FACT: I am menacingly efficient & hella prolific.
Well, most of the time. I’m only 92% robot, after all (still waiting for that upgrade)…
I juggle buckets of clients, bake apple-bran muffins, meet friends for dirty chais, blog (when it’s relevant), mentor (when I’m summoned), tear up the Twitterz, jetset coast-to-coast, call my mother on Sundays, write thank you notes with reckless abandon, flap my trap at radical webinars, and find time to makeout with cute people. Living the dream, kids.
Am I always well-rested, sane and sturdy as a boulder? Hell no.
Do I adhere to a series of efficiency principles that shape my choices and actions? Hell yes.
Do I berate myself for falling off the productivity wagon? Puh-lease.
I’m working on a complete alphabet of efficiency & productivity techniques. Here’s A through F, as a teaser-trigger to the magnum opus. Go to town.
A :: Acquire serfs.
How much is your time worth? Are you investing it, or squandering it?
I’m not a mega-bucks tycoon, but once a month, I get my house professionally cleaned (by a team of eco-friendly cleaners from the local rock music school). When it’s snowy and dismal, I get my groceries delivered. When my eyeballs are burning, I hire my brilliant housemate to do a second ’round of proofreading. And I refuse to assemble IKEA furniture, re-paint scratched walls, or bash my head against broken appliances. That’s what (happy, well-paid) serfs are for!
B :: Be magically practical.
I’m gonna let you in on a mystical truth: your big break is probably not buried in the “short-term gigs” section on Craigslist. Sorry to crush your dreams. Now close that tab before you catch a disease.
Life-altering connections, meetings and events rarely surface when you spend 90% of your waking hours buckled over the keyboard, crunch-crunch-crunching away like an automaton. Lift up your pretty face. Close the laptop. Step outside. Get a glass a wine. Smile at a stranger. Be random, or be intentional. But “make space for magic,” as Danielle LaPorte would say.
C :: Cats will kill you.
Do you spend more time than you’d care to admit clicking through photos of LOLcats, adorable dogs in costumes, videos of skateboarders injuring themselves, or threaded discussion forums about macaroni and cheese? Are you retired? Or extremely high? If not, then just stop it.
The vast majority of the Internet is a vast waste of energy — a pure distraction.
And the definition of a distraction? “A drawing apart; separation; confusion of affairs.”
Don’t dilute your digital power. Find richer sources of amusement, or limit yourself to 5-minute info-tainment “smoking breaks” (as Jason Fried calls ‘em). Oh! And this goes double for social media, kids.
D :: Delineate intentions. Maybe three — tops.
Have you read Leo Babauta’s book, The Power of Less? The tagline is: “Do Less. Get More Done.” Simple. And searingly powerful.
At my last cubicle job, I was boggled by the sheer number of micro-tasks and mini-assignments hurled at employees on a daily basis. Sure, each assignment had value — but how many were mission-critical, and how many were just busy-fluff? When you’re caught up in the maelstrom — and booked solid from wall-to-wall — it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Whether you’re rocking a 9-to-5, or running your own game, set two or three must-do intentions for the day, and don’t do ANYTHING else till you’ve slaughtered those tasks. Once you have — as Mr. Babauta says — “the rest of the day is just gravy.”
E :: Empty your inbox. Every day.
Guess how many emails are sitting in my inbox right now? None. As in, zero.
But hoooooow? Three tactics:
1 :: Earlier this year, I vigilantly unsubscribed from virtually every single e-newsletter in existence. (Except for Steve Madden shoe sale updates. Those are IMPORTANT).
2 :: As soon as an email floats in, I label it (usually by project / client) and archive it. Immediately. When I’m working on that specific project, I’ll fish it out.
3 :: I delete stuff — ruthlessly. Updates from my cousin’s trip to Tanzania. Photos of my penpal’s new puppy. Far-off event invitations. Non-urgent inquiries. It’s OK to smile and absorb, but not actively respond. I trust myself to remember the messages that are truly important.
F :: Find your fortress of solitude.
When Superman needs to decompress and figure out how to save the world (again), he flies to his Fortress of Solitude. Only Lois Lane and Batman know where to find him — and they know better than to contact him, unless it’s an earth-ending emergency.
I have a couple fortresses of solitude, which I inhabit interchangeably. Sometimes it’s my home office. Sometimes it’s my bed. Lately it’s been a particular coffee shop with bad-ass red velvet cupcakes, high-speed Wifi, and a penchant for ’90s grunge. When you find that sweet spot, where work flows effortlessly and external distractions are minimal, LOCK IT DOWN. Don’t leave. Sequester yourself like a plague victim. And for God’s sake — don’t tell anyone where you are.