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How To Get More Done Than Anyone Else – Part 1

Man on little bike

This image has nothing to do with the post but I think it's funny...

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

Monty Python Holy Grail

Beware the rabbit in your plans!

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:

  1. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time – Brian Tracey
  2. 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

No time for sleep clock head!

No time for sleep clock head!

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

My wife and daughter

My motivation in life

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

Tom yum kung ingredients

Hungry for some Thai food? Yes?!

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.

TMI?

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.

Comments

  1. You are so right – there is no clocking in when you work for yourself. Weekends are often condensed into an afternoon and time takes on a whole new perspective!

    Thanks for the insight! I would kill for that red curry …

  2. Truly amazing Robert!

    Firstly, thank you so much for coming up with these series, and clarifying my doubts. I remain grateful for the mention on the post as well :)

    I was beginning to wonder about your family, as it is very rare that those who are so much into work- balance out their family lives along with their work. But seeing your beautiful family- wife and your lovely daughter- things sure fall into place. Yes, you are right there- that had your wife not been supportive and with you in your journey- things would not have turned out the way they are. And I do see how you balance out things so well, including working after your days enjoyment while travelling out- that sure is some stamina! Another learning experience for me!

    Being a stay at home mom to two daughters and a loving husband, I have my hands full as well. I too work all the time, but a women’s work and her priority will always be her family first, and then work. However, I need to learn a lot about time management- especially how to cut off distractions like the social networks etc- that do take a lot of your time, or make a time schedule so that you end the work that requires your foremost attention, then switch to these things. I think I am learning to do that now and your productivity help a lot!

    And you cook too- wow! I like the way you combine cooking preparations with writing- which is so true. If you have all things in place, you are able to create things faster and better.

    I enjoyed reading this part and looking forward to the next one now :)Thanks once again for these wonderful tips. They do motivate and inspire me a great deal!

    • You have more than 3 full-time jobs there Harleena and I give you a lot of respect for handling all that. As for balance I prefer to look at it as a constant juggling act as priorities continuously shift.

      As for cooking for me that’s pretty rare. I can do simple things but my wife Kookkai is the authority in our house on that.

      Thanks again for inspiring this series. I’ll have more tips in the upcoming posts.

  3. Hi Robert,

    This was a brilliant post, and it’s a topic I’m never ever going to get tired of. I can read about this day and night. It reminds me of the conference when I heard both Gary Vee and Chris Brogan speak. Gary Vee said that he was working on the plane from the US to Norway, and as soon as he arrived at the hotel, he created the video for his Wine blog, and when he wasn’t speaking, I saw that he was writing at the same time as he was paying attention to what was happening at the stage. The same with Chris Brogan, he was working all the time.

    So, it’s not just about doing a lot of stuff as fast as possible, it’s about having a lot of fun doing it, and being passionate about what we’re doing. This way we’ll be working all the time, but it still feels like we’re the luckiest people alive :)

    Thanks a lot for this awesome and personal post. Brilliant!

    • I remember you talking about that conference Jens and I’m still jealous you got to see both of those guys at once!

      If you aren’t having fun doing what you’re doing then well, it’s no fun :P Seriously though it’s amazing what people put up with because they believe they have to. And perhaps they do for a bit, but nothing is permanent and we can choose the environment in which we are. That means looking for help to get out if we’re feeling stuck. No reason to go it alone. And with so many people available via Internet we don’t have to.

  4. I feel compelled to share a tad here…as a single mother by choice, I have no support system to build a foundation, home and future for my 9yo daughter and me.

    I do it all — find the bacon before I bring it home, cook, clean, laundry, be a mom soccer coach, carve pumpkins and be a mom taxi while cutting the grass, keeping the landscape presentable and managing it all in my virtual PR firm.

    Some days I yearn for a situation where I can devote more time; and that’s why summers kill me.

    You’re right, those who are self-employed as entrepreneurs have no 9to5 schedule. Never did; never will. And, there’s no time to stop and pat myself on the back; must always push to fill the queue and make it happen.

  5. Robert,
    You’re one of the most productive people I know. I’m amazed at the quantity of “real” work you pump out each day. By real work, I am referring to things that really matter, like e-books, websites and research.
    I find my downfall is switching gears. I am always in a state of changing what I am doing and not finishing the real work.
    I’m on pins and needles waiting to see the upcoming posts about this. Please help me to accomplish more.
    Thanks so much for all the great advice.

  6. I think one of the most important things to note is that you can only work like a machine when you are truly inspired by, and invested in, your work. That’s what you have. Do you agree?

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