Quick, Powerful Tips to Having Super-Productive Days and Getting Tons Done!
For people that work online, mostly.
The night before
Stop using electronic devices at least two hours before bed
If you absolutely cannot avoid using them, install the Flux app across all your computers and devices (try the Twilight app for Android devices) so that you don’t disrupt your natural sleeping patterns.
These apps slowly shift the red balance in the light that your screens emit as the day comes to an end. Too much blue light before bed can disrupt quality sleep.
Make a list of tomorrow’s main goals before you sleep
This is a really powerful exercise that gives your brain some closure on what to expect in the morning. It can remove stress and anxiety around what you need to do the next day, leading to better sleep.
My list might look something like this:
- 9am–11am—Emails and reading
- 11am–1pm—Client A: Project x
- 1pm–3pm—Client B: Project x
- 3pm–5pm—Family time
- 5pm–6pm—Client C: Project x
- 7pm–8:30pm—Family time
- 8:30pm–10pm—My stuff: project x
- 10pm–11pm—Reading time
- 11pm—Preparation for next day & sleep
I don’t know what yours should look like; it’s different for everyone because everyone’s different.
Generally speaking you need to pick a routine that feels comfortable (i.e. isn’t extreme) and to keep optimizing it. If things get boring just change it up.
Repetition is the mother of success so remember that once you settle on something, try to make it a habit by doing it consistently. You might want to use your favorite calendar app to set reminders and have small notecards at your desk where you write your schedule on the night before.
Bonus tip: use the Strict Workflow app to keep you from procrastinating and to cycle your work–rest balance properly. Studies have shown that we only focus properly for 25 minutes at a time before we need a break.
Make sure you sleep before midnight
You’ve probably heard that the body needs a certain number of hours (approximately 8) to get proper rest. So if we’re going to wake up early the next morning (my next point), we’re going to need to turn the light off earlier. Want to wake up at 7am? Sleep at 11pm.
Make this a priority and force it through if you have to—I promise that you’ll feel a lot better the next day.
On the day
Wake up before most other people—preferably when it’s still dark
Maybe you’re not a morning person, which is fine. Although I’ve been both and I can honestly say that there’s something truly magical about waking up and getting into an immediate mental state (as Tony Robbins might say), when everyone else is asleep, and just getting shit done.
Do not use any electronic devices until you’ve showered, changed and made a cup of coffee or tea
Get your affairs in order before you start work. If you work at home, don’t be a slob—it’s important not to slip into the habit of wearing your pajamas and a tee all day. Our brains are kicked into gear when we clean up, dress up and get serious. So get serious, bub.
Find your inspiration and feed off of it when times get rough
We all have different triggers that engage us and give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or push through the tough task in front of us. Most of the time, these triggers are people who are living the lives we dream of.
For bodybuilders, it might be watching videos of Phil Heath. For astrophysicists, it might be Carl Sagan. For me, it’s Gary Vaynerchuk and Casey Neistat, among others.
Limit the “during the day” inspiration to static materials like videos, so that unlike a two-sided instant message conversation or article, they don’t draw you in too deeply. Keep it easy to turn on and off.
Watch, read and consume as needed. Whenever you’re feeling the burn, you know you’ll have these people and their materials to go to for a pickup.
Get fresh air periodically
Whether you live in Alaska, California, Great Britain, Zimbabwe or China (perhaps not all of China) you probably have an outside door somewhere near you. If you don’t, I don’t want to know what you do for a living.
Get out frequently and breathe deeply. Deep breathing has been proven to reduce stress dramatically—if you do this before you get up on stage to speak you’ll see what I mean!
When you’re working on a task, completely remove all distractions
Even though life gets noisier by the day, you don’t have to let it stop you from getting things done.
- Turn off notifications — Check.
- Close all non-essential apps — Check.
- Close all non-essential tabs — Check.
- Put phone on priority mode — Check.
- Turn off email — Check.
- Turn off apps — Check.
Not only is it distracting to have so many notifications and activity going on around you, but it’s also a source of incredible stress and anxiety that can dramatically reduce focus and wellbeing.
If you want to do your best work, keep your mind in the zone.
Check things off as you go
Like I mentioned earlier, you will do well to create a breakdown of your tasks on small notecards. Throughout the day, as you complete your tasks, check off or strikeout your items. This builds up momentum, confidence and satisfaction that you’re getting your work done. It’s all too easy to forget how much we accomplish if we don’t stop to notice it.
When it’s break time, stop immediately and walk away from the screen
Just do something else. If you spend your break watching YouTube, using Facebook or just doing stuff on your computer then I guarantee that you’re not going to recharge and your focus will gradually wain until you’re sick and tired at the end of the day, regardless of how many breaks you’ve taken at the computer. You need to interrupt the pattern to keep your mind fresh.
If you feel tired, have a 15–30 minute nap
At the end of the working day, establish how valuable your day was
I learned the following from a top business coach in the productivity and mindset field.
When you finish your day, check back over the various tasks you’ve done, and write down next to each of them how much revenue they were responsible for driving.
Note: I assume that if you’re reading this, your main objective is revenue generation and that everything you do is geared toward making money. If that’s not the case, feel free to replace “revenue” with whatever thing it is you’re working toward, e.g. happiness, freedom, significance etc.
It might look like this:
- 1 hour — Setting up the webserver for Client A… $100
- 1 hour—Writing out my business plan for Project X… $10,000
Here’s how it works:
In the first bullet above, the hour I spent setting up a webserver for Client A equates to $100 value to me. At a $100 / hour rate, I will earn $100 for this task. Simple.
In the second bullet above, by simply writing out a business idea that I believe is worth millions of dollars, potentially, I can probably say that the activity was worth $10,000 to me.
Relatively, the second task is a lot more lucrative in the long-term because the value attached to that activity is so much greater.
However, we all need to put food on the table and each day we’re going to need to juggle a variety of tasks that carry different values with them—which is why we want to do this ratings system. If you end up with an increasing amount of smaller value items in your list, then you know you’re probably not heading toward your overall objectives of growing your business exponentially.
I think you get the gist.
So that’s a good place to start with regards to having more productive days. I may update this in the near future but I believe that if you implement the tips above in a consistent manner, you’ll be able to get a lot more done and feel a lot more fulfilled. Have fun!