This was originally going to be an E-book, but I figured I might as well share it with you for free since I'm a nice guy. So here without further adieu is my guide to extreme productivity for entrepreneurs
Get S#!@ Done
Extreme Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs
By Ben Byrne
Let’s face it, you’re an entrepreneur now...you already bought into the idea that you want to work for yourself and that’s the only way you’re going to be happy, so that leaves the following question.
How can I get the most done day after day, without crashing and burning?
This is a guide to help you do just that.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to get more s&#t done, here’s the first thing you need to know. This is what’s going to keep you going when you want to quit and you’re wishing you were back doing your old job. It sounds cliché but you need to have a powerful why. Most people start with the “how”, which really should come after the why and the what.
In other words, you must have a vision of your future that is so compelling that it drives you to keep working even when you don’t want to.
So the very first step is to start with your dream life. You need to visualize exactly what you want and where you want to be, and no this isn’t the law of attraction. Having a powerful vision of your future is what will persuade you to get back to work and do the things you need to do.
When you were a kid did you see yourself working in a 9-5 job for 40 years, having a white picket fence, 2.4 kids and then slowly dying? No? I didn’t think so. We know that the only way to have the life we want is to first know exactly what you want out of it. Work on develop a crystal clear picture of the life you want to lead, and if you want, write a letter to yourself dated 1-5 years from now telling yourself about how your life is now.
I recommend not being “realistic” when you come up with your ideal vision of your future, the more absurd you can make it the better. Note I did not say goals, I believe having goals is a vastly different thing than having a vision. A goal in my opinion is something you can accomplish today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year. Essentially goals are used to reverse engineer your vision and give you a solid game plan on how to get there.
For example let’s say you have a vision of having a million dollars in the bank, living comfortably on a beach with your beautiful wife and a sailing boat. In order to achieve this lifestyle in a monetary sense for arguments sake lets say you need 5 million ( no I’m not saying you need millions to find a beautiful wife PS). The second part of this equation is knowing what age you want to be to achieve this vision. Maybe in 5 years you want 5 million dollars, that means that you need to make a million dollars a year. If you need a million dollars the best way is to small chunk it. Reduce it to the exact amount you need to make every hour ( which is about 273$ for a 15 hour day) and it becomes much more achievable if you can make or exceed that number.
Ok so the whole point of that exercise is to make sure you keep your eyes on the target and always have your endgame in mind. The next thing you need to know about is
Tip #1: Being Effective versus being Efficient
Are you focusing on doing the things that will give you the highest return, or are you simply doing things that provide little return but give you a feeling of accomplishment because you’re good at them? How much of your time is spent on making new sales and how much of it is spent on things like meetings, bookkeeping, sending emails, etc. An example of effectiveness over efficiency that I love from Tim Ferriss is that of direct response marketing versus door to door sales. ( partly because I worked in door to door sales and now have converted to direct marketing) You can be the very best door to door salesman in the world, or in other words you can become the most efficient door to door salesman in the world however how effective is it? Compared to instantly sending out thousands of emails, sending ads to hundreds of thousands of people, or something of that nature. What is a better use of your time? How long would it take you to reach 1 million people door to door vs sending an email to them with a click of a button?
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. This can be applied to almost everything and it is especially related to this idea of effectiveness vs efficient. The hard part about focusing on the 20 aka the most effective tasks is that you will feel like you are missing out on a lot of things, and without a doubt you will be. You will however, become wildly more successful.
Here is an example of the 80/20 rule in action, what percent of your actions in business make you money? You make money when you make sales, which if you aren’t careful could be only 20% of your total time if you have to spend a lot of time with fulfillment and back end work. Now with your sales what is the 20% task that actually counts towards the sale? Without a doubt is actually closing the sale or making a conversion. If sales is your strength then you should be focusing on the 20% of the 20% of the 20% until you develop a cash machine.
In our society there is a myth that being busy is somehow better or admirable. If you want to accomplish a lot, you need to think about it differently. This effectiveness versus efficiency argument may be obvious to you, but it’s worth mentioning because so many people overlook it.
If you want to ensure maximum productivity, create a list of the 2-3 most important productive things you can do to grow your business, and then convert those 3 things to 3 actions you can take each day.
Tip #2: Dropping Bad Habits
Everyone has a mix of good and bad habits, the goal is to drop all of your bad habits. No kidding right? Understand that everything you do either helps you get towards that grand vision you made, or it doesn’t.
So here’s what that really means.
All the time you spend watching tv, hanging out with friends who don’t encourage you or constructively criticize you, spending a few minutes or hours looking at your phone, spending 10 minutes getting a coffee, daydreaming, or any number of the other millions of ways that we can find to waste time is like literally throwing money down the toilet. Even worse, you are literally throwing your life away.
You need to let them all go. Right now. Better yet, yesterday.
This leads to the next tip that successful people know
Tip #3: Invest Your Time Wisely
We are all given the same amount of hours in a day, yet some people manage to do great things, while others keep living the same boring lifestyle, never really going anywhere. If you exchange the idea of time with money, it becomes very easy to see time in the proper light.
If i give you 1000 dollars, will you be able to turn that into 2000 dollars? The basic idea of investing is that you sacrifice today with the expectation to get more later. Now instead of 1000$, you get 24 hours. What actions can you take now that will give you more time in the future?
Think of how much time you spend commuting to work, or at the gym, or eating and just mindlessly staring off in the distance. You need to plan ahead and download audio books or educational podcasts so that you never find yourself in a situation where you aren’t learning something new. The more time you spend investing back into your brain, or back towards your business, the more free time you will have later.
The reason I rarely listen to music anymore is twofold: 1) it’s a distraction 2) it takes cognitive energy that can be better used.
When you’re self employed one of the benefits is that you can set your own hours. With that in mind you should know what time you are at your most productive. For some it is early in the morning, for other's it is late at night. It is essential that you do not permit yourself to be distracted at these hours by anything including food, using the washroom, your phone, emails, family members, girlfriends/boyfriends, chores, etc.
This goes back to the idea of effectiveness versus efficiency, you should know exactly how much money your highest tasks bring in per hour and outsource anything that brings in less money than that. For example if you need to mow your grass would you rather spend an hour doing it if you knew you could make 100$ with that time, or pay a neighbourhood kid 25$ to do it? The choice is obvious. This goes with cooking food, doing laundry and other house chores, and anything that doesn’t lead to your current or future productivity.
In your business you should follow the same philosophy, in fact any action that you take that is not one of your core strengths can and should be outsourced if possible.
(As a side note, it has been proven in every field that performance will increase with two things: measurement, and accountability. In any given day, how much of your time is actually productive? 8 hours? 6 hours?, 4 hours? In most cases it is more like 30-50 minutes.)
Now if you ask why should you spend time exercising and maintaining your health if you aren’t making money? The answer is that you must also invest in active recovery in order to maintain your future productivity
Tip #4: Active Recovery Methods
Hustle, hustle, hustle! Hustle 24/7, work harder, work faster! You hear this from all kinds of internet Gurus and motivational speakers, just work more. There is truth to this but the side they never speak about is active recovery and the ways that they are able to stay healthy and maintain their productivity.
The first thing you need to understand is that as you work and exercise for prolonged periods of time, your body accumulates the stress hormone cortisol. Over time without any way to lower your cortisol levels, people with chronically elevated levels of the hormone will get sick more often and it will eventually lead to disease. People with increased levels of cortisol also will retain more fat around their stomach area.
Cortisol buildup comes from things such as inflammation from working out, lack of sleep, eating bad foods, and overall stress. It is commonly known as the “fight or flight” hormone and it had a very important role in our evolution that allowed us to escape predators and whatnot, however the problem we now face is that our brain doesn’t make a distinction between something being stuck in traffic or making a public speech, and being chased by a bear.
Now this book isn’t designed to be a course on evolutionary biology or nutrition- the point is you need to find ways to decrease the stress in your body and here is how.
- Reduce the amount of caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol you consume
- Get a full 8 hours of sleep
- Take cold showers ( I’ve been doing it for 2 years now every day).
- Eat healthy food, lots of vegetables and fiber and no processed food.
- Meditate! Yes if you spend a few minutes every day simply focusing on your breathing you will find that you become more present and stress-free.
- Most importantly schedule downtime where you do absolutely NOTHING. We have a sick tendency to want to constantly be doing something and the truth is our brains are just flooded with activity. It is very important to know how to not do anything.
The idea of active recovery is preventative maintenance, and with that said you should also consider ways to avoid repetitive injuries from typing, ergonomic issues from sitting too long, eye strain from looking at monitors all day and reading.
Take the time to go for walks and stretch on top of working out at the gym. You should give your eyes a break from staring at screens at least once an hour, it helps to be in nature and look far off in the distance and then immediately at something close ( think eye exercise). Always keep correct posture when typing as well, shoulders back, head up. Ergonomics are really important.
The ability of high performers to keep doing what they do for years at high levels is made possible by active recovery techniques.
Tip #5: Outsource your Memory
Part of the problem of living in our day and age is the abundance of information and cognitive loading. The education system we grew up on which consisted of memorizing and regurgitating facts and figures is very quickly becoming irrelevant with access to smartphones with Google and apps like Evernote.
Therefore it is essential that we free up as much “mental RAM” as we can by outsourcing our memory to these devices. You should start using calendars and to do lists to schedule your days. Don’t waste your brain power on memorizing to do lists when you can simply have a computer do it. While I know the perils of relying on technology too much, doing this is frankly the smart thing to do. When you outsource your memory you will allocate more mental power to creative higher return tasks.
Any time I have a new business idea, I quickly write it down in one of my lists, which I can review later and that way I don’t get distracted from my current thought process.
Tip #6: Avoid Distractions at All Costs
You may have heard the studies that show that when distracted from your current thought process, it can take up to 15 minutes or more to get back to where you were. There is a lot of truth to it and you should take every effort to remove distractions from your environment.
What is the most important commodity we have in our current high tech world? You might say time, energy, money...these are all good answers, however I would say it is attention.
We live in a constant war for our attention from every source imaginable, therefore the most valuable skill in the future is to be able to focus.
If you work at home, set up a home office that is your designated work area.
Take your phone turn it on airplane mode and choose a certain time of day when you will check messages and emails, and the internet. Make sure to block your facebook feeds and stop watching those cat videos on Youtube. The best way to work on building your “focus” muscle is to time how long you can focus on one thing without becoming distracted and try to increasing that time every day.
As a side note, Multitasking is bullshit. There’s a great exercise in the book Scrum! By Jeff Sutherland that proves that multitasking is ineffective. You only need a pen, a piece of paper, and a timer. Now time yourself and then write out 1-10, the first 10 letters of the alphabet, and the 1-10 in Roman Numerals. First you do multitask and do it 1 A I, then 2 B II then 3 C III etc, then when you’re done look at your time. Now do it again but do them separately and time yourself again. You will typically finish it in half the time when you aren’t multitasking or essentially asking your brain to give up focus for a few nanoseconds.
Tip #7: Eating Healthy and Meal Preparation
One of the keys to maintaining long term productivity is taking care of yourself by eating right. Your brain needs to have proper nutrients to really thrive and grow, so feed it right.
The very first and most important meal is breakfast, I always aim to have a breakfast high in protein and fats with no carbohydrates. Traditional breakfast foods are terrible for you, cereals, hash browns, bagels, etc. Studies have proved that eating carbohydrates for your first meal reduces your insulin sensitivity throughout the day which means in laymans terms that your body doesn’t utilize sugar as efficiently and therefore you get fatter.
I eat 3-4 free range eggs a day every day as well as leafy greens and other lean sources of protein like turkey bacon or sausage. On top of that I will usually make green tea ( I’m actually addicted to green tea, it’s definitely an acquired taste however) and a smoothie. My smoothies are more like meal replacements rather than typical green shakes. They are tasty and very filling.
My favorite smoothie has:
Half a cup of almond milk
2-3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
1 handful of spinach
1 scoop of greens powder (optional)
1 scoop of protein powder (optional)
Various vitamins in liquid form like vitamin D and C
A tablespoon of fish oil
Half a banana (optional)
There are all kinds of great recipes out there for shakes and green shakes and I suggest you try out a few to see what kind of effect they have on you.
While I generally would rather get my vitamins and minerals from whole food sources, there are a few that most people are chronically deficient in and that you could benefit from supplementing them.
For men especially we are deficient in zinc
Vitamin D, C, A
Women tend to be deficient in Magnesium but men can benefit from it as well.
If you eat a high protein diet it is absolutely vital that you eat fiber and a lot of it. Soluble and insoluble sources. Beans and other lentils are great natural sources of fiber.
In order to get more done throughout the day I have been experimenting with different diets, currently I am trying intermittent fasting which involves not eating for the first 8 hours of the day and then eating the remaining calories I need in the rest of the time ( it helps to set a timer on your phone for 8 hours when you wake up).
The main thing you need to know about diets is that there is no one set “right” diet for everyone, you need to go and experiment with different diets and find out which one makes you feel the best.
I could go on and on about “macros” and micronutrients and all sorts of things like that, and it is really beyond the scope of this book and there are people much more qualified to discuss such things than I am.
If you don’t have access to a personal chef, you should take the time once or twice a week to cook up a large quantity of food that you can easily heat up and eat within a few minutes. I like to take the guesswork/choice out of food and meal preparation helps me do just that. When you prepare your food in bulk you’re doing one more thing to help reallocate mental resources.
Tip #8: Exercise Optimization
Taking the time to exercise is critical to your health and lifestyle as an entrepreneur, but like everything else you need to be able to focus on the most effective 20% of exercises so that you can get the most out of your time and energy.
The common myth is that you need to workout for 2+ hours to get in shape every day and it simply is not true. You can make a workout in 10 minutes so intense that you will want to puke after. The average time I spend at the gym these days is about 45 minutes. I suggest sticking to strictly compound exercises such as bench press, shoulder press, deadlifts, squats, and focusing on these as they have the biggest positive effect on your metabolism and you will also build a very strong foundation of muscle from these movements. People always want to jump right into bizarre isolation exercises that they see on Youtube and forget that about the fundamentals.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said that for he stuck to these fundamental exercises ( including bicep curls and ab workouts) for three years before changing up his routine. On top of doing compound exercises I like to do what’s known as HIIT training or high intensity interval training. This can be either sprinting 10 100 meter dashes and then walking, alternating between peddling extremely fast on a bike for 15 seconds and then normal speed for 1 minute, or going really hard on a rowing machine for 15 few seconds and then normal for about 45 seconds. The idea is to have intervals of really high intensity cardiovascular work mixed with low intensity exercise.
You should also try different things like Yoga to improve your flexibility, especially after sitting for extended periods.
Tip #10: Building your Willpower Muscle
If you find it hard to work for hours on end or focus on one thing for hours, that’s because you simply haven’t build up your willpower muscle yet. There’s a reason why I call it the willpower muscle and its simple. You don’t walk into the gym and immediately bench press 3 plates just like you don’t go from working 9-5 at a leisurely pace and suddenly start working 16 hour days consistently.
No it has to be built up, and like everything else you must start small and develop it over a long period of time. The definition of discipline is doing what you need to do even when you don’t want to do it, and with that said you need to know that strictly relying on willpower is almost impossible- you will burn out quickly. I prefer the idea of momentum, starting off very small in whatever direction and then slowly building it up until it’s become a habit. The great thing is that willpower is like its own skill, if you built it in another area like eating right and exercising, then it is much easier to transfer to other areas of your life like working.
Tip #11: Guard your Sleep
Most people who are chronically tired are forced to supplement their energy levels through the artificial use of caffeine. Their sleep suffers and as a result they do as well. It is recommended that you get a full 8 hours of sleep every night even though yes you can function on less. The reason certain people can function on little sleep is because they have better quality, REM sleep. Do you ever take a nap and then wake up feeling more tired? That’s because you didn’t actually sleep long enough to get into REM sleep which typically takes around 90 minutes. So with that said here are some methods to increasing the quality of your sleep.
- Stop using looking at electronic devices at least 2 hours before you go to bed, the lights essentially trick our brain into thinking that it is still daytime and they interfere with our internal clock.
- Sleep in pitch black. Go out and buy blackout curtains
- Take electronics out of your room. This has been shown to help sleep levels. While I typically still sleep with my phone close by, I have found success with putting my phone into airplane mode for the 8 hours I sleep.
- Get a white noise machine- The theory is that we evolved in the jungle with a lot of ambient noise, and our brains are not adapted yet to sleeping in complete silence. I have tested this and found it always gives me a much deeper sleep.
- Take 90 minute naps if you don’t sleep a full 8 hours. This way you will experience a full sleep cycle and feel much more rested.
- Avoid taking supplements like Melatonin- although it is proven to help you sleep, studies show that like taking artificial testosterone, when you take melatonin supplements, your body will stop producing it naturally.
So there you have it, if you are working full time and following an exercise routine then it is even more important to have an excellent sleeping routine.
Tip #12: Mental Alchemy
What comes to mind when you think of the word alchemy? The process of turning an ordinary metal into gold...in other words, turning something without value into something of significantly higher value.
In this context I am referring to the negative thoughts which tend to repeatedly pop up throughout the normal course of the day. Realize that it takes mental energy ( a common theme in this book) to have negative thoughts and that you can actually train yourself to turn those negatives into positives with a little work.
This relates to a concept known as mindfulness, which essentially means to observe your thoughts throughout the day. When you catch yourself starting a negative spiral of thoughts, you need a pattern interrupt. You can clap your hands and say stop, you can jump up and down, you can pinch yourself, whatever it doesn’t matter. The main thing you need to do is stop the negative cycle and then consciously refocus on what you can be doing right now in order to dominate and be most productive.
Tip #13: Assiduity-The Art of Sitting Down, Shutting the F#%k Up, and Doing it
This is one of the most straightforward “tips” I can possibly give to you but at the same time it is so important. Most people doing creative work tend to wait until inspiration strikes them. This is a mistake. The main tip I can give you for creating products is one that I have learned as a writer, you have to sit down every day and just do it. That is really the key, sitting down and not stopping until you have completed whatever task you have decided to work on for the day. I find that it helps to determine before you start working what exactly you need to accomplish for the day and the week, and then set an artificial impossible deadline so that you put more pressure on yourself to complete it on time.
That’s it! Simple right? Got it? Good.
Tip #14: Working on your Business versus in your Business
The final tip for increasing your businesses productivity comes from the idea of working on your business as much as working in your business. I first heard of this idea from the book the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, he basically talks about how McDonalds is such a great company because of the fact that they have systemized their business processes so much that with only a few hours of training, a teenager can run it. His second point in the book is that entrepreneurs actually have three “personalities”, the entrepreneur aka the visionary who steers the company so to speak and explores new opportunities, the manager who needs to run the actual business operations, and the technician who does the work. Most people are technicians who try to fulfill the other two roles and ultimately end up failing.
Part of the reason that happens is because unlike McDonalds, they do not consciously take the time to systematize their businesses and that means that they cannot duplicate themselves and scale their businesses. While it can be hard work to be the technician working in the business and trying to work on the business at the same time, it has to be done. For maximum success from day one you need to look at your business like one day it will be a multi billion dollar company and you will not always be the one running everything.
The idea is to make a manual of every process involved with running your business so that you can A) Delegate and outsource work, and B) Eventually sell your business off if you wish. For more information on this process check out the E-Myth.
It’s not easy running your own business but when you start to implement all of these tips consistently into your life, you will be able to develop extreme levels of productivity and work ethic.
Best of luck,
Don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work! Your brain loves sugar, so therefore when you are working if you eat little candies every hour or so your brain will naturally start to associate work with pleasure. At the end of a hard day I like to reward myself with either reading a good book, learning a language, or going out to meet with friends or girls.
Never forget how powerful incentives are for modifying your behaviour and the people who work for you.
PS! Please let me know what you think of this post, and I am also thinking of starting a new video book review series on all the amazing books I have been reading, let me know if you would be interested in that as well!