The Seven Pillars of Top-Tier Productivity

I have previously written about enhancing your productivity in Twelve Fundamental Tips to Maximizing Your Productivity. I strongly recommend that you read that post in addition to this one. You can read it prior, after, or whenever you desire. Many of these tips are provided in addition to what is discussed in that post, although there is naturally some overlap as well.

As a man who aims to accomplish as much as possible, it is essential that I get as much as I possibly can out of my free time. This has become even more essential as I’ve filled my free time up with many things: running this website, having a full-time job, maintaining a side business, and hitting the gym religiously while still wanting time for self-development and some room for a social life.

Because of this schedule, I am naturally concerned with maximizing my own productivity to be able to fit everything in. Thus, I have learned and implemented various strategies and techniques to enhance my productivity that absolutely will work for you as well.

In this particular post, I have compiled the most important “pillars” to enhance your productivity. As far as I am aware, you simply cannot maximize your productivity without hitting all of these pillars. This is a fairly short and important read, so I strongly recommend going through to figure out what you may be doing right or wrong with your own personal productivity.

1) Motivation and Goal-Setting

To maximize your productivity, you must be motivated to do whatever you have to do. This can occur out of passion, or it can occur out of necessity.

If you are passionate about something, your motivation is already built into what you’re doing. Conversely, if you have to get something done because your back is against the wall, you will be much more likely to get right into it and do a more thorough job completing it. Interestingly enough, some successful figures such as Scott Adams say that you shouldn’t follow your passion. While he puts out some interesting food for thought, I would still say that a passion that you can realistically succeed with is still the best thing you can do, since you look forward to it every day, and since it can be your ticket to a better life.

No matter what you do, and whether you are passionate about it or not, you have to assign a level of importance in your brain to what you are doing. My most productive days are when I’m doing something that absolutely must be done, especially if it’s a free day in between a bunch of work days.

One of the best ways to increase your motivation is to set a goal with a clearly defined number or clearly measurable outcome. This goal should be something that you repeat to yourself every day, every morning when you wake up. For instance:

“I will bench 315lbs again by November.”

“I will hit $500 a month in passive income by October”

If you haven’t figured it out, these are my upcoming goals.

These are also examples of goals with clearly defined numbers. To maximize your productivity, you want clearly state some measurable goals, then you have to work your ass off to reach them with a clearly defined plan.

Even if you “fail,” you are much, much more likely to be ahead than you would be had you never made these goals. Additionally, the daily motivation that they provide will be absolutely essential to maximizing your productivity. Bust your ass to achieve your goals, and do not be afraid to fail!

The last note that I will make on this is that if you have to do something that you simply cannot get motivated for, but must be done anyway, then one method is to do it in small chunks. Work on it for 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the evening, and keep at it until it’s done. This is assuming, of course, that you have enough time to do it in this manner. This allows you to do it in small, efficient pieces until you’ve completed it.

2) Emotional Awareness

Men like to believe that they are not emotional creatures, but they are. Your own emotions and desires play a critical role into your productivity level.

If I’ve been working too long on my business or website, and I haven’t gone out in a while, sometimes I just need to get the fuck out of the house or apartment and hang out. Maybe I haven’t had sex in a while, and I need to call up a booty call. Pay attention to what you want, and if it’s interfering with your productivity, then it’s often a good idea to just do it so you can return to your productivity routine refreshed and ready to go.

This is also one reason that I recommend combining tasks that can be combined. I.e. if you desire to go outside, then go outside while you get shit done. Reading a book that you seek to finish outside, instead of inside, may prove to be invaluable at combining something you have a need for (going outside and getting some Vitamin D) while doing something that you have to get done (reading a book to enhance your business success). There are much more examples in that link as well.

The key here is to pay attention to what you need. It’s simply not realistic for most to work at a goal for 16 hours every single day. If you can, then more power to you. It’s generally more ideal to work on your goal 10-12 hours a day while including time for a few hours to exercise and a few hours to fuck around and socialize. It also benefits you mentally because you know that you’re not held down to your routine for every waking hour.

3) Strategic Breaks

You must occasionally take breaks from what you do. The brain is best designed for 45-60 minute spurts of creativity with 15 minute rest periods. You may feel like your creativity periods are a little bit longer, so generally speaking, you should do what works for you.

Take this principle into account when you are doing something over a long course of time; especially when you are sitting in front of a computer. It is nearly impossible to focus on something forever. Eventually, your brain just needs a short break.

The most important take away is that when you feel like you need to take a break, then take a short break. Do something else you need to do anyway. Eat food. Take a shower. Exercise. Clean your apartment. Just take 10-15 minutes from what you’re doing before you get back into it. This also allows you to consolidate and sort out all of the information that you have learned. When you come back, you’ll be even more ready to tackle the next sixty minutes or so.

So now, I absolutely must repeat: Do not underestimate the importance of break taking! 

Anytime you are reaching for maximum productivity, you must factor short breaks or a switch of activities into account! This can easily be set up like the following:

Wake up at 7:00, Eat and make coffee until 7:20, Exercise until 8:00, Write in the blog until 9:00, take a quick shower until 9:15, write until 10:00, go outside and read until 10:30, write until 11:30, then work on the business for a few hours with short breaks in between until 3:00 pm.

Of course, your level of specificity depends on you. You generally don’t need to have specific times for things unless you’re experimenting or have a very specific deadline to hit. I do not write down much in advance, except when I am adding to my daily to-do list. I just wake up and get right to work, and I have general time frames for how long something should take. The rest I play by feel.

4) Realism

Be realistic about your productivity plan based off of what you’ve done in the past. This, of course, takes a level of experience and planning.

I know that I cannot work on my side gigs and goals 16 hours a day, every day. I can work that much in the short term. In the long run, however, I need to have time to go out, socialize, and enjoy my life. There has to be a reward for what I’m doing. Otherwise, the mental weight of my obligations would collapse upon me.

Even if your goal is something much less than 10-16 hours a day of work on a project, remember that it is more important to work two productive hours than six unproductive hours towards a goal that you desire. That said, it’s better to work six productive hours than two productive hours. This is absolutely possible if you follow all of the pillars listed in this article. You generally want to set your goals for a measurable outcome, rather than planning an amount of time to spend on them. There are exceptions, of course.

Overall, you must be aware of what you can do so you can manage your expectations accordingly. Look for improvements where you can find them. Don’t set your productivity goals too high and end up accomplishing very little because you got overwhelmed because they were too unrealistic. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Again, breaks are essential. With time, you will generally become more productive just as a matter of experience and skill.

5) Flexibility

Flexibility allows you to break up one task with another. Flexibility also allows you to set aside things that you might not be in the mood for while working on tasks that you have the fortitude or mood to accomplish.

I try to remain as flexible as possible. This cannot always happen, of course, because some things have pressing deadlines. But I do try to set things up so I can accomplish as much as I can.

In a perfect world, you’ll be well rested and you’ll have all day to accomplish whatever the hell you want. But in many cases, and for many people, you won’t. If you have a strenuous job, lifestyle, or kids, this may not be the case, and you need to make the most out of every opportunity. For instance, if you’re waiting in line, you can practice a new language on your phone for five minutes using Duolingo.

If I don’t sleep well overnight, I try to fall back asleep right away. If I can’t fall asleep right away, then I aim to take a nice hour long nap during the middle of the day if my schedule allows it. If I’m functioning off of less sleep, I might perform tasks that are less mentally strenuous as others. Sometimes I just suck it the hell up and do it, but again, I play it by feel and by motivation.

Flexibility goes hand in hand because of emotion and motivation. Sometimes you’re just craving to get the hell outside and do something real, and it’s best for productivity and mental health reasons to do that before you get to anything serious.

6) Efficiency

Whatever you are doing, you want to achieve it with peak efficiency. If you aim to write a blog post every day, for instance, (I don’t, but let’s pretend), then you want to make sure you write in a way that is thorough and as error-free as possible before you edit it, so your editing can be much more efficient. For most writers, editing takes by far the most time to conduct. Therefore, writing in a manner that cuts down on time editing is absolutely ideal to publish as much quality content as possible. This naturally takes time and experience.

This is only an example, of course. You want to figure out whatever method is necessary to maximize your efficiency in anything that you do. This typically takes a degree of analysis in what you’re doing right and wrong. If you waste too much time at the gym, for instance, maybe you need to socialize less, or only between your sets, or you’re resting too long between your sets. Regardless, you must take the time to consider it to get the most out of your time.

If you’re driving somewhere, supplement your time with an Audiobook. If my schedule is jam packed and I cannot fill it with additional reading, then it makes sense to listen to an Audiobook on the subject that I’m interested in instead.

Again, regardless of what you’re doing, it takes time, experience, a degree of analysis, and decisiveness. Don’t fuck around deciding on whether or not you should do something or not. Do the necessary research and make a decision. Indecisiveness takes valuable time out of your day best spent on something else.

7) Focus

Focus on your task at hand and set aside distractions. This is often the hardest thing to do for most people, because of the nature of today’s grab-your-attention-immediately society.

The more focused you are on a measurable goal, the easier you will find this to do. If you don’t have a measurable goal in mind, and you instead think that you can just work towards something “a little bit more each day,” you are probably leaving productivity on the table.

Set aside Twitter, Facebook, your phone, and just focus on what you have to do. You don’t need to totally isolate yourself from the world; you can check this stuff when you take breaks. Clear your desk of clutter and keep anything distracting out of reach, sight, and mind. If you find yourself distracted by anything, remind yourself of your goals and consciously reorient yourself to what you have to do.

Focus also comes from proper diet, sleep, and exercise. It is very difficult to focus when you have a diet that is spiking your blood sugar up and down. Unless you are following a specific diet, your diet should primarily include low-glycemic carbs, sufficient protein, and a balance of fats. Sleep optimally (see sections #1, #5, and #6 of this article for more). Proper exercise is important as well; fat people simply don’t accomplish as much work as people who are in shape, and exercise has critical mental health and benefits to one’s focus.

A particular favorite supplement of mine is L-Theanine, which is naturally found in green tea and has been proven to help enhance your focus. This is especially true when mixed with a moderate amount of Caffeine. These are the best (and among the cheapest) brands that I know of. Generally a 2:1 ratio of L-Theanine to Caffeine is recommended. L-Theanine is definitely worth trying if you haven’t already.

Fin

That’s it, gentlemen. This post is intended to highlight the most important points of maximizing your productivity. If you feel like you are failing at any of the above steps, then you should reevaluate your routine and figure out why this is the case. I guarantee that if you are able to achieve all of these pillars, you will dramatically improve your productivity.

Remember that other factors such as sleep, diet, and so forth were barely touched upon in this article. For more information on these subjects, read Twelve Fundamental Tips to Maximizing Your Productivity.

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