“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
- Bruce Lee
Quit reading self-help books. The ones outlining strategies and things you should start doing 'to be more productive.'
As Bruce teaches us above and Tim down below, it's better to figure out what you should STOP DOING instead.
Here are a few simple yet powerful tricks to increase productivity and focus during your day. These are a 'roundabout' way to channel more energy and discipline to transforming your body with better habits.
Tim lists a few key 'habits' to stop doing right now.
1. Don't answer phone calls from strangers
Calls from people you don’t know are disruptions. They surprise you and put you in a poor negotiating position. Let foreign numbers go to voicemail.
2. Don't email first thing in the morning or late at night.
Match your skills to the time of day. Start scheduling low energy, mundane tasks during times your brain is on cruise control.
It's one of the most important changes you can make to improve your working habits.
When you move creative and analytical work to the start of the day, you're at your peak.
You supercharge your productivity and creativity.
Studies show most of us are the sharpest some two and a half to four hours after waking.
So if you're an early bird, you peak between 10 A.M. and noon. This is your time to engage with logical reasoning, creative work, and complex problems.
NOT mundane tasks.
How many times does a quick peek at the inbox turn into an hour or more?
Emails are like the hydra from greek mythology. For every one you read or reply to, two more grow back in your inbox.
Psychologically, email is like cocaine for the brain. Not only do we get addicted, it makes us feel important.
Tim says checking email in the morning, “scrambles your priorities.”
Checking it before bed (or even worse, bringing your phone to bed), impacts your sleep in a negative way too.
And most will agree sleep is key to living a healthy and more productive life.
3. Don't agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end.
This is my personal favorite.
Tim's advice...If the agenda is not clear, force people to make it clear.
Scheduling a meeting is easy. It's like checking your email. Something simple that creates an illusion of importance and productivity.
Demanding a clear and specific agenda forces the other party to strip communication to the essentials.
It also makes meetings more efficient, shorter, and less of a monopoly on your schedule.
4. Don't 'work more' to fix being 'too busy.'
This is a matter of priorities. Discover the power of no.
Tim recommends defining your “one or two most important to-dos before dinner, the day before.”
Then work on those the first thing the next morning.
If you don’t know your real priorities, everything will seem important and urgent. This leads to stress, anxiety, and disaster.
5. Once upon a time....We lived in a time when people explored the world outside their homes without a 'digital leash.'
What's a 'digital leash'? This is Tim's term for cell phones.
His advice...Don't carry yours 24/7.
Staying connected to blue screens and technology carry certain health issues too (coming in a future series).
But a more direct consequence of carrying your phone all the time is...
...you fall prey to the email hydra
...you’re tempted to answer calls from strangers
...you may say 'yes' to things that deserve a 'no' (if you don't answer the phone, you can't say yes)
6. Don't expect work to replace non-work relationships and activities.
Work is NOT your life. Co-workers shouldn’t be your ONLY friends.
Defend your 'living' schedule like you do an important business meeting.
Count how many times you say or think, “I’ll just get it done this weekend.”
Key point...Work expands to the amount of time you give it (Parkinson's Law).
When your teacher assigned an essay or project due at the end of the semester, it would take you the entire semester to finish it.
Even if it meant you started it the day before it was due.
This is Parkinson's Law.
We use it to our advantage by giving something less time to be more productive.
*On a personal note...Parkinson’s Law also applies to salad...
...The amount of salad allocated to a bowl, is exactly the amount I will eat.
Why are we exploring ways to increase our productivity at work and around the house?
Don’t you guys at DexaFit focus on health and fitness?
Short answer. Yes.
Longer answer. How can we transform our body and health in a meaningful way if we always feel ‘stretched thin’?
Bilbo Baggin's sums this feeling up best with his great quote...
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Bilbo reveals a profound truth here. Most of us complain we don’t have enough butter.
We tell ourselves and others we need more time, energy, or discipline to do this or change that…
We justify unhealthy or toxic habits because we don’t have enough butter.
Or we resolve to change our patterns and choices once we get a little more butter for our bread.
But what if instead of chasing more butter, we focus on covering less bread?
When we spread our butter too thin, we’re hiding. We’re answering email because it makes us feel busy and gives us the illusion of doing important work. We’re saying yes to meetings because they make us feel productive.
We carry our phones 24/7 and answer calls from strangers because, who knows, maybe they’ll reveal the secret to getting more butter.
But guess what…
...Staying motivated and doing a great job with what we've got is the single best way to reach our goals and do more, next time.
Increasing our productivity and trimming the fat from our schedules is the best way to stick to any resolutions we make this new year.
This means daily subtraction of distractions. Daily decrease instead of daily increase.
“In building a statue, a sculptor doesn't keep adding clay to his subject. Actually, he keeps chiselling away at the inessentials until the truth of its creation is revealed without obstructions. In other words, to hack away the unessential.
- Bruce Lee