If you are a part of that group of people who keeps asking how I run MD9, juggle side projects (like 9×90.co and 9apple.co) and volunteer in my local startup & alumni communities here it is:
What do I do to get the most out my time?
- Lock into SPEM
- Touch it twice
- Communicate efficiently
- Meet efficiently
- Make lists
- Kill procrastination motivators
- Choose 3 big tasks and 3 small ones daily
- Set a 20 minute timer
- Monthly idea backlog
- Delete Folder
- Outsource, automate, outsource
- I play to my skills
Let’s break each one of these down :
Lock into SPEM
Do you ever just feel totally demotivated? You have amazing goals and an epic dream life planned out, but somehow you keep getting lost in a stack of “urgent” emails and an ever growing to do list. You wake up to 10, 20 or 200 WhatsApp messages, emails and other notifications all competing for your attention before you even get a chance to brush your teeth.
This vicious cycle can transform your brain from “strategic planning & execution mode” (SPEM) to “reaction mode” (RM). When that happens your day risks becoming everything but yours.
RM kills 1000s of brilliant startups each year, by targeting the startup’s #1 resource. It’s founder’s mind. When your mental clarity is polluted by RM, your chances of success plummet. I used to get trapped in RM WAY TOO OFTEN.
With the help of several amazing mentors, trained professionals and 100s of written publications, I’ve finally learned how to protect my brain from RM. This website is dedicated to help protect you, my fellow brilliant founders, from RM because when you stay in SPEM, the world we live in gets access to more of your brilliant creations. I think that’s a world we all look forward to living in.
Touch it twice
You’ve probably heard 101 people tell you to “touch it once”, I don’t do that. I read through everything that needs to be done, use a Trello card & checklist to outline the complete process needed for something to be considered “done” then prioritize it accordingly.
When I create or receive new tasks I evaluate the task, create a checklist of what needs to be done to consider the task or project complete (using Trello checklists or index cards), then drop it into the pipeline in Trello.
I do not put off that day’s goals to knock off random tasks that spontaneously jump onto my desk. I do not waste time re-reading an email or files repeatedly as they shuffle around.
Most of what I do is quick consulting projects which means we need quick decisions and therefore stay away from email. The majority of my communication is done via text, WhatsApp & telegram. Below are my response times :
- Email & social media messages are responded to within 3-14 days (yes, I hate email & most social media messages are filtered through a VA).
- Text, WhatsApp & telegram are viewed and responded to at least once or twice per day except on Saturdays.
My affinity for meetings sits right next to my affinity for email. If I am making time for a meeting :
- Documentation is provided prior to the meeting,
- There is a clear goal for that meeting,
- There is an agenda for that meeting,
- The “after meeting tasks” are placed in Trello as people agree to complete various tasks DURING the meeting (no one wastes time claiming they’ll do something that they have no intention of doing).
- I use post it notes & Trello cards for the tasks
- I use Trello SOPs & checklists, or index cards to map out larger projects.
These are the Trello columns I suggest using in this order:
- Important “stuff” : links, files, etc.
- Idea backlog
- High priority – Do this week
- 5 minute tasks
- Done (labeled with calendar week number)
- Do this month
- Do this quarter
- Completion columns (allows you to quickly see what was completed which week).
Kill procrastination motivators
Your mindset can help you to be OBSCENELY productive or a hamster on a wheel, I kill anything that would motivate me to procrastinate by knocking out my least favorite tasks first thing in the morning. By doing one dreaded task first thing in the morning, it clears my mind instead of clouding my day. Think of how much better your life would be if that “I don’t want to do XYZ” feeling of dread was wiped away just a few minutes after the start of your day?
Choose 3 big tasks and a few small ones daily
Each day I choose three big tasks to complete and pull a few small ones from the “5 minute tasks” Trello column. If I have a HUGE task (aka an EPIC) I break it down into as many pieces as possible so each time I complete a task I get that rush of happiness for being one step closer to completion.
I pull the 3 tasks from Trello and put them all onto one post it note or index card, then archive those Trello cards. If the tasks cannot fit on one index card, they need to be broken down into smaller tasks. Then I place the post it note or index card at the top of my desk to keep me focused throughout the day.
I relish in that great feeling each time I cross off a completed task. Next I write the completed tasks in an old-school agenda that I keep open next to my desk. I’ve found that keeping this agenda open to view all that I have completed each day gives me a great sense of inner peace at each day’s end.
If you need an extra push, write down how much time each task will take. It is amazing how quickly you can crush procrastination when you realize that there’s a mere 10 – 100 minute task between you and that glorious sense of relief you will feel when the task is complete.
Pro-tip : If you are an entrepreneur, at least one of the bigger (2 hour +) daily tasks needs to focus on NEW customer acquisition & retention opportunities.
Set a 20 minute timer
If the other two strategies don’t kill my procrastination desires the 20 minute timer does.
How does it work?
Simple, take a task you’ve been dreading and set a timer for twenty minutes. If by the end of the 20 minutes momentum has not kicked in, drop the task until tomorrow. To be honest, I have yet to run into an instance where I was willing to through a wrench into the momentum I had by minute 21.
This post is an example… I hate writing because I am very critical of my writing so I dread it but friends & family find these writings helpful so here we are #feelLoved.
Monthly idea backlog
Go through your idea backlog at least once per month and ask yourself :
- Do I personally know how to do this well?
- Would I look forward to doing this?
- Will this contribute to my bottom line or help my further my goals?
- Could I pay someone to do this faster, better or cheaper (or two out of three… )? If they say they can do it better, faster AND cheaper, history has taught me that they’re a novice who is really going to screw it up.
Some things have been in my idea backlog for 3 years, others have shifted to high priority in just a few days.
I have a delete folder on my computer that temp downloads go into, once a week I go through and delete everything in there to prevent clutter and computer slowdown.
Outsource, automate, outsource
If you read the book Virtual Freedom, you will soon find out why I have a digital rolodex of more than 50 freelancers and contractors that I am quick to call when I need their help.
If I can automate something instead of outsourcing, that is my go to. If you are new to automations start by adding a few IFTTT automations to your schedule this week. If feeling a bit more ambitious check out the book Automate the boring stuff with Python.
I play to my skills
I have ADHD which means it is easier for my brain to perform in “sprint mode” (a few long days then relax), than it is for me to work in “marathon mode” (9-5, 5 days a week, forever). So I operate on a 7 day cycle NOT a 24 hour cycle. What does this mean? I usually complete a 40 hour work week by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
Here’s an example:
- Saturday night in the office : 9pm – 3am (total : 6 hours)
- Sunday in the office : 1pm – 6pm (new total : 11 hours)
- Monday in the office : 4:30 or 5am – 8am, 9am-11am, 12pm – 6pm, 9pm – 11 pm (new total : 24 hours)
- Tuesday in the office : 4:30 or 5am – 8am, 9am-11am, 12pm – 6pm, 9pm – 11 pm (new total : 37 hours)
- Wednesday in the office : 10am-11am, 12pm-3pm, take my daughter to the park and recharge
- Thursday & Friday : side projects, self study, build out new automations & work on volunteer projects.
*To all of my fellow workaholics out there, note how I have a hard stop from 6pm – 9pm for family time? I HIGHLY recommend trying this out.