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How to increase your productivity without using any software

Yes, it’s possible. You don’t need any of the five software systems I reviewed yesterday.

It’s about what goes on in your head, not what happens on your smart phone.

Let’s cut to the chase: Here’s a list of the mind-hacks I use (and train some clients to use) to rocket productivity levels…

 1. Pen + Paper Rocks

Specifically because it ISN’T an app. A post-it is can be stuck to your computer monitor (or forehead) and never gets minimized. I’m a huge advocate for paperless business, but whenever a project of mine really enters “crunch time”, paper starts getting written on – for a reason.

2. Your todo list and your list-of-things-to-do-today should be different

Nothing overwhelms an entrepreneur more than waking up asking “What should I focus on today?” only to browse a list of 247 items. Instead, try decanting a tiny handful of todos onto a smaller “To-dos for today” list. Allow your big list to be what it wants to be – a place where dreams, hopes and random ideas go to percolate.

3. Stop overestimating what you can get done

I created Commit Action around the principal that when entrepreneurs focus on just three major action-items a week, they tend to be far more productive. I’ve been testing productivity systems on clients for years. This works. Quit thinking you’re a superhero – it’s better to boost self esteem by committing to less and overachieving. Failed over-ambition only leads to self flagellation.

4. Do creative work first, commitment/necessities later

When I have back to back client calls all morning, I’m mentally checked out by 1pm. Finished. Nothing else will happen that day. When I write for a few hours in the am, then do the same number of client calls that afternoon, I magically get more important work done. Just by putting my day in the right order. This REALLY works.

5. Write a “done list”

Most entrepreneurs only complete a few hours of self-motivated work per day. The rest of those hours get eaten up with necessary errands, a whole lot of random time helping people and other essential social interaction. Try reviewing this at the end of the day and listing all of the things you got done. Business and otherwise. Whether you’re happy with your list or not, you’ll learn something important.

Head’s up, there’s just three days left to get in on Commit Action before it goes away. Following these five tips above will get you big results. Commit Action will ignite you like a rocket and set your bottom line on fire. It’s worth checking out.

What other software-free productivity tips do you use? 


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  1. I find having a “to-don’t” list really helpful – all the things I give myself permission not to do or let go of. Also challenges mind on how important a thing is and identify between noise and what is really moving me forward.

    LOVE your number one – I am a big fan of paper and pen. I think it is a highly underrated tool in these days of a new shiny techie object coming out every two minutes. Call me old fashioned, but I find I am using paper and pen more and more and finding it very useful for all sorts of things.

    1. Hi Ali,

      I’ve never heard of a to-don’t list. Do you write it and then throw it away? Or keep it around as a reminder? What sort of things are on it?

      Can you tell you’ve got me curious?? 🙂

      1. I use it in a number of ways Peter (for myself and with clients).

        One way is when we fall into trap of taking everything on and get ourselves into the mindset of it is all got to be done, even though a lot of it could wait or even be ditched totally. By having a written down “to-don’t” list it is giving ourselves permission to let things go that we have somehow given a wrong priority rating. My clients seem to really like it as an exercise too. Feedback is that it feels liberating and helps refocus how folk get caught up with less important stuff at the cost of the more important stuff. Things people might include are “I don’t have to do all the house chores during this product launch. It can wait.” I find people who tend to have perfectionist tendancies find it food for thought (I say that as a recovering perfectionist myelf!!!!)

        Also helps with leeting go of “shoulds, coulds and ought tos” e.g. I should go to that networking meeting even though I hate it. On the “to-don’t” list it might be “I don’t go to networking events unless I have a ball at them.”

        It can be useful for creating awareness around things folk want to change change or new standards you want hold yourself to. Purely as an identification tool to build on as often people know what they don’t want but haven’t yet translated into what they do want e.g. say you are fed up of negative people in your space. Your “to-don’t” list might say “I don’t listen to BMWs (bitchers, moaners and whiners). But the imporatnt thing is to take that “to-don’t” and flip it. eg “If that’s what you don’t do, what is the new standard you hold yourself accountable for “I surround myself only with people who are constructive and give me energy.” In this instance the page is split into two columns. One side is listed what they don’t do anymore and the other side lists the new standard they hold tehmelves to. So that in terms of taking action they are focusing on what they want to create moving forward.

        It isn’t the sort of tool needed all the time. It is an as and when sort of thing.

        I like to have it written down but then ditch it as soon as poss.

        Hope that explains it a little.

        1. Well look at that, I just read my comment back and discovered something new for my own “to-dont” list – Don’t hit submit button before double checking spelling and wording!!!

  2. After working with you for some time, Peter, and having you drive home these techniques, I’m here to say to other… IT WORKS.

    I have a to-do list and it’s broken down by specific project, with each project broken down into ‘to be done’, ‘done’ and ‘for later’. This lets me know what I need to do, in tiny bite sizes, shows me what I HAVE done (which is FANTASTIC for motivation and to see tangible progress on projects that are often intangible!) and lets me jot down notes about what I may or may not do in the future.

    Again: IT WORKS.

    I jot down notes on pen and paper, and yes, I have post it notes all over – one post it note per item, so that when it’s done, I can remove it and throw it away.

    I’ve also implemented doing my important, creative work first thing in the day, which leaves me with beautiful, stress-free afternoons… a big difference from the long, tiring days that left me feeling drained and like I got a lot done – but could never say WHAT I’d done that day.

    As for overestimating what I CAN do? Commit Action (and Alex, my kickass CA coach) have really forced me to make my tasks easily achievable and to quit fooling myself on what I can do in a day – even a week. Now *I’M* the one telling Alex, “Look, I need to be honest – I can’t do this in just a week. Let’s break it down even more.”

    (And no, Peter didn’t pay me for this testimonial – he SHOULD, though!)

    1. I can pay you in smiles!

      Thanks for the comment. The “not-getting-too-ambitious” is so damn important. I’ve known loads of entrepreneurs who actually do a lot of stuff, but constantly feel like failures… because they’re never hitting the internal bar they’re setting for themselves.

      Business is supposed to be fun!

  3. Thanks for this Peter.

    I do struggle with focus and motivation. Its weird. When I do create to do lists I get stuff done. But then I get out of creating a list and become flustered and stressed.

    I have to remind myself to do this everyday in the morning. To make it a routine like having a shower.

  4. Rowan Simpson is a local developer in New Zealand.

    He developed an ios app called ‘Top Three’ which is about doing the three things you intend to do each day. You tick them off and can see how well you follow through over the week as you use it.

    Similar thinking to your philosophy.
    Here it is

  5. Hi Peter,

    I liked the idea about writing a “done list”. I’m going to put that one into action right away.

    Another thing I like to do is using a stopwatch to time how quickly I compete simple tasks. I keep a track of my PB time, then next time I do that task, I try and beat my PB. It really helps to focus your mind, there’s no time to check that push notification that just came in when you are desperately trying to beat your best time at the task in hand.


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