Have you ever worked for 8+ hours and then caught yourself wondering “What did I actually get done today?” You’ll NEVER feel that way again after reading this. At our 7 Figure Altitude mastermind meeting a couple of weeks ago, real estate investor and Green Beret Devin Ramos shared his productivity system with the group and it was one of the most popular sessions EVER. Which is why we decided to translate his system into this easy-to-read blog for your convenience.
Before we get started it is important to ‘unlearn’ a time management myth. You can’t manage time. Time passes no matter what you do; what you can manage is your activity. Devin defines productivity as minimum inputs with maximum outputs. In contrast, ‘busy’ is a great deal of inputs with minimum outputs.
To Get Started….
In order to understand where you are going, you have to understand where you are. To understand where you are, you have to know where you came from. When you know where your ‘location’ or starting point is, you can more accurately chart out a course to where you want to go.
Here is the process to understand where you are at: Inventory, Analyze, Utilize.
First, make a list or take ‘Inventory’ of what you are actually doing and where you are spending your time. Take a notebook and draw three columns: date, time, and description. Set your alarm or a reminder for every half hour, that asks ‘what are you doing?’ Jot down some quick notes that describe what you’ve been doing. You want to do this for about a week.
After you do this, you are going to ‘Analyze’ or look for patterns and distractions. For example, you may notice that you are nearly always in meetings or driving at certain times of the day. This is useful in starting to define where your energy levels are at during those activities.
Then you are going to start to “Utilize" that data by looking for your zones. This may require you to journal a bit about how you feel at certain times and during certain activities. What you are looking for is when you have the most energy and the least, and then determine which activities require the most energy from you. When you have the most energy and brain power is your ‘green’ zone, when you begin to fade is your ‘yellow’ zone, and when you are just no longer operating with any sort of efficiency you are in your ‘red’ zone.
Once you have this information you can assess where certain activities match the energy output needed in your day. For example, if it takes less energy for you to ‘run’ a meeting than it does to chart out a marketing strategy, you can begin to schedule your meetings in the afternoon when you are in your ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ zone.
Next, you implement this four-part system:
- Brain Dump
- Chart the Course
This is literally taking everything in your brain out.
There are three ways you can do this:
- Write everything down on a sheet of paper in no particular fashion.
- Organize your brain dump in boxes according to the major themes in your life.
- Create pages with the headers of the important areas of your life and start lists that you add to throughout the day that carry into the next day.
- Make it easy. What method is easiest for you? Is it writing it down on paper? Is it an iPad?
- Use descriptive words so you know what you mean later, and it helps you break down bigger tasks into little pieces.
- Write freely. If you repeat yourself it means something is weighing on you and probably will rank higher on your priority list.
Organize to prioritize from your most urgent tasks, down to your least urgent.
- Don’t worry so much about how you initially write things down, how you prioritize is the key. Ask yourself, ‘What is Urgent & Important?’ How do you determine this? It is a little bit different for everyone. An example of how Devin has defined Urgent and important is by asking these questions. To define urgent he asks, ‘If this thing isn’t done now, will it cause problems?’ To define importance he asks ‘If this is not done by me and my team will it cause problems?’ It is up to you how you choose to define your priorities.
- Then, do not be afraid to eliminate things liberally. This will become easier with time, but initially releasing the idea that certain things really don’t matter will be difficult.
- Crucial to this part of the process is coming up with a system that helps you organize your priorities. For example, you can circle everything that is the most important to you and underline what is urgent. You can then highlight the MOST important or MOST urgent things within those categories. Ask yourself what needs to be done by me? What can I delegate out? When you have identified all of your top priorities, what is left becomes things that have to be done but won’t start any fires if they are not completed immediately.
Chart the Course:
Take your priorities and put them into an actual plan in your calendar.
- Create time blocks in your calendar according to your active ‘zones,’ or the times when you are most productive and have the most energy to do the hardest/highest priority tasks on your list. In these time blocks you are creating space that you can label in ways that work for you. For Devin his green zone when he has the most energy is: ‘Active and Deep.’ This time block would be where you would tackle the most important and most urgent tasks on your list.
- Make sure you are not booking all your events back to back. Create ‘white space’ or time in your calendar that is allotted for drive time, time to recuperate after a meeting or event, etc.
- Create recurring time blocks for things you do regularly and then simply drag and drop you adjust them within a day. For example your ‘Deep’ block. I encourage you to name the blocks with words that are meaningful to you.
Now you navigate:
Navigation is quite simply sticking to the plan as best you can with the unplanned things that life often throws at you.
- After you prepare the night before, in the morning all you are doing is asking ‘Is this still viable?’ Then you have a system in your phone or calendar (somewhere you can always access throughout the day) where you will get alerts and reminders of the next event.
- In your morning routine, when you look at your calendar, you are filtering information. Remind yourself ‘What is my critical task, and my success task?’ By doing this you are ensuring that you get the most important things finished.
- Only put one task in a box at once. This helps with focus and avoids overwhelm. When you have completed your priorities you can add another task into a zone that day.
- Check for conflicts and adjust your conflict accordingly. Don’t double book yourself.
- Ask yourself if your whitespace is adequate? Be realistic with drive times etc. When you are not realistic you put yourself behind which doesn’t feel good.
Here are 5 guidelines that will help you successfully execute this system.
- Being Proactive vs. Being Reactive.
- Create Your Schedule Every Sunday for the whole week the night before.
- Establish recurring events. The consistency will make this system begin to flow easily.
- Create your ideal environment to work.
- A clean environment helps keep your mind less distracted. Emotionally it also helps you feel more confident. Have a dedicated space where you can focus on nothing but those tasks.
- Keep a one-track mind.
- Are you a multitasker? This has actually proven to be significantly less efficient than focusing and completing one task at a time.
- What about ‘habit-stacking?’ You can habit stack which is essentially only focusing on one task because it is paired with a habit that is so automatic it requires no focus, like drinking coffee and reading.
4. Default to No.
- Get comfortable saying no initially and then ask ‘is this a priority?’ People will adjust to your ‘no’ and then figure out what you have time and space for.
5. Leverage deadlines.
- Make sure that you give yourself time constraints and hold yourself to them. It helps you be more efficient.
We know how overwhelming it can be, especially as a new entrepreneur, to juggle the many tasks that need to get done. We are always looking to improve efficiency and create a balance between work and the things that are important such as family and mental and physical health. When you put in place systems that support you, it becomes exponentially less stressful to be productive. We hope this system helps you achieve your goals with more ease and efficiency!