Advertising
Advertising

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:

    Advertising

    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

    Advertising

    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

    Advertising

    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?

    Advertising

    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)

    More by this author

    3 Essential Actions for the New Entrepreneur The Only 2 Tricks You Need for Maximum Productivity How to Feel Like You’re Running on Rocket Fuel

    Trending in Productivity

    1 The Lifehack Show: The Importance of Leadership (No Matter Who You Are) with Michael Bianco-Splann 2 Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane) 3 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life 4 How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity 5 How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on February 11, 2020

    Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

    Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

    If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

    Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

    Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

    Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

    Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

    1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

    Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

    For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

    Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

    Advertising

    Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

    That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

    2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

    Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

    The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

    So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

    Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

    The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

    Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

    Advertising

    Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

    Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

    3. The PEW12 Method

    Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

    Here’s how it works:

    Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

    You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

    At the end, burn the pages.

    As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

    Advertising

    And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

    The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

    But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

    4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

    Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

    For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

    I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

    And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

    In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

    Advertising

    These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

    5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

    Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

    At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

    If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

    But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

    The Bottom Line

    For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

    Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

    You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

    More Work Life Balance Tips

    Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next