Below is an excerpt from our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here.
“He who works all day, has no time to make money.” – John D. Rockefeller
This section may seem a little obsessive on the productivity concept, but please bear with me as I believe it’s critical to understand why and how others get things done and why others do not. This ability is absolutely fundamental to business and life.
By developing your Agency and Resourcefulness, you will be far ahead of the curve in productivity. However, there are many things you can do to also dramatically increase your effectiveness. Again, not every great founder does all of these, but they usually employ others that do.
In my opinion, Personal Productivity is made up of the following elements:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”
– Steve Jobs
“[Focus] is the one habit I find over and over again that is present in every single successful self-made millionaire I study.” – Lewis Schiff
You can’t have Agency without laser focus. From the example about getting $1,000 above: I need to save my loved ones life right now, so I’m totally focused on this one task. I am not going to check email or Facebook right now; I need to focus. Prioritizing is a related concept. A lot of entrepreneurs can be “busy” all day and get nothing important accomplished.
A study was done on wealthy entrepreneurs and focus was by far the #1 thing most of them credited to their success. Yes, you probably have 10 big things you want to do or build, but I guarantee if you try to do all of them you won’t get them all done and most will be done poorly.
Focus on one big thing (or at the most a very few big related things) and watch them get done. Steve Jobs was obsessive about this point—we’re doing the iPhone this year and nothing else new—so this focus principle even works with huge companies.
Some people are productivity experts at doing completely irrelevant or unimportant things. Their computer desktop or email folders will be completely organized, but they’re not working on anything close to their priority. Honestly, working on the priority can be messy sometimes, so an ultra-clean desktop or workspace is not always the indication of productivity (though less clutter helps clear the mind, in my opinion).
Prioritizing can be tricky (everything seems like a priority some days!), but a great question to ask yourself is: “What’s the one thing I need to be working on now to move my goal forward?” Many times, just realizing what’s a waste of time at this moment is helpful.
For example, here’s a list of things that are probably useless before you’ve reached Step 1 or 2 in this book:
Most importantly, perhaps, great founders also tend to focus on doing what they are good at and delegating the rest, especially stuff that drains their energy or work they despise. My life changed dramatically when I delegated the mundane and tedious to others (others who may actually like that work).
Prioritize your list of things that need to get done and work it from top to bottom. Take your priorities and pick the most important one. Delegate the rest or at least batch it with other undesirable tasks.
Finally, it’s hard to be focused with 15 apps sending you notifications or checking text and emails every 10 minutes. You know this is bad; stop doing it.
Sense of Urgency
“Every cent of my personal wealth and business’s success has infinitely more to do with speed than with perfection. I know how easy it is for worthwhile projects to die in the Doing, so I’m eager to get them Done in a first version, not exactly right, certain to warrant later improvement and get them launched, out the door, into the marketplace.” – Dan Kennedy
If there’s one thing in life that drives me bonkers, it is founders (and employees) who seem to have absolutely no sense of urgency. They move slow, act slow, and are always carefully over-thinking and over-planning. They seem to be of the mindset that they have all the time in the world to get things done and are happy to let the world wait on them to do it.
I’m here to tell you that not only do we not have nearly as much time as you think we do in life, we also don’t have forever to wait for you to act on your business. Let me put it this way: I’ve rarely seen a successful entrepreneur who moves slowly. Usually, people are astonished at how quickly entrepreneurs move.
Now, I’ve known plenty of successful investors, big company CEOs, artists, and more who happily and effectively move slowly and deliberately, but not a successful startup founder or employee. Business simply moves too fast these days, and it’s only getting faster. You need to light the fire.
A Deep Work Routine and Mindset
Once you know the priorities of execution, then a way to radically simplify your life is to make your productivity a daily routine. There’s a myth that great artists and other creative types need massive inspiration and have no schedule or routine. I’ve found nothing to be further from the truth. Most have dedicated times when they work and create.
This list may seem long, but in reality, most of it is about learning the basics then building a great routine that you really never have to think about once it becomes a habit. It becomes part of your subconscious. Having a routine is actually a key to having more freedom in life.
All told, I estimate there’s less than 1 hour difference in a day between an exceptionally productive person and your average person who doesn’t have a routine or skills and gets much less done: 5–10 minutes planning tomorrow, 5–10 minutes reviewing tasks/goals, 20–30 minutes exercising (to create energy and reduce stress), then arranging their day around proper Deep Work.
Productivity Tactics and Digital Fluency
These are massive time-saving tactics that will explode your productivity, especially if you’ve implemented the above-mentioned items. Adding digital tools to your productivity arsenal can also dramatically simplify your productivity.
A Sample Day
You can probably gather by the length and depth of this section on productivity that this is one of my personal strengths. I’ve been informally coaching people on productivity for a while, and one of the things that illustrates this best and others have found helpful is how a sample day works for me.
My Productivity Guidelines:
My Daily Routine:
As you can see, though I’ve adopted the many skills, habits, and tools in the lists above, the actual routine once you’ve internalized and learned them is simple and most days are usually never more than 5 or 6 working hours long (up to 4 of those being Deep Work, which I usually enjoy). I don’t even have an assistant. The best part is that I get more done now than when I was working 10 or more frazzled, interrupted hours per day before I adopted this workflow (the 80/20 Principle and Deep Work let me get much more done with less work).
Now, my productivity is basically on autopilot, I don’t really think about it and things get done, even exercise. Once you’ve learned your basic routine and internalized these principles, then begin ruthlessly simplifying your day until you only do what you’re best at and what you enjoy doing all day. It took me years to figure out this ideal workflow, so I highly recommend you do the same and watch your productivity soar.
This was an excerpt from our book Startups Made Simple: How to Start, Grow and Systemize Your Dream Business. Learn more about the book here or see our previous excerpts here.
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