The Ultimate Guide on How to Be More Productive

Table of Contents

Reading Time: 18 minutes

Hey, guys, it’s day 39 and here is the time:

I’m going to attempt to write this whole blog post in 45 minutes

That’s this app: 

You can grab it for free from the Mac App store I expect.

I’d go and grab it – but as you can see – I’m on a clock.

If you’re a follower of my blogs you’ll notice a changing trajectory from day 1/10/20/30 and now day 39.

Basically I used to post a picture of my watch which I’d grab/send to Whatsapp.

But the challenge with that is – is it sends me into the ‘Whatsapp response loop’.

I’m not going to grab a picture because it totally ruins my karma.

But what I want to do for you right now is build upon a guide I wrote a couple of days back about how to be more consistent 

This talks about the power of building powerful routines (like this one) and letting go of the outcome and focusing more on the process.

Today I want to build upon this by discussing my strategies I use to be more productive with my time.

My Current responsibilities 

Currently here’s what I’m involved in:

  • Pearl Lemon (comprised of SEO, Lead Generation, Investing)
  • Word Pigeon (b2b SaaS application)
  • Daily Content Production (this blog, Quora)
  • Affiliate Marketing (own one site, partnered on another)
  • Miscellaneous projects 
  • Exercising 6 days a week

So there’s a ton going on – and what I want to offer in this guide is my ‘hacks’ on how you can be more productive ‘in-the-weeds’ style.

So let’s get into it:

Pomodoro as much as you can

You brain works best under pressure and best in sprints. Right now I’m in the midst of a 45 minute sprint (9 minutes in now check it):

To try and see if I can hammer out a high-value blog post. 

Can it be done?

I’m sure it can be done!

Don’t deliberate let’s just find out.

Giving yourself pomodoro’s to work through is a highly effective way to build up the volume of work you get done.

Pressure has a way of tightening your focus.

ALSO create different Pomodoro’s for different tasks.

This blog is 45 minutes.

Writing on Quora is 30 minutes (and so forth)

Make 45 minutes the longest pomodoro you do – the rest should be less.

Remove Screen Clutter

This is my uncropped screen right now.

Once I decide upon a task I’ll expand the screen to help narrow my focus so I’m not distracted by what I can see at the top in terms of tabs.

In fact I’ve gone one further as I’ve just discovered two new functions:

Compare that:

(notice the minimal sidebars)

To that:

(Bigger sidebars)

To that:

(Title of the document)

To that:

(Unxepanded screen)

To that:

(Mac genie bar visible)

Which is likely to distract you more.

Just seeing the visual should underline the point

Remove Messaging Clutter

As you’ll notice I put tons of pictures into my content.

One of the problems I face is that I often get caught in the messaging ‘response loop’

I’m doing all I can to resolve this issue with the usual initial tactics:

  • Phone is always on silent
  • 90% of my notifications are turned off (including Whatsapp)
  • Where possible I try not to look at my messages before 7am (so I get 2-hours of decent work in from 5-7am – more on this later)

However – another practical problem I face is that I jump into Whatsapp sometimes because I take photos on the fly and then send them to myself for the purposes of this literal blog that I write.

Let me show you this in action (it’s for my next productivity hack):

So as you can see I end up wasting a good amount of time because I dump images into a group I have only with myself and then get sidetracked by the continual barrage of messages I’m receiving constantly from work, friends, and family.

Mostly work and family

With all of this in mind starting immediately I need a solution. Give me a second.

Hmm thinking….

Great news. It took me a moment but I just figured out a way to make it happen.

I’ll now take photos with my phone and then upload them to Google Keep on my phone which automatically syncs with Google Keep on my Macbook.

In this way, I’m able to grab the picture I want without needing to get pulled into the Whatsapp vortex.


Removing Physical Clutter

So the image you can see above gives a handle on something I’ve more recently begun doing in a bid to further focus my mind.

What with the Covid-19 lockdown – I’m working from home everyday which presents the big challenge of focus.

How do you focus effectively?

Again – a challenge we all face is getting literally distracted by what’s around you.

Let me again show you a before and after:

So I live in a 2-bedroom flat in Fulham and the living room/kitchen are all in one area. That’s why you can see dishes that have been washed piled up on the side.

And then you’ve got the cup, mouse, water, cream and plug in the background as well as some wires.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression:

‘Out of sight, out of mind’

Well:

I got rid of a couple of things – and already look how much better that is.

Then I decided to go one better:

I got rid of absolutely everything.

Look at WHAT a difference that makes to the setting.

It gives me an instant boost in my ability to remain focussed and not get distracted by clutter.

Of course – at some point I DO want my mouse, water and those other bits and pieces.

But if you’re wondering where they are:

It’s all here hidden behind my 15-inch Macbook Pro screen.

So once this blog is done – I can quickly bring them out and keep working.

It’s such a simple and effective hack to help focus the mind.

All you need is a table big enough to do it.

(I shall have to take a modified version of this back to the hotel that I work from once quarantine is complete)

All of these tweaks are what is allowing me to produce content quickly, and effectively whilst under pressure.

Interestingly having a white wall behind me is effective also.

Traditionally I’d walk to my local hotel and get setup there and face the big glass window looking outside.

But a white wall is even better.

Being honest even my peripheral vision in this context is a pain.

Right I’ve come to the end of my 45 minutes as you can see:

1110 words written (and now some change) is a good 45-minute effort for sure.

Catch you tomorrow with Day 40 where I’ll continue building out this guide.

 

_________________

Right it’s day 40 and this is the time:

Once again the clock is ticking:

And off to the races we go.

I’ve recently begun building in even further accountability through my:

Facebook Accountability Funnel

So I’m pretty confident there’s at least one social media platform that you regularly engage upon (or in absence of that it could be a group of folks you regularly WhatsApp or email).

For me, it’s Facebook + Whatsapp.

And it’s Facebook that I consistently use as a place to ‘announce’ and instill new goals I have.

Let me give you an example of the last 48 hours and walk you through it:

So several hours back I decided I’d promote my new SaaS tool to see how many sales I could drive solely via my Facebook friends network –

I got 35-ish comments over the last 9 hours (rest are responses).

Underneath this what’s actually happening is bringing my SaaS tool Wordpigeon to the forefront of my mind as well as my audience’s mind.

Previous to that I had:

My 430am announcement – except it wasn’t 430am – it was 05.06am.

I actually know there are people who notice this everyday and comment when I am not up at 430am.

This creates an accountability loop whereby anyone can publicly call me out when I fail to post my watch on time.

It’s a simple, crude and highly effective way to ensure I live up to the standard I try and set for myself.

Waking up at 430am (ish) has been the case now for around 6-8 months so it’s beginning to become the norm – yet still remains a gamechanger in terms of the additional ‘work-time’ it gives me.

Time, in fact, to fit content like this into my day.

However, a couple of days back I launched upon a new venture:

Here’s the original post:

As you can see I mention it’s my 8th consecutive day of running and then I also mention that as of the last 2-days I’ve upped the time I’m out on the roads to 60 minutes.

The 6 runs before that were a combination of 10.30 min run x2 with a 45 break inbetween alongside 60 second x 10 sprints.

By talking specifically about my goals, by posting it on Facebook, engaging with my audience and by then going into detail about it here in my blog I’m hitting upon several layers of accountability formation.

There is public, and private accountability, subconscious reinforcement as well as positive feedback loops and a watchful audience all in one place.

____________

To underline just how important the Facebook accountability funnel is  – you’ll also notice I’m writing this at 19.25 – although I’m already 15 minutes in check it out:

One of the main reasons why I’m not bunking out of this is because of what I posted on Facebook 36-40 hours ago:

There are at least 14 people waiting for answers to the above items I listed in my desire to help you all with your productivity journey – and we’ll work through all of them in this post.

Knowing they’re expecting a guide from me enacts the age old vehicle for getting things done.

It’s how business, wealth and success happen at any level anywhere.

‘I have to do it.’

Why Deepak?

‘I gave him my word’.

The Integrity Funnel

This builds upon the Facebook stuff.

Being productive is not a solo event or way of being. It is a communion of minds.

Of people all on the same mission.

And through Facebook I’m able to self identify my character and from this carve out my tribe.

My tribe – if you’re reading this – may well be you.

And it is to you I am loyal.

I’m going to call you my tribe ‘Frank’.

I’m going to anthropomorphise this small band of followers I have into a person who looks up to me, relies upon me…

And had entered into a social contract with me.

For the sake of INTEGRITY – I must do it.

I could very likely Google the chemical process that happens at a hormonal level – perhaps its (I google it) – 

Norepinephrine in combination with oxytocin and endorphins

Norepinephrine is a stress hormone 

Oxytocin is produced during social bonding

Endorphins reduces our perception of pain

I could be completely wrong of course – but at a neurological level – when I give my word to someone – it’s extremely powerful and by saying it, writing it and publicly stating it…

You put yourself into the integrity funnel.

And this is how to build habits that stick.

___________________

In-the-weeds

Right.

The funnels are all good, but I want to switch back into straight-up hacks and tips and tricks I use to get things done.

Please note, I don’t mean using Zapier for automation or some BS like that – this is about my life and how I act and operate to get things done.

___________________

The Background Noise Reduction Hack

So. 

Right now I’m sat in my living room on the main table (like the one you saw earlier in the post). 

And my girlfriend and my cat are sat on the sofa on my right handside:

She’s watching something on her phone.

My cat Jenny will occasionally miaow or some sh*t.

Then Strawberry(my g/f) will shuffle over and stroke the cat or then maybe she’ll be on a call.

She’ll perhaps even talk to me because I’m here.

It destroys focus and productivity of course.

I’m sure you all get it, and it doesn’t even need to happen at home. Being interrupted can happen anywhere and it is an output killer.

What you don’t know (yet) – is that I can’t hear a damn word she is saying.

Quickly she realises this and then stops even asking/talking to me. It reduces ‘interruptions’ by 50% or more.

This is what I do:

Buy a pair of noise cancelling headphones:

Stick on white noise:

And turn the volume up to 70%-ish:

With these three steps I have been able to increase my output my 30-45%.

I’m pretty confident that programmer/engineer type people do this pretty often.

But for us marketers and similar type folk – it’s new.

It’s new to me anyway.

Just did a quick Google – check it:

The Laptop Rule

I’ve still got friends who cut corners and I don’t get it – but this really should be an absolute given.

Here’s my laptop spec –

If you DON’T have a computer that you can get online within <30 seconds from being booted up and less <15 seconds when it’s ‘asleep’

AS WELL AS

Being able to comfortably have 10 tabs open at on whilst on Skype – recording the call, sharing your screen without any lag…

Chuck your computer in the bin.

It’s like running with tennis shoes on.

Until you switch to running shoes you think tennis shoes are the best that’s out there.

[convertful id=”197358″]

Don’t be an idiot.

You will unleash new waves of productivity all from having a top-spec machine.

__________________

And that’s a wrap for today – I’m now into ‘Pomodoro break terrority:

Let’s see where my 45 minutes took me today in terms of ‘word-count’

Nice I hit the 2.3k mark.

So 1.2k words in 47 minutes.

Catch you tomorrow.

____________

 

Day 3. 

The saga continues.

It’s amazing what you can achieve by focussing upon ‘sprints’ isn’t it?

Here’s the time again as with yesterday and here’s the countdown again:

And off to the races we go:

Focus Your Productivity Upon Revenue Generating Activities

I actually think I do this one pretty badly to be honest.

If I dissect ‘revenue-generating activities’ for me overall I’d probably break it down like this:

Outreach for Pearl Lemon

Why not standardise a process whereby 10,000 cold emails are being sent out a month and give this to a paid sales person on a basic as small as £500-1,000 on the basis it’s not ‘hours led’ it’s ROI led.

They could just work for 4 hours per day and on this basis I could offer 3-month trials per sales person and see what kind of return it delivers 

Outreach per channel for Pearl Lemon

I could list every platform that allows for direct outreach:

  • LinkedIn
  • Email 
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • SEO
  • Paid Ad Spend

And potentially run 3-month campaigns per platform to see what kind of results they can deliver.

Instead (ofc) I’m writing this blog.

So the ‘hack’ here is to have the realisation in terms of strategic focus and monitoring what you spend your time doing.

I’ve got this, alongside writing answers on Quora which are definitely not revenue-generating activities.

With a huge income derived from sales I could then create more time for activities such as these – and actually doing this is the challenge.

So take lessons from my poor strategy and focus upon that which will bring you an income

No Caffeine after 4pm

Here’s something that I read that’s really useful in general.

Caffeine takes up to 6 hours to leave your body so trying and make sure you have nothing with caffeine in it after a certain time.

I usually go to bed between 930 to 1030 so finishing my caffeine intake for the day by 4pm works as a perfect balance for me.

Let’s dive into this a little further now:

I gave up coffee (historically my biggest source of caffeine) around 10 months ago and haven’t drunk it since.

I read that only a little bit of caffeine is good for you – so sought to cut down.

Now I currently have 2-3 cups of black tea with milk – but rather than letting the tea ‘brew’ to make it strong – the one I currently have – Assam tea recommends 2-4 minutes.

I’ll keep it in there for around 30 seconds before I pull it out thus reducing the level of caffeine even in the tea.

This in combination with several other things have helped me with my focus as well as sleeping better at night (I’ll go on to describe these shortly)

15-60 minutes of running per day

I’ll be honest – alot of people are going to struggle with this.

But exercising 5-7x a week is a big one – and it’s very difficult to implement I presume.

Find a way to set yourself up for success on this one – we’ve spoken already about various accountability strategies and you can take this further still.

I’ve been training ever since I was 14 years old so keeping in shape is something that is a way of life for several members of my family.

My dad trains for 60 minutes daily and all three of my sisters work out 3-5x per week.

But here are several things I do WHEN I train:

  • I’ll make sure I tell someone 
  • I’ll prepare my gear in advance if it’s something I’m worried about
  • I book big events into my calendar such as marathons to enforce further accountability

Things such as this do help me when my motivation dips as it sometimes does.

And having a range of resources to fall back upon is extremely important.

The interval training mindset

This is one that makes the daily exercise even more challenging I expect – but it definitely something is some if you can get emotionally invested in – become a way of separating yourself from the pack.

One of the things that I’ll do one a daily basis (and often every couple of hours) – is ‘sprint’.

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of sprints – 

High-Intensity Training that focuses upon getting your heart rate up and leaves you gasping for air.

This is painful and not fun to do – but does incredible things at helping develop your fitness in a short period of time.

Alongside this you have mental sprints – this involves burst of short work that leave you feeling mentally taxed by the end of it.

Both are excellent at pushing your boundaries.

A good example is the 45-minute sprints I do with these blog posts.

Sometimes it’s less than that – sometimes it’s only 15 minutes.

But with focus, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve in even 15 minutes.

Impact Based Sprints

This is one that has made a huge impact upon my life for the better – and one I encourage you to consider for yourself.

IBS’s – i’e impact based sprints involving quick-fire decision making for rather large or high impact activities.

So writing my blog post isn’t really what I’d call a decision-based sprint – a mental sprint definitely – but the impact of producing this blog content isn’t going to have an impact I can quantitatively measure over time.

As you know I’ve been writing this blog post over a series of days – and around 30 minutes ago I decided to have a BBQ today with my girlfriend and my cat.

Again this is not what I’d consider to be an impact based sprint. The BBQ will be nice sure – and we’re doing this today which is excellent – but again it won’t have a significant and ongoing impact in my life.

Yesterday I was thinking about the affiliate website that I bought from Craig Campbell – Golf Gear Hub for £10k.

I had a thought about driving amazon affiliate sales via Social Media because I saw a different site for sale and they said that social traffic was the main route they used to generate sales.

I then combined that with Craig’s mention that I could choose to grow Golf Gear Hub out into a brand and thought – why not try something.

Rebecca is a former VA I used to work with that is now a Pinterest expert and has taken accounts to over 100k views per month.

Within 5-minutes of discussion, I signed off a 6-month contract to run a Pinterest campaign to see if it’ll drive Golf Gear Hub more sales.

This is an example of a 5-minute decision that could be high impact.

A second example was that whilst I was looking for sites to purchase – someone responded with a site for sale – but within 15 minutes we decided to joint venture on building a SaaS product together.

It’ll be an SEO audit tool with V1 ready Early June. (he said May, I predict June)

Another ‘5-minute decision’ that will be even higher impact

The more of these types of decisions you make – the more you’ll find success will follow 

My Top 5 Chrome Plugins

This is a pretty straightforward one – I’ll give you my top 5:

Useloom is amazing for recording videos on the fly:

Emoji keyboards are great for status updates and the like:

Lastpass gets used everyday:

Keywords everywhere is my ‘keyword research on the fly tool’

Video speed controller allows you to control the speed of anything you’re watching – great time saver:

It could take me all day to list them all out so I grabbed a couple screenshots:

Waking Up At 430am

This one I’ve written extensively about – and you can read more here about it.

Very simply, waking up earlier than most people in the world do I’d wager has helped me ultimately get way more done.

I’ve got an additional two hours a day than many people.

Factor in that I work from home, and that I wake up earlier on the weekends typically it’s safe to assume I’ve perhaps got 4-more hours than most people per day.

That’s at least 20 hours a week and 80 hours a month in addition. 

What could you do with an additional 80 hours?

Of course in waking up earlier you need to find your why.

Strategic Living

I live in an interesting place which bears relevance to the 430am wake up.

Let me talk you through my typical daily movement – and I have my girlfriend to thank in part for much of this.

She grew up in a small village (<1,000 people) and then the city of Turin and next to a high-street and would cycle everywhere.

So as much as Strawberry drives everywhere she also is very used to walking.

And as it turns out this has proven to be a great productivity driver in our life.

My gym is <1 minute walk from our flat. It’s actually opposite us. I can see it from outside our window. 

Co-op is even closer, the fruit and vegetable market even closer, and Whole Foods is around a 6-minute walk (Strawberry’s shop of choice for food). The hotel where I tend to work from outside of the house is 5-7 minutes walking also.

We live next to a busy high-street and I decided that if I needed to venture further than 10-minutes on foot for anything – it was a touch too far.

Even the restaurants (our favourites) in Fulham are all within that striking distance.

So simply put I can get more done because I don’t really ‘travel’ anywhere.

Writing 10 Quora answers per day

One of the things I started doing around 40 days ago perhaps was writing answers on Quora in a bid to go viral and develop a following there.

In truth it’s not yet gone to plan – BUT – 

I have written 450 answers in around that period (you can trawl back through if you like)

And in the last 7-days I’ve got this many views and over 30,000+ in a month of writing

So in many respects, that’s not bad going at all.

Again I employ a specific structure to ensure this happens:

My answers are short and to the point:

I write across many areas:

I focus upon answers that have a minimum of 3-followers:

The process still needs refinement – but these steps are crucial to being able to fit 10-15 answers into a 45 minute sprint.

Right that’s me done again today – I’ve actually hit my break time but wanted to continue as I found my flow state:

But the sun is shining and preparing for a BBQ awaits – catch you tomorrow.