Here is a trick to live 100 years – stick to your boring 9-5 job, never take risks, and let other people control your time. Each day is a week when you hate what you do. As time is relative, you can live seven years in one. But you die every time you turn your computer screen in the morning. The entrepreneur reality is the extreme opposite. There are not enough hours in a day. Life just goes. You feel better. Move faster. Think deeper. Write shorter sentences. And so to boost your productivity, you must think and act like a magician.
“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”
Managing something so relative and fluid is pure magic. You will make many mistakes, especially if you have just quit the 9-5 and are scared of all that control that you now have over your life. You will try and fail but least you’re not cutting bodies in half so no one is getting hurt. Not in a physical way. Magic takes years of practice. You can be the master of your own time but this skill takes some dedication and “sticktoitiveness”. Every day we make choices and every small step that we take can be powerful. The steps below might seem obvious but the most important advice is that you have to be extremely persistent if you want any of them to work. Think of yourself as an illusionist learning how to stretch time.
1. Break your dream into weekly goals
You have big dreams but if you want to achieve them, you need to break them down into smaller goals. Take a board, pin your big dream on top of it and then connect it to the weekly tasks that you will do to achieve it. Some of these tasks might seem insignificant and uninspiring. To keep your motivation high, keep connecting the weekly goals to the big dream that’s stuck on top. “I will write three blog posts per week” will have a lot more value and meaning when you relate it to “because I want to sell my product and earn at least $7000 per month”. Trello is a great free tool for task management.
2. Identify your most productive time of the day
“We are most productive at 5am” sounds promiscuous but it can be true only for those of us who can actually get up at 5am. Personally, I feel strong physical pain if I have to wake up before sunrise and this is why I have a yearly quota of two times when I can afford to do this. Only two early flights per year, no matter how cheap they are. There is no universal advice here. Follow your own rhythm. If you are more productive at night do your most important work then and chill in the morning. Another argument why the 9-5 is deadly to productivity.
3. Have your own ritual
Drink coffee and eat cookies, do yoga, dress up, take a shower and air dry your body, do your bed, do a headstand… What gets you in a mood to work? Personal rituals are important because they create habits and respect for your day and help you focus better. They can be as weird as you are. No one will judge you, even if your personal ritual is to sing and dance to Justin Bieber’s music when you wake up and when you are home alone.
4. Start your work day with the most important task
It’s counter-intuitive to start with the most important task when you can easily complete a few quick jobs first. Multi-tasking drains mental energy so it’s much wiser to spend most of that energy on the one thing that has the highest priority and do the easy tasks later when you’re tired.
5. Turn off distractions when you are in flow state
The highest level of focus requires you to be a zen master, a director of your own energy. You don’t have to pick up the phone if it rings. Ignore checking the number of likes on your new post. Stop imagining the person you like naked. Take an hour or more to do just one thing. When I write, my mind teleports to a parallel reality in which it’s just me and my pen.
6. Get on a low-information diet to boost your productivity
Do you really need to watch television and read newspapers to be informed of what is happening in the world? Reading everything that is given to you is like eating junk food. Unnecessary information clutters your mind. It’s a myth that when we watch TV we are informed. You can find your own information and be even more capable of discussing the Brexit result and the future of the UK than someone who reads the newspaper every day.
7. Change your setting when you don’t feel inspired
When you feel like you are running out of inspiration you can try working from different places or coffee shops (coffices). Co-working and co-living spaces are great for freelancers and entrepreneurs because talking to like-minded people can supercharge your creativity.
8. Do the smaller and less important tasks when on the go
I always carry a book (or have it downloaded) that teaches me a new skill when I commute or have a meeting where the other person might be late. Commuting or waiting doesn’t have to be a waste of time. You can use it to learn something, reply to a few emails or load Buffer with your brand’s Facebook and Twitter posts.
10. Make time and space for your friends and partner
Don’t treat your friends or partner like your clients, sending them a calendar invite when you want to meet. The biggest cultural shock that I had in the USA was that I had to plan meeting my friends at least a week in advance and see them maximum once per month unless we were working together. It seemed as ridiculous as hearing someone you’ve been dating for a while say, “Yes, I think it’s time for us to start having sex now. I can do this every Tuesday at 11pm. How about you?”. Don’t try to fit your friends or partner in your packed schedule. Leave time for them outside of it. Spontaneity and serendipity will also boost your productivity.
11.Every now and then, go offline and enjoy doing nothing
The Italians call it “dolce far niente”, the pleasure of doing nothing. You are not a robot and if you overwork yourself sooner or later you will burn out. After all, you quit your comfort zone to enjoy life and sometimes it’s okay to procrastinate a little. Don’t feel guilty about it, enjoy it.
12. Treat yourself when you’ve had a productive day
Work for that chocolate bar, a pair of new shoes or trip to Bali. The more productive you are, the higher the reward.
13. Respect other people’s time
You can’t expect others to respect your time if you are always late and make every meeting last three hours. Consider this your “time karma”. If you put the effort to come and leave on time then you will attract more punctual people in your life.