“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint- Exupery
“Either you run your day or your day runs you.” – Jim Rohn
Perfectionism is procrastination.
One of the biggest lies I constantly tell myself is that I don’t have enough time in the day to complete the things that I want to complete. When I say that I am ’too busy’ to do the things that are most important to me I am falling victim to lazy thinking. Lack of time is actually a lack of priorities. Men and women 200 years ago had the same 24 hours in a day that we have. Imagine what they would have given to have running water, access to the internet, or simply a car to get them from A to B. How much more would they have been able to accomplish?
But for some reason, with the advent of prolific technology that was meant to free up our time, we have become even more busied with to-do lists and notifications.
Time is the most precious commodity we are all given. It is the only non-renewable resource we have. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. So, as a result, it is vital that we become masters of our day. Allocating our 24 hours in the most effective manner in order to realize the best return. Although I am far from perfect when it comes to time management, I have learned a trick or two that has helped me keep my priorities in order and create space for achieving the most out of my day.
Step 1: Hell Yeah, or No!
My current productivity mantra comes from Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby; sold for $22 million) who uses a counter-intuitive framework when determining to pursue a task or not. “If it’s not a ‘Hell yeah!’ it should be a No.” Contrary to popular belief, saying yes to everything when you are a young professional is NOT the way to get ahead. However, saying yes to the few critical things and going all in on those, is. Here is a quick excerpt from Derek’s essay on the matter.
Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying: If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no.
Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” then my answer is no. When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”
We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.
So the next time you feel “obligated” to go to the company happy hour ask yourself these 2 questions: (1)is this activity moving me towards my goal? (2) If I do this activity will I be happier? If it is moving you closer to your goal or it is something that will bring you joy, than do it. If it is not, politely decline. Although you may lose a couple *friends* in the process, you will gain a deeper connection with those that matter.
Step 2: Write down your Most Important Tasks Every Morning
Focus on the important few, and ignore the rest.” – Tim Ferriss
Every morning, write out your 3-5 most important tasks and make a commitment to focusing on them until they are done. If you do not finish one of your MITs, move it to the top of the list for tomorrow. The most effective system for creating more time in your day is less about downloading the newest app and more about prioritizing your MITs. We have limited time and resources (both mental and physical), so it’s crucial that we spend our time and energy on the right things. Tools are fun, but if they are applied to an inefficient system, they will only make things worse.
Most Important Tasks (MITs): Remember, a task will swell in complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion (Parkinson’s Law). If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution. It is vital to focus on the most important tasks that have the biggest impact on moving us forward. The phrase ‘eat the frog,’ comes from the notion that doing the most important and difficult task on your plate first thing in the morning makes the rest of the day seem like a cakewalk in comparison.
When prioritizing my daily targets, here are the two questions I ask myself:
1. Which task do I have to do that is offering me the most resistance?
2. Which task will make me feel the most accomplished?
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain
Step 3: Simplify; Be effective over being efficient
Don’t confuse efficiency with effectiveness. The best door-to-door salesperson in the world can be incredibly efficient, yet nowhere near as effective as a kid sitting in his boxers sending thousands of emails. A person who checks email 30 times a day and has an elaborate system of organizing, might be incredibly efficient but is not effective. However, the top performers first ask, what is the most effective use of my time and then apply efficiency to that task. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is useless unless applied to the right things.
The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates
Key Questions to ask:
1. Am I being effective or just active?
2. 80/20 Principle: What are the 20% of tasks that lead to 80% of my desired outcome. Focus on those and eliminate the rest
3. If this was easy, how would it look?
4. If I could only work for 3 hours a day, how would I get it done?
5. If I only worked 3 days a week, what time-consuming activities would I remove?
Step 4: Focused Health
Your mental and physical health are critical to your ability to be productive. Remember the 80/20 principle here. There is no need to be perfect but any step closer to a fully optimized mind and body will only multiply your effectiveness. As Ben Franklin said, “early to bed (consistent sleep), early to rise (effective morning routine), makes a man healthy (body), wealthy ($$$), and wise (mind).”
1. Consistent Sleep
Aim for 7-8 hours a night. It will have a massive impact on your productivity and happiness
2. Morning Routine
How you spend the first hour of your morning can set your day up to be a work of art or one of chaos. It is not always possible to plan the middle of your day, but you can always make a choice about how to spend your morning.
1.Meditate for 15 Minutes (I use Headspace)
2.Cold Shower (Helps jolt the body into active mode and also speeds up fat loss)
3. Journal – I use the Best Self Co Journal
“A daily routine built on good habits is the difference that separates the most successful amongst us from everyone else” – Darren Hardy
Step 5: Batching
Batching is the most effective way to handle the repetitive, important tasks that you have to do every week.
Tasks that can be easily batched:
a. Pick 2-3 times a day to clear your inbox
b. Do not use email as an instant chat
c. Email is the single biggest deterrent to corporate productivity. Give yourself a system and take back your time.
2. Laundry / Dry Cleaning
a. Pick a day that you are going to do your laundry, put it on your calendar, and do not worry about it until that day comes.
The single biggest failure point when it comes to exercise is relying on motivation to get you to the gym. Willpower is weak. Put it in your calendar. Show up no matter how you feel.
4. Food Prepping
Every Sunday, my fiancé and I spend 2-3 hours prepping our lunches for the whole week. This habit saves us money by not having to eat out, mental resources by limiting decision fatigue, and time by not having to make our lunch every morning/eat out every day.
a. Put your study sessions on the calendar.
You are scientifically proven to be more likely to complete a task if you put it on your calendar.
Step 6: Be on or be off
In our ever-increasing pace of life, it is easy to find ourselves mindlessly moving through our days and weeks without intentional action. We always feel the need to be busy. Checking our feeds. Messaging our friends. Reading an article. Never taking the time to be completely off.
To be honest, this is one of my biggest struggles when it comes to productivity. I am constantly thinking – How can I read more? How can I learn more? Who can I reach out to in order to advance my career?
However, if you want to be more productive and achieve more in your daily routine it is vital to either be fully off or fully on (see Pomodoro technique).
Checking your email 10 times before you get to work is not helping you achieve more. It is taking the limited resources your brain has and focusing them on a non-important task. Be okay with breaks and taking time away from work. It will allow you to be way more productive when you are working.
I have been trying (with failure) to take one full day off of electronics a week. This may seem absurd, so start with a dinner or a walk. Realize that the present moment is all we ever have. Enjoy and immerse yourself in it.
1. Delete Push notifications
2. Turn your phone on airplane mode when you are at dinner, working on your MITs, and exercising
3. Extreme Option: Delete Instagram and Snapchat for 1 week and measure the results. The average American will spend 4 years of their life looking on their phone. Think about that…
Resources & Tools
Now that we are more focused and energized, we can start to use some of the amazing tools out there. The ones below are the top ones that I see recommended:
This is the holy grail of organization and productivity, once you can master it. I keep everything from book notes to airplane tickets to life goals in here. Everything is searchable, even pdfs. To become a master, I suggest you buy Brett Kelly’s amazing book Evernote Essentials
a. Allows you to “boomerang” emails back into your inbox at a certain point in the future.
b. Great for follow ups and important tasks that you want to get to later
a. A chrome extension that prompts you to input your most critical tasks over time you open up your browser.
b. Plus, it has a beautiful photo and an inspirational quote
4. Google Sheets
I know this may not seem like a productivity tool, but it can be massively helpful when tracking your actions. Peter Drucker, the legendary management thought leader, always said, “what gets measured, gets managed.” Or what you track consistently will over time improve or lead to better results.
Every single day we are given 24 blocks of time. It is up to us to determine how to allocate them in the most effective way to achieve the results we want. Maybe that is to be happy. Maybe that is to make a lot of money. It doesn’t matter so long as you know what the result you are after is and you take consistent, daily action to achieve it.
I’d love to hear from you. What is your single biggest struggle with getting shit done?