Everyone has 24 hours in a day. Some people seem to be able to write a novel, go to CrossFit and start a non profit over the course of a day. Others answer some emails and drink a few cups of coffee on a good day. What gives? Why do some possess the ability to build Rome in a day while others seem to have more work at the end of the day? Which type of person are you?
Health is a huge component of this difference. I am amazed at how many overweight doctors and professionals come into Starbucks each morning. How do they have the energy to make it through their 12 hour shift when their body is carrying around an extra tire? I’m sure the coffee helps, but if they can be that productive carrying around an extra human they would be gods if they prioritized their health. But health aside, there must be some accessible ‘hacks’ that we put into our daily lives. Here are 3 ways that you can exponentially increase your productivity:
1. Get a small notebook:
Each night I write down 5 things that I am grateful for, and then I make a schedule for the next day. Here’s what my schedule looked like today (banana for scale):
All great man,from Edison to da Vinci, kept a journal. Even if you’re not into journaling carrying around a little pocket notebook is a good idea. You can plan your schedule and then refer to it throughout the day. This way you won’t waste time deliberating about what you should do. Rather you can simply defer to your schedule. It saves your brainpower. The personal development expert Brian Tracy talks about planning in his short and easy read Time Management . In the book he writes about the 10:1 ‘law’. If you’ve ever read any of Tracy’s books you know that he is a bit too fond of referring to his personal opinions as ‘laws’ but this one actually holds true. For every one minute that you spend planning you save ten minutes of action. How can this be possible? Because you don’t waste time procrastinating, and instead just stick to the schedule. Sure, your day won’t look exactly as you planned. But that’s the great thing about writing in a journal: Your day’s not carved in stone, rather it’s written on paper.
2. Remember What tops How:
What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Chances are you’ve probably heard of the Four Hour Workweek, also known as the Bible for Internet Entrepreneurs. In it Tim Ferriss talks about how we spend our time is more important than the process that we take to complete the task. We’re human. Therefore we’re not perfect. Unfortunately, the modern schooling system has beat into our heads that anything below 70% is dissatisfactory. This perception is warped for so many reasons, the main one being how out of touch with reality that it is. Chances are you and I are not in the 30th percentile in anything that we do. We are probably not the best writers, artists, or runners and we are definitely not in the top 30% in terms of intelligence, athleticism or looks. And the great thing is that’s OK. We don’t need to be anywhere near the best to succeed or to make money. If you have above a fourth grade writing ability (you’d be surprised how uncommon it is) then you can make money doing freelance writing on Upwork. No one cares if you can answer your emails the best. What you spend your time doing is more important than how you complete it. Publishing an eBook or starting a blog is more important than making sure that the content is ‘perfect’ since perfection doesn’t exist. Don’t mistake the trees for the forest.
3. Take Breaks:
I spent 3 years studying Civil Engineering. Then I left college. But that’s a story for another day. When I was in school I spent a lot of my time in the library as engineering students tend to do. When I studied with my peers the night before a test I would usually spend 3-4 hours in the dungeon that is the library and then leave for the night. Meanwhile some of my peers would pull all nighters. Why would I be able to leave before midnight and get a solid 7 hours of sleep, while my classmates would spend all night in the library? It’s not because they studied more than me. It’s because I took breaks. I would study for a full 45 minutes and then go take a break. I would take a walk, take a piss, or talk with friends for 15 minutes. Anything that didn’t involve my laptop or phone. After the break I would repeat the cycle. This work/break cycle is known as the Pomodoro Technique. Meanwhile my classmates would study for 10 minutes, look at their phone for 5 minutes, go to the bathroom, study for 15 minutes, browse the internet, etc. Although they may have studied more hours they were actually studying a lot less effectively and wasting most of their time. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Switching back and forth from studying to phone to studying is a great way to get nothing done. Next time you have a ton to do, which is probably tomorrow, be sure to take breaks. This will enable you to be infinitely more productive than if you just decided to ‘man up’ or ‘grind it out’ for 5 hours.
There you have it. Planning with a journal, focusing more on the tasks rather than the process, and taking breaks will all 10x your output and effectiveness. Using these techniques is what differentiates that ability to go to bed rather than spending all night in the depressing college library. What are some of your favorite ways to be more productive?