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Productivity advice for the weird

Ramit Sethi

I get some version of this email every day:

“How many hours do you work, Ramit? What tool do you use to manage your social media? Do you actually read 2,000 emails/day?”

All right, you want to know how I actually stay productive? Fine, I’ll show you exactly what I do. No pandering, no hiding the truth. You might think I’m over-the-top, or that my approach is weird or won’t work for you…but I don’t care if people think it’s “too much.” I care about making an impact.

Introducing the 3 Tiers of Productivity

Listen to the way most people talk about productivity.

  • “I just need to buckle down.”
  • “I need to find my ‘Why’… THEN everything will fall into place.”
  • “I guess I’m just not motivated enough.”

Look, productivity isn’t about “motivation.” If you think it is, you’ve already lost.

Productivity is about understanding what you really want to do, then building systems to make it work for you. The goal isn’t Inbox Zero. (Who gives a shit?) Your goal is to enable yourself to perform at your very best, every day, and over the course of weeks and months and years.

This is how you make a huge impact. Sure, you might slip up a few times. Some days you just won’t feel it — and that’s fine. Real productivity gives you freedom and flexibility because you’re consistent 95% of the time.

Think of productivity like a pyramid.

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At the bottom — the foundation — are your fundamentals. Things like your environment, your sleep, and knowing what you’re going to work on every morning. Everybody ignores these because they’re not sexy. But if you don’t get these right, nothing else matters.

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In the middle is your psychology, like the ability to set boundaries, handle setbacks, and be positive and resilient.

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At the very top — the least important part — are the details. The things like “Which app do you use?” Everybody wastes their time focusing on this stuff. (Get a life.)

But I know you productivity nutjobs want to know all my favorite little life hacks, so I’ll show you what I use and exactly how I use it. Let’s start at the base of the pyramid, the foundation.

Tier 1: Fundamentals

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In our culture, it’s a virtue to make your success seem effortless. But in reality, real success takes real effort. Most will lie to you about how easy it comes. I won’t.

This is precisely why the most important part of the productivity pyramid is the fundamentals: sleep, a clean environment, and knowing exactly what you’re going to do.

These aren’t “easy.” You can’t download an app on your phone to solve them. But they are the secret to permanently increasing your productivity.

Fundamental #1: 8 hours of sleep. Every. Night.

As a culture, we see sleep as a weakness — something that can be powered through and caffeinated over. The data shows this is not true. In fact, a lack of sleep is as harmful as being drunk.

And the celebrities who tell you they “hardly” sleep? Lies. (Just like they lie about rarely working out, when in reality they have nutritionists, trainers, and chefs.)

My fundamental “80% Win” here is that I sleep 7.5 to 8 hours almost every night.

It’s not sexy. But as I’m writing this at 9:34am, I slept 8 hours last night and I woke up knowing I was going to have a productive day.

Here’s what you might not know about sleeping 8 hours/night:

  • The truth about sleep makes us feel guilty. People hate hearing the reality of what celebrities eat, because the truth is not sexy. It’s the same for sleep. Because if he can sleep 8 hours and still get a ton done, what does that say about me?
  • Sleep-tracking devices are a complete waste of money. Your sleep will not be improved with an app. It will be improved with you doing the hard work of digging into the psychological stories you tell yourself about sleep, then setting up a system to drive the behavior of sleeping on time, then honoring it. Apps and devices are irrelevant.
  • Lack of sleep makes you physically weak. On days where I’ve slept less, the most immediate and quantifiable measure is during my workouts. My stamina is down and my lifts are horrible. Nothing as stark as seeing a ~25% reduction in your dumbbell weights to realize sleep has a huge impact.

Interestingly, the hardest part is often our emotional resistance to reminding ourselves to go to sleep. We find it “weird” to set a time to go to sleep (yet we don’t find it weird to set an alarm to wake up). Get over it.

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My phone reminds me every night when it’s time to sleep

Fundamental #2: I hire someone to clean my apartment

I’m inspired by beauty. I love clean lines and thoughtful decoration. And I keep my apartment so clean that if I went blind, I would know exactly where the wooden spoon, my tongue cleaner, and my Windex are.

My mantra: A place for everything, and everything in its place!

To help, I hire someone to clean my apartment. I found them through a friend and went through the typical questions to myself:

“Can’t I just do this myself? Will people think I’m a show off? My mom didn’t have someone to clean our house and she had 4 kids…”

But then I remembered that being productive is about enabling yourself to perform at your very best, every day, and over the course of weeks and months and years. I could afford it, and it helped me be productive — so I decided it was the right thing to do.

To go even further, my real sign of abundance was moving this cleaning from once a month…to once a week.

Now I know that every Monday morning, I’ll start the day off with a perfectly clean apartment so I can get to work productively.

Fundamental #3: I have a consistent meal plan, and stick to it

I hired a chef to prepare food for me based on my fitness goals. So now, every single day I know exactly what my meal plan is. It’s one decision every week and not 21 decisions across the week. More on how I set this food system up.

(And when I go out to eat, I order anything I want, guilt-free, knowing that I eat on-plan 95% of the time.)

By the way, if you can’t afford to hire a chef (which is maybe my largest extravagance), the second-best option is to meal-prep on Sundays, packing each meal into its own container. Suddenly, you don’t have to think about food, and you can be thoughtful about your nutrition.

Fundamental #4: I optimize my calendar  

Show me a man’s calendar and his spending, and I’ll show you what he prioritizes.

I love the stability of knowing exactly what I’m going to do every day. For example, every Monday is the same: An all-team call, a product strategy call, etc. Every Tuesday is the same. Same for Wednesday, my no-meeting strategy day and the day I catch up on reading all of my articles tagged “strategy” in Pinboard and allow myself to actually feel things. (A 14-year-old is cognizant of her feelings every single day, but I only have feelings on Wednesday.)

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My Mondays always follow the same structure

I also set up my calendar to take advantage of my creative energy. I have my best ideas in the morning. As the day goes on, I shift from individual writing to team calls.

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Writing in the morning, meetings in the afternoon

The theme? I reduce variables so I can be totally present and focused. I’m not wondering, “What am I doing today??” because my weeks always look the same. I don’t wonder, “What am I going to eat tonight?” because my meals are pre-cooked. Psychological switching costs are real and I’d rather save my energy for other things.

All of these are totally un-sexy and most people will skip right over them (I know I did when I was younger). “Yeah, yeah, sleep is important,” I would say. “But what apps do you use???” I was an idiot.

Get these big wins right, and the productivity apps you use are irrelevant.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:

□ On average, do you sleep 7-8 hours/night?

□ Do you wake up knowing exactly what you’re going to do every day?

□ Is your workspace clean and organized?

□ Is your calendar arranged to match your energy throughout the day?

□ Do you know exactly what you’re going to eat tomorrow (and does it give you energy)?

Tier 2: Psychology

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Why do we feel guilty about time management? Why do we use words like “information detox” when it comes to our work? And why are we so embarrassed about the things we actually need in order to be productive?

For example, when I host a webcast late at night, I always end up going to sleep at 1 or 2am, much later than usual (thanks to caffeine and adrenaline). I used to have my normal meetings scheduled for 9am the next day, and I would be totally out of it all day. One day, it occurred to me that maybe I should push back my 9am meeting by an hour on the rare days when I hold a webinar the night before.

You know the next thing I felt? EMBARRASSMENT.

I “shouldn’t” need to push back the morning meeting. I’m a machine, right? Doesn’t everyone just talk about “powering through it”? Also, isn’t it self-indulgent to give myself an hour extra in the morning?

The answer, of course, is that I was working until 10:30pm the night before…and this only happens once a month. It’s perfectly fine to give myself a little time to catch up.

This is why I spend so much time on the emotional and psychological side of productivity. If I didn’t tackle these deep issues — the feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and “should-itis” — we would just jump right into the third section: tactics.

No productivity app or 7-second solution is ever going to tackle the psychological and emotional barriers we feel. Only you can do that. And it’s hard.

Mind hack #1: Set clear boundaries

100% of the time I hear someone saying they’re “overwhelmed,” when I dig in, I discover someone with an inability to set boundaries.

 

The biggest skill in combatting overwhelm is learning to set boundaries

Some questions to consider:

  • When was the last time you said “no” when someone asked you to help them?
  • When was the last time you decided what you want to do on a weekend instead of letting someone else decide for you?
  • When was the last time you turned down money or an opportunity because it didn’t fit in with your larger goals?

Mind hack #2: Be unapologetic with what you need

Are you comfortable doing things that seem extremely weird to others in order to be productive?

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Now here’s what happens when I click on my meeting:

Let’s drill down even further: See that URL?


See how the URL is on its own line?

It used to look like this:


The URLs used to get mixed into the description

But that meant when I clicked it, I’d have to select it, copy/paste, then open another browser window. Do that 10 times a day, 60+ times a week, and it’s one minor irritation that slows you down.

So I set a rule that when a URL is added to my calendar, it has to be added with a hard return. Now, I can double click, Command-C, Command-T to open a new browser tab, Command-V, and I’m instantly in my document in less than 1 second.

Does this seem weird? OCD? Too picky? Would you be embarrassed to tell someone this is what you want?

Maybe it is. But it’s what I need to be productive. My calendar is FILLED with invites so this minor annoyance snowballs into a huge one quickly. You shouldn’t copy my calendar invite system. But you should be as honest with what causes the little frictions in your day.

Imagine the other ways you could implement this principle of a “pixel-perfect” day:

  • You always put your cellphone in the same pocket or area of your purse so you’re never fumbling around for it.
  • You always tuck your shoelaces into your shoes so they’re organized and you can avoid wrangling them when you pick your shoes up.
  • You set a rule to automatically re-order toilet paper when you get below 2 rolls (or spinach or toothpaste or…).

Mind hack #3: Be positive and resilient

Even though life often seems empty and meaningless, and most of what we do will have absolutely zero impact on anything on this planet, I consider myself an optimist. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The most successful people I know are optimistic. That doesn’t mean they’re bubbly or effusive — some of them seem like they’re one step away from a mental institution.

They’re optimistic in themselves. They have the confidence to know that if something goes wrong, they can bounce back.

They have the confidence to know if they sign up to do something they’ve never tried before, they can figure it out.

And they have the confidence to know that the little habits they’ve built over years and years are more important than one binge, one late night, or one day of blowing it off and going to the movies.

(If you want to go deeper, open our Ultimate Guide to Habits in a new tab and save for later.)

A lot of people look at all these systems and calendars and borderline-nutjob processes I’ve built and wonder how tightly wound I must be. Hey, maybe they’re right.

But in reality, most of these habits don’t take much time at all, because I built them years and years ago. They allow me to be totally present and focused on whatever I’m doing. Counterintuitively, discipline gives me freedom.

Just like a great investor knows any individual stock is not going to make or break his portfolio, I know that one day — even a day where I wake up late, eat an insane amount of food, nap half the day, and watch 15 shows on Netflix — is not going to hurt much. That actually sounds pretty fun.

Because I have the confidence in myself and my systems to know that I’ll bounce back tomorrow and get back into it.

How to handle setbacks with a resilient mindset….

  • When something goes wrong — you wake up late, miss a deadline, skip the gym, or overeat — do you beat yourself up? Or do you take it in stride, knowing you have the systems and support to get back on track tomorrow?
  • Do you have a system you use if you fall behind? (For example, I build in “catch up time” on Wednesdays for anything I’ve fallen behind on.)
  • In his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams tells the story of getting a rare disorder that threatened to permanently take away his ability to speak. While in the hospital, he could’ve gotten depressed. But he knew how to keep himself optimistic. He repeated to himself over and over, “I, Scott Adams, will speak perfectly.” Do YOU give yourself this kind of positive reinforcement?  

Tier 3: Details

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This is where people spend 90% of their time, when in reality, if you’ve tackled the first 2 pillars, you should spend less than 10% here. It’s like writing a college paper: If you master the material and create a detailed outline, the type of pencil you use really doesn’t matter.

 

Inbox Zero — who gives a shit?

Tactical rules of thumb I use:

  • If you can fix something with money, fix it with money. The $100 solution is more powerful than you can imagine, especially when it comes to hiring someone to do something that’s been nagging at you or that you dislike doing. Things like hiring someone to come in and fix some basic thing, pack your clothes, sit down with you and set up email filters, styling, cleaning your closet.
  • Automate your repetitive tasks. I have things auto-delivered as much as possible. For example, every week, I get coffee automatically ground and sent to me. Same with toiletries, food, etc. It just shows up and I never worry if I’m going to run out of anything.
  • Use systems to help you be proactive about things you want to do. For example, I know the birthdays of all my family members. Instead of just getting reminded about it the day of, I make sure to get reminded 2 weeks before so I can think about gifts and send something to arrive on their birthday.

Apps I use:

You don’t need 10 million apps but I’ll give you a couple to stop the 10,000 emails I get about this.

  • TripIt — Puts all of your travel information in a single place. This app automatically updates flight status and displays my confirmation number right when I open it.
  • Pinboard & Pocket — Whenever I see something I want to read I bank it for later so I can focus on my current day. Especially on Wednesdays when I read all my items tagged “Strategy.”
  • Sanebox — Used for follow-ups to check on people I want to make fun of:


Being disciplined and vindictive is a dangerous combo

  • Reminders — For every event on my calendar (Google) I have reminders ping me 5 minutes before on text and my calendar, and my assistant messages me in Slack. That’s 3 points of failure, and sometimes, I need all 3 to save me from letting a meeting slip.
  • Google spreadsheet to keep track of contacts  Every year I sit down and ask myself, “Who am I meeting and what’s the quality of those relationships?” I keep a list of every single person I meet all year. If I’ve met 5 people, that’s not good — for me. And with this I can remember to send follow-ups, interesting articles, invitations, etc. I fight to make time for these new relationships. 

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To recap, this is totally different than the typical “You need this app” approach. Yes, it’s much more challenging at first because you’re forced to interrogate your own psychology. You face your emotional resistance head on, and you take control of your environment.

But once you do this, it becomes much easier. Because you no longer have to rely on willpower or motivation. I set up my systems once, and then I’m finished. Compare this to people who spend YEARS wondering why they aren’t living the life they want.

Now I’m curious. Most productive people don’t care what others think of how they work. What “weird” things do you do to make sure you get things done?

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182 Comments

 
  1. Lisa Van Gemert

    I'm so glad you emphasized sleep. I also think that your ideas of the excellence in the mundanity of self-care and the necessity of a clean environment are spot on.

    The last thing I do for work each day is to plan the next day. Obviously, most of it is already planned, but I look it over and refine.

    Sometimes, I even dream about it!

    • Ramit Sethi

      Love it! Sleep is huge. It's one of those things everyone nods at — "Yeah, yeah" — but very few people take it seriously enough to plan for it and build a schedule around. But when you do, it affects every part of your productivity system.

    • Yury

      Yeah, sleep is vastly important and I got mine in check by planning it the same way people plan their awake time.

      When I started Google Calendar a year ago, sleep was the first thing I entered there, immediately followed up by evening and morning routine, then breakfast and dinner.

      From there, it was hard to fail on essentials.

      Also, after adding my job and commute time it allowed me to count (not guess or think about it) me how much time I really have (much more than your regular overwhelmed guy in me thought).

      I now think that I need to revisit my calendar every now and then and the task here is to track if abovementioned things are in check and prioritized above anything else.

    • Rhonda

      I am so glad you wrote this! I took this job last year as a Client advocate, court advocate, among many other titles. I didn't receive any specific training other than just tidbits here and there. If someone asked me to do something, I just did it. It never occured to me that it wasn't MY job to do it. I figured they knew more than I. Apparently I was doing my job and someone else's. I'm learning to set boundaries and how to put systems in place to ensure that I don't get so overwhelmed again. I read this quickly but I'm really going to focus on it tomorrow. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    • Bryce Lee

      I fluctuate, but am trying to use Google keep to employ the "Getting things done" approach. Get it out of your head and into a reminder-based system immediately, and if I can be done now, do it now.

      I love your idea of categorizing articles for follow up, and scheduling blocks to review these categories in your week.

    • Jeremy Ansel

      Sleep is huge. It's the foundation of your entire day. Sadly there's no known cure for my chronic fatigue. 4, 8 or 12 hours of sleep, I'm always tired. I used to set an alarm for going to sleep as well, and found that it usually helped me get the amount of sleep I was aiming for.

  2. Aaron

    I time boring tasks to find out how long they take to complete. I hated loading and unloading the dishwasher so I timed it one day. Turns out it takes about three minutes. Now that I know it's only three minutes, it's easy.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Excellent idea. Sometimes getting ultra-clear about how difficult something is makes it way more palatable. Navy SEALs talk a lot about this ("Anyone can focus on just getting to lunch").

    • Colleen

      I do this too! it helps me because my default is to spend too much time resisting those simple, boring tasks.

    • Sarah

      I did this with my 8 year old son because he was whining about having to unload the dishwasher. In the end, he realized that he actually pouted and tried getting out of doing it much longer than it actually took him to do it. I was sure to point out that that means less time to play and do what he wants to do too.

  3. Amy Scott

    You know how I stay productive?

    20 years ago I was homeless and now I am a multimillionaire. Homelessness is the tiger that chases me every morning when I wake up. I hit the ground running and I don't stop until the tiger stops for a drink.

    • Tom M

      Amy,

      Congrats on your drive ad success. How did you do it? If I may ask?

      Tom

  4. Melissa

    I agree with the sleep comment and as a mother of 8, I take a mini nap in the middle of the day while I listen to a podcast I am interested in so either I get educated or sleep, which ever my body needs more of. I love the permission to do what you need to do in order to be productive, I have not allowed myself this luxury. Thank you so much for the crazy details of what you do, that helps so much

  5. Katie

    Great to hear someone finally talking sense about sleep. I worked in a toxic business environment where 'sleep is over-rated' and 'working 40 hours at a stretch' (no exaggeration) gets you brownie points. This kind of philosophy was put forward as the only way to get ahead in the company. I paid the price with my health. I'm getting back on track and ultimately getting to a better place than ever.
    But it's tough (psychologically) when the majority of the world seems set on proving themselves according to how well they can ignore their body's fundamental needs. So, thank you for showing that success doesn't have to come at the price of basic good sense!

  6. Callum

    Love that you hire a chef to prep' your meals. Planning meals drives me nuts! I used to rock up at the supermarket and get really frustrated that I didn't know exactly what I wanted to buy. To rectify that I now eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch, and shop online … starting with the same list of items.

    The weirdest thing I do is wake up at 05:30 so I can spend two hours pitching potential clients before starting my part-time job at 09:00. This means going to be at 20:30, so I can read for an hour and still get 8 hours sleeps. Last night my in-laws were round and I said goodnight at 20:15. In the past I would have been too embarrassed to do that… but now I just see it as a necessity!

    • Ramit Sethi

      The most powerful part of what you do is set boundaries. You know what you need to do in order to live your Rich Life — and you aren't embarrassed about that. Beautiful.

  7. Vinit

    One weird thing I do to finish stuff I've been tweaking way too long is, I imagine I have to catch a flight for a vacation to a place with no wifi. Then I have to launch/publish/send by 5 pm or else I'm screwed.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Awesome.

      One suggestion: It's great to use extrinsic motivation to get things done. But next time you create these "false deadlines" for yourself, try to notice how you're responding. Notice WHY you're responding. And try to wean yourself off the need to "fake" it. Soon, you won't need the crutch.

    • Fay

      Hi Ramit,

      You ask people how they're productive and then tell them that their method is a crutch? Why does someone have to change their system if it works for them?

    • Ramit Sethi

      Because there's a cost to using extrinsic motivation: What if you don't have the deadline? What if you can't "fake" it?

      More importantly, top performers are always looking for ways to improve. It's great that it works — but how can we make it better?

  8. Caroline

    LOVE the built-in "catch up" time. What an elegant solution … not something I ever considered or have ever heard someone else recommend. Definitely will try that. Mind blown!

    It's not perhaps "weird," but I find task-batching is incredibly helpful whenever it's feasible. Powering through something with focus gets me farther faster than doing 10 minutes of 10 things.

    Also I admit I was haunting my inbox all morning waiting for this post 😉

    • Ramit Sethi

      🙂

  9. Dave

    Own multiples of the same item:

    I have one phone charger at home and one at the office, that way, I don't need to always remember to bring my charger to the office in the morning.

    I have two pairs of flip flops: one for walking around the apartment, and one for showering at the gym. I used to have to remember to pack the one pair I had, now I know that I always have a pair in my gym bag and won't forget to pack them.

    All of my jeans have their own belt, so I don't waste time threading the belt loop in every morning when I put them on.

    • Ramit Sethi

      The duplicate items are good.

      The belt-for-each-pants is on another level. NICE!

    • Laura

      GENIUS.

  10. Chad Frisk

    I've often allowed myself to be duped into chasing a wide variety of shiny objects (learn three languages at a time, start a blog, read ten thousand books, optimize my macro-nutrient intake according to my genetic profile, learn to kip like an olympic gymnast, etc. etc.).

    This had the effect of scattering my attention and energy in so many directions as to make me worse off than before I'd started.

    This counter-intuitive failure has forced me to dig deep into the reasons I've felt compelled to pursue so many things. Which tasks have I pursued simply to fall in step with what other seemingly successful people do? Which tasks do I pursue because of the genuine fulfillment I derive from working on them?

    It takes a surprising amount of work to figure out what makes you tick. I'm coming to realize that avoiding that work, however, results in a lot of wasted time, energy, and perhaps ultimately life down the line.

    • Maisha

      This is currently what I'm having the most trouble with right now. I'm a teacher so I have all this free time for the summer but I have a thousand things I want to do which makes getting things done hard. For this reason, I make a priority pyramid (most important, middle, and least importance). It's till hard to keep up with this though. I'm trying to convince myself that progress on a few things is better than a little of a few.

    • Ramit Sethi

      You don't sound very sure of yourself.

      Why not pick 1 thing — even something comically small — and finish it all the way through? Cut it from 1,000 things to 1 really fun thing. Then go from there.

      If you want to go deeper into building a true productivity system, you should check out <a href="http://go.finishersformula.com/">Finisher's Formula</a>.

    • Chad Frisk

      I certainly recognize the feeling, Maisha!

      Here's a thought. You might consider taking a second to sort through what's drawing you to each task you've set for yourself.

      Is it that you imagine a future reward that will come to you once you've complete the task? Or, does the thought of doing the work itself spark your curiosity and interest?

      Once you've separated the tasks into categories ("I'll get something good when I finish this" vs. "Doing this would be really fun"), you can perhaps cut away those in the first category.

      Then, as Ramit suggests, you might select a particularly interesting task from the second category and give it a go!

      Then again, keep in mind that this is all coming from a moron who is still trying to sort out his own priorities, haha. Take it as a thought to follow if it seems interesting to you!

  11. Gustavo Tavares

    Sleep is something I actually work really hard for. I take responsibility for being able to get into a flow state actually. Super fascinated by this element of psychology. One of the things I do is—last few minutes before driving into the office I blast "You can have it all" by Yo La Tengo. I come in like a motherfucking champ.

    PS — I know it's a detail, but what notes app are you using? Just Apple notes? Love Pinboard BTW and love Macej—pretty good for SV. Would model a business on him but his prices are too low.

  12. Taylor Dahnert

    Your fundamentals are on point. I eat the same big ass salad every single day for lunch. Just one less thing I have to think about during the work day and really keeps my energy up.

    And I'm so glad I'm not the only one who has alarm to go to bed. Once, my alarm told me to get ready for bed while I had guests. At first, they teased me. But when I followed theough, they respected me more for it.

    Thanks for the look "behind the veil" 🙂

  13. Garry Cobb

    Sleep is essential without a doubt. As for weird things, one weird thing I started doing was using a software development project management tool to track everything I need to do outside of work. It has helped tremendously for memorializing priorities, planning out weeks and making sure things are being taken care of, including things like… setting up more systems! We use the same tool at work so I'm sure my co-workers would have a nice laugh if it ever came up.

  14. Leo

    Thank you for sharing all this! I would love to ask a follow-up question, in case you will ever write a follow-up post!

    You have many, many great systems for pre-planning, automatizing and/or outsourcing things. I am in awe. On an average day, there are lots of big and small things you don't need to worry about because of your systems. Question: *When* do you think up and implement your systems? How do you schedule that and how much time do you take for that? How often?

    I suppose even once your systems are in place, you need to revisit and refine them from time to time, and sometimes add new ones, right?

  15. Liza M.

    Boundaries – my big topic!

    I used to run myself against the wall with giving in to all random kinds of requests around the clock.

    Who can recommend a book or articles on mastering boundaries? I have 'Boundaries' by Cloud and Townsend, but just starting to understand where I went wrong all these years!

    Love the idea with the spreadsheet, will start mine today!

    • Marcia (OrganisingQueen)

      Boundaries is the one book I recommend to everyone to read. I've been coaching time management for yearrrrrs. They do have boundaries books for marriage/ work/ kids/ everything else but that one is a great start.

  16. Jarrod

    I use Todoist to help with my reminders and tasks (btw, they just added Gcal integration too) – I highly recommend it because it's super easy to use and I've seen a positive result in my life.

    https://todoist.com

    Ramit, I appreciate your honesty and transparency – hard work, determination, and keeping the main things front and center – it's not magic!

    • Laura

      I just signed up based on your recommendation and OH MY GOSH Todoist is amazing! Thanks 🙂

  17. MJ

    I wear ear plugs no matter what to feel like I am in the zone. It is a little unusual but it works.

  18. Will A

    THIS IS EPIC CONTENT – THANK YOU!

    18 months ago I was all over the place and was just struggling to fit everything in.

    I started focusing on the basics, 7.5 hours sleep, exercise 4x per week, eat well, meditation and a clean flat! It was revolutionary and they are habits that have dramatically improved my life! My finances was also one having bought/read your book (which is the best finance book I have read by the way) however I have struggled to make this stick.

    It all resonates as I wasn't sure how it all fitted together – and now I do!

    I am now at the point where I am looking deeper into what I am wanting longer term and your post just pulls it all together nicely with all the reading and listening I have been doing on the productivity topic.

    I look forward to more of the content you are putting out there!

  19. Spencer

    Similar to your Wednesdays, I never schedule meetings on Fridays. That way, I can tie up any loose ends and make huge progress on big projects. Plus, I end every day by writing out my ToDos for the next day, so when I hit the end of the day or the end of the week, I can leave work at work. This has been critical for me as I've been growing my team. If I'm always "on", I'll burnout. With this system, I can go home and enjoy time with my wife.

    My wife and I don't pay for a personal chef, but we do meal prep every Sunday – we have the same breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week (aside from meals out), and it makes it simple. We don't mind eating the same thing for a week before rotating meals because we both work and it allows us to come home after work and the gym and just relax. No running to the store or picking up poor food choices or eating between 8pm-9pm at night because we have to prep and make dinner.

    Something I recently started doing is never scheduling a meeting for later in the same day, and if someone is 5 minutes late, I re-schedule for a later date. I don't mess around with that because it throws off my whole day if I was prepping and planing to meet at 10am, but now someone is late and we start at 10:15am or even 10:30am, I can't focus on anything or get anything done in that window because I'm wondering when that person will be ready.

    5 minutes pass, I send a note that says, "It looks like you got caught up – let's re-schedule for later in the week."

    • Ramit Sethi

      Awesome. I love your system. Lots of people are resistant to meal prepping because they get "bored" from eating the same thing all the time. What would you tell them?

    • Stacy

      This is awesome!
      I do home visits for work and I send a text message to confirm each visit the night before. I've found it dramatically reduced my cancellation rate.

      I'm relentlessly organized. My job involves a lot of paperwork and lots of moving parts. Every form and piece of paper that I need regularly is digital and I use dropbox to keep it all synced to my laptop, tablet (which I use in the field), and phone. All of that paperwork is organized in such a way that if needed (and I have needed to) I can find a specific billing note from 3 years ago within a minute or two. I use iCal for scheduling and reminders for tasks. I will set a reminder with a location or time pop up if needed.

    • ANIRBAN CHOWDHURY

      To Ramit's question – " Lots of people are resistant to meal prepping because they get "bored" from eating the same thing all the time. What would you tell them?"

      Start small – just pre-plan one meal for 2 weeks ? Have the same pre-packed breakfast/lunch/dinner.
      Go creative on the other meals.
      Or more macro – don't pack anything on a given day and go crazy.

    • Anirban Chowdhury

      Another way of looking at it . For most people, same thing. = boring = bland/ non tasty. Break that and you are in.

  20. Carolynn

    I've had a bad habit of working too hard and neglecting my social life … and I didn't realize how bad this was until people stopped calling, and I suddenly noticed I hadn't seen friends in months.

    So now I check my calendar 2x a month on Mondays to see, when was the last time I hung out with friends or took a new person to coffee? And I reach out to people to schedule time together.

    Why Mondays? Because it gives me time to schedule for the weekend. If I don't have plans by Thursday, it doesn't get done and everybody's got plans already.

    Also, I don't believe archiving messages is always a good thing. I leave FB messages in my inbox from people I want to circle back with later in the week and/or invite them out. If I archived everything, I'd forget.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Awesome example. I love hot it might be "weird" — but you're unapologetic about it. Beautiful.

  21. Fernando

    Great post Ramit. I love the idea where you mentioned scheduling your tasks according to your creative energy. I have created a weird step in my fundamentals that allows me to understand my productivity times throughout the day. I have an excel file where I color each cell with a specific color according to the concentration level I'm experiencing. At the end of the week, I have a pretty good idea where my concentration times fall for that period of my life and I use it to my advantage. Mind you that I don't do this every week, but rather once a month and once a quarter. With this mapping, I schedule tasks in advance and I'm protective of the time that I know my energy allows me to do productive work leaving the remaining time to allow people to book time on my calendar (provided that they have an agenda for it) or do tasks that don't require that level of focus or creativity (like working out).

    • Ramit Sethi

      Extremely insightful. Tracking ourselves for 1 week can reveal patterns that we can use for decades to come. (I talk about how to do this with your financial life in the IWT book.) Great work.

  22. Satiesh Sheriff

    "Get these big wins right, and the productivity apps you use are irrelevant."

    Love that! We all focus on the shiny objects, me included 🙂 and never focus on the things that actually moves the needle.

    Another thing too…

    Everything is planned so you just show up and do your thing. I will start implementing this. Easiest one for me is meal prep.

    Thanks Ramit!

  23. Steve C

    Loved this post! Big fan of your work and a ZTL member. Your focus on sleep is always overlooked. I've had clients whom I helped focus on sleep — felt better, more refreshed, and less scatter-brained.

    For me, the weird things I do include making sure that I don't waste time waiting or idling, and flow to the next task. That may mean splurging on a smartphone with a fast processor with as much Internet data as possible, or splurging on the fastest computer possible. But any moment I spend waiting for a task on those devices to complete actually increases my resistance to doing this. I've found that having a slow smartphone/computer actually causes me to avoid replying to people's messages, avoid using social media, and avoid using the device entirely.

    Here's what's intriguing about your systems: nowhere does it mention using a tasks list, an issue tracking system, or some other to-do manager!

    Is it because you've folded such a tasks list into your e-mail?

    • Ramit Sethi

      Because those are the last 2% of my system and you could give me an Outlook calendar, Gmail calendar, or even Lotus Notes calendar and I would make it work.

  24. Raj

    Thanks for this article! It was just what I needed to see today.

    The best takeaways for me personally were your smart way of prioritizing your calendar to your strengths, and your concept of "throw money at it".

    Welp, I guess I need to fess up to myself:
    I am a total Ramit Sethi fanboy. Lol.

    Thanks, man!

  25. Betty

    This was such a fantastic and insightful article! I think the way you focus on the fundamentals such as sleep is so key – it is so easy to neglect to take care of yourself and then wonder why your life is falling apart.

    I've just graduated from architecture school and self care was critical to me getting work done. I had friends who would stay up all night completing work and being "productive" – but I knew from experience that it was better for me to get my 8 hours of sleep so I could be as productive as possible each day. If I didn't sleep enough I could really feel it impact on my ability to get things done. Other strategies like meal prep on Sundays, planning my outfits the night before, writing lists of what I wanted to achieve each day before I went to sleep kept me sane and allowed me to be the most productive I have ever been.

  26. Zach

    I spend at least 1-2 hours of the workday with Work Offline activated in Outlook. Can't be productive while being distracted by messages all day long.

    I also use the ctrl-shift-g shortcut in Outlook to trigger reminders to me to follow up with delinquents who are bad about getting back to my emails, a la Sanebox.

    • Martha Runnette

      Ditto here! I use the Outlook flagging feature for follow-up as well — I flag my last email to the other person (for later the same day, tomorrow, next week/month, depending on the urgency), file it where it needs to go, and FORGET ABOUT IT until it pops up again however many days later. Tasks are managed in the calendar (as opposed to on a separate list), with the appropriate amount of time blocked-off for that task. Anything that can't be scheduled now gets flagged for the future, to remind me to schedule it. I've been known to reset the flag reminders multiple times as needed. If it's really important, then I go to the source to figure out what's holding it up.

      The name of the game for me is to reduce the amount of things my brain is trying to retain at any one time, in order to leave as much brain space available for complex thinking and planning (I'm a program/project manager). Get as many things as possible into my system and out of my head. Helps me sleep better, as I am not haunted by stuff I haven't done yet; my brain knows that things are scheduled to get done and doesn't bug me about them. (whoop whoop — 7+ hours a night on average)

      One of the other 'weird things' I do is take time regularly to look at my calendar and make adjustments. I look 2 weeks out, 1 month out, 6 months out and 2 years out. If I know that I might want to (for example) get tickets for a big event in 2018, I'll put the event date in the calendar, as well as a block of time on the date the tickets go on-sale, with a link to the ticket-sale website. In iCal, I use the dual-reminder feature — one for 15 minutes prior to the tickets going on-sale, and another perhaps 1-2 days before, to remind me not to schedule a meeting when I'm supposed to be buying the tickets. 🙂 Then, as the date gets closer (within the 1-6 month window), I adjust as needed — maybe something more important came up — OR, it's a great reminder of something in my future that I'm looking forward to.

  27. Christian Graham

    I've recently got into habit stacking ie tying new habits to existing ones to remove cognitive load eg In the morning, I'll wake with 10 mins of meditation, then write in gratitude diary, then brush teeth while saying any affirmations I'm focussing on.

    I'll then do the washing up, even just a couple of pieces, while waiting for the kettle to boil and take the recycling out and feed the wormery while waiting for the tea to cool.

    The tea and walking around the garden loosens the muscles enough I'm ready to do some yoga stretches, then kettle bell swings and 7 minute mini-workout. That then wakes me up enough to do 20 mins of non-fiction reading, and then 10 minutes of blog free form writing/editing etc. Finally, it's out for a run or a shower.

  28. Thomas

    Wow, finally advice for a person of my sort! (I probably wouldn't click that e-mail if it didn't have the word "weirdos" in it, so good job on growth hacking your newsletter titles 🙂

    I would love to know whether You work in blocks (Pomodoro method) or can be focused for 4 hours straight to get the job done.

    P.S. Thank You for free content, I love it.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thanks! No, I don't use the Pomodoro technique.

  29. Pau Serrat

    LOL this seems like a Productivity Anonymus, I love to know there's more people like me out there :))
    I have to admit that, more than often, for me is weird to talk about productivity without receiving a responses like: "stop thinking about productivity and keep working".

    My little trick has been, since I can't afford a personal chef, we began a Telegram's channel with some friends
    to set the food we are gonna cook and eat along the week so each one thinks about 1 or 2/21 meals… Ramit's nutritionist would fully disapprove it.

    Thank you for the article and the comments,

  30. Adelly Josefina

    The Inbox Zero video is great! Made my day -it's like the cherry on top. Qualitative feedback from your students is what it is all about! Hope I can be there to contribute. I know floundering in my why doesn't help me make better decisions or any decision at all, for that matter. It's just I tend to overthink things and then in a very unorganized and emotional way. Brave man taking it to such extremes… Wednesdays seem like as a good a day as any to let yourself feel. jaja Thanks and all the best.

  31. Ryan

    Many things have changed in my life since finishing university.

    I've changed workout goals, apartments, computers, employers, industries…

    One thing that hasn't changed in the last 8 years is my weekly review. I check in with myself every week. The questions change, but I always do it. It's the little control system that keeps me going in the right direction.

    I still have a Google calendar email reminder to myself so I don't forget.

    Everything else is details.

    Didn't get enough sleep? I'll notice on my weekly review and set habits so I fix it.

    Need to book a fun holiday? Weekly review catches it

    Was a bit nervous to ask a cute girl out? Weekly review makes sure I get on it the next week.

    About time to raise my rates? Weekly review makes me realize it.

    • Anthea

      I love this idea!

  32. Idan

    Discovered something weird the last year and a half:

    The less time I'm static (sitting and writing), I make more money… progress faster… and murdering my deepest fears and limitations.

    I walk at least 7km a day, mainly at the park and beach. I do yoga every morning, and lift weights 1-2 times a week. Also, making my team do "walk meetings" when the weather's not too hot.

    My biggest productivity hack is that I learned to dictate over the phone absolutely CRUEL copy while taking my walks. So I started taking strategic "writing" walks for creating my VSL's, emails and PPC ads.

  33. Liesl

    It sounds goofy and trendy, but bullet journaling has actually been remarkably helpful for me. I like the flexibility of trying different things on different pages and I set goals for the month and the upcoming week. I was able to schedule runs for my first ever marathon, make and accomplish goals about eating out less, and I put down whatever thoughts, tips, advice in there that I like.

    It feels repetitive to second what other people have said about sleep, but I learned a LONG time ago that small amounts of sleep make me exceptionally emotionally unstable and it definitely cures whatever crabbiness I have. I don't know any hard data on this, but a therapist told me once that insomnia often stems from people believing they can't sleep. I've had to utilize a ton of relaxation exercises and other strategies to make my sleep more effective and it has been completely worth it.

  34. Beau

    I organize my day according to my "bio-rhythms." I'm sharpest and most creative in the morning; guaranteed between 2 – 4 pm every day, I want to take a nap. So anything that will be emotionally difficult (an uncomfortable conversation), require strategic thinking (problem solving something that has gone wrong with a project), or require creativity (writing), I do in the morning. I save the afternoons for mindless tasks like inputting data into spreadsheets, responding to low-importance emails, etc. Afternoons are also a good time to plan the next day – move things around on my calendar, etc. I've wasted too much time trying to power through important tasks at 4 when I simply didn't have the mojo for it, or feeling guilty for a lack of productivity in the afternoons. Saving the menial tasks until the afternoons allows me to maximize my energy and stay productive all day.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Outstanding. I love the honesty about how you work and restructuring your schedule to take advantage of it.

  35. Kelly

    Would love to hear more about how you think about that Google spreadsheet with your new contacts. How often do you use it? What goes in the spreadsheet, and why?

  36. Klara

    Hi Ramit – thank you so much for this post! Question: Can you go into more detail on the Google Spreadsheet you keep for people you meet? Is that only for people you're meeting for the first time? What are the fields in the spreadsheet for each person? Please tell us all the weird details – they're incredibly valuable.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Don't get caught up in it. Create your own spreadsheet. In fact, create it and post a link here. You can edit it over time.

      The key lesson here: Don't let perfection get in the way of getting started.

  37. Danny

    "It will be improved with you doing the hard work of digging into the psychological stories you tell yourself about sleep, then setting up a system to drive the behavior of sleeping on time, then honoring it. Apps and devices are irrelevant."

    ^Thought that was so incisive and important. It is so easy to tell myself that sleep isn't that crucial tonight, that I can catch up tomorrow, particularly because the flexibility of my schedule allows that. But that's where the importance of boundaries becomes so crucial, and I'm going to take some time to define those limits around sleep to ensure that is a non-negotiable priority.

    At my best, Sundays are untouchable me time to cook and plan for the week. That standard has slipped a few times in recent times to get called into work or to meet up with people but this post is a reminder to have the courage to say no because that's what I need to stay at the top of my game.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and powerful read.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you for reading!

  38. Sean Meyer

    I use a lot of weird productivity tactics and most of them fall into the psychology portion of your article…

    But one easy piece of advice that anybody can follow is to not look at a screen (phone, computer, kindle, etc.) for the first hour after they wake up.

    It's amazing how much more energy you save when you're not zapping yourself with blue light first thing in the morning.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Maybe. I don't do this — the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my phone — and I'm pretty productive.

  39. M

    Shortcuts are my buddies. Also when I've got multiple items to updates in a browser (working on my elearning platform), I'll open each item in a new tab so I don't need to wait for it to save to get to the next one. Bliss.

    Bliss #2 is using text files, or rather a nifty app called Treepad Lite (keeps all my textfiles organized) – I can copy whatever I need – the text gets cleaned up and is ready to be imported in different interfaces (articles, applications, Office apps) without useless formatting (that would require more formatting). Master files are searchable, clean and take up no disc space.

    For the last 2 years, I've simplified my teaching schedule – available 2 set days per week rather than when the learner is available.

    Also so important about being able to say what you want so you get it. I hired 3 people a year ago, and guess what, have let 3 people go… It's been a huge learning experience and has stripped me of being "diplomatic", "nice", and letting people experiment where they shouldn't.

    I need to better handle fundamentals which are sometimes assured, and sometimes overtake me. Luckily, spring cleaning and summer break reset the clock.

    How about writing on hiring and finding the best, and creating a top team?

    Your best article yet. <3 Thank you.

  40. Laura

    I escape to the Starbucks near my house for 3 – 4 hours most mornings. My husband and toddler are home in the mornings and both can be very needy, which messes up my morning schedule – and the morning is when I am most creative and productive.

    Eventually I decided to stop feeling guilty and escape. I get so much done and my son cries less because he's not seeing me at my desk ignoring him.

  41. Matt Hartwell

    I bought a license for an app called Anti-Social and I run it on my computer as soon as I wake up until lunch, and then again from after lunch for four more hours. It blocks a personal list of domains, and every week I do a short audit with RescueTime to figure out if I've discovered new sites I need to add to it because I'm spending time there instead of writing. I like to get into the whole "research rabbit hole" way too easily, and this has curtailed that habit so instead of spending six hours reading strange and esoteric Wiki articles, I'm spending six hours making the clackety noise.

    Some people have amazing intrinsic self-discipline. I recognized that I needed some bigger barriers to leaving the zone, and that getting my word count was worth way more than just a one time payment of $25.

    • Matt

      Then again, I'm commenting on this article instead of doing revisions on a piece, so maybe iwillteachyoutoberich.com gets added to my list and becomes a "weekends and evenings only" website.

      Like Pornhub!

  42. Noah

    Meditation. I'm hitting the point where some of my built-in energy and motivation reservoirs are my limits (like, I already schedule heavily in Google Calendar and OmniFocus, getting those things done, etc.)

    The right kind of meditation can make me feel less like living a heavily-scheduled life is grinding me down.

  43. Todd

    I use a Kanban board to keep track of my outstanding to-do's, then do task breakdown to a granular enough level I can accomplish at least 3 goals in a day – but then take it one step further. I then analyze which tasks are common across multiple goals and try to use that analysis to help prioritize which goals I work toward every day. Obviously this won't work in every situation, but it does help me in the stuff I do every day.

    For instance – if I have 4 meetings scheduled in a week to discuss the same idea, I'll spend an hour or two to create a presentation and re-use it for each meeting. If it's a one-off, I'll just white-board anything that needs a diagram or visualization.

    As an analog, in the cooking world, this is essentially finding out how many of your dishes need onions – and chop enough onions for all of them at the same time.

    Secondly, and this is admittedly a major pet peeve of mine, but it definitely helps my productivity: I never bring a laptop with me to a meeting unless I'm presenting or responsible for recording the minutes. I find it too distracting – this boundary helps keep me engaged in the meeting itself so I can take away what is intended for me to take away, deliver the message I want to convey, and focus on the body language of people in the meeting and how they respond to what I'm saying or what others are saying. Not having to schedule two or three additional meetings to cover the same content was the primary driver for me adopting this boundary, thus allowing me the freedom to do other more productive stuff.

  44. Stephen Johnson

    I also use physical routines to prepare my brain to dive deep into a problem.  Just like the way a basketball player goes through the exact some routine every time they do a free throw I do the same routine every time I need to solve a hard problem.  I don’t know if there is really science to this or if it just some weird thing that I have tricked myself into thinking that it works for me.  I step away from my computer and go get a cup of coffee or tea.  While I am preparing a warm drink I frame the problem in my mind and start thinking exactly what I need to solve.  I will stay away from my computer for as long as this takes (usually 5-10 minutes).  Then I will sit down and hold my warm cup with both hands, put my headphones on and listen to instrumental music.  At this point I start thinking of solutions and then I put my mug down and start implementing them.  I find that I need to start by holding my mug in both hands and not putting my hands on the keyboard.  I have tried this with cold drinks in the summer and for me I still find that I need to go through the ritual of holding the warm drink with both hands.  I don’t really share this because it seems really weird to me and I often think, why can’t I just get a cold drink in the summer and still really dive deep.  But I have found that I do my best work and solve the hardest programming problems when I follow this routine exactly.  I have been doing this exact routine for over 10 years when I need to solve something really hard.  Once I get fully immersed in the problem I am so engrossed in what I am doing nothing distracts me.  The building could be on fire and I wouldn’t even notice.  It like the rest of the world doesn’t exist and all that exists is me and the code I am writing, much like the runners high I get when running. The point isn't about getting something warm to drink or about what kind of music I listen to, it is that I follow the exact same routine each time.

    • Maude

      So interesting. I have similar moments but without the cup – my eyes are closed and I let my brain "see" and solve the problem. It's usually crucial to act immediately afterwards, otherwise I forget like a dream.

  45. Tiffany

    Loved the article! I love spreadsheets. I use them all the time. When I went to my baby's first doctor visit and they asked how much she eats, I showed him the spreadsheet I had created and, by his expression, I think he thought I went overboard! 😀

    I'm interested in what you said about contacts and spreadsheets.

    Google spreadsheet to keep track of contacts — Every year I sit down and ask myself, “Who am I meeting and what’s the quality of those relationships?” I keep a list of every single person I meet all year. If I’ve met 5 people, that’s not good — for me. And with this I can remember to send follow-ups, interesting articles, invitations, etc. I fight to make time for these new relationships.
    https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/productivity-advice-for-the-weird/

    Keeping in touch with other people is an area where I need a lot of work and this is the first time I've heard of a different option besides Facebook.

    I know you're all about systems, but I'm having a hard time visualizing this system. So once you meet someone (and is this person like a new friend/acquaintance or someone you met at a conference, because I imagine that would be A LOT to remember!) do you go to the computer and type in their name, contact info (email or phone), a column for when/where you met them, and then another column for the quality of the relationship?

    But what I'm more curious about it how often do you update this spreadsheet with the plan that you mentioned in the article with your weekly schedule. Is this a whenever I meet someone new I update it, or every Tuesday (or whatever day) you update it? The first option doesn't sound like the best system since it's a bit like a distraction. The second option might have enough time pass that details are forgotten.

    Again, thanks for your article. I'm more recommitted to making plans and systems.

  46. Blaine

    It sounds silly, but I used to spend far too much time picking out my clothes in the morning. It wasted time and was also disruptive to my wife who gets up later than me. After trying many out, I settled on specific brands of underwear, socks, shirt, and jeans that were comfortable and high quality. I bought 10 pairs of socks and underwear – all in black (1 choice and goes with everything). A few pairs of dark blue jeans and collared shirts in a few classic colors. My decision is now premade each morning. I simply put the next day's outfit in our bathroom the night before. No more wasting time in the morning and no more waking up the wife. It's a silly, small thing that I've found remarkably helpful to my morning productivity.

    • Ramit Sethi

      SUPER WEIRD SOLUTION: Check

      DNGAF: Check

      LOVE IT

  47. Bill Ravenscraft

    There are a few things I do to increase my productivity:

    1) I am militant about my bedtime. At 10:30, I am walking up the stairs and crawling into bed to read from a book, magazine, or Kindle (no backlit screen like a phone or ipad). I read something for enjoyment, not learning. I often fall asleep reading within 15 minutes.

    2) I hate talking on the phone. Hate it! But with family members living in different cities, it is a necessity. So I make my calls when I am doing something I enjoy but that doesn't require concentration: folding laundry! I actually love to fold laundry so now talking on the phone while I'm doing it helps me keep clean clothes in the closet and my relationships with family members strong.

    3) I have scheduled the first 30 minutes of my day to review my meetings, plan my actions, and get in the right mindset. This one slips sometimes, but I keep it on the calendar and find it a very helpful reminder to know what I am going to face in the day so I can be prepared.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Awesome, I love how you say "I am militant about my bedtime." All successful people I know are "militant" about something. It allows them to be flexible and present in other areas of life. Thanks for the comment!

    • Bonnie

      Same thing about calls here, lol! Now I make them at 6 while cooking dinner, using my miked earbuds.

  48. Christen

    Social systems have been the most life changing:

    1. Date nights (parents and kids). Mom and dad get regular date nights (we are unapologetic to the kids that our relationship is the most important in the family), and then each week 1 kids and 1 parent go on a date. We spend a lot of money on babysitting and dates because it's cheaper than a divorce. The dates are sometimes just going to a playground and we have a 25$ limit but having one on one time that is planned and can be counted on for a family of our size (4 kids ages 3-7) goes miles toward our relationships. The experiences are fun and it's worked so well that these dates aren't compromised.
    2. Along those lines, weekly Family Meetings. We practice appreciations, discuss family problems and come up with solutions, and plan family outings and review the week. As the kids get older this is working better – it is really nice when there's a conflict between the kids and we can say "Ok, let's put it on the agenda for the family meeting" and then not have to be an immediate referee. The kids have been able to come up with pretty great solutions for problems too, and when they come up with the solutions they are more cooperative to follow through vs. just complying with a parent's decree.
    3. Monthly friend check ins – my goal is to see my closest friends face to face at least every two weeks. I schedule coffee/meals to keep in touch. I have reminders for this but I'm going to take that spreadsheet idea too.
    4. Regularly ask people I work with what I could do better or what I'm lacking to make our relationship great. In our department once a month we are asked to rate our managers (and if we are a manager we get rated) on our relationship on a scale of 1-10 in 8 different areas…we don't have to outright give the number but we are asked to disclose the lowest area and what's the biggest thing we could do to improve. Both sides do this and we learn a lot. I have benefitted greatly from this structure instead of just having a nagging feeling of not liking someone, and I have used it to get along much better with some relationships that I thought were just going to clash forever. Not true!

    I'm considering that my "productivity nerdiness" is just an escape from doing actual work sometime though. Like you said, inbox 0 doesn't MATTER to anyone else. My boss, team, or internal customers don't care if my inbox is 0. So I like the Ivy Lee method + aspects of GTD + setting up tasks to be hidden until I want to think about them and then they pop up in my list. My calendar is sacred. I tried Bullet Journals but you can't search paper. I tried the 12 Week Year but it was overkill for me.

    I love your emphasis on sleep. It's interesting though – if someone had asked me three weeks ago if I slept well I would have said YES. But I tried a new sleep tracker and my sleep actually isn't that great. So I'm glad for the reality check and have concentrated on my sleep again.

    • Ramit Sethi

      This is absolutely awesome. Taking a systems approach to relationships sounds weird, but is very powerful when you do it authentically and it helps you build deeper bonds. I love it.

  49. Hannah

    After I shower, I turn on the cold water and stand in it for a couple minutes. It's liquid mindfulness and gets me focused faster than anything else.

  50. Masa

    I have been a very guy who beats myself up when something goes wrong (Mind hack #3)! And I didn't think about how that mindset affects my productivity. Thank you for giving me the idea of setting up the "catch up time," I will set up the time for it and see what kind of change I have.

    A thing I do to stay productive is to set a timer. I am the person whose motivation fluctuate often and tend to procrastinate things. I set 15 mins on timer and focus one thing I have to work on. If I feel still dragged after 15 mins, I move on to other things and come back to it later guilt-free because at least I focused on it for 15 mins.

  51. Brian

    I always remember how you put your gym clothes ready to go in the morning.

    So on most nights, I'll pull a shirt off the rack for the next morning so I don't have to think about it then. My work outfit takes 20 seconds to wear the next morning.

    Also, I have no fashion sense, so it takes me way too long to decide what to wear. So I just start each week with a shirt I feel like wearing, and go through them in order. No one's gonna remember or care what color shirt or what pants I wore.

    Weirdest thing I have is a list of my shirts and pants taped in my closet, in case I don't know what goes with what. I spent the time up front culling the clothes that work, and now I don't have to Google outfits anymore.

    Usually I'd have a hard time putting together an outfit, but at least it's not the first thing I struggle with every morning.

  52. Jonathan

    Last year I got so serious about sleep that I had an hour routine to go to bed and set an alarm to start that routine at 9pm every night. I had stopped falling asleep after someone tried breaking into our house. I was always on edge at night! It worked so well that I no longer need the alarm and I've shortened that routine to what's essential.

    The first 90 minutes of my days are an exact schedule. Wake up, meditate, shower, shave, yoga workout, make breakfast (same thing every day), eat breakfast, change into work clothes, out the door. I prep everything I need for work the night before – clothes, lunch, coffee brews at 6:30am, anything I need in my work bag, etc.

    I read books on the train ride into work and listen to podcasts on the way home. I absorb more in the morning than going home, and this setup provides me the time to go through both.

    My wife and I carve out time for us in advance. Certain nights I work on my business, certain nights I keep open for her. On the weekend we keep part of Sunday open for me to work on my business, since I often lack the energy on Saturdays to get anything significant done. I've learned flexibility comes from having a system and a schedule as opposed to leaving everything open. Not much gets finished when there's no gameplan.

  53. Tiffany

    I have a complex series of timers and alarms for when to do literally everything and I take a half-hour each afternoon to check my schedule for the following few days and program all the timers and alarms I'll need, just so I never have to look at a clock or be worried I'm going to miss or forget something. When I'm writing out my schedule, I include the exact times I will eat, during which I'll have a break from studying or work, and exactly when I will check my e-mail and texts, after which the only time my phone can make noise is if my husband texts me. Everyone else can wait until tomorrow. I also schedule in when to do housework, time to read a book each day, and keep to a precise bedtime.

    I write down daily and weekly priorities in terms of studying or projects, so that if I happen across a few extra minutes, I know precisely what to work on.

    Don't know how fun I am to live or socialize with, but stuff gets done. And it took me well into my adulthood to figure all this stuff out and get the courage to actually use these systems (because there's a sense that–as you often say–everything should just look kind of effortless).

  54. David Lindemann

    I use a breathing technique called a "control pause" – exhale focused breathing with a pause at the end. It slows down the autonomic nervous system and gives you time to evaluate your environment when something feels "off" (i.e. you've been triggered by an emotion or physical stimulus). Cue the transition from "ahh, f***, something's wrong" to "why is the smoke alarm going off?" Moves the body physiologically from fight or flight/reactive to planning/assessing. Result… when something isn't right in my environment or there is a nagging thought/idea or subconscious insight … I can actually look around and find it. Less time reacting to my environment, and more time/energy responding systematically … plus I can tell when something actually did trigger me and go back later to address it. Learned this working as a military physician working with soldiers whose nervous systems are all amped up from combat and have to learn to slow it down and get from reactive to responsive mode. Super helpful.

  55. JK

    ALWAYS, make my bed. I can't remember the last time I didn't in the past 20 years. It sets me up for having a positive mindset for the rest of the day.

    I setup a reminder two days before any meeting that I have if it's been more than a week since I've talked to that client or person to make sure I have all the information gathered, a proper agenda, and to forewarn the client if any items may not be completed by the initial end date.

    Calendar with all my workouts so I know what I am doing, what I will miss if I don't go, and what moves I need to do for PT for that day in particular, in addition to my regular workout.

    I have an alarm set for 3-4 hours before the gym closes so that I know when I need to get my butt in gear to make it there for training. I know how long it takes to run there, or take the bus there, and I know that I need at least 2 hours in-between eating and workouts to go ham at the gym. The alarm helps me to stop watching Netflix on days when I am mentally tanked, get up and just go.

    Having a clean, well decorated bedroom that looks like it could be a five star hotel. My bedroom is my sanctuary. I'm two items away from having the perfect bedroom for me and I'm thrilled.

  56. Teona

    Hi Ramit,

    Thank you so much for generosity (so much value for free) and cutting honesty. I was wondering why my productivity is so low in recent weeks and thinking of books, apps, motivational podcast etc to get motivation back (feeling embarrassed of myself now) , while what I really need to do FIRST is to sleep enough, organize my new apartment and manage my finances and spending (major factor in sleeping "problems").

    You are one of my role models.

    P.S. I will be working on reaching the level to get into "the finishers formula" course when I read your book (ordered it yesterday) and implement fundamentals covered by your free stuff.

    Teona

    • Ramit Sethi

      Great. You will love <a href="http://go.finishersformula.com/">Finisher's Formula</a>.

  57. Frank

    Awesome post Ramit. Love it. Here are some of mine:

    Get legit sleep every night. I wear orange tinted glasses to maximize my melatonin production at night.

    Eat right. 16-9 intermittent fast. Real food only. No snacking. No junk. Recently quit decaf coffee.

    Exercise and mobility. Strength and flexibility in a technical environment (breakdancing, jiujitsu, boxing).

    I own very little = no organizing, less crap to maintain, everything in my wardrobe matches, clean space all the time, clean mind all the time

    Create priority actions on the most important task, the night before.

    Batch schedule nits (bunch up small random tasks into one hour), at the end of the day.

    Check and respond to emails only 2X a day, 1X if possible, no longer than 5-10 minutes, and close the fucking tab when working (life changing).

    No multi-tasking. Close those tabs. No working on the couch. Headphones in, but no music.

    No meetings without a clear agenda.

    Relationships spreadsheet. Composed of who, how did we meet, what we talked about last time, value added to them, status of next meetup

  58. Cheryl S

    At my day job, work constantly pours in and there's not enough of me to do it. By the time I start my day in the States, Europe and Asia have already sent me 30 emails with things I need to do. I get overwhelmed trying to decide what should be done first so I take 5 things I think are urgent or part of the big picture and do those. I call this method "Let it burn". I focus on these 5 things and everything else can burn around me but fuck it, I'm going to get these done. Finishing the 5 things makes me feel like I've made traction and I pick another 5 things.

  59. Francesca

    I'm not sure I do anything 'weird' but I have a many things that I automate that I don't even realise I do.

    On another note, I emailed you about submitting a guest post for you on a psychological subject – the offer is still there – as I see you touching on the subject but not going into it in depth 🙂

  60. Tim L.

    This is so good. Sleep, exercise, nutrition, focus—if you don't have these in place you will have a hard time being productive over the long term. And it IS a long-term game. Flashes of brilliance and screwing around on Evernote all day don't usually make people successful. The daily grinds of good systems and persevering toward desired outcomes usually do.

  61. Jacob

    This isn't usually thought of as a productivity hack, but I've started skipping a meal most days (either breakfast or dinner, depending on what I'm doing). It saves me an hour I would have spent prepping, cooking, eating, and cleaning up afterwards. That's in addition to the possible health benefits.

  62. Liz

    Thank you for always sharing stuff that's actually worth reading. Out of all the people I follow, you're probably the only one I actually try to keep up with. If I miss anything, I know I probably missed something really great. And my FOMO just won't allow that.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you!

  63. Anthea

    I set alarms for everything, in addition to calendar reminders. My wake-up is a "sunrise" alarm by the bed that peaks at 6am, and my phone has 8 recurring alarms:

    6:15am MWF: get ready for Crossfit
    6:38am MWF: go to Crossfit
    8:20am MTWTF: get ready for work
    8:40am MTWTF: go to work
    2:29pm MTWTF: walk time! (most of the office has started joining me to do laps around the building)
    5:50pm MTWTF: wrap up (this is my ten-minute warning that it's almost time to go home so I can wrap up whatever I'm in the middle of)
    8:20pm SMTWTFS: pills
    9:50pm SMTWTF: go to bed in ten minutes

    I also have two "set as needed" alarms for things like when to leave after I call for takeout, when to call someone back, when to leave for a movie, or when to put supper in the oven.

  64. Melanie

    I timed the tasks I hate doing (or dread doing, like making phone calls). It turns out I spend a lot longer lamenting the tasks than actually doing them. Sucking it up saved me a lot of time.

    I had a maid, but I fired her when she stopped being helpful. She spent less and less time cleaning the house and did a shoddier job, but I felt guilty getting rid of her until I realized that if I did as poor a job as she did I would expect an employer to fire me. She wasn't saving me any time, because I was cleaning the stuff she missed, AND I was paying her for my trouble. I'd considered remediating her, but I felt that if I was micromanaging her at something that she does for a living, then the fit between us was just not there.

    Another thing I do is *not* bend over backwards for others. I've discovered that people will do things that are important to them no matter how inconvenient, and they won't do things that aren't important to them no matter how convenient. If someone makes me an open-ended invitation ("wanna meet for coffee sometime?" vs "wanna meet for coffee next Wednesday morning?"), I disregard the invite. (Actually, sometimes I'll counter with a date and location, and about 80% of the time they never get back to me. Better to find out soon that they're flaky.)

    • Ramit Sethi

      MASSIVE insight: "I've discovered that people will do things that are important to them no matter how inconvenient, and they won't do things that aren't important to them no matter how convenient."

      Thanks for writing this.

  65. Natalie-Claire

    I love this article! I am creating a morning and evening routine to help me stick to getting enough sleep.
    I also plan my outfits on a Sunday evening while planning my week so depending on the event/meeting/occassion I won't waste valuable time trying to figure out what to wear.

  66. Caris

    I loved this, and it gave me a lot to think about. One thing I do to stay productive when I'm struggling is to tell myself something along the lines of, "Do one small thing" or "Surely there's something useful you can do." If I can just do one small thing, I've made progress, but it often turns into more progress.

    I also realize in reading through this that I have more work to do on understanding and improving my psychology. While I feel like I'm pretty productive most of the time, I have a tendency to shirk routines. It feels boring. Maybe? (See . . . more work to do). I have often worked in roles that were big on exciting, low on predictability (I was an investigator in a past life). Even now, I'm an assistant director in a university counseling center, but I work mostly in prevention and advocacy, carrying a small caseload of clients, so my days are far less predictable / routine than the counselors who see clients all day. But some degree of routine would definitely make my life easier, and I need to examine why I have this sense that routine = boring instead of routine = helpful. And then I need to get busy automating what I can.

    Thanks for the great read and insights.

  67. JG

    Two major things:

    1) My calendar looks like yours, with one difference – instead of the catchup day, every day I try to make sure I have at least 1 item/task scheduled that is either not a MUST DO or a lower priority item. In case something unscheduled comes up, I know that I can push that task to the next day or later in the week. If nothing comes up, then I move forward as planned and have one less thing to worry about later!

    2) Get in at least half an hour before the rest of the office. As a manager I have to make myself available to help resolve various issues throughout the regular workday. The amount I am able to accomplish in that half hour before the constant stream of interruptions makes a world of difference.

  68. Catherine Greer

    Oh my goodness, Ramit Sethi, I love your work and I'm going to LOVE HEARING FROM YOU when you and your partner have a baby. 😊😜 (just sayin') This article is awesome!

  69. Elizabeth

    Thanks for sharing this, Ramit! About a year ago, I decided I was tired of being tired so much, so I wanted to make getting enough sleep a priority. I also knew that just turning off my computer and going to sleep was my biggest issue–I lacked the willpower at the end of the day.

    So I bought a program that force-closes my browsers at bedtime (it also doubles as a distraction-blocking software during focus times). For $30, I get a good night's sleep almost every night.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I love it. Most people would find this "ridiculous" ("couldn't I just do that myself")? Yeah, you could. But you're not doing it. $30 is a tiny price to pay for changing your life. Well done.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks! In your Success Triggers class, you talk about trying something yourself for a while, but if it doesn't work, make a change.

      Honestly, it was like that for me. After literally YEARS of saying "OK, I'm going to start going to bed on time," and not doing it, I admitted that I can't actually reliably do it on my own, so I need something that takes the decision over from me.

      I think the most interesting part is the way people react. I get up at 4:45 on weekdays, 6 on weekends. People go "I could never do that! How do you do it?" I tell them about the tool I use and they go "Oh, I should try that."

      You're right, Ramit. When someone says "I should do that", you know they mean "But I won't."

    • Ramit Sethi

      Bingo! I love you acknowledging that sometimes, we all need a little help.

      For anyone wondering about Success Triggers, <a href="http://go.successtriggers.com/">here's the link</a>.

  70. Bonnie

    Awesome post, Ramit, thanks!

    My weird thing:

    I used to schedule everything I wanted to do on my calendar, and then end up doing something totally different! I realized couldn't follow my own directions because they weren't realistic.

    So I started filling up my calendar, not for the day ahead, but for the one that had just past, filling in what I'd actually done.

    That's how I realized:
    – where I lost time on stupid things (how on earth did I spend 3 hours on Facebook?!)
    – how much time I actually needed to complete certain tasks (writing a blog post: 20 hours, not 2)
    – when I was most productive (mornings too) and when I entered a zone of "oh my God, I don't know what I should be doing" (and then I started scheduling my clients session at that time)

    Now I almost don't do it anymore, because my days actually resemble my calendar.

  71. Suzan Alakas

    I cook almost every meal every day for my family of four, and I realized that figuring out what to make every day and grocery shopping, were both huge time sucks and mentally draining. 

    I put a few (weird/OCD) systems in place and got in control. 

    1. Problem: Figuring out what to make for every meal

    Solution: Meal Planning System

    -Instead of thinking about every meal, every day, I plan this ONCE on Monday evenings. Each week the menu is a bit different but there are certain meals we eat every week on the same day (like pancakes on Sunday mornings).

    -My meal planning system works with my other systems too. I look at my regular calendar and plan the complexity of my meals based on what’s going on each day.

    2. Problem: How to keep 2 young kids contained in a large space with shiny objects everywhere, and getting in and out before nap time

    Solution: Grocery shopping system

    -I grocery shop every Tuesday morning when the store is quiet and I don't have to wait in line. 

    -I plan ahead, and take my kids’ favorite toys and snacks along to minimize "I want that".  

    -Even with meal planning, I used to write out a grocery list from scratch every week and it used to take me 15-20 minutes (at least) and I'd forget stuff. 

    So I created a word doc with a list of the staple foods we buy every week, plus things we buy sometimes. I print it out and tack it up in the kitchen with a pen next to it. Whenever we run out of something we circle it on the list. If we need something and it's not already there to circle (like we're out of band-aids once a year or something), we write it in. 

    On Monday nights, I check what we have in the fridge, plan my meals for the week and either circle things we need, or cross them off the list if we still have enough. 

    It’s MUCH easier to say yes or no to a pre-printed list of items, than to think about and write down what you need.

    • Elizabeth

      I *LOVE* your shopping list idea! Thanks for sharing.

  72. Sara T.

    Dang, this is my favorite article so far this year and that's saying a lot given all the kick ass material from IWT.

    I agree with and the fundamentals execute routinely. At the top my weird systems are things like a list of less than 50 important people in my life (this was written about by Ramit) and I extend it to a desired frequency I want to keep in touch with those people to proactively schedule out quality time on my calendar. Also once a year or when I need it, I use a spreadsheet to analyze where my time is going on average (referencing my calendar) and including everything like socializing, volunteering, sleeping, cooking, even showering etc. versus my ideal allocation. I use it devise ways to meet that desired allocation.

    I also do silly things like taking a cold shower before seeing a trainer in the morning (despite hating mornings) because I know it's not gonna happen after work. Sometimes I go on campaigns removing less valuable distractions in my life like email subscriptions and social media. For my purse I have three removable and organized pouches inside versus using the purse pockets so that I can easily switch purses on the morning and look fashionable. I could go on but seriously the stuff in Ramit's article is gold. Thanks for all the good ideas.

  73. Adrian

    Thanks for the sharing! I total agree with your point that we should have sufficient sleep, especially when people surrounding me always working late at night trying to get the work done, and they are trying to pursuade me that I should work like that. But the thing is, I rather sleep early after a full day work and then wake up earlier another day to make sure I have full power to work again.

    However, I am surprised you put "details" at the top of the pyramid. The article you shared yesterday, "The busy person’s lies", impressed me in a way that I should try record how my time spend on in daily basis so that I could judge whether I was busy or I just lied to myself. I think that is what you mean about "details": knowing exactly what we are going to do and do them.

    So for me, my sequence would be like: fundamentals -> details -> psychology (if i can write down eveything in details and automate them as much as I can, I could be a robot and won't be affected much by my internal psychological thinking?).

  74. Crispy

    On the computer, I like to save time, a bit of aggravation, and prevent mistakes.

    I usually have my email, calendar, and to-do list available, so I have bookmarks to them together in a bookmark folder in my browser. Right-click the folder, select "open all in browser", and all three pages appear in separate tabs, ready to go. I have other similar bookmark folders depending on context.

    There are automatic filters set up in my Gmail account to label incoming mail with tags such as "Finances" or "Family", depending on the source, or other information in the message. When I'm going over finances, I can select using the label. In addition, some messages are automatically flagged as "Important". I can keep the Important mail at zero with a few minutes a day. When I see an email that didn't get a necessary label (e.g. a new biller), I add it immediately to the filter so that subsequent emails are properly labeled.

    I use Remember The Milk (no connection, just a happy user) to keep track of to-do lists. I've paid for the Pro version so that I can use the phone app. It lets me add entries by voice on the phone. I also add entries such as "buy light bulbs" and have a "smart search" so that all entries with the word "buy" are selected. Voila, instant shopping list, and I don't have to wrack my brain to remember what I wanted at the hardware store.

  75. Justin

    I schedule time with friends that I don't see much, while I'm hanging out with them (usually just before we part), for the next time we'll see each other. I'm socially awkward, so ending a get-together with essentially a planning meeting seemed odd for the longest time. Now I see those friends more often to enjoy their company (and practice social skills).

  76. Ann

    My biggest productivity tip is to focus 100% on what I'm doing without worrying about the long "to do" list. i can really crank things out when I'm present.

  77. Jason

    I don't do anything "weird". I just show up early, work my ass off all day, stay late, then go home leaving work at work. Repeat. As a strategy this has seemed to work for a few thousand years. So I'm sticking with it.

  78. Erin

    For me, setting boundaries trumps cleanliness. Lots of women shoulder the responsibility for household tasks because of what other people think of them. There are much higher value activities I can contribute to my family than shining my sink or washing other people's filthy socks. So I let the household fall into disarray while I went to business school and held down a full time job. Now I earn 3x as much in a way better and more fulfilling job, and my husband and daughter learned to be more self sufficient. As a bonus, I don't need to decorate the house for Hallowe'en, because the cobwebs and dust are already right there.
    P.S. Ramit, your replies to people's comments on this post are particularly warm and friendly. I'm used to seeing a tougher side of you, and I wonder if you've made a conscious choice to be gentler. Whatever it is, it's working. Thanks for creating a supportive and welcoming community.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you for reading and noticing.

  79. A

    I only wear dresses. It's not feminist or religious – I just don't like piling on clothes. It is a burden. Unless I'm whitewashing a fence or riding a horse, you won't find me in pants. I also hang them back up in the order worn, so every 14th day or so, you'll find me in the same dress. Occasionally, I'll add a blazer or cardigan. But I refuse to wear 4 pieces of clothing at once (blazer, blouse, cami, skirt). Important to note, I don't find selecting accessories burdensome, so yes, I am wearing 4 bracelets, a ring, and a Mr. T. style necklace.

    • Sara T

      A, this is so smart. It seems silly but dressing well is a big deal. I have been thinking of automating my attire choices every morning by having a little box with photos of 14-21 outfits on rotation but I like your idea of rotating the closet much better. So simple.

      P.S. While I don't always wear dresses, I totally agree it's easier. People always think "dressing up" is harder but it's not really.

    • Tiffany

      Super-smart. Streamlining dressing is huge. I always always figure out all my outfits for the week ahead of time (including gym/dance practice clothes) and I only buy clothing in a few colours, so everything goes with everything. Makes it all much easier.

  80. Dominic

    I'm told my system to help me lose fat is unusual/OCD.

    Sunday to Friday evening I don't eat: cookies, cake, deep fried food, candy, chocolate, soft drinks, or anything else I believe is high in sugar (natural or otherwise).

    Friday evening and Saturday I can go nuts. Special events I can have a BITE of cake.

    I do it this way because I only have to stop eating junk once a week, Saturday 11.59pm. The rest of the time I don't have to decide how much is enough.

    I used to have my cheat day on Sunday, but I was struggling all Saturday with residual stress from the work week, side hustle, cleaning, etc.
    Now that Saturday is the cheat day, I eat less junk (as I'm on the move a lot of Saturday), but enough so I don't feel agitated. It's made it much easier to maintain.

  81. Arpi

    Another tactic for the meal prep part: make meals that can be made in HUGE batches (and then either eat the same thing for several days or freeze individual portions). My favorites are chili con carne, stews (Hungarian goulash in particular) and random casseroles (just make sure to fill up the casserole dish).

  82. Ravi

    At present i don't have any Productive system in my life.
    Ooh shit that's why i always fail with work and my mind sets But now i have to change or to start my productive system.

    Thank's Mr Ramit sethi.

  83. LJ

    I feel like I've just landed on a different planet reading about all these routines,timers and systems etc! I don't mean that in a disparaging way at all, certainly given me something to think about…

    • Ramit Sethi

      Welcome to my world

      You will love it here

  84. Sarah

    I do something similar to setting a bedtime alarm for myself. I use the app (I can see your eyes roll, Ramit) LifeReminders and it reads out the alarm title out loud.

    I use this mainly for my kids so at 7pm my phone reminds us that "It's time to wind down" then at 7:55 it reads out that it's bedtime.

    I am a night owl and I become more "alive" when it gets dark so if I don't do this, I will most certainly lose track of time. Once they get put to bed I take melatonin to force myself to go to sleep within the next hour or two because I have to wake up early with them.

    I also buy duplicates of things and have very specific places for things like chapstick so I never have to go looking for it.

  85. Mo Riddiford

    Meditation.
    Every day for over thirty years it's the second thing I do every day; the first is some kind of caffeine.
    Parenting means that it is now just one hour per day.
    But I decide for meditation as my top priority.
    Nothing, nothing has been more critical to me in my whole life.
    PS: thirty years ago meditation was regarded as extremely "weird".

  86. Alixandrea

    I remember the time I was most productive and got more done than any other time in my life was when I was a teenager at High School sitting my GCSEs. We had six classes a day, 50 mins each, with breaks in between. So recently I set up my calendar with all my to-dos to look exactly like my old school timetable. I start a little earlier and finish a little later, but each block is 50 mins, with the same length breaks (and an extra break to make up for the extra time I'm working).

    I haven't been following it perfectly, but when I do, I really notice how much more I get done. 🙂

  87. Chris Horner

    Every Sunday evening I plan my outfits for the upcoming week. That mostly involves grabbing the next five dress shirts in a row and having them ready to go so I don't have to think each morning about what I'm going to wear. When I do the laundry on the weekends I put the washed dress shirts at the back of the row and just keep that rotation. No more staring at the closet wondering what to do.

    Now, if I have an important meeting or event on a particular day I'll put added thought into deciding what to wear and maybe 'break' the rotation, otherwise the decision is already made.

    Same thing with lunch. I know what places around me have specials and on what day. Again the decision is already made. No more agonizing about what do I want to eat. Heck if someone wanted to stalk me it'd be so simple lol.

    I wanted to wake up early and make myself breakfast. Didn't work for me. So I keep breakfast items in my desk at work which has worked much better.

    If someone asks to meet me I suggest the specific time and place with an alternate option or two instead of going back and forth endlessly to schedule an appointment. 90% of the time they go ahead and agree with my suggestion.

    I still have a ways to go and keep looking for ways to optimize other areas further after seeing how just the above things have made a huge difference over the last year. I get it now – the less I agonize about small decisions that make no difference the more I can focus on what really matters.

  88. Tracy Bartella-Metell

    I love this, Ramit! Your focus on fundamentals is exactly the reinforcement I needed. I just started a new job–learning phase is tapping the mental energy, am doing therapy sessions with my husband–tons of emotional energy, and workout every morning–deadlifts, squats, and kettlebells oh my! I've been exhausted and trying all sorts of quick fixes. What I really need: SLEEP!

    What I really, really needed: Your no BS voice telling me to do what I know I need to and prioritize the fundamentals with sleep at the top of the list.

  89. Srey

    Here are some weird things I do that has helped my home and work life:

    1. Sleep is crucial for our busy family. The kids are in bed by 8, and adults are in bed by 10. This gives my husband and I time to connect without any distractions. We also wake up early to talk, make the bed, and eat breakfast together. Just having these uninterrupted moments keeps our marriage strong.

    2. Lunches are meal prepped on Sunday, and breakfast is prepped the night before (overnight steel cut oats are awesome). Since I love cooking, I only need to deal with dinner. And snacks are made in multiple batches; people think I'm crazy for making 8 batches of granola or waffles once a month, but when you prefer the taste of something and have figured out a system for it, it's preferable to buying it.

    3. Exercise: gym time is non negotiable in our home. I take the kids with me in the mornings (my husband goes after work). I've learned that my day is much smoother and more productive when I workout. And on the weekends we have family gym dates. Afterwards, we either go out to eat or get ice cream.

    Our friends and family think we're crazy for making our fitness a priority, but this one thing has improved all areas of our life. The eye opener has been seeing who the haters are and who supports us.

    4. I always put my keys, glasses, and phone in the same place. I used to stress myself out and waste precious time until I started doing this.

    5. I only wear makeup on certain days or events. As for my hair, it's either in a ponytail or in a braid. Regarding clothes, my sister or husband pick them out for me because they have much better fashion sense and actually enjoy doing this for me, which is a huge relief because I'd wear muumuus all the time if I could.

    Thanks, Ramit, for encouraging the weirdness!

  90. Pavan Sandhu

    Appreciate the post and the links. I learn more from your posts then I did in my college days.

  91. Bas Pleune

    Hi Ramit,

    I love this post. I'm very enthusiastic about productivity myself and I love the way you structure the 3 layers.

    I would like to add three more productivity tactics I use and which I am absolutely sacred about (sometimes drives my girlfriend nuts).

    I learned 2 from the podcast of your friend Tim Ferris.

    1. Jocko Willink: Motivation does not exist: it's all about discipline. Motivation is fickle and you have ups and downs. Sometimes you don't feel like going to the gym, i.e. motivation is low, but if you rely on discipline it's just not a matter of deciding to go or not. The decision has been made, just follow through with your winy ass. This works extremely well for me.

    2. Reid Hoffman & Tony Robbins: Prime your sleep. Before I go to sleep I try to think about a difficult challenge I'm working on. This can be something with a client, boss, product we're launching etc. I try to stop thinking about it 15 minutes before I actually go to bed because if I don't I'll be thinking about it all night. But 'priming' the challenging thought in my mind before I sleep works really well. Usually, next morning somewhere during my 30 minute bike ride to work (I live in Amsterdam:) ) the solution suddenly appears to me.
    According to psychological theory your subconscious mind keeps working when you are asleep. In essence, I do my best work when I'm not even awake.

    3. I don't allow ANY mobile phone or tablet activity to disturb me 30 minutes before I go to bed and I don't check work mail at least 1 hour before I go to bed. I actually switch the internet connection of my phone off before I go to sleep and only turn it on after I've arrived at work and worked out the plan I thought about on the bike.
    In addition, I don't allow myself to watch exciting shows on Netflix at least 1 hour before I go to bed. I found that going to bed right after an episode of some sort of series with a cliffhanger at the end of the episode disturbs my sleep, this drives my girlfriend nuts because she desperately wants to see another episode… but as in your case, my sleep is absolutely holy to me.

    I love your blog and check out a lot of the content you produce. I'm setting up a blog myself and it won't surprise me that I'll join one of your courses some time.

  92. Liston

    This is classic Ramit post – love it!

    Each night before bed I set out my clothes for the next day, make my protein shake for my workout and the breakfast I will have afterwards. This cuts out a couple of decisions for me in the morning (what to wear) and lets me get right into my workout which keeps me energized for the rest of the day. By making breakfast and picking out my clothes the night before I don't have to spend time in the morning deciding what I "want" to wear or eat.

  93. Evey

    Hey Ramit,

    Most useful blog yet! Thank-you. I wonder about the "clean spaces" thing, though. I love a clean home, and clear surfaces especially, but as a creative, I find my desk is often messy as I move through the different aspects of a project. And if the project continues more than a day, I leave the layout of that mess in place so I can visually reference what I was doing. Make sense? Are there exceptions to the rule?

    Evey
    PS: Sorry to hear about the Wednesday thing.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Sure. If it works for you, that's great.

      I have certain areas of my life or business — like customer research — that are necessarily messy. It works!

  94. stewart hunt

    I keep a spiral notebook and a pen and reading glasses in my kitchen and living room and my "office". Making my first notes in the kitchen each morning is a big help in setting a tone for the day. I use the notebook in the office to make " micro-to-do" lists to keep me on track at the computer. When i take a break from the computer i habitually pick up the notebook in the living room as soon as soon as my mind begins to refresh. At some point i will always make my way back to then kitchen
    and the cycle begins again.

  95. Joeri

    I've been working on "being as productive as possible" quite a lot in the last 12 to 15 months, and I set some clear basic rules that really help me get the most out of my time and energy levels: start early (and leave early since my productivity strongly decreases after 5pm), work from home everybody Tuesday, developed a system to follow up on my emails and tasks in a outlook… there's 1 thing that took me longer to figure out, and that's you can perfectly ask people to respect your productivity cycle. All the time, people fill your agenda in the middle of the morning or right in the afternoon, while that really means a hard break for me to work on something for 2 hours in a row. So now I systematically ask my colleagues -if they want to book a meeting with me- to make it no longer than 1 hour and to plan it between 10.30 (even 11 if possible) and 2PM. That allows me to have a few consecutive hours in the morning and the afternoon to actually get things done. Honoustly, not a single colleague has ever made a problem of it. Just asking never hurts, and since most people just pick random slots for meetings, my preference for a specific time slot doesn't have the slightest impact on their days, while it has a major one on mine

  96. Caris

    I had a major breakthrough after reading this article and thinking through the challenges it raised.

    I noted in the comments above that I struggle with routine. It's a bit deeper than that – I struggle with structure and order, period. It hit me like the Hulk's fist yesterday that my disorderliness stems straight from my childhood (and, don't our issues always stem from childhood?) All these years, I've associated organization and structure with severity and coldness, which tells ya a little about my childhood. I've recognized that many other behaviors were a rejection of my upbringing, but until today I hadn't put it together that maybe my disorganization was a rejection (at least in part) of my past rather that an innate part of my makeup.

    I've done a lot of work to dissect my past, understand its impact, and function in a better and healthier way, and I've come a long way. I know I still have work to do – I know the work never really ends. But, I wasn't expecting an article about productivity of all things (even a massively marvelous one) to crack open a yawning chasm of "holy shit" that made me look all the way back to my childhood and how it connects to my state of mind and surroundings today. Talk about invisible scripts.

    Thanks for what you do, and the excellent content you produce. For those who are willing, you really do push them to do the hard work of change – beyond tactics, apps, hacks and, instead, taking a deep dive into their own heads. I understand why some people are just too scared. It scares me, too. Not changing scares me more.

    Thanks again.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Outstanding. Really outstanding. Thank you for being so honest with yourself about how your childhood affects you. That takes a lot of courage and deep introspection to get to. This quote of yours is very powerful: "I understand why some people are just too scared. It scares me, too. Not changing scares me more."

    • Caris

      Thanks for the kind words, Ramit. FYI, I organized the top drawer of my bathroom vanity before leaving the house this morning and have started on the disaster that is my work desk today 😉

    • Tracy Bartella-Metell

      I love the self-reflection you show in this post! I'm doing the same thing, dissecting the past to understand patterns, noticing the places where I get stuck, and finding ways to overcome those things and change. You're not alone and it's great to just read your post and know others are going through the same process! Keep it up 😀

    • caris

      Thank you so much, Tracy – I really appreciate the encouraging reply. The same goes for you – hang in there doing the hard work. It can feel worse before it feels better, but that's part of the process and it's worth it when you come out the other side. I'm sending good vibes your way 🙂

  97. Hoo

    One weird thing I do is if I'm trying to lose weight: I'll put a scale and a calendar near my home office door so I'll remember to get on weight myself and write it on the calendar.

    It's in my line of sight when I enter that room so I never forget.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Line of sight is a great tactic. Thanks for sharing it! I use it for taking out the trash and remembering to take things with me that I need for the day.

  98. Autumn

    I love the idea of scheduling catch up time! Thank you! Things that work for me:

    1) I set out my clothes the night before and my drawers are set up so I don't have to think about it. I just grab the next underwear, the next workout top, and the next workout pants. My work bag is always packed and by the door. On non-work days, the bag is put away so I don't think about work.

    2) I used to do one swoop meal prep for the week on weekends, but that no longer works for me. Instead, I plan out the meals for the week and do the shopping. I look at my calendar and see when it's going to make sense to do which prep and cooking for the week. Then I put a sticky note on the fridge with a list of the food I'm planning to make and eat for the week. As things get eaten I mark them off. I use the sticky note frequently through the week to make decisions about our food. This has made a huge difference in making sure we eat healthy food at home every day.

    3)My printed list for the day has my daily priority, weekly and monthly priorities, my focus for the year, my daily list with reminders and a capture section which is blank. I use the capture section to write any sort of notes to myself I don't want to lose, then I move them to somewhere appropriate when I have time set aside for that. I know working with a printout is old school but it works much better for me than any app could. The way I've written it, the list sounds overwhelming but the layout is clean and easy to read. I like seeing everything there each day.

    • Candice

      I like your print out idea Autumn! Very inspiring, especially reminding yourself of your weekly, monthly and yearly goals. It's so easy to get caught up with work, bills and other people's priorities, so this seems like an excellent way to stay on track. Thank you 🙂

  99. Courtney

    Thank you for this deep-dive. I think that others like us can feel weird about the optimizations we do because we certainly can't talk about them with most people.
    About a year ago, I decided that spending time on outfits in the morning wasn't something I wanted to do. I wanted to look good, of course, but I didn't want to spend mental energy on it. I designed a system to curate 14 outfits per season and wear them until it was time to rotate. This has the bonus of reducing the urge to shop since I get a "new" wardrobe in 3 months and they're pieces I like. I also have the freedom to discard items that don't fit my guidelines- a new mental script I created.

  100. Candice

    At work I've set reminders for:
    – Snack time in the morning
    – When to take lunch
    – Snack time in the afternoon
    – Washing coffee cup and closing windows before I leave

  101. katie

    For three years, I worked full-time and went to grad school part-time. I remember showing someone my google calendar for the week and he thought it was so weird that I scheduled times for: dinner prep, dinner time, shopping for groceries, stopping at the gas station. (I was on a VERY tight schedule, so if I didn't schedule times for these things – I'd fall behind on everything and need to cut into "me time" to catch up)

  102. Matt

    Thanks, Ramit, awesome article. I already shared it with my ~1,600 LinkedIn connections and my co-workers. I host a "collaboration session" across my peer group at work where we discuss different topics that affect how we work and how we help customers find success. During today's session, we discussed productivity hacks and it was fascinating that everyone in the group discussed the apps or gadgets they purchased (the Details tier of your pyramid)…even though I prefaced the meeting with an email yesterday talking about the habits we form or the things we do (not the things we buy or download) that we find helpful. Below is a summarized version of some of my habits.

    Productivity means being able to focus on what's important or what needs to get done, to do this I try to

    1) Remove distractions (waste of time), and

    2) Create good habits (we are what we do repeatedly)

    Personal – organized, preparation, waking up and getting ready first, having a plan, no social media other than LinkedIn, podcasts or audio books in the car or on walks, no email right before bed or when waking, wake at the same time every day, get enough sleep

    Work – no electronic alerts other than meeting reminders, creative work first thing in the morning, flag emails which require response, don't respond to emails right away, have an agenda in every meeting invite, avoid reacting with strong emotions, block off time on calendar for my tasks, color code calendar based on participants, organized desk, one icon on laptop desktop, very few apps on my phone

  103. Marian Bacol-Uba

    I am OCD when it comes to calendaring everything and making lists. My friends have made fun of me for "scheduling spontaneity" or some free time but it works for me. I love my weird quirks and it has helped me develop good habits that I know will garner more success.

    "Weird OCD habits"
    1. I calendar my reminders to myself several times. For example, I also have birthdays on my calendar and reminders a month in advance to get gifts or maybe plan a visit to see that friend/family member. In the notes section of the person's bday, I will add links to gift ideas every time I come across something I know he/she would like so that when their bday rolls around I don't have to spend a lot of time thinking of gift ideas.
    2. I have lists for everything. Reminders lists, To-Do lists, Grocery lists, yearly goals lists, books to read lists, travel bucket lists, friends/certain business contacts I need to catch up with lists, article/blog topics to write about lists, list of topics to talk about on my YouTube channel, recipes to try lists, you get the point. I have this on my iPhone Notes as well as on Excel spreadsheets on my laptop, Google Drive and I email it to myself as well.
    3. When I want to develop a new good habit or get rid of a bad one, I put reminders about it everywhere so it becomes second nature. For example, 2 years ago, I really wanted to get serious about staying consistent with my daily gratitude practice. I knew I had to incorporate it into my daily routine. Now I wake up and one of the first things I do is say "Thank you God that I am alive, happy, healthy and filled with your infinite abundance!" I go throughout my day saying things I am thankful for like the weather, having 2 legs, this smoothie I'm drinking, anything and everything and it changes my mindset and perspective positively all the time even when I have a shitty day. How did I do this? I put it on my calendar so every morning it reminded me. I set 3 alarms on my phone to remind me to say 3 things I'm thankful for and it must be different from the day before. I slept with the 5 minute Journal next to my phone and bed to remind me. I printed out a sheet of paper of gratitude quotes and reminders and taped it to my fridge, in my bedroom, in my bathroom, and on the front door so I am reminded right before I leave home.

    I know… super nutty, crazy and weird but it works for me.

  104. Chu Duc Hoa

    A very great article. It is to true for me.

    I usually focus in details. The magic bullet.

    This article really enlightens me.

    I will read it over and over again.

    Thanks Ramit!

  105. Shorme

    I always make sure to do the dishes BEFORE going to bed because I realized that it would throw off my whole day to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes!

  106. Dave

    After starting the day with a nice warm shower, I flip the water all the way to cold and force myself to stand under it for about a minute. Afterwards, I'm fully awake, ready to meet the day. I got the idea from an interview with Tony Robbins in which he said he jumps into a cold body of water every morning to train his nervous system to be able turn on a dime. I think of it as a little daily ritual of doing something difficult.

    When I get to work, I don't park in the lot outside my office. I park in another lot about 100 yards away. I got the idea from ZTL grad Zack Arnold. Making sure I get enough physical activity in a day really does make a difference in how I feel and what I get done. I get some pretty funny looks when I suggest going out for lunch to coworkers and visitors and then step outside the office and remember 'oh… my car is… over there. Do you mind driving?'

    I made a Spotify playlist called 'Instant Energy.' To qualify, a song has to make me play air drums and sing along. Whenever I'm feeling drained, I pop this on. It's especially helpful when I need to switch from 'answering email all day and fighting traffic' mode to 'hanging out and being present with girlfriend' mode. It's a small playlist on purpose, to reinforce those neural connections.

    • Ramit Sethi

      What's on your playlist?

  107. Lindsay

    I write out a short to-do list at the end of each day outlining exactly what I must accomplish the next day. When I get to the office in the morning I know exactly what needs to get done. If anything new comes up, I decide if it's more important than anything on my list. If it is I'll add it to my list and cross off something else. If it's part way through the day and I know I won't be able to accomplish everything then I will make a decision to cross off items. This allows me to cross off everything on my to-do list each day, which makes me feel successful. The decision to cross off items rather than simply not getting to them makes a difference in whether I feel successful or like I've failed.

  108. joan

    great post ramit, I'm STILL working on getting my fundamentals right, and you're spot on… its a lot harder facing my psychology and unsexy. I did however really like your google spreadsheet to track your contacts and i liked how you framed it , that you fight to make time for those new relationships. It's a good tip.

  109. Laura

    I'm a SAHM on my husband's teacher salary. Since I don't want to go back to work to afford an assistant to pay our monthly bills for me, I cut out the need to have to pay them each month.

    We front load our utilities and other bills in January. We pay them for the year plus a little more than I think we will spend in case we do spend more than planned or in case of a rate increase.

    Then I got ON paper billing again. It's simpler to open the mail in front of the trash can, make sure the amount is roughly right, quickly divide the credit balance by the months left in the year (and I don't even do this last one till September or so), drop the letter in the trash. Go on with my day.

    When we are not on paper billing, our utility companies don't send the actual bill in the email and having to go to the website is a pain. When we had automatic bill pay each month we still had to 1) make sure it went out okay (banks do screw up every now and again), 2) check the utilities every so often to make sure they received the payments (some don't accept ACH Payments so the checks would get lost), 3) check for rate increases, etc.

    Yes, I know a company can go out of business and we could never get our money back. But what are the chances of all the utilities going out of business the same year? Not bloody likely. And I am willing to pay someone to handle our monthly bills anyway so if I were to add it up — even if the electric co went out of business just after I paid the $900, I've been doing this for 3 or so years now. So $900 divided by 3 years is $300 a year. A reasonable cost to me, an amount I'm willing to risk losing when weighed against the monthly hassle of it all.

    Last year we frontloaded Netflix, Amazon Prime, HOA, property taxes, and the gas bill. This year we added the water bill, misc things like adding fully funded sub accounts for gifts/Christmas/oil changes/Halloween candy and costume/etc, and home/car insurances. This coming year in January we will fully fund the HSA and hopefully the cell phones as well. I can't wait till we frontload the entire year.

    People think I'm crazy for doing this but I sleep better at night.

  110. Raj

    I just realized how this article has profound implications far outside of "productivity".

    I had lunch with a friend today who mentioned how a follow-up study showed most of the people who lost a ton of weight on shows like Biggest Loser wound up gaining it all back. Your article flashed into my head. Of course! When we are focused on calorie counting and step counting apps, and diet specifics ("should I put 5 grains of rice on the plate, or only 4?"), instead of systems to help us permanently change our foundational habits, we're only focusing on 5% of the solution.

    I feel your insights here (and maybe whatever is in your productivity course, if it's similar) could profoundly help people in other areas of life, too, such as getting in shape, learning to play music, avoiding abusive relationships, etc.

  111. Philip

    I have a link at the bottom of my email that allows people to schedule an appointment with me based on my predefined availability. Lots of solutions out there by I use timetrade.com I also have links at bottom of my email signature that points students to the most frequently requested information. Signature lines are underutilized.

  112. James Joseph Finn

    TLDR:

    "… discipline leads to freedom."

    This is the very foundation of Western philosophy, and my personal mantra for success.

  113. Franziska Walser

    I care every day for my rabbits. Its like meditation in the morning and the evening. This is for me a good start into a productive day.

  114. Alexandra Masson

    Excellent article! I agree that sleep is fundamental as well as eating properly and on time and drinking water all day long. The only thing I didn´t see was exercise or stretching at one´s desk… Thanks for the names of those apps. I don´t usually use apps. Before I go to sleep at night I make a mental film of what I am going to do the next day.

  115. Erin

    "Counterintuitively, discipline gives me freedom."

    I love this.

    An example I have of this in my own life is with my kid. Since my toddler was born we have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to helping her sleep well. Because we all can depend on the nap/sleep routine that has been long established, and she's a bit older, we can deviate from it when we want to for fun stuff, like day trips, play dates and traveling, and then get back on track. We used to get a ton of shit from people (who didn't have young kids) about our our strict schedule, but these people typically did not have deal with the ramifications of an overtired child.

    (Parents out there with kids who don't sleep no matter how disciplined you are, I see you.)

    Also, in an effort to invest in my productivity and overall heath, I signed up for Daily Harvest. I was not someone who spends money on stuff like this, but these smoothies have helped me to get back on track with eating well. I now know that I have something healthy I can make in 30 seconds. Huge mental burden alleviated. Also meal prep always makes my weeks easier, and when I don't do it I suffer all week.

  116. Teri || www.afoodiestaysfit.com

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSS to all of. this! I approach my life very similarly and honestly, am I always a little shocked that people don't. (Obviously I have some ego going on here and I don't understand how people function without systems. 🙂 )

    I'm the typical I have a million projects, I'm so busy, blah blah person, but when people ask me how "I do it all", my response is always the same: I'm an expert at saying no. I think saying no is the most powerful thing you can do for keeping priorities priorities and achieving your ultimate goals.

  117. Allie

    iPhone's Reminder app is my best friend. Every single time I think of something that I need to do (like having leftovers in the fridge for lunch the next day at work), I create a reminder. It also works great for repeating tasks like tire rebalancing/rotating, changing your cabin filter, or swapping out my Invisalign trays weekly.

    I am also a HUGE fan of automation and systems. I read this post and thought, NOT weird or OCD at all. I think smart and highly efficient 🙂 I have multiple savings accounts set up with CapitalOne 360 (formerly ING Direct) to which automated transfers happen every pay period (car maintenance, car insurance, holiday fund, condo insurance, etc.). It is one of the best things I've done for myself financially. Out of sight, out of mind!

  118. Beth

    Six months ago I entered the workforce after ten years as a Stay at Home Mom and twenty as a freelance musician so I've had to significantly adjust my systems for productivity and general life management. What I've learned to be staunchly unapologetic for is the time involved in taking care of my own health and that of my family. I've lost 95 lbs so I fully understand and accept the effort it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means accepting the amount of time, energy, and money it takes to feed four people in a way that's in line with our values among other things. I also adjust my time in the office with the seasons to accommodate exercise for both me and my husband and differences in school vs. summer camp start times. Now that we're in late summer I may start leaving the office early one day a week to hit an extra farmer's market and I have several vacation days blocked in the fall to dedicate to food preservation for the winter. I know this sounds staunchly Midwestern as well as weird but it's important to my soul.

    I should mention that I'm the Executive Director of a small nonprofit so my work schedule is much more flexible than those of most people. This is a part time position with the office only open three days a week so I have quite a bit of freedom. Most weeks I put in an extra half day and I have no problem answering work email during evenings and weekends (which I view as part of the job since I'm dealing with a Board of Directors who mostly have day jobs of their own).

    My biggest challenge has been incorporating long term planning and my own professional development into my work day on a consistent basis. Most of my Big Thinking tends to happen during off hours and can be somewhat haphazard. My goal for the fall is to incorporate more systems and routines into my time in the office. This job has been a huge life change and I still haven't quite found a consistent groove with office time. I'll get there.

    PS – One of the first things I did after starting this job was hiring people to clean our house. Over the next month I'm even paying them extra to do deep cleans of several rooms. A few of my friends think this is ridiculously extravagant but I don't care. It's SO worth it!

  119. David

    "But I only have feelings on Wednesdays" 😀

  120. Lekan

    The biggest thing I'll do is set boundaries. I don't say yes to everything especially if I know I want to get things done. I don't have a problem leaving a part early or missing it if I need to get things done.

  121. Kunal Sampat

    Thank you for the amazing post Ramit. In one of your future blogs, could you kindly share the exact strategies you use to build relationships with the people you meet? Or is there a book or two you recommend on this topic?
    I'm going to start maintaining a Google spreadsheet to keep track of contacts.