I have been ferociously refining my productivity hacks for the last 5 years. Every year, I actively seek to level-up my productivity. My journey of self-testing has evolved into these 13 principles.
What my week looks like
Here is my digital calendar. I have a rough colour code. Red means very time sensitive ie a scheduled meeting with others. Purple is for my fitness commitments. Aqua or bright blue is my digital sunset ie screens off. Regular blue is for tasks that need to get done, ideally on that day, but can be flexible if I am in a tight spot.
I am a slave to my calendar. If a tasks needs to get done, it needs to get into my calendar. Without my calendar, I regress into a do-nothing blob.
Productivity is a combination of
Getting things done
Getting the right things done
Getting things done
Let’s assume for now that you have determined the right things to get done. I will cover this point later on. It is easier to get things done than to determine whether it is the right thing to get done. So let’s start with the easier step.
Write it down. Add it to your calendar. Make a commitment and allocate your most precious resource: time. Writing it down equates to making a commitment to getting it done before the end of the day. If you book in a doctor’s appointment, you get it done. If you book in the gym, you get it done. If you book in time to write blog articles, you get it done. Normalise that writing it down is a commitment to completing the task. Don’t get trapped into the habit of having a calendar that you don’t follow.
Make it achievable Conduct weekly and daily reviews to confirm that the following week or day is achievable. It is easier to follow through on commitment if the task is achievable. On Sunday afternoons, I review my calendar for the week. If I need to, I move around tasks to ensure that my week’s tasks are achievable. You cannot manufacture more than 24 hours in a day. If you have too much to do, your only options are: postpone tasks, delegate tasks, delete tasks, sleep less, and/or cancel personal appointments or social commitments. Avoid putting yourself in the position of trying to achieve the impossible. Maintain and normalise a pattern of successfully completing scheduled tasks and keeping commitments.
Human limits - Studies show that high intensity focus and productivity is not sustainable beyond 60 hours a week. Know yourself and be realistic. I do not work more than 45 hours a week. I average on 35 hours a week. More on this point later.
Space & balance - Allocate space where you have no commitments. If there is no task allocated for now, give yourself permission to switch off, relax and do nothing or just chill. Building a business is a marathon not a sprint. Live a well-balanced life. Take care of yourself, your body, mental health, your relationships and your soul. Be a machine when you need to be. Allocate time to be human.
Human-memory-free system: Include everything: work tasks, gym, social events, professional networking events, personal appointments, etc in your digital calendar. Why depend on flawed human-memory when you can use a foolproof system. If you can get things done as you need to, independent of your memory, you can be super-human confident in your productivity.
End-of-day review: At the end of the day, I check what is on my schedule for the next day. I set phone alarms for time sensitive appointments. I need a reminder to get me up from my desk to leave for the meeting.
My ideal office. I have tried working in a home office, local libraries, coffee shops, and various co-working office spaces in Brisbane. I really love working at Fishburners, my co-working space where I rent a desk space. It has a lot of natural lighting, brightly coloured walls, real plants dot the space, there are a lot of nooks where you can take your laptop and work, and the community is supportive, super-talented and friendly. I can be found working in various spots around the office, at my desk, at the hot desks, in the kitchen, on the bean bag, or in one of the egg-chairs. But sometimes you can also catch me writing pen on paper at a local coffee shop. I love sitting on window bench facing the street and passersby. It helps me to write.
Zero inbox - Zero inbox is difficult to achieve, it means zero emails in your inbox. My inbox generally stores less than 5 emails at any one time and includes only emails that I need to respond to that day. I use ‘Boomerang for Gmail, an extension, to manage my zero inbox practice. If I decide that I want to respond to an email on another specific day, I ‘boomerang’ the email to temporarily store it in another folder until it is scheduled to return into my inbox to be addressed.
35-hour week: I generally start work between 8.30 and 9am, and finish at 4pm with a 45 minute lunch break. I might do 30 minutes after dinner to check up on emails. I try really hard to keep my work within Monday to Friday, however sometimes I fit in a couple of hours over the weekend to help me get ready for the following week. 5-7 hours of my week involves networking: after-work networking events, informal networking at Fishburners, catching up with people I know, and having a coffee catch up with other business owners. I also try to book in a couple of hours of content creation per week. If I have a 4pm finish, I find that I start to speed up to get things done just after 2pm because I know that I need to leave the office soon.
Getting the right things done
These questions are a little more difficult to answer. At the beginning it may just be you in your business and you just have to do everything. Which means if you cannot delegate tasks to an employee, your only other options are to delete it or to outsource it. As your business grows, your priorities start to change with less focus on operations and greater focus on strategy and business development.
Goals & RoI: My time is precious. I want the greatest impact with the time I have. We only have 168 hours a week. But, I generally work a maximum of 40 hours a week, averaging on 35 hours a week. In my weekly calendar review, I ask myself: Are my scheduled tasks valuable? Is there something more valuable that I can be spending my time on? Do my tasks support my strategic goals? Are my tasks the quickest path to my goals? Am I prioritising urgent tasks for important (but not urgent) tasks? I should not be working on tasks which can easily be delegated or better yet, deleted.
Mentor: I catch up with my mentor about once a month. It helps give me a fresh perspective to see the forest amongst the trees. It is valuable to have my assumptions challenged regularly.
Advisory Board: Everyone keeps telling me that I need an advisory board to help guide me. I have just create a list of people I am going to ask. Let’s see how that goes.
Professional and personal development: Keep learning. I attend workshops, seminars, talks, do online courses, read books, talk to experts, and listen to podcasts. Keep questioning what you are doing and how you are thinking. At Fishburners I get the opportunity to access mentoring sessions, expert talks and workshops, networking events, and be surrounded by a talented and supportive community. You can read more about what this means here: ….
I am still testing and evolving, but this is where I am today.
Have you been on a similar journey? I would love to hear about it. Contact me here.