Today I am going to share the exact method I used to triple my productivity
Before I get into everything let me ask you a question.
‘What would you do if someone came to you with an amazing opportunity you knew would change your life but meant you’d have to double or triple the amount of work you did in a week? Would you increase your productivity and reach your goals?’
Would you rise to the challenge?
Four months ago I found myself in that exact situation. This is what I did to increase my productivity.
When Opportunity Came Knocking
In March I decided to grow my blog. I did the usual things. I increased the quality of writing so my posts resonated on a deeply personal level, I rewrote email auto-responders so subscribers got my best content right away, and I focused on publishing quality content you can use right away. My subscribers doubled…but I wasn’t happy. I wanted more. Then I got an opportunity.
In May a friend messaged me. He had a training that would 5X my subscribers. To do it I had to bring together the thought leaders in my field in a master class set up.
I loved the idea. It would be great to grow readership and my professional network. I bought the course and immediately realized I had underestimated how much work would be needed. I assumed I would have to put in an extra 5-7 hours a week for a month or two. I was wrong. To launch these master classes I would have to spend 25 hours a week for nearly TWELVE weeks.
That was alongside me:
*Running A Full Time Freelance Business
*Writing Blog Posts And Emails
*Traveling To Iceland for fun, Chicago for conferences, and Maine for a retreat
I don’t like to admit when I’m in over my head. I’m sure you are the same way. You hate it when people see you exposed. It makes you feel weak, or stupid.
I’ll be honest. I was overwhelmed. I honestly assumed I had lost the money I spent on the course. I mentioned this to my buddy and he laughed at me and told me this anecdote he heard and loved,
‘Most people don’t realize this but college is geared towards the lowest common student. Even Harvard. Their business models are built on being able to get and put the lowest performing student through the program. That means everyone has to be able to pass if they want. If you worked hard you could get two or even three degrees if you put your mind to it.’
The story resonated with me because I ran into a similar anecdote when I was training for the Chicago marathon. I was a 135 days into training and I just didn’t feel like myself anymore. My partner was supportive and her love kept me going but I felt terrible relying on that to get by. You know as a business owner how hard it can be for your partner putting up with unusual stresses. I didn’t want to put that energy on her or anyone.
I was always tired, always sore, and the hardest part still was waiting for me. When I mentioned this my running coach told me,
‘Our brains are trained to stop us at 40% output. Once you hit that number your body starts to ache, you have wild thoughts, you get depressed. However that’s a psychological wall, not a physical one. If you can consistently and deliberately push against it your tolerance will grow.’
My tolerance grew and I ran the entire Chicago Marathon. Let me repeat that again because there are still days I can’t believe I did it.
I. Ran. The. Entire. 26.2 Miles. In. The. Chicago. Marathon.
I decided to take the challenge. Not only that I decided to do it myself.
Why I Chose To Do Everything Myself
Our minds hate learning new things. For me I hated WP, integrating plug-ins, FB ads, and managing a large network of people.
I had money to hire out the work but didn’t. If I was going to grow I had to do things I didn’t like. Now don’t think I didn’t pay for help. I did. I paid people multiple times when I got stuck. But I made it a point to do as much as I could myself.
‘Why bother? You could pay someone to do it and the time you save not working on the summit you could book more clients and make up the difference in cost.’
-Short Sighted Freelancer
Paying to solve a problem is smart. Paying to avoid a problem isn’t.
By taking the challenge and learning these new services I tackled my resistance and made myself a better business person. In January I’m going to raise my consultation rates to $1500/hr and offer full service master class creation for $25K.
Will I actually book these gigs? For the master classes I’ll probably book one or two a year. For the consultations I’ll see a marked increase in bookings. So even if I don’t meet my master class goals I will have still created a ton of value for myself.
So how did I balance creating a master class, interviewing 25 experts, editing videos, learning and building a WP site, learning and integrating multiple plug-ins, writing the copy for the launch, writing the copy for the swipe files for the launch, run a full time freelancing business, attend conferences, and take vacations?
I created three systems.
The Three Systems I Used To Triple My Output
Humans are resistant to change. Our minds hate doing extra work and do their best to create distractions. I knew this. When I decided to take the challenge I knew I had to do three things:
1:Remove the burden of making decisions right before they had to be made
2:Ruthlessly define and protect periods of uninterrupted time to work
3:Put off all other interesting projects that came up.
Here’s how I did it.
System 1:Proactive Choice Making
Most projects fail due to decision fatigue. Decision fatigue happens when you have too many choices. The more choices you have the more energy your mind uses to make what it feels is the right one.
To make sure this didn’t happen I created a list of every possible situation I could encounter and then decided ahead of time how I would respond. It sounds daunting but it was easy.
Real Examples From My Notes:
*Don’t price shop plug-ins. Find the best and if it isn’t unreasonable pull the trigger. Don’t waste hours comparing products with minimum differences in prices.
*If you run up against something you are having trouble with watch a tutorial. If it takes longer than an hour to watch the tutorial and get started hire help.
*If you don’t feel like working on a project at it’s time switch the schedule around and work on something easier.
Notice that each of these examples has specific trigger points. I know the exact moment I need to look for help. With the plug-ins I knew I could go down a rabbit hole comparing prices, reading reviews, and more. The reality was it was better to save two hours and pay the extra $30 than to waste energy agonizing over the choice.
With the hiring example I never wanted to give up because I was experiencing trouble. Part of productivity comes from facing challenges. However I noted that if it took an hour or more just to get started I was in over my head. I chose the ‘hour’ mark because it meant I would only be hiring out for technical issues.
In my to-do examples I make it easy to accomplish my list by shifting what needed to be done to match my energy levels. If I wasn’t in the mood or to tired or needed a break I was able to pick up a different project with new energy and effort demands. That meant I was always getting something done.
Creating a pro-active environment made it easy to make the right choices in real time. This saved me hours of time.
System 2:Creating and Protecting Uninterrupted Work Time
To accomplish deep work I had to cut distractions.
For some people that means turning off social media. For other people that means silencing your phone. If you constantly spread your attention around you leave residues of your focus everywhere. This quickly becomes exhausting and lowers the quality of your work.
That’s why I decided to have two hours every day where I was completely uninterrupted. During those two hours I would do difficult work or tackle larger projects. Some days that meant working non-stop on a sales page. On other days it mean tinkering with WP to figure out site design.
Creating time devoted solely to one task let me unleash all of my mental energy on it. This had a compound effect. Big projects were finished quickly and small projects took less energy. You don’t need long periods for this to work. You can get the same effect in shorter periods of time. There were weeks where all I could get was thirty uninterrupted minutes. That was fine.
The amount of time is less important than the steps you take to protect it. I protected my time by doing the following things:
1:I put my phone on ‘Airplane’ mode:That meant I got nothing. No texts, no calls, nothing. Try it out. Turn your phone on silent for 30 minutes and notice how calm and undistracted your brain becomes when it isn’t constantly listening for an alert.
2:I turned on ambient white noise. I love music but knew if I listened to a band I could lose my train of thought. Having an ambient sound helped me maintain focus. I really like THIS.
3:I put only what I needed in my tabs. That way if I looked up my attention wasn’t pulled to a fun and unrelated option.
4:I kept a filled water bottle nearby. I drink a lot of water. By having a bottle within reach I didn’t have to get up and get a drink every time I got thirsty.
These are just a few examples. The number isn’t important. What is important is identifying the things you’ll use to justify breaking your focus and pro-actively stopping them. You can see that in number 3 and 4 above. Getting rid of distracting tabs was powerful and being able to get water without stopping helped a lot.
Giving yourself the option to focus means you can put out high volumes of quality work in short periods of time. This was important for the master classes.
System 3:Resist Taking On New Projects
We hate missing out. At least I do. Nothing makes me more anxious than knowing someone is doing something cool. What makes me anxious isn’t the ‘missing out’. What makes me anxious is that I might be doing the wrong thing and wasting time. I beat this mindset with a trick I learned from Ramit Sethi. Ramit teaches the practice of seeing what you are doing as an experiment. If it fails then you learn from what didn’t work and move on.
This had a huge impact on me. It helped me see my choices outside of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and more as opportunities.
Missing out is different for everyone. That’s why we do everything from constantly checking our phones, social media, etc. The same thing is true for projects. I know I am guilty of taking on new projects at the expense of the quality of an existing one.
I’m really bad about this with books to. I used to try and read four books at the same time only to confuse what was going on and having to start the book over.
To not make this mistake I made a deal. I agreed that if a new project generated a high level of ‘Fuck Yeah’ I would put a pin in it and return to it in 2018. If the project wasn’t exciting enough to come back to it later then it wasn’t serving my purpose and could be tossed aside.
This became easy to do very quickly. I found myself turning down opportunities that weren’t right for later…and it felt amazing. The burden of being everywhere and doing everything lifted and my anxiety shrank.
I used more systems than I mentioned. I didn’t include them as they were personalized to me and my productivity goals. If you are interested in getting into the DEEP psychology behind how to create systems you can use to increase the quality of your work here are the three books I used.
1:Deep Work-This was written by Cal Newport and was a complete game changer for me. If you have trouble getting and staying focused on hard projects this is a must read. Here
2:Habits-This was written by Charles Duhigg and worth every penny. Habits helps you prime yourself to use less energy creating higher quality projects by training your mind. It sounds daunting by the process is simple and worth the read. Here
3:Smarter Faster Better-Another Charles Duhigg must read. Unlike Habits this book is grander in its scheme. It focuses on the idea of taking responsibility for ‘The Locus Of Your Control’. This is a great primer for shifting your mind from reactive to proactive in the face of ever changing situations. This book helped me remain agile as problems kept unrolling. Here
You can accomplish a lot more with the right help. I tripled my output over the last twelve months without burning out because I had a team of experts helping me.
Interested in building your team of experts? Stay tuned for next week when I share my personal checklist for building your team of experts.