Key Principles of Productivity

Chape2023-08-16

The digital world opened doors for me that I hadn't even imagined.

As an online personal trainer, I found myself in the unique position of being able to impact lives across the globe. But with this incredible opportunity also came challenges.

There was a time when I felt constantly buried under a pile of tasks, struggling to keep up, and always feeling a step behind. Deadlines loomed, client demands never seemed to end, and there were moments when I genuinely considered throwing in the towel.

However, my entire work landscape changed when I encountered the transformative power of key productivity principles.

Productivity is Personal

Initially, I turned to the titans of industry and self-help for guidance. I voraciously consumed content from the likes of Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Brendon Burchard, among others. Here's a glimpse of some common productivity strategies I tried to emulate:

  • The 5 AM Club, rising before dawn for an early start. This was a clear no-go. I´m Spanish, we wake up at 7-8 AM.
  • The 'Eat The Frog' approach, tackling the most challenging task first. I slept badly thinking about what the next day had in store for me, and I didn't feel like getting up.
  • Using the 'Two-Minute Rule' to instantly complete quick tasks. If it can be done in less than two minutes, it's not really a task. Task definition: a piece of work to be done, especially one done regularly, unwillingly, or with difficulty.
  • Setting clear daily goals with The Ivy Lee Method. This was a wonderful discovery.
  • The Pomodoro Technique: working in short, intense bursts. My neurons are not sprinters, they´re mid-distance or long-distance runners.
  • The Time Blocking method, allocating specific blocks for tasks. Nice, let me ask you: Some task you thought would take ten minutes, you were still fighting with it two hours later?
  • Batching similar tasks together. This made more sense to me than Time Blocking.
  • Daily journaling to reflect on accomplishments. I had a diary when I was 6. I wrote 3 pages.
  • Digital detoxes, taking regular breaks from screens. This is counterintuitive, but our brains work in mysterious ways. “More” almost never means “better”, and very often it doesn´t even mean “more.” Taking time to rest, relax, and unwind from current tasks can make you more productive.

While some of these strategies brought momentary relief, the more I tried to walk in others' shoes, the clearer it became: productivity is deeply personal. I had to craft my own approach, one tailored to my unique demands and rhythms. Like my own training or nutrition plan.

In my quest for a personalized strategy, I ventured beyond the well-trodden path. These lesser-known tactics caught my attention:

  • The Kanban approach, visualizing the workflow. I can easily see the status of each task and identify any constraints or issues that may arise.
  • The 'One Thing' principle, focusing on a single primary goal. The most impactful task is not necessarily the most unpleasant one.
  • The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule, focusing on the most impactful tasks. Perfect complement to The “One Thing” principle.
  • Reverse planning, starting with the end goal and working backwards. It helps me provide a structured approach to achieving desired outcomes by breaking them down into manageable steps and ensuring that the necessary actions are taken in the right sequence.

Organizing & Prioritizing Tasks

In my attempt to streamline my tasks, I came across the Eisenhower Matrix. This simple 2x2 grid, based on urgency and importance, was a profound revelation. I vividly recall one evening when I sat down to categorize each task that lay ahead:

  • Quadrant I: Urgent and important tasks. Client consultations, addressing urgent queries, tailoring immediate workout changes for clients.
  • Quadrant II: Not urgent but important. Content creation, course planning, professional development, building relationships with clients.
  • Quadrant III: Urgent but not important. Responding to non-urgent emails, managing instant messages, handling minor tech glitches on the fly.
  • Quadrant IV: Neither urgent nor important. Endlessly browsing potential new exercise gear, considering every new fitness trend, or even spending too much time decorating my digital workspace.

Initially, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time stuck in Quadrants III and IV. What struck me the hardest was the realization regarding the fourth quadrant. In traditional business models, these tasks are meant to be delegated. But here I was, a solopreneur with no team to pass them on. A gut-wrenching truth dawned upon me: these tasks weren't just non-essential; they were anchors weighing me down.

It took a hard internal dialogue to start eliminating these tasks. Every time I caught myself veering into the fourth quadrant, I'd visualize it as drifting away from my core mission, my passion for training, and the lives I was impacting. The clarity the Eisenhower Matrix brought was life-altering. No longer did I feel like I was juggling a never-ending list; instead, I had a clear roadmap, guiding each day toward purposeful action.

This transition wasn’t just about time management; it was about value management. By focusing on Quadrant II tasks and responding aptly to Quadrant I, I was investing in tasks that truly mattered, tasks that drove my business forward and deepened the bond with my clients.

Time Management & Focus

In the middle of my productivity evolution, there was a particular day that remained etched in my memory. My attention was constantly demanded across various tasks — client check-ins, designing workout routines, and crafting nutritional guides. I remember staring at the screen for hours, only to find my tasks barely progressing.

Then I stumbled upon an article about the ultradian rhythm — our body's natural cycle of peak performance and rest. This rhythm typically cycles in 90-minute intervals. And it was like a light bulb went off.

I experimented by working with undivided attention for 90 minutes, following which I'd take a 30-minute break. In those breaks, instead of mindlessly snacking or checking social media, I found solace in meditation and yoga. Each meditation session was like hitting the reset button, clearing away the digital fog. The yoga flows, meanwhile, weren’t just physical stretches but were moments where my mind stretched and expanded, gaining clarity.

What truly surprised me was the sheer quality and volume of work I could achieve in those focused 90-minute intervals. Tasks that would typically take me hours were being knocked out in a single session. More than the quantity, the quality of my work improved. Each workout plan I crafted felt more attuned to my client’s needs, and every piece of advice was more personalized.

But it wasn’t just about efficiency. This new routine was nurturing my well-being. No longer did my day end in fatigue and a feeling of drowning in endless tasks. I began to cherish my breaks as much as my work, finding balance in the ebb and flow of intensity and rest.

In retrospect, it wasn’t just a time management technique; it was a holistic life approach. By honoring my body’s natural rhythm and pairing it with mindfulness activities, I discovered a profound synergy, allowing me to be at my productive best without feeling burned out.

For me, the magic number was 90. I'd immerse myself in work for 90 minutes and then take a refreshing 30-minute break. These breaks weren't about aimless scrolling on social media. Instead, they were dedicated periods of rejuvenation. I'd often indulge in meditation or a quick yoga flow, clearing the mental clutter and recharging for the next burst of focused work.

Bottom Line

I learned that productivity isn't a linear journey or a one-size-fits-all solution. It's an ever-evolving dance of adaptation, learning, and growth. And while tools and techniques are valuable, the true magic lies in understanding oneself, embracing vulnerabilities, and relentlessly pursuing what works for you.

There's a profound beauty in taking charge of one’s destiny. By choosing to take control, find my rhythm, and seek solutions tailored to me, I didn’t just become more productive — I unlocked a version of myself I never knew existed. A version that not only aspired but achieved, that not only dreamt but realized those dreams.

I want you to imagine a world where every day, you rise with purpose and clarity, where challenges morph into stepping stones, where your aspirations are not mere wishes but achievable targets. That world isn't a distant utopia; it's within reach. It's in every choice you make, every strategy you adopt, and every challenge you turn into an opportunity.

To every solopreneur, freelancer, and passionate dreamer reading this: My journey is but a testament to what's possible. It's an invitation to explore, experiment, and find your unique productivity dance. The road to success might be paved with trials, but remember, in each trial, there's a lesson, and in every lesson, there's potential for growth.

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