Wednesday, September 24, 2014

21-Day Productivity Challenge Starts Monday

It's about that time of year again, when I start looking at how I've done so far and what I need to work on for the last quarter.

Holy crap...the last quarter starts next week!!

Better get a move on then...

This year, I'm setting myself a 21-day productivity challenge. This challenge is based on a number of useful resources, including Eben Pagan's "Wake Up Productive," Craig Ballantyne's "Transformation Challenge," and a few odds and ends that have floated across my desk in recent years.

The objective: 3 solid weeks of life-changing rituals and habits designed to produce work, learning, and health each and every day. From the Transformation side of things, you could look at this as "healthy, wealthy, and wise" habits.

I actually do have my own version of this, which forms a sort of introductory chapter to my "Man Under Construction" training program. We'll talk about that later. That version, however, is for complete beginners. For me, the objective for the twenty-one days is consistency in action, and effectiveness in production.

I've started looking at life from a unique perspective lately, beginning with job hunting. I'm not job hunting at the moment, however that process led to the business I currently run, and as a result I firmly believe it will be my most productive and successful venture to date. The reason it worked is this: I started looking at my life and career as a business.

What do businesses do? They trade a product or service for money. They analyse their position in the market compared to others in the same industry. They do marketing. They do sales. They have assets and they have expenses. In this sense, aren't we all essentially businesses? By taking what was my resume and running through the filter of an actual business plan, I was able to find weaknesses, correct them, and deliver a marketing message that landed me the kind of work I was looking for...only I did it with multiple "clients" rather than a single "job." And thus, a business was born.

That's a whole info product in itself.

The point is, after this challenge, I'll be looking to take a Lean approach to my "business" model. Lean and Six Sigma are based on concepts of maximizing efficiency while eliminating waste from production processes. I think in the process of becoming more effective at the business of "You, Inc.," (as I'm calling it), this kind of analysis is crucial to being your most effective.

I know life isn't all about productivity. But being productive frees up your free time so you have less mental clutter and, frankly, more time to yourself.

So, that's what's on the horizon. But what's the challenge?

Right...Here we go:

The 21-Day Personal Productivity Challenge

First, some rules.

1. Be realistic. Don't set as a goal for 21 days "mastering a complete Beethoven Concerto" or "becoming fluent in five Asian languages." It's not going to happen.

2. Be consistent. Make sure what you do is something tolerable enough that you can actually do it.

3. Be merciless. I love this one. Basically, don't allow yourself to deviate from your plan. And above all do NOT allow others to pull you off of your plan either. You're the master of your domain here, not them.

Alrighty that that's out of the way, here's the scoop (at least for my own challenge):

Every morning, up at 5:30. That means going to bed early. that too. (OK, I'll push some of these to 7 on the weekends).

This exact ritual:

5:30-6:00: pre-workout supplements, review daily tasks, and write a blog post. I have three blogs of my own that I write for with varying degrees of consistency, and I need to do better. Half an hour is more than enough time to bang out a text-based post for at least one of them (or for one of the several commercial blogs I also write long as writing gets done).

6:00: Workout. My schedule for October actually has me on a split routine strength training schedule. That means Monday is chest, Tuesday is legs, Wednesday is back and shoulders, Thursday is core and cardio (burst), and Friday is arms. Saturday is open, cardio or brisk walking, or just playing outside. This should take an hour, which means...

7:00: Post-Workout Supplements, hygiene, pack lunch, throw the kid in the shower. Hygiene is its very own ritual, but consists of all things cleanliness-related. I have my own schedule and routine that I like to stick to, and some of these are things that are spread out on a weekly basis (no, really...check it out:

There has to be an hour for this, because on days when my daughter washes her hair (Monday and Thursday), we go at it with the blow dryer. That takes time.

8:00: Walk. This is walking my daughter to school, and walking myself back. When there's no school, I walk myself to school and back.

8:30: Home, breakfast, first important task of the day. This is extremely important, because in order to be fully productive you can NOT let your most important task of the day wait until you get around to it. By then you're distracted, tired, and probably not all that interested. Get it DONE early.

Now things get taken up on a day-to-day basis, as the actual things that need doing will vary. I have key clients who get more of my time each week, and other clients who take less. This is reviewed at the end of the day.

12:00: Lunch. Sometimes I sneak a nap in here as well...30 minutes MAX.

12:30: Afternoon tasks start up. These will also vary during the day, but in general I put client tasks in the morning and my own business tasks in the afternoon. This includes my own blogging and social media activities, marketing, and meeting prospective new clients. It's also when I study units from whatever course I happen to be taking at the time. In October, that will be three days a week of investing, and three days a week of public speaking.

2:00: Mobility Break. Sounds odd, but I have found it extremely helpful to take some time out in the afternoon to refresh myself with some movement. Torment of choice: TACFIT Commando. These I do with the express purpose of staying limber and loose. I don't focus on this as an exercise sequence for fat loss or muscle building -- that's what my workouts are for.

2:30: Refresh. That's a shower, if I really need one.

3:00: Back to Work. This is meant to complete the day's assigned tasks. If everything is done by this point, the day is over and the rest of it is mine. For this challenge, I won't be jumping ahead to the next day's tasks.

5:00: Walk. If the weather is decent, I'll walk down to my daughter's daycare and we'll walk back together, sometimes with her riding her bike.

5:30: Supper, then dishes.

6:00: Family time until bed. This includes chores on a routine basis, but nothing too extreme (because it's CONSISTENT, it's never a total nightmare). For my house, that means cleaning kitchen on Monday (because Tuesday is garbage day!), kid's room on Tuesday, living room and dining room on Wednesday, bathroom on Thursday, and my room on Friday. I do laundry on Saturdays and get the meal planning and groceries done on Sunday (those weekend chores are more flexible, of course, and sometimes get done during the week when there's a little extra time).

Don't be afraid to get help. My daughter, though only 6, loves to dust, and has taken it upon herself to clean the litter box and feed the cat. She's also a good helper in the kitchen and helps make her own lunch.

8:00: Kid's bedtime.

8:30: Write out tomorrow's tasks. Make a gratitude note. Watch something on YouTube to let myself blank out for a while.

9:00: The single most important phone call of my day (to my girlfriend, of course) to say goodnight. This is also when I get my supplements lined up for the morning.

10:00: My bedtime.

Sounds simple and productive enough, right? And if it sounds like it's too much of a "routine," you're absolutely right. That is the point. The point is to get out of this idea that every day should be totally random and you can just ride the wave. That might work in the short term, but for the long haul you're asking for trouble, especially if you run your own business like I do.

The daily tasks that I assign myself (and, often enough, my team) have to do with routines that also deliver consistency to my customers. For example, one client in the telecom field has daily updates of special rates for different regions. I tweet these at the same time each day. They also have a blog which posts consistently at the same time each day, so I do my best to get all my likes and shares for those posts up before 9 a.m., giving the post time to spread in popularity.

I'll be journaling a bit more of this ritual as I go through it, so you're welcome to follow along. I just wanted to put this out there for the general purpose of getting it down. I'm sure it will be a work in progress, but I have worked this fairly well before and it's been a great experience. I hope to turn it into a significant part of my coaching platform down the road, so if you do put it to use, please do comment and give your feedback below. I'd love to hear what is and isn't working for you.


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