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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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    How to Fight Information Overload

    How to Fight Information Overload

    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

    1. Set your goals.
    2. Decide whether you really need the information.
    3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    The Nature of the Problem

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

    Why information overload is bad

    It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

    1. Set your goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. What to do when facing new information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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    If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

    And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

    3. Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

    4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    In Closing

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

    (Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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