This post is by Logan Marshall.
The crowd falls silent as the gun is raised, thousand of eyes staring downfield as we prepare for battle.
“On your mark!”
I toe the line, my breath rising in the cold November air. My eyes focused straight ahead. My body coiled.
This is it, I tell myself. All the years of preparation come down to this one race. This is your final test. Hold nothing back.
Like a racehorse I explode forward, charging across the field like Braveheart. The earth shakes. The crowd roars. Hundreds of bodies surge around me. Sprinting. Pushing. Undulating like a sea of colors.
But within this tangle of confusion, I am focused. Calm. My eyes fixed directly forward as my competitors fade behind me…
Moving the Motivation from One Interest to Another
As you can probably guess from that little story, I’ve always been driven. In high school I would get up at 5:30 to run miles through the predawn streets.(Anything to get an upper hand on my competition.)
But my competitive running career came to a close two years ago. And without a race to prepare for, I’ve been forced to direct this well of energy towards something else. Something that I’m equally passionate about.
You see, about two years ago I read (as countless others have) The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and immediately a new goal was born. The ultimate endpoint of freedom, mobility, and a location independent business enraptured my imagination and led me down the path I’ve been following ever since. A path of obsessive learning, vigorous implementation and inspiring discovery.
It’s been a great ride. And it’s just getting started.
But while all the different aspects of “lifestyle entrepreneurship” make me more excited than a four year old opening a Christmas Transformer, one stands out above all others.
And that is: Human performance and productivity.
More specifically, the reason why some people can take MASSIVE action and accomplish incredible things while others struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
This stuff fascinates me, and over the past few years I’ve learned, tested, and discovered countless different productivity methods. Some that work like gangbusters. Some that work like an unemployed thirty-year-old living in his parent’s basement.
But, after months of testing and tweaking I’m happy to say that this conundrum has finally “clicked”.
With the tools and strategies I’m gonna show you in this post, I’m now able to achieve far more than I ever thought possible. In fact, I’m able to run two online businesses, write 3,000 words a day and get a 3.83 GPA at top level university.
All while maintaining my health and sanity.
As you’ll probably agree, “self mastery” is the KEY to achieving your goals. Regardless of what you’re trying to become an expert in. It’s the most important life skill you can develop, but few people ever take the time to master it. And consequently, they fail to realize the immeasurable potential inside of them, just waiting to be tapped into.
But not you.
Not in my house.
If you follow the advice you’re about to learn, I wholeheartedly believe that you’ll be able to DOUBLE your personal effectiveness.
Not in the next 90 days.
Not in the next month.
In the next 48 hours.
Let’s get started.
The Foundation is Hustle
If you dig down to the core of self-mastery and productivity you’ll find a common thread. A universal characteristic shared by all the top performers.
Top performers have the same mindset that I embraced during my competitive running career. They want it. And they’re willing to do ANYTHING it takes to get there.
As JK Allen puts it, (high performers) are “motivated, focused and determined to create the most favorable outcomes possible.”
I call this the “hustle mindset”.
It’s the bedrock of everything we’re gonna cover in this post.
So before you start implementing specific “productivity hacks” hoping they will somehow turn you into an action taking machine, get this mindset down. Make sure that you want it bad enough and are DEDICATED to achieving your goals.
Because ultimately, there’s a harsh reality you need to face. A reality that’s probably been staring you in the face for a while now…but you may not have had the GUTS to confront head on.
And that’s this: If you want anything, anything at all, you must terminate all excuses and fully commit to making it happen.
If you really want to achieve your goals, you must stop “hoping” that success will fall into your lap and take TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY for your reality.
Sorry if I come across as harsh, but this is vital for you to understand.
Here’s the deal:
No one is going to save you. THINKING about blog readers and exotic travel destinations is NOT going to magically transform your life. And making excuses is going to get you absolutely nowhere.
You are in complete control of your reality.
You have the power to make a change.
It’s time to start hustling.
Six Steps to Radically Boosting Your Productivity
Okay so you’ve got the big stuff under control.
Now it’s time to shift gears, get practical and dive into the “meat and potatoes.”
In my experience, there have been six strategies that made a world of difference in my personal level of effectiveness. With these strategies in hand I’m now able to accomplish more in three hours then I used to get done in nine hours of unfocused work.
I’m able to hustle like never before.
So without further ado, let me take you by the hand and show you how each of these strategies work in detail, step by step.
Step 1: Find Your Motivation And Define Your Objective
Success at any worthwhile goal is not easy…it will likely be a long and arduous task full of obstacles, challenges and personal tests.
With this in mind, the first step on your journey to high performance is to get crystal clear on the purpose of your actions. WHY you are taking action in the first place.
If your goals aren’t linked to a specific and tangible outcome, your motivation will slowly peter out. You may start off strong, but after a few weeks the “New Years resolution syndrome” will kick in and your initial enthusiasm will begin to fade.
You’ve experienced this before, right?
One minute you are charging full steam ahead and the next you’re staring at the ceiling, drooling like Homer Simpson, and wondering why you were taking action in the first place.
In order to avoid this “motivation slump” and STAY committed, it’s CRITICALLY important that you start out on the right foot, knowing where you are going, how you will get there, and why this project matters.
Here are five high-leverage questions that should get you started:
- What is my ULTIMATE desired outcome?
- How will I know when I’ve reached it?
- What are the steps I need to take in order to reach my destination?
- Which of these steps truly matters?
- What are the top three reasons why this goal matters to me?
Take the time to carefully answer these questions. They will give you incredible clarity, insight and personal power.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but its determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” - Mario Andretti
Step 2: Be Brutally Honest With Yourself
Before we go into any of the specific strategies, there’s one more “overarching” reality I want to cover. It’s something that most people never confront and it may be holding you back right now.
What I’m talking about is individual variation.
You see, everybody is different. Everybody has a slightly different internal clock and optimal work schedule. Some people like to work in the morning, others at night. Tim Ferriss does his best work from 1-4 am.
When understanding this individual variation, it’s CRITICALLY important that you are brutally honest about how YOU work best.
“How many of us go through our entire lives basically lying to ourselves, refusing to acknowledge the way we actually are? Instead we say things like, “yeah, I really should wake up earlier.” WHY? If you’re not a morning person, focus your productivity where you ARE effective.” – Ramit Sethi
In order to get the most out of your day, be brutally honest about:
- Where you work best. Is it in your home? The office? A coffee shop? The library?
- When you work best. Are you more productive in the morning, at night, or in the afternoon?
- What YOU need to be most effective. Do you need complete silence to do your best work? Do you work better in a noisy environment? Do you need to watch a special pump-up video?
If you are unsure about any of these questions…my recommendation is to run some tests. Block off a short period of time and strategically test different variations.
You may be surprised by the results.
Step 3: Optimize Your Environment
Okay, so you’ve got the necessary “hustle mindset”, enough motivation to choke a horse, and how YOU work best.
The next step is to create an environment that is naturally conducive to optimum performance and to remove ALL the obstacles standing in your way.
Eben Pagan calls these obstacles “friction.”
In essence, “friction” is anything that is inhibiting you from working efficiently. While there are literally countless different obstacles (both real and imagined) that may be limiting your success, here are a few of the most common:
1. Emotional/Psychological “friction”– Emotional baggage, worries, or distracting thoughts that inhibit your ability to concentrate. (We’ll cover the best way to deal with this in the next step).
2. Environmental “friction”– Clutter, an uncomfortable chair, a lack of organization, or any other situational problem that inhibits your ability to work effectively.
3. Physical (health related) “friction”– A lack of energy and physical vitality.
4. Human “friction”– Inefficient, distracting, or disruptive people who inhibit your ability to stay on track.
5. Technological “friction”– Slow, distracting, or time-consuming technology that saps your time and energy.
Reading through that list are you starting to identify the areas that are slowing you down?
Maybe you’re sick and have no energy. Maybe you spend your time on pointless activities that you could easily outsource. Maybe you waste hours wrestling with pernicious thought patterns.
Whatever it is, whatever kind of “friction” is holding you back, you have the power to turn it around. There are really only two steps:
1. Identify the “friction” in your life. Take a good look at all the different aspects and determine what needs fixing.
2. Strategically and systematically work on optimizing each aspect until the “friction” is eliminated.
Personally, the two biggest factors holding me back were environmental clutter (a big freakin’ mess) and a noisy work environment (my roommate screaming like Barney Stinson as he plays Skyrim). Once I identified and shifted these two areas my productivity immediately skyrocketed. Literally overnight.
The same is possible for you.
- Take a step back.
- Determine what’s not working.
Step 4: Create Specific, Energy Maintenance Rituals
Brendan Burchard says that there are five key aspects to high performance:
We’ve already covered purpose and psychology. Now it’s time to dive out of the abstract and into the tangible: to tackle physiology and productivity in one fell swoop.
How do we accomplish this?
One word: rituals.
Specific, consistent rituals that conserve energy and “prime” your body for optimum performance. Rituals that get you immediately into gear. Ready to rock and roll.
If you don’t already have a “pre-hustle” ritual I highly recommend you start one. Not only will it allow you to work more efficiently and at a higher level…but it will also boost your energy and “condition” your mind to think creatively. It will become automatic. Part of your life.
“The most important role of rituals is to insure an effective balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal in the service of full engagement. A ritual is the equivalent of the rest period in interval training. Its purpose is to restore energy and improve productivity.” - Tony Schwartz
Your ability to produce results is directly related to the current state of your mind. Wouldn’t you agree? If your mind is sharp and clear you will be able to churn out great work with very little effort. On the other hand, if your mind is cloudy and unfocused you’ll likely produce sub-par results.
Simple enough, right?
Well here’s where it gets really cool.
Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that you actually have the power to CONTROL the current state of your mind by practicing simple rituals. You are not at the whim of some external force, but actually have the ability to CHOOSE when to think effectively.
By setting up simple rituals, you can literally transform your consciousness immediately, allowing you to produce better work in less time.
Here’s an example of my 60-minute morning ritual:
- Run for 30 minutes.
- Guzzle a bottle of water.
- Take a shower.
- Meditate for 10 minutes.
- Eat something healthy.
- Start writing.
I do this every day. It’s automatic now.
This ritual puts me in an energized, relaxed and super-focused state of mind. Ready to take massive action.
By strategically targeting my body’s physiology I am able to alter my psychology EXACTLY when I need to…and perform at a consistently higher level.
Read that last line again. This is CRITICALLY important.
As I wrote in a recent guest post over at Write to Done,
“If you are struggling to create consistently high level work, I highly recommend you adopt a highly specific, positive energy management ritual like mine.
You don’t have to copy mine exactly, but make sure you fill it with powerful activities. Things like…
1. Taking a shower.
2. Eating clean, healthy food.
4. Drinking water.
5. Looking at your “vision board”.
8. Practicing yoga.
9. READING good writing.
10. Talking to someone you love.
11. Reading inspirational quotes.
…you get the idea.
Make it personal.
Make it specific.
Tap into instant flow.”
While a ritual can be performed at any time of day, I highly recommend you create a morning ritual. This will set the tone for your day and help you stay on the right track.
In addition to creating a specific “pre-work” routine, I also recommend you create routines for all the tasks you need to complete on a regular basis. Make them habits. Schedule them into your day so that they become automatic.
Step 5: Work According To Your Body’s Natural Cycle
Okay, so you know how to set yourself up for optimum performance, but what about the actual work itself?
Well, that’s what this next step is all about.
For me, discovering this next strategy was a big “Aha!” moment, so be sure to pay attention.
The following method came from a fantastic book I recently read called The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz.
In The Power of Full Engagement, Tony introduces us to something called the Ultradian Rhythm. In essence, the ultradian rhythm is a natural human cycle, which occurs every 90-120 minutes throughout day (while we’re awake).
This cycle dictates that the human mind can focus and concentrate for 90 to 120 minutes at a time…after which our attention spans decrease and our productivity plummets.
After about 90 Minutes we are worn out and need to take a break and allow our energy levels to reboot. To replenish. To return to normal.
Did you know that? I sure didn’t.
If you struggle with procrastination or low energy levels, chances are you aren’t crafting your schedule to match this natural cycle of rest and relaxation.
And consequently, you’re feeling sluggish, tired and lethargic, dragging yourself along like a sloth with a migraine.
But all is not lost.
Luckily for you, with this knowledge you can turn the tables and massively increase your effectiveness.
Here’s the workflow:
- Work hard for 60-90 minutes. Focus on ONE THING with zero interruptions. Go all out.
- After your time is up, stop and take a 10-15 minute break. This doesn’t mean checking email or playing video games while your adrenal glands fire like you’re being chased by a grizzly bear. I’m talking about REST. Get up, take a deep breath, walk around, drink a big glass of water, lay down, meditate, or whatever you need to do to feel recharged.
- Repeat this cycle 2-4 times.
- After you finish, stop and relax guilt free.
Super powerful stuff.
But wait, there’s one more thing I want to mention.
When you are working, it’s ESSENTIAL that you eliminate all distractions and set up an environment that will allow you to concentrate fully on the task at hand.
- Close email.
- Close Twitter.
- Close Facebook.
- Silence your phone.
By focusing your entire attention on one task for an extended period of time, you’ll get more done than you ever though possible.
As Tony Schwartz puts it, “The greatest power of our mind is to focus on ONE THING for an extended period of time.”
Step 6: Stop Working So Hard
This final strategy is VERY counterintuitive. In fact, when I was first introduced to it I was incredibly skeptical.
However, after putting it to the test I’m happy to say that one of the BEST ways to boost your effectiveness is to routinely take time off. Get off the computer. Go have fun.
Now I know you’re probably thinking “how on earth is reducing my hours actually going to increase my results?”
Well, there are two reasons.
- First, by taking time off, you restore your energy levels, regain your motivation and are able to work with a higher level of FOCUS. This increased focus drastically boosts your efficiency…allowing you to get more done in less time.
- Second, by removing yourself from the trenches, you gain a new perspective. When you return, you are able to “see” your project with new eyes. You can pinpoint the areas you need to target and often spontaneously generate solutions to problems you’ve been agonizing over for weeks.
Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
To hammer this point even further, there’s one more thing I want you to do: Go watch this video. It’s by the (business and productivity guru) Eben Pagan and it will make you see “rest” in a new light.
The world operates in sequential cycles of activity and rest, hustle and renewal…
…you can’t have one without the other.
I’m gonna wrap things up now, but before I do, there’s something I want to talk about. A simple concept that encompasses everything we’ve covered so far.
Here it is:
“Time management is a misnomer. The challenge is to manage ourselves.” – Stephen Covey
Think about that for a second.
“Time management is a misnomer. The challenge is to manage OURSELVES.”
Ultimately, getting more done is not about “scheduling” your time or “organizing” your life. It’s about finding a place of deep INNER motivation and conditioning YOURSELF to be better every day.
This is your challenge.
Now go accomplish something.