6 years ago, when I started HighExistence, I became obsessed with productivity.
Since then I’ve experimented with dozens of sleep schedules, efficiency tricks and life hacks over the last 6 years in search of the perfect productivity system.
This resulted in me becoming incredibly productive, but not all that efficient or healthy.
Up until mid-2014, I was working 12 hour days. I had dropped out of college to pursue the 4 Hour Work Week dream, but I continually found reasons to work ALL day.
“I love what I do!”
“My work helps people!”
“There’s always more to do when you own a business!”
I was deep in workaholism when I met my girlfriend Sandra in early 2013. She has a special knack for pointing out my hypocrisies, including this one. I’m stubborn, so it took over a year for her words to hit home and make me re-think my work habits.
I set out to find a way to put out an equal amount of much work, but in less time. The result was the 7P Productivity System.
7P is a combination of 7 productivity principles and powerups that begin with the letter ‘P’. Each is powerful alone, but together they form an integrated system that allows you to get twice as much done in half the time.
That’s 4X efficiency.
Even if you have an office job where you don’t control your own schedule, at least 4 of these 7 P’s will still apply to you.
Preparation – 1
Principle: The first 60 minutes of your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.
2) Eat a breakfast that makes you feel good
Or fasting if that’s your thing. Be mindful of what food make you feel light VS those that make you feel heavy. I’m looking at you, gluten!
3) Practice some form of mindfulness
This could be a walk, a normal seated meditation, yoga, exercise, etc.
I used to start my day with strong urgency to start work. I’d race through meditation and breakfast to open my laptop. This resulted in me racing through the rest of the day — non-stop urgency.
Now I start slowly. I take a long shower, mindfully clean up the house, make a delicious breakfast shake, and either take a meditation walk or a normal seated meditation. This results in the entire day moving slower.
Parksinon’s Law – 2
Principle: The time required to complete a task always expands to fill the time-alotted. If you give yourself 30 days to do something, it will take you all 30 days. Remember school projects?
1) Decide a time when you are going to stop working
Previously I used the excuse ‘I love what I do!’ to justify working until 9pm. This was inefficient and destructive.
Choose a time that is earlier than you feel comfortable with. It should feel limited. That’s the point! This will force you to use your time efficiently, and have a healthy amount of free time at the end of your day so you don’t burn out on work.
2) Stop working at that time
Don’t be a nazi if you’re in the middle of an email, but do make sure you stick to your word.
Pareto’s Principle – 3
Principle: Also known as the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, doing less but more important work is optimal.
1) Create a task list of everything you want to do today
Feel free to go crazy and add as many tasks as you can think of.
2) Order those tasks by importance
3) Remove the least important tasks one by one until you have a short list of tasks that you KNOW you can complete in the time period you’ve chosen
Err on the side of fewer tasks. You can also add another if you run out, you overachievers!
4) Re-order the remaining tasks, staggered hard-easy-hard-easy
Stick to this order! The act of choosing your next task takes up a surprising amount of mental energy. Plus otherwise you’ll opt for doing the easy tasks first, leaving you with no energy for the difficult ones.
Pomodoro Technique – 4
Principle: We work most efficiently in bursts of 25-30 minutes with 5 minute breaks between sessions.
1) Download a Pomodoro app, or use a phone or physical timer
After trying every app in existence, my favorites are:
Mac App: Focus Timer
2) Choose a work duration that works best for you
25-30 minutes is the norm, but some may find that doesn’t allow them enough time to get into flow state. I recommend somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes.
This time period should be just short enough to make you wish you hade more time. This is KEY! This way you’ll continue to be excited to go back to work instead of burning out after two hours of straight struggle.
3) Before each Pomodoro, state out loud (or mentally) what you’re going to accomplish
Make a firm intention. Also make sure anything not relevant to that task is hidden away (other applications, browser tabs, etc.)
5) Choose a simple activity to do during your 5 minute break
Ideally something that makes you get up and walk around, NOT a computer activity. Some ideas:
- Going outside for some fresh air
- Pushups or jumping jacks
- Practicing singing/dancing/juggling/your-desired-talent-here
- Talking to a friend or co-worker
- Making food
Pro Tip: Meditate during those 5 minutes. You’ll be super focused and cracked out on happiness.
Just make sure you don’t choose a task that could be confused with ‘work’. Like answering Facebook messages, reading blog articles you’ve saved, etc. The activity should be using a different part of your brain than your work.
Power Nap – 5
Principle: A 20-30 minute nap during the middle of the day is the perfect way to reset your brain and give you back that morning energy and concentration. Any longer than 30 minutes will leave you feeling groggy.
1) Figure out when you would normally burn out.
For me that’s around 2pm.
2) Take a 20-30 minute nap at that time
It’s okay if you don’t fall asleep for 15 minutes. You’ll get better at falling asleep quickly as you go along. Make sure you don’t hit snooze and turn it into a 2 hour nap!
Play – 6
Principle: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Find some silly, pointless activity to do during your lunch break.
My personal favorite is ping-pong. Aim for something a child would enjoy. Throw around a frisby, play some Angry Birds, or maybe some Halo :)
Position Switch – 7
Principle: Changing your environment refreshes your energy, focus and mindset.
Change the location of your workstation after your lunch/nap
Ideally move to another building like a coffee shop, but moving to a different room or desk works too.
The result of this system is wondrous, especially if you’re a recovering (or current) workaholic like me. It’s like having a whole new day in front of you after work to relax, be creative, exercise and socialize.
Try it out and let me know what you think!
If you can think of any further power-ups to this system, please share them in the comments.