A couple of months ago, I was on a call with one of my mentors, Naveen Dittakavi. Naveen is one of the most productive people I’ve ever met – he has a successful software development business, he manages a community of over 1700 people, and constantly works on developing new skills and new projects. All of that while still finding time for his family and friends!
As I was very impressed with how much he manages to constantly improve despite all of that work, I asked him to share his strategy with me.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: “So Naveen, you’re working on so many things that it must be insanely draining… How do you manage to find the willpower and energy to keep improving your business and learn new skills like copywriting?”.
Naveen: “It’s actually not that complicated. Of course I have a ton of client work, but I don’t want to spend my most productive hours on that when I can spend them on doing things that will make the biggest difference for me in the long run.”
Me: “What do you mean by your most productive hours?”
Naveen: “Well, through testing I have found out that I am the most productive and focused between 7 and 9 am. It’s probably related to the fact that I wake up well rested, which means that I have a lot of energy and willpower at that time.
This means that if I want to get something, it’s way more likely that I will actually get it done than if I planned to do it in the evening when I’m drained. In that case, I would probably just keep procrastinating it on and on. I also make a point of making these hours non-negotiable.
From 7am to 9am each morning, I’m only working on my projects and growing my business, and never on client work. This ensures that I constantly grow both myself and my business.”
Me: “That’s very interesting. But how do you know what’s worth doing at that time? How do you determine what’s important enough?”
Naveen: “What I like to do is focus on outcomes. Think of it as compound interest – I invest time into activities that will grow exponentially and not lineary in the long run. For example, if I spend 10 hours building a system or a product that allows me to earn $100/month in recurring revenue per client, and I don’t need to put much extra effort in it after the initial 20 hours, this can earn me $1,200 a year per client.
But it’s more than that. I can then offer this to every new client that I work with without any additional work on my side, so in the long run, as my business grows, my hourly rate for those 10 hours of work will be insanely high.
If I would spend those hours simply doing consulting, I could perhaps earn a couple of hundred $ per hour, but that’s where it ends. I would make more money in the short run, but in the long run it’s not even close. I feel like that’s an issue that a lot of entrepreneurs have – they focus on getting results fast instead of building systems that will keep getting them results as the time goes by.”
To sum this conversation up in one sentence, Naveen uses his most productive hours on developing systems that will keep bringing in the benefits for years to come.
As Naveen explained this to me, it struck me – I’ve been using my most productive hours the wrong way, which is why I didn’t see as much progress as I wanted to.
Let me explain. Every day, I used to wake up between 10am and 11am. I would then shower, eat breakfast, read a book and go over the list of the 3 things I wanted to get done the day. I would play a couple of games on Lumosity while listening to calming music. Once I was done, I was in the zone and ready to do the work.
So I started doing the work. More specifically, I would usually have 2-3 hours of coaching between 12pm-4pm with my clients, with some breaks to do in-between. At 4pm, I would go to lunch, and after that I would work on the 3 important things that I wanted to get done for the day.
This was actually going ok for a while, and I felt like I was progressing well. However, with time I saw a pattern occurring. More often than not, I would procrastinate tasks that required a lot of focus. Answering e-mails, working on my blog, talking to people and reading books went fine. However, creating systems didn’t go so well. After 6 hours of work, I just didn’t have the creative power and focus that I needed any more and I would often procrastinate these creative tasks and keep moving them to the next day.
After talking to Naveen, I redesigned my days. I made sure that I had two hours free every morning before my first client session. Since then, I use these two hours mostly for learning new skills like storytelling, writing, as well as revising and building new productivity and business systems. Needless to say, my top 3 things for the day are now getting done way more often, and since I have a ton of energy, willpower and focus while working on them, they get done way faster.
This doesn’t work just for me and Naveen though. Last year, when I attended a conference from Ramit Sethi in NYC, I asked him to tell me about what his usual day looks like. He explained that it varies a lot, but that every morning he goes to the coffee shop for a couple of hours to just write his blog posts and e-mails.
The awesome thing about this strategy is that you can use it in various ways – to save time, to earn more money or to acquire a new skill faster.
If you want to save time, you can use your most productive hours to build productivity systems for yourself (more on those in the future posts). If you invest 10 hours into building a system that saves you just 30 minutes each working day like the one that Derek Halpern built to answer 3x as many e-mails in half the time, this can save you 130 hours in a year.
If you want too earn more money, you can use the time to develop products or recurring services like Naveen did, or you can spend the time on improving your business model and strategy.
If you want to acquire a new skill faster, you can use these hours to learn and improve through reading and thinking about what you’ve read. Your reading speed and comprehension are largely dependent on how focused you are, so if you want to learn something rapidly, it makes sense to actually do it when you are the most focused and not when you are tired and almost sleeping, like this:
With this strategy, it’s very easy to double the value of your most productive time. In fact, usually you can even 3x it, 5x or even 10x it by building systems that will earn you more money or save you time in the future.
Now imagine what it would be like if you actually did this. If you actually spent your most productive time on the high leverage activities, you might very well be making more progress in your business and life than you are right now, even if you didn’t do anything else for the whole day.
Imagine finishing up the two hours of work and creating a nice system that will save you hours of stress and frustration when dealing with e-mails. Imagine finishing a product that will bring you extra $500/month, even while you’re on a vacation. Imagine learning a new skill every 2 weeks. How would that make you feel?
In order to start using this strategy in your own life and reach your own goals faster, you can use the 3 step framework below:
Step #1 – Find out the high leverage activities that will give you the best outcomes
You can do this by asking yourself a couple of questions:
- Where do I want to be in a year?
- What do I need to do in order to get there?
- Which of the things that I need to do will have exponential outcomes, like compound interest?
Here, you really want to be focusing on the activities that you do once and get the benefits from them for months or years. Make a list of at least 3 such activities and use it to determine what you want to be working on during your most productive time.
Step #2 – Identify your most productive time of the day
One of the easiest ways to do this is to track your time (write down everything you do in a day together with times/duration). Here’s an example of my time tracking:
You don’t need to make it as colorful and specific, you can simply do this in a word document or even on a piece of paper. If you want to be really sure when you are the most focused, you can also add a grade for focus/energy level on a scale of 1 to 5.
As a rule of thumb, you will most likely have the most energy after you wake up in the morning and go through your morning routine, before you do any work. If you are an evening person, try to identify at which time you usually start being productive in the evening and if there is something going on before that (maybe you come back from the gym or something similar). This will allow you to plan your productive time accordingly.
Step #3 – Make your most productive hours a non-negotiable
This is the key step. Your most productive time should be reserved for the activities that you identified in step #1, without exceptions. I like to make sure that I actually stick to this by putting my non-negotiable activities on my calendar – this way I can’t schedule a client meeting at that time. Below is an example from my calendar:
If you often struggle with actually getting stuff done, you can also check out my FREE 5-Day Success Bootcamp where I will show you specific systems that you can use to take massive action, including a system that my friend Blaz used to go from being an unemployed student to earning more than $10,000/month as a freelance designer in less than 5 months.
That’s it! Now you have all that you need in order to skyrocket your progress in both life and business. You can get started right away by doing the action steps above, or you can navigate to another blog post, consume more information and never take action – the choice is yours.
If you liked this article and you have a friend who might benefit from it, why don’t you send it over to them? Your friend will thank you for solving their problem and I’ll thank you as well for spreading the love.