Do you know what most productivity “experts” hope you’ll never find out?
The tips they spout and the apps they sell are total BS. The experts themselves don’t even use them!
Honesty Bath time: When was the last time you downloaded an app that you were sure was going to make you more productive, used it for less than a day, and then forgot about it?
Was it this month? This week? This morning?
What about the last time you killed the day’s productivity reading articles like “100 Successful People Teach You How to Be More Productive” all afternoon?
Let’s be honest, are you doing that right now!?
Enough is enough.
Let’s forget the fluff and look at how productivity actually works.
How productivity actually works
Productivity isn’t the same as motivation. It’s impossible to staying motivated all the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t always be productive.
Motivation comes in waves. Some days we hop out of bed, ready to take on the world. We start big projects, dream big dreams, and know that FINALLY we’re going to accomplish something.
But then tomorrow comes.
We sit down in the same place we sat yesterday — where we were on fire and ready to go — and… nothing. We look at our Netflix queue or go and buy a cup of coffee. We can’t seem to get that spark back.
If we rely on motivation alone, we’ll rarely be productive.
What can we do instead?
One of my mentors, BJ Fogg, who runs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford, says we should assume that our “future self” is going to be lazy and have no motivation. We need to set up systems to make productivity as easy as possible — even when our motivation is low.
Here’s how to use systems to be productive even when motivation slumps.
Step 1: Plan for failure
Successful people aren’t luckier than most people. But they do try more things, and they’re willing to fail.
For example, my good friend Tim Ferriss was rejected 26 times before a publisher finally accepted his idea for The 4-Hour Workweek (which later became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller).
Almost anyone who’s been successful has a similar story of failure before triumph.
But the difference between average and productive people is that average people are blindsided by failure and give up when it strikes.
Productive people, on the other hand, actively seek out failure because they know success is on the other side.
- Make a list of everything you need to get to accomplish your goal
- Set up those pieces to make it impossible to fail
Here’s a few examples of what that might look like:
BJ Fogg wanted to drink more tea. So he bought all the tea, an electric kettle to boil water, and set everything up in easy reach on his counter. Even when he felt like drinking something else, it was right there, so it was a no-brainer to make.
I was trying to form a gym habit. I’d get up in the morning planning to go, but after a few minutes decide not to. I discovered that if I put my gym clothes and my shoes next to my bed, I would put them on first thing and by that point, I “might as well” just go.
Chandler Bolt of The Productive Person wrote 365 thank you notes last year by pre-stamping and adding address labels to batches of 50 cards. By keeping the cards close by, he was able to make it easy to write and send the cards with or without motivation.
Step 2: Put it on your calendar
Imagine playing in a basketball game against LeBron James. You have the best shoes, the most expensive pair of athletics shorts, a fancy headband, and the greatest jersey in the world. And he has no shoes, ripped shorts, and a dress shirt. Who would win?
It sounds ridiculous, but we play this same game against productivity every day.
The tools don’t matter as much as we think.
Novices LOVE to focus on productivity hacks, apps, and tools. It’s easy — and frankly, more fun — to play with shiny new tools than to simply do what works.
But usually the fundamentals — things like a simple calendar, pen, and paper — work as well as (if not better than) some app.
Take a look at a sample of my calendar system.
See how it’s not a super advanced set of apps? I purposely make it easy on myself so I can follow through and easily update it.
EXECUTION is more important than the tactic itself.
How you can start using this right now:
- Decide ahead of time and map out your schedule for the week either, on paper or in a simple calendar system
- Set an alert in your calendar or on your phone to review this every week. Keep thinking ahead, and you’ll never be caught off guard or pressed for time
Step 3: Develop laser-guided focus
In the video above, BJ Fogg talks about “competing motivations” — sometimes even our best efforts to be productive are thwarted because something else comes along.
Sometimes these are external distractions: an emergency comes up, we have family demands, and work gets busy.
But just as often, we cannibalize one goal by shifting focus to another. The result? We don’t make much progress on either.
Developing FOCUS and being able to put some ideas on hold is a skill that almost guarantees we make progress on what matters. Let me show you what I mean.
One of my close friends, Noah Kagan, a former employee of Mint and Facebook and the founder of AppSumo, showed me the power of having laser-guided focus — he was able to start not one, but two multimillion-dollar businesses that continue to see growth year after year.
He does this by setting one big goal at a time.
How’s you can use this right now:
- Pick your number one goal. Is it earning more money? Starting a business? Finding your Dream Job?
- Grab a pen and paper and write it down. Really, do this now. This isn’t a silly “thought exercise.” We’re doing this to commit ourselves to one course of action and follow through
Advanced Productivity Systems: Create habits you can stick to
As you may have noticed, our struggles with how to be productive are really struggles with creating habits — which is why I put together the very best material on setting goals, creating habits that stick, riding motivational waves, and getting back on track (if you ever fall off).
If you’re ready to stop making excuses, break out of that rut, and make a major change in your life, this free guide is for you.
Take a look at what’s inside:
- How to wake up productive and get more done by noon than most people do all day (covered in Part 2)
- “If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d ____.” I’ll teach you how to keep being productive even when you “don’t feel like it.” (covered in Part 3)
- Ever spent a busy day filled with distractions — answering emails and putting out fires — and walked away feeling like you finished nothing? I’ll show you how to stay productive and eliminate distractions (covered in Part 6)
This free guide includes HD videos, downloadable worksheets, lessons from the world’s leading experts on behavioral change, and much, much more.
So check it out. Try out the techniques. And enjoy the results you get for the rest of your life.