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.
Back in early December I knew something had to change. I was working multiple jobs for minimum wage doing things I didn’t enjoy doing. With hours that only seemed to benefit the management and with little consideration for what was best for me, I decided to try something a bit different.
While reading one of the blogs I regularly follow I came across a post on the benefits of hiring a personal assistant. The highlighted many of the different things that a personal assistant could do to help take your business to the next level; increase general productivity by doing a lot of the grunt work – leaving more creative/development time for the person who needs it. As someone who has done administrative assistant work for the last five years in various office settings I knew that this would be the best option for me. At 24 years old (and a full time college student) I finally felt like I had found my way to doing something that could provide some sort of income while continually expanding the list of things that I could be great at.
I began freelancing right around the New Year and offering different skills online as a Virtual Assistant. I had no idea what I was doing or where to start – but I figured Google was the best place – so I typed in “Virtual Assisting Jobs.” To say that I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of results and options that were presented to me is a severe understatement but with the patience and the hope that I could find a way to a better job I started clicking one by one through the links that were listed.
The thing you should know right off the bat about virtual assisting/freelancing is that there are many different paths (or websites) that can assist you in your journey to becoming a virtual assistant/freelancer. Some have higher ratings than others. Some are easy to understand and very user friendly and some are not. Some promise you continual employment others don’t. The goal is to find the site that works best for you! Reading reviews are great – but when it comes down to how you want your work environment to function – it is all up to you! (the great part about all of this)
I chose oDesk when it came to what I needed from a freelancing source. oDesk offered a lot of the things I was looking for and really caught my attention by their ease of use. ß if you have any questions about oDesk feel free to comment below and I’ll answer any questions.