Episode 9: Three Productivity Hacks for Optimum Performance

Today we’re going to talk about something that has transformed my life, literally. I know it will have also the same impact for you if you just implement these three simple productivity hacks for optimum performance in your life. This is going to be one of those particular episodes that I’m going to talk a little bit from the heart. And some of you that if you know me personally will understand where I have come from. And know where I’m now living a productive life. First and foremost, I just want to thank all of you that have liked the podcast, subscribed, and left a rating. If you haven’t done so please do so now. I certainly appreciate your response and feedback, good or bad. We certainly want to make sure that we are giving you the best product possible to help you improve your life and live a life by design.

These simple productivity hacks are things that you can do today. You see the work that we do here on this podcast provides you with things that are practical. This isn’t some pie in the sky idea, this isn’t something that you just wave a wand over your head and it magically appears. No, this takes work. This takes actual input from you, a desire to want to change for the better so that you can truly live life to its fullest. So the first one that I want to talk to you about is just something I would consider the ideal environment. I call it the place of isolation.

Let me tell you where this first came from. I used to be very, very busy in my career, or I thought I was busy. When I first gained employment in my career, I look back and I was doing 60 – 70 hours a week, and thinking this was just how my career would be; thinking that this was a way that I would live the remaining part of my work life. And I looked at that as being a reward based on the occupation or profession that I had joined. It was not uncommon to join in around the lunch break area or go to lunch somewhere and someone would ask how many hours did you get last week as if it were a crown of pride. So I basically got in the habit of 70-80 hours a week sometimes. I had no vacation time, I had lacked exercise and I sacrificed that valuable family time that I need so much to continue a good family environment where my family knows I love them and support them. I was sacrificing all these important things for my career. And I thought to myself, what could I do to have both?

You see life is meant to give you fulfillment in all aspects, not just in work, at the exclusion of personal, and not just in personal at the exclusion of a great career. Something challenging, something that gets you out of that bed in the morning to go help change the lives of others. You see that’s what I love to do. I love working in my field of wealth management and financial planning, and what I do is help people form their futures. And that is very satisfying for me. You know one of the things I sacrificed, when I was on a family vacation or spending time with family, I was there physically a lot of times, but I don’t think I was there mentally. What do I mean by that? Basically what I’m saying is I may have been there in body but my mind was somewhere else, working on a project or getting something off my mind. It was just an overall poor situation of handling my personal and professional life. There ya have it. My confession for this episode. I will tell you, I don’t feel like I’m alone, so I’m hoping these three hacks will help you as well. So don’t ever confuse being busy with being productive. You see often we tell ourselves we had a tremendously productive day. But we didn’t add any or maybe very little value or revenue to the bottom line of our organization.

The three top strategies I’m giving you today will maximize your productivity in your current career.

Create A Place of Isolation

Let’s take that first one I said: find or create a place of isolation.

This is a great story that I hope you’ll enjoy. I fly a lot across the country, for my work, and I discovered that I was very productive when I was on an airplane, so I analyzed why would that be the case. Well first, I had no phone use, I had no way to contact the outside world, so that helped me focus on the tasks at hand and I had an uninterrupted, mostly, two to three, maybe four hours of time. Yes, I understand that there’d be a flight attendant come by asking if you want a drink or something so forth, but if you’d just set yourself apart for a few minutes, and say, where else could I find time that was non-disturbed, so that I could just focus my most on one project. Well, that was the airplane, so I took the attributes of that flight on the airplane and decided to put that into my office. I decided to implement that during our professional production of work that we provide our clients and our friends. So I just think this discovery was on in which I know I’m not alone, but interruptions are something that drains our creativity. And it causes a tremendous lack of focus.

There was a study in 2017 about 2,000 Americans who checked their cellphones a number of times per day. They were asked to track the number of times they picked up the phone during the day. Now remember this was for a 24 hour period, so just one day, this number may shock you and it may not. It shocked me. The number of times that 2,000 Americans picked up their cell phone or smartphone was 80 times per day — while on vacation. Hope you caught that last part. These people were on vacation. They’re lying on the beach and they’re picking up their cellphones. They’re in probably some of the most wonderful, relaxing environments of the world, waves are crashing on the beach, their loved ones are all around them, the sun is shining down, they’re enjoying the calm nature noises — and they pick up a cell phone. 80 times per day. Well that’s pretty shocking. I think this next statistic that came out of this research survey will even be more shocking to you. First 10% of these 2,000 Americans surveyed reported and admitted to checking 300 times per day on their cell phone. 300 times. Wow. It’s almost as if it’s glued to their hand, right? So according to another research by Comscores in 2017, the average adult aged 18+ spends two hours and fifty-one minutes on their smartphone each day. That is almost 86 hours per month. What could you do that’s more productive with your use of time? What could you do to create more value for your organization? Or what could you do to spend more memories making with your family? 86 hours per month. The equivalent of more than 2 weeks of work. That’s a phenomenal number from the research.

What we find is that most of these individuals suffer from a self-inflicted disease of FOMO, or fear of missing out. You see they have anxiety that something is going on with some of their friends, family, or connections. And they will not be involved in it, communicated with, or know about it. They fear missing out. This is just one area which they have created for themselves now and trained themselves to pick up their phone. It is a reflex of their entire system. I would suggest to you that it’s done subconsciously. Without even thinking, many times we pick up our phone. Let me give you one more statistic before we proceed. There was a survey of individuals of 1,218 individuals in the US that look at their phones because they were on vibrate when the phone had never vibrated. You heard me correct it’s almost as if it’s a phantom phone vibrate. They thought they vibrated or felt it in their pocket or thought they heard it vibrate on their desk or wherever they might have placed it, but their phone had never vibrated. Yet they picked it up and looked at it. These are phenomenal ways in which we now have our environment disturbed from where we were on the airplane previously: no phones, no disturbance, just quiet private time to be productive. While I’ve been writing my book, Live a Life by Design that’s coming out here this summer, I sat down in that airplane seat, I put on those Bose® noise canceling headphones, and opened up that laptop and commenced to writing and found that I could produce more words per writing set than I ever could in my home. Yes, that’s right, I had double the production of words in my book while sitting on an airplane. That’s when it made so much sense to me that I had to go forward and set this same environment up in my home.

But let’s talk about a place of isolation for just a little bit. A little more story about my background. As a child I’m the youngest of six children. I never had my own bedroom or private space until I was 13 years of age. The first 13 years of my life I shared a bedroom, at one point in my life I shared it with three siblings. Yeah, believe it or not, four of us in one bedroom. It got a little tight, but we sure had a loving family and still do to this day, sharing tremendous memories of sharing bedrooms with four total kids. But this lack of privacy and quiet time has influenced me tremendously now to find a place of solitude for deep thinking. I have to have some place that allows me to get away from the noise. To disregard the day’s events, sit down and just do that deep thinking, you know where you’re your most productive where you get things done so much quicker, more comprehensive, and you’re more creative. That’s what I sought. So when I need to be ultra-focused for a project, I set up my own Menlo Park. You may not have heard of Menlo Park, this was what Thomas Edison called his self-described laboratory. He invented thousands of patented items which make our lives today much more easy and convenient. He would lock himself in Menlo Park sometimes for weeks at a time so that he could get that deep focus so that he could just sit down and think. That’s something that I think we’re missing today. In our productivity we’re so busy in the doing we don’t take time to stop and do the thinking. So before you start your next project, I encourage you to think about doing the thinking first. Give some time so that you can start that deep thinking, where you can create an even more creative process then you would if you just dove into the project. Again I go with my Bose® noise canceling headphones, you can use whatever you wish, you don’t even have to use headphones. I’ve seen people put styrofoam in their ears to prevent noise from bothering them. I then turn off all electronic notifications, and dive into the project. This is my strategy for creating our blog, writing podcast episode content and developing new solutions to our clients challenges they face in life. It’s a strategy that works. So create your own place of isolation.

Protect Your Time

The second strategy I use, or second hack, is this: I protect my time.

Now you may or may not have an assistant. But this is where an assistant comes in tremendously helpful. I have an assistant that helps me control my calendar and control the daily use of my time on the calendar. Let me explain a little further. I meet with my assistant at minimum once per week, and we go over the next week’s calendar. We sometimes look two weeks in advance if I’m traveling and speaking all over the country. It gets a little crazy, we actually meet on Zoom Meetings electronically if needed. Whatever it takes, communication is the key to controlling your time. For example, if the phone rings and you’re in the middle of doing whatever it is that’s important to you, do you automatically pick up the phone? You’re then allowing someone on the other end of that line to control your time instead of you controlling your own. You see you just put someone else’s priority above your own. This is not going to work for you to leave your day from the office and all you’ve done is be reactive to a telephone that someone else had their priority resolved. You look down at your to-do list, or your planner for the day and you haven’t checked off one important item. That tells me real quickly that you’re going to leave feeling defeated for the day, and that is not living a life by design. Or at least not one I think you would design. So one of the things you need to do, first and foremost, is sit down — if you don’t have an assistant you can do this on your own — label the types of days that you will do certain types of work. Now, think of a doctors office, many of our clients are physicians. Some of them perform surgeries. They will see patients in their office, say, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Those would be days they would consider to be focused days or days which they consider to do their top three activities that generate revenue if you will. Patient calls, patient visits. They make sure that they do those things on just those days that generate revenue for them. And then perhaps on Wednesdays and Fridays, they do administrative work, or they may even do surgery, again a focus activity, but maybe on Fridays do administrative work, and finish out their chart dictation. Maybe look at their calendar for the next month. Planning when they’re gonna take time off and so forth. They need to do one thing, they need to understand what activity occurs on what day. So a focus day for me is that day in which I create value or revenue for our companies and I do that through my top three activities that generate that revenue, that’s all I focus on on a focus day. Makes sense, right? You see this isn’t really rocket science. What it takes though is a little discipline and intentionality on our part.

The second type of day is called a buffer day. Well, a buffer day is a day that’s not necessarily one in which I create revenue, but I may create some value for the company. Let me explain. A buffer day is where I work on the business in terms of getting ready for a focus day. This may be getting the calendar ready, this may be team meetings where we determine what we’re going to be doing to help our clients over the next week. This may be continuing education on my part. It may be personal research not affiliated with a particular client project. You see where I’m going. So these are items that aren’t going to generate revenue per se but are vital and important to a fully functioning team to work efficiently. The third day is one of my favorite of the three days. So we talked about focus, we’ve talked about buffer, now were going to talk about the biggie. Free days. If you remember episode number 5 where I talk about those vacations and how to take a vacation without guilt, and how to take one without getting behind at the office. That’s called a free day. A free day is where we don’t talk about work, we don’t read about work, we don’t think about work. We don’t take work phone calls, we don’t listen or take work texts. I don’t even listen to work information. I disconnect totally from that thought process to create a distinctive line between my focus and buffer and my free days. So free days mean that truly, I am freed up from all those things that helped me create a great career and to help people I wish to help to gain a better life.

Be intentional on focus. Focus on creating the values that drive the revenues of your company or organization. Do not waste valuable time on a focus day by reading magazines, returning emails, organizing your workspace, in other words do not waste time that is critical on a focus day so you should have 80% of your day on a focus day doing nothing but the highest priorities that create revenue or value for your company or organization. 80%, so if I were to work an 8 hour day, that’s 6.4 hours of nothing but focused work. That that generates revenue. Establish parameters for returning your emails or calls. I do this mostly twice a day. There are some people that leave their email client open all day and they love to hear that ding every time they get an email, or their interoffice communications like Slack or any of the other forms where they may get a message from one of their teammates, and it just does that ding and it gets our attention. Scientists have proven that it takes 24 minutes to get back on track of a project and be productive from the time that you were initially disturbed during the work on that project, 24 minutes, nearly one-half hour before you get back on task. That’s a lot of wasted time. So perhaps the best approach would be you check your emails at 11 am and 4 pm, or during this time you focus strictly on the activity of returning calls. These are the times of the day that you will most likely catch someone at their work. The good news is, is this, if I’m calling people from 4 pm to 5 pm and most people may leave at 5, that means we don’t have a lot of time to chit chat, we get down to business and get the information that they need from us to them and move forward. Same thing for 11 o’clock. Think about it. Most of us go to lunch at noon, if that’s the case a lot of these phone calls will not just simply be those people that want to talk about the weather or the latest football score, or anything of that nature. They’re gonna be focused on the reason for their call and the reason you’re returning that call and that’s gonna take less time per call, hopefully. You do nothing else from that time frame of 11 til noon and from 4 until 5 pm except, return phone calls, empty the email inbox, start your day off the next day with a clean slate. This is one way to protect your time. I highly recommend you consider setting your days up for specific activities on certain days. And if you could, I’ve said it before in my previous episodes, I schedule my free days, those times off away from work to refresh and rejuvenate, I do those one year in advance. Now you’re gonna laugh, how would you know what you’re doing in one year? Well, that’s simple: you’re living life by your design. You choose when you wish to take off, and if you have it on your calendar, which my secret to this is I’ve placed my free days on my calendar first. Those are the items I want to take with my family or I just want some leave and I want to get rejuvenated for some reason, and you fill up your calendar with those focus days and buffer days, but by plotting it on the calendar first, your time off, it creates a powerful mindset. It says hey if I plan on taking off this number of days or weeks per year, I’ve got to stay focused on getting the tasks done so that I can leave and have a clean conscious. It is vital that you focus on only those focus days on those top three ways to create revenue for your organization, on buffer days work on you being a better person in terms of how you can deliver value to your company and clients, and then free days totally disconnect.

Delegate Tasks Not In Your Unique Ability

So number one, find or create a place of isolation. Number two, protect your time. Number three, and this one is vital: delegate any tasks that are not in your unique ability.

Let’s talk about “unique ability” for just a second. This is a term that was founded by my coach, my business coach, Dan Sullivan, of Strategic Coach. The definition of “unique ability,” is that ability that only you provide that you’re not just exceptionally talented for, you’re passionate about. It’s a way for you to bring to your organization something no one else has and that you just excel at that particular activity. So for example, one of my unique abilities is communication with our clients. I like to create deliverables, create those things that solve the problems they may encounter, and then communicate them to our team who helps me then put them in the form necessary to get them compliant with all of our regulations and send to the clients. But that’s one of the things I bring to the team. The other thing I wanted to think about is delegating any task that is not in your unique ability. And I mean the word any. I can already hear the moaning excuses, you can’t afford to hire someone, you’ve tried delegating before, and you’ve failed, or the most common excuses I hear, I don’t have time to teach someone else what needs to be done. Wow. That is the basis for frustration and I will promise you will indicate a lack of growth potential not just in your business but in you as a leader. You must find a means to delegate away tasks that are not worthy of your time, or your unique ability to accommodate them. So what is the value you bring to your organization?

For example. At what hourly rate do you contribute to the success of your organization. It’s my firm belief that by surrounding yourself with talented individuals of different strengths than your own, your company will grow and you will experience a more emotionally rewarding career. So let’s take a dollar amount example, I’m just pulling these figures from thin air, but let’s just assume that you’re at a $100,000 dollar salary, so that means that on an average you work 2,000 hours per year or $50 per hour. If you’re doing a project that I could go hire someone for $15 dollars an hour, and you’re spending your valuable time at $50 for the company, you just created an inefficient lack of investment for your employer. In other words, I hate to say it, you shouldn’t be doing things far below what your value rate is the company has assigned you as a salary. What I’m really suggesting here is is think about all those things that you do, write them down on a sheet of paper, analyze them, determine if there’s someone in your organization that can help you perform those tasks, that you feel are not bringing the same rate of value to the company as the company’s paying you. This may be an eye-opener for many of us. Oh, I understand that you like doing your own office cleaning, I understand that you like typing your own letters, I understand all of that, but is it really an efficient use of your time? I don’t think so.

We use several things to get this accomplished in our firm. First and foremost, have you ever considered a virtual assistant? If you say hey, I can’t afford to hire someone, I don’t have enough full time work for them, you may wish to consider a virtual assistant. This is someone that once trained, can handle a lot of these tasks. Such as cleaning up your email box by returning certain emails for you. How about paying your bills for you? Typing your letters, taking care of all of your correspondence, electronic filing on your system. There’s a hundred tasks that these people can do for you, and they may be somewhere else in the United States. We have in our company utilized two or three areas within that function and it has worked wonderfully for us. These people are not located in our office, but it almost seems as if they are from the constant communication, the direction I give in what I wish for them to do. And the fact that things get done. Whether they do it at midnight or whether they do it at 4 in the morning, we simply want them done to their highest possible degree of completion. We also have found that this is a great investment for us. So sometimes when you’re in smaller communities, and you don’t have available to you a special, shall we say talent that you need for your team on a special project, there’s probably someone in the United States that can help you as a virtual assistant. For example, our marketing and accounting functions are handled virtually and we’re very happy with those results. By using virtual professionals, you can expand the network and pool of talent professionals far beyond the borders of your local market or business location. Now you’ve heard me say US based virtual assistants. There are assistants based all over the world of course, some would probably be more cost effective if they were located outside the United States. I’m not demeaning or disparaging those markets, it’s just that I don’t have any experience with them, we have tried our best to limit our use of those people that are in the United States and that we understand will work with us in a manner we desire. The other thing I’d like to mention is this, you really say that you can’t afford an assistant, but if you look at that list of items I’ve asked you to write down, and you have said there are 20 items on here that I do currently that someone else could do at a much lower rate, when you look at the time you save by not doing those items at your rate, it is simple to look at the math and determine you could buy someone else’s time for a lot less trouble and a lot less cost. So let’s talk a little bit about a bonus hack.

Bonus Hack

You bet, at Live a Life by Design, I want to give you not just three primary hacks that we just talked about, I want to throw in a bonus. I hope this one works for you. Turn off all notifications on your desktop computer, iPad, and smartphone, at least during your focus days. This I understand will cause some grief for a lot of our listeners. I understand it will cause a lot of anxiety. “Oh Jimmy, what if one of my children need to get in touch with me.” Great, I got a response for that. Let your assistant or your virtual assistant know what times of the day that you wish not to be disturbed, and they will inform your spouse, children, or whoever may be calling during that time of the important work you’re doing. Now obviously you’ll let your assistant or virtual assistant know that if it’s a life-threatening issue to come and disturb you. But how often does that happen, right? So turn off all notification on the desktop computer, the iPad, the smartphone, whatever.

This one activity of turning off all these notifications has given me the most success in achieving my productivity goals. To successfully perform this hack, alert your spouse even. Not just your assistant. Alert your children when you’re going to be away from the phone, so to speak. You also will understand that while you’re able to focus during these times that your phone’s not being a problem for you, you’ll immediately see an increase in your mental dopamine. What am I saying about that? I’m talking about where you feel like you’ve finally accomplished something you are on the rock of Gibraltar, you have taken on the biggest enemy, that time waster, and defeated it. You have done something that most Americans only seek to do, but you’re gonna implement these three hacks, along with this bonus, and just try it for a week. I promise you, you will see so much more proficient productivity and you will look back and wonder how did you ever function without this? It is a wonderful feeling at the end of your week.

So the challenge this week is this, I’d like for you to take these three hacks, plus the bonus hack, and give yourself an opportunity to perform at your highest productivity level. I’m just simply asking for one week; you walk before you run, you crawl before you walk. Let‘s just take this one week and implement. I’d like to know how it worked out for you. If you don’t mind send an email to us. Let us know how this worked for you, or some challenges you may have or any questions. We’ll be glad to address them in future episodes or we’ll respond to your emails as quickly as possible.

Today’s podcast is a wonderful time to share the next event. In the future, we’ve got some guests coming on board to tell us how they improved their life by making great choices, using specific productivity hacks, those things that help you give life the upper hand to you versus someone else taking control. I only wish I would have known some of these and used them 25 years ago. No telling how much further you and I would be if we had.

Thank you for joining me today, and keep tuning in for the next episode of Live a Life by Design. If you like the show, please tell your family and friends about it. Also, we would be very appreciative if you would leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Let Us Hear From You

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Blogs

See More