The Art of True Productivity Isn’t Working More, It’s Working Less at Higher Intensity.

The three pillars of world-class productivity

Photo: Radu Florin/Unsplash

Don’t work longer, work less. You’ll accomplish way more and make way more money.

You’ll never get ahead if you keep following conventional wisdom. A hundred years ago, the way to get ahead was to work longer hours, typically in a factory. Hopefully, your boss would notice and promote you to manager. The best workers were the ones that worked the longest.

But the world’s value system has changed dramatically since then. Now, working longer means nothing if you can’t produce great results.

It’s different now. The best skills in the 21st century aren’t about working hard or being a good employee, they’re about being indispensable. And the best ways to become indispensable? Deep work, world-class focus, and knowing how to do a few things really, really well.

As Cal Newport wrote in Deep Work:

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

It’s not about how many hours you work, it’s about how well you can focus on important tasks. The ones who succeed will thrive.

Years ago, I was working in a cushy desk job, getting paid more than all my friends did. But I had a secret: every day, I’d finish all my work around 11:00am.

That’s all the time I needed. But I didn’t want to get fired, so I spent the rest of my days pretending to work, appearing busy it’d look like I was working hard.

Stupid, right?

Finally, I quit and started my own business. And I was surprised to see that I was accomplishing five, even ten times the amount of work in the same amount of time working for myself than I was at the office.


When I was working for myself, every hour I spent working, I actually accomplished something. There was no busywork, no pretending to work to “look good” or beef up my resumé. It was deep work, meaning I could finish a week’s work in just a few hours. Then, I’d fully detach from work, resting so I could do it again the next day.

It only took me a couple months at this pace to make more money than I’d ever made. It only took me a couple years at this pace create a six-figure business where I work half as much as the average employee behind a desk.

As Derek Sivers once wrote, “The standard pace is for chumps.”

The art of true, world-class productivity isn’t about working longer — it’s about working shorter with higher intensity so you can accomplish 10x as much in the same amount of time.

The More Time You Spend On Your Power Activities, The Faster You’ll Achieve Your True Goals.

Words like “success” and “dreams” and “goals” are thrown around a lot these days.

What these words really refer to is is achieving a life where you’re happy and content. That’s what you really want.

The problem most people have is 90% of what they do doesn’t directly help them achieve this life. Instead of working on the few things that actually move them forward — their Power Activities — they waste hours every day on essentially meaningless busywork like email, social media, and trying to look good in front of others.

When I first started seriously writing, I quickly realized what my three Power Activities were:

  1. Write Great Content
  2. Create Great Products
  3. Sell Those Products

As long as I focused on those three activities, I’d make progress towards what really mattered: quitting my day job and working for myself. More importantly, that meant having the freedom to travel the world with my wife, our biggest dream.

I started realizing some blunt truths:

  • No amount of social media would help me achieve that goal.
  • No amount of watching TV or scrolling through social media would help me achieve that goal.
  • No amount of helping other people with their busywork would help me achieve that goal.

My life became very simple: I wrote, I created stuff, then sold it.

I became successful really fast.

If you want to achieve your ideal lifestyle, you need to spend as much time as possible on your Power Activities. Everything else can wait.

Not everyone has lots of free time during the day to work like this. I certainly didn’t. I had an exhausting full-time job, a commute, and lots of other obligations. If you have a full-time job, children, a disability…all these can sidetrack you and keep you from working on your Power Activities.

That’s OK. Do what you can. Every hour you spend on your Power Activities is an hour that directly moves you closer to your goal. That’s what really matters, and where your biggest growth will come from.

Pretend Your Time is Worth $1,000/Hour and You’ll Become 100x More Productive

How you value your time is how you value your life.

“Pretend your time is worth $1,000/hr. Would you spend five of them doing extra work for free? Would you waste one on being angry?” — Niklas Göke

You have very few hours here on on this earth.

Still, many people waste much of their time on pointless, low-quality activities that don’t help them reach their true goals — their mission.

The truth is, most people value their time at far, far less than it’s worth.

They say yes to things they have no business doing. They give away their talents, attention, and effort to others who take, take, take.

They spend hours watching low-quality television and social media when they should be productive and effective.

See, many people could be making a fortune (if they used their time well)…but instead, they give away their time in unproductive ways that leave them broke, unhappy, and stuck.

But what if you placed a high value on your time?

How would that change you? Your life? Your family? Your future?

Imagine that an hour of your time is worth $1,000.

What would your life look like?

What people would you stop putting up with?

What problems would you stop wasting time on?

What things would you stop — and start — doing?

Your results would be incredible. You’d become exponentially more productive, focused, and effective.

“Most people have no clue what they are doing with their time but still complain that they don’t have enough.” — Grant Cardone, NYT best-selling author

Busyness is the Enemy. The Focused Life is the Good Life.

“The most successful people I know aren’t busy, they’re focused.” — Jeff Goins

How would you describe your day-to-day work?

Are you busy, or focused?

If you’re busy, it’s usually a sign that you’ve said yes to too many things — probably unimportant things, when it’s all said and done.

When you’re focused, your life is very simple. When your day-to-day is characterized by consistently entering flow states, then detaching into deep relaxation, your life becomes very simple — and very productive.

The key to achieving your goals isn’t to spread your energy across five big projects at once, it’s about focusing all your energy into one thing at a time. As the old proverb goes, “Success isn’t one step in 20 directions, it’s 20 steps in one direction.”

Busyness is the enemy, and keeps you from achieving your goals quickly.

The focused life is the good life. It allows you to move faster than most people, all while giving yourself the treat of living in a structured, organized schedule full of deep rest and plenty of breaks.

When I used to work in corporate America, being “busy” was a badge of honor. It meant you were important, sought-after, and that people needed you.

Now that I’ve left corporate America forever, I can see “busyness” for what it really is: being unable to say no, even insecurity and feeling that others don’t need you.

If you find yourself “busy” a lot, it’s time to stop and reflect: what really matters? What is the best use of my time today? Am I spending time on my Power Activities?

Don’t waste time being busy; spend your time being as focused as possible.

In Conclusion

Most people don’t achieve something big every week.

In fact, most people don’t achieve anything big for months at a time.

That’s the price of busyness and a lack of focus: a lack of achievement. If you’re always busy with one thing or another, you never get the pleasure of finishing a big project that you’ve dedicated all your best work towards. You just move from one thing to the next, over and over.

That isn’t a good life.

The focused life is best. Being ultra-productive when you work allows you to achieve your biggest goals very quickly, giving you plenty of rest and relaxation on your off-time.

Don’t work more. Work less, with higher intensity.

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