numerous layers of abstraction that people overlook in business.
You think people understand your words exactly as you describe them but that’s not the case.
This is why people argue so much about whether a movie was done right: Because people interpret the same book the movie was based on differently despite the words being the exact same.
So how do you fix this?
Be as concrete as possible.
These things should be avoided:
Reports, diagrams, specs, and documents. They don’t get read and they don’t get interpreted properly.
They are capable of producing abstraction and therefore, layers of confusion. And that is critical if you want to tell your employees instructions.
There’s a great chapter of Business Adventures by John Brooks called Impacted Philosophers that showed how the most simple statements by executives at GE could be wildly misinterpretted over and over again. I highly suggest you read the book as it is Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ favorite business book. If you use my Amazon link by clicking here, I get a small commission.
Anyhow, you should be as concrete as possible
Alaska Airlines did this by using cardboard boxes to build a model of their airport rather than relying on drawings.
7. How to use rituals to remove chances of quitting
There’s a variety of reasons that make you want to give up.
Therefore, there’s strategies to plug up each of these holes.
One is goals that take too long. To solve this, see Step 3 with STSMV’s.
The second is to use WHY Motivation:
We tend to forget or disassociate from why we’re doing things. I personally believe that some goals just cannot be accomplished if the why is too weak. If you’re simply in it to make money, you’re easy to quit. And that’s fine. I learned that I just wasn’t interested enough to go to med school despite how hard I pushed.
Identifying the motivation can rekindle the spark to keep working.
Why are you doing this work? Is it because this will be on the fore-front of technological advance?
Is it to change the world? Save lives?
Next, figure out if this is really worth doing.
Some of your activities don’t need to be done. An example are all-nighter’s. I found them stupid and an sign of a procrastinator. One night, I ended up trying it out because everyone else was doing it. It destroyed my sleep schedule and the last 8 hours of time were a complete waste since my focus and concentration were in the negatives at that point from lack of sleep.
Ask yourself: Could I just do it tomorrow rather than draining my health with an all-nighter? Does this actually add value? Is this actually worth paying for? Do I need to spend so much on advertising?
Key things you should ask:
- Will this actually change anything if I do it?
- What could I do instead that’s important?
- Can I do this an easier way?
- Can I automate or outsource this for pennies on the dollar?
- Is this adding value?
- Is this solving a problem?
- Why am I bothering with this?
Sometimes, it’s the small, simple things that you overlook that can be the biggest bang for your buck.
Richard Branson says that you should work on starting any project, meeting or task when you told everyone you would. Stop coming late to things!
“Whether it is a meeting, a flight, an appointment or a date, ensure you are there when you say you will be there. This may feel like an old-fashioned tip to give, but it has served me well for five decades in business.” –Richard Branson
8. Remove interruptions
Map out how you spend your time on paper.
A few years ago, I mapped out how I spent every minute of my day for the entire past week.
I was beyond shocked.
I was wasting up to 60% of my time.
How was this so? Distractions and useless activities.
Small things add up. 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. Soon, the whole day was gone.
I highly suggest you map out your week. It helped me identify hour long blocks of activities that really did nothing for me.
Let’s talk about how to remove interruptions.
They’re a huge danger.
It’s no coincidence that you get most of your work done when there’s very few people around: probably in the morning or at night right?
For creative-based companies like Pixar, discussion could be considered collaboration. But more often, a tap on the shoulder and 20 minutes of chat is just another way for employees to spin their wheels and get nothing done so they can exchange their hours for dollars.
Don’t be like that.
A study done on top-executives of a company found that they waste up to 28% of their time to distractions. If you’re paying those executives $50 an hour and there’s 30 executives, that wasted time adds up fast:
That’s $3,360 a day down the drain assuming a 8 hour work day.
Note: Jason Fried of 37Signals and Rework argues you shouldn’t be so strict as to allow no time for your employee’s to recharge. 5 minutes on Facebook might be really healthy and it could cost you more buying expensive equipment just to monitor them.
Instead, use these techniques:
Step 1. Lengthen Zone time
Zone time is when you are in your state of flow and groove.
You are fully concentrated on what you’re doing, time flies, and you love what you’re doing.
More of this concept is discussed in a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
This, of course, should almost always be lengthened for someone at work.
To do this, it usually means shutting off all distractions: your phone, your emails, any pings/sounds you get, people knocking on your shoulder or tapping on your door, meetings, and so on.
Some people believe that for 100% of people, the more alone time you have, the better.
I personally believe that there is some truth to this but for some organizations and jobs, collaboration is key.
Talking and communicating with others, within reason, on a team is instrumental for certain creative industries. The book Creativity Inc. goes into much greater depth on how a team should do this productively. It’s for companies such as the author’s company, Pixar, Inc., which rely on creativity to spark awesome ideas for new films. Incredible book. I highly recommend it. It’s amazing seeing the back-end of these iconic films: Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, etc.
Step 2. Try out passive communication
Use email and things that don’t require face-to-face meetings or calls.
I suggest making it clear somehow in a FAQ or footer in your replies how you do things.
I think you should cut out instant messaging and text messaging, but if you’re one of those who still want to use it and you’re sick of people instant messaging you “Hello, are you there?”, have a footer message or tell them in your briefing, “Message me your problem and question and I will get back with you when you can. Do not ask me if I’m there.”
EMAIL IS A HUGE DISTRACTION!
Only open your inbox when you have free time. It’s a huge distraction because most of the emails in there aren’t as productive for you as you think. They will distract you to click on them and reply back. Just because they are there doesn’t mean you have to respond to each one. I’ve seen people believe this and spend incredible time on emails that are 90% a waste of time.
Emails are other people’s priorities shoved in your face.
Zero in on the critical emails and respond quickly and briefly to those.
9. Have fewer or no meetings
There’s a reason why Warren Buffet has very few if ever any meetings:
They interrupt. They don’t accomplish anything. They waste time. They’re abstract and never anything concrete.
Everything is vague: the agendas and goals aren’t very clear. The list goes on.
Let’s be a little more concrete here: Are all meetings bad? No. Some of them are helpful.
However, for most businesses, they have become a stereotype of culture: done simply because everyone else does them.
When you could accomplish the goal of a meeting in 7 minutes but you keep it going for 30 minutes because the company schedule out the meeting for 30 minutes because everyone else does, you have now lost 23 minutes of employee work time you have to pay out. 7 minutes is all you should spend.
Trust me, I see this a lot:
Employees will stretch out any time they are doing nothing because they are in the employee mindset: I’m trading dollars for hours so the more time I can waste doing very little, the more money I can make. If I can stretch out the meeting so that all I have to do is sit on this chair, I’ll do that.
Now, of course, not every person is like this. It always frustrated me when I saw others doing this. But for a good portion of people, especially average people, they have this thought on some level in the back of their head.
And you can’t really blame them when you are the one who scheduled out the meeting.
If you must have a meeting, do this:
- Have a timer with a loud (and preferably pleasant) noise.
- Only invite the critical people you need
- Have a clear and distinct problem and agenda
- End with a solution and make clear who’s responsible
10. Kill Procrastination with Short Checklists
Long-lists never get done.
When’s the last time you finished item #94 on your to-do list?
Keep in mind that people are different and some perform better with their own quirky habits and techniques. But as a general rule, long lists don’t get done. Don’t take my word on it, ask Jason Fried of the company 37 Signals. That’s what he says.
That long list of 100 items causes needless anxiety and overwhelm.
It causes you to extend your procrastination.
Cut that list into something that has 10 items MAX on it.
Then, turn it into a checklist.
There’s a book called the Checklist Manifesto. It’s highly acclaimed and recommended by numerous successful businessmen including Ramit Sethi and Mohnish Pabrai.
The basic conclusion of the book is that checklists are incredibly important no matter how sophisticated your skillset or what industry you are in. In fact, it’s more important for really complicated jobs like a doctor because they have so much going on that they skip the simplest of things by accident. The book goes into incredible amounts of detail with statistics on how checklists increased success rates, survival rates, and so forth in numerous industries from plumbing, architecture, all the way to medicine.
The point is: USE A CHECKLIST!
Have definitive goals.
Dr. Kim, President of the World Bank, has set a specific, measurable goal and deadline year for ending extreme poverty. Why? because vague goals never get accomplished.
You want to set a specific deadline year and a specific goal.
Break down your time-frames and goals into smaller ones
Why do companies constantly come out with things late and spend billions more than they expected to? (examples: “Boston’s highway project – 5 years late and billions over budget; Denver Airport – 1.5 years late and $2 billion over budget)
Because everyone is over-confident in their estimates.
Now, the smart people are not. Why is this the case?
Because they understand that the average person is chronically good at underestimating how long things take:
A walk of the dog – expectations: 20 minutes; actual time: 38 min
Groceries for the week – expectations: 30 minutes tops; actual time: 149 min but it’s because I went to the pet store too spontaneously!
How to fix this:
Cut your time-frames down: Rather than a 2 year project, cut it into measurable, 1 month objectives with goals you can concretely define.
That’s all folks! A great book on productivity is Rework by Jason Fried. I kept hearing successful businessmen rave about this book. Now, I have been in the business books space for a while, but this one intrigued me because of the credibility of the people who talked about it. Billionaire Mark Cuban said he’d choose anyone who read Rework over anyone who got an MBA. Businessman like Russell Brunson said that it would have saved him years of time in his business if he read this. Long story short, this is one of the best books of the decade. Check it out by clicking here. I’m all about getting ahead, which is why I got it immediately. A good portion of this article was based on his foundation. Fried is the founder of a company called 37Signals.
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