Updated as of March 2020 to include video and 4, 3, 2 productivity hack.
When it comes to wasting time in front of a computer, I’m a triple black belt.
Over the last 10 years of working for myself, I’ve wasted not just hours or even days in front of a computer, but weeks, if not months.
I’ve got entrepreneurs ADD in the worst way possible. Focus has always been a challenge for me, so I’m actually pretty amazed I’ve been able to get as much done with my business as I have.
I’ve thought many times about getting medication for this, and many people I know, and even good friends of mine have had major positive changes going this route.
But I’ve always felt there should be a better way.
A Fun Productivity Hack that Actually Works
I’ve tried accountability groups, productivity apps, and all sorts of other gimmicks for getting more stuff done, but on their own, nothing seemed to work.
Recently I spent some time reviewing and considering what’s important to me in life. I’m a lifestyle entrepreneur; my whole goal with my businesses is to give me more time to do the things I want to do – yet I often find that all I’m doing is spending more time at my computer in a desperate attempt at being productive.
You see our whole lives we’ve had the idea of a 9 to 5 workday engrained in us. TEN years of entrepreneurship later, and that still hasn’t completely gone away. In fact, it’s gotten worse in some ways. Now instead of 9 to 5, it’s more like 6 am to midnight.
There’s always something you could be doing, so there are times I feel that work never really shuts off for me. A big part of this problem is that when I’m actively working, I’m not getting as much done as I should.
It’s kind of like how in a day job where you’re underworked, you drag things out to fill out the day. I do a similar thing, except because I have so much to do, I often get paralyzed into in-action and do nothing instead.
It was this recent re-evaluation that led me to try an experiment.
Productivity Hack: Why You Should Stop Working at Noon
I told myself, what if I were only allowed to work until noon everyday?
The hypothesis was I could get twice as much done as an average work day, in half the time.
The results have surprised even me.
I’m one of those people who’s most productive in the morning.
Simply put, the earlier I get up, the more I’ll get done.
So I made the goal to really improve my morning routine and be up and working by 6:30 each morning.
That gave me 5 and a half hours to get stuff done before calling it quits for the day.
For years I’ve used a tool called Focus at Will, which has been unbelievable for my productivity. It’s essentially a tool that plays specially composed instrumental music that has a goal of getting you in the zone for 100 minutes at a time.
I shoot for 3 100 minute sessions with 30 minutes worth of breaks each day.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m actually able to get stuff done without struggling through it.
What’s the secret?
Here’s exactly how I setup my days in order to get more done and have more fun in the process.
Step 1: Wake up Early
How much I get done in a day is often directly correlated to when I get up. If I’m up before 7? Good day. Later than 9? I’m in trouble. Anything in between is up to how prepared I am to get to work.
Not everyone is a morning person, but by figuring out when you’re most productive and always being “on” at those times, you’ll be setting yourself up for a much greater chance of success.
Here are my thoughts on how to wake up earlier.
Step 2: Turn on Spotify “Focus” Playlist
As mentioned above, I used to use a tool called [email protected] as my work music. It has special playlists that are specifically created to help you focus.
These days, I now use a variety of playlists in the “Focus” section of Spotify that work great (and it’s a tool I already pay for).
For instance, I usually use Deep Focus or Peaceful Piano when I’m writing.
When this music goes on, it’s a clear indicator for me that it’s time to get down to work.
Step 3: Have a Very Clear To Do List Prepared the Night Before
If I have to think about what I need to get done when I sit down to work, nothing will. Each night before I go to bed I have my “top 5” or my most important things I want to get done for the day.
These should be business building activities. Email doesn’t count, unless I’ve been particularly far behind.
One of my biggest weaknesses is always doing the easy activities that allow me to maintain my business, but not grow it. By plotting out my to do items the day before, I’m able to get a clear sense of what will really grow the business the following day.
Step 4: Do the Hardest Thing SECOND
If there’s something you know you really need to do, but it’s hard, boring, or otherwise something you’ve been putting off, you shouldn’t do it first.
You’ll just keep putting it off.
First you should so something enjoyable or fun. Doing that allows you to tick off a quick win, build momentum, and then ease you into that hard task.
See the link about procrastination for the full details on this.
Step 5: Focus Only on Things that Build the Business
I remember having one of my biggest sales ever. I’d been wanting to merge all of my courses and do a sale around it for months, but it just kept always getting pushed back.
This process I’m outlining here is the reason I got it done. I mapped out what I needed to do, and spent a couple hours each morning making sure I was pushing myself closer to that goal.
Big projects never get done if you don’t have a framework for completing them. It’s easy to do nothing but write blog posts and answer emails, but is that really growing your business? Not generally.
Step 6: Schedule Something at 12:30
So here’s where things get interesting. I first experimented with this during a couple weeks in the summer. I used this framework and then gave myself permission to stop working at noon. For the first week, this was nearly impossible, but as I started scheduling things early in the afternoon, the need to be more productive in the morning became greater.
It’s summer and what good is a lifestyle business if you can’t enjoy it? I booked tee times at 1pm. Headed out for beer festivals, or simply setup coffee or lunch dates with people I wanted to connect with.
What I found is that when I stopped working around noon, I got more done and had more fun in the process.
Step 7: If Necessary, Adopt the 4, 3, 2 Productivity Method to Ease Into it.
As much as I’d like to completely quit work at noon every day and go golf, I realize this isn’t always feasible.
So these days I often subscribe to what I call the 4, 3, 2 method of productivity.
4 hours of work.
3 hours of fun.
2 hours of more work.
I use the last two hours mostly for emails, preparing for the next day, scheduling interviews or anything else that isn’t primarily devoted to business growth.
Is This Productivity Hack Actually Sustainable Long Term?
The more I challenge the 9 to 5 workday, the more I embrace the fact that I can work however I want – and the more I find myself enjoying work.
While it’s obviously not feasible to do this every day, whenever possible I’m making my work time more productive, and my play time more abundant and enjoyable.
How do you like to work? Have you ever tried something similar with your work day?
Further Productivity Reading:
- All of our productivity posts – Looking for more help getting stuff done? Start here.
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them
- How to Start a New Habit – 5 easy strategies for building better habits.