“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
As we approach the halfway point of the year, many people shy away from any purposeful action, instead choosing to worry about ‘next year’. But, with the right plan, you would be astounded with how much progress you can make, even in 6 months.
Here are 11 productivity tips you can use right now to start getting the most out of your hours each day.
Most people wake up and complain about their alarm, the traffic on the way to work, their boss, the news, their commute home from work, then when their partner asks how their day was, they complain about it.
Total day's output = 0.
Instead, wake up and be grateful for the opportunity to share your unique gifts with the world. Think about your intent, your purpose. Ignore the sensationalized daily news schedules, stop stalking people on Instagram, and switch complaints for gratitude.
When you live with intent, it will be much easier for you to say ‘no’ to the distractions that derail your day.
Dale Carnegie once wrote: “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” A plan allows us to create a structure around it so we can allocate the necessary resources to get it done as efficiently and effectively as possible, while keeping us more resilient from distraction and procrastination.
Each day, write down three things you’re going to achieve no matter what. Perhaps it’s to complete a gym session, finish the first draft of a blog post, call a family member, or do a meal prep for the week. The important thing is creating the list so your brain can nag at you until it’s done.
(Note: I’m a huge fan of meal prep because it ensures you have nourishing food that can be quickly accessed, rather than interrupting your day to continually shop, cook and clean.)
Most people want to start the day with the feeling of achievement, and for most that is responding to emails. The problem with emails is they’re like boomerangs—always coming back. Instead, do your life’s work first (i.e. the actions that are going to inch you closer to your 90-day goals), before turning to someone else’s agenda for your day. You’ll find you can do the rest on autopilot.
If you have to set your alarm an hour earlier in the morning to get it done, do it. If you want some morning inspo, follow Jocko Willink on Instagram.
It’s not starting things that makes us successful, it’s finishing things. Only begin tasks that you are going to finish and give your best effort. Whether it’s a recorded but unreleased podcast, a stagnant YouTube channel, or training for a marathon that never occurs, begin with the end in mind always.
There’s nothing worse than having a whole heap of half-assed and incomplete tasks that have occupied your attention for months, or even years, where the only reason you haven’t gained traction is because you haven’t been consistent. Most people think starting things is the hard part, but it’s not. The hard part is continuing at the first sign of adversity. Be conscious of that and have an accountability plan to blast through it.
I first heard about the Pomodoro Technique when I interviewed John Lee Dumas for Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. It requires you to have a large timer sitting on your desk and then segmenting your work time into focused intervals (typically 25 minutes), separated by short breaks (typically five minutes). Every time you complete a ‘pomodoro’, or work interval, mark your progress on a piece of paper with a tick.
After four pomodoros, i.e. 100 minutes of work time, take a 15-20 minute break.
Knowing that your output is capped to 25 minutes unlocks hyper productivity as you race against the clock—otherwise you’ll have nothing to show for your pomodoro—and keeps you focused knowing that a break is never too far away.
Doing what makes us happy gives us an extra tank of rocket fuel to commit to our work. It’s far easier for your brain to switch off if your boss is giving you the same boring data entry task for the 500th time or if you don’t even believe in the product you’re selling.
Apple founder Steve Jobs once said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.”
If you’re not sure what areas make you happy, connect with like-minded people, attend events, and add value to others unconditionally. This will give you exposure to more areas, and eventually you’ll find the areas that excite you where you can concentrate your attention.
Whether you're working in home or an office, make a list of the 5-10 things that interrupt you during the day. This could be anything from the phone ringing and social media, to getting bothered by work colleagues and even your own thoughts.
Break that list into four categories—people, technology, self, and other—and take actions accordingly:
We have access to history’s most brilliant minds right now. Why not spend 20 minutes a day tapping into their expertise?
If you don’t enjoy reading, turn your attention to podcasts or audiobooks. Importantly, when you’re reading (or listening to) these books, keep a notepad so you can brainstorm ideas along the way that will help you achieve your goals. After all, action is the real measure of intelligence.
Acclaimed inventor Thomas Edison once said: “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.”
Our bodies and minds are capable of extraordinary things while we sleep, and that rest time is essential for recovery, growth, and general well-being. Thinking about what we want before we go to bed also plants a seed of imagination that can allow our mind to focus on it for the next 7-8 hours.
Never underestimate the power of the subconscious. After all, every great endeavor, innovation, or achievement was once a simple thought impulse.
Checking in on your actions—the people you spent too much or not enough time with, the books you read or didn’t read, the fitness session that did or didn’t get done, or the progress you made or didn’t make towards your goals—enables you to adjust your schedule and routine to ensure the next week is better. With this plan of constant reflection and calibration, long-term success is assured.
And just remember, often, removing a negative influence in your life can be just as powerful as gaining a positive one, so pay extra special attention to who you spend your time with and what stimulus you allow your mind to feed on.
The number one productivity technique, which I never hear anybody talk about, is being inspired. When you’re inspired, it doesn’t matter how many hours of sleep you’ve had the night before, how much money is in your pocket, or where you’re working from. You wake up and get after it.
The best way to make that happen is to download my Success Plan Template, write out your 'Perfect Destination' in all areas of your life, and then backtrack it to the work you need to do today that will eventually make it a reality.
Once you’ve done that, you can release yourself from worry about the future because you already know how the story ends—after all, you wrote the story! That will inspire you to take the simple and consistent action that will get you where you need to be.
Try those 11 tips to become a master of productivity.
Everyone tries to act like their super busy, but remember—it’s not how busy you are, but how productive you are, that makes all the difference. Output is everything.
Onwards and upwards always,
In case you missed it:
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Story
“You can’t have courage without fear.”
There are two sets of circumstance in life: what we can control and what we cannot control. Regardless of how we feel, we are where we are right now because of our decisions to this point.
When we reach a crossroads in our life—or find ourselves in a moment of discomfort, unhappiness or even tragedy—we ask ourselves, “How did I get here?” But a more constructive course of action is to:
An interesting paradigm shift occurs when we draw a line in the sand and take personal responsibility for our circumstances. First, we let go of the pain that’s been holding us back, allowing us to move forward unencumbered. Second, we realize that we have far more power over our own circumstances than we had ever imagined. Finally, it empowers us to make better decisions—on the condition that we have prepared a clear definition of success.
In 1836, during the Battle of the Alamo, Colonel William Travis received a letter from his foe, Mexican General (and also the country’s sitting President) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, demanding instant surrender. The general and his 1,500-strong battalion had the Alamo and its 150 Texan soldiers completely surrounded.
Twenty-six-year old Travis gathered the Alamo defenders together and explained that their demise was not only probable but imminent, leading to two simple choices: either die courageously defending the Alamo or willingly surrender to the enemy. Travis pulled out his sword, drew a literal line in the sand, and asked for volunteers to cross the line and join him—against unsurmountable odds—to continue to defend their position
With their course of action agreed, Travis responded to the surrender letter with cannon fire. As the siege continued, he wrote a letter addressed to the people of Texas and across America:
Fellow citizens and compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken.
I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.
The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country.
VICTORY or DEATH.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.
Travis died in the ensuing battle, but his message inspired the region. When Travis’ letter was received, reinforcements arrived and defeated Santa Anna, paving the way for the Republic of Texas to be admitted as the 28th member of the United States.
Today, Travis’ letter of defiance is regarded as a “masterpiece of American patriotism”. The simple act of drawing a line in the sand gives us a conscious acknowledgement that the past is irreversible and reminds us that all we have control over are our thoughts and the decisions we make from this point onwards. Today’s decisions are tomorrow’s realities.
Your future isn’t written; it’s never too late. If you’re sick of accepting whatever fate hands you, take purposeful action—even if you’re afraid to take the first step. After all, you can’t have courage without fear, as the earlier Jocko Willink quote reminds us.
Victory or death. The choice is yours.
Onwards and upwards always,