Jack Dorsey is known as one of the most productive entrepreneur in tech.
He runs two companies at the same time - Square and Twitter.
Mind blown - But how does he do it?
It turns out that he has mastered the art of productivity.
A common question we ask ourselves “How can I get MORE done in LESS time?”
This is especially relevant in your business journey where you have to handle a myriad of commitments.
- Your day job (if your business isn’t financially viable yet).
- Your business or side projects (ventures you are aiming to grow into a full business).
- Wellbeing - Spending resources to get your spirituality, nutrition and exercise sorted
- Relationships - Friends, family, kids and wider community
As you can see, productivity is important to help us achieve more work so we can lead a more fulfilling life.
Next, let’s break productivity into three components:
Source: A Life Of Productivity
1. Time: Are you allocating sufficient time for a designated task?
2. Energy: Do you have sufficient energy to complete those tasks?
3, Attention: Are you focusing on the right tasks that actually move the needle forward?
Let’s start with the obvious - Time.
It’s fair game - Everyone has 24 hours within a day.
While you can’t negotiate for more time (other than living longer I suppose?), here is how you can make the most out of it).
1. BATCH TASKS INTO CHUNKS
Back to Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and Square.
One of the key practices behind his productivity success boils down to “day theming” (http://www.fastcompany.com/3037208/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/productivity-hack-of-the-week-give-your-day-a-theme-to-reg).
As what the name suggests, he allocates a specific theme to each day. Here’s how its down in real life:
Source: Haiku Deck
Apart from splitting it by the day, you can apply this concept into big tasks and small task too.
Let’s start with chunking small tasks:
Through the day, it is inevitable that you will get bombarded with small tasks. This includes checking email and social media “obligations” such as replying to tweets.
Sounds familiar? ;)
Adding to this are small petty tasks on your to-do lists, such making a dental appointment. The result is minute tasks constantly pulling you away from key tasks.
A solution to this?
Rather than getting reactive when a new task comes in, you chunk all small tasks together and allocate a fixed time slot to handle it.
Next, let’s cover more complex tasks.
For instance, writing this blog post.
The full process comprises of multiple steps such as researching stories and statistics; packaging the research and writing original copy; editing, formatting, publishing and promoting the content.
It takes 6-10 hours and seems daunting to most people. But when you break it down, it becomes much more manageable.
In my case:
1. Research on case studies and statistics
2. Write content around the research done
3. Publish it after editing and formatting
Ah, doesn’t it seem more do-able?
This allow me to save time from switching from one task to the next. For instance, jumping between researching on the internet and formatting the article.
2. ADOPT THE FIXED-SCHEDULED MINDSET
“Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.”
According to best selling author Cal Newport, he attributes his productivity success to the “Fixed-Scheduled” technique.
How can this apply to you?
Let’s say your main goal for this year is writing a book. To achieve this, you decide to dedicate 2 hours a day to write in the early morning.
This 2 hour block now holds a sacred place in your calendar. Hence very rarely do you allow the schedule to be change.
This discipline results in ensuring that trivial but seeming urgent tasks do not interfere with important work.
3. GIVE YOURSELF AGGRESSIVE DEADLINES
Let’s face it, we are all prone to procrastinating.
One of the biggest rationalisations we give ourselves is that we have plenty of time available.
The best counter? Install deadlines into your workflow.
Tim Ferriss, a productivity expert, shares about Parkinson’s Law I.e. Work expands to fill the time available.
Hence if you allocate 8 hours to complete 2 hours worth of work, chance are that you will complete the task in 8 hours.
One technique to help put this to practice is called the Pomodoro Technique.
It comprises of alternative time frames of work and relaxation. 25 minutes
of focused brain activity followed by a 5 minutes break before resuming another 25 minutes cycle of brain activity, repeated over and over.
Here’s a video to explain it in-depth: https://youtu.be/CT70iCaG0Gs
If you like a timer to practise Pomodoro, I highly recommend “The Marinara Timer”.
Another component of productivity is Energy.
Unlike Time, we tend to be less aware of our energy levels. Yet if you think about it, it makes sense.
Upon returning home after work, we might feel tired. Hence even if we have a few hours available in the evening, we might not get any work done during to the lack of energy.
So how can we manage energy better?
1. GETTING SUFFICIENT REST
There is a lot of great resources available about sleeping already available on the internet.
Hence I will bring your attention to the latest few instead.
Being in the digital age, we tend to be hooked onto our technological device 24/7. The blue light emitted from these devices decreases melatonin production and disrupt sleep.
I have found a computer app called F.lux. It’s the blue light from your device, turning the display reddish.
Seems weird at first but you will get used to it.
This helps you fall asleep faster and attain a better quality of sleep.
You can access it here.
2. TACKLE HARD WORK AT THE START
Brian Tracy has an expression called “Eat The Frog”. But don’t take it too literally (poor frogs!).
What he means is that you should tackle the most difficult of tasks first thing in the morning. Having done what might seem intimidating, it gives you the momentum to tackle the rest of the day.
Why does it work?
According toKelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, your willpower is a finite resource. Hence as the day progress, your willpower starts to wane and you are more likely to procrastinate on the important but daunting tasks.
Here is how you can go about it:
1. Choose your frog: It is usually the task that you have the greatest resistance towards.
2. Write on a piece of paper so it becomes formalised
3. Do the work. Starting working on that task until you complete it. Only then are you allowed to work on your other tasks.
3. GETTING THE RIGHT NUTRITION
“Adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent on average.” ~ WHO
When making food decisions, do be mindful whether you are consuming complex or refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbs such as energy drinks and cakes might give you the energy spike, but it also results in an energy crash during the later part of the day.
That’s bad for productivity.
Instead, do aim for complex carbs. They pack in more nutrients than simple carbs, because they are higher in fiber and digest more slowly. This also makes them more filling, which means they’re a good option for weight control.
The result is that you are able to avoid sugar crash and maintain a constant energy level throughout the day.
One of the most subtle components of productivity is attention.
We strive to get MORE work done, but are we actually getting the RIGHT type of work done?
1. EISENHOWER BOX
Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.
Source: James Clear
Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
Too often, we use productivity, time management, and optimization as an excuse to avoid the really difficult question: “Do I actually need to be doing this?”
On the flipside, Eisenhower Box provides a balanced perspective toward a fulfilling life. For instance, the incorporating of “important but non urgent” tasks into your day.
In politics, for example, U.S. President Barack Obama has dinner with his family when he’s in the White House and works out for an hour every morning. “His logic was always, ‘The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time,'”
There is plenty of benefits to meditation.
It has been scientifically proven to increase focus, reduce stress and anxiety and boost creativity.
Source: Collective Education
Isn’t that what we want as entrepreneurs?
Here are the clinical studies that prove it:
Meditation calms you down, which helps you focus better. Research has shown that EEG activity actually decreases during meditation.
Studies have shown that people who meditate more are able to focus more, and with less sleep.
Want to get started? Do check out this meditation guide.
3. Go On Flight Mode
Yes, that’s right.
If you are feeling unproductive, take a flight to somewhere.
By cutting off wifi, you are suddenly free from all communications such as email and social media.
This will allow you mind to settle in a distraction free environment. Coupled with the feeling of urgency due to the time constraint of the flight, and you have a recipe for kick-ass productivity.
Or if you can’t afford to buy a plane ticket, simple turn your phone to flight mode.
Here is what Ryan Holiday, bestselling author says about the airplane technique.
“Email received is a function of email sent. Take yourself off the grid for a second—stop the bleeding—and then go through your inbox offline. You’ll be amazing at how quickly you start banging them out, how many emails you’d saved for later you are now fine with deleting, how easy it is to get back to Inbox zero.”
To Wrap It All Up…
There are plenty of productivity techniques out there.
Rather than getting overwhelmed, the best method is to test a strategy and see if it works for you as an individual.
Here is some great advice from Ramit Sethi.
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