Productivity hack: The weekend list

I’m blogging this week about a small handful of productivity hacks that have proven to be extremely useful in my business and life.

PRODUCTIVITY HACK: THE WEEKEND LIST

As someone who runs a business from home, it’s extremely easy to get tempted into working 24/7. Early in my business, it was a necessity. And even today, though I have reached a level where I don’t have to work 24/7, it’s still sometimes necessary to put in a bit (just a bit!) of time on the weekends.

The truth is, I don’t want to toil away on my business when I could be doing something else. I recognize the importance of a break… but I also recognize that business owners are jugglers and sometimes you have to touch the knives you’re juggling in order to keep them all airborne.

For that reason — a need for time off but also a need to sometimes do a bit of work — I started creating a special weekend list of tasks. I create the list on a Friday afternoon and I try to have the following “rules” (which sometimes get broken but generally are followed)…

  • The list can only contain 10 tasks
  • Each task should be longer than 2 minutes (as per David Allen’s GTD definition of a task) no more than 15 minutes long. (On the rare occasions when I break this 15 minute max, I try never to have more than one project that is longer than 15 minutes).
  • The first items on the list need to be any procrastinated tasks that weren’t done during the week but are able to be done on the weekend

This list has turned out to be a pretty good system for my weekends. I’m able to knock out a few small projects, including projects that I skipped or avoided during the week. And better yet, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything because there are frequently 15 minute stretches during the weekend that are unfilled. So this list provides me with balance while helping me to feel like I’m keeping those knives spinning in the air!

Productivity hack: Start more

This week, I’m blogging about a few productivity hacks I use to help me get more stuff done. They’re just small little tweaks you can do to boost your productivity a little.

START MORE

I’ve mentioned this before on my blog: I’m a good starter; I’m not always a good finisher. I love the “blank page” freshness of a new project. So I start it. I get it partially done, and then I leave it behind as I go on to something else. I tend to drop things when the new car smell wears off of a project. Seth Godin talked about in his book The Dip, in which he encouraged readers (somewhat unhelpfully, in my opinion) to figure out whether they should push through or quit.

So I have a bunch of projects that were once enthralling but are now collecting dust. So if you are a starter like me, and you struggle with finishing stuff, this is a useful hack:

Start stuff more often. But here’s the catch: Start aspects of your existing project more often. This has proven itself to be incredibly useful when I’m writing a book — which is a very tough project for people who aren’t good finishers. I have started a ton of books but struggled to finish any of them. Until I incorporated this hack: Instead of thinking of starting the project just once; I think of each project as several smaller projects, each needing to be started. So in the case of a book, I don’t start a book. Instead, I start the book outline. Then I start each chapter outline. Then I start writing a section of a chapter. Suddenly, I’m not looking at one 50,000 word book anymore. Instead, I’m looking at one hundred 500 word “sections”. That is so much easier!

I’ve used a book as an example because it is a constant reality for me… but it’s not the only thing that I use this hack on. I’ve used it on website redesigns, business creation, sales letter copywriting, and even arduously long home renovations.

For starters, this is a powerful hack because it turns one project into a number of smaller, easier-to-start projects, and that helps to keep the momentum up.

Productivity hack: Finishing the most procrastinated tasks

This week I’m blogging about a bunch of productivity hacks that I’ve found helpful. And with this hack, I feel like it’s almost more of a confession than a hack (and I almost didn’t post it because I *know* that you are going to read it and laugh at me).

PRODUCTIVITY HACK: OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION

I’m a busy guy and love having a million things on the go all at once. It adds a layer of stressful fun to my day and I don’t think I would last very long without it. But, because I have so much to do, I find it really easy to procrastinate on some things. It’s quite easy to hammer out a list of a dozen tasks each day of the week… only to discover at week’s end that a couple tasks were ignored every frigging day and carried over to the next day.

For me, it’s usually administrative stuff or some of the really detail work of a project that is 99% done. I have a few tools and tricks to help me get through these projects but the one I want to mention today is this almost silly idea:

If you have a task that you procrastinate over and over, it’s because you have other tasks you would rather do. So if you want to get your most procrastinated projects done, you need to make them the preferred task on your list. And you do this by putting EVEN WORSE projects on your list.

It sounds funny but it works. (At least for me). I’ve had a small home renovation project that I keep meaning to do and never got around to it. I kept putting it off, and carrying the simple job forward on my task list day after day after day.

By pure chance, it landed on a day that I also had some other tasks that needed to get done but I didn’t want to do: Namely, I had to call the CRA (which is the Canadian version of the IRS) to get a special tax number for my business, and I had to create a spreadsheet for my accountant. Frankly, neither of those activities are fun either and guess what… I suddenly “discovered” a half hour that allowed me to do that quick home renovation project I had put off.

Now all I need is a task I hate worse than calling the CRA… but I can’t think of one right now.

Productivity hack: Counting tasks

This week I’m writing about a few productivity hacks that I’ve found to be helpful. They aren’t profound, life-changing productivity systems (like Stephen Covey’s First Things First or David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which have both had a significant impact on my life). These are just small, get-the-job-done-faster-or-better hacks that I’ve found to be useful.

PRODUCTIVITY HACK: COUNTING TASKS

When I list the things I want to do accomplish, I used to list them in order from 1 through 10 (or 100 or 1000 or however many there were). But then I found a quick, simple mental trick that made it feel like I was getting things done more effectively: I simply labelled them in reverse sequence, from highest to lowest.

So instead of having 10 tasks labelled 1 through 10, I have 10 tasks labelled 10 through 1.

I first discovered this simple trick when I was working out. In one of the circuit training programs I do, I have to do as many reps as I can in a single minute. And it can be easy to stop at 20 reps and think “I can’t go on any more”. So when I wanted to push myself harder, I reversed the numbering system. Instead of counting up from 1 to whatever I thought I could do, I instead decided to count down from 30. Thus, once I completed 20 reps, I had counted from 30 to 10. I found I could push myself a little more to feel like I was “completing” the number sequence.

Yeah, it’s a small change but it helps you to think about how many tasks (or reps) you have left to do rather than focusing on those “high” numbers that will be just as challenging to complete tomorrow. When you’re working on the 7th or 8th task and you’d rather be playing Frisbee and drinking beer then it can be tempting to just leave the rest of your stuff until tomorrow when you know you’ll have another 10 tasks to do. But reversing the numbering system reminds you that you only have a couple of tasks left and then you’re done.

What I’m working on this week (Feb. 18 – 22)

It’s a windy day here today! As long as the power stays on and it doesn’t take too much of my time to shovel out my driveway and walkway, I should have a productive start to the week!

My plan this week is to make a huge push on 2 books — on my own Sales Funnel Bible book, and on a real estate investor’s book. I’ve gained some great momentum on both of these lately, and I really want to have them both done by the end of March because I have some HUGE things that are simmering on the backburner until then (plus I’m trying to get better at moving big projects along in a timely manner). I’ve got a few other things I need to jam out this week but these two books are the big things.

I’m also excited to be working with my friend @RosemarySmyth on a joint venture for financial advisors. We’re still working out the details but it looks like we’re putting together a package of solutions on how advisors can become more successful. Stay tuned for more on that!

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