“Doing work for work’s sake is f**king stupid”
Me (Dan Meredith)
You cannot get on my level (being f**king awesome) without being super productive. It’s the cornerstone of my philosophy and quite literally how I have built my career.
If you don’t know me and haven’t read my book How To Be F**king Awesome yet, let me tell you now: Old Dan use to have a rather tenacious drinking hobby. I had managed to do pretty well (consulting, copywriting and coaching) despite this. Yet, on a hungover Tuesday(!) morning I realised I could get way more done if I was structured, disciplined and productive.
However, this Dan also knew that he could talk himself out of actually doing the work. He needed to surround himself with others who were also committed to doing certain things.
I took action and started with a daily post on Facebook. I declared I was going to be held accountable at 9am and 3pm each day (my optimal working times). The goal was that others would also check-in by posting what they intended to do – in two blocks of two hours a day – and then say what they had actually done.
By positioning myself as the leader it made me show up daily. I couldn’t let the others down by flaking.
I also said, from time to time, I would try and teach some stuff that I had learned about sales, marketing, copywriting, networking and creating digital products.
I had hoped for about 15-20 people. Right now, the Facebook group – Coffee With Dan – stands at 7,618.
Mind blowing, right? I mean really. What. The. F**k.
So, as you can see, what I have created is completely centred on productivity, as well as serving a tribe and having fun (some entrepreneurs are bloody boring).
Without strategies of how to use your time well you will quickly:
- Burn out
- Lose motivation
- Give up
- Head back to your job with your tail between your legs
If you don’t want any of these things to happen to you read on because I am going to outline the strategies I use to be productive.
Remember, I want you to have an awesome life, so let’s give you the productivity recipe you need.
In Coffee With Dan I call it “getting sh*t done”.
So grab a coffee, and let’s crack on.
1. NO UNIVERSE
Instead of looking up to the sky for answers and creating a vision board – make sh*t happen. No chakras. No bull.
a) First, block out all the stuff that is important to you. For me, that’s fitness, personal development, “nothing time” (one hour – could be a walk, pissing about online, time with my family…)
b) Then, schedule team meetings in at the start of the week and the end of the week. For me it looks like:
- Monday: all heads of businesses on a call where other team members can dive in
- Friday: less formal meeting where we review how the week has gone and I mostly make filthy jokes/say terrible things
c) After this I go for a massage of some form. Sounds odd, but it I learned from people smarter than me that it serves a few key purposes:
- Signals the end of the official week
- Helps with stress levels
- Fixes my body that is royally F**ked from rugby and weights
d) Factor in either a half or a whole day of fun. I never plan what I am going to do – I just block it off. It’s good for the soul. My go-tos are jet skiing, the arcade or museums.
e) Now, put in work slots. Only after I all the above have been slotted into my diary do I put in coaching calls, new business development, content creation and meetings.
All of this sounds utterly contradictory to what anyone normally does, but once you try it you won’t go back. Go buy The 12 Hour Work Week for more info on why (authors are smarter than me).
THE GIST: you work better and are more productive in shorter bursts than long stretched out blocks.
3. SUNDAY BRAIN DUMP AND 3-5 SYSTEM
Quick story behind how this system came about:
As a simpleton I would get rather frustrated and overwhelmed by the sh*t I had in my head that equated to things that I had to do. So I decided to do a brain dump. This took me, at the time, two hours and I cam up with 169 things to do. Needless to say, I did none of them.
The list was mammoth and too daunting. I just thought “F**k it, I’ll never finish that” and put the whole thing in the bin.
At the time I was a PT working over 40 hours a week, whilst copywriting and heading a specialist project. In essence, I was busy as F**k.
I talked to a client of mine who happened to be one of the most successful people in town. He had achieved everything he had wanted to when he was still in his 20s (house, model-esque wife, millions in the bank).
He taught me what he had been using Monday to Friday for 20+ years to:
- Remove a metric sh*t-tonne of stress
- Be massively productive
He said, “Every day I write a list. That list has no less than three and no more than five important things that I need to do for my business. That Dan, is all I do”
3-5 things? Surely not!
I didn’t argue. I just shut up – something I have learned to do when someone more successful gives you advice.
I came up with this ranking system, 1,2 or 3:
1 = super important: business critical, time/deadline bound, makes money or only I can do
2 = important, but doesn’t need to be done now: exploratory business meetings, interview/podcasts/guest content – things that need my input, but a team member could handle
3 = not time bound, not critical, someone else could do it, whimsical ideas, “busy fool” work
Now when I do a brain dump of all the tasks I think I need to do (I usually do this on a laptop and then print it out, but you could write it down if you prefer), I rank each as wither 1, 2 or 3. I then highlight all the 1s. 3-5 of these are then slotted into each day of my diary from Monday to Friday. If I have any space some 2s can go in there too.
TIP: Really analyse the tasks and see which category they fit into. Don’t just put a 1 next to something if in reality it is a 2 or a 3.
TRY: Use themes for each day, i.e. Monday = planning, Tuesday = coaching, Wednesday = meetings etc. and match the 1s to the corresponding days. This way you don’t flit from one thing to another during the day – your mind is focused.
Using the 3-5 system makes you more time-precious and lets you now exactly where you stand if you need to slot something or someone in. If you can’t do 5 things, don’t stress because even doing the minimum of 3 will mean that your business continues to grow.
As for the 2-3s, if someone wants you to do something and they aren’t a paying client or an infleuncer, if it’s really important they will chase you. Don’t people please because you will just be a “busy fool” that looks like they are doing a lot of work, but in reality you aren’t being productive.
4. DENTIST APPOINTMENT
This was taught to me by John Logar.
A business without sales is just ego-masturbation. Without sales, you have nothing.
Equally, I have found – as I have done this myself – that businesses especially in early stages, go through “feast and famine” cycles. You do loads of marketing, sales calls and advertising when you start and then all of a sudden you have all these clients to serve. Then when you have finished with them you think, “sh*t, I need more clients!”
This is why I live the dentist appointment philosophy:
Simply put in an hour each day (you always allow an hour for a dentist appointment, right?), Monday to Friday in your diary for new business development.
Most people will not do this. This is because many people don’t like doing sales or selling.
You don’t need cheesy “buy my sh*t” sales – yes, that sucks. However, if you genuinely believe that your product helps people and that it works, then it’s your duty to sell it.
Yes that’s right – your duty.
5. THE TRAIN RIDE TO NOWHERE
I like trains.
I used to hate them when I had to commute. But now, I think they are awesome. I get so much work done on them.
If you have to crack out a stack of work, plan a trip about two hours away – with no changes. Make sure to book a table seat. Then, commit to working solidly for those two hours. Get off the train, have lunch and potter around (hopefully somewhere you haven’t visited before). Get back on the train home and do another two hours of work.
Give it a punt. It is awesome.
6. ONE BAG PHILOSOPHY
A good friend told me that he lived out of one bag in the military (especially important when you need to get the F**k out of somewhere).
I realised I had accumulated so much crap over the years that the idea of moving it was horrendous.
Clothes, books, gadgets – things I hadn’t touched in years or even knew I had.
The easy fix was to get rid of everything that I hadn’t used within 6 months. All I have now is what I use.
Having a clear out lifts a burden off your mind. The less clutter there is around you, the less cluttered your mind is.
TRY: Only packing a carry-on suitcase for an international trip (even if the trip is a month long!)
7. BLAST AND CRUISE
I got this idea from a humongous man who would take loads of steroids for three months, become and giant and then lower the dosage for the next three months. Here is the ‘Danified’ version:
Ninety days of batsh*t crazy new business development, recruiting team members, going “balls deep”. Lots of work.
Ninety days of chilled maintenance, putting systems and staff in place, getting feedback and refining processes. Do less work and enjoy life more.
When I start a new business venture I give it ninety days to work. If it’s not profitable, fun or takes up too much time, I tank it.
This method isn’t for everyone. I like it because in the past I have held on to ventures for too long and a hard deadline really focuses me.
8. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
Find a song that gets you going and put it on repeat. Listen to it over and over until your work is done.
No idea why it works for me, but it does – and lots of other folk who have tried it.
9. THE FIRST HOUR IS YOURS
People love the concept of the “power hour” – the hour of time after you first wake up.
For me, unless I have a meeting I wake up when my body wants to. The next hour of the day is selfishly mine (I learnt this from Ben Settle) – no emails, no phone (especially!) etc. It usually looks something like this:
- Make a coffee
- Controlled breathing using an App (I can’t meditate for sh*t)
- Read (I usually have 3 books on the go – autobiography, business and fun-fiction)
- Watch some stand up, catch up on a box set or play on my Xbox (something that makes me happy)
We have all had days that start with an email that pisses you off.
Doing what you want to do first thing puts you in an awesome mood and makes it less likely that things will bother you massively throughout the day.
The last couple of hours of your day should feel the same – yours. This is your time, be selfish with it.
TIP: Do not take your phone to bed with you. Leave it in another room. People are slaves to their phones. Your bedroom is for two things: sleeping and sex.
I am not reinventing the wheel here. What I have told you just now is patchworked together from books, blogs, trainings, anecdotal observations… and people that are smarter than me.