I had a short but great conversation with my friend Yifei Zhang. He manages to consistently get immensely large amounts of things done. Recently I've had more business growth than I can keep up with -- meaning we had to put the breaks on sales to some extent and focus on getting our fulfillment processes tighter, and trying to make long-term business development not suffer in the process.
I asked Yifei's take, and he had some great insights:
"I try to orient my attention that the lowest possible level of detail for the day, going up only when things are done. For example, your tree might look:
Development, Marketing, Biz Dev, HR, ...
Under development might be:
New prototype, Support Issues, QA, ...
And under each of those would be more granular tasks
I know I'll get overwhelmed if I look into everything under "Development" today
So I pick one of it's subtasks and pretend that it's the only thing I'm working on today, putting everything above it out of mind."
I replied, "Huh! That's incredibly obvious when said like that, but basically no-one does it that way."
Yifei: It still relies on a lot of willpower (I still get sucked into "off task" activities all the time). But that's what I aim for. A clean transition between "Strategy mode" and "Execution mode."
Yifei went on to explain that you zoom out, see the whole battlefield, but once you zoom in to an individual task you want to make it like there's nothing else to do, and focus exclusively on the one thing until it's done, and thus not get overwhelmed or confused.
Very useful insights. Clean transition -- think and plan, but when you act, do just one thing.
It's not rocket science, but almost everyone neglects to do it like that -- and suffers because of it.
Have you tried setting a hard limit on how many hours you work? It sounds silly but I found when I made a commitment not to spend more than XX hours on income generation I started to think much more strategically about the use of my time. Without the hardcap I would just try to work more and burn myself out rather than optimizing my time and delegating.
When you say hard limit, do you mean something like "3 hours" or something like 8 ? This is an extract from an old program called "outfox your flaw" (not verbatim) :
"Look at your time differently : if you go to the office 8 hours, but you make 2 hours worth of works (25% effectiveness). So : if you realize that, then only spend 2,5hours at the office, and fill all this time. You'll get into work mode much faster. When you get at 90/100% effectiveness, you can increase the time spent there if needed."
I've tried this lately and find that I actually get more done in 2 times 2 hours than before trying to stay 8 hours at it.
At the time I was working 60 hour weeks and generally an unhealthy wreck so I limited myself to 40. My original comment was meant to impart some generic advice:
If you think and act like your working hours are unlimited you won't look for ways to optimize them.
As for an actual blueprint I think my ideal work hours looks something like this:
I find my capacity for work decreases with each sprint I do and in the morning I can generally last longer, give more focus, and achieve more flow.
Edit: I gave up on financial goals in late 2011 after some huge financial and artistic wins... money shouldn't be taken too seriously. For the record, they were all basically on track, some were being massively exceeded, others were a bit behind schedule, but were all happening.
I set my next 10 years of financial goals on June 28th. That was exactly a month ago.
1 year - Critical Thinking [my first book] out. Blog income trickling. Some info products. Some freelancing. Something else, some X-Factor thing bringing in cash. Net monthly income positive. Health insurance. $50,000 in the bank. Expenses = income per month minimum.
3 years - 3 to 5 books out, many products out, blog income robust, some working on big exciting deals. $10,000 per month total, $5000 passive at least. First property owned. $300,000 in the bank.
5 years - 7-10 books out, many many products out, many passive income internet properties, working on big exciting things, $50,000 per month total, $40,000 passive at least. $1,000,000 in the bank.
This past week I began our third mission. I soon discovered it was hard to locate 3 small tasks that I had been putting off. Why? The Sea Change unprocrastination habit this past February seems to have helped me more than I had realized. Thanks, Leo.
The first two days, I completed a few odds and ends. On Day 3, I turned my attention back to the Manual Settings Monster. It's big and scary. It's going to take a lot of 10-minute chunks to tame that beast. I’ve been rattled every time I’ve started my 10-minute session.
Each day, I've used the time to begin to explore the camera's settings. I located aperture priority on the mode dial. I reviewed the user's manual. I printed and read the article I mentioned in my first post. I sent several more related articles to my Kindle Paperwhite and studied those. I also reviewed the ISO setting, as it affects the aperture. I located it on my camera and learned how to change it.
Today I decided to be brave and spend 10 minutes using the aperture priority setting to take a few photos. I also decided to use manual focus for the first time, instead of automatic focus. Here's how that went. Ha! Who knew a camera lens could have two different rings—one for the zoom and one for the focus. It's quite obvious I was using the wrong one, isn't it? Curses! Now I know. I trudge forward, refusing to be defeated. 10 minutes a day and accountability with our team will get me there.