When it comes to increasing both your output and your impact, here’s how to work smarter instead of harder.
For Entrepreneur—If there’s one thing I learned while researching and writing my first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, it’s how to get more done in less time.
For the first five years as a self-employed writer, I passionately and excitedly burned the midnight oil, thinking the act would get me ahead. While it certainly helped to cut my teeth and quicken my understanding of the craft, in hindsight I spent much of that time with my head down, spinning my wheels in the mud, and failing to see bigger ideas and opportunities.
That is until my “Montana Moment,” a life-changing and completely off-the-grid vacation in Big Sky Country that upended and improved my relationship to work in more ways than one. Since that fateful week, I’ve enjoyed record personal, professional, and social growth. But only because I radically changed my underlying approach and motivations for work.
There are as follows:
1. Prevent your phone from distracting you. To do this, I disable all visible and audible phone alerts unless they come from my wife and children. I never let an app disrupt my workflow. That includes email, social media, texts, games, or any other app that seeks my attention at every minute, if not second of the day. While I do allow my phone to ring in the case of voice calls—which are still how all serious emergencies are communicated, I usually screen most of them. In that way, I get to choose how I invest my time. That said, I choose strategic growth and proactively making decisions for myself instead of letting software or someone else choose for me.
2. Set strict usage boundaries. In addition to limiting how my phone and other devices can interrupt my day (if at all), I set strict usage boundaries and portion controls for them. For example, I enable “do not disturb” mode from 9pm to 7am. To get me then, you’ll need to call me three times in a row before my phone will alert me. On top of that, I don’t take my phone, work, or sleep-frustrating concerns with me to bed. Furthermore, I consider all new apps, software, and new gadgets as guilty until proven useful to me, usually as a late adopter. And so I can return to work more inspired and mentally recharged, I don’t touch work on nights, weekends, or vacation, save for 2-3 emergencies a year in which “thousands of dollars” are at stake.
3. Limit subliminal media commitments. I say “subliminal” because you probably don’t recognize or grasp the constant pull that periodic or subscribed media and content has on your psyche. So much so that it can subliminally become a subconscious commitment that you feel obligated to finish, even if you don’t necessarily love or benefit from it. That especially goes for the latest TV shows, lengthy video games, endless social media feeds, or subscription services that peer pressure suggests you consume, rather than focusing on media commitments that you truly love, value, or appreciate.
4. Say “no” to morning meetings. Research shows that the vast majority of humans are much more creative and productive in the morning, when their bodies and minds are in the freshest and most well-rested state. That said, you should be putting your mornings to good use by focusing on individual and thought-intensive tasks and challenges. No meetings or pow-wows or moral support. Save those for the afternoons. Innovator, billionaire, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is known for doing precisely this, as are other high-performers. The next time someone asks for a morning meeting, politely decline with “I’m busy then.”
5. Put your subconscious to work. Early in my career, I read dozens of business and personal development books to help me tackle my problems head on. While two or three stand out, I’ve largely forgotten the rest. This is because recent research from Carnegie Mellon proves that subconscious thought is often better at solving our problems (including business ones) than conscious, staring right at the problem thought. In other words, if you give your brain a breather and regular breaks, it will often solve the problem without directly thinking about it. Sound too good to be true? You’ll never know until you try it (spoiler: it really works.)
Obviously, high energy people enjoy a competitive advantage when it comes to getting more done in less time. But the above can be learned, practiced, and achieved by anyone.
About the author: As a recognized writer-for-hire, Blake Snow has produced thousands of featured articles for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. His first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, is available now. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his supportive family and loyal dog and is thrilled you read this.