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Success & Career

The Productivity Secret That’s Been Changing My Life



The Productivity Secret That's Been Changing My Life

Late last year I went to lunch with one of my closest mentors – a back end programming consultant who, as a freelancer, has averaged $800,000 – 1.3 million in annual revenue over the past four years.

The best way to become more productive

We were halfway through lunch when the topic of productivity re-emerged (it’s a topic that him and I, both being extremely busy, frequently discuss). In between bites of his thyme roasted cod, he told me about an extremely simple productivity hack that’s been really making a difference in his life since he started doing it four weeks ago.


When I heard the idea, I was immediately stricken. “Wow, that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?” I exclaimed. Agreeing, he added that it’s something everybody should be doing.


We continued the meal, but the “hack” was still on my mind. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get home and start doing it. I knew it would make a difference; I was energized.


How This Method Is Necessary

DeLorean Time Machine

Imagine having a visual time machine of your days to see what you accomplished and where you’ve been slacking. Imagine the iterative progress you could make if you could look at patterns in your day and learn where you could be taking more action and realigning focus.


The average person gets 3 hours of actual work done each day. In the UK for example, this average has been recorded as being 2 hours and 53-minutes. When you think about it, this is a shockingly low amount.


Put a different way, the average person spends only 12.5% of his day being productive.


Of course, there are many reasons for this, but one of the most major ones is that most people don’t make efforts to be reflective. Most people don’t look at why what they’re doing may be misguided, and especially, where they’re making mistakes.


This method changes that. It forces the user to address his weaknesses and his faults, and makes him see where there’s not just a little, but massive room for improvement.


Best of all, it’s free, quick, and easy.


The Actual Method


Open up a spreadsheet. It could be Microsoft Excel, it could be Apple Numbers, it could be Google Sheets.


Create 4 columns.


Title the first column, “Date.” Make this column a different color from the rest. I prefer a light grey.


Date cell title


Title the second column, “Task.”


Task cell title

Title the third column, “Classification.” The items in this column will be color-coded general categories for sorting where your focus is going.


Classification cell title

Title the final column, “Notes on time (minutes).”


Minutes cell title

You: “Wow that’s shockingly simple, this seems unsophisticated.”


Me: “Yes, and yes. Bet let’s let the results be the judge of whether or not it’s worth it.”


The Results


Like I said, the results will be the ultimate judge of whether or not this is a worth while time and energy investment for you.


If you were being productive for only 4 hours each day and you could increase that number to an average of 7 (without getting burned out, of course), would this be a worthwhile investment? If, for example, you could add 15 extra hours of productivity to your life each week, 60 in a month, 870 in a year, would it be worth it?


What if your productivity didn’t increase, but you saw that you were misaligning your focuses. If you could shift your focus to tasks that make you more money and more align with your long term goals, would that be worth it?


Yes. It would definitely be worth it.


Let’s look at when I started my list to see how it helped me and how it made a difference in my work life.


Here are my first two days:


My first two days using the productivity method


I had lunch with my mentor friend on Friday, the 27th and, excitedly, started this list the very next day.


Like I do every day, I studied Spanish, which I’ve been teaching myself with Duolingo, I sent out a press building e-mail using the service, Help A Reporter (great tool for SEO and expert development; totally worth checking out), and I did a lot of general correspondence via e-mail.


In terms of tasks I do each day, my next day looked roughly the same: ~50 minutes spent on habits, ~2 hours spent on correspondence, and other time dedicated to other tasks.


I waited two days to look at this list because I wanted to have a larger sample size for analyzation and optimization than just one day. When I took an extended look and thought about what I had done (or more accurately, what I hadn’t), I was astonished and disappointed.


I had been meaning to follow up with some sales leads who had been inquiring about search engine optimization. Over the course of these two days, I didn’t do this, despite it being a priority.


Instead, I spent way too much time on e-mails. Way too much.


In addition to following up with SEO leads, I also wanted to start on this short article. I didn’t even touch that on my first day, and on the second, when I did, I hardly gave it any time. I should have researched it and produced a first draft. I didn’t.


I looked at my behaviors and reflected on them. Like most other people, I had been spending too much time answering e-mails. My behavior with my friend, Nate, whose half-feature-length video I’m an associate producer on, was good. The time I was spending on my daily habits was good. Everything else, however, was lacking.


The next day I was resolved to make a change:


Realigning my focus by reflecting on my productivity list

Bam! That’s results right there. I saw a problem and I fixed it immediately.


I followed up with my immediate leads, and I minimized time spent on e-mail, something most people need to do.


While my actual productivity time decreased, the value I was creating was way more than the first two days. I confronted a serious issue and was realigning my focus.


How about after a few months? How much did my focus increase? Was I spending more time being productive? Did I resort back to my old ways? Let’s find out.


Here’s a random day in March:

A day in March using the productivity method - notice the increase in productivity


After having a month worth of days to look at, I was able to notice a lot of habits. I needed to cut back on e-mail, and I needed to spend more time on the tasks that were directly making me money- I was spending too much time on long term vision tasks and neglecting the immediate future to a point I was uncomfortable with.


I was averaging 3-4 hours of actual productivity/day, and I was unsatisfied with that amount. I reflected on this and realized that I got more done when I start my day with habits, save e-mails for last, take a day off each week, and take more efficient breaks (effective relaxation is a whole other subject!).


As you can see in the above screenshot, my focus became sharper and I wasn’t wasting as much time with e-mail. I’ve successfully been keeping up my daily habits and, most importantly, my productive time has increased greatly, from an average of 220-minutes (3.6 hours) in November to 365-minutes (6.1 hours) in March.


What Not to Include


“Wow this is great, I’m going to start immediately! Do I record everything productive or just certain tasks?”


Great question. My general rule of thumb is to not include relaxation oriented activities. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, but Jack shouldn’t include his play activities in his productivity list.


I meditate and go to the gym every day. Doing these activities adds to my bottom line by improving my focus, health, and happiness. However, these are activities that I do for their positive mental effects. They’re relaxation oriented and not as much action/output oriented. I don’t include them.


“How about learning? If I begin reading a book in order to become better in my field, should I count that?” Absolutely- reading or watching videos to improve your craft isn’t only a mental/physical/relaxation exercise.

When to Record


“When do I record my tasks?” Right after you do them. There’s no better way. It also helps general positivity to space out work and to switch tasks in your mind. Going immediately from task to task or focusing on several at once can be very ineffective.


What Do I Do with the Results?


Look at them every few days. Think about them. Reflect on them deeply.


I’m going to restate this, because without this final step, the method won’t be very effective. Reflect on your results.


Look for patterns. Confront yourself when it comes to work you’re not doing. Confront yourself about how you’re not spending enough time working and how you’re spending too much time browsing Instagram. Confront yourself if your focus needs to be realigned. Be like Steve jobs and go for a walk to rewire your brain.


Going for a walk

Go for a quiet walk and reflect.


By frequently confronting yourself and making an effort to slowly make change, you’ll be a lot more productive and you’ll be productive in the areas that count.




As I left lunch with my mentor, belly full of fine Manhattan fare, I felt invigorated. Not just because this particular mentor is among the greatest people I know, but because I knew that what I was going to accomplish over the next few months from this method was going to be unlike anything I had been doing in the previous months.


I was dedicated to changing my ways and becoming more focused and productive than most people would dream to be.


Since starting this spreadsheet, I’ve put a great effort into both working hard and relaxing effectively. I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I’m doing and, when necessary, I’m willing to confront myself about hard truths. I dedicate a lot of my current success to doing this, and to having this list of tasks that I complete each day.


I very much hope you’ll try it!


Do you have any questions for me? Anything about the method that you need answered? Do you want to talk to me about anything else? I’d love to hear from you! Speak your mind in the comments below, and we can start an awesome conversation.

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Success & Career

5 tiny habits that can change your life and career



Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

When it comes to the daily grind, time seems to keep passing by – yet many things remain the same. We are so busy trying to get things done, keeping our heads above water, that we don’t take real time to think about things like balance, self-care, or making necessary changes.

Little do we realize that small tweaks at home and at work might create opportunities for us to have true balance, and even achieve that elusive success.

Let’s look at five tiny habits you can implement today to control the chaos – and start changing your life and career.


Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life and Career

1.) Embrace the concept of a “clean slate” at work.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

This involves implementing a few simple routines and organizational tools upfront. This will save you time in the long run, and will leave you feeling satisfied at the start – and end – of your day.

For example:

  • Create folders in your e-mail inbox by person and topic. Be sure to move applicable items there. The feeling of a clean inbox can reduce anxiety and enables you to find important material faster!
  • Write phone messages on a notepad next to you each day.
  • Return each call.
  • Note the status of what you were able to do, what needs to be done, and cross out which ones have been taken care of.
  • Complete your list before you leave work.

Nothing feels better than looking at the list and knowing that you have attended to every person, every item, and every task you started with. Yes, more may come in later. But these were your starting tasks.

You are leaving with everything crossed off, a clean slate for the day. You can start tomorrow with a clean slate as well. You’re more organized: able to look at a detailed history of each item you did, each person you spoke to, each item you completed.

A well-structured system and way of doing things is mentally good for you. It’s also a nice feeling to walk away with a complete sense of accomplishment for the day.


2.) Surround yourself with people who nourish your soul, NOT people who infect it.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

Think about the people you chose to be with. Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries, no matter who they are. Be honest if someone is a “toxic” person in your life. Surround yourself with folks who build you up, support you, are honest but fair with you, and those who have your best interests at heart.

We of course need people who are going to tell us the truth. But remember that truth can be told with kindness. We can give ourselves permission to distance ourselves from, or let people go. These are individuals who make us feel bad about ourselves, or take every chance they can get to criticize our every choice.

There is enough negativity in the world. We don’t need to have it in those closest to us. You will be amazed at the difference when you give yourself permission to set healthy boundaries. So surround yourself with healthy relationships. Stop feeling like you must endure unhealthy ones.


3.) Clutter creates anxiety more than you realize.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

Whether it’s your home or your workspace, getting organized makes a huge difference in your state of mind. So start practicing tiny habits that create structure.

At work:

Get those piles into drawers and desktop storage. File folders are your friends! Label by topic, date, etc. Having things organized and at your fingertips will save you time and a great deal of anxiety.

Have trays for things that are needed on a daily or weekly basis. Organize your office supplies neatly. Remember that your desk is also a presentation of who you are.

You may think that those piles make you look busy – but they really make you look disorganized. Create your own system so that you can locate anything instantly. That, is more impressive than a pile.

At home:

Think more in terms of scaling down to get organized. Make it a goal to make you space your solace. Organize, donate, and find a place for everything. If you have not used it in a year, consider donating. If things belong together, group them. Get the right storage to hold things.

Group things where they make the most sense. Move things where they work and function best. Get rid of things that no longer work, are expired, are outdated, or that could benefit someone else more than sitting in a pile at your home.

You will not miss them. You will probably feel pretty good for sharing the love. Nothing feels better as having a fully functional home where you can live and breathe; where there is no clutter, and where everything has a place.


4.) Practice good, daily self-care.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

It may seem so simple, yet we all seem to fall short when it comes to this vital area that impacts our lives and our careers. If we practice tiny habits of self-care, we function better, perform better, and surely, improve our opportunities for success.

Good self-care includes things, such as:

  • Getting enough sleep each night. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time, seven days a week. When going to bed, there should be NO electronics, including screens or cell phones, as they stimulate the mind and keep you awake.
  • Eating food that nourishes you – such as whole foods, not processed foods.
  • Drinking eight glasses of water each day.
  • Enjoying treats in moderation, no need to crash diet!
  • Be sure to wake up 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual to ease into your day, and allow yourself to practice your morning routine.

Whether it be reading the paper, listening to a podcast, watching a TV show, yoga, or morning meditation, how you begin sets the tone for the day. So set aside time in the morning so you are not rushed. This is an essential part of your day.

If you start rushed, you are going to feel that way the whole day. Starting with balance, leads to a balanced day.


5.) Self-talk is one of the most powerful habits we can change.

Tiny Habits That Can Change Your Life

If we think about how often we thought something negative about ourselves, someone else, or about a situation, we would see how powerful negative self-talk can be. Now think about how better our lives could be if we stopped ourselves before doing it. It’s possible – but it takes effort and conscious work.

You simply need to pay attention and catch yourself. But as you do, the difference can be profound. You start to see how by removing negativity and replacing it with realistic thinking, you feel more balanced. Imagine the impact it can have on your work and relationships, to not see things in the worst possible light?

By implementing these tiny habits, you can bring about tremendous changes to your work and personal life. A few would only be one-time tasks. While others require minimal, but – hopefully welcome – effort.

If things are not working well in these areas of your life, why not give these tiny habits a chance? You will at least be a little more organized. And hopefully, be well-rested at the end.



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Success & Career

7 Ways to Organize Your Day for Success



Organize Your Day for Success

Nope, don’t panic. I’m not going to start by telling you to get up earlier! As an Integrative Nutrition® Health Coach, I firmly believe in bio-individuality. This is the idea that we are all unique: just as some people can’t tolerate gluten and some can, there are early birds and others are night owls. Neither is wrong – they’re just different.

So yes, just as our definitions of success look different, how we structure our days for success will vary as well. However, I believe that there are some things in common.

For the sake of having a starting point, let’s agree that success is showing up in your life (career, relationships, physical activity, etc.) in the most biologically effective way possible (i.e., you are healthy in every sense of the word).

So how would you organize your day for success? Here are seven ways to try:


7 Ways to Organize Your Day for Success

1.) Wake up without an alarm if possible (see also #7).

Organize Your Day for Success

Jolting awake to an alarm is a sure-fire way to feel like you’re off to the races first thing in the morning. Instead, learn how many hours of sleep you are naturally inclined to. Then try to get that every night.

Waking up naturally prevents that influx of fight-or-flight chemicals coursing through your veins: nobody needs that kind of stress at the start of the day! Chronic stress can wreak all kinds of havoc with your body, starting a cascade of poor health outcomes.


2.) Start the day with screen-free “me time”.

The moment you check your email or social media, you are giving others power over how you spend your time. There will almost always be an email that just can’t wait or a post that brings on a severe case of #FOMO. Before you know it, you’re sucked in.

Instead of reaching immediately for a device, consider starting a new practice that can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes (or less) or as much time as you create for it: breathing, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, journaling.

The Web is full of resources for these – just don’t go looking for them first thing in the morning! Are you an early bird? Use this gift of time to work out, meal prep, read, etc.


3.) Create time blocks (see also #5).

Organize Your Day for Success

As much as we think we can multitask, research shows we really can’t. “Task-switching” – what we’re really doing when we think we’re multitasking – can cost us as much as 40 percent of our productivity.

The solution: block out specific times on your schedule for tasks that require your full attention. During those times, close all other tabs and turn off all your notifications – and I mean all of them!

In between these blocks and not before, take a break to check email, make some calls – take care of some smaller tasks. Set a timer that indicates your next productive block is starting.


4.) Schedule your workouts and meals.

We seem to have time for everything but what really nourishes us: fuelling our bodies well and moving them regularly. As a health coach, when you tell me, “I don’t have time to…” what I hear is, “I don’t prioritize…”

I see you rolling your eyes. Let me tell you: if you do that enough, they’ll stick back there. But seriously – it comes down to this: if you wouldn’t cancel on your work, your client’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your kids’ needs, why would you cancel on yourself?

Meaningful self-care is putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help those who depend on you. Organize your day and put those blocks on your schedule. Treat them as unbreakable appointments with yourself.


5.) Multitask…intentionally (see also #3).

Organize Your Day for Success

Yes, I know I told you not to multitask. Now I’m telling you it’s okay if you do it intentionally. What does that mean?

In my work, I talk a lot about primary foods – all the other things in our lives that nourish us (or don’t!) besides what we put in our mouths. Think: sleep, career, spiritual practice, physical activity, time in nature, etc.

The multitasking I encourage is the kind that helps us nurture ourselves on the primary level, NOT the type that tries to manage a staggering number of little tasks that make our schedules so overwhelming.

What this looks like:

  • Need to spend quality time with family members? Instead of adding an outing (with all the planning, preparation, and consensus-building it requires), combine it with another area that needs some attention: take suggestions on the week’s meals, shop together, do some meal prep, etc.
  • Missing time with your girlfriends? Combine it with a workout or better yet, a walk in nature.
  • Desperate to do a little meal prep for the week? Invite a few friends over to cook so that you all get to stock up for the week. (There might be wine involved?)
  • House feeling like a hardhat zone, but you’d rather read? Clean while you listen to an audio book.
  • Time constraints making you choose between a workout and your spiritual practice? Take a walk in nature or practice a walking meditation.


6.) Make a plan for tomorrow.

You don’t have to organize your day down to the minute (although that works for some people). Instead, write down 1-3 large tasks to be done tomorrow and prioritize those once you’re done with your “me time.”

Are the tasks unpalatable? Brian Tracy has written about this concept in his book ‘Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’. He calls the tasks we are most intimidated by (and therefore put off doing) as “frogs”.

His recommendation: start your work – not just the day – by “eating a frog”. If all the frogs look big and ugly, eat the biggest, ugliest frog first.


7.) Get to bed on time to get the sleep you need (see #1).

Organize Your Day for Success

Once you know how many hours of sleep you need, organize your day and figure out when you need to get to bed. Make sure to end the day as you began it: NO screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime!

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