How to 10x Your Productivity

The Productivity Problem

“I have no time.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard and even said that statement… Let’s just say Bill Gates would be second on that Forbes billionaire list.

Why is it that some of us struggle to find time to catch our breaths when we have to go to work or school AND go to the gym. Yet people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Elon Musk run multiple companies, work out, have families, sleep, and still seem to keep getting more and more done? Do they just have more time? No, how could they? We all have 24 hours in a day. But the secret they have is that they know how to be productive.

If we can learn to be more productive, we can get more done in less time. We could finally pursue that passion or learn that new skill while not sacrificing our other duties. This can lead to significant growth.

Did you just say growth? Tell me more.

Parkinson’s Law

If you’ve ever been a student who has had a paper to write for about a month but didn’t begin that paper until the day before it’s due… and still got it done… then you know exactly what Parkinson’s Law is.

Parkinson’s Law states that any task will expand so as to fill the available time for it’s completion. A task that has been given the timeframe of a month will be completed in a month. If that same task were given the timeframe of week, it will be completed in a week.

This works because of another rule called The Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 rule. The Pareto Principle states that, for most events, 80% of the effects come from only 20% of the causes. This principle was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He noticed that in his garden, 80% of his overall peas came from a mere 20% of the pods. He then did a study and noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the Italian population. This principle is a phenomenon that occurs in all walks of life. In the distribution of world GDP, the top 20% of the population contribute to over 80% of the world’s income. Of course it’s not always 80/20. It’s sometimes 90/10 or even 90/20. But the point is that usually, the majority of the effect comes from a small minority of the causes.

So how does this relate to Parkinson’s Law? Well, in any task that we do, it is likely that we could have done almost or just as good a job by eliminating 80% of the subtasks and concentrating on that crucial 20%. Humans are actually subconsciously good at this. When we have less time to complete a task, we tend to cut out the less crucial subtasks and concentrate more on the crucial ones. But if we have enough time, we will be more likely to put effort into unimportant subtasks. This is the reason some college students can crank out a monthlong paper in a single all-nighter. This is the reason high performers seem to get so much done in so little time.

So how can you use Parkinson’s Law to become more productive?

Well the first step is to realize that Parkinson’s Law is true! If you have a lot to do and have no idea how you will get all of it done, remember this: If you can allocate time to it, then you can get it done! So that’s all you need to do. Allocate time to it, even if the time allocated seems unrealistic. So if you have 5 tasks to do tomorrow, simply plan your day in advance and allocate a block of time to each task.

That brings me to my next point.

Create a Schedule

Your head is a terrible office. It’s disorganized and contains way too much information. Storing important time sensitive things in your head all the time is a sure way to not get important time sensitive things done. So take things out of your head and put them onto paper.

The act of writing (or typing) something raises the importance of that thing in your brain. That is because or brains determine importance of an idea based on the frequency with which we are exposed to that idea as well as the variety of ways in which we are exposed to the idea. For example, we are less likely to remember something if we only read it, as opposed to if we read it, hear it, write it and do it. The more senses and more activity associated with an idea, the more important it becomes. So writing something down involves the action of writing and the sense of seeing in addition to simply thinking about it. This raises it’s priority in our minds.

Putting things to paper also creates headspace. Having to remember a million things at the same time creates pressure and anxiety. It uses energy that can be better spent on actually doing a task and it takes our attention away from the tasks we are doing, making it hard to concentrate. So putting things on paper means we don’t have to store them in our heads so we have more brain power to concentrate on actually doing the tasks. It also means we have a lower risk of forgetting tasks.

So if you have important things to get done write them down. But more importantly, schedule them.

Studies show that having a concrete timeline for a task drastically increases the likeliness of it being completed. So plan your days in advance. Determine all the things you’d like to get done and allocate blocks of time to each task. Make sure that you are only scheduling one task at a time. Do not multitask.

This is crucial to productivity. Schedule your tasks and write it down. Then…

Execute

So in order to be productive, we need to use the Pareto Principle, Parkinson’s Law and written schedules to our advantage. Here’s the process:

  1. Prioritize the tasks. Put the most important tasks and subtasks first. Use the Pareto Principle to analyze the crucial 20% of tasks that will yield 80% of the desired results. Prioritize those tasks.
  2. Ignore the complexity. If your tasks seem extremely complex or daunting, remember Parkinson’s Law. The complexity doesn’t matter much. So there’s no pressure. Simply concentrate on time allocation right now. Don’t worry about your future self. They’ll get it done 🙂
  3. Make a written schedule. Plan your day/week and allocate blocks of time to each task. Make sure you write this down.
  4. Remove Distractions. It takes about 17 minutes on average for our brains to regain complete focus on a task after switching focus. So if we want to focus on a task, we need to make sure that the block of time that we have scheduled for it is uninterrupted.
  5. Start. Your schedule may seem daunting but try to only concentrate on where you are in this moment. Cover the rest of your schedule and zoom into what you need to do now. Then simply start. Remember that motivation is bred from action.

I really hope this post provides a little insight in how to be more productive, creating room for you to grow. When I follow this process, I find that I am 10x more productive than I usually am. I hope you experience similar results.

May you lead a productive life 🙂

#growthpree

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Choose Your Struggle

The Struggle Is Real

Happiness is one of the biggest goals for most of us in life. But what impedes happiness for most people in life is the struggles we face. Struggles make us stressed and worried and often unhappy. So to become happy, it seems as if we need to find a way to reduce or eliminate struggle. But the problem is that struggles, obstacles, problems seem to be the nature of the universe. Everyone in the world experiences some form of struggle no matter who they are. Whether you choose to be a circus performer or a Wall Street investment banker or a fruit vendor or the CEO of SpaceX, there will be struggle. Whether you live in Afghanistan or Norway or Jamaica or Dubai, there will be struggle.

The fact of the matter is that no matter who you are or what you do, you will have problems and face struggles. We cannot avoid struggle.

But struggles make us unhappy, no? If we cannot eliminate struggle, does that mean we cannot truly be happy?

Of course not.

Choose Your Struggle

Since struggles exist on every path, running away from one struggle simply means running towards another kind of struggle. That seems kind of demotivating but I am not saying to just  accept your struggles and submit to “the way life is”. What I am saying is to indeed run away from one struggle and towards another!

The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place. To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action
– Mark Manson

So the idea is not to eliminate all struggle from our lives but to actually choose our struggles. Choose the fight we are willing to fight. Choose the problems that we feel driven and motivated to solve.

The first video I included in my post on passion mentioned that one of the ways to find your passion is to determine what problems you want to solve. This is choosing your struggle. Every one of us has a struggle that we are willing, or even excited, to endure in order to achieve certain results. For example, working 100-hour workweeks to become the CEO of a corporation. Or training every day to become an olympic gymnast. Or hustling as a fruit vendor everyday to feed your family.

Overcoming struggle is how we learn and grow and evolve. So instead of trying to avoid struggle, we need to determine the things we want to learn and the ways in which we want to grow. Then we need to welcome the struggles that are associated with that. If those are not struggles we are willing to endure, then we choose another struggle. For tips on how to choose your struggle, check out my post on How To Find Your Passion.

The Obstacle Is The Way

This is the title of a well reviewed book by Ryan Holiday – The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. I haven’t read it yet but I’ve seen excerpts and interviews with Ryan and it’s definitely high on my “to read” list.

Ryan was inspired by a school of philosophy called Stoicism and a Roman Emperor by the name of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors and he led the Roman Empire through two major wars. His writings have had far reaching influence and are known to have comforted Nelson Mandela during his 27-year imprisonment under the apartheid system in South Africa. Aurelius has a famous quote which goes:

Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

This quote captures much of the essence of Stoic philosophy. It speaks to the ideas that:

  • We control our perception – We have little control over what happens to us in life but we have complete control over how we perceive and respond/adapt to what happens to us. If we internalize this, we realize that there really isn’t such a thing as a setback. Instead there are opportunities to adapt, learn and grow.
  • The obstacle is the way – Obstacles are not the problem. It is our belief that the path is obstacle-free that is problematic. If there is an obstacle in the way, then the obstacle becomes a part of the way. 

It’s important to remember that the focus should be on growth and progress. So no matter what the environment is, we must find ways to grow. So if something tries to hinder our growth/progress, we must learn to use that very thing to propel our growth. That can be in the form of learning how to endure it and progress regardless. It can be in the form of recognizing a hidden opportunity which actually advances us further. It can be in the form of adapting our strategies to be resilient to the obstacle. Whatever the situation is, the obstacle can make us grow. So don’t run from obstacles. Practice overcoming them.

Here is a great talk by Ryan Holiday on the subject:


So here are the major takeaways from this post:

  1. Choose your struggle. Since struggle is unavoidable, we should not try to eliminate struggle, but instead choose which struggles we want to face. Choose the problems we want to solve and the dreams that excite us enough to endure the associated struggles.
  2. Reframe obstacles. We cannot remove obstacles but we can and should control how our minds perceive those obstacles. So view obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Use the obstacle to your advantage and let it bring you closer to the goal.

By choosing our struggles and learning to use obstacles to our advantage, we can truly follow our passions and grow in magnificent ways.

I hope this brings value to your life. May you learn, grow and solve problems that excite you 🙂

#growthpree

How To Find Your Passion

How To Find Your Passion

Passion is that reason we get up in the morning. It’s a driving force that keeps us going. It’s that one thing or set of things that give us a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It’s what makes us happy.

Some of us are lucky enough to know our passion or “calling” from the age of 5. But some of us haven’t the faintest clue what our passion is. We’ve all heard the sayings, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” and “Do what you love and the money will come”. But… What the hell do I love??

I think part of the problem is the way society has shaped our mindset:

  • Society has a way of time-pressuring us to choose a career as if there is some kind of deadline by which we must decide.
  • We must also choose a “viable” career that awards us with a satisfying income (try being 18 and telling your parents you want to be a professional clown).
  • We also want to be happy so we don’t want to be stuck doing something we hate.

There is so much to consider and it creates an anxiety built on fear of making the wrong decision or of wasting our lives. I think it is this pressure that makes it so difficult for many of us to find our passion(s).

So I think the first step to finding one’s passion is changing one’s mindset to get rid of this pressure. After that, it’s a matter of being honest with oneself to figure out what one is curious or enthused about and then experimenting with different things.

This fantastic video by Evan Carmichael covers much of what I discuss:

No Pressure

In order to open ourselves up to finding our passion, it’s really important to get rid of all the pressure and decision anxiety that surrounds choosing what we want to do. Here are a few things to remember:

  1. There is no deadline
    Patience is one of the most essential and liberating qualities one can possess. Time is really a social construct. “Social construct” may sound cliche. But time is just how we measure the changes and cycles of our environment, allowing us to track those changes and to coordinate with each other. There is no universal law stating that certain things must be done within certain time frames. The most important thing is consistency. If we simply work on our passions everyday, we will get to where we want to be. There is no need to pressure ourselves, creating anxiety by thinking that if we don’t know our passion by age 25 then we’re doomed. Not so.
  2. There’s no wrong choice.
    The only criterion for passion is that we love it! So there really is no such thing as a wrong choice of passion. The only way it can be ‘wrong’ is if we don’t end up liking it, in which case we simply try something else we might like. So don’t refuse to try something because of the potential of disliking it. You’ll never know until you try. If you don’t like it, try another thing. No pressure.
  3. You never have to be stuck.
    The idea that we can get “stuck” removes our agency; it gives the impression that we don’t have the power of choice. But remember that we are in charge of our own lives. We do have the capacity to decide. So if we are doing something we don’t like, there is a simple solution – do something else. You never need to be stuck. I know, there is a negative stigma surrounding the act of jumping from one thing to the next. But, as a matter of fact, the broader our experience, the wiser we become and the more skills we will have at our disposal to incorporate into learning or doing other things. So changing course is a good thing –  we become wiser and we are a step closer to figuring out the things we love to do.

Find What You Love

First, I’d like to make a case for why we should choose careers/jobs/lifestyles based on what we love and not on how much money or material things or status we think we’ll acquire. The thing is that people who do what they love are usually far more successful than people who do something they hate (or simply tolerate) only for money. The reason is that being successful or making lots of money is hard. It requires a monomaniacal focus and perseverance when things get difficult. If one is not passionate about what they are doing, then when the job gets stressful, either they become unhappy and demotivated and are therefore less productive or they quit because it’s not worth putting out so much effort to do something they don’t like. This is why people who are passionate about what they do outperform those who are not. They are more driven and more consistent. Would you not rather put in hard work for something you love than for something you dislike?

So figuring out what you really love and doing that is extremely rewarding – emotionally, financially, everything-ly. So then… how does one figure out what one loves?

Passion exists in the intersection of multiple things that you’re curious about.

To find things we love to do, we must do some introspection. We must determine the things about which we are curious. We must explore things which intrigue us.

Go through the following thought exercise:
Imagine that you were magically given enough money to never need to have a job for the rest of your life. And that you had all the time in the world. Then ask yourself the following questions (don’t hold yourself back – be as realistic or as unrealistic as you desire):

  • What would I spend my time doing?
  • What’s a problem I’d love to solve in the world?
  • What am I pretty good at and would love to get better at?
  • What have I always been curious about?
  • What are three things I tried and really enjoyed and would love to do more?
  • What intrigues me?

Merge all those answers into a list. Hunt for overlaps in the answers you give to different questions. Also try creating new things by trying to find intersections between two or more different potential passions.

Try not to spend too much time overthinking this. The list doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need some things to explore.

Try Things

Now that you have a list, it’s important to remember that you’ll never truly find your calling by just thinking about it. As millionaire entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk always says, you’ll never gain muscle by thinking about pushups. You must do pushups.

Similarly, you’ll probably never know what you love doing by thinking about the options. Thinking is a step in the right direction but the only way you’ll know is if you try it.

So after you’ve gone through the previous questions and created a list of possible things to explore, it’s time to go ahead and start exploring. Keep in mind the three points from the No Pressure section – there’s no deadline, there’s no wrong choice and you can never really be stuck. So, take a deep breath and begin exploring the first thing on the list (or the thing that you’re most intrigued by).

Watch, read, listen to content that surrounds this passion to get more familiar with it and see if this further piques your interest. Find people who are doing similar things. Listen to their stories, seek advice, join a community. Create a dreamline surrounding that potential passion. Work at getting better at it everyday. Look at the end goal from your dreamline everyday and let it motivate you.

If, at any point on your journey, you find that you don’t enjoy it, that’s okay. Tweak it to weed out the aspects you don’t enjoy. Or change altogether and move on to the next potential passion on the list. Or create a new passion, taking what you’ve learned from trying this one. Nothing teaches us more about ourselves than new experiences. So the more we try, the closer we’ll get to realizing our passions.

Here’s some great tactical advice that Gary Vaynerchuck gave to a young man wanting to find his passion:


So let’s change our mindsets to eliminate the pressure and anxiety that society has placed on us. Let’s introspect and figure out what we might love. And most importantly, let’s explore and experiment with different things, gain a breadth of experiences and eventually converge to our raisons d’être.

May you live a passion filled life.

#growthpree