This is the class I wish I’d taken my first year at university.
It’s scary even trying to count the hours I could have gained having understood these principles and techniques at an earlier age.
Here are the 4 hyper-productivity principles I used to build a £10m+ company…working from home:
- Eliminate distraction
- Eliminate decisions
- Eliminate repetition
- Enforce accountability
All 10x more important now we’re locked up indoors. Let’s get into it!
Even if you have the superhuman willpower to resist the magic red notification circles, studies show just having your phone near you is a distraction.
You might not be consciously thinking about the unseen content of your latest Whatsapp message, but it’s certainly eating away at your subconscious.
The solution is obvious: eliminate distraction.
Don’t even try to resist it…just f*cking eliminate it.
Stay Focusd caps my total overall time spent on Linkedin, Facebook, and Youtube to just 10 minutes per day — after that, I can no longer access these sites. And in the past I’ve used Freedom to cut off my internet (period) to crack on with utterly uninterrupted deep work.
And if you can’t help but get drawn back to the subtle buzz of your vibrating phone, like a braindead moth bumbling towards a lightbulb, it’s time to get rid of your phone.
When I start work, my phone is switched off in another room, as far away as possible, or buried deep in my locker — it physically cannot distract me anymore.
I let people know to contact me via email only during work hours — and that’s that.
In times where I’ve needed my phone at work, I’ve bought a low-cost second-hand work phone. It has Google Maps to get to meetings, WhatsApp because people don’t send texts anymore, GMail and a few other utilities. The only people who have my work phone number are work-related people and I have no other contacts.
Total focus. Instant flow.
Getting sh*t done in a distraction-free environment is pure bliss. If you’ve never experienced it, it’s up there with tantric sex, hot stone massage and a perfectly cooked steak.
Noise-cancelling headphones work wonders, too — I use these.
And I like to play binaural beats or Zelda music to block out other annoying sounds (like coworkers). Brain.fm is my favourite binaural beat station but it’s expensive ($50/year) and one can only spoof so many fake free trial accounts before seeking out a zero-cost alternative — like the Binaural Beats Spotify playlist I currently use.
Decisions slow you down.
If you have to decide what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, how to get to work, what tasks to do, what order to them in…you’re going to run into decision fatigue.
Even worse, in the moment, your short-term-thinking monkey brain will likely take over and make the wrong decisions: Coco Pops over green smoothie, Uber over walking, the easy tasks over the hard ones.
Don’t give your monkey brain the opportunity: eliminate decisions.
Have a uniform: know what you’re going to wear every day. The Mark Zuckerberg ugly jeans and dull T-shirt combo is a bit over the top, but my workwear closet is a simple mix of chinos and shirts.
Have a diet: know what you’re going to eat every day. For me, it’s a green smoothie, with blueberries, raspberries and supplemental powders…or my go-to Itsu chicken soup (when Itsu used to be open…)
Have a task list: know what you’re going to do every day — in advance. At the start of the week I usually plan out what I want to get done and then allocate across days. There’s an hour written-off to deal with unexpected bullsh*t but otherwise I just execute on my pre-written todo list on Todoist. No need to pontificate over what tasks to do this afternoon, and my monkey brain can’t hijack my productivity towards the easy-but-useless (e.g. answering dumb emails).
Are you doing the same thing more than once?
If yes, that’s repetition. Eliminate it.
If you’re sending the same emails, typing out the same locations, saying the same things, find a way to eliminate this repetition.
This week, for instance, I was interviewing applicants for a series of internship roles I have available.
After the second interview, I realised I’d repeated 60% of the content from the first interview: explaining to the applicant the story behind the company, what they’ll be doing, the end vision etc.
So instead of continuing to repeat myself, I typed up a Google document with all of this content pre-written. Future applicants will now receive this document in advance, saving me about 30 minutes per interview!
I use the same strategy when emailing multiple clients. The text-expander plugin for Chrome lets you create keyboard shortcuts for repeated phrases.
For instance, if I type @a, my full email address will pop up. If I type @o, my office address will pop up. If I type @tyapp, an email thanking applicants for their submission will pop up.
This type of automation doesn’t just save you time, it also cuts out dumb errors and improves quality.
Writing out the internship document for future applicants, for instance, I was able to make sure all the necessary information was contained so no risk of omission. It was also better written and more articulate than if I were to freestyle it every time in conversation.
If your repeated task isn’t easily automated by a simple keyboard shortcut or Google Doc…think about outsourcing it.
For instance, I’m writing this article in Medium. Tomorrow, my wonderful Spanish virtual assistant María will repost it to LinkedIn.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many aspects of my life I’ve outsourced to freelancers over the last few years.
My food preparation to my personal trainer. Writing invoices to a girl in Pakistan. At some point, I even tried outsourcing my Tinder — although this one didn’t turn out so well.
You can do the same.
Open up any freelancer sites — PeoplePerHour, Up Work, Fiverr — write out instructions for whatever task you want to outsource with a step-by-step example, preferably with screenshots…and then sit back and watch your virtual assistant do their magic.
Finally, even when your workflow is streamlined down a T, you can still fall into a slump.
There’s some task you just hate doing or you’ve temporarily lost interest in that thing you thought you would be cool but actually isn’t cool and has now become the infernal bane of your hellish existence as a subsistent human being on planet Earth.
This is where accountability comes in.
Why am I writing this article at 5 minutes to midnight? Why aren’t I playing The Legend of Zelda on my Nintendo Switch?
I don’t get paid for writing. There’s no consequence if I don’t write. I could very easily close Notion right now, turn on my Joy-Cons and smack the sh*t out of some Moblins with my Master Sword.
And yet…here I am. Because of accountability: if I don’t write this article I lose a full £1000 sterling to my accountability partner.
If you don’t have some sort of accountability measure like this in place yet, get one…now.
It’s the only way to guarantee long-term consistent action.
It doesn’t have to be financial accountability.
It can be social. When I’m fasting, I post on a Fasting Whatsapp group I’m in so there are people to make sure I stick to my word. I post up my goals and projects on Instagram so people give me sh*t if I don’t follow through. And in my flat, we all have our goals written up on the wall for mutual accountability.
It all helps.
Although what’s consistently worked best for me is to find a trustworthy accountability partner or coach.
That’s how I lost 30kg in 6 months to get my first six-pack. How I wrote 10,000+ words a day to create the content for my previous company. And how I’ve helped many of my current coaching clients achieve their own successes.
There we go. 46 minutes of undisturbed, productive writing, 1588 new words and yet another article complete. So, to level up your productivity:
- Eliminate distraction: don’t try to resist, just f*cking eliminate. Phone at home or locked away somewhere. Get a work phone if necessary. Block distracting websites. Wear noise-cancelling headphones.
- Eliminate decisions: routinise your day so you don’t have to stop and think so much. Make the optimal decisions in advance and then just execute day-to-day.
- Eliminate repetition: doing something more than once? Stop, automate it or have it outsourced.
- Enforce accountability: get an accountability buddy, get a coach, and attach a financial or social consequence to your inaction.
Do more, live more, be more. [Insert more productivity clichés here]
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.