A friend recently asked how I get so much stuff done. I was taken aback by the question because I don't think of myself as being exceptionally productive.
Still, he asked the question, so I thought about it, and it's worth contemplating. After attempting to answer his inquiry, he asked:
So having a baby on the way isn't part of it?
Well, yes, of course it does. How much of my productivity is due to fatherhood, versus other, regular factors and systems I put into place is quite hard to say. Perhaps the next wave of productivity gurus will niche down on men with pregnant wives.
For the sake of what you can actually repeat, and protecting your own life choices, I'll tell you what works for me.
Have a weekly plan. I have a rigorous weekly planning process. It takes about an hour, I do it Sunday evenings, and it's the single most important part of my routine. The process was a few, distinct parts: a reflection of the last week, a plan for every major project I have going on in my life inclusive of work and personal life, a review of my calendar for the next week, a prioritization of the top 5 things I need to accomplish in the coming week, then block time for them, and write a weekly mantra. After that, I print out my weekly plan and keep it on my desk, scribbling new tasks on it and crossing things off as I go.
Check calendar daily. Every morning, part of my routine is to check the calendar to see what appointments I have for the day. It takes 1-2 minutes, and it helps me plan my schedule.
Meditate every morning. This is a big one for me. It helps me stay productive insofar as it helps me stay more focused and aware of what's going on in my head. If you don't already meditate, I recommend you start immediately. It'll make every aspect of your life better.
Stay focused for the first 2 hours of the day. I wake up at 5:45am every morning and spend the first 2 hours of my day focused on a task that requires the most concentration. This is prime writing time, or creative time, or whatever else you need to do that's hard and requires a long block of uninterrupted time. The morning session is the most productive time of my day.
Use email instead of meetings as much as possible. It may take you 15 minutes to write a well thought-out, detailed email. But meetings are almost always booked for 30 minutes, and often run over time. Don't have a meeting if you can avoid it. Likewise, when people ask me for a meeting, I'm in the habit of asking what questions they have, and it can often be solved over email much faster.
Say no more than yes. So many people have written about this, but it's true. What you don't do is just as important as what you do. Your productivity, happiness, and success all hinge on it.
Eliminate unnecessary distractions. This one is harder to be prescriptive about. Although I can take a wild guess and say that, if you're a knowledge worker like me, the Internet is calling you every second of every day. One thing that helps me stay focused is to manage my desktop and tabs before every task, and use a single monitor. Others recommend you completely eliminate social media, but it's not always possible depending on your career.
Simplify. As much as possible, I try to choose simpler options. With my this website, with who gets onto my calendar, with everything. The world wants you to overcomplicate things. Fight it.
Have systems in place. You may think that everything you do is totally unique and impossible to put into a repeatable system. I can assure you that you're wrong. There's plenty you can do to make some of the things you do faster.
This is what works for me. Do whatever works for you, and keep going.
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