A huge thanks to everyone that added their book recommendations to yesterdays post, 54 Books Every Business Owner And Marketer Should Read. You all are awesome. Please keep the comments coming and you could win our completely random blog commenting contest. It's the contest you never knew you were in. And speaking of comments…
I had a great conversation in the comments with Harleena Singh, a freelance writer who recently wrote an excellent post abou the role of grandparents in the family. We were chatting about finding the time to read books along with getting everything else done. I asked if she was interested in some productivity tips and she said sure. And thus the launch of this series. Thank you Harleena!
Today I want to kick off the series by talking about the environment I'm in and some background on me. Environment is hugely important for productivity. But environment isn't only your current surroundings it's everything. Also I want to be sure you all have the proper context that surrounds the advice I give. I'm not superman over here, but I've made some conscious choices in my life that impact how I work.
Let's get into it!
Entrepreneurship and Project Management
Dempsey Marketing is my third business. My previous two were in IT and custom software development. Having started my own business after quitting my first ever IT job, I learned the hard way how to manage my time, or I should say not manage my time.
Over the years I picked up a lot of productivity tips such as:
- Focusing on a single task until it's 100% complete, and only then moving on to the next task
- Setting priorities for everything and working on the highest priority items first.
- Doing the hardest tasks first
- Preparing the night before for the next day
- Scheduling (or not scheduling) every minute of every day. FYI I've given up on being so precise with my time.
Two books I recommend on general time management (as there is no one silver bullet system that works for everyone) are:
- Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time – Brian Tracey
- No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs – Dan Kennedy
While I had my web development firm I got into agile software development, which is a method of rapidly developing software with a high amount of company-customer communication and continuous inspection and introspection. I also got a few certifications in Agile development and Kanban, did some consulting for companies including NFi Studios (purchase by Avectra) and ZeroChaos, and spoke at international conferences including Agile Central Europe and Open Agile Romania.
Quick aside: if you ever get the chance to go to either Krakow, Poland or Bucharest, Romania do so. The food, architecture and people in both these cities are fantastic.
So you could say that project management is my bag baby.
The reason I tell you all this is for context, namely I've studied and done project management for many years. This stuff didn't happen overnight so don't put an expectation on yourself that all of a sudden you can do a metric ton more stuff.
I Work, All The Time
This is no joke. I work anywhere from 12-18 hours per day 7 days a week. It's just what I do. We can't add more hours to the day (yet) however we can make each hour as productive as humanly possibly and simply out-work everyone else.
Every highly successful entrepreneur I know doesn't punch a clock. They also work like crazy. They are driven to do so and do so. And they never turn it off.
Depending on how much you know about me you may know that I'm married (coming up on 10 years!) and have a daughter who is almost four-years-old. You might be wondering how much time I actually spend with my family, so let me tell you.
My Family Situation – Pure Awesome
It's my family situation that makes me feel like the most lucky guy in the world. My wife is highly supportive of me and my work and takes care of pretty much everything with our daughter and for me.
I work from home, and now that we're in Thailand do zero travel to speak with clients – it's all via the phone or Skype. Not traveling saves a ton of time, but it also means I have to work that much harder at building relationships.
I do some (very minimal) cooking and cleaning around the house, but for the most part my wife takes care of it. Living in a smallish condo helps as we have less stuff to take care of. But if my wife didn't bring food I'd be drinking nothing but coffee all day long and taking vitamins. Not exactly the best diet.
Our daughter (Palamee) goes to school during the day and after she gets home we always eat dinner together. Regardless of the day we always eat dinner together. Most mornings I get her ready for school and take her to the bus. I also spend time with her at night before I hop onto client calls and do my thing on the social networks.
Without the support of my wife nothing would be possible. So when she wants to do something I'm 100% supportive and help her in any way I can, whether it's marketing her cooking classes, taking care of Palamee so she gets a break, or anything else.
A 100% Flexible And Controlled Work Schedule
And what about days off and vacations? Being half way around the world from most of my clients allows me to take day times off. Note I didn't say days. Rarely a day goes by that I don't do some work. Sometimes though you can do everything at once.
An example of what I mean here is that when my family and I went to Laos a month ago we got to ride elephants, go on car rides, tour the area and have some great meals. Then we'd go back to the hotel room at night and I'd work.
Also when I did travel for speaking engagements my family came with me. They also came with my to Vienna when my MBA class took a trip there. On the way back we spent a week with friend in Spain. We've also traveled together to Japan and of course Thailand where we are now. Once we all took a 3-week road trip in the U.S. visiting the clients of my (previous) web development shop and me speaking at two conferences.
In short my family and I are always together.
The traditional 9-5 is nowhere to be seen. My work hours and days are 100% flexible. The amount of hours worked in a given day and the number of days worked in a row is based on the amount of client work I have. But again, it's rare that a day goes by I don't do some work, for instance writing blog posts 🙂
Mise En Place
Something you might not know about me is that before I turned into a total tech geek I was training to be a chef. I cooked professionally for a few restaurants and caterers in Alexandria, Virginia and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY before realizing I would never be good enough to make serious cash. That and the lifestyle of a chef is hectic. You work long hours but you're never home.
In French cooking there's a term – mise en place – which is defined by the Culinary Institute as “‘everything in place', as in set up.” In the kitchen it means arranging all of your ingredients and meal components for your shift so that you can crank out a few hundred entrees an evening.
This is project management at it's finest. And if you can survive in a kitchen you can survive in any business environment. If you think you're office is rough work in a kitchen.
This translates directly into the office space you create for yourself. Before you start working for the day ensure you have all materials needed to complete your tasks. Have your computer(s), notebooks, pens and pencils, and of course your beverages at the ready. Then it's all about execution. Productivity is very high when you're not looking around for stuff.
This also translates to your computer's desktop too. Create shortcuts to the applications you use most frequently as well as bookmarks for the sites you visit on a daily basis.
I hope that wasn't too much information for you. Again I'm not telling you this to stroke my own ego but rather to give you the context from which the recommendations in this series are coming from. Frankly it pisses me off when people make things look so super simple when it really isn't.
We're all adults here and I think you want it all straight rather than making it all appear to hoighty toighty and what not.
Getting more done than anyone else is more than just a mindset it's a conscious lifestyle choice.
What choices have you made in your life that help you be supremely productive?
Let's talk about it in the comments below.