Ever feel like you’re just not getting enough done?
Know how many days per week you’re actually productive?
We could all be accomplishing a lot more — but then again, none of us wants to be a workaholic either.
It’d be great to get tons done and have work/life balance. But how do we do that? I decided to get some answers.
And who better to ask than Tim Ferriss, author of the international bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek?
Below are six tips Tim offered, the science behind why they work, and insight from the most productive people around.
1) Manage Your Mood
Most productivity systems act like we’re robots – they forget the enormous power of feelings.
But when we wake up and the fray is already upon us — phone ringing, emails coming in, fire alarms going off — you spend the whole day reacting.
Eric Barker: How To Achieve Work-Life Balance In 5 Steps
This means you’re not in the driver’s seat working on your priorities, you’re responding to what gets thrown at you, important or not.
So think a little less about managing the work and a little more about managing your moods.
(For more on how to be happier, go here.)
So what’s the first step to managing your mood after you wake up?
2) Don’t Check Email In The Morning
To some people this is utter heresy. Many can’t imagine not waking up and immediately checking email or social media feeds.
Why is checking email in the morning a cardinal sin? You’re setting yourself up to react.
An email comes in and suddenly you’re giving your best hours to someone else’s goals, not yours.
You’re not planning your day and prioritizing, you’re letting your objectives be hijacked by whoever randomly decides to enter your inbox.
Research shows email:
- Stresses you out.
- Can turn you into a jerk.
- Can be more addictive than alcohol and tobacco.
- And checking email frequently is the equivalent of dropping your IQ 10 points.
Is this really how you want to start your day?
(For more on how to avoid the email trap and spend time wisely go here.)
Great, so you know what not to do. But a bigger question looms: what should you be doing?
3) Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
Everyone asks, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” But the answer is stunningly easy:
You’re doing too many things.
Want to be more productive? Don’t ask how to make something more efficient until after you’ve asked “Do I need to do this at all?”
It’s funny that we complain we have so little time and then we prioritize like time is endless. Instead, do what is important… and not much else.
But is this true in the real world?
Research shows CEOs don’t get more done by blindly working more hours, they get more done when they follow careful plans:
(For more ways to save time go here.)
Okay, you’ve cleared the decks. Your head is serene, you’ve gotten the email monkey off your back and you know what you need to do.
Now we have to face one of the biggest problems of the modern era: how do you sit still and focus?
4) Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
Has modern life permanently damaged our attention spans?
No. What you do have is more tantalizing, easily accessible, shiny things available to you 24/7 than any human being has ever had.
The answer is to lock yourself somewhere to make all the flashing, buzzing distractions go away.
What’s the best way to sum up the research? How about this: Distractions make you stupid.
And a flood of studies show that the easiest and most powerful way to change your behavior is to change your environment.
Top CEOs are interrupted every 20 minutes. How do they get anything done?
By working from home in the morning for 90 minutes where no one can bother them:
(For more on how to stop procrastinating go here.)
I know what some of you are thinking: I have other responsibilities. Meetings. My boss needs me. My spouse calls. I can’t just hide.
This is why you need a system.
5) Have A Personal System
I’ve spoken to a lot of insanely productive people. You know what none of them said?
Not one. Your routines can be formal and scientific or personal and idiosyncratic — but either way, productive people have a routine.
What do we see when we systematically study the great geniuses of all time? Almost all had personal routines that worked for them.
How do you start to develop your own personal system? Apply some “80/20″ thinking:
- What handful of activities are responsible for the disproportionate number of your successes?
- What handful of activities absolutely crater your productivity?
- Rearrange your schedule to do more of #1 and to eliminate #2 as much as possible.
(For more on the routines geniuses use to be productive click here.)
So you’re all set to wake up tomorrow with a system and not be “reactive.” How do you make sure you follow through on this tomorrow? It’s simple.
6) Define Your Goals The Night Before
Wake up knowing what is important before the day’s pseudo-emergencies come barging into your life and your inbox screams new commands.
Studies show this has a secondary benefit: writing down what you need to do tomorrow relieves anxiety and helps you enjoy your evening.
(For more information on setting and achieving goals click here.)
So how does this all come together?
Here are Tim’s 6 tips:
- Manage Your Mood
- Don’t Check Email in The Morning
- Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
- Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
- Have A Personal System
- Define Your Goals The Night Before
The word “productivity” sounds like we’re talking about machines. But the irony is that much of being truly good with time is about feelings.
How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research shows this is when people are happiest.
I couldn’t have written this without the help of Tim Ferriss and Adam Grant. Both volunteered their very valuable time.
Was that a waste on their part? They definitely won’t get those minutes back.
Once you are more productive, you’ll have a lot more hours to fill. So why not use them to make others and yourself happier?
(I’ll be sending out more tips from Tim Ferriss in my weekly email so make sure to sign up.)
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.