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The Only 2 Tricks You Need for Maximum Productivity

The Only 2 Tricks You Need for Maximum Productivity

    For the past 10 years I’ve been a student of productivity. In high school I managed to make the honor roll while running a small business. In college I became a master of acing tests without actually learning the material (the trick is to figure out what the professor will ask and then memorize the necessary information). When I started my second business in the heart of the recession I knew that I had to be a productivity ninja if I wanted a fighting chance.

    I tried everything. I experimented with virtually every legal stimulant, used computer programs to prevent distractions, tried to check my email only once a day, followed GTD to a T… the list goes on.

    Through it all, I learned that there are only two tricks you need to achieve maximum productivity.

    But first it’s important to understand that if you’re not feeling great you’re not going to be able to hit maximum productivity. Take good care of yourself. It’s the foundation for everything.

    With that in mind, here are the only two tricks you’ll ever need to reach maximum productivity:

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    Plot your day

    Most of us go to work and start working. Our time is spent either reacting to work as it comes in (emails, calls, assignments from the boss, etc) or working on things that are due soon.

    Working this way is very haphazard. It forces your focus to flicker, and it doesn’t guarantee that you’re dedicating time to the really important things, especially the important stuff that isn’t due soon.

    Instead of diving right in, the first thing I do when I get to my desk is I open up a word document, look at my to-dos and emails, and then figure out how to fit everything in.  I literally write out my schedule for the day. My schedule for today looks like this:

    10:00 – 10:10: Plotting the day

    10:10 – 11:10: Blogging (edit and post Necessary Suffering, write LifeHack article on productivity)

    11:10 – 12:10: Work on new white paper

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    12:10 – 12:30: Email

    12:30 – 1:00: Grocery (spinach, garbanzos, canned tomato, onion)

    1:00 – 1:45: Lunch with Will from Ingenuity Prep

    1:45 – 2:00 Prep for call about guest lecture at Georgetown

    2:00 – 3:45 Call with Jay about guest lecture

    3:45 – 4:00 Prep for call about upcoming speech at BSU

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    3:00 – 4:00 Call with team at BSU

    4:00 – 5:00 CRM

    5:00 – 6:00 Email

    Writing a schedule for the day keeps you focused and productive, and it ensures that all the important things are getting your attention. Spend ten minutes in the morning plotting your day and then stick to it.

    Carve out time each week to reflect and calibrate.

    If you really want to be productive throughout the day, one of the most important things to understand is how your daily work fits into the bigger picture of your work and life.

    Most of us are so busy that we don’t bother reflecting. That’s a mistake. Nothing is more important than reflecting on your work and your life – how else would you know that you’re on the right track?

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    Find a few hours each week to reflect. I use Fridays from 3-5. No real work gets done at this time anyways.

    The questions I ask myself:

    • What went well this week? How can I carry that into next week?
    • What went poorly this week? How can I prevent that next week?
    • Did this week fit into my bigger vision? If not, how can I change that next week?
    • What are the 3-5 most critical things for me to be working on next week?

    All that is left for you to do is make sure you are improving a little bit each week and that your work ties into your bigger vision. An easy way to do this is to schedule time each day for the tasks that you have predetermined to be the most important.

    We all want to achieve maximum productivity and efficiency. Doing so requires blending our day-to-day with the big picture and using our time thoughtfully. Starting your day by plotting how you’ll use your time, and spending an hour or two each week calibrating and reflecting, will enable you to hit maximum productivity.

    (Photo credit: Stitched panoramas via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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