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Updates from the Blog


How many of your “work” hours are actually productive?

As an online service-based entrepreneur, your time is your own. That is a good thing and a bad thing. It means you have a strict boss and a very lax boss, and that you are a disgruntled or guilt-filled employee.

Have you ever wondered how many hours of every day you’re actually being productive? Of course, it depends on how you define productive.

I just ran into an interesting statistic in a recent article. 2000 British workers were polled to find out how much of their 8-hour workday was spent actually doing productive work.

Before I give you the answer, what is your guess? Cover up the paragraphs below, and write down your answer.

While you’re writing down your answer, (and to move the result further down the page so it’s harder to peek), I’ll tell you my definition of productive – it’s producing something.

Now that “something” may or not be beautifully done, but it’s the output itself that makes it productive.

So I wouldn’t count reading, researching, or listening to lectures as productive work. Those are important activities, but they are not productive, or active. They are passive activities, and in the long run, you cannot build your business with these activities.

Spoiler alert! 

I’m sure that when these British workers were asked about their work, most assumed that any research or reading activities connected to their work was part of their productive time at work.

This means that in all probability office workers spend more like an hour a day on actively productive work, as defined by me.

They also estimated how much time they wasted on which non-productive activities. The top 10 distractions, and the percentage of people who checked them (they could check more than one) was:

1. Checking social media – 47%
2. Reading news websites – 45%
3. Discussing out of work activities with colleagues – 38%
4. Making hot drinks – 31%
5. Smoking breaks – 28%
6. Text/instant messaging – 27%
7. Eating snacks – 25%
8. Making food in office – 24%9. Making calls to partner/ friends- 24%
10. Searching for new jobs – 19%

How does this apply to you?

First, you’ll never know for sure how much time you spend on anything unless you track it. You might try using a timer to track how much time you spend on actively productive and passive work-related activities each day.

Second, you’re more distracted than you thought you were.

Third, this research hints that you could go about your work in a different manner, get more done, and feel better about yourself.

I find this kind of research incredibly important, because I help people take action on their most important but hard-to-get-to activity; what I like to call their VIPP: their Very Important Procrastinated-On Project.

One of the productivity myths that we all suffer from is thinking that everyone else is working more than we are. If we could only realize that most important work gets done in such a short period of time each day, it would free us up to spend short periods of intense focus on our productive tasks, and then have more guilt-free fun the rest of the day!

In fact, there is some excellent research that shows that people who spend a short period of time every day on their productive work tasks are most successful in the long run. Those who are always trying to spend long hours doing work tend to waste more time, procrastinate more, and become less creative.

I can’t speak for people who have full-time employees, but it sounds like an ideal day would have about 4 hours – enough for productive work and for meetings and important work interactions.

Having applied this principle to my life, the biggest thing I notice is the absence of guilt. The time I spend working may be very short, but I’m getting things done.

I find I’m able to jump into a task right away, even if I won’t be asked for any result for a long timer. I don’t wait for some long period of uninterrupted work. Sometimes 20 minutes is all I need to make a good headstart.

What would it be like for you if you made sure you put in a short work period each day, and then allowed yourself to lead a guilt-free day?

With the important tasks out of the way, you could still work. But it’s amazingly freeing to know that you got the most important work done early in the day.

And if you choose to “play” in your free time, the play will also be guilt-free!

This is the secret of productivity. Spend less time, get more done, and feel better about yourself!

Make sure you read my previous 4 posts, which are all about why people find it so difficult to make themselves work less.  Here they are in reverse chronological order (most recent first):


Could you be one of those people who insists on working the hard way, when research shows it could be so much easier?

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Daily Action and the “I Must Research and Prepare More” Approach

Daily Action Fail #4: The “I Must Research and Prepare More” Approach

Welcome to Part 4 in my series on why most people fail when trying to use small daily actions to get things done. For your convenience, here is the intro to the series:
 

“Research shows that consistent, daily action, even just 15 minutes per day, will help you reach your goals faster, and is more fun and rewarding, too. People who work in short, daily sprints make more progress and are more creative than those who work in the occasional larger blocks of time.

And yet, people are not necessarily successful when they try this approach. I think this is a shame; everyone can use this technique to help them make steady progress on their VIPP — Very Important Procrastinated-On Project.

The thing is, most people go about this the wrong way. In this series of blog posts, I’m going to examine the reasons that people fail with small daily actions. I’ll also help you with concrete steps as to what to do instead.”

 
In this blog post, I’ll tell you about the “I Must Research & Prepare More” approach to small daily actions, in which you equate taking in information with making progress. I hope to convince you that producing something is much more important than thinking about producing it, researching how to produce it, or preparing to produce it.

Here’s what goes wrong with the “I Must Research & Prepare More” Approach 

When you believe that you’re not prepared to actually produce something, then you end up in a chronic state of “getting ready to be ready.” Also see my article, “How FONK — Fear Of Not Knowing — is blocking your business success

When you’re always not quite ready, It’s obviously a problem, because you don’t produce anything that will move you forward towards your goal. If you’re an author, you don’t write. If you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t work on an info-product, marketing materials, or social media, and if you’re a builder, you spend all your time researching the best bricks instead of building the house.

policeman with handcuffs

This negatively impacts the effectiveness of your daily activity. Instead of spending your 20 or 30 minutes focused on producing something, you spend it on more passive actions, like reading, studying, researching, watching a class video, etc. Passive action for your daily activity is a No-No.

I’m not really the Daily Activity Police, but right now I want to say, “Step awayyyyfrom that video. Put down that book you’re reading, ma’am. I don’t want any funny business. Unless you sit down and do focused actual work, sir, we’re going to have to continue this down at the station.”

Can you tell I’ve been watching too many murder mysteries?

What to do instead of the “I Must Research & Prepare More” Approach

Daily activity is exactly that – ACTIVITY. When you’re done, you will have produced something, no matter how small, how poorly done, how you’re going to throw it all away tomorrow.

It’s by actually doing that you start your neurons making new connections, and you become more creative and productive.

It’s not that reading, researching, studying, and other more passive activities are useless. Not at all. As a matter of fact, you can spend the rest of the day, after you do your Small Daily Action, on those activities. People are not resistant to doing those things, compared to how they avoid producing something.

When you create your short-term goals, make sure that they are about producing something and not just learning something. Spend those precious minutes of your daily activity on focused production, and you will be amazed at what you will start to create.

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I suggest that you develop methods of reliably storing the information that you come across when you research. That way, you can stop your reading and research when it’s time for your Daily Action, knowing that you can retrieve it later.

For that purpose, I highly recommend Evernote. Stay tuned, because next week I’ll be introducing Charles Byrd, an Evernote Expert, who will be giving a free training on how to use this tool to free you up and get more done!

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Do you recognize yourself in this description of perennially preparing to be prepared? Does it scare you to give up this approach, or does it excite you think of all that you will accomplish (or both)?

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