It’s a new year and I’m doing a self-proclaimed productivity week.
If you missed yesterday’s article on how to be your most productive self in 2019, you can find it here.
Go on. I’ll wait.
In it, we talked about the five things you can do to manage your days and simply be more productive.
Today, we’re going to talk about the “14 things ridiculously successful people do every day.”
I’m big on productivity tips and I also like to hold myself up against “ridiculously successful people” to see where I stand.
So that article was a good place to start my 2019 (even though it’s a couple of years old) to see how I’m doing.
14 Productivity Tips
The author, Travis Bradberry, begins his productivity tips article by talking about Kevin Kruse, the author of We and other best-selling books:
Kruse recently interviewed more than 200 ultra-successful people, including seven billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs.
One of his most revealing sources of information came from their answers to a simple open-ended question, “What is your number one secret to productivity?”
Kruse grouped all of their responses into 14 productivity tips.
He found they:
- Focus on minutes, not hours
- Focus on only one thing
- Don’t use to-do lists
- Beat procrastination with time travel
- Make it home for dinner
- Use a notebook
- Process emails only a few times a day
- Avoid meetings at all costs
- Say “no” to almost everything
- Follow the 80/20 rule
- Delegate almost everything
- Touch things only once
- Practice a consistent morning routine
- Focus on energy
There is a lot to be learned from this list, so let’s get started!
Focus on Minutes
During lunch with my friend Jeannie Walters, she told me about a podcast she’d listened to that suggested you have a list of things to do during the 10 or 15 or 20 minutes you have between meetings.
We all have those off minutes and we typically check email or jump on the social networks, completely wasting that time.
After all, how much can you really accomplish in 15 minutes?
It turns out…quite a bit!
Jeannie told me she started using those minutes to start a blog post or record some thoughts for her podcast or return a phone call.
She was almost gleeful when describing how much she’d accomplished by changing that one little habit.
So I thought I’d try it, too.
It works. Try it. You’ll be far more satisfied with your progress at the end of each day.
(Of course, ignore what I said yesterday about how I did not do that on Monday—my first day back at work. No one is perfect.)
Focus on One Thing
We’ve actually talked quite a bit about this on this very blog.
On next week’s Agency Leadership podcast, Chip and I discuss this very thing.
Call it Deep Work or Getting Things Done, but whatever you call it, challenge yourself to work in blocks of timey.
When you focus on only one thing at a time, you are able to accomplish a lot more.
At the end of each day, write down the one big thing you have to get done the next day.
If it’s a large project, break it down into smaller chunks.
Then spend the first two or three hours of your day focused only on that one thing.
Don’t Use To-Do Lists
Remember how I said I like to read articles to hold myself up against “ridiculously successful people”?
Well, I failed at this one.
I love my to-do lists and Wunderlist is my hero.
But this heading is a bit misleading.
You still need to-do lists so you can stay organized and not miss anything.
What is suggested, in addition to your to-do list, is scheduling what needs to be done.
If you take the first two productivity tips already discussed, you would block 8:30-11:30 to do one project—and that would actually go into your calendar.
Let’s say you have a phone call from 11:30-12:00 and it ends at 11:50.
Pencil in what you can do in those 10 minutes.
Then block your next deep work session from 12:00-2:00 and so on.
The point is to put in your calendar what you are going to do, not just block the time to do it.
I laughed out loud at this productivity tip in the Bradberry article:
Your future self can’t be trusted. That’s because we are time inconsistent. We buy veggies today because we think we’ll eat healthy salads all week; then we throw out green rotting mush in the future.
Uh…I mean, I don’t know what he means. I’ve never done that. Have you?
I’m also really bad about thinking, “Oh, I don’t have any meetings on Thursday. I’ll do this gigantic project that will take 26 hours then.”
And then, because it’s so overwhelming and I don’t have 26 hours on Thursday, I procrastinate.
Stop doing that!
(I’m saying that as much to myself as to you.)
Make it Home for Dinner
The nice thing about this for me is there is no dinner in my house if I don’t make it home.
While some might consider that an added pressure, I use it as an excuse to stop what I’m doing and be present.
I also don’t have childcare after 5:30 so I have to be finished by then.
Plus, my commute is significantly less that most people’s.
My commute from desk to kitchen is four seconds.
(Yes, I did time it).
Figure out ways to make it home for dinner, put your phones/tablets away, be present, and enjoy your families.
You can always do more work later.
Use a Notebook
We’ve had this debate on this very blog—do you prefer pen and paper or technology?
It turns out ultra-productive people carry a notebook.
Before we both had kids, Andy Crestodina and I (along with a handful of other friends) used to have a monthly dinner out.
My favorite thing to do, after a drink or two, was to pull out our notebooks and compare notes.
We both have blog post ideas, quotes that inspire us, things we’d like to accomplish, and other notes in our notebooks.
He used to go through his blog post ideas and say:
Oh, this one makes more sense for you to write. Do you want it?
Of course I do!
We also used to figure out what we could both write about and then have a contest to see who could get on the first page of Google results first.
Ahhhh…I miss those days.
The point is that ideas are all around us.
Carry a notebook so you can capture them in the moment.
Process Emails a Few Times a Day
We moved over to G Suite a couple of year ago and, with it, I stopped the habit of keeping Apple Mail open all day.
Sure, I can still get my emails in there, but I prefer to go to the web browser to get my mail.
Because…it’s no longer open on my computer.
When I used the app, I would set it to “take all accounts offline” and keep it off for a few hours.
Now, I just close the web-based browser and it’s out of sight, out of mind.
It forces me to check emails only a few times a day.
I typically do it after I’ve finished writing for the day (around 7 a.m.), around lunchtime, and again at the end of the day (around 4:30).
I’ll also check it around bedtime, just to be certain nothing has blown up.
While email is a huge distraction, we have most of our communication through Slack these days.
I have Slack on my laptop (not on my desktop) and I keep the lid closed when I’m doing focused work.
That way, the notifications aren’t pinging me constantly and I’m not tempted to respond.
Of course, you can’t totally avoid meetings.
Lots of conversations have to happen in person (or, in our case, on video chat).
But limit the number of meetings you attend.
For me, I front-end all of my meetings to the beginning of the week so I have the latter part of the week to get work done.
These meetings include client updates, one-to-ones with my direct reports, media interviews, and podcast recordings.
If someone wants to pick my brain or show me a demo or use my time in a way that does not drive revenue, I either find a way to do those over email or they fall into a Monday late afternoon slot.
In some cases, that means the person has to wait a few weeks to meet with me.
I’m terrible at saying no to people (which is also on this list), but this schedule allows me to control it a bit better.
Warren Buffet once said:
The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.
And that, my friends, is the reason I have failed at least three of these productivity tips.
I cannot tell someone no.
If you’re bad at this, too, let’s make a pact to be much better about it in the last three months of the year.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
Do you know which activities you do that drive 80 percent of your results?
I’m willing to bet it’s a small part of what’s on your task list—or what has made it to the blocked off time on your calendar.
If you don’t track your time, commit to doing so for one week.
At the end of the week, go through and circle the things that produced the most results.
This could be lead generation, sales, new business development, or inbound marketing.
Whatever it is, take the following week to focus only on those things—and delegate everything else.
Which leads me to…
Delegate Almost Everything
Not all of us have teams. Not all of us are in positions to be able to delegate.
Perhaps you’re at the very start of your career. That means you are the person who is delegated to.
That’s OK! You’ll get your turn.
For the rest of us, figure out where you can delegate.
We love, love, love Virtual Staff Finder.
For $300/month, you can have a part-time marketer, customer service rep, or virtual assistant.
And, for $600/month, you can have someone full-time.
Pretty much every, single business on earth can afford that—from multi-billion dollar organizations to solopreneurs.
Read Virtual Freedom, do the work he suggests in the book, and then delegate, delegate, delegate.
If you take only one thing from this list of productivity tips, it’s this one.
Hiring someone like this is scary at first, but I am willing to put serious money on the fact that you will be mad at yourself for not doing it earlier.
Touch Things Only Once
This is a productivity tip nearly every expert provides—touch things only once.
If you’re in the responding to email mode and you receive something that will take 15 minutes or less, do it right then.
If it’ll take longer than an hour, add it to your blocked time.
And if you can delegate it, do it right then.
Nothing should sit on your desk or in your inbox, once it’s been opened.
Practice a Consistent Morning Routine
It doesn’t matter if you get up at 5 a.m. or 9 a.m. (though I’m envious if you can sleep that late), the point is to be consistent.
Most ridiculously successful people don’t skip breakfast, they exercise, and they do something for their brains, such as writing, journaling, or meditation.
I’ve often talked about my morning routine, which includes all of those things, and begins at 5 a.m.
As I write this exact sentence, it’s 5:27 a.m.
As much as I would love to sleep in some days, I find my body and my brain are totally screwed up if I do.
So 5 a.m. it is!
Focus on Energy
I’m the type of person who needs eight hours of sleep, and I protect that sleep as though I’m a newborn.
I also schedule in exercise (and I have a coach to hold me accountable) and I know when it’s time to sharpen the saw, as my mom would say.
Ridiculously successful people:
View food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and breaks as opportunities to recharge to get even more done.
I also have no idea why anyone would skip a meal, especially breakfast.
It’s the most delicious meal of the day!
If you change your mindset to fuel your body, recover your brain, and recharge to accomplish more, do you think you’ll skimp on those things?
I’ll bet not!
Yourself Compared to These Productivity Tips
When you compare yourself to this list of productivity tips, how did you do?
Don’t worry—I failed in many of them, but that’s good!
Now I know where I need to focus for my own growth—and you do, too.
And now the floor is yours. Which of these productivity tips do you find the most helpful? What are you going to do differently in 2019?