1. Plan Out Your Week
Every Sunday night I plan out 3–5 large goals to complete for the week, as well as sub-goals to get me there. There are all types of systems for doing this but what I do is block off time on my calendar to complete my goals. For example, I started a new company on January 14th, therefore, a lot of my goals right now are based on strategy.
Last week we laid out the technical requirements and now I am finalizing the pitch deck. My overall weekly goal is to create 3–5 materials to distribute to potential customers or investors: sales deck, pitch deck, executive summary, a sheet of engagement requirements, and a one-pager for customers.
Throughout the week these goals can and should change, but the idea of sitting down to formulate your ideas is important. It saves time and you begin thinking about where you need to focus your energy throughout the week.
Once we have more progress a lot of my time will shift to 3–4 hours of sales calls a day, managing a growing team, and meeting with new customers. Each week the goals will change but the process of sitting down and writing out your weekly goals will not.2. Plan Out Your Day
After my Sunday planning, I should have a rough layout of what my week will look like. During my 20–30 minute train ride in the morning, I have time to change my day around if a new priority surfaces.
On my calendar, I mark meetings in red, which means I cannot change this time. Anything in blue is fair game. If you need an extra 30 minutes you can add it. The day is often dynamic and constantly changing but I am still working towards my weekly goal.
By breaking down your weekly goals into days you are able to synthesize and assess your progress. Make sure to even mark off time for traveling to the office, traveling home, or stopping at the grocery store. This really helps you plan out your day.
Right now I start around 9:30 AM and end around 11:30 PM and work Monday to Friday. On Saturday’s I might answer a few emails but I reserve Saturday for a nature walk and hanging out with friends. On Sunday I do no work and play soccer and then a computer game. Before bed, I spend about 20–30 minutes planning my week.
Planning out my days has made me incredibly efficient, able to track my progress, and allows me to now take the weekends off to relax.3. Start Off The Day With Breathing ExercisesRecently I injured my back and started physical therapy. I failed every fitness test and was unable to touch my toes — in 2009 I broke the growth plate in both knees and have had injuries ever since. The physical therapist drew an accelerometer on the wall and said my body is constantly at a 100/100 and even when I am relaxed I am still ready to tackle problems. He handed me a balloon and taught me a few breathing exercises to do while stretching. In the past, I tried meditating and was skeptical of the results.
Within one week I could touch my toes, I slept through the first night in well over 8 years and I felt more relaxed. Every morning when I get out of bed I do a few breathing exercises with a balloon to regulate my breathing and relax. This foundation helps lead to a stress-free day and the energy to take on all of my goals
4. Email Usage
Emails seem to be a deal breaker for a lot of people, meaning, they spend hours a day contacting or replying to people. My morning and evening train rides are both 20–30 minutes each. I can easily get through most of my emails in this time frame.
There are times throughout the day where people retreat to social media to waste 10–20 minutes when you could easily get through a chunk of your emails. I encourage you to think about the time you waste throughout the day.
Another tip I started implementing recently is not having my email open on my browser and turning off notifications. There used to be a time where I would see the number of emails increase and I would check to see who contacted me. This is incredibly distracting. As human beings, we love notifications and interacting with other human beings, but setting aside specific times for your email will be more efficient and save your sanity.
5. Airplane Mode
Another tip I started implementing recently is putting my phone in airplane mode when I am working on various projects or tasks. The beauty of this method is no one can contact you and your phone will send no push notifications.
In a world where people are addicted to their Black Mirror (Cell Phone), airplane mode not only makes you more productive but creates a peace of mind.
There is not much more to say other than airplane mode has been incredibly impactful. One thing to note is that if you need your phone for calls, then sure leave it on. Airplane mode a few times throughout during the day when you are building a project can save you a lot of time from distractions.
6. Delete Social Media On Your Phone
As of right now the only social media platforms I use are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I used Facebook the most by far. To combat this I deleted the application from my phone. Now, I can only access Facebook via my computer, which I avoid during the day, or by using the browser on my phone — which is frustrating.
Some reasons I deleted social media are that: no one cares or needs to know what I do during the day, I need to remain focused, a lot of the content is pointless, and I prefer to live in the present.
LinkedIn and Twitter a nice to check once in a while but I have no craving for either platform, which I why they remain on my phone.
7. Classical, EDM or Jazz
Whenever you are doing tasks that do not require maximum brainpower, throw on music with instrumentals and no words. When I want to feel relaxed and work, I throw on classical. When I need to wake up, EDM. When the night is winding down, Jazz.
These genres seem to be incredibly helpful for focusing and getting your work done faster. If you don’t believe me there is a lot of literature written on the subject. This Business Insider article gives a good overview and links to some studies.
My recommendation is to find the genre that makes you most productive. Make sure to test it with and without words. I believe the latter will be more effective.
8. Take 5 Minute Breaks Often
During every hour a 5-minute break can help support your brain immensely. One reason is that your eyes need a break from the blue light on our laptop. Another reason is that we often become deeply engrossed in our work and do not take time to reflect on what we are doing.
Whenever I become moderately frustrated I take a break and walk around. This could be 5 or 30 minutes. I give myself time to think through the problem. If I am not happy with the answer I call a friend for advice. One example was when I was building the pro-forma financial statement for Shelfie Challenge. When I started to be unproductive and became stuck I called a friend who was a financial analyst for advice.
Taking at least one break per hour is ideal and no more than three. If you take too many you will be spending too much time thinking and not enough time acting. Of course, there are situations that require more thinking but when you are at the part where the focus shifts to building, we tend to take fewer breaks.