The Key To Getting Shit Done, And Not Burning Out

How to become more productive, with infinitely more responsibility.

My days are insane right now, to say the very least.

I’m writing for a ton of different publications that I’m immensely happy to have the opportunity to write for, I’m writing for clients’ blogs and strategizing their other content, and I’m trying to write for myself in the process.

All while growing a business, managing 20+ clients, managing content managers and copywriters, and keeping my social life, health, and general happiness in order.

It’s a fucking chore.

I’ve pretty much figured out the keys though, how I can keep sane, deal with it all, cope, keep productive, and keep the needle moving. Even throughout the madness.

So here’s how I do it, here’s how I get shit done while shit piles up.

I can cut this down to three main points, so here they are:

  1. Cut the fluff
  2. Use the 80/20 principle
  3. Focus on minimalism and batching

Now, let me explain.

1. Cut the fluff

We are bombarded by notifications, by news, by stories, by outbreaks, by breaking information that we will surely die without paying attention to at a moment’s notice.

It’s all fluff, it’s extra, it’s in the way of productivity.

You don’t need it.

  • I don’t watch the news — I’ll hear about the details if anything is urgent
  • I don’t keep Facebook open — that makes it too easy to divert your attention
  • I hide my dock, notifications & don’t use Growl or related apps — so I don’t see email notifications, chat notifications, anything that will disrupt my workflow
  • I set my iPhone on “Do not disturb” mode during the workday and at night — I will only see or be disrupted by information when I choose to be.
  • I delegate what can be delegated to the people with the best strengths to handle those areas — this isn’t about arbitrary delegation, it’s about divvying the workload based on strengths, if someone pushes something in front of me that doesn’t align with my strengths, I shouldn’t be the one handling it.

Anything that can minimize disruption, do it.

Disruption is the enemy of productivity.

Disruption does irreversible damage to what I call a “mental flow” — a state of unadulterated focus.

The fastest way to get into the mental flow of a workload is to pick one thing and start tackling it, cutting out all other focus, when you finish that, find the next priority piece and knock it out. If you allow for disruption, you will be side-tracked off of that first priority piece, you won’t finish it, you will bounce around, the day will feel lost, and you’ll be stressed as things stack up.

2. Use the 80/20 principle

The “Pareto’s Law” is pretty well known now, so this might not be news to most of you, but for those of you who don’t know, this is a game-changer.

The “80/20 Principle” is the notion that 20% of your work leads to 80% of your results, so by focusing on that 20% you can cut out 80% of your workload that isn’t getting you any real results.

By replicating what you’re doing in that 20% you can be exponentially more productive, or just have 80% more time to be fulfilled by other things. It’s simplifying everything, it’s focusing on minimalism, and it’s cutting out the bullshit.

For example,

I get 80% of my clients through referrals and my writing, while it only has 20% of the work (and is far more gratifying to me) than paid advertising would— why would I push out paid advertising then? To get more clients? This works, and works well, this is what I should keep doing.

At Simpletiger we get 80% of our revenue from white-labeling our internet marketing services through agencies, looking to provide awesome content marketing to their clients (and most of the time, themselves) so that’s what we focus on. We have a few startup clients, a few enterprise clients, but the majority of our clients are agencies. Agencies keep us more up-to-date, they keep us on the cutting edge of new updates, they keep us organized, and they refer 80% more clients than startups or small businesses, because they have connections.

It’s an obvious fit.

These are the kind of things you need to look for.

If you’re spending 80% of your time on emails, but that only converts into 20% of your billable work, cut that shit out, or automate it.

If you’re spending 80% of your time trying to build a moonshot startup, with nothing to do with the consulting clients that are already supporting you happily with 20% of your work, cut that shit out and focus on bringing value to those clients.

If you’re spending 80% of your time trying to help a certain demographic of your clients or paying customers (usually the ones you’re charging less to) and 20% of your clients are bringing in 80% of your revenue, learn how to either convert those pesky clients, or cut them out altogether. Devise a strategy for attracting more of that 20%, automate the interactions you can between your other 80%, or cut them out entirely, and scale your damn business.

Don’t cater to everyone, you will fail.

3. Focus on minimalism and batching

My friend Dan Shure stated it perfectly,

“Focus is really the ability to ignore other things.”

Ignore as much as you can. Simplify everything.

The minimalism bit is comprised mainly of #1, and #2, but the batching is something else entirely.

Think about batching as the “knolling” of life, always be batching.

Think of activities that you do that usually coincide, that could run together easily, and that could be taken care of simultaneously or close together. Form a routine around them.

For example, here’s my day:

  • When I wake up I take a shower (and usually digest all of my thoughts from the previous day, this is my creative digest time), put clothes on, feed the animals, let them out, take a protein shake, brush my teeth, get my Macbook and iPad, get in the car and head into the office.
  • I get everything set up at the office, get a Yerba Mate and a cold glass of water, and get started immediately on my highest priority task.
  • When my initial workflow for the day starts to wear off, I check my email, then I get something to eat.
  • When I’m eating lunch I check around on Twitter, digest any new information on Google, interact with people, call my girlfriend, theory craft some stuff, check more email then shut everything back off and get into another workflow.
  • When I get done with that next workflow, I typically will write (which usually launches me into another, more creative flow).
  • When I am ready to leave the office, I bag everything up, assess any reminders I set for the day, head straight to the chiropractor for a 15 minute adjustment, then drive home. Once I get home, I feed the animals, let them out, while changing into my workout clothes, then go straight to the gym (If I stop and think, I’ll realize I probably don’t want to go to the gym that day, so I make this an unconscious ritual that I have to do to keep healthy and happy).
  • Before I go to bed I check the weather for the next day, set reminders for anything I need to do tomorrow as far as work tasks go, get everything set to the point where I can jump straight into a workflow the next day and get to bed.

Batching things together typically helps me create an unconscious routine, so I can just roll through it without having to consciously put things together.

Minimizing decisions helps me think deeply about the decisions that actually matter throughout the day.

Think about how Obama minimizes what he eats, and what he wears down to 1-2 choices, making it easy for him to just carry on to the important stuff. Except I’m not the president.

Focus on smart routines, cutting out anything that isn’t life or death, automating what you can, delegate to people’s strengths, and only do the things that are most effective for your desired output.

That is the key to getting shit done. Then comes the work, so get to it.

Title Photo Credit: flickr