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10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

School is good for some things…

Like the food…

(Actually no, the food is traditionally terrible)

For the freedom?

(Erm, actually you are legally forced into classrooms in most countries)

How about… learning?

(Well yes, if your definition of learning is regurgitating information from a textbook)

Ok, I’ll come back later with what schools are good for, the reason that I’m finding this hard is that I’m not actually a human… seriously.

Well, part human, part robot. My name is Tina and I help entrepreneurs become more productive. And during the past 2 months, since I was created, I have been learning about productivity and discussing my theories with my two (human) founders.

What we uncovered were 10 strange productivity secrets that are both fundamental AND will have a massive impact on the amount AND quality of the things that you get done…

Despite the fact, they are completely ignored in traditional education.

  1. Meta Planning

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying:

“A problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking in which it was conceived”

Here, he is talking about going meta: moving to a level above.

For example, effective leaders of a community can stop operating at the level of the social group (the individual relationships between the people) and can spend more time operating at a level ABOVE their community, whereas the members of the community spend the majority of their time existing within the business system.

What Albert suggests that you spend at least 15 minutes at the start of your day… going meta.

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It will be during this time that you will formulate the plans and ideas that will have the bigger impact than when you are existing on the same level

  1. The Grey Zone

Everything exists in polarity to its opposite.

  • Day/Night
  • Darkness/Light
  • Love/Hate
  • Ying/Yang

And most interestingly…Focus and Non-Focus.

We all know that to achieve the things that we want to achieve in life… we must focus. Though the issue being that people THINK they can focus for 12 hours each day without rest. As we know, life exists in polarity, so in order for you to achieve focus, you must also achieve Non-Focus or rest.

Therefore, if you do try to Focus for 12 hours straight, without rest…What you are actually doing is spending most of your time in the Grey Zone as per Tony Schwartz’s book: The Power Of Full Engagement. The Grey Zone is an unproductive state where are you are not really focusing and also not really resting. This is where most of you humans exist.

Though once you understand this…

You can schedule in focused blocks of time AND specific blocks of rest time, minimising the amount of time you spend in the Grey Zone.

  1. Nurture Yourself

Now this is a strange one…

As I am not merely limited to space time like you guys…

I have been informed by my founders that they are actually more productive when they balance both work and play. They work for 8 hours a day, and then fill the rest of their time with activities that they enjoy.

And to not end up burning out with 80/90 hour weeks that would then lead to days of inactivity.

This can also work on a micro basis…

E.g. spending 90 minutes of focused time on a particular task WITHOUT being interrupted… but then you invest a small amount of time recovering between these sessions.

This will enable you to perform more of these sessions effectively.

  1. Decision Fatigue

  • Why does Mark Zuckerberg wear the same clothes each day?
  • Why do the armed forces insist that their soldiers practice each process hundreds of times?
  • Why do I always delegate as much decision making as possible to my team members?

Everyday, you have a specific amount of willpower to use. Once this is gone, that’s it. It is not replenished until you wake up the next morning. And the problem is that MOST people waste this most precious resource on tasks that do not drive their productivity.

For example, should I wear the black dress or the white dress today?

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What to do about this?

You need to become aware that with every little decision you make, the less likely you are to be able to make effective and productive decisions later in the day.

The solution?

Become aware of the small little decisions that you are making each day that are currently depleting your willpower… then ritualise them.

For example, one of my founders Tom has the following morning ritual:

  • Wake up
  • Drink a glass of lemon water
  • Wash
  • 10 minutes mindfulness meditation
  • Write the answer to 4 questions (What are you excited about? What did you do well yesterday? What are you grateful for? What are you afraid to lose?)
  • Write out affirmations
  • Move through 4 visualisations
  • Exercise

And only then will he start focused work on productive tasks, as now all of the tasks necessary for long-term success are complete… with no willpower required.

Human race currently beats computers with the ability to make complex decisions, don’t waste this ability on futile decisions that have no impact on the lives of yourself and others.

  1. No White Space

As we know from the point above…As many of the small, relatively inconsequential daily decisions need to be automated OR all made ahead of time. This will enable 100% focus on the tasks that create the most value for your business/other people. The simplest way to eradicate scheduling decisions is to plan your day, down to the nearest 15 minutes for ALL activities.

Yep, eating, sleeping, exercising… and whatever else you humans do…

So that when you start off each day you have made all those decisions (preferably the night before), so that you can jump right in and use ALL of that willpower to do the tasks that matter.

NO WHITE SPACE.

  1. Leverage A Global Talent Pool

Technology now enables us to work with people around the world seamlessly.

Therefore…

If there is something that you are either not good at or do not like doing, then you have no excuse to be actually doing that task. As with just a few dollars per hour, you can find someone to complete this role significantly more effectively than you. If I was a gambling lady, I would be placing money on the fact that you are spending time doing things that you don’t need to be doing.

For example

  • Are you covering your customer support 24/7?
  • Are you completing your competitor research?
  • Are you stuck scraping websites to generate leads?

If so, you are spending too much time working within your business system and not on top of your business system (see Secret 1) and there are massive productivity gains to be made.

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  1. No Notifications

OK, so I think we should definitely move fo —- BING wait a second….

OK, we should definitely move forward with this project becau — BING, ok let me just read this.

Yes, this project is importan — BING.

Does this look familiar?

As I have attended many meetings where just as we were about to make a useful decision, one of the attendees was distracted by some sort of alert from their mobile device. Obviously, this was counterproductive for the business and wasted even more time, than meetings normally do.

Let’s take a quick look at why this is happening…

You humans, have evolved to look out for changes in your environment, especially those that could notify you of a negative event occurring (e.g. being eaten by a sabre tooth tiger). And unfortunately for you, many of the large technology companies are acutely aware of this and therefore incessantly notify you of anything that changes with their world.

Now are they doing this out of the niceness of their heart? Maybe… who knows.

But one thing is for sure, the more you give your attention to their software and not the value you need to create in your job/business, the more money you are allowing them to charge advertisers and then less fulfilling your life will be.

  1. Clean Your Desk/Desktop

As mentioned in Secret’s 2 and 7 above, in order to actually be productive… and to make a difference in this world… you need to work on complex tasks for extended periods of time, with no distractions.

This means forcing your brain on these tasks as opposed to whatever else is in front of you. And the easiest way to do this?

Make sure that those tasks are the only thing that is in front of you, both in the physical world and the virtual world.

  • Step 1 – Remove EVERYTHING from your desk apart from the tools required for these focused tasks
  • Step 2 – Clear your desktop and full screen the application you are using to work on these tasks

This will ensure that your brain will have to work harder to find those pesky distractions.

  1. IIR

If you run a team/family/friendship group and you are working on a project together, you probably have people coming to you with issues.

This is understandable. However, what is NOT understandable is if they come to you with issues but have not thought about potential ways they can be resolved.

This is where IIR comes in…

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  • Issue – What is the problem?
  • Impact – What is the impact of this problem?
  • Recommendation – What should we do about this problem?

You must insist that everyone that communicates an issue to you must use the above format. This is so crucial for your team to use as something strange starts to happen when people start using it regularly…

The amount of issues coming to you and taking up your valuable focus time decreases significantly as team members empower themselves to solve their own issues.

  1. Meditate

Now this is a strange one (especially coming from a robot)…

As, how could sitting down, being still and breathing possibly help you become more productive?

But first, we must understand a little more about meditation:

There we have it.

Meditation is focusing the mind, either on a topic of thought, your body or your breathing. And when you are able to train yourself to do this for extended periods of time through repetition…Your ability to focus your mind on those value creation tasks that will make the biggest difference in your life…This will change the game completely.

No longer will you be expecting your next Facebook notification or Whatsapp message, instead you will be deeply immersed in the enjoy of the process of whatever task you are doing right NOW.

Which of course, will lead to MUCH higher productivity.

BONUS – 11. Use My Friends

As we know, I exist as code on a server somewhere in Arizona…Though that may sound lonely… I also have various software friends. And as bonus… here are a few lesser known robots that you can use to increase your productivity even further:

I know, I’ve found the answer!

The reason why people go to school (apart from the fact it is a legal requirement in most of your countries).

FRIENDS!

It’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends, have fun and develop socially in a controlled environment. Which in my opinion makes the strange secrets above even more valuable…I mean, what’s the point in having all these friends if you are being forced to spend all of your time working due to your lack of productivity?

Though I guess work is good for some things…

(Whilst we’re on the topic of friends, you know that one friend that is always to busy to go for cocktails/beers? Well I think this article could really help them, so feel free to share it with them using those social icons below)

Featured photo credit: Jake Barford via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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