How To Achieve The Next Level Of Productivity


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This week, we are looking at the advanced level of time management and personal productivity and asking how you too can reach that level.

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Episode 180

Hello and welcome to episode 180 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Have you ever wondered what super-productive people do that most people don’t do? How the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Robin Sharma and Tony Robbins manage their time and get their work done?

The thing is while these people may have a unique way to manage their time, and of course, they do have personal assistants doing quite a lot of the smaller tasks that many of us have to do ourselves, they do operate at a different level—they have to—but that level is attainable for all of us if we are serious about maximising our potential—because that’s what it is all about.

And that’s what this week question is all about.

So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Adam. Adam asks: Hi Carl, I have often wondered how other people manage their time. I have read David Allen, yourself and many others on time management, yet I sense I must be missing something when I look at what people like Robin Sharma and Brian Tracey produce week after week. Is there a secret I am missing?

Hi Adam, thank you for your wonderful question. A question I have spent many many years searching for an answer myself.

To give you a direct answer: yes you are. People like Robin Sharma and Brian Tracey do do things differently and it is something we can all do. But, it involves a lot of risk, immense focus and a clear vision of what you want to achieve, not just in your professional life, but in your life as a whole.

Let me start with Elon Musk. Elon Musk’s lifetime goal is to colonise Mars. Right now, when you talk to people about colonising Mars, most people dismiss it as a goal that would be unachievable anytime soon. And that may be true. After all, currently to get to Mars would take you almost a year, the winter temperature can drop to as low as -180 degrees Fahrenheit (almost -120 degrees celsius) and there are frequent dust storms with wind speeds over 100 MPH (160 KPH). Why would anyone want to live there?

But that does not deter Elon Musk. His total focus is on developing solutions to any problems that humans living on Mars may encounter. From building electric cars for transportation to developing rockets that would get humans to Mars quickly and safely. Everything Elon Musk is doing is geared towards that one goal.

Now ask yourself, what is my life goal? What is my purpose?

My guess is you don’t have one. And if you do, it will likely be to save sufficient money for your retirement or to buy a dream home. Most people’s life goals are related to material things, money and themselves.

That means, most people are focused on their jobs, their salary and their status in society. And that is what restricts people. It means they will never take the kind of risks that are required to reach a much higher purpose and it generates fears around what other people think about them (something you will never have any control over anyway), how they fit into society and have a job—any job that means receiving a salary.

When I was teaching English, I taught business people. And I saw first hand the difference between those stuck in middle management and those populating the executive suites. The most successful executives I taught, were not concerned about where they lived, the car they drove or the clothes they wore. They were intensely focused on getting to the top of their organisations so they could directly change the world for the better. These people would live in a cardboard box if it meant that would get them to the very top so they could change things.

They were not trying to win popularity contests or to be the most liked person in their organisation. They had no fear in saying “no” to opportunities they felt would not contribute to their higher purpose.

Now you might think someone like Dwayne Johnson can’t have a higher purpose like Elon Musk and his purpose to colonise Mars, but you would be wrong.

Dwayne Johnson’s purpose in life is to entertain and motivate. He wants to bring joy to the world and to the people who watch his movies. Now Dwayne Johnson knows that his box office appeal is partly his physical fitness and his charismatic personality. Watch any interview or conversation with Dwayne Johnson and you cannot help but warm to him.

This is why, no matter how busy he is, Dwayne Johnson will get up and do his time in the gym—or as he calls it; “the Iron Paradise”. 3, 4 in the morning Dwayne Johnson will be in the gym six days a week.

How many of you are willing to wake up at 3 AM to work out? Probably very few of you. How many of you, after a ten-hour flight across the world, would go to the gym before checking into your hotel?

These are just some of the sacrifices people like Dwayne Johnson are willing to make to achieve their purpose in life. It’s not about them, it’s about what they give to the world.

People who are operating at this higher level do not have tasks like “Return sweater to Uniqlo” or “take dry-cleaning in” on their to-do lists. None of these tasks contributes to their overall goal. The only things on their to-do lists are tasks that take them towards their objectives, complete their projects and achieve their goals.

So, you are probably beginning to see where this higher level of productivity comes from. It comes from your overall purpose in life. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve from life and more importantly, doing it for others.

You see, when you really know what it is you want out of your life, you become incredibly focused. Everything you do goes through the prism of “how will this contribute to my overall goal?”

When that goal becomes an obsession and excites you, you will not languish in bed, you jump out of bed ready to start the day, you will burn the midnight oil and you have no fear saying “no” to anyone if whatever they are asking you to do does not contribute towards your goal.

That’s what a higher level of productivity looks like and most people are not willing to make that kind of sacrifice and that’s okay. We are free to make our own decisions and spend our time doing whatever we want to do.

This is why I encourage people to download my Areas of Focus workbook. It’s a free workbook designed to help you find want is important to you. Those areas of focus are your foundation on which you can build your own purpose in life. They are based around eight areas we all share. Those are; Family and relationships, career or business, financial wellbeing, health and fitness, life experiences, spirituality, personal development and life purpose.

Once you know what these mean to you, you are going to become a lot more focused on your life. Now, these areas will have different levels of importance to all of us. It largely depends where you are in life. If you are in your twenties your career and education—personal development—may be the most important. As you get to your fifties, you likely now know you are not immortal so health and fitness will be higher and perhaps your financial wellbeing.

Now it does not mean you have to have a single obsession like Elon Musk, but you do need to know what is important to you and what is not. Without that knowledge, you will gravitate towards making other people’s priorities yours and that is going to make you feel miserable and depressed.

Other people could be your boss or your customers. If your goal is to make these people happy so they don’t get upset with you, or cause you to lose your job, you will be unfulfilled and miserable as well as stressed out. Your happiness at work is conditional on something you have no control over—the feelings of your boss or customer. You have no control over how much sleep they got, whether they had a fight with their partner or some other external event that caused them to be angry or upset.

Your focus is on your own wellbeing, not making the world a little bit better. Doing things for others so they like you—that’s not doing something for other people. It’s dong something for you so you can be popular and liked.

I remember watching a Tony Robbins 5 day live event and although Tony was on stage (so to speak) at 11 AM, he stayed up until six in the morning reading participants’ social media comments about the event so he could make the event even better the next day. His complete and total focus was on making the event as educational as he possibly could for the participants. He didn’t worry about getting enough sleep so he would look and sound better on stage. He was at the next level—searching for ways to make the learning experience of several thousand people better.

Do you think he was worrying about how many emails were in his inbox, or whether he’d put the garbage out? Of course not. He was completely focused on making the learning experience the best he could for his participants.

That’s higher-level productivity. Being completely focused on what’s important. Blocking five days out on his calendar so he did not have to worry about anything else other than teaching people to lead better lives.

For those of you who have taken the Time Sector Course, you will know about your core work and why knowing what that is crucial to ensuring you are doing the right things. Your core work is the work you are employed to do.

You were not employed to reply to emails within an hour. You were not employed to attend mind-numbing meetings that achieve nothing and have no objective. And you were certainly not employed to keep your boss happy. Sure, if you want an easy life, do those things. But you will ultimately feel unfulfilled and unhappy because everything you do is to make other people like you—something you cannot realistically control anyway.

Knowing what your objectives are for the day—what you want to accomplish today that will take you a step further towards your goal and then doing it that’s what will bring you fulfilment. It’s that that people will respect you for and it’s that that will inspire other people to be better versions of themselves. That’s what will bring you fulfilment and pleasure.

None of this is easy and there are immense sacrifices that have to be made. You are trying to achieve a long-term vision that will not bring you any instant gratification other than knowing you are moving along the right path. That’s why so few people ever achieve it.

But it really comes down to knowing what you want to achieve in life. People like Elon Musk, Tony Robbins and Dwayne Johnson are crystal clear on their objectives. That’s why they are achieving what they are achieving. The vast majority of people are not and that is why they are where they are today.

None of this is difficult, but it is very risky, you are going to upset some people and many others will not understand you because you are living a life they think is not normal. But then why would anyone just want to be “normal”. I think being normal is a horrible life. A life controlled by other people’s feelings and emotions.

No, if you really want to take your productivity to the next level, then get clear about what is important to you. Be focused on what you want out of your life and stop trying to fit into a blueprint designed by others.

I will leave you with the inspiring words from Apple’s Think Different campaign from the early 2000s:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Thank you Adam for your wonderful question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.

210 episodes