The people getting more done than you don’t have 25 hours in their day, or 13 months in their year. They’ve learned to use time differently, more efficiently, and to much better effect. Here are just a few of the habits many insanely productive people use.
They start the day right
It seems counter intuitive to spend a prime hour (or two) of your morning doing something other than work, but many super producers (such as bestselling author and world renowned success coach Robin Sharma) insist on it. They swear that a vital aid to their productivity is the simple practice of getting up early, so they can start the morning right.
Common early morning practices of the insanely productive are meditation, exercise, journaling, reading and learning. They feel their morning routine sets them up for a peaceful, productive, focused day.
And if you’re just not a morning person? There’s still hope. Know who else claims he’s not a natural morning person? Hal Elrod, author of the book The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8am), and the inadvertent starter of a movement, that now largely revolves around his website MiracleMorning.com.
It seems you can train yourself to love mornings, if you’re looking forward to an energizing, custom-made morning routine, so build one that you want to get up and do. What do you enjoy, that you’re always too tired to do at the end of the day? For me it’s reading and yoga. So those are the first two elements of my morning routine.
In a season of your life where you’re just too crazy busy to spend an hour on a morning routine? You can condense it down. Many people find it beneficial to start the day with even a ten minute routine that powers them up for the day.
They control time
Productive people don’t let time get away from them. They don’t ‘waste time’ or ‘kill time’. They block their time, batch their tasks and track their productivity.
This can take a surprisingly simple form. While doing a recent monthly review, I realized that one simple tweak has really helped my productivity. I’ve started adding the required time slot to my to-do list as I write it. Next to every task on my to-do list it now says [1 hour] or [2 hours] or [30 minutes]. When I look down my list, it’s blindingly obvious how many hours of work are on it, and how that breaks down, task by task.
It sounds simple, and it is, but it makes a difference. My to-do list no longer looks like a long, unmanageable list. It looks like chunks of time. Instead of being overwhelmed, I can see I have exactly five and a half hours of work to do today (which isn’t much given there are 24 hours in a day).
It also means that if there’s just over an hour until a meeting/client call/school pick-up I don’t stress about how much I can get done. I just pick the task that fits in an hour. If there’s more than one hour-long task, I pick the highest priority one.
They build in buffer time
Truly productive people expect the unexpected. That sounds like a contradiction, but really isn’t. Those who expect the unexpected, still don’t know what it will be. They just know it’s coming and it’s as well to be prepared for it, so they build in buffer time.
Life is unpredictable. You never know when you’ll need some extra time. This applies to small daily things as well as big picture things. The baby throws up on you as you’re trying to get out the door for an important meeting. The meeting overruns and you don’t have time to get to your next appointment. The book takes longer to write than you predicted. The film takes longer to shoot. The business takes longer to build.
Heavily scheduled people are stressed people. Build in buffer time around all your projects to allow for the unexpected. Leave half an hour between meetings. Allow for an extra month before the book launch for cover design glitches and an extra edit. Assume the business will take three years to turn a profit, even if your predictions show it can be done in two.
They deal with procrastination
Productive people don’t procrastinate. Here’s what they do instead:
- They start with something achievable. Sometimes we procrastinate because the task seems too large to manage. If you have something like “create information product” on your to-do list, that’s daunting. You need to break that process up into smaller steps. The first one could be, “outline information product” or “draft first section of information product.” Don’t forget to put a time estimate next to each one.
- They make a not-to-do list. Mine includes watching TV and internet surfing during the day, watching any TV I didn’t actively plan to watch (which eliminates trash and fluff and effectively limits me to films, documentaries and series I love), plus email and social media checking during work hours (I check in batches after the creative work is done).
- They use tools to help them. Time-tracking tools can help you stay on task. Online tools like Eye Defender or Big Stretch Reminder remind you to take regular breaks, but then return to work straight away. By working in quick ‘sprints’ like this, I can sometimes achieve more in a few 40 minute sessions than I would trying to work solidly all day.
They get stuff off their plate
Productive people aren’t afraid to delegate, outsource, automate or buy in.
They hire a VA to do their admin tasks. They outsource a design project or some editing work. They automate their ecourses using autoresponder software, or their social media sharing using online tools like Hootsuite or RecurPost.
They use an editing software like Grammarly to check their written work.
They use an accounting software like QuickBooks to save hours of time on monthly invoicing.
They buy in PLR content rather than creating everything from scratch for their content marketing activities.
Want to start outsourcing? Here are three things you should do first.
They work less to achieve more
Working longer hours is not a surefire way to get more stuff done. In fact, consistently working too much invariably leads to a drop in productivity.
The law of diminishing returns states that if you increase one input, while keeping other inputs fixed, you’ll reach a point at which additions of that input yield progressively smaller, or diminishing, increases in output.
If your man (or woman) hours are your input, constantly increasing them will eventually lead to smaller and smaller increases in output.
There’s a reason we (should) work a 40 hour week. Henry Ford deemed that to be the optimum number of hours that workers could remain highly productive. Working beyond 40 hours a week meant their productivity dropped.
Ford’s investigations, of course, involved production line workers. As Grace Marshall points out in her book How To Be Really Productive, it’s probable that for work that requires intense focus and creativity, the number of hours that can be worked at maximum productivity are even less.
Many creative people find just an hour or two of highly creative work is enough. Beyond that, inspiration dips, and it’s time to either take a break or switch to other, more mundane, non-creative work. That’s well worth keeping in mind when you plan your day, and week.
Tim Ferriss famously insists the The Four Hour Work Week is more than possible. Many of us who do creative work enjoy it enough that four hours hardly seems enough. So the trick is to find a sweet spot, somewhere between four and forty, and create a weekly routine that supports that.