Keep Your Eye On the Prize

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by failure, errors, bugs, hurdles and drama. Rough patches and setbacks are never fun. You can either throw up your hands, whine and get beaten down by them – or you can look past and move forward. Focus operates hand-in-hand with success. If you keep your eye on the prize and ignore the rest, you can still cross the finish line in good time. Do what you can to put the stress, pain and drama aside for the time being. Go for a walk, eat a meal, take a nap – whatever it takes to cleanse, reset and get back on the horse. Man up, get the job done – and then complain.

Scratch the Productivity Itch

All too often I find it difficult to thoroughly engage in entertainment, conversation or recreation if I jump in having left active tasks incomplete. You cannot always push plans back to make room for completing the task, but it can make a big difference in helping you enjoy yourself if you find extra time to get the job done. Better in most scenarios to show up late and fully connect with the moment than stick to the calendar with a head full of unsolved problems. Fight the habit of tardiness and never accept it as a personal trend, but forgive yourself if it means victory, understanding on the part of the people you keep waiting, and an untarnished engagement. After all, your original plans can double as a celebration if you complete the task at hand. Get it done and go have a good time.

Hours Cannot Define Success

The public cares little about how long Olympians train or how many practices football teams suffer before playing a game; the public cares about gold medals and victories. Big wins define success. Many successful companies grew by the hand of all-nighters and sweat, others by beer and four-day work weeks. What matters at the end of the day is attitude, strategy and inspiration. With a team on the same page and in good mental health, the engine can plow forward full steam ahead. Through calculated innovation and disruption, an organization can leapfrog the competition overnight. If everyone believes in what they are doing and work hard to make a difference, anything is possible. Long work days are symptomatic of success and passion – hardly ever the source. Man hours do not scale an organization – that’s industrial era nonsense. Asking your people to work longer days will not shovel fresh coal into the fire. The message should be: care more. If your team does not inherently care a lot, then find different ways to get them charged. Set the vision. Plaster a mission statement to the wall. Whatever it takes to remind everyone why they wake up everyday and come together.

Create

Balance between input and output is key. Lately, consumption is easier than ever. Distractions run amuck. But the tools are easier than ever, too. Save for more distractions, you have no excuse to procrastinate your work and talent. If you’re not creating, you’re consuming. You’re not giving back to the world and people in it who give you so much. You’re living a selfish relationship with life. Good luck leaving a legacy. No thank you.

Write. Paint. Speak. Raise children. Build things. Get your hands dirty. Give back to the world and the people you care about. Make a difference. Don’t sit still. Don’t wait and watch. Don’t only take in – put out (no innuendo intended). Try not to concern yourself with turning your creation into your business – if you create well enough, the business will come. Focus on building great things and gifting them to all. It’s good for the soul (and can’t hurt your legacy).

Gmail As My To-Do List

I am astonished by people who archive nothing and let their inboxes run wild. How can you keep track of anything? Crazy people. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly focused behavior of keeping only active task emails in my inbox. If I’ve taken care of it (or if someone else already did), the email gets filtered and archived away. If it doesn’t deserve to go away yet (e.g. the task is not complete), it sits there…haunting me. That alone inspires me to get the work done.

The behavior takes disciple. I have an email or two in my personal inbox that are two or three years old. Because they are not complete, I cannot archive them away (Charlie, I’m sorry I haven’t finished editing that scene yet for your reel. I promise I’ll get to it!!). This system helps me honor everyone who emails me directly, lets nothing slip through the cracks and gets everything done. Want to find your way onto my to-do list? Email me. I can’t promise you that I’ll get to it immediately – but I can promise you I’ll get to it. It may haunt me and I’ll hate you for it, but I’ll get to it.

Work Hard, Play Hard, Rest Hard

Most people don’t mention the third part. You need to be vigilant about rest if you’re going to maintain a work hard play hard lifestyle. All three forces need to balance out for you to sustain a productive, fruitful and healthy life. Let me say that again: keep work, play and rest in balance in your life. Bedtime is a magical thing if you observe it regularly. Scheduled playtime and vacations really wake you up. Don’t let work suck you away. Save an equal amount of time and energy to live the good life and recharge your batteries while still getting things done.

Get Ahead

While procrastination may successfully contain a task in a narrow window of time, it leaves little room for error. Why not ramp up, cross things off of your list and finish early? If you are ten steps ahead, any setback has a cushion. You will be less likely to fall behind. And from the mouth of a man who deserves the procrastination crown, trust me, it feels better to know you’re ahead. Stay ahead if you can.

Batch Like-Minded Processes

Every January, my parents do a brilliant thing: they map out the year’s birthdays, buy cards for everyone in a single trip (often armed with coupons to save big bucks), sign & address every card in a single sitting, and slip them into the mail one by one as each birthday approaches. They save dozens of trips to the store (as much as 35 hours per year in round trips!) and finish the project with an annual peace of mind.

It might sound like cheating, but how many people’s birthdays have you missed? When faced with impending birthdays, it’s a lot of work to go to the store every time – the deed rarely gets done! Better to do it in a batch than not at all.

Batching like-minded tasks plays a key role in productivity. While multi-tasking, priorities get disheveled. You only carry out part of a task before moving on to another. By the end of the day, you’ve touched hundreds of things and finished nothing. Better to finish one stack and move on after it’s done. You may not make progress in other areas, but at least you can take pride in crossing something off your list.

The “like-minded” part is important. Managing money uses a different part of your brain than design. It takes a lot of mental effort to switch gears between creativity and cold numbers. The transition between may cost you time and quality. While the financials and design may fall under one project, they are not like-minded processes. Better to do the financials for three different projects at once – even at the expense of crossing a project off your list. You will hone your focus and build mental momentum to get you through similar tasks much quicker. In aggregate, you will save a lot of time and yield better results.

Study your to-do list. Group similar items by tool used, skill needed, energy level, people involved or any other comparison metric. Split tasks into sub-tasks if they need more than one different thought process. Tackle the biggest group pile of like-minded processes first. Then revel in your accomplishments.

Take Life At Your Own Pace

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your life, you can do what you want. Do not let anyone slow you down or push you along. You learn from, work through and experience life differently than everyone else. Embrace that – and fight back if you need to. Going too fast may burn you out and going to slow may drain your soul. Only you know your own equilibrium. Find balance and stand up for it.