My most ruthless productivity hack

In this article I’m going to show you the most impactful, longest lasting, and ruthless productivity hack I’ve ever done. It’s extreme, but I promise, if you do it, your life will never be the same.

How’s that for a start?

Let me tell you about it…

ruthless productivity

Awhile back I was really stuck.

I seemed to be constantly too busy to get anything meaningful done in my life. I was doing things from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, but never seemed to get the important stuff done.

I couldn’t get my writing done.

I had articles and books and stories I wanted to write, but the time kept slipping through my hands.

Every time I talked to people about my writing, I would tell them I was too busy.

Finally a buddy really nailed me to the wall.

“Too busy” is just an excuse

“From now on,” he said, “you’re not allowed to say the words ‘I’m too busy.’ Instead, you have to say ‘I’ve chosen not to prioritize.’”

“I’m too busy to write,” became “I’ve chosen not to prioritize writing.”

“I’m too busy to exercise,” became “I’ve chosen not to prioritize my health.”

Because the truth is most of us have a lot of autonomy in our life. We have chosen the things in our life. Our jobs, our significant others, what we do for fun, how much we watch TV, etc. Most of it is under our direct control.

So I started doing this. Anytime I started to say, or even think the words “I’m too busy,” I would stop and replace them with “I’ve chosen not to prioritize.”

My eyes were immediately opened.

I was disgusted at all of the areas in my life that I had lost control.

The truth is, this one tiny shift in language moved me from being the victim to being in control.

“Too busy” is something that happens to you. “Not prioritizing” is something you choose.

But this wasn’t enough.

I still wasn’t making any real changes. Sure, I was owning my decisions, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to change my actions.

I would make little shifts here and there, but not enough to make a real difference. Weeks and months continued to slip by without me getting my writing done.

So I decided these small, incremental half measures weren’t working.

It was time to get ruthless

Here’s the steps I went through. You should follow them exactly.

1. Make a list of everything you do.

Take out a pen and paper and write down every single thing you do in a day. Pick a typical work day. Get extremely granular. Write down everything.

Here’s a sample from my list:

  • Use the restroom
  • Take the dog out
  • Check FB, Twitter, Instagram
  • Make breakfast for kids
  • Make coffee
  • Talk with Candace
  • Get ready for the day
  • Take kids to school
  • Go to office / work
  • Exercise
  • Watch TV
  • Read before bed
  • Listen to podcasts/audiobooks
  • Eat dinner with family
  • Talk with friends
  • Coffee with friends
  • Eat lunch
  • Text friends
  • Read the news

2. Now, put a star next to everything that is essential in your life.

By essential, I mean you will die if you don’t do it (go to the restroom) or your life will burn down if you don’t do it (take the kids to school). Be honest here. This has to be essential for your survival or to fulfill your most important roles in life.

Here’s my list:

  • * Use the restroom
  • * Take the dog out
  • Check FB, Twitter, News
  • * Make breakfast for kids
  • Make coffee
  • Talk with Candace
  • * Get ready for the day
  • * Take kids to school
  • * Go to office / work
  • Exercise
  • Watch TV
  • Read before bed
  • Listen to podcasts/audiobooks
  • * Eat dinner with family
  • Talk with friends
  • Coffee with friends
  • Eat out for lunch
  • Text friends
  • Read the news

3. Cross out everything on the list that doesn’t have a star next to it.

  • * Use the restroom
  • * Take the dog out
  • Check FB, Twitter, News
  • * Make breakfast for kids
  • Make coffee
  • Talk with Candace
  • * Get ready for the day
  • * Take kids to school
  • * Go to office / work
  • Exercise
  • Watch TV
  • Read before bed
  • Listen to podcasts/audiobooks
  • * Eat dinner with family
  • Talk with friends
  • Coffee with friends
  • Eat out for lunch
  • Text friends
  • Read the news

4. For one week, Sunday through Saturday, only do the things left on your list.

Using my list above, that means I don’t text friends, read the news, check any social media, read any books, watch any TV, hang out with friends, go to the gym, listen to anything in the car, etc.

For seven days.

This is not a mental exercise.

This is meant for you to actually do.

It wasn’t until I was sitting up in my bedroom staring at the wall at 6:00pm because my wife was downstairs watching TV that it finally sunk in how much time I really waste in my life.

Once you cut out every single unessential action in your life, you will feel what it’s like to have so much empty time on your hands. Your perspective will forever change.

You will see extremely clearly how much time you are wasting in your life once you ruthlessly cut all the excess all at once.

I encourage you during this week to use this found time to write and work on your creative projects.

5. After seven days, thoughtfully add things back into your life.

I do not in any way think you should live your entire life this way. I like to read before bed. I watch TV with my family.

However, I now choose to have these things in my life.

Go back through your list and choose which things to add back in and which things should remained crossed off permanently.

Creative work is different work

It’s not about getting more todos checked off or fitting more stuff into your life.

If you are going to write, you need empty space in your schedule. You need time that isn’t filled with distraction.

Once you ruthlessly cut out all of the unessential stuff in your life for an entire week, you will see there is always time for your writing. When you take control of your life, you’ll be surprised what can really happen.

Homework

Do this exercise and then shoot me an email at me@timgrahl.com to let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies and the founder of BookLaunch.com. He has worked with authors for a decade to help them build their platform, connect with readers, and sell more books. He has worked 1-on-1 with over a hundred authors including Daniel Pink, Hugh Howey, Barbara Corcoran, Chip and Dan Heath, Sally Hogshead and many others. He has also launched dozens of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestsellers.

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