Productivity articles. The world is not short of them and I’ve contributed my fair share. There are a ton of valuable techniques and it’s all about getting the ones that work for you. I use my own combination (Chunking time, 3 Priorities, Energy Management, Building Processes etc.) and they definitely make a difference when you get a rhythm.
This article is something a bit different though and I’ve got Jeff Haden’s book, the Motivation Myth, to thank for it.
Basically, there’s a lot of talk out there about two different camps of thought on productivity:
- Those that tell you that you need to be working 16 hour days every day and to hell with everything (and everyone) else until you’ve made it.
- Those that tell you to enjoy the present and get the right life balance because life is for living, not for being a burnt-out wreck.
I have to say that working with entrepreneurs, the amount of time they are working seems to be some sort of badge of honour. More often than not however, those who I overhear talking about working 16 hour days are those who spend 12 of those hours fannying about.
I’ve never met anybody who is at their maximum effectiveness working those kinds of hours. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just that I’ve not met them.
Equally though, I’m not much of a life balance guy. Work is my life. My work is my purpose. I like being in the red zone. But I’ve also recognised that the longer I try to live there the more screw ups and false anxieties start to crop up. It messes with my cognitive power, my perspective and probably my grip on reality.
Thanks to Jeff however, I think I’ve found the answer.
He writes in his book about having an extreme productivity day (an EPD) which is one day where you go all out in terms of getting stuff done. He sets 8 criteria:
1 – Let everyone know you won’t be available
2 – Decide how long you will work (NOT “as long as I can”)
3 – Totally commit to how long you’ve decided to work
4 – Start your EPD at an unusual time (to work from really early or through the night)
5 – Delay and space out your rewards (which are to be small things)
6 – Refuel in advance (in terms of food and water – have them to hand)
7 – Take productive breaks, not relaxation breaks
8 – Take breaks at counter-intuitive moments (in the middle of a task so it’s not a natural break)
In my group we add a ninth criteria – get accountability. Work out your start and end times, what you are planning to get done and then mail the group. Then update them afterwards to let them know what you achieved.
I did mine recently, I both learned and achieved a lot. Up at 04:15, run, shower, and work begins in earnest at 05:15. The first thing that was amazing to see what I had done by 08:00. It felt like a lot more than three and a half hours of productivity. This continued throughout the morning and when I changed environment to walk the 15 minutes go to the office at 12:30 I put a podcast on. Normally I don’t rate these as there’s so much waffle but I’m enjoying Dan Lok at the moment. I cracked on through a wave of exhaustion around 15:00 but going for a coffee and to read a book, then powered through until 21:30.
What was really key for me was the highlighting of habits I can adopt day to day. Getting up at 04:30 is really cool and I just seemed to fly through stuff. I learned that I can stick with a mundane task if I give myself a micro-break during it to read a few pages of a book. Breaking at a counter-intuitive moments during those is a better way for me to do it than trying to plough through to a natural break point (when I might be tempted to ‘pick it up again tomorrow’).
If you want to find out more then read Jeff’s book. If you don’t read then watch a video on YouTube (though you’ll have to find it yourself – I’m a books guy!). Even from this though, I would suggest you try your own version of an EPD. Schedule in one day, do 14-16 hours, don’t allow any interruptions then see what you learn about yourself and how you work.
I need to be in the red zone so I can feel alive. EPDs might give me the balance to feel it without turning into a zombie in the process.