Being a productive business owner is no different than being productive at anything in life. It comes down to how well you manage the small choices you make every day.
Some days I put in less than 8 hours of work, I can feel guilty about this, the reality is, this is the wrong way to think.
At Monocle we don’t work set working hours. We are a small team of 12 creative and practical designers and developers, and we all have completely different working patterns. I find early mornings and late nights work for me. During the day, when the sun is shining, and the ocean is calling, my creative output is as good as gone. Our devs work late into the night and sleep in the mornings.
Because we have different energy levels at different times, it would be counterproductive for them to start work at 9 am, as it would for me to work at 1 am.
For a long time, we would structure weekly whips, Monday morning offsite coffee catch ups and all kinds of meetings to capture the thinking, track processes, and work.
Sure, there are times when scheduling a time to meet during the day to discuss important matters is needed. For us, we have found the best outcomes for Monocle’s creative execution (and Common Goods) is not by a set number of hours; rather, we are guided by our energy levels.
For us, we see the results of working without a set routine in the quality of our work, our productivity, and our health.
We have a simple rule, meet the deadline, on time and to never be late, regardless of how we get there, we just have to make it on time. That forces our team to find their best energy pattern to meet deadlines. It is a lot of fun too.
A few years ago, as CEO of 6.2, I had my hand in everything from sales and marketing to product development to hiring. The reality is, there is way too much going on to put your attention everywhere. We have a limited number of decision-making points in a single day.
Last year, Mark Zuckerberg talked about why he wears the same T-Shirt to work every day;
“Zuckerberg: I want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
Great CEOs like Zuckerberg focus on what will have the biggest impact. And remove everything else.
Over the last seven years as a CEO of the innovation lab, 6.2, and in my work now, I’ve experimented with many different ways to improve my productivity.
I have 2 simple rules and they are brokedn down for you below. One, Maintain good health & two, Remove The Clutter.
1. Keep moving: I am terrible at fitness, and I hate the gym. But I keep on moving, and I move often. Maintaining good health doesn’t mean work out every day. It does mean move.
“Nat Geo studied areas of the world where people are living the longest, one thing he consistently found was the impact of constant, low-intensity exercise, either from walking, standing up and sitting down, or even gardening.”
I have a stand-up desk, I surf when I need to think, and in the winter, I live in the mountains and Ski & Snowboard 2-3 days a week. This increases my productivity levels and pushes me to execute better.
2. Control the Music: No creative space or working environment should ever be without music. I have playlists for every part of the day. The train, the office, and the car.
Researchers at Spotify found that music can help induce the alpha state in your brain, where your mind becomes peaceful, alert, and concentration is strengthened. So turn on the tunes.
3. Find Your Happiness Partner: Surround yourself with happy, exciting and inspiring people and make a list of the people who inspire you. I have a hand full of people I call to straighten out my thinking, who make me smile. When we laugh, we feel good; our productivity goes up too.
4. Remove the Clutter: Focus, in bite-sized chunks, but focus.
It is important to remember, just because you work more hours, doesn’t mean you’re doing more work… this is old thinking, and we have moved past this now.
When we multitask, we might feel like we’re getting more done. The reality is, research shows the opposite is true. When we try to do more, in less time, we make more mistakes.
One hour of focused work with no distractions is more productive and a lot more valuable than three hours of distracted, interrupted work.
Focus on one thing at a time, put everything away, turn everything off, concentrate on the simple task. Move to flight mode, close Slack, and your browser and get the job done.
On Friday’s, I try to work the whole day from my phone; I call them iPhone Friday’s, this helps me focus on only a few things. It keeps my emails short and concise and my time management efficient.
5. Time Your Work, but not your breaks: I work in 90-minute sessions, and I try not to time the breaks in between. I think it is important to find momentum. A coffee break, surf or a walk is critical to your next session. Focused, constrained sessions helps you stay focused.
6. Start the day with what’s easy: I spent a lifetime being told to work hard, tackle the big issues and stay back late. I don’t stay back anymore, I work a lot of hours, but I reverse my day. I always start the day with the easiest tasks. It gets my brain into a winning mindset, as I tick them off the list one at a time, I found myself wanting to achieve more. Something as simple as tidying my desk, cleaning my desktop and replying to email.
7. Turn off notifications: Everywhere. Off your phone, your email, even Slack. We set up a path to get something done yet notifications are distractions, and everyone else’s task is more important than your own. Turn them off and find a pattern to check tasks intermittently. This will change your life. Forever.
8. Urgent Versus Important: Everything seems critical; the reality is, they never are, everything can wait. Discover the difference between urgent and important and write it down, Stay focused.
Finally, the short and sweet list that I live by daily.
9. Write everything down. Everything.
10. Write to-do lists with no more than five items. Everyday.
11. Create a day a week where you don’t work.
12. Use fewer tools, find a handful of things that work. I have 5; Slack, Basecamp, Chrome, Harvest & Google Docs. That’s it.
13. Get a mentor. I have 3.
14. Automate your work life. Create a schedule and live by it.
This list may sound mundane but is full of some cool stuff. Music, surfing, mountains, studio time, days off, simple tools and staying healthy.
Work should not be locked in a box staying back until dark. It should be a means to an end, discover what your end is and use work to inspire you there.
The world is different now. We can work here, we can work there, and if you have an inclination to follow it, my suggestion is you do. The tools are available to live an incredible life and work should align with that, not the other way around. Or find a job where you are happy. truly happy. You just have to choose and stay focused.