Tag Archive for 'Productivity'

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Track Your Goals With The Seinfeld Method

Jerry Seinfeld has been one of the biggest comedians in the country for nearly 30 years, but you don’t write that many airline food jokes without a strong productivity system in place to give you that extra kick in the butt. Although his job mostly involves coming up with clever quips about things like tipping etiquette, his ability to get to work every single day is something anyone in any industry can take a page from.

How does he do it? With the productivity system known as Don’t Break The Chain. Simply put, pick the daily tasks you need to accomplish and start building a chain by marking off the days you succeeded in your daily goals on a calendar. Sounds too simple? It’s actually one of the most effective approaches to accomplishing your goals over a realistic period of time rather than try to sprint for the finish and burn out.

What makes the Seinfeld method great is that it combines concepts like step-by-step progress, pressure to keep moving, gamification, and a personal reward system into one incredibly simple Seinfeldian approach to getting things done.

The Goal

Seinfeld realized very early that the only way to become a better joke writer was by doing it each day. Sure, some comedians can sit down and write 1,000 jokes in one day, but if Jerry writes just 10 jokes each day, by the end of a year he will have 3,650 jokes. After 10 years, 36,500 jokes. After 20 years, well, you get the point…

The principle here is that we all have tasks that we need to do each day to become better at what we do, even if we just make small daily strides. An engineer may need to do a certain amount of coding each day, a freelance writer may need to write a certain number of words each day, a realtor may need to make a certain number of sales calls each day, etc.

Pick your goal(s) and set the rules. When in the day will I do this task? How much time will I devote to this each day? Don’t worry if it’s a small amount of time, the point is that your progress builds up greatly as you consistently do it over time – allowing you to accomplish more by doing less.


For me, the hallmark of a great productivity system is simplicity. Once you have settled on a goal, you need nothing else but a calendar and a marker. After you have completed your daily task, mark the day off with a big X. If you have multiple tasks, you might want to use different colors and just create a continuous line for each task each week.

After a few days, you will have a small chain. If you are anything like me, you will want to keep that chain going more than anything. It sounds simple, but the pressure of trying to keep the chain going, visualizing my progress right on the calendar, and rewarding myself with a big red X on the calendar after every successful day makes this a killer productivity strategy everyone should try.

If you stick to the system, you will quickly see the progress you have made build into substantial results – but if you don’t, there’s always the Kramer method.

How I Stay Productive Running a Productivity Company

You don’t start your own productivity company unless you’re already a productivity geek. As one such geek, you’d think I try every cool new app, tool, service, and widget. But with so many out there it just gets overwhelming and tedious. At heart, I’m a minimalist and my lone productivity strategy is “less is more.” This isn’t just something I look for when I’m working, it’s a way of life.

I’m the kind of guy who wants simple tools that get things done without broadcasting what I’m doing to the rest of the world and without exposing to the world how I got things done. I think that stuff is just distracting. For example, I removed the “Sent by my iPhone” tagline from my phone when I first got it, don’t wear clothing with brand names on it, and own my own domains for email. I don’t like being an advertisement or being tied down to one platform or another.

A big part of keeping my business productive is avoiding unforeseen problems – specifically, security issues. I don’t like to put my information “in the cloud” because these large services create a big target for hackers who develop exploits. Take the recent case of Mat Honan, the journalist who was a victim of just such an attack. Just imagine how many different businesses would have their information compromised if their cloud was hacked like Mat’s was. I believe in “security through obscurity”. Nobody is going to hack one guy’s obscure setup, they’re going to focus on the big fish.

I also stay away from certain applications, including some Microsoft communication products, if I know they have a reputation of being riddled with security flaws and don’t handle web standards well. I always like to stay on the safe side and don’t want to spend any more of my time futzing with things to get them to work. Instead, I use Thunderbird for email because it’s simple, yet powerful and allows me to make extensive use of IMAP folders for organizing mail, which I can view in Thunderbird, online, and on my iPhone. Sure, that’s technically in a cloud, but it’s on my own server! Then to combat email overload, I have a ton of automatic filters set at the IMAP server level to sort incoming mail into the correct folder. I also create custom incoming addresses for different senders and subscriptions, event invitations, newsletters, business, personal, hobbies, music, etc.

For appointments and tasks, I use synchronized Google calendar that I can view in my browser and on my old school iPhone 4 (gasp!). I don’t care about Siri and I barely use any apps except Shazam, Backgammon, and Copy2Contact, of course. Why do I need the latest hardware for all that? I don’t use a to-do list but often put to-do items in the calendar for the day as untimed events to minimize the number of applications that I fiddle with. Serves me very well.

All in all, I find that being bogged down by all of the unnecessary things that we get under the guise of becoming more productive can be the biggest productivity killer. I use a couple of applications that allow me to streamline my tasks and eliminate unnecessary steps and avoid everything else. In business and in life, I always strive for “less is more.”

Outsource Your Tasks To Maximize Your Time

The 4-Hour Workweek approach has really brought small business outsourcing to the mainstream, but more than part of any productivity system it just makes sense. Do the math: By outsourcing time consuming tasks, you can apply your time to the stuff that really brings home the bacon money for your business.

When it comes to spending your time working smarter, not harder, it’s important to look at the time consuming and repetitive tasks that cut into your work time. A realtor needs to sell property, not spend time updating her blog or fixing up her website. A salesperson needs to close deals, not spend hours doing research or telemarketing. By outsourcing the things you don’t really have to do yourself, you free up all the time you need to do what only you can do.

Outsourcing Research

Research is a crucial part of any business, but the internet creates an endless stream of information and the research time never stops. Whether you need someone to hunt down new leads, do market research, or even summarize an article or book, outsourcing your research helps you get the information you need without the busy work that it takes to get there. In college, it was “wrong” to hire someone to give you the CliffsNotes version, now it’s one of the best ways to free up your busy schedule.

Outsourcing Marketing

Whether your marketing strategy is based around advertising, social media, content, cold calling, or anything else, you can find someone who can free up your time to focus on sales and running your business. Odds are, they can do it better than you as well because a) they specialize in marketing and b) they don’t have to juggle a ton of different business tasks. The same goes for other time consuming projects that are not entirely business related, like web design. Don’t spend your time doing a mediocre job on many things when you can hire specialists and do a great job on the few things you are great at.

Outsourcing Errands

Many people often talk about how much easier their life would be with an assistant without realizing how accessible they are. Virtual assistants are growingly popular because they can help you with just about anything you need, and don’t cost nearly as much as a full-time live assistant. Need someone to organize files, book a flight or hotel, follow up on calls, fill out paperwork, transcribe files, or even order food? Virtual assistant services and freelance assistants can do just about anything that doesn’t require their physical presence.

For basic tasks, you can even outsource to a low-cost ($4-$15 per hour) foreign virtual assistant service based in India, Thailand, or Australia. For more advanced tasks or those where native English skills are important, you can just as easily hire an American assistant for $10-$25 per hour.

The two keys to outsourcing the right way are a) doing the math to make sure this helps you make money rather than spend it because it frees up your time and b) making sure to be very specific about your needs and requirements to ensure that the project is handled properly, on budget, and on time. Don’t make excuses though: There are only so many hours in the day, so don’t spend your hours doing tedious tasks that don’t help your business grow.

Split Your Day Into Three For Smarter Appointment Scheduling

You sit down to finish that report and – “A Mr. James is here to see you.” You get off of lunch ready to tackle a big project and – There are 28 unread messages in your inbox. How can we function when we’re dealing with everything all at once? Well, one of the best ways to get more done is to quit multitasking. So how should you manage your day?

Split Your Day into Three

Divide your workload into three types: hard work, client time, and light work. Obviously not all work is created equal, so by focusing on each of the three individually, you can get the most out of each one and get through each part of your day quicker.

Hard Work

This is the longest, hardest, and often most important work that you have to handle. Tough project? A report or presentation that’s going to take a lot of time? The best way to get a handle on the hardest or most time-consuming parts of your job is to get them out of your way as soon as possible instead of having the stress, worry, and overwhelming thoughts leaking over into the rest of your day.

At the beginning of your day, you are as sharp as you’ll be all day, don’t have a ton of stuff on your mind that compiled over the course of the day, and (hopefully) aren’t yet being constantly distracted. Use this time as your most effective work time and use it to focus on the tough, overwhelming, or very important tasks – the ones you don’t want to do or would rather put off. And turn off the phone and email alerts while you’re working!

Client Time

This is your appointment block. Outside of emergencies or extraordinary circumstances, allow clients to schedule appointments only during this time. Depending on how many appointments you make, this can take up half your day or just a couple of hours. It’s best to have client time after your hard work time, unless your time with clients is your hard work or you have to see clients first thing in the morning.

This can be a tough one because clients will often have time constraints, or if you’ve put client time on your calendar well in advance, they may have to wait a bit longer than usual. But its important to remember that the goal of this is to serve your clients better by focusing more on them and not being overwhelmed by a plethora of different thoughts, tasks, and issues.

Light Work

Leave the stuff that doesn’t require a ton of willpower for the end of your day. Paperwork, follow up calls, re-ordering, tackling email overload, etc. are usually not tasks that require immediate attention and aren’t difficult or stressful, so you shouldn’t have a procrastination problem as you would with larger tasks.