“Man’s story is not solely told by a list of his grand accomplishments but by rather by smaller, daily goods.
What good shall I do today? ”
– Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the United States, leading writer, printer, philosopher, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
Franklin’s daily schedule, which is also widely published, used to be as follows.
- 5 to 8 am – Get ready, study, and resolution/plan for the day
- 8 to 11 am – Focused work
- 12 to 2 – Lunch, reading, and miscellaneous
- 2 to 6pm – Focused work
- 6 to 9 pm – Organize, relax, review the day, food and music
- 9 pm to 5 am – Sleep
Similar schedules are followed by many accomplished people of our times like Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and many others.
Once there is clarity on your purpose and priorities, then what is important is to align your day-to-day life around the same.
Once your purpose and priorities are aligned, hopefully, you can tap dance at work most of the time (not always though). It also helps to have a structured approach towards how you get things done.
While we all can take different approaches that suit our individual styles and preferences, the Getting things done (GTD) methodology developed by David Allen has been quite popular and widely used around the world.
This methodology consists of the following 5 steps in order to ensure stress-free productivity while getting tons of stuff done.
Capture – Write down everything that is on your mind. Write, record, or gather any and everything that has your attention into a collection tool. This can be done in a structured way in way in the form of important areas in life.
“Your mind is for having ideas and not for holding them ” – David Allen
Clarify – Process what you have captured for its meaning and implications. What you have captured is it actionable? If so, decide the next action and project (if more than one action is required). Also, clarify what are the expected outcomes?
If it is not actionable, decide if it is trash, reference, or to put on hold.
Some of the following techniques help in the clarification process.
- 4 D rule: Delete or Delegate or Delay or Do (in that order).
- 2 Minute rule – If you can do it in less than 2 minutes, do it now.
- Use various prioritization techniques including “Boat in the storm”, Rock pebble and sand in the jar, etc.
Organize – Put stuff where it belongs such as trash (most important, trash as much as you can), Tasks and errands (with batching of similar tasks), to-do list and not to-do list, projects and calendar
Few important guidelines for getting things organized properly are as follows.
- Less is more
“If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough. And they shall be as high quality as I can make them.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder
- Stay within your circle of competence
Even Warren Buffet only invests in businesses he understands. Find your sweet spot and strength area and play well there. It is dangerous to try to do anything and everything without proper understanding.
- Pareto principle
20% (customers, activities, projects) generate 80% impact. While the percentages may vary, this is largely true. And hence try to focus on those few high gain, high impact activities/customers/tasks/projects.
- Batch processing
Jack Dorsey on how to manage 2 large Companies (Twitter and Square) at once with proper planning/organizing. He once mentioned,
“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days.
On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…
Tuesday is focused on the product.
Wednesday is focused on marketing & communications & growth.
Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships.
Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting.
Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is for reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”
Review – Review what has your mind. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual review is a must for your both short term as well as long-term goals.
“What gets reviewed is what gets done.”
One big thing repeatedly done over and over again is what creates the magic.
You are someone who is responsible for your own success (personal as well as professional) and daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual reviews and feedback from peers/experts is an important part to ensure that success.
At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Mistakes and diversions are okay but the overall trend has to remain in right direction.
“Don’t break the chain rule” by Jerry Seinfeld is a very good reference here.
His one big thing life was – comedy (no other distractions)
How he became world-class at it – He used to write comedy/jokes almost every day for a couple of hours and then put an “X” (cross) on the calendar. As he kept on putting more and more “X”s (crosses) on the calendar, a nice chain would get formed across days, weeks, months, and years like “XXXXXXXXXXXX….”.
Then his rule was not to break this chain (of course with planned breaks such as weekends).
No wonder Jerry Seinfeld is one of the best comedians this world has ever seen.
Automation is also an important part of doing more in less amount of time and if you would like to learn more about automation especially in the area of marketing, communication, and sales, you definitely look at work done by Deepak Kanakraju (Digital Deepak) here.
Engage – Take appropriate actions with confidence. Just do what you want to do after applying all the above-mentioned steps. This is not just “doing” but “engaging” with life. Your chance at a great life. What you give to life instead of asking favors from it.
Some of the techniques that help in being good at “doing/engaging” are as follows.
- 1-3-5 daily rule – 1 big task/project, 3 medium imp tasks, and 5 little things.
- Batching of like tasks (emailing, calls, outdoor errands, social media) helps save a lot of time.
- Automation is the key.
- Email and social media twice a day only and measure the time spent and utilization.
- POMODORO method to get a better outcome in much less time
- Prep and times and everything that is required
- Do the first stretch – 30 min
- Take a 10 min break
- Repeat until the work is complete
- Aim for 20 POMODOROs per week at least
Using this method, some of us have been able to complete work in 10 hours which otherwise would have taken 40 to 60 hours per week.
- Multitasking is bad and can cause delays of up to 500 % and lots of brainpower.
- What is your one big thing – swimming, investing, marketing, teaching, coaching, startups? Focus on it as much as you can.
“Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable.
For each item, ask yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide.”
– Tim Ferris (Author of “4 hour work week” and “Tools of the Titan”)
“Plan for 4-5 hours of focused work every day” – DHH from Basecamp
- Focus on opportunities vs. problems and important as well as high gain high impact activities. Ignore the rest.
- Ignore as much as you can.
- Be selective about the people, institutions, skills, and projects you are dealing with. Will that count and matter over 10 years?
What is taking me closer to my 1/3/5 year goals on a daily basis?
“You have to align your passion, purpose, curiosity, autonomy, and mastery – all these things drive reward centers in our brain. You need to get to the point where if someone asks you – how your day, week, month or year was – that you have accomplished so much, it feels insane ”
– Steven Kotler
“Success follows enjoyment and not the other way round.”
– R Gopalkrishnan, Director Tata Sons
“Deep work is a 21st-century superpower. With so many sources of distraction, it’s becoming rarer and much more valuable. As a result, it gives you a significant competitive advantage.
Whether you’re writing a book, building the next great app, or making an iconic film, it requires deep work.
In this new economy, three groups will have a particular advantage: those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, those who are the best at what they do, and those with access to capital.
If you service low-impact activities, therefore, you’re taking away time you could be spending on higher-impact activities. It’s a zero-sum game.”
– Cal Newport, author of “Deep work – rules for success in a distracted world”
Staying away from Social Media:
It literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. You don’t realize but you are being programmed. – Chamath Palihapitiya
The best option/button on the mobile phone is the “Flight mode” when no one can disturb you.
INBOX is the “TO DO” list created for you by others and “INBOX Zero” is definitely worth aiming for.
Try to check emails and social media once or twice a day and it is absolutely possible.
“Don’t be on your deathbed someday, having squandered your one chance at life, full of regrets because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams.”
– Derek Sivers
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