I struggle with productivity. I joke that I have the attention span of a walnut, but it’s kind of true. A lot of entrepreneurs I know experience the same thing, but this isn’t some cool exclusive club that we want to be a member of. I’ve spent the last 20 years thinking that I will always struggle to focus on one task for longer than an hour. This very recently changed because I listened when I asked the right person for the right advice.
A friend and mentor of mine, Dan Martell recently posted a video tip for people like me that basically goes like this: get up early, hit the gym, and then try to break at least one big rock before lunch. This will give you a tangible sense of accomplishment. If you accomplish nothing else for the rest of the day at least you will know that by noon that day, you got a lot done.
This sort of worked. There was one problem I experience with this strategy: as soon as I hit the gym, my brain is already fully activated and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Also, I really enjoy going the gym – it felt like a reward before I deserved one! I haven’t accomplished anything today and yet here I am at the gym. I’m also making notes and scheduling meetings between sets because of the brain thing I mentioned. Then, when I get home, I end up somewhat distracted while I get ready for the rest of the day. The result: I end up rushed trying to break the big rock before noon and my workout wasn’t really what it could have been.
One slight pivot on this schedule and a tweet from Dan changed everything:
@jeremypotvin don’t open your inbox – I don’t check emails till 11am onward. Everyone else’s todos can wait.
— Dan Martell (@danmartell) February 17, 2015
Now, I get up and start working by 6:00 am and I DO NOT look at my inbox until 11:00 am. In my life I have never accomplished so much in a day. I’ll admit, it took a lot not to look at my inbox. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Boom Beach. But, I did it.
Repetition produces habits and this is already feeling like a great habit. The satisfaction I get from knowing that by 11:00 am I have accomplished more than what I would normally struggled to accomplish in an entire day is an incredible feeling.
So, here is what my day looks like now: I work as mentioned from 6:00 am until 11:00 am. The next two hours are for me – I hit the gym and have a great lunch and answer some emails. After 1:00 I normally have a few meetings in the afternoon (either face to face or video), and then spend the rest of the day following up on all the stuff that lands in my inbox.
If you struggle with productivity like I do, I strongly suggest you give this schedule a try. I know it’s not for everyone. I’m working from home in the morning and not every employer is comfortable with employees working remotely (even though they should be). Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you. Would love to hear any tips or tweaks to the schedule.
Dan, thank you very much. So far you are winning the best advice for 2015 contest that I just invented right now.