Productivity wasn’t something that came naturally to me. There was a time in my life where bad habits took precedence. I didn’t realise it, but I was spending a lot of time thinking I was achieving a lot but getting below-par results.
Social media is now an integral part of building your own business or brand. I spent a lot of time getting diverted while using these tools for work. I would find myself wandering and replying to emails as a reprieve from social media, which again, consumed my attention and only allowed me to procrastinate further.
Luckily, there were ways to improve my sluggish behaviour and mindset. The following five daily habits allowed me to multiply my productivity, revenue and relationship quality. This is a task—that like study—requires patience and practice but that nevertheless serves as a lifetime framework for success. Try these habits and I’m certain you’ll see your own productivity increase tenfold.
1. Prioritize time and end multi-tasking
I used to attempt to conquer at least 10 different things daily – in reality, I got close to some of these goals but only would accomplish one or two tasks on a good day. Like Tim Ferriss and many other productivity experts, my ability to complete tasks, generate revenue and focus on my relationships all increased exponentially when I paid attention to them individually. I now only have two super vital tasks that I write down at the beginning of my day for my business and personal life. I make sure that I complete both of these before attempting anything else.
These tasks are most often those that cause me angst or stress and that revolve around issues such as money, time constraints or confrontation. They are the most important and they also happen to have the heaviest mental burden—these tasks are the most taxing and can have a negative impact on cognition. If you focus on too many moving parts, the same process occurs with your thoughts, and as a result, your productivity suffers.
2. Eliminate technology and social media
Just like multi-tasking, technology provides us with a huge number of ways to interact with anyone and anything. Texting, email, and social media provides us with instant gratification and triggers a dopamine release which is similar to being hugged. This may feel rewarding, but it’s actually a distraction disguised. These gadgets slow our productivity and once again makes our attention the rate-limiting step.
My cell phone no longer has any notification banners for any applications that I have on my phone. The biggest deterrent when using my phone for business was the number of climbing notifications I used to see – no longer will my phone alert me to a snap chat from Damo, a tweet from Theena or a text that doesn’t need answering. If I’m needed urgently, people will call. Get rid of your notifications and watch your to-do list disappear.
3. Create time by batching
The biggest gains in productivity come from discipline. I set two time periods per day to answer all requests and inbox messages and stick to it. So many of us know we will never achieve what we need to if we are responsive and not proactive, but we continue to do it. Stop responding to messages that don’t need to be answered now.
Set thirty minutes aside at 10 AM and 4 PM to check email and only reply to urgent messages. The rest often can wait, and I have found that many people will find a resolution in the absence of a reply hence removing the cost of your time.
The same goes for meetings – avoid these at all costs. Get a memo or an email synopsis, very rarely will you achieve anything listening to each other that couldn’t be written down and handed to you later.
4. Meditation and exercise to boost engagement
Most of us know the benefits of regular exercise, but too often we ignore this. Each morning, I increase the ability to hone my attention by meditating and exercising, and I’m not the only one. Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins, and many others do this, to name a few.
I wake and avoid any technology interactions for the first 60 minutes. I then meditate, eat and exercise in that order. Research has shown exercise to have behavioural and cognitive benefits. The same applies to meditation. Combining these two habits creates a force multiplier that limits negative emotions, drives focus and sharpens motivation.
This allows me to boost engagement on the tasks that I need to accomplish in my day. By doing so, I stop my attention from being diverted to other useless tasks. I am able to engage fully with the two important tasks for the day, ultimately providing me with the most leverage for my time once these have been achieved.
5. Replacing expectations with outcomes
This is possibly the most useful tool in my arsenal for pivoting through the common ups and downs of entrepreneurship. When trying to achieve things that most people dream of, I’ve seen more failures than successes. The ability to persevere is what makes us different. Changing my relationship with my work to follow outcomes instead of expectations was the difference between perceived failure and strategic success.
Emotions dictate the way I interact with others. I used to spend hours on a project, and if the result wasn’t the one I had expected, it would leave me gut-wrenched. This feeling is time-consuming and self-defeating. If I expect something to happen and it doesn’t occur, I set myself up for failure because I attached emotion with my expectations.
I now set outcomes and plan for failure, too. Productive people know that any venture you undertake is a risk, and associated with that risk comes the possibility of failure. When I start a project, I plan for all outcomes: failure, middle-ground and the best-case scenario. I now look at where my projects finish and measure where I have landed between these outcomes.
This approach allows you to look at your work analytically and replicate what made a project successful or plan more thoughtfully to compensate for the last project that failed. An expectation says that you should’ve achieved this but didn’t. Don’t let your negativity pull you down—plan for all outcomes.
I don’t say this to brag but by using this formula I’ve been able to achieve the following in the last four years:
• Build two 7 figure companies
• Had my writing generate 10 M + views
• Kept a relatively normal social life
• Read over 120 books
These achievements are the result of applied focus and using a productivity framework that’s allowed me to do more than what my old but ineffective self could ever have dreamed of.