3 Novel Hacks to Kickstart Your Productivity
The only resource that none of us can get more of in this life is time. We get what we get, so we've got to make the most of it.
For perspective, I have a full-time day job, a profitable online side business and I also write regularly for six different large web sites including Entrepreneur.com. Oh yeah, my wife and I have three kids 4-to-14 years of age. Let's just say there's not much disposable time for dilly dally in my schedule.
So I'm always on the hunt for better, more efficient ways to maximize my outputs and results with the most impactful inputs possible. Knowing that about me, a friend introduced me to bestselling author Frank Viola. This guy is off-the-scale when it comes to cranking out consistently high-quality deliverables.
Consider that over the past eight years Viola has written 25 full-length books -- 12 for traditional publishing houses and the rest self published -- of which seven reached bestseller status. He's also written more than 900 unique blog posts over the same period, and he's produced more than 125 podcast episodes that have pushed his weekly audio cast to the number two spot on iTunes.
In addition, he writes bi-weekly newsletters to his subscribers and has spoken to hundreds of audiences. All of that without a single freelancer, ghostwriter, editorial staffer or use of any PLR content during that eight-year stretch.
By comparison, the productivity rate of the average American since 2009 declined to 1.0 percent---down from 2.3 percent in the early 2000s. That's a more than 50 percent productivity decline. It's safe to say the guy knows something about getting things done.
During a recent interview, Viola shared with me several tactics and techniques he uses to drive his prolific practices. The following three hacks are some of the more novel ways he reaches unprecedented productivity levels.
1. Conduct an activity audit.
This is the same principle as a financial audit, where you look at every dollar that comes in then capture where every dollar goes to identify areas of wasted expense. However, Viola stresses doing this exercise with every activity you do.
"It's important for people to track what they're doing in 15- or 30-minute increments every day for an entire week -- writing it all down. It seems tedious but it's important because it really helps you identify time usage patterns as well as all activities that aren't producing results, impact or advancing you toward your overarching goals," said Viola.
He says establishing this baseline is the necessary first step toward knowing where to cut.
"For me, this has resulted in eliminating many different projects and pursuits that free me up to engage other opportunities that are more tightly aligned with my goals. It's a great exercise to being more productive," he said.
2. Practice "tight but loose" prioritization.
Of all the tactics he discussed with me, this one stood out as the most innovative---especially when it's compared to traditional prioritization models.
While he relies on a daily task list prepared the night before, that's where the similarity with every other prioritizing practice stops.
His list contains between 5-10 personal AND business tasks intermingled together to help strike a "dynamic life balance" that Viola says is necessary for peak productivity.
And while the tasks vary in importance---he tackles urgent issues first to help stem human tendencies to procrastinate---Viola takes a “tight but loose” approach when accomplishing all other listed activities, which means he doesn't constrain tasks by time but rather by his motivation.
"So I'll chunk large projects into manageable activity blocks that are not based on time at all. I'll work on that activity until I'm not motivated by it anymore, then I'll move on to another activity block. This ensures I'm only applying my best ability to every activity rather than half-hearted efforts. I'm convinced that overly regimented schedules kill creativity and productivity," he said.
3. See your projects as art -- literally.
One of the key areas of lost productivity occurs when individuals waste time searching for important information or files.
In fact, according to a McKinsey report from 2013, employees spend 1.8 hours every day -- 9.3 hours per week, on average -- searching and gathering information. Put another way, workers are spending more than 20 percent of their time not contributing real value while looking for stuff.
To eliminate needless searching for important files and project paperwork in cabinets and piles, Viola hangs all necessary project documents on the wall, just like office artwork, above his workstation.
"I use specially designed file organizers that hang on the wall, which allow me to visually lock on any relevant document I have in process at a glance. I can instantly locate and access every project folder in a few seconds. This allows for smoother stop-start transitions, and enables me to remain in the productivity flow without missing a beat," he said.
Viola also relies on time-saving technology hacks, such as software that deciphers personalized shorthand as well as Dragon Dictation software that transcribes his speech-to-text at a rate that's 2-to-3 times faster than he can type. He goes into much greater detail in a course he developed, which he says can help anyone improve their productivity as well as spark creative output.
"Each of these tactics might not seem like much individually but taken together they produce a powerful, cumulative effect on individual productivity," he said.