If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m OBSESSED with productivity.
Friends have made fun of me by saying I systemize my bathroom breaks and send my mom Google calendar invitations when I want to talk to her.
I’m not on that level (yet).
I realized a long time ago that there are only 24 hours in a day. I don’t want to wait until I’m old to enjoy life.
Productivity is all about squeezing more juice out of what you do have.
I’ve shared some of the basic strategies over the years like Pomodoros, calendaring, and blocking distractions.
I want to share my LATEST hacks with you – straight from the 2018 labs.
These are the hacks that I’ve started to implement recently, and they’ve paid off in big ways.
I’m limiting the list to just three – any more than that that can be overwhelming.
Start using them as soon as possible to reap big rewards.
1. Solve all the “Bugs” in Your Life with an Issues List
Imagine that you’re building a piece of software.
A big problem with software is finding and fixing all the “bugs.” Bugs are errors or issues that stop the program from working as intended.
If the program keeps crashing, that’s a bug. You need to fix it before customers start complaining.
A few months ago, I started to think of my life as a software full of bugs.
Think about it. You design your life to look a certain way, but things rarely go as planned.
I’m SUPPOSED to get a peaceful night’s sleep. What actually happens is that fire truck sirens will randomly go off during the night, waking me up.
That’s a problem. It’s a “bug” in the software code of my life.
You can either fix the issue live with it and let it affect you. (I solved the issue by sleeping with a sound machine that drowns out noises at night.)
I’m sure you have a to-do list or an ideas list.
My problem with these lists is that sometimes you end up doing a lot of busy work.
Do these tasks matter? Are they solving problems?
It’s human nature to work on things that are fun or easy for us.
Here’s an example:
- Do you want to upgrade your company’s website? Awesome. Everyone loves a prettier site.
- But what problem does it solve? Are people complaining? Is the website an issue?
- What’s the real problem? The real problem is your company’s not getting enough sales.
- Is an upgraded website the one thing that’ll move the needle? Probably not.
Don’t waste resources fixing what isn’t broken.
Start by listing out all the issues you have.
Create separate lists for personal and for work.
Here are some quick examples:
- The smoke alarm keeps beeping
- The bedroom air conditioner isn’t cold enough
- The pantry closet is disorganized
- Your roommate is late on rent
- Google keeps flagging our domain names
- Our refund rate on the product is high at 10%
- The landing page translations aren’t accurate
- Facebook’s CPC keeps rising.
Now you have a list of issues. But they’re not all created equal.
1. You need to prioritize your list of issues according to importance.
Think of each issue as a fire. You should be putting out the BIGGER fires first.
Yea the pet hair on the floor is annoying. But your roommate not paying rent is a bigger problem.
2. Next, you need to set time aside on a weekly basis to think about ways to solve the issues.
Some of them will be easy.
The smoke alarm keeps beeping? Talk to building maintenance.
Pet hair on the floor? Buy a Roomba that you turn on every time you leave the house.
What about an issue like a high refund rate on a product?
That could be quality control or it could be that you’re overpromising on the landing page. The bigger issues require you and your team to brainstorm. After brainstorming you turn it into a project.
Identify the issues first, and then create a to-do list that’s designed to solve those issues.
Think about all the “annoyances” and problems with your life. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they’d all disappear?
Sorry, but there’s no genie.
You need to step up and exterminate the bugs in your life.
This is an interesting way to look at life.
I’ve applied it to how I spend my money.
I’ve been on Marie Kondo kick lately and am trying to cut down on the number of items I own.
I’m getting more and more into yoga, and I have a great mat I bought $20 from Amazon.
But I was reading some reviews and now I’m lusting after a $130 professional yoga mat by Manduka Pro.
I want it.
And I was about to order one but then I asked myself, “What issue does this solve?”
If one day I’m trying to do handstands and I can’t because of my $20 yoga mat sucks, I’ll invest in the mat.
Until then, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
2. Are You Keeping Track of Your PERSONAL Score?
Everyone likes to think the best of themselves.
It’s not our fault if we screwed up…
(…it’s someone else’s.)
I read a long time ago that one of the most important traits for success is self-awareness. How can you improve if you’re not honest with yourself?
That’s why I love data. The numbers don’t lie.
Ask anyone how much time they spend on Facebook and they’ll say “not that much.” No one wants to be “that guy” that spends all day on Facebook.
But the truth is the average person spends almost an hour a day on Facebook.
Have you ever met a skinny guy that’s struggling to gain weight?
That was me at 18.
I claimed that I was “eating a ton”. But once I started tracking my calories, I realized that I wasn’t eating enough. When I actually saw the numbers, I was able to make positive change happen.
People want to save money, but no one wants to budget.
I think deep down we’re afraid of the truth. But understanding the truth is the first step towards improvement.
Companies measure data through a concept called Key Performance Indicators aka KPI’s.
Measuring “profit” and “revenue” aren’t enough because they are the results. You also need to measure the activities that lead to the result. (This is called “leading indicators” versus “lagging indicators”.)
I know how impactful KPI’s are in business.
At the beginning of this year, I started implementing something called the “Weekly Scorecard” into my personal life.
It’s a system that keeps me accountable on a weekly basis. To reach your goals, you need to think about the weekly activities you can do to move you forward.
For example, one of my goals is to win local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions. What activity can I perform consistently that will lead to achieving that goal?
I’ve created a simple system: I go to classes 4 times a week and I improve my flexibility daily through the site RomWod.com.
Too many people focus on setting goals, but goals in and of itself don’t do anything. You need a system.
Movies and sports focus so much on the “highlight” or the “climax.” Everyone wants to hit the game-winning basketball shot.
But what lead to the winning basketball shot? The routine. Thousands and thousands of hours shooting baskets in the gym, and away from the cameras. You can’t have the glory without putting in the work.
So what I’m proposing is a system for tracking to see if you’re putting in the work.
Here’s a template with some made up numbers. You can create your own using Google Sheets or Excel. Red represents when I didn’t meet my goal and green represents when I did meet it.
- Measurables – These are the activities that you’re keeping track of.
- Standards – Think of this as the goal. If you can hit this number each week then you’re making progress.
What can you conclude from this chart?
There’s a lot of red in the meditation section. If I think about it, it’s because I’m not as strict about my morning routine on the weekends. What can I change to achieve my goal?
If I master this chart then I’ll save more money, become better at BJJ, become more flexible, and I’ll be more focused.
Measure your data and adjust your actions.
Some other tips:
- I like to color code – Green means I hit my goal. Red means I didn’t. Color coding it helps me zoom out and look at the trends.
- Keep it simple – Start by tracking one or two metrics. You can add more in over time.
- Start off with low standards – If you’ve never gone to the gym before, then it’s unrealistic to expect to go seven days a week. You want a pace that’s sustainable.
You’re pumped up! You decide to go to the gym 5 times a week. Then you get injured or burned out.
You only went to the gym 20 times before you quit forever.
You want a sustainable pace. You decide to go to the gym two times a week. After one year, you went to the gym 104 times.
Most of us feel like we need to go hard like Situation A to make progress. What matters is your results after a year.
- Adjust on a quarterly basis – Every 3 months I’ll adjust my goals. If I have been consistent with my meditation goal, then maybe I’ve reached the point where I don’t need to track it anymore. Maybe I can set a goal to study Spanish every day with DuoLingo. Or if I’ve made improvements in my body, I can increase the number of BJJ classes I attend each week.
3. Turn Your Phone Off 7 pm – 12 pm
I think I’ve shared this tip before, but I’ll share it again because it’s so awesome.
Every night at 7 pm I turn off my phone. I don’t turn my phone back on until lunchtime the next day.
That’s 17 hours a day that I don’t use my phone. I’m also not using my phone at all during my most productive hours.
There’s something I call the “Unproductive Vortex.” It’s where you’re bored and you check your phone.
Someone sends you a text and you’re texting back and forth. You make your social media rounds and check FB and Instagram. This turns into you watching a few minutes of YouTube.
Next thing you know an hour’s gone. Remember that your phone/apps/social media are ENGINEERED to be addictive.
“But what if someone dies?”
“What if there’s an emergency and XXX happens”
That’s FOMO speaking. Everything will be fine.
Productivity is the Growth in the Long Run
People have told me how they would never be interested in extreme productivity. Having everything on their calendar would feel “limiting.”
You wouldn’t believe how horrible my productivity levels were in college.
I’d party Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It was normal for me to run on four hours of sleep a night.
Study ahead of time? Nah, I’m just going to drink Redbull and cram the night before.
But what kind of life was I living?
I was constantly stressed, had TERRIBLE grades, had credit card debt, and was worried I wouldn’t find a job after I graduated.
A life of productivity has paid off with HUGE dividends.
It means that I have the freedom to pursue my hobbies. I can watch Netflix or play video games without feeling guilty.
In the future, I can pick my future kids up from school without worry.
Invest in your productivity and it’ll pay off in the long term.
Featured Image by Syda Productions