Struggling to stay on top of everything?
Having a tough time managing your time?
Scared you’re going to fail to grow your business and will have to return to the abyss of 9-5 hell?
This article will show you how to kick your ass in gear and get more done in less time.
Here’s why this information is crucial for marketers:
- For the most part we’re our own boss, meaning it’s up to us to decide what we need to do and when. This freedom often brings many problems because we’re usually not the best judge of when and how we should tackle certain things (especially when we’re just starting out).
- Marketing involves having to do many different tasks. From content creation to tracking to promotion to a million other things, switching from one task to another makes it easy for us to get distracted and give into unproductive habits.
- Shiny object syndrome rips out the heart of many marketers. And destroys them completely. If you’re not tracking your goals, tasks and moving in the right direction, you’re likely to fall victim to shiny object syndrome and never succeed.
As you can see, marketing success thus depends almost entirely on your ability to be (and stay) productive.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could implement a productivity system that allowed you and your business to achieve more in less time?
That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? 🙂
I’m not going to promise the productivity hacks outlined in this article will allow you to do that. But they’ll get you very close. And that’s because I’ve been using this exact 7 step system to get more done in less time.
Give it a read and maybe you’ll experience the same results.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:
- 5 poisons that are productivity killers (and how to avoid them)
- The new beliefs you need to implement before your productivity can skyrocket
- How to structure your day to get more done in less time
- Simple hacks you can use to trick your mind into being productive (even when you don’t feel like it)
- The exact tools I use to keep my productivity blade sharper than a machete
- Plus ninja productivity tricks used by top marketers to cultivate a SERIOUS edge
Step 1 - Destroying Productivity Poisons
Imagine walking uphill while having a brick attached to your left foot.
How far would you get?
Sure you could fight, crawl and move forward, but you wouldn’t get far. And that’s because your efficiency would be at an all time low.
Now imagine walking uphill while standing on an escalator.
How quickly and easily would you be able to make forward progress?
A lot faster, right?
That’s exactly what you’ll be able to do once you destroy the 5 main productivity poisons that are attached to your foot right now.
Why is this the first step?
Cause it’s the most important.
You can try one productivity system after another, but until you get rid of these poisons, you’ll continue picking one up and putting it down a week later without making any type of considerable progress.
The moment you destroy these productivity poisons, you’ll be able to move forward at will. Getting stuff done will become effortless.
I know because I’ve tried pretty much every system out there.
And it wasn’t until I got rid of these 5 killers of productivity that I was able to succeed and more importantly make time for the things that really mattered to me: family, business, and great adventures.
1. Social Media
Really, Tej - social media?
We’re heard about the dangers of social media over and over again. You’re not going to tell us to deactivate all our social networks and live a life of complete boredom in order to become more productive - are you?
I’m not (even though you should - I’ve deactivated all my networks and that one decision has allowed me to make room for SO MUCH more funner and productive stuff).
You don’t have to delete it, but at the very least, you should control your social media usage.
And that’s because…
Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for people everywhere (marketers are no exception).
In fact, various studies have concluded that the average worker spends roughly 3.2 hours every day on social media. That’s a huge chunk of time, adding up to 21 hours each week - imagine how much more work (or fun) you’d be able to do if you simply took back this time.
Here’s how you can do that:
- Disable all notifications so you won’t receive alerts every time your friends update their status or post pictures of their not so cute cat
- Download News Feed Eradicator for your computer and use that during work hours. I’ve found this to be really effective, especially if you’re just starting to kick your social media addiction.
Sending a quick email, text or Snapchat seems harmless, but the problem is…
It never ends with just one.
I mean, first you send it. And then you spend the next 5 to 20 minutes thinking about how they’re going to reply and what’s taking them so long - you’ve been there - haven’t you?
It’s wasted time. Not the best use of your brain capacity. Plus that one message usually turns into a full blown conversation that takes forever to end.
Here’s how to avoid this:
I got this tip from Charles Ngo (legendary affiliate marketer).
He simply leaves his phone in another room. This does wonders for your productivity. And that’s because it takes advantage of our natural laziness.
If our phone is next to us, we’ll pick it up and browse through our texts. But if our phone is another room (the further you put it from yourself - the better), we’ll give into laziness and won’t bother walking to get it.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Try it. It works like a charm 🙂
I hate meetings. The longer the meeting, the more I hate it. And that’s because nothing productive ever gets done in meetings (for the most part).
Here are the facts to prove it:
- The average employee attends 62 meetings a month
- 50% of those meetings are considered wasted time
- 31 hours each month are spent in unproductive meetings over a month
- $37 billion in salary cost of unnecessary meetings for U.S. businesses
Sounds alarming, doesn’t it?
And if you’re an online marketer, you’re not prone from the evils of meetings either (just because you work from home).
In fact, you’re likely to conduct even MORE meetings because your role involves a lot of emailing and Skype, especially if you have a bunch of people on your team.
Here’s how you can cut back on meetings:
- Allocate specific days and times for your meetings. Instead of taking a meeting whenever something comes up - see if it can wait for your allocated meeting time and day (for the most part - it can).
- Limit your meetings to just 15 minutes - the human attention span starts wavering and becomes unproductive after only 20 minutes. Long meetings are pointless - people aren’t going to remember much anyways. Save yourself time and headaches by sticking to 15 minutes.
- Set an agenda - Know what you’re going to discuss before you sit down and open up Skype.
- Use Schedule Once - whenever someone wants to set up a meeting - send them your link and let them pick a slot that’s available from your schedule (I prefer to take meetings in the afternoon - early mornings and late at night is usually when I’m the most productive).
If you’re anything like the person I used to be, you’re probably reading this article with a million different tabs open and a hundred different thoughts running through your mind.
And what’s even worst is…
You think you operate effectively while doing this.
You don’t. Nobody does.
That’s because the human brain wasn’t built to multi-task.
Bottom line: If you want to do more in less time, do one thing at a time. No exception. Stick to this rule or forever suffer from a reduction in productivity.
Here’s how to implement this in your life:
- Grab a Pomodoro timer
- Work uninterrupted for 25 minutes on one task
- Take 5 minute break
- Work interrupted for 25 minutes on one task
- Repeat steps 2-4 until you’re done your work
5. Junk Food
Nobody ever talks about this, but the food you put into your body influences how well you work and what you get done. Consume tons of sugar and you’ll be all over the place, unable to concentrate or focus on what you need to do to push your business forward.
How to avoid this: Trade junk food for vegetables, lean meats and whole foods. I know it doesn’t taste nearly as good (anybody who tells you it does is a flat out liar), but the increase in energy you’ll feel will be well worth giving up Twinkies and Coca Cola.
Step 2 - Adopt the Right Productivity Beliefs and Habits
Now that you have eliminated the five productivity poisons from your life, it’s time to adopt the right productivity beliefs and habits that’ll allow you and your business to soar to unbelievable heights.
While these productivity beliefs aren’t the most practical, they will deliver the largest payoff. And that’s because I’ve discovered sometimes it only takes a simple tweak in thinking to double, triple or even quadruple your daily output.
Here are the productivity beliefs that have helped me the most during my online journey to riches:
Don’t count hours, count what you get done
We’ve become a society that determines our work ethic by how much we work.
Working twelve, fourteen and sixteen hour days is what everyone and their mother brags about these days.
Hustle. Hustle. Hustle.
I’m sure you’ve heard it, too.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t care about how much you work.
Only thing that matters is how much you get done.
Sometimes the less you work, the more you get done.
Sounds counter intuitive, I know.
But here’s the one thing you can do to make this a reality:
Use RescueTime to track your activities and challenge yourself to improve your productivity score.
By doing so, you’ll discover you’re not really working twelve, fourteen or sixteen hour days after all. Instead, you're wasting a bunch of time.
Once you figure this out, you can cut back on all the unproductive usages of your time and get back to working less (and getting more done) by just focusing on the three to five major tasks for the day.
Work in 25 minute increments
I got this productivity hack from Chris Winfield.
The article shares the story of how Chris was able to fit an entire 40 hour work week into just 16.5 hours. At first, I thought it was a bunch of BS.
But then I gave it a shot. And here’s what I discovered:
- Working in 25 minute increments is the sweet spot - you can sit down and do anything for 25 minutes. This is great because there’s not much of a mental hurdle you have to get through before you start working.
- It leverages the natural human power of ebb and flow. Human beings are wired to concentrate for short periods of time. And then take a step back and rest. This system plays exactly into our natural wiring and it’s really effective.
- You’ll notice yourself getting more done in 25 minutes of uninterrupted time than in one hour of interrupted, regular time.
Bottom line: It works, at least for me. Try it and see if it works for you.
Set distribution days
Marketers have to wear a lot of different hats. From promotion to content creation to tracking to making sure everyone on our team is kicking ass - our lives can thus become pretty overwhelming and stressful.
Our brains aren’t wired to move from one task to another without suffering from a reduction in productivity. In other words every time you go from working on one area of your business to a completely different area, you’ll have a tougher time getting things done because it’ll take longer for you to reach flow.
You can overcome this by using a simple concept called distribution days.
Here’s how it works:
Instead of trying to do a million different things each day, schedule and prioritize according to themes. Make Mondays your content creation days, Tuesday your promotion days and so on.
This allows you to devote all your mental capacity to one area at a time, making you more productive and efficient.
Fun fact: I actually stole this tactic from the awesome marketer Neil Patel.
Here’s what Neil has to say about batching your tasks together:
One of my favorite productivity hacks is to batch tasks on particular days. You see, whenever you are working on one task for a prolonged period of time, you get into a certain rhythm or “flow.”
You get into the zone and are able to accomplish tasks much more quickly than you could if you were constantly shifting from task to task. For example, today is my day to write all of these articles for you lovely people.
I have days dedicated to content creation, marketing, email, interviews and everything else included in the enchilada of entrepreneurship. If you do the same, your productivity will shoot through the roof.
It’s no wonder he’s able to run multiple million dollar companies, sleep 9 hours each day, and still write awesome blog posts.
Step 3 - Organize Your Life
Now that we have eliminated productivity poisons and established new productivity beliefs into our lives - it’s time to take a step back and organize our entire life and mission. Doing this will allow us to get the most out of each and every day.
Here’s the best method I know for organizing your life:
Start with your year - break your life into sections and come up with 3 main outcomes you want to achieve for each. (See example below)
I find the above three sections to work super well. And I only come up with 3 main outcomes for each area because anything more makes life a little too overwhelming.
Once done, you need to rank your goals in order. And pick one priority goal for the year. Just one. Here’s how to choose:
Simply answer the following question...
If I could only achieve one goal this year - what would it be?
This will be your main focus for the year (more on this in just a second).
Figure out what you need to do to meet your goals. And then jot down all the tasks required into short term and long term lists.
I use Remember the Milk to jot down all tasks I need to do in the next 30 days. For longer tasks lists and projects, I’ll use a simple text doc on my laptop.
Once you have your tasks list setup - figure out your three main goals for the month.
Here’s where I record my monthly goals:
Take your monthly goal list and put it into action (week by week)
Every Sunday night I plan the week ahead. It takes just 30 minutes. And the payoffs are huge.
Here’s the template I use:
I come up with just 3 outcomes for each of those areas - it’s quite similar to the yearly set up I use. But the outcomes I put here are much smaller in size and can be accomplished in a week’s time.
The key here is to work on tasks that push you closer to meeting your monthly goals and ultimately your yearly goals (everything should be in alignment).
Then I use my weekly outcomes list to structure my day.
And that’s what brings us to the next step in the productivity system…
Step 4 - Structure Your Day
Before we continue, let’s recap the progress we’ve made thus far:
- We’ve cutback productivity poisons
- Implemented new beliefs
- Organized our entire life and got clear on our main goals and marketing objectives
So what’s next?
It’s time to start executing and getting our marketing goals met. In other words, it’s time to structure our day in a way that allows us to get the most done in the least amount of time.
Here’s the system I use (and other successful marketers use to have productive days):
Make your yearly priority goal a strong priority
Once you’ve organized your life and your yearly mission, you should have a single priority goal (this should be goal #1 under your work list). It could be related to income, traffic or any other variable you want to improve in your business.
I got this technique from Noah Kagan and it works super well (fun fact: Noah actually learned this from Mark Zuckerberg).
Here’s an interesting excerpt from the article above:
Kagan shared the No. 1 insight he gained from his short-lived Facebook career: "When you are running your business, have one goal. That's it."
“Kagan explained that he would continually approach Mark Zuckerberg with specific ideas that would help Facebook make money. But Zuckerberg would always ask the same question: "Does it help us grow?" If not, he would tell Kagan he wasn't interested.
Zuckerberg's clear focus on growth "helped us clarify every decision," Kagan said.
Now that he's in charge of his own company, Kagan makes sure to have one key goal per year. This year, his goal with the marketing tool SumoMe is to get to 1 billion users.
There’s value in having only one priority goal. It directs your focus and lets you actually hit your goal. And that’s because everything you do will be directed towards meeting this goal.
Once your goal is set in stone, I recommend using Google Calendar and scheduling the first four hours of your day to working on your priority goal.
Do this every single day and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you make in a span of just a few short weeks.
Once you’ve put in four hours on your priority goal, it’s time to get on with the rest of the day…
I use a notebook and write down my 3-5 main tasks for the day.
Aside from your priority goal, there’s other things us marketers have to do as well.
I usually take out my notebook and jot down the 3-5 most important tasks for the day.
How do I come up with these tasks?
Simply by looking at the outcomes I want to achieve for the week and figuring out what I need to do to make it happen (I’ll also look at my short term/long term task lists too). I stick to just 3-5 main tasks. Once I’ve achieved these, I consider the day to have been a success.
Next I schedule these tasks into Google Calendar (and set the appropriate time for each)
Through my struggles and victories with productivity, I’ve discovered that we usually work better under constraints. Meaning if you give yourself a week to complete a project, it’ll take a week. If you give yourself a few hours, it’ll take a few hours.
Therefore, I punch in my 3-5 main tasks into Google Calendar and I set a time-limit for each task (this forces me to not fool around because I know I only have a certain amount of time to get my stuff done)
Then I simply follow my Google Calendar as best as I can (life always gets in the way, but if I can follow at least 80% - I’m happy) - ticking off my main tasks for the day.
Once done, I’m done for the day. I’ve lived a successful day.
And that’s because…
- I’ve made considerable amounts of progress on my yearly priority goal
- I’ve completed the 3 to 5 most important tasks that’ll move my business forward
The rest of the time, I’m free to spend however I like.
And that’s what brings me to step number 5…
Step 5 - Taking Time Out to Replenish Yourself
Most productivity systems suck because they only focus on work. They don’t focus on other activities and tasks that make you do better work. This is a shame. And that’s because one of the most profound insights I’ve had when it comes to getting more done in less time is:
You need to give your brain a break and let it replenish itself.
According to researchers, this allows you to be more creative, efficient, and overall more productive.
Here’s how I give myself a break:
Each day I allocate one hour to doing any one (or all) of the following tasks:
The simple act of sitting down, closing your eyes, and following your breath allows you to clear your mind and approach your work with greater concentration. Plus, it also makes you feel more calm and relaxed throughout the day.
Documenting your thoughts, ideas and progress towards your goal is a great way to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Another great benefit is you can flip back to any period of your life to see how you handled certain challenges and overcame obstacles.
Similar to journaling, reflecting is more in line with thinking about your life and where you currently stand. By taking time out to sit down and think, you come up with cool ideas that result in you living a much higher quality of life (not to mention more productive since you learn to get rid of all the tasks and jobs you don’t want to do, making room for only the things that set your heart on fire)
My favorite thing to do is just take a break and go for a walk in nature. This clears the mind and brings an inner sense of calm. There’s something about nature. According to researchers, it helps you make better decisions - something that’s very important for us marketers.
By taking one hour from each day to engage in the above activities, I’m able to perform 10x more efficiently when I get back to work. Another benefit is since I know I have to take one hour out from each day, I’m forced to work harder during work hours so I can fully enjoy and experience my one hour of complete freedom.
Step 6 - Tracking
Aside from working in your business, you also need to be tracking.
No matter what area of your life or business you want to improve, you’ll be able to get there a hundred times faster if you track it. From income to conversions to opt-ins to the number of backlinks your site generates - create a system for tracking everything.
I know it sounds tiresome and mundane, but the results are well worth the effort.
I simply use Excel spreadsheets. And have a quick and dirty spreadsheet for each main variable of my life so I’m able to see whether I’m progressing or moving away from my end goal.
Here are some of the things I track (have tracked in the past):
- # of workouts
- Time I woke up/time I go to bed
- # of times I meditated
Here’s what a basic spreadsheet looks like:
The key is to figure out the most important KPI’s for your business (and life) and track them.
Once you’ve collected enough data, it’s important to make changes if changes are required. Don’t keep heading in a direction that isn’t going to bring you the results you desire. Correct your course and be more effective.
I schedule monthly check ins (end of every month) to evaluate how well I’ve done in the last 30 days and whether or not I need to change things up.
Step 7 - Using Tools to Become More Productive
The above sounds like a lot of work (and it could very well be), but that’s why you have to leverage the power of tools. By choosing the right tools, you’ll be able to streamline your productivity.
Now, there are a bunch of resources available, both free and paid that will help you kick your ass in gear and implement all the tips and suggestions outlined above.
But here are my favorites:
I’ve used Wunderlist quite frequently in the past with great success. If you’re looking for a simple app to dump your tasks onto - it’s a great pick for numerous reasons: it’s free, works on all platforms, and it looks great.
I use this to track how long it takes me to complete a task or project. It’s super simple and easy to use. Plus it also lets you look at reports to discover where and how you used your time throughout the week. Highly recommend.
If you’re working with a team, you probably want to use Asana. It’s pretty simple and easy to get used to. Simply dump all the tasks you need your team members to do and assign them to each respective member. It’s a huge headache saver.
My Evernote and my Moleskine notebook serve pretty much the same purpose - I use it to jot down random thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I’ll write my weekly outcome plan in Evernote as well.
Buffer is a great tool that skyrockets the productivity of marketers everywhere. And that’s because it lets you easily share web articles via social media without any headaches or hassles.
For writing content, I usually use Hemingway. It’s pretty good - checks your grammar and highlights whether or not your sentences are optimized.
Everything I do is up on Google Calendar. I take my weekly outcomes list and block off time during the week to make sure I get the stuff done. Also, I like to look at my upcoming week on Sunday night to see if there’s anything on it that I don’t really want to do. If so, I’ll delete it.
I use text docs to list out my long term task list.
Anything that can be done in under a month is dumped onto this cool and nifty app.
I use my whiteboard to list my three main monthly goals. And to also place a W or L (win/loss) on the day, depending on whether or not I completed my 3 to 5 main tasks for the day (I put a W if I achieved at least 80%).
Any notebook will do, but I keep this handy throughout the day to jot down my most important tasks for the day. And any ideas or thoughts that come to mind while I’m hustling or relaxing.
Stickies (free and built into Mac)
Use this to write down my yearly goals so I can have it visible throughout the day and I’m constantly reminded of what I’m trying to accomplish.
Well, those are the tools I use.
The important thing to remember is there’s a ton of productivity tools out there. You simply have to pick the ones that work for you. And stick with it.
Leveraging the power of tools will allow you to simply show up and get stuff done. You won’t be bombarded or overwhelmed with a bunch of different things.
That pretty much covers everything on my end.
So how do other marketers approach productivity?
Check out the section below.
Bonus: How Do Other Marketers Approach Productivity
There you have it…
Productivity broken down into manageable and digestible chunks.
In summary, you need to:
- Destroy the 5 productivity poisons
- Implement new productivity beliefs
- Optimize your life
- Structure your day
- Schedule an hour of power
- Track everything
- Leverage the power of tools
There’s a lot of strategies and practical insights outlined in this article.
Best way to start?
Choose one and see what it does for you. If it works, stick with it. If not, throw it away and adopt another. You’ll never know until you see what works and what doesn’t for your unique circumstances.
Let me know your biggest takeaway in the comment section below!