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The Butler’s Productivity Rant

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15 Oct 2018

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The Butler’s Productivity Rant

Today, I want to talk about productivity.

Because here’s the simple fact: time is money.

We all try to squeeze as much profit out of our projects as we possibly can, so the less productive you are, the more time and money you spend on a project. That’s pretty straightforward, right?

While I’m not necessarily a Bruce Lee guru, I think he uttered one of the truest statements ever –

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

But before I get deep into this little blog post about productivity, let’s establish this disclaimer. I don’t claim that my tactics are the healthiest, work the best, or are good for everyone. This is not the way that everybody should be, or will discover their most productive self. And most certainly, it will not be every one’s first choice of how they want to be productive. These methods work for me; but there is no guarantee they will work for you.

One of the last things I should mention is that I operate well with very little sleep. Actually, I thrive without very much sleep. It stresses my wife out and my mother isn’t a fan. So keep in mind that the demands I place on myself in that arena are not the norm – this certainly isn’t the case for everyone.

I have put this guide together with the hope that it could give you a few tips and tricks to become most productive self. Hopefully a few will fit your work processes and lifestyle.

Here are 7 of the surest ways I have mastered for being more productive!

  1. Outsourcing

In approaching this ‘rant’, one of the first questions I wanted to understand about myself is: what exactly does productivity mean for me? Does it mean being up for potentially 16 hours working on projects? Damn straight. BUT, does that mean that in the 16 hours I am going to only work on just one project? No. I know I have to delegate myself in those 16 hours in order to accomplish multiple tasks for multiple projects, to avoid boredom and overwork.

Then, another important question I ask myself when making my to-do list is whether each task is something that HAS to be done by me. If not, could it be outsourced? If the answer to that question is yes, then I start thinking about how I can train a member of our staff to do this task. It’s quicker and more economical to have two (trained and competent) people working on something than just one. For many scenarios, you could do a screen recording and talk about what you’re doing, that you can then show to your virtual assistant or full-time staff. Alternative methods are simply writing out your instructions, having a Skype call, or showing them in person! Whatever suits your situation, and the task, best.

But, I think the important component here is that I am constantly cross-checking my present with my brand’s future. Always ask, ‘Is what I am working on going to grow big enough to warrant training someone else?’ Again, remember, time is money.

 

  1. Time Management

As they say – different strokes for different folks. Some of these time management methods might sound great to you, while others would just never work. From my view, these are the best ideas I’ve learnt for productivity over the years, most of which I personally use every day. Adopting a few of these will streamline your day, prevent burnout and take some stress off your shoulders!

  • Pomodoro: I’m a big fan of time management throughout my day. So, in my never-ending quest to optimise my time even more efficiently, I came across the Pomodoro Technique. This consists of allotting yourself 25 minutes to completely focus on a task, with no distractions, with a 5 minute break afterwards. After that, go back and do another 25 minutes of uninterrupted work. This could be the same task, or a different one. I find this to be a fantastic tool – try it for yourself with this simple Pomodoro timer.
  • The Two-Minute Rule: This procrastination-stopper is a new game-changer on my agenda. It apparently comes from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. If you haven’t heard of the two-minute rule yet, it really is that simple: if a task comes your way that will take two minutes or less, do it instantly. This prevents menial tasks crowding your to-do list. Answer that email, make that quick call, or even just everyday things like taking out your bins or laying out your clothes for tomorrow. Anything that makes life easier in the long run and can be accomplished in under two minutes: do it now. Yes, you.
  • Bullet Journal: Like your normal to-do list, but on steroids. The motto of The Bullet Journal Method, a book by Ryder Carroll, is ‘track the past, order the present, design the future’. To the point, and it actually works. The method is also hailed as an ‘analogue system for the digital age’: literally all you need is a notebook and pen to get started, which is great to get a break from your screen. This method has become hugely popular in the last few years and can be achieved very simply (if you ignore the YouTubers making fancy intricate ones). It’s basically a really quick, easy and effective way to organise your month, week, and day; keep track of completed tasks; and delegate unfinished tasks to more appropriate days. In my view, it’s the best way to never forget a task. For a detailed explanation see this video.
  • Eat the Frog: I know you’re like WTF? right now, but bear with me! This is an incredibly simple way organise your days, if you have the willpower. It’s based on a quote by the writer Mark Twain, who famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, the rest of your day will be brilliant. Put into business terms: if you do the biggest/toughest/most unpleasant task of the day first, you’ll feel great for the rest of it. This is sometimes easier said than done, but is a total weight off your mind if you live by this rule. For heavy procrastinators this will take some mental strength, but it’s worth it in the end.

 

  1. The Right Coffee

I changed the coffee that I drink. Ok, so this one seems a little trivial. But it makes a HUGE difference. I used to drink a lot of instant coffee, even though I love proper coffee. Then a good friend of mine, Dave Chesson who is a regular contributor to the SEOButler blog, introduced me to Bulletproof coffee.

It’s essentially coffee made by a marketer, for marketers. They call it ‘upgraded coffee’, because it has all the crap taken out of it, and it actually tastes fantastic. I’ve learnt that drinking gallons of coffee each day actually does zero good for you if it’s the cheap, nasty kind. Learn more and check out Bulletproof coffee here.

 

  1. Discover What Time of Day You’re Most Productive

This is important. I think a lot of people believe being truly productive means they have to wake up at 6am. I don’t think that’s the right way to think, or that it’s true. I work very well if I wake up at 8 or 9, while my business partner seems to alternate between working well both early in the morning or late in the day.

Everyone is different, but figuring out the time of day that you feel most comfortable really is essential. There is no point getting up at 5 in the morning and forcing yourself to work if you’re going to be a sleep-deprived zombie and make mistakes. Know yourself well enough to know the best time of day that suits you.

 

  1. Set Up Your Ideal Working Environment

The other thing to figure out is how you are most productive. What environment suits you best? Do you work better in a coffee shop or at the office, in total silence or with the radio on? Personally, the working environment I thrive in is at the office, with some light background music – namely, using Brain.FM.

This tool prompts users to answer numerous questions to gauge their concentration levels. After cataloguing your personal profile, it will then play music that stimulates your brain to do something that you wanted to do. For instance, if you wanted to ensure your brain is fully receptive while you’re reading important information, you can set Brain.FM for exactly for that. If you’re planning a heavy study session, workout, or even meditation, you’ll find something on Brain.FM for that.

The music tracks on this site also happen to last 30 minutes – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this links to the Pomodoro method of a short period of heavy concentration followed by a break. Also, I strongly believe that a high level of concentration can’t be achieved while listening to exciting music or inspirational speeches. Don’t get me wrong, I have an extremely eclectic taste in music; but for me personally, listening to the music I’d listen to at home to concentrate during work really hinders my flow.

Normally, what I do is work for 25-30 minutes, disconnect from the work I’m doing when the music stops/my Pomodoro timer rings, then just clear my head for 5 minutes. I might make a coffee, read an article, or make a quick call. Ok, maybe that’s a lie. I usually go smoke and stretch. Regardless, what matters is that you step away from the work after an intensive session, even if it is just for a few minutes. After your break, you go back to your computer and you set the next track up, and off you go. With Brain.FM you get 7 free training sessions. It’s really brilliant, so check it out!

 

  1. Make a To-Do List Every Day

Set yourself very achievable tasks to accomplish for every single day. Whether you are building a website or have a full day of meetings ahead of you, plan your time out accordingly, and assign yourself time limits for each one of the tasks you want to achieve for that day. (This is where a bullet journal really comes in handy.) This will keep you accountable, while also ensuring you get through your list.

I structure my day like this:

  • Eat the frog! I get my biggest task out of the way first thing, or the one I’m most excited about.
  • One or two ‘medium’ tasks to do afterwards.
  • Save the smallest/easily achievable ones for last.

AND, I use Pomodoro and the two-minute rule throughout the day. Once this is all second nature, BAM – you’re a productivity master.

 

  1. Figure Out Which Devices and Programs Help You the Most

I know that a lot of people that use Basecamp or Trello. I prefer Trello, while my business partner really likes Basecamp. We try and mix it up, but in Trello, all you need to do is make a list of cards and put all your tasks on there. On each card you can put a checklist. Every time that you complete a task, you just go onto your Trello card and just hit ‘done’, which will give you a sense of accomplishment.

This sense of achievement makes you accountable to yourself and your time, which I think is very important. There’s nothing worse than having spent an entire day messing about, not knowing what you’ve actually gotten done. Another upside of Trello is that your whole team can see your activity – knowing other people can see your productivity really gives you a kick to get going.

At the same time, by breaking everything up into tasks and listing it, you are able to switch to a different project, do some work on it, and then switch back to the first project – structured further with Pomodoro. This really is one of the best ways to be productive.

Keeping track of all the daily tasks and due dates for work is essential for running a reliable and competent business – but you will quickly find that this can become stressful and tedious. This is where either your Bullet Journal comes in, or an integrated calendar. I still mourn the loss of Sunrise Calendar, but now I use Google Calendar which I think is just as great. You can import important tasks from your Trello that have a due date to show up alongside your other calendars, all in one view. This means you can have 20 Trello boards, with to do lists and due times, and see them all at a glance. This is beautiful. At the same time, you are still able to manage your normal calendar too, allowing you to see conflicting issues.

Whether you work best in analogue or digital, figuring out which method of keeping track of your schedule is absolutely key to your business, peace of mind, and productivity. Utilising some of these tips will mean you work like you, but better.

 

Got anything to add? Share with us in the comments – I’m always looking for new methods!

2 Comments

Blair

Great blog Jonanthan I enjoyed reading it alot and I am trying out brain.fm now and also ordering some of that coffee and trying out the 25 minute work then 5 minute rest idea to see what happens.

    John K

    Thanks so much Blair!
    Do let us know how you get on with those new methods!

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