What if you could double your productivity in just three months while working less?
You can! I’ve done it, and here’s how:
If you want to stop procrastinating; if you’re struggling to make your to-do list a done-it list, to find time in your days to workout, eat right, and move the ball in your business, this short list of Action Items is for you, grouped by topic.
Read all of these in order, and pay attention to the summaries at the end of Action Groupings, as these summaries amplify the Grouping’s Action Items substantially.
Group 1: Clearing the Mind
Destroy The Top Distractors ….
Eliminating Distractions is the Start of High Productivity.
Distractors are loose ends that eat at your subconscious … they crawl up and pull you off of critical activities and rob you of mental and emotional energy. These tips, which I’m largely borrowing from Dale Carnegie, Steven Covey, Todd Herman and Eben Pagan, go a long way to clearing the mental clutter.
10. Clear the Logical Loose ends
Make a list of all of the things that you need to do in your life that you just haven’t completed, and particularly focus on the “stuff.” Spend at least five minutes on the list, preferably ten. Here are some examples of loose ends: selling the old couch, painting a room, returning a leaf blower, etc.
Everyone has a few of these … list as many as you can, prioritize them from the easiest to complete to the hardest, and commit next Saturday to completing as many items on your list as possible.
9. Clear the Mental Closet
Everyone has some worries. Like before, take at least five minutes to list your worries … all of them … spend preferably ten minutes or more. Now, cross through worries that are external (things you can’t do anything about) — market worries, politics, etc.
Next, draw a circle around things you can affect, but not impact in a meaningful way. Lastly, draw a little star or asterisk next to items on the list that you can impact, and that you have control over (this is usually a very small list).
Now, choose to let the items that you marked through go, one at a time, perhaps in prayer or meditation. Really … let it go. Now, do the same thing for the items that you circled (letting these go will be more challenging). Now that you are aware of the items on the list that you’ve starred, what are you going to do about them?
8. Clear the Emotional Closet
Everyone has emotional clutter, also. Now, follow the same process … make your comprehensive list, using the same procedure to cross out, circle, and star items. Next, cross through those emotional scars you can’t do anything about, and choose to let them go. Now, do the same thing for the items you circled.
As for the items you’ve starred, now you really have to work at taking care of them … perhaps a slighted old friend, perhaps a family member you’ve ignored, or a relationship you left shattered. Decide what needs to be done about each situation you’ve starred, and choose to take one Saturday a month to get closure on that item.
Group 1 Amplifier:
Systematically repeat the above process every three months — schedule it in your calendar. At the end of one year, you will be shocked at how much clutter you’ve cleared from your life that has just been hanging around for years, sometimes decades.
What is particularly powerful emotionally is that over the course of these cycles, you will find it monumentally easier to let grudges go.
Group 2: Create Powerful Daily Routines
Build Good Habits!
7. Nutrition and Exercise: Eat and work like your great-great grandfather.
According to nutritionists, food variety is over-rated. What IS important is that you consume nutritious food throughout the day — preferably, for vegetables, as near to natural state as possible, and for meats, cooked but fresh (not from frozen) and the more fish the better.
As one expert puts it: for thousands of years our bodies adapted to absorbing locally available foods, and one reason why society is overweight while being mal-nourished is that we no longer eat to match our digestion. If you want to have better health, start eating and living like your great-great grandfather.
Fresh juices, raw vegetables, and fish. And, like he spent his days in demanding physical labor, six days out of seven your body needs exercise as well. Personally, no pill I’ve ever taken has improved my life as much as just plain eating right.
6. AM and PM routines. Socrates said “you are your routines.” It was true 2400 years ago, and so it remains today.
Write out, in fine detail the ideal morning routine and the ideal ‘going to bed’ routine for you, and practice sticking to them. The routines themselves will trigger your mental state in the morning to awareness and expectancy, and in the evening to relaxation and ready for rest (for as much sleep as YOU need — no less, but no more). Being awake and alert is a prerequisite to having a productive day, and this is how to make them happen.
5. Plan Each Day’s Schedule and To-Dos the night before.
Do this an literally your mind will get to work on completing the next day’s tasks before you even start the day. It’s uncanny.
Additionally, even if you don’t complete all you set out to do in a day, over time you will see that you accomplish much more in the planned days than in the days you neglect to plan ahead. This is also the time to plan your meals (see #7, keep it simple) and what you’ll wear.
Todd Herman’s Silicon Valley tip: select only one to four “personal uniforms” you wear almost every day (almost no one else will know) — it will almost eliminate the mental stress of ‘what to wear’ and make you instantly recognizable … just don’t be too trendy!
Group 2 Amplifier:
Habits and routines are often hard to create, and don’t happen without effort. One school of thought is to add one action to your day, while another is to implement a grouped bundle of habits at once … do what works for you.
Here’s one trick to make integrating a habit easier: tie it to something you already regularly do. For example, if you want to start drinking a bottle of water every morning when you wake up, set the bottle of water near your bed, next to your alarm clock.
Similarly, to eliminate a bad habit, get rid of the object and/or trigger of the habit. For example, if you eat too much when you eat out, ask your waiter for half-portions, and to box the other half-portion before it’s brought to the table, and consciously commit to cooking more often at home.
You will know that you have a morning routine down when, in the middle of the day, you literally have to check to see if you performed it (surprise! your teeth are brushed and your bed is made — congratulations … your routine is on auto-pilot).
Group 3: Harness The Power of Body Rhythms
Nature has cycles and seasons, and these are deeply implanted in us, as well.
The mind works in about 12 major cycles and rhythms (the sleep cycle, aka circadian rhythm is one we all know). Some cycles are monthly, while others are seasonal, some annual, and a few are measured in minutes. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ advocate synchronizing your work schedule to these cycles.
4. The 60-60-30 Solution.
This one routine changed my life.
The most basic mental cycle for your brain is about 55 minutes of activity. Go past this and your begin to get mental fatigue. And, you need about ten minutes of ‘distraction” to mentally reset. Then, you’re good to go again for as much as 60 more minutes of activity, after which you need about 30 minutes of mental rest.
Personally, I get in one of these productive routines every morning, and then two of these routines in the afternoon. On really productive days, I allow myself a “bonus cycle.” You’ll probably notice that this means that I get in about six productive work hours a day.
I will attest that I get more done (about twice as much) in these six focused, productive hours (or especially on an eight-hour ‘bonus’ days) than I once did trying to slug through the 12 or 16 hour no-break work days of long ago.
My specific, typical daily routine is: (1) 50-10-60-30 + email/phone calls/lunch/nap (1 hour)
(2) 50-10-60-30, then
(3) 50-10-60 then dinner/email/phone calls
3. Setting the Framework for Long-Term Cycles
Once a year, spend at least ten minutes writing down one year goals, as well as ten minutes writing down three year goals, and ten minutes writing down five year goals. You may choose to keep them visible as a list, or create a vision-board.
According to Steven Covey, people vastly overestimate what they can do in one year, but underestimate what they can do in three years, and vastly overestimate what can be accomplished in five years. But that’s ok … it’s a starting point.
To measure progress, ask yourself regularly if you are, as a percentage, on track to your goal — for example, at the end of March are you 25% of the way to achieving your goals for the year?
One interesting twist I learned from Ryan Deiss is that of a “negative vision board” — one made in black and white of what will happen if each of the positive goals in your vision fails (take each positive image and replace it with its black-and-white negative). Put a big Red “X” over each of those images.
Keep the negative vision in a place where you can pull it out when you need reminding, and want a little fear.
Whatever you decide to do, having a long-term set of goals (and remember, goals are revisable) gives you a direction to go, and a way to measure progress.
2. 3-Month/ ‘90-Day’ Seasonal Cycles (especially powerful for teams)
Ninety days is about 13 weeks. If you break it down as follows, you’ll see another bump in productivity (this presumes you start at a competent skill level):
1st Devote one week plus three work days to learning and refining a skill you will need to use over the next 11 weeks.
2nd Spend four weeks doing the work.
3rd Spend three days reviewing the work, checking it to benchmarks, and exploring ways to improve, and two days celebrating the achievement.
4th Spend four weeks either (a) refining the work done in Part 2, or (b) if repetitive, apply what you have learned to the next set of tasks
5th Spend two days reviewing the work, benchmarking, and improvement exploring (write down what you want to learn at the beginning of the next cycle).
6th Spend two weeks doing a favorite activity, probably out of the office.
1. Pulling it All Together — the Capstone 2-Week Feedback Cycles
Use your one-year goals as well as your ongoing “to dos” to drive two week task-sprint list. Then, incorporate these tasks sprints into each day’s goals and “do it” list. As tasks are completed, pull more from the two week task-sprint list.
At the conclusion of two weeks, go back and compile the items you’ve accomplished into a “victory list.” Then, create a fresh two week task-sprint list, and repeat – repeat – repeat every two weeks, culminating into a quarterly review and check-in.
There’s just something about the feedback-loop — it’s motivating, and creates accomplishment momentum.
Group 3 Amplifier: The Power of Self-Feedback
At each feedback stage, ask the following questions out loud, and write down the answers:
What should I stop doing?
What should I do less of?
What should I continue doing/what’s working?
What should I do more of?
What do I need to start and implement?
Employ these secret to productivity in your own life, and you’ll be amazed at the results.
Thank You Bonus:
Ask, and I’ll send you a copy of my Daily Routine Sheet and another bonus tip that, over the course of a year, puts me over the top on many projects (warning: you may not want to hear it, but it works like magic!).