Master Your Time: 4 Productivity Hacks for Reducing Overwhelm & Getting Boatloads of Stuff Done

You know the feeling.

You sit down to start working and you see a flood of emails…

Your to-do list seems like one of those out of control, wild boars from Lord of the Flies.

…and it all feels so overwhelming that you don’t even want to start.

I’ve been there so. many. times.  Oh God have I been there.  Especially being self-employed.

It can EASILY get out of control fast because there’s nobody telling you what to focus on.

Also, I tend to want to start 50 projects at the same time and bite off more than I can chew.

If I told you that I found a simple way that doubles my productivity using 4 simple productivity hacks, would you believe it?

…or more importantly, if I promised that you could do the same…you could go from feeling overwhelmed, sometimes crippled with procrastination to feeling clear, confident and in control…

…would you be willing to try these yourself?

What you’re about to learn is how I run multiple businesses working 20 hours or less per week, travel, spend time learning a foreign language, get to the gym 4 days, have time for myself: meditation, take courses, read books and develop my skills, play basketball, have time for a social life and for services like (chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, etc.) each week…

…and still, have time to veg out and binge-watch movies and my favorite shows on Netflix…

This is something that I would suggest to anyone to get a handle on immediately, no matter what stage of their business or life they’re in..

It just makes your life feel so much more rich and full when you’re productive…in the right way.

When you get these down, it will feel like you just slipped the master key into the lock of life, opening everything up for you…

Enough build up?  Let’s get to it:

Productivity Hack #1 Simplify

If you want to get more done without the overwhelm, think in terms of simplicity and clarity.

In other words, reduce complexity and clutter EVERYWHERE.

Here are some specific action steps to help you do this:

  • Notifications –
    • I’m allergic to notifications.  I turn off the ringer on my phone while I work.  I make sure that notifications for emails, social media and text do not reach the lock screen of my phone.
    • I have turned all pop-up notifications for my desktop off.
    • There is nothing that will zap your productivity like constantly being interrupted by everyone else’s agenda. I spend specific amounts of time answering emails and texts.
  • Inbox –
    • This next one was huge for me.  Basically, it works like this:  I archive all emails that I’m not going to read or take action on right now.
    • I delete and unsubscribe from anything no longer relevant or useful.
    • Since I archive rather than delete most emails, I can always use the search function in Gmail to find them later.  The end result is that my inbox always looks clean, organized and most of the time I’m at “inbox zero”.
  • Reduce Visual Clutter –
    • According to Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter in an article, she wrote for Psychology Today, “Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
    • Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.” Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that isn’t necessary or important,” Dr. Sherrie explains.
    • This means: close all unnecessary tabs on your browser, clear unnecessary objections from your workstation and visual field in your office, close programs you aren’t using, etc.

Productivity Hack #2 Say “No”

Realize that everything always comes with an opportunity cost.

When you sit down for an hour to watch TV, that’s an hour that could be spent on something more productive.

Time spent aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed could be spent learning a new skill or building your business.

Look, I haven’t found any special secrets that suddenly converted me into a productivity powerhouse…and I’ve looked.

I’ve really really looked…

What I have found is that being ultra-productive essentially comes down to an acute awareness of this fact:

We have limited time and energy.

When you fully realize this, then suddenly learning to say no to everything that is wasteful or not aligned with your values and goals becomes absolutely essential.

This also means valuing your time above all else, especially money.

It means remembering that the good is often the enemy of the great and learning to say no to opportunities, projects, and obligations that rob you of your most valuable asset.

Productivity Hack #3 Plan Before You Start

One of the habits that have really helped me is spending time in executive planning mode, each day before I start.

Let me walk you through what this looks likes.

When I wake up, I spend a little time meditating and just sitting before I rush into my schedule.

When I sit down to work, the first thing I do is spend time reviewing the main projects I’m working on before I dive into my task list.

All projects have an outcome focus.  This is equivalent to saying “start with the end in mind”, so for example: “complete sales course” or “finish blog post” :-).

There is a clear outcome.  An absolute way to measure if the project is finished or not.

All my tasks are simply the steps that lead to my outcomes.

I review where I am at in relation to those outcomes and I spend some time really thinking about each project/outcome.

Does this really lead to my larger goals?  Is there a real purpose?  Is this important to me?  Am I trying to do too much?

I ruthlessly chop away anything that doesn’t belong, constantly comparing my available time with the projects I’ve chosen.

I do all this in Plutio which is a project management tool I discussed in this post.

Productivity Hack #4 Plot on Calendar

After I’ve reviewed my existing projects/outcomes, I now plot the individual steps of each outcome on an editable calendar like this:

I also assign a time estimate for most longer tasks so that I can gauge how much I am committing to each day.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to set realistic amounts of work for myself each day, and having everything plotted visually on a calendar allows me to do exactly that.

If I don’t complete everything from a specific day then I might add it to the next or another day where I have available time.

Every few days I’ll pull everything off the calendar and review to make sure I’m still committed to each course of action before filling out the calendar again.

I simply cut everything that’s on the calendar and paste onto a google doc and then rearrange on the calendar again.

The key here is that I don’t do a second of work until I have a clear and realistic plan in place.  Every single day.

Structure Gives You Freedom

I used to abhor structure.  My younger rebellious self would buck against discipline…I hated having a schedule.

One of the reasons I chose to work for myself was because I no longer wanted to have to wake up and go into an office every day or maintain a schedule.

While I still highly value having time freedom, I discovered that structure and discipline actually give me freedom while allowing me to achieve my goals.

It’s actually the easier way.

The harder way is to procrastinate and be trapped by poor productivity habits that widdle away your precious life force and time…

It’s Your Turn…

So, here’s my challenge to you:

See if you can double or massively increase your productivity over the next 30 days.

Print these productivity hacks out and apply hack #1 for 7 days.  Then #2 for 7 days and so on.

My promise is that you will see an immediate and significant improvement.

Not only that but if you commit to this for 28 days you will have built some new, lasting habits.

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