Category: Productivity

Six ways to increase productivity and get shit done.

I used to give in to being a lazy sack of shit. I would spend afternoons doing nothing. I would sit on the couch in sweatpants eating ice cream while participating in the the laziest type of marathon ever: the Netflix marathon. I called this “relaxation time”. I was an unproductive human being, and didn’t realize how much I was losing by parking my ass on the couch everyday.

Mornings used to be impossibly hard for me. I was, in general, a fairly useless employee until my 3rd cup of coffee. And weekend mornings were spent in a haze — in front of a television (again, in sweatpants), usually until lunch time.

My periods of actual productivity were met with much resistance. The temptation to use the Internet as a procrastination tool was too great. In most cases the Internet won the battle, and I would leave work for the day without having accomplished anything. Just to go home to use the Internet more.

This is the cycle of the lazy and unproductive. This was how the old me spent nearly every single day.

It may not seem like there’s a problem with this lifestyle. Your employer is still paying you. You get to watch all the TV shows you want. You get to wear sweatpants EVERYDAY. But what are you sacrificing by being so unproductive? Money? Time? Friends? Relationships? Other stuff?

I had a personal A-HA! moment a few years ago. I realized that there was more to life than work and television. I developed a personal mantra, and with a supportive spouse who also encourages productivity, we have transformed our family life into an unstoppable force of relentless productivity.

Before we started caring about being productive, we focused on filling our time with shopping, the Internet, television, and eating out.

After applying our core concepts of productivity, we shifted our priorities to money generation, using the Internet for a purpose, furthering our education and cooking.

Here are some of the basic principles that have helped us achieve a better, more productive life at home and in the office.

Stop checking email every 5 minutes.

For months I was getting about 200 emails per day between my various email accounts (personal, work, other work, and Johnny Moneyseed). 200 friggin’ emails a day!

For a while I was opening every single email. Whether I was reading the content or not wasn’t the issue. It was the fact that I was allowing myself to be constantly distracted every time my phone buzzed to tell me that I had a new message. I just wanted to clear my inbox of new messages so Google would tell me this:

Yeah, I was one of those people that had to have a cleared inbox. I still am, but I go about it in a completely different way now.

The first thing that I did to reduce the volume of email that I receive in a day was unsubscribing to every company email list that was sending me garbage advertisements. Instead of doing this all at once, I waited until companies would email me, then I would click the ‘unsubscribe’ button on the bottom of the email. I’m sure my name is still on a few automailers, but they don’t send me anything, so they aren’t doing any harm.

The next step was to eliminate automatically generated messages from hitting my inbox. As a website owner/administrator I get a ton of these messages. Every time someone signs up to receive my articles by email I get an email. Every time WordPress does anything I get an email. But I need some of these emails, I just don’t want to see them unless I have a specific reason to (I almost never have a reason to).

To get rid of these emails from my inbox I created filters in the settings menu of Gmail. By adding specific words that each of these automatic emails contain, I was able to create rules that would mark these emails as “read”, and auto archive them for me. They’re safe if I need to see them, but hopefully I won’t ever have to do that.

The final step I took to reduce email distractions was to only check email once per day instead of whenever I got an email, or whenever I was bored. I set a time to check my messages (9am for work, 4pm for personal) and I use a predetermined amount of time to respond to each one (roughly 15 minutes, tops). I also let people know that I only check my emails once a day, and if they need to get in touch with me for a serious matter they can contact me by phone.

If you follow this approach you’ll notice that you’ll spend less time every day dealing with email.

Stop living other people’s lives through Facebook.

I’m a fan of social media. I always have been. It’s a great way to keep up with your friends and family. It’s a great way to share pictures of your kids for those people that you hardly ever see. But it has major pitfalls as well. Your productivity being #1 on the list.

Spending a few minutes here and there checking your news feed, and posting status updates turns into hours wasted away in front of a computer or smartphone. It stifles productivity. It’s just another distraction that takes you away from the reality that is your life. You can’t get shit done when you have to let the world know what you’re doing every 5 minutes (followed by refreshing the screen repeatedly to see how many times people liked your status update).

Most of us aren’t social media managers, so there is no reason to be spending hours of our daily lives reading about what our friends or acquaintances are doing with their lives. Do you really care that everyone is watching the Olympics right now?

If something actually important happens in real life, you’ll hear about it through other means. Whether a new law is being passed, or a major storm is headed up the coast to bury you in snow, you’ll find out about it by interacting with people in real life. If no one bothers to bring it up in conversation, it probably isn’t that important.

Unless you deal with Facebook marketing (ie, you manage a company Facebook page, you work FOR Facebook, etc) then you should follow my approach: Only log into Facebook ONCE per week. Set a time limit on your activity, preferably 15 minutes. This is enough time to digest anything of near importance and to “catch up” with people whose lives you’re interested in.

After saying all of that, don’t forget to share this post on Facebook!

Stop staring at statistics and price charts.

When I started investing a few years ago, I was obsessed with Google Finance. I plugged in all of my investments, and watched the market nearly every day. I could generally tell you why the market was up or down on any given day. But, in retrospect, this was completely irrational and wasteful behavior.

Watching the stock market move up and down doesn’t help you accomplish anything. Unless you’re a market analyst, or a hedge fund manager, there’s no reason to concern yourself with the daily dealings in the stock market.

If you’re brand new to investing you SHOULD take a few weeks — maybe a month — and watch how the market moves. Read the news about why the market is doing what it’s doing. It will allow you to feel comfortable, and make you somewhat knowledgeable about your money. But after that, stop looking at market charts!

Investors aren’t the only people who waste time checking pointless statistics charts and graphs either.

There are also a fair amount of website owners and bloggers out there that are obsessed with their statistics dashboards. They’ll keep a Google Analytics window open and watch how many active visitors are on the site. They’ll stare at how many page views they’ve gotten since they posted their last post, while hitting refresh every 5-10 minutes.

While it’s great that you have the ability to watch your website grow, it isn’t necessary to know exactly how many views your site has gotten in the past hour.

I’m sure there are 100 other jobs where statistics watching may occur, and just like the examples above, you’re probably wasting a shit-load of time by watching these numbers. The same advice applies, ignore the flashing charts.

Summarize your statistics checking by viewing your statistics-of-choice once per week. You’ll still be able to figure out how well your stocks or your website are doing. Take about 15 minutes (if necessary) to complete this task.

Don’t just plan. Be actionable.

How many times have you gotten home from work and pulled my “sweatpants and ice cream” routine? How many times THIS WEEK have you done this?

While it’s okay to have an “I don’t feel like doing anything today” kind of day once in a while, if this is your post-work routine you’re wasting the part of day where you’re allowed to do whatever you want. No boss. No co-workers. No Jeff from HR (man that guy is a douche).

Sitting in front of the TV every day after work is a failure to live. It provides a sense of false relaxation. It can be damaging to your mind, your health, your self-esteem and your wallet.

To stop myself from being a lazy, unproductive waste of space at home my wife and I started keeping a Black Book. In our book is a plan of everything that needs to get done in our lives. It has everything from fixing the house to doing homework to publishing blog posts. Everything we do is scheduled in some way. And we hold ourselves accountable to our schedule.

The Black Book is a very powerful creature. If used properly and taken seriously it has the potential to motivate the shit out of you. Ours is the lifeblood of our family’s Action Plan. It IS the Action Plan. If you don’t have one, get one. Don’t just write goals on a napkin. Write out the stuff you want to accomplish every day and be actionable. Complete your goals or they’ll be as worthless as the paper they’re written on.

Stop eating like shit.

Science has proven over the years that most food is pretty terrible for you. Our choices of food, or lack of food are the main reason that we either have energy or don’t have energy throughout the day.

Foods that are good for you have gotten a pretty bad wrap in the past 50 years. This is mainly because processed foods and added sugars are so fucking addictive and delicious. But generally this stuff is poison.  Our wallets are shrinking and our waste lines are expanding because of our love of Fast Food. We’re slowing killing ourselves a fist full of french fries at a time.

Improving your diet can have a serious and positive impact on your emotions, your energy levels and your productivity (and your wallet).

More water + more protein + less gluten + less sugar = More energy. Higher productivity. More money.

Over the past 4 years I’ve drastically changed my diet, and it’s made me feel incredible. I stopped drinking energy drinks and soda. I stopped eating french fries and I have a low-gluten diet. The only beverages that I normally consume are water and coffee (with almond milk). And I rarely drink alcohol.

Automate your finances.

It used to be a point of pride for me to move my finances around. Paying bills put a swagger in my step.

It took me a while to realize that automation is king. It reduces error. It eliminates the necessity of me logging in to 30 accounts every month to make sure that I schedule a payment. While I wasn’t logging in to my accounts on a daily basis, I would spend a couple of hours every month making sure my transactions were all set up AND I would spend a few more hours making sure all of the payments actually went through.

That was until I set literally every recurring payment that I have to make on autopilot. Every credit card gets paid in full on their due dates. Every mortgage payment gets made on the day they’re due. And I don’t have to lift a finger. Now I have an even bigger swagger in my step, because I gained back more of my time every month.

I still check Mint twice a month — on the 1st and 15th — to make sure all of my bills did in fact get paid properly. This takes far less time, energy and brain power than our previous hands-on approach to our finances.

Whatever you do..

Don’t sit on your ass everyday. Find a side hustle to make some extra money. If you have nothing better to do than watch TV or YouTube videos all night, sign up for night classes. Even if you feel like the laziest, most unproductive person in the world there is hope for you. I WAS YOU. And now I’m publishing an article about “how to be more productive”. Think about that for a second.