I've had my friends accuse me of being a very disciplined and hardworking person (even when I don't think I've completed enough work on a given day). The always lambast and poke fun at me for burrowing myself away in a ditch in order to bust out a new article on an almost daily basis.
I even just locked up my first freelance gig that is going to help catapult me to further consultant/freelance work in the near future.
I do all of this while still working in fine-dining, having a girl friend, train boxing early in the morning, spend time recreating with friends and I just started a rigorous weight lifting program to increase my strength and health overall.
Many of my friends think I am able to do all of this because of one or many of these reasons below:
- I am genetically wired to have more energy and increased focus. (Uh, wrong. Every morning I wake up, I want to hit the snooze button and drift further into relaxation just as much as the next person).
- I am addicted to stimulant drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse. (Again, completely false. Sure, I did my fair share of stimulants like Adderall during my time in college and I quickly learned how unsustainable such drugs can be to overall wellness and productivity).
I am convinced that the reason productive people with social lives exist and flourish has little to do with their genetic wiring and usage of cognitive enhancing stimulants. When you ask people who seem to be taking on the world and actually winning the battle, they don't seem to piss, moan and groan about the obstacles that come along the way during their daily pursuit — in fact, most of the people welcome the challenges.
So if it isn't cheating your way to the top with drugs and there is zero evidence to support being a genetically superior super hero then what is going on?
In talking with these individuals, researching through books and articles, and applying the principles to my own life I have found that one characteristic and ritual remains constant: the ability to routinize certain deep work activities for maximum output and diminish shallow work activities for optimal time allowance.
With this in mind, let's unpack and dive into what this idea might look like. Furthermore, I am going to walk through reasons how adopting a routinized and deliberate schedule to developing a productive work life while simultaneously opening up a vibrant social life.
Reason 1: Optimizing your schedule
Why do we have an 8 hour work day?
It seems like this is something that should be taken in as Law:
"…and the 11th commandment" God exalted, "should be to work from 9am to 5pm!"
In our daily lives, we are required to work for 8 long hours and we generally find ways to fill said hours with the appropriate amount of work. This work includes:
- Sending and receiving what seems like endless emails.
- Preparing various projects with outlines, tables, and projections.
- Cold-calling potential customers.
When we take inventory of the work above, we can see this work isn't necessarily work that is going to compound into meaningful, creative and industrious change in our daily lives. To borrow from Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, this work is going to be referred to as shallow work:
Shallow work: Non cognitively demanding, logistical style tasks often performed whilst distracted. These efforts tend not to create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
Throughout our day, we are exposed to the onslaught of shallow work that does nothing but drain our willpower reserves, stifle our creativity, and increase our distraction on work that would be way more productive and meaningful.
On the other hand, there is deep work:
Deep work: the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Results are valuable and difficult to replicate.
This is the type of work that one needs to complete in order to exponentially progress through their tasks and responsibilities throughout the day. This type of work would include:
- The concise outline and completion of an in depth blog article.
- Research and implementation of specific coding language in order to build the next best app.
- Painting of today's Mona Lisa
This work requires a deliberate focus on intensity and restructuring of your schedule. Email, meetings and needless shallow work need to take a backseat here. Focus is paramount. When you can cancel out much of the external noise and work on something that takes a lot of cognitive prowess and demand, you are able to streamline creativity and productivity which results in completing tasks more efficiently.
Reason 2: Routine, routine, routine
While mapping out your schedule and maximizing every minute you have to the fullest is perhaps the hardest and most crucial aspect to all of this, instilling a proper routine should be priority 1.1.
Most creatives think that spontaneity is key for developing creativity in their work and lives. If you are exposed to different stimuli throughout the day, you are going to have more things to draw off of and thus create compelling and awe inspiring work.
This couldn't be further from the truth in terms of being productive with your creative work, however.
Individuals who have carved out opportunities with their schedule do so by maximizing their productive output and also by routinizing various rituals with their daily pursuits.
"The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine."
— Mike Murdoch
By routinizing various low-level decisions throughout your day, you are conserving your cognitive energy levels:
- Select the clothes you are going to wear for a specific day the night before when you are about to go to sleep.
- Little things by getting the same cup of black coffee from the same coffee shop — so as to not waste time and energy thinking of what to get (or better yet have a timed-coffee maker brew a fresh cup for you every morning).
- Routinize your morning breakfast for expedient nourishment and fuel.
- Write your blog articles, film your Youtube videos, record your podcasts etc at specific times during your day in order to stay consistent and block off this productive time.
Reason 3: Make the right plan of attack
While optimizing the same 24 hours in the day that everyone else as and routinizing trivial checkpoints throughout your day is key to building a productive and vital life, it won't help us get very far unless we have a adequate plan in strategizing our day.
One major characteristic of ultra-productive and social people is that they have a general and consistent plan-of-attack that reflects the meaningful work they set out to conquer on any specific day. These plans generally extrapolate out to weekly, monthly and yearly plans as well.
Now, I don't think I have the sufficient bandwidth in this article to go over the actual compelling reason these individuals are pulled to developing such a plan that sets the course for their purpose; however, knowing that you need a plan in order to create compelling work and open the freedom for a fulfilling social life should be sufficient enough.
You might then formulating a plan is going to involve hours, days or even perhaps weeks of mapping out.
On the contrary, what we are dealing with here is really just a concise and clear guided plan that will help us map out our daily objectives. I will use my daily plan as of recent as a launching point for anyone looking to develop their own.:
- Brainstorm 15 article ideas for my 5 Medium articles this week.
- Finish reading the last chapter of the book I am currently reading.
- Email freelance contractor about receiving newest outline for next article.
- Spend 1 hour doing HIIT boxing workout practicing body-shot punches on the heavy bag.
Now, during the course of my daily objectives, I am still going to be met with working at a fine dining restaurant full-time, meeting and developing the relationship with my girlfriend and finding leisure time to recreate with friends.
Only in completing the tasks listed in my plan above can I juggle around the hours in the day to achieve such goals.
Just like anything in life, good things come to those who put their heads down and work really hard at attaining certain goals.
Many of the great joys in life seem like they are too far outside our reach because there just isn't enough time in the day to accomplish anything. I assert that this is false and we have been tricked into thinking this by a lack of understanding our own capabilities in a given day.
- A deliberate focus on performing meaningful and deep work activities can lift many time restraints we experience on a daily basis.
- Our days need to be routinized in order to filter out any low-level activity that may be straining our cognitive energy levels as well as our time resources.
- "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." It's cliche, I know but it's the truth. If you aren't going into your day with a specific guide of what needs to be accomplished, you could find yourself walking in place rather than moving forward.
In a broader sense, I think the take away here is to understand how working smart in our day and having a calculated approach and having the discipline to work through what we have been dodging can open our lives up to the splendor and enjoyment we are secretly seeking.
👋🏻Hey there — I'm Jon
I’m a writer, thinker and wine lover who writes articles about personal growth and psychological optimization. I also write often about how I turned my blogging into $$$. Get my Personal 6 day "Entre-Blogging" Course: