What does it take to get more done in less time?
How can you achieve in a week what would normally take you a month?
Conventional thinking says you’d have to put in 4 times the amount of effort. You’d have to work 14-hour days or skip sleep to do it. But most people simply confuse activity with achievement.
As Arianna Huffington has said,
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”
Indeed, productivity is not about forcing more hours into a day but getting the most out of what you already have.
With a few minor tweaks, many people would actually be surprised how much more they can achieve in their weeks, months, years, and lives, as the remainder of this article will explore.
Here we go.
1. Remove the Unessential
“The fastest way to move forward in life is not doing more. It starts with stopping the behaviors holding you back.” -Benjamin P. Hardy
Let’s talk about the Napoleon technique — this is a productivity hack that has gone through the ages. It comes from — you guessed it, the late military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was his practice to open only the most important letters that arrived on his desk and then leave the rest unopened for three weeks.
By the time he finally opened those letters he’d deemed unimportant, it was with satisfaction he observed that over 80% of the correspondence had resolved themselves and no longer required an answer.
Thus, by not opening those letters, Bonaparte had removed the unessential from his life and gained back his time to focus on what was truly important. So, my question is:
What are the “letters” you’re opening in your life that are actually unessential and not worth your time?
Gary Keller had similarly said, “What are you currently treating like a priority that is actually a distraction?”
For wherever you want to go, there is a path. There is a certain set of actions and activities that will lead you closer to your desired end.
For example, writing articles is what truly moves an aspiring blogger to where they want to be. Lifting weights and eating right is how you build muscle. Most of the time, anything else is just fluff.
Thus, your responsibility is to work out what moves you towards your desired results and then do only those things.
This may sound like the ‘80/20 Rule’ because it basically is. 80% of your results will come from 20% of what you do. The clearer you get on the 20% of activities that truly move the needle for you, the easier and more efficient your life will be.
2. Set and Meet Real Deadlines
“High performance happens only when there are real deadlines. “What is a “real” deadline? It’s a date that matters because, if it isn’t met, real negative consequences happen, and if it is real, benefits come to fruition.” -Brendon Burchard
You must have heard of Parkinson’s Law before. It’s incredibly simple and states: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” For example:
- If you have 10 hours to do something, it will take 10 hours.
- If you have 10 days to do something, it will take 10 days.
- If you have 5 months to do something, it will take 5 months.
Similarly, Shawn Achor has written in his book, Before Happiness,
“The closer you perceive your success to be, the faster you move toward it… At the precise moment your brain realizes that attaining your goal is not only possible but probable, it releases a potent stream of chemicals that help you speed up.”
For example, have you ever noticed that when you’re reading a book and almost at the end, you tend to have more motivation to finish it and even start reading faster?
Why? Because human behavior is predictable — it’s not rocket science. We are driven by reward or the avoidance of negative consequences. In other terms: we choose our behaviors based on what we expect to happen after we do or don’t do them.
Therefore, a real deadline creates both. It’s push and pull motivation. It creates an intrinsic desire to finish what needs to be done, while it also creates external pressure that real negative consequences will happen if it’s not.
For example, as I’m writing this article, I’ve actually already scheduled it to publish 12 hours from now. That’s a real deadline! I either get it done, or I look silly publishing an unfinished article.
So, what do real deadlines look like in your life? Where are they set and where do they need to be set? How high are the stakes on those deadlines? What if you shortened the timeline and really challenged yourself?
Of course, we often think we can be just as productive without tight deadlines but realize that without a sense of urgency, your time will escape you.
As Professor Harold Hill has said,
“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
3. Develop an Effective Morning Routine
Benjamin P. Hardy once wrote, “How you start is something is generally how you finish it.” Jim Rohn similarly says, “You’re either running the day, or the day runs you.”
Morning routines are often frowned upon when it comes to productivity and self-improvement. The gurus have bled them dry. You’ve read the articles: “4 Morning Routine Hacks All Billionaires Swear By” or “If You Want to Be Successful, You Must Wake up at 5am. Here’s Why.”
But what if there was a no BS approach to morning routines that didn’t involve waking up at 5am or repeating 500 mantras? Let’s talk about it.
Hal Elrod says,
“More important than the time that you start your day is the mindset with which you start your day.”
To me, an effective morning routine is not about developing billionaire habits, but simply pointing your life in the direction you intend to go. For many, they wake up and are immediately sucked into other people’s intentions.
Their social media notifications are bussing. They’re drawn into their emails or immediately watching YouTube. But in those early hours, the day is already won or lost — you must start right to end right.
So, my morning routine tips are simple:
- Plan your day and lay everything out for the morning the night before.
- Put your phone on airplane mode and place your alarm away from your bed.
- Wake up and eat the frog. Says Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
“Eating the frog” in essence means you put first things first. You get a head start on your most important projects immediately upon waking up and then let the momentum carry you through out the rest of the day.
Benjamin P. Hardy once wrote, “We have more than enough time to do an enormous amount of good in our lives, if we use the time we have.”
Indeed, if everyone has 24 hours in a day, what creates the difference? Why is it that some people are able to see and do so much more than others?
I’ll tell you. Because they live by their priorities and do only that which is most important. Or as Gary Keller put it in his book, The ONE Thing,
“They go small… “Going small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do.”
To simplify your life and achieve more in a week than you normally would in a month starts by removing the unessential, setting and meeting real deadlines, and developing an effective morning routine.
Like this article? Join my email list to stay in touch.