Time is an entrepreneur’s rarest commodity. There is always something that we should be doing conflicting with whatever it is we are doing. There is simply not enough time to get through the myriad of things requiring and demanding our attention.
And that is why Mega-Productivity is a skill that all entrepreneurs and business owners must acquire if they are to be successful. And that success extends across business and across life. After all, even if our businesses are tremendously successful, they become meaningless when our personal lives lie in tatters.
The challenge with most people is that they are extraordinarily busy. But, when you ask them what they are achieving that really matters, it is precious little. If business is all about ROI or return on investment, time is all about ROE – return on energy. Because time is such a precious commodity, we must ensure that every one of the 1440 minutes we experience each day gives us a return.
1. Establish what you want
Zig Ziglar said “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time”.
So, unless you know exactly what it is you desire for your life and business, you are likely to pursue anything shiny, and waste a lot of time in the process.
You have to figure out what, when you are 90 and sitting in your rocking chair reflecting back on a life well lived, will stand out for you as the things you are most proud of.
The temptation is to select what you think you can achieve. That’s great! But also include the goals that may be a little tougher to get to. You may not know quite how to get there – yet – but unless you start taking some action towards their achievement, they will forever and always remain merely a dream.
Once you have identified the overall goals and dreams, you must prioritise them. Number them in order of priority. Be cautious here to think through your list of priorities carefully. Remember that you can only juggle so many balls, and whilst, when dropped, some will bounce, some balls will break. Make sure that your choice is made with full awareness of the consequences, and the time that you have available.
2. Write a list of how you intend to get there
This is a process whereby you detail the action steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve your overall personal goals and business objectives. Start with the goal that you labelled as number 1, and work through each until you have created action steps for all.
If you have set a goal that is particularly challenging, you may not know the steps that you need to take beyond perhaps the first ten. That’s OK for now. Once those first ten steps have been taken, the next ten will reveal themselves. At that point, write those ten steps down in a list, and keep repeating the process.
3. Use your most productive time productively
Most people wake up in the morning, and hit the office only to focus on the 100 e-mails that have arrived in their Inbox overnight. If you are energised and focused in the morning, your time could be far better utilised.
Identify when you are most productive during the day, and block that time off to get one of your priority tasks completed. I always do my most important tasks first thing in the morning.
The reason is that unless I complete them first, I get caught up in the demands of the day and find myself out of time and out of energy. If you run this risk, then commit to completing your number one important (not urgent) task first thing each day. Do not move onto anything else unless and until that priority task has been completed.
4. Leverage the productivity curve
We have all had experience with the productivity curve, even if we are not directly aware of it. It goes like this: When we start something, it takes us a while to get traction.
We need to figure out what we intend to do, and how to do it. We waste quite a bit of time being unproductive in this phase. It is only after some focused effort that we start having an impact and moving forward in an upward direction.
If we give ourselves a sufficient amount of uninterrupted and focused time, we can start achieving Mega-Productivity, and get into ‘the zone’.
However, precious few of us get to this point when we are in our work environment. When we are just at the point of starting to gain productivity, we are called to our next meeting, are distracted by an incoming e-mail or message, or by a member of our team.
After we have dealt with the distraction, and return to our work, we revert back to the point of negative productivity. We need to figure out what we’ve done, what we still need to do, and get our train of thought together before we can move forward once again.
You can imagine that many small interruptions have the result of us losing massive productivity. Something that may have taken us 30 minutes to complete ends up taking ten times as long. And given repeated interruptions, that’s no exaggeration.
You have to create the habit of booking out blocks of time in your diary – time that is long enough for you to achieve the focus that drives Mega-Productivity, and enables you to complete your most important tasks without interruption. This is an absolute essential step in accelerating your achievement of your goals.
5. Get your e-mails under control
E-mails are a killer of productivity. If you are not careful, you can spend an entire day on e-mail, and not complete a single important task.
Identify two times in the day when your energy is low. Book a 30 or 60 minute slot in the morning, and again in the afternoon.
Dedicate that time to reading, responding and completing your e-mails. Do not look at e-mails at any other time. If there is something of significant importance, you can be assured that someone will actually phone you.
When it comes to working through your e-mails, apply ‘one touch management’. The temptation is to open an e-mail, read it, and think – I’ll get back to this one. That’s a productivity no-no.
You’ve just invested a minute or two reading this e-mail, so deal with it in its entirety now. Do whatever needs to be done now to complete the task at hand.
7. Mega-Productivity is a mindset
Consider that if you invest R1 every day for the rest of your life, what an incredible investment you’ll have as a result of the cumulative interest you’ll earn. This is in fact what you are doing in your life and your business. Whatever actions you undertake today must repay you in return on energy tomorrow, and next year.
Consider therefore the implications of leaving a Must Do task incomplete. You can never re-earn the cumulative interest you’ve lost. Adopt that mindset for every important task you have listed. Make completing your Must Do and Important to do list a habit. Your life will change as a result.
Become A Life-Hacker
Life-hacking is about accomplishing more in less time, with less stress, at a lower cost with the use of simple digital tools.
When Martijn Aslander was 17, he was running a company that had 60 part-time employees from the back of a classroom. By the time he was 21 he had two companies, and was directing 140 people. At 27 he decided to sell his companies, and ended up bankrupt as a result of the experience.
What looked like a complete disaster actually ended up being the single best lesson Martijn could learn. He woke up the next day and everything was still there. He had his arms and legs; he had his health. And the worst had happened, which meant that nothing could go wrong anymore. From that moment, anything was possible.
He then asked himself a key question: How big is the chance you will do this again? The answer was simple: There was no chance. Big lessons had been learnt. At that moment, Martijn realised that there was no point in ever getting upset when something goes wrong. It happens. The next time you will fly.
Martijn believes that we are always looking for the next challenges. Millionaires want to be billionaires. Billionaires want to win a Nobel Prize. There is always another goal. So how do you find success and happiness? By asking how you can contribute the most to mankind. In many ways, Martijn was already a life-hacker. At 17 he’d discovered a way to make money without doing much work, simply by being smarter and spotting a niche.
At 27 he learnt that possibilities are what you make of them, and the more you share, the greater your impact, and the more you will receive.
These are his rules to becoming a life-hacker, and doing more in less time, with less stress, at lower costs.
1. Don’t operate on untested assumptions
Most of the fears that people have, and particularly entrepreneurs, are based on assumptions that they haven’t tested. And most untested assumptions are simply not true. They live as ghosts and monsters in your head, but they’re not real.
We live in a very interesting time, where it’s actually risky to be safe. Safe doesn’t exist, and it never has, because you are never in charge of all the events that take place around you. Change is the only constant. For centuries we’ve operated on the notion of survival of the fittest. He who is strongest will win. This is also a faulty assumption. Success today isn’t about strength — it’s about the ability to adapt to new circumstances. Over the last ten years more circumstances than ever before have changed, and the rate is just accelerating.
You have to have an open mind; you have to learn to be flexible.
2. If you’re in the business of doing business, you will soon be out of business
How do you measure business success? Be careful that your strategy isn’t focused on possessions — fancy offices, a big building, or cars as status symbols. If you’re too focused on things, you’ll be too afraid of losing your stuff. Entrepreneurs who are focused on a higher purpose concentrate on improving themselves, their people and doing the best for their clients. They’re far less afraid of sudden changes and turmoil, because possessions aren’t as important, which makes them agile and adaptable — exactly who you want to be in a changing world.
I see it as the rise of the ‘funpreneur’. The rise of a new breed of people who are focused on doing what they love, and who aspire to a higher cause, instead of just focusing on the business side of things. It’s tough to compete with people who don’t do business models, but focus on purpose instead.
3. Give your teams the freedom to adapt
There are two types of teams — those who are flexible, have an open mind, and are willing to adapt to new conditions and environments, and those who are terrified of making mistakes and therefore seldom venture out of the established norm.
The type of team that forms the foundation of your business is up to you. Are you hiring people with flexible, open minds and giving them the freedom to make mistakes, or do you stifle innovation in your organisation?
Remember that mistakes are often the only way to learn something. If people are really dissatisfied with their own errors and performance, they will internalise the experience far more deeply. There will always be some mistakes. My advice is to create an environment where everyone learns from mistakes — their own and those that others make — and try to make mistakes that you will benefit the most from by encouraging your team to take chances. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to make mistakes on purpose, but create a safe environment and deal with mistakes in a way that shares the lessons, and instils the learnings in your business.
4. Make a ‘not-to-do’ list
We’re so busy making ‘to-do’ lists that we forget to make ‘not-to-do’ lists. Remember that you’re in charge of your life, and you can go in any direction you want. Yes, there will be circumstances that influence your life, but ultimately you can change everything. There’s less financial risk than ever before in doing business. You don’t need big offices, buildings, or cars. Everything you need to make an impact is at your disposal. The only things holding us back are our assumptions.
While you are creating your to-do lists and strategies, take some time to write down what you shouldn’t be doing — what you don’t want to do, what you should avoid — the business or person you don’t want to be. Focus on what you love, and build a great life around those principles. Don’t allow yourself to live in fear.
5. Leverage the holy trinity of dynamics
I believe there are only three things you need for success: People, information and ideas. With these three things, you can set anything in motion.
An idea in itself is worthless. It’s really nothing else but combined information; creatively connecting unconnected dots. The ability to make ideas materialise in this world however holds value, and for that you need people and information. Information is the bridge between ideas and the people who make them happen. What’s incredible is that we are living in an information society.
There are more people connected than ever before. We’re living in a network age and an information age, which means you can focus on all three, connect the dots, and unleash an unprecedented amount of ideas.
6. You don’t need a budget to innovate
The Chief Commander of the Dutch Army approached me to help him find a way to innovate that didn’t involve cutting into his budget. My question to him was, ‘Why do you need budget?’ There are 50 000 geeks in the Netherlands who dream of flying in a jet fighter or being submerged under the ocean. Simply by redeploying assets they already have, the Dutch Army can make these dreams come true.
So many organisations miss this crucial point. Money is naturally scarce, and the dynamics of money are weird. People are afraid to spend it because it’s scarce, and they’re uncertain if what they’re spending it on is a risk or not. As soon as there’s a financial risk, and you don’t know the outcome, you’re hesitant to jump in. And this ends up stalling innovation, because there’s an over-riding belief that you need money to innovate.
But what about applying other resources other than money alone? Always consider what you can do with the resources you already have. This will take financial risk out the equation, which will lead to less fear. Once fear is gone, people step in, open up and contribute. If you get rid of the risk, you enable your team. In many cases, finance is not an enabler, it’s a disabler.
Imagine if you could stop asking for money and setting your price, and instead asked your clients to pay what they believe your services are worth. You’d quickly either make more money, or realise you’re helping the wrong businesses, or not demonstrating your value clearly enough.
Entrepreneurs know this — they’re used to bootstrapping and being creative. The problem is that as we grow, we forget, and start becoming reliant on money to grow. And this stifles us.
So how do you begin to use the resources you have? Start by targeting the one percent of your clients that are able to do 100 or 1 000 fold what they are paying you in terms of money. What can you barter or trade with them? What resources can you offer each other that are actually more valuable than money? What could your clients potentially do for you that would actually save you money? Or what would they love to pay for, that you potentially aren’t offering right now?
Every single organisation has resources that they can deploy without financial loss. Start with 1% and build on it.
7. Build your social capital
Social capital builds monetary capital. It’s not the other way around, and yet so often we focus on monetary capital first. Instead, focus on achieving something that will lead to monetary capital. I give away my social capital freely. I share my books and ideas for free. It clears my mind, and I know that I can create ideas faster than you can steal them anyway. That’s how you should view ideas. Giving away social capital gives you access, and then you don’t need money — that’s the secret to success.
People are too careful with their social capital — particularly their ideas. I promise you this — the chances of becoming a millionaire with just one idea are miniscule. If that’s your strategy, it’s not only dangerous, but you’re wasting your time. If you become someone who can share ideas freely, and focus on bringing people, knowledge and ideas together instead, your chances of success have grown exponentially.
Remember, people love to share, and you want to tap into that. Look for zero plus, not zero sum.
8. Become a life-hacker
The term ‘life-hacker’ was coined in 2005 by tech journalist Danny O’Brien. He was covering a group of programmers who were very productive, and yet they weren’t stressed. They were satisfied. How did they manage to be productive and stress-free? The secret wasn’t only in what they were doing — but in how they were sharing those secrets and tools.
I personally use a few hundred tools that allow me to do a lot more in less time, and I’m happy to share the tactics that help me to work smarter. This is why I launched the lifehacking.nl website, but all the contributors on the site share the same philosophy — we freely share our insights to help others. This is a critical element to life-hacking. There is so much information out there, so many ways to access insights and information. Are you using them? Are you learning and using the tools available? There are tools that can save you hundreds of hours a year. Tap into them. We can learn so much from each other; get the best people possible in your posse and in your community.
9. Understand the dichotomies of knowledge workers
Knowledge work is something new. Traditional business systems are based on hands. You exchange time for money. But today we are working with our heads, and the reality is that you cannot work with your head for eight hours a day, particularly in artificially-constructed work hours. One third of the population work best in the evening, and yet they’re expected to arrive at the office at 8am sharp. Not only are they causing traffic jams, but they’re not working in their optimal conditions either. We need to rethink the model. We need to stop treating computers like modern typewriters. We seem to think that answering hundreds of emails is working. It’s not. We’re all just distracting each other.
Digital skills are nowhere on the strategic agenda of boards. The time and skills of your employees are the most valuable asset you have, and yet we aren’t doing anything to help our employees become life-hackers. Digital skills won’t only help your teams to work smarter and save time, but become real assets, and not just glorified typists. If you focus on digital skills, your ability to find information and ideas faster than anyone else will grow, allowing you to spread those ideas, learn faster than your competitors and entrench strategic skills in your organisation. Take these skills and invest in them heavily. It’s a true differentiator.
IN YOUR TOOLKIT
Create your own time
Life-hacking is all about learning from others and using tools and technology to do things smarter and faster. There are many ways to achieve this goal — you just need to be open to them. Take Pepe Marais, co-founder of Joe Public United, South Africa’s largest independent advertising agency.
Four years ago, Pepe decided to employ a driver. “This solution isn’t for everyone, and it took me a full three months to get used to the idea, but once I got over my own insecurities, it was a revelation. I have gained 32 hours a month — that’s the equivalent of one full work week — simply through using my travel time constructively.”
Learn from the Titans
Tim Ferriss is the master of getting more done in less time — and he’s made it his business to share these tips and lessons with others.
Read this: Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss’s epic amalgamation of hundreds of tactics, routines and habits, collected over the course of two years from the world’s most successful business people and world-class performers, and distilled into a notebook of tips and tricks to use in your every-day life and business.
Listen to this: A summary of the book is available on Audible.com (another key tool for life-hacking and a great way to maximise your time in traffic and the gym by listening to business ‘how to’ books and top biographies).
Watch for free: Accelerated learning with Tim Ferriss is a 13-minute video available on Youtube and below. If you want to maximise your ability to learn quickly and efficiently, start here.
14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity
These morning rituals will give you a boost toward success.
Developing the perfect morning routine that maximises your lifestyle and predilections while squeezing the most productivity out of your days is a trial-and-error process. One size doesn’t fit all. You have to know yourself in order to customize the best morning routine. Do you need coffee to even get into the shower? Then build it into your routine, and prepare your coffee maker the night before, so you simply have to wake up and hit the “on” switch.
The good news is that there are best practices in the morning that have been proven to make the most of time and capitalize on the body’s biorhythm and that have been widely practiced by wildly successful business moguls and entrepreneurs.
So take a look at the next 14 slides to see what morning routine hacks you can build into your ritual to ramp up productivity and create your best life.
Finding Your WHY This Year (Why Do YOU Get Up In The Mornings?)
If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.
I had a long conversation with a colleague and I asked her if she knew why she did what she did. What was her reason for getting up in the morning?
I contemplated the question I had just asked and realised it was not such an easy question to answer. I had spent years figuring out what’s important to me in my life and my career but had not yet figured out exactly why I do what I do. Why do I get out of bed every day and do this advertising thing? What do I believe in and why do I believe in it? What is my why?
This led me down an interesting road of self-discovery, and it soon led me to Simon Sinek. I immersed myself in his podcasts, TED talks and books and began to understand why some companies are successful and why some aren’t. I learnt about the Golden Circle and how all companies know what they do and how they do it, but very few know why. I learnt that people don’t buy into what you do, they buy into why you do it.
Simon says, (sorry, I had to!) “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”
We are inspired by leaders and organisations that communicate what they believe in. They have the ability to make us feel special, safe, like we belong, and like we’re not alone.
Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers are great examples of people that started from the inside out, they all started with their why.
Sinek points out that “Leaders have a rank but those who lead, inspire. It’s leadership’s responsibility to point North, say where we’re going and allow everybody else to figure out how to get there.”
I could see the value in these great leaders finding their why but I hadn’t quite answered my own question – What is my why?
Using the Golden Circle I worked my way from the clarity of my ‘what’ to the fuzziness of my ‘why’.
The more I unpacked this, the more I realised how it influences so much more than just my career choices. It influences my life choices as well. It impacts my relationships with my colleagues, my goals and it helps me prioritise what is important and what isn’t.
I’ve learnt that to truly understand your why, you need to understand what it is that you believe in and value. You need to allow these beliefs and values to guide you – to become your North Star. Your compass. When you know where you’re going, (and why) you’re flexible along your journey. But if your destination is unclear, the route you’re taking and the obstacles that come with it become your focus.
Knowing what you do is easy.
Knowing why you do it, that’s the part that takes work.
But once you’ve figured it out, you’ll find yourself being drawn to people and organisations that have a similar why to you. You’ll find your work has more meaning, and doing that work, becomes more meaningful.
If you wake up every day for something you believe in, you will live your purpose.
Start with why by Simon Sinek.
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