5 Productivity Hacks Incredibly Ambitious People Use to Get More Done
How any "Average Joe" can save time and get more done
How do some people seem to be able to get so much more done in a day than you ever can?
Is it some genetic concoction you don’t have that these more successful people do?
Not particularly — it’s just the routines and habits they meticulously follow each day.
Some of these productivity hacks might seem alien to you…
It's possible that you're going to think I'm a weirdo after you read the whole thing — especially because, yes, I'm including myself in the "incredibly ambitious" pool of people.
And many people think that everything I've been able to accomplish with my online writing business will chalk it up to "being in the right place at the right time" or just plain old luck.
And While I'll admit it — yeah, I've been extremely lucky:
- I grew up an American
- I was born into a supportive family
- I attended a decent public school system
No one prepared me for the life on an online entrepreneur. I had to learn how to navigate and succeed in this space. I would wager that a lot of the success I've been able to garner in this space is due to setting up "productivity hacks" that help me expediently progress through the rigmarole of the workday.
Here are the 5 productivity hacks that help incredibly ambitious people get more done
Before We Begin: Marry the evening and the morning routine
Many people will talk about the importance of the morning routine.
However, I feel much is left unsaid about the 8–9 hours before that morning routine even commences.
What I'm referring to here is the importance of sleep. It's noted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that individuals who got less sleep performed with less productivity during work hours,
"[…] Compared to those who regularly got 7 to 8 hours of sleep, those who reported getting 5 to 6 hours experienced 19 percent more productivity loss, and those who got less than 5 hours of sleep experienced 29 percent more productivity loss."
Before one can have a kick ass morning routine, they need to setup their nightly routine that allows for optimal regeneration (i.e. sleep).
When I was younger, sure my body could handle drinks at the bar after work, even if I had to get a lot done the next day.
In other words — I thought I could party hard if I worked hard.
This doesn't work, however. Many think that in order to get more done — they need to sleep less.
The research notes that sleeping less is only causing you to suffer in terms of your ability to focus and produce at a higher level.
Get your sleep — get things done.
Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at ways you can optimize your daily routine and adopt these productivity hacks in order to clear up more time and get things done.
Did you know that a study reported on by The Telegraph noted that on average women spend 16 minutes each weekday morning deciding what to wear and 14 minutes on Saturday and Sunday mornings — totally roughly 287 days spread out of the course of their life.
Research noting the time it takes for men to decide on what to wear was harder to find.
If you're a man who resembles any thing close to my personality, you know I struggle with the decision to eat lunch or not — let alone what to wear…
Regardless, the research indicates that on average, we're wasting over an hour every work week deciding what to wear.
What if we could get that hour back by having a set array of outfits to wear for our work week?
Sure — men probably have it easier.
I have reduced the decisions I need to make in this area by reducing my closet to mainly blank-colored T shirts, two pairs of jean shorts (for when it's warm) and two pairs of jean pants (when it's colder).
I think one thing we do overthink is that people are more concerned with what they're wearing than they really are.
The joke is — they're not concerned with what you're wearing. They're concerned with what they're wearing.
Get this hour back by eliminating or reducing this daily decision.
I guess in writing this article — I'm also lucky in another way that I forgot to mention…
My girlfriend is currently studying for her Master's degree is dietetics and nutritional studies. I'm very lucky to have someone who helps me understand what is going on physiologically when I eat certain foods.
What I do (with her help) is I've made the productivity choice of eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning.
The same bowl with the same ingredients.
Not only does this eliminate the time I need to make a decision of what to eat — but it's setting my body and mind up for optimal nutrition and even-keeled energy levels.
And I'm not alone with this. Sam Parr, founder of The Hustle, one of the fastest-growing media publications, broke down his eating habits,
“I optimize my nutrition intake each day to avoid the energy crash that can happen. For me, this means I avoid carbs most of the time; serotonin is a hormone secreted by carbs and generally you want to avoid that when you are trying to get things done. I also avoid alcohol. In my younger days, I abused this a little too much. However, I’ve since given up alcohol (about three years ago) because the hangover and side effects impacted my entire week.”
Now to add some nuance to this statement, according to my girlfriend (i.e. a future scientist) oatmeal, a carb, is a resistant fiber and thus it is absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower rate than perhaps white rice. It doesn't cause a carbo-crash.
The point that I want to drive home here, is to find meals during the week that you can enjoy and are optimized for your energy levels that can help carry you through the work day and reduce the decision making.
Personally, for lunch (if I remember to eat it) it's a salad with seeds, nuts, a grilled chicken breast and a homemade caesar dressing.
Dinner is when I can have some fun and not be so cognizant of energy levels.
If you want to be a high-performer, you need to kill your social life.
Depending on your current social life, you may need to dial it back a bit. Remember earlier when I mentioned I used to have zero problem going out for drinks with coworkers or friends — even on a school night. Well hopefully you can see at this point the productivity decisions are starting to compound.
I'm not saying become a hermit, however, understand the commitments you make with yourself and others.
Some of the things you may need to scale back on involve:
- lunch with friends when you can save that for the weekend.
- Drinks while watching the Monday Night Football game.
- A 5 hour Sunday brunch with the friends because the weather is just oh so nice out!
But remember that 5 hours at brunch at the pool means 5 fewer hours of side hustle work put into your blog or other creative venture, which roughly translates into:
- A newly written post
- An outline for a new digital product
- A series of newsletter emails written
- 5 hours doing anything more productive than day drinking at the pool — even health related stuff!
The point that I'm trying to drive home here is that you must make SACRIFICES if you want success — especially if you want it quickly.
The hardest part about this is that your friends and family likely won’t understand. They will put pressure on you to make time for them and they likely just won’t understand your priorities during this stage.
I'm borrowing that term from the Bestselling Cal Newport book of the same name.
In the book, Newport outlines the importance of setting aside time for the "deep work" (work that requires high levels of uninterrupted focus) but also setting aside time to decompress and put the work aside,
“Another key commitment for succeeding with this strategy is to support your commitment to shutting down with a strict shutdown ritual that you use at the end of the workday to maximize the probability that you succeed. In more detail, this ritual should ensure that every incomplete task, goal, or project has been reviewed and that for each you have confirmed that either (1) you have a plan you trust for its completion, or (2) it’s captured in a place where it will be revisited when the time is right.
The process should be an algorithm: a series of steps you always conduct, one after another. When you’re done, have a set phrase you say that indicates completion (to end my own ritual, I say, “Shutdown complete”). This final step sounds cheesy, but it provides a simple cue to your mind that it’s safe to release work-related thoughts for the rest of the day.”
Now of course that helps us get a seamless transition into the precursor to all of the productivity hacks, Marry the evening and morning routine.
It may seem counterintuitive to "disconnect" in a fully connected 21st century.
"If someone emails me during dinner, isn't it expedient to get back to them right away?"
Your mind unfortunately, will always be operating in "reaction" mode when you don't set aside time to decompress your highly-functioning work mind.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do after brushing my teeth and taking my morning pee is I get ready and head off to the gym.
Now, I could argue some scientific argument about increasing endorphins with the help of exercise which will help with being more productive but I feel we've already covered a decent amount of science…
Let's argue some vanity instead. When I go to the gym, I always find some resistance (again, term here taken from Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art") to going to the gym and "breaking a sweat."
Once I do go through with going to the gym and completing my exercise — I tend to feel like a badass.
And like the old saying goes,
"When you look good — you feel good"
What other incredibly ambitious people share in this idea? Well Neil Patel, online marketer and founder of Quick Sprout, Ubersuggest and Neilpatel.com notes the importance of exercise in a morning routine,
“I approach the day with massive organization, knowing what myself and my assistant need to get accomplished. I work out every single morning before starting my day and then spend some time getting dressed up. We all feel more confident when we look good and it’s noticeable in how you approach the day.”
Again, while there's probably an ample amount of scientific data that goes into how the increase of specific neurotransmitters in the brain can act as a precursor to increased productivity with deep work, let's just agree that when you look good — you feel good.
Closing thoughts — You don't always have to "grind it out"
Contrary to popular opinion — you don't always have to be "switched on."
If you've read anything that I write, you know I'll always stand behind my belief that showing up everyday will be the deciding factor as to whether or not you progress to the success levels you envision for your life.
"Showing up everyday" doesn't always have to mean that you're operating like a robot. Sometimes the day is just a drag and you don't have it all together.
Call it "waking up on the wrong side of the bed" or whatever you want — some days are just tough.
And everything isn't always going to work out.
But what can you still do?
What's that ONE THING you can still get done that will help you progress closer to your goal?
Over the short term — sprinting is better than jogging, and definitely better than walking.
But what if we expand the scope of this journey?
Many of your goals involve more than just a few weeks or a few months into the future. Most of the dreams you have require years if not decades of work.
Sure — you won't be able to sprint over the course of years. Sometimes it's best to walk. Because if you sprint too hard for too long, you'll be injured and sidelined.
But if you keep walking — especially on the bad days — you can look back years later and see how far you've gone: productivity hacks or not.
So keep progressing forward.
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year — and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”
— Tony Robbins