We all have our own advantages, disadvantages and struggles.
Some people (women) can handle more than others (men), but ultimately everyone’s circumstances are unique to them.
The only constant that we all battle together is time.
Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and the 16 year old kid taking your order at the drive-thru window each have the same 24 hours in their day to do what they have to do.
A lot of people talk about “managing your time” as if time is something you can control.
Well, it isn’t. You can’t control it and no matter how hard you work or don’t work, the seconds tick by the same for you and for me.
If you want to make the most of the time you have when you’re awake, here’s the simple answer.
Don’t focus on managing your time. You can’t.
Instead, focus on what you can control. Your energy.
This is what we’re going to dive into in this guide.
Often times, the best way to approach any project or goal is not to dive right in.
Taking some time to take a few steps back gives you much more clarity into what’s already done, what you need to do and what the obvious challenges are.
Most people don’t take the time to think about why they do what they do.
If you want to improve your ability to focus and get more done, taking time to work on your mindset is a no-brainer (no pun intended).
Here are a few ideas that might help you:
Think less, Do more: Ever had to turn the car around because you forgot your license en route to the airport? When there’s a lot going on, it’s hard to keep track of every single detail.
It may sound a little weird, but what if you had a checklist for preparing for your flights?
This is actually a very common practice in business because it allows the business to be consistent even as they grow.
Your brain is like a computer.
While it does some very complex and incredible tasks, it also has its limitations.
Most non-professional computers have roughly 250GB these days. That’s enough to store 50 movies. If you’ve ever done this, you know that the more storage you use, the slower the processing speed.
There’s a limit to how much information your brain can store and process at any given time.
An important fundamental of becoming more productive is the ability to have less on your mind so you can think faster and process things quicker.
Checklists are the easiest ways to reduce mind clutter. Here’s how to do this:
Use a free tool like Trello to create a Process board with individual “cards” like this.
Then, you can create your checklists inside each card like this.
Throughout your day, think of a few things you do more than 3 times a week and create a checklist for it.
If you really want to get more done in your day, you need to stop wasting precious brain power on unimportant things.
MUST-do list: Want a sure-fire way to encourage procrastination and get completely disorganized? Use a to-do list.
The concept of a to-do list is great.
Keep all of your tasks organized so you know what you need to do. The problem is prioritization.
When you look at a typical to-do list, there’s a fair chance you’ll see a never-ending list of chaos.
There’s very little, if not any sense of priority to the tasks.
In fact, did you know that the word “priorities” is a relatively new word? Prior to the 20th century, the word “priorities” didn’t exist. Probably because the word “priorities” is as useless as the word “maybe”.
Instead of a to-do list, how about a must-do list?
When you start each day, focus on 1 or 2 tasks that you must do that day.
Remember Trello? It’s also great to keep track of your projects. Here’s how a project can be structured.
The green, orange and blue cards are placeholders for me to keep my tasks prioritized. I try to be as specific as I can with each card so I don’t have to think about what I need to do when I look at this list.
Yes, there is a “to-do” part of this list, but having the “must-do” part at the top will dramatically help you get more done because you’ll think less about what’s most important. It’ll literally be right there.
Block & Tackle: Now that you have your tasks prioritized and organized, let’s cover blocking chunks of time in your calendar for your important tasks. This can help prevent you from getting distracted by everything that gets thrown at you everyday.
People usually only use their calendar for things like important meetings, special events or doctor appointments. I’m proposing you start using it for everything. Here’s an example of what a typical Thursday might look like for me.
Do you see the “Must-do”, “Follow up” and “To-do” tasks in the calendar that we covered in the previous section?
Obviously, this is just an illustrative example. I didn’t specify exactly WHAT I would be working on, which is something I would strongly suggest you do.
If your job requires you to do a specific task during a specific time, block out the entire time range that you’ll be on the clock.
Once your calendar is stacked with things you NEED to be doing, you’ll already be 100 steps ahead of everybody else who tries to “wing it”.
Meditate (seriously): The practice of meditation has been around forever, but only recently have people begun to scientifically prove the benefits of it.
No, it’s not some woo-woo BS. Meditation is one of the few ways you can theoretically allow your brain to pick up a dumbbell and knock out a set of curls.
Before we dive into the science, let me set the record straight and say that meditation is NOT just sitting there humming with your legs crossed and arms resting on your knees while you make O’s with your thumb and index finger.
If you follow sports, here are a few recognizable names who have shared they meditate regularly.
The entire Seattle Seahawks team
Through meditation, you literally rewire your brain. A concept known as “neuroplasticity”.
Here’s how it works.
- You generally focus on something specific like a doorknob or a plant across the room.
- Breathing patterns are used to help maintain the level of focus.
- Often, you’ll start to realize quickly how easily your mind wanders even when you set out to focus on something simple.
There have also been studies showing that meditation can even reduce the genes that cause inflammatory responses and improve the genes that promote DNA stability.
Despite the numerous health benefits that come with meditation, the single most important thing I’ve personally gained is the ability to catch myself 10X faster when I lose my focus.
One of the best ways for an athlete to become a better athlete is to spend more time on the field. Meditation has helped me become a better husband, father and entrepreneur because I can hold my focus and attention longer on the most important things.
Take Breaks: US businesses lose roughly $500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion dollars) a year due to lost productivity.
You can do all of the things we covered above and still not get into a peak state of productive work because of this one thing.
There’s a time and a place to “power through” certain things especially if you have a deadline.
However, this is actually more counter-productive than you might think.
Here’s what happens when you don’t take breaks throughout the day.
You get tired or bored. These are the main ingredients for lost productivity.
Need some ideas on what to do during your breaks?
Take a nap
Go for a walk
Get a coffee
Talk to coworkers
Don’t think this will fly with your boss?
Share this graphic with them to illustrate why taking regular breaks is recommended.
What you’re looking at above is a graph showing favorable judge parole sentencing decisions based on time of the day. The circles on the graphs show rest or food breaks.
It certainly isn’t mere coincidence because this study was done across 8 different judges ruling over the same prison.
Who’s to say whether the judge was just in a better mood after the break or they had more clarity to make better decisions. Point is, something was different immediately following their breaks.
Getting a good night’s rest is the cornerstone of performing at your best and no, I’m not just saying you need to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night.
I’d actually challenge that by saying you need just enough “quality sleep” to wake up and not feel like you want to stay in bed.
We actually hired a neuroscientist and a productivity coach to pool together their research on getting quality sleep and created a guide to getting better sleep.
Download it for free now.
We actually cover this in full detail in our nutrition guide to get sharper.
Exercise has a direct impact on productivity.
Not only have there been tons of studies about this, science has proven it.
Research has shown that your strength peaks in the evening. Unfortunately, strength has nothing to do with your productivity...zip, zilch, nada.
Productivity boost comes from increasing your mood and energy.
Look, suggesting you add a workout into your schedule is a big ask especially if you aren’t working out regularly right now. There’s good news though.
Exercise aimed at boosting your mood and energy follows this rule. Less is MORE.
HIIT to the rescue. That’s “High Intensity Interval Training” for short if you didn’t know.
We’ve found that shorter, intense workouts are way more effective at boosting your productivity than a 60 minute steady-state strength workout.
Let’s talk a little about getting into flow state or “getting in the zone” or “runner’s high” as it’s more commonly referred to as.
This flow state is when you’re doing something challenging, but you’re knocking it out without really stopping to think about what you’re doing.
You’re pretty much triggering your ability to focus on demand.
If you can figure out how to replicate this flow state in your work, you’ll become a force that nobody can stop.
Here’s how to do it.
There are 2 situations where you might want to get into your flow state. The first is when you need to use your right brain for creative thinking, writing, brainstorming or other high level things that require a lot of qualitative brain power.
Think of a manual task that is repetitive like lifting weights, running, splitting wood or something you can literally do in your sleep. Basically, something you never have to think about doing.
Our 3 favorite workouts to get into a right brain flow state are:
Chest / Triceps - http://www.intervaltimer.com/timers/8080768-chest-triceps
Back / Biceps - http://www.intervaltimer.com/timers/8080773-back-biceps
The other situation is when you need to use your left brain for getting shit done like math, answering emails or other tasks you just need to get done that require a lot of quantitative brain power.
Do a 20 minute workout where you push yourself hard enough to work up a good sweat, but not to the point where you’re on the floor gasping for air.
Our 3 favorite workouts to get into a left brain flow state are:
Battle Ropes - http://www.intervaltimer.com/timers/7650598
Seconds Pro is an app that you can download and create workouts that’ll condense a standard 60 minute workout down to 18 minutes.
Think about the breaks you take during your workouts and how long you typically spend pacing around or checking out yourself in the mirror.
Want our favorite workout timers? Get them here.