Frustrating isn’t it?
You work extremely hard every day, but the rate of things added to your to-do list is faster than what you get done.
It feels like you’re never going to get ahead no matter what.
You thought everything was going to be done by the end of the day but you still have a few more “to-dos” to take care off. It’s 12 a.m. and you’re dead tired, so you add them to tomorrow’s to-do list and you head to bed.
Deep inside, you envy those millionaires and billionaires who get their work done and also spend plenty of time with their families—something you only dream of.
You think that they just happen to have some sort of super powers that you lack and there’s no way to solve it—so you’re doomed for life!
Actually, it has nothing to do with super powers OR natural talent. It’s the secret methods that they use that makes them different. And you can learn to become just as productive as them—and more.
1. Throw away your to-do list.
It happens to you, doesn’t it?
You have more stuff on that list than the hours in the day. And to feel better about yourself, you do the easiest tasks and leave the hard long tasks for later. The only problem is, in the evening you’re tired so you procrastinate on the big tasks. All because you wanted to look at a shortlist. In fact, that’s just one of the reasons you shouldn’t be working from your to-do list in the first place.
Productivity experts including the world’s billionaires don’t use to-do lists, they use calendars to schedule their tasks. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.
“I’m not big on to-do lists. Instead, I use e-mail and desktop folders and my online calendar.”
To-do lists have many problems. Some of them are:
- It’s tempting to write a long list of tasks that you won’t be able to find time for.
- It doesn’t account for time, so you misjudge the amount of time it takes to finish your list and therefore keep adding more throughout the day.
- You procrastinate on what you hate and do the tasks you enjoy, burning your energy on low-priority tasks in exchange for high-priority tasks and that’s holding your business backwards.
On the other hand, calendars are:
- Time-conscious, so you know exactly how long each task should take therefore avoid cramping in too many tasks in a day. It’ll force you to eliminate the unimportant stuff.
- Easier to manage since your day will be written down in front of you.
- Most importantly, motivate you to do the work in time and within the time frame; otherwise, the whole day is ruined.
So that’s the number 1 secret that you need to apply if you want to see any change in your life.
Now the question is, how do you use a calendar and what calendar should you use?
There are two types of calendars out there:
So which one’s better?
It’s an easy guess. The electronic one tends to be better because:
- You can automatically put your daily tasks on repeat and save time having to write them every day.
- You can carry it with you at all times (in your smartphone or any other device).
- You save paper and the environment.
The best electronic calendar to use is Google Calendar.
Now for the real question: how to use a calendar?
- Well for starters, there’s an excellent tutorial for Google Calendar on Youtube.
- Once you’ve watched it, you should now understand how it works. So open up Google Calendar.
- Now move the tasks from your to-do list and put them as events on the calendar. Make sure you assign enough time for each task. The default is 1 hour, so make sure to reduce it for tasks that require less time.
- You’re all set. Make sure to refresh the Google Calendar app if you made the edits from a computer.
2. Don’t work on urgent tasks first.
A lot of people think urgent means a high priority. Although sometimes true, that’s not always the case.
So what is urgent? Urgent is people’s way of telling you to get their stuff done first. It can also come from people who worry and have low-tolerance levels or bad judgment with priorities.
Ok, so what exactly is a high priority task?
There’s an excellent matrix by MindTools that shows the four kinds of tasks you will encounter. The effort on the X-axis and Impact on the Y-axis.
Listed in order from high to low:
- Major Projects are what you should focus on first thing in the morning while you’re on maximum energy. They require the most effort and they give the highest rewards, they include whatever hard work that leads to your startup’s success or puts money in your pocket.
- Quick Wins are tasks that have high impact but require less effort and that’s why they’re called quick wins. You can do these after you’ve completed the major projects.
- Fill-Ins are low-value tasks that don’t need much effort. You do these to fill in your free time or you outsource them.
- Thankless Tasks are those tasks that don’t matter much to the success of your company but require a lot of effort to do. They are thankless because the efforts you put in get you little to no reward, these must be outsourced when possible.
Remember these when you’re creating your schedule on the calendar.
Contrary to the “don’t check email or social media except once a day” advice that’s been going around, experts such as Kevin Kruse (who interviewed 9 billionaires,13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs) say that the most effective method to manage email is by implementing “The 321Zero System”.
Here is how The 321Zero System works:
Schedule 3, 21-minute sessions on your calendar to process them (morning, noon, night).
Empty your inbox in that time frame.
Although his advice doesn’t include social media, it can be included with today’s smartphone addict people who prefer sending WhatsApp messages rather than emails.
So instead of assigning 21 minutes for email, you can assign 30 minutes for both email and social media (15 minutes for each). That way, you get to spread your replies to messages and notifications throughout the day instead of once a day, which isn’t practical in this day and age.
If you want to take email management to the next level you can read Kevin Kruse’s full article on how millionaires manage their email.
4. Have a super focus.
A study conducted by Professor Gloria Mark found that after a distraction it takes an average of 23 minutes to completely regain your focus!
So what does that mean?
Well, let’s say your spouse comes through the door and interrupts you for just “two seconds” which usually takes a minute or two—maybe five.
What seemed to your spouse like a two-minute interruption turned out costing you 25 minutes of focus time!
And that is why you don’t let ANYTHING disturb you at all costs.
So how do you gain super focus until everything else fades into the background?
Simply by making a few adjustments:
- Work in a silent room.
- Clear your desk and only leave what you need at reach.
- Put your phone on silent (not vibrate) or flight mode then place it flat on its face so you don’t see the screen light up or even better, put it in another room.
- Hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your door and lock it. Let everyone know that you want to be left alone.
- Turn your desk towards a boring plain wall. The last thing you need is the mesmerizing view through the window or colourful wallpaper.
- Work in periods of 25 to 90 minutes and have a 10–30-minute break between each session.
- Stay well hydrated. Keep a bottle of water next to you.
If you want to take your focus training to the next level then I recommend you read Laser-Sharp Focus. A No-Fluff Guide to Improved Concentration, Maximised Productivity and Fast-Track to Success by Joanna Jast.
5. Let someone else do it.
This may sound counter-intuitive; isn’t this supposed to be about you getting work done?
Well yeah, but you can’t do everything on your own. You’ve got the same 24 hours as everyone else and you’re obviously not an expert at everything.
Things like accounting or logo design can take up a lot of time. These kinds of tasks should just be outsourced if they take up too much of your time and you can find someone cheap to do them.
I’ve seen so many authors waste half of their time on designing their books when they could have given the job to someone on fiverr for a measly $10.
So instead of wasting your time on things like book designs that can take hours to do, outsource them. Focus on tasks that create the most value and the ones you’re good at, like writing.
6. Don’t plan the night before.
Many entrepreneurs give the advice that you should plan your day the night before. You’ve probably seen it all over the Internet.
But after a long day of making decisions your mental ability to make more decisions decreases. According to research done in a courtroom, judges were more likely to give a favourable ruling in the morning compared to later on in the day.
The reason behind this is because your willpower is like a muscle, and it gets tired after making decisions. For that reason, making planning decisions at night isn’t a good idea.
Planning is vital for optimal performance. Without a plan, you’re likely to procrastinate rather than execute your plan.
A solid plan is a time and energy-consuming. That’s why you should plan for the whole week rather than spend time each night or morning planning your day.
A good time to create your schedule would be the day before your work week (Sunday morning if your work week starts on Monday).
You may have to make some minor tweaks before you go to bed and that’s totally fine, as long as it isn’t a major planning decision.
While planning your week follow this guideline: The morning is for high-priority tasks, as we mentioned previously.
7. Do average work.
Are you a perfectionist? If you’re not, then good for you. If you are, then you’ve got yourself a serious problem. Because of you, nothing is ever finished.
You focus on every single detail and try to make your work “perfect.” But I can assure you that nothing ever is perfect.
Humans cannot create perfect.
Even the Rolce Royce phantom, a masterpiece, isn’t perfect. It is an excellent product, but not perfect. It can still break, yet it is very durable.
But as a young startup, your products don’t need to be anything near that. Your aim is to launch a minimal viable product that just does the job and then keeps improving it based on feedback—you know, the lean startup way.
As long as the thing you’re doing works, then it is complete! End of Story.