One of my New Year's resolutions was to become more productive with my time. My company is busier than ever, with more clients than ever, and we’re headed into what I expect to be a very busy 2018 election cycle for SPEAK. And the truth is, I’m not the most organized person in the world. I procrastinate. I don’t always follow up. I text instead of call. I do all the things I tell my employees not to do. I was determined to change all that in 2018.
I’ve since become rather obsessed with learning how to be more productive, more focused and more on top of my game.
I wanted to share some of the things that have worked for me so far. And by writing this down, and sharing it with you, I hope to help hold myself accountable moving forward. And perhaps this may help some of you who struggle with the same kind of stuff I struggle with: a very distracted mind, FOMO, trying to do everything at once, and getting behind.
Changing my morning routine
Until recently, my morning routine has always been the same. I wake up right around the time my wife leaves for work (around 7am), let my dog out, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down and watch the morning political shows. I’d lose myself in my phone, either responding to emails or texts I received overnight, or reading Twitter or Facebook. And before I knew it, it was 8:30am and I needed to go upstairs, shower, and get ready for work. It was very rushed.
That has since all changed…mostly. Now, I try to wake up earlier, around 6:15am. My wife is helpful by turning on lights, the TV, and not exactly being as quiet as she was before. Now, I shower FIRST, get dressed, and go downstairs to let the dog out – all without looking at my phone. (This is the most difficult thing of my day)
Instead of turning on the TV, I turn on the gas fireplace. I still get my cup of coffee, but instead of losing myself in the world of Twitter and Morning Joe, I read. Right now, I’m reading “The Legends Club,” by John Feinstein. It’s a fascinating book about ACC basketball in the 1980’s – with the main characters being Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and Dean Smith. It’s a light read, but it helps get my mind going. I haven’t turned on the TV in the morning in weeks and it’s terrific.
I’m one of those people who always subconsciously made fun of meditation. I pictured meditation as someone sitting Indian-style with their palms up trying to find the meaning of life. It was a stupid stereotype but I can be pretty stupid sometimes. But in every book or article I have read about productivity, meditation was the most common practice among productive and successful people. So, I downloaded the “Calm” app and started doing guided meditations in the mornings for 10-15 minutes. After doing this for a couple weeks, I can report back that this has fundamentally changed my daily life. It slows down my brain, allows me to focus on one thing at a time, and has made me feel ten times more relaxed and confident throughout the day. I can’t exactly put into words all the benefits of meditating, I’m still learning, but it’s the best piece of advice I’ve gotten in years. I can’t believe I’m actually saying that, but it’s true. On the days I’ve missed my meditation, I can feel a difference. My memory is worse, I’m more distracted and I’m more stressed out. On days I do meditate, I’m just genuinely happier and an overall better-functioning human being.
Working at night
One problem with my job is that every day is crazy. There are very few days where I have little to do. And I never have time during the day to just sit back and think about the next week or the next month. I barely have time to think about the next hour. I had become an hour-by-hour guy. And that’s not good for me or my business. I need to have time to plan and brainstorm for my clients. So, I decided to start putting in a couple of hours of, not “work,” but planning, at night. Not every night. But several nights a week. For me, that’s going to a quiet place and running through my client roster and putting some 50,000-foot thought into what I can be doing better for them, what they need to be doing in order to be more successful, and putting all my thoughts on paper. These thoughts would then transition into a plan of action. After spending some time on each client, I’d write out my plan for the next day and rank each task in order of importance. By spending some time just thinking about my clients, I came up with smarter ways to help them.
Now, most people would consider working at night to be a drag. But I find it weirdly therapeutic. I’m now rarely behind at work, I’m almost always prepared for the day, and because I take time to think about my clients, I’m better at the actual service I provide to my clients. And the next morning when I get into my office, I’m ahead. And, wow, what a feeling that is.
These extra hours at night also allow me to leave work a little earlier on most days. I usually spend that extra time going to the gym, another thing I’ve been neglecting due to poor productivity.
Limiting my exposure to social media
Like most people in 2018, I have an unhealthy addiction to social media. Especially on my phone. When I find a short gap in my daily tasks – whether that be work tasks or gaps in any given conversation – I instinctively pick up my phone, pull up Twitter or Facebook and start surfing. I can’t help but look at my phone at dinner, during movies, while watching sports, and of course, at work. It’s an addiction no different from smoking or drinking. And that’s how I’ve had to look at it in order to limit my time on it.
The first thing one must do to decrease their social media addiction is to admit you have a problem. I’m not being cute, I’m being dead serious. You have to accept the fact that you’re addicted to your phone and want to change. Another way you can help your addiction is to either delete social media apps from your phone altogether or move them into a folder at the back of your phone. My work requires me to be on social media, so I can’t delete it, but I can make it more difficult to pull up the apps. This has surprisingly worked because it reminds me that I moved it for a reason. Sometimes I catch myself instinctively pulling out my phone, unlocking it, and as I click on the area where my Twitter once lived, my mind says “oh yeah,” and I put my phone back in my pocket. My wife and I have even made it a point to leave our phones in our car sometimes when we go out to dinner. IT WORKS!
At work, I make it a point not to pull up Twitter or Facebook on my computer unless I absolutely have to for a client. I’ve found that I am spending much more time in WORD than I am in any other application and, whaddayaknow, I’m now a lot more productive.
Society’s addiction to smartphones and social media is making us stupid and killing our ability to think critically and remember anything. If we all had to go back to using flip phones, we would all be much smarter, more social and a heck of a lot more productive.
Everyone is different. But changing my morning routine, meditation, working some nights, and limiting my exposure to social media has substantially improved my personal and professional productivity. If you’re having some of the same productivity struggles, I’d encourage you to experiment with some of these super helpful lifestyle changes.