We all know the feeling.
You’re back from a long vacation, and now you barely remember how the coffee machine works.
While you’ve been away, tasks have piled up while your pace is slower than before.
How do you get into it again?
Where should you start, and how?
This week’s blog post gives you my five best hacks to skip the holiday paralysis and kickstart your productivity.
1. Have a Solid Task Brainstorming Session
The first step is to get it all out of your head and down on paper.
You need to make a long list of things that need to be done. Brainstorm and write freely without judging the items on the list.
I usually write it out on a loose piece of paper from the printer, which I tape or glue into the first page of an A4-size notebook.
That page is your master list that you can edit and go back to.
I cross items off the list and add new items daily.
When it gets too messy to look at, I make a new one and tape it onto the first page again.
On my list, there are both things like “pay bill” or “buy more canned cat food” and things like “write blog posts” or “get a business bank account,” in an unprioritized order.
Here, of course, the most important thing is the bank account, while the cat can live quite a long time on dry food.
But don’t worry for now about different categories and priorities.
The most important thing is to get it all down.
Your to-dos will create noise in your head if you don’t get them down on paper.
2. Prioritize, Simplify, and Outsource
Next, go through the list and prioritize.
You can write 1-5 on the left, where 1 is the most important and 5 is almost unimportant. I actually prefer a simple system from 1-3 (my brain likes three choices): high priority, medium priority, and low priority.
Remember that urgency and priority are not the same thing. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important.
It’s urgent to buy toilet paper if you’re out of stock, but in the big picture it’s not as important as getting a handle on important building blocks in your career or business.
Be careful not focus on putting fires out by constantly tackling the urgent tasks – it can quickly dominate your day.
If you can automate these kinds of tasks, maybe with an assistant or automatic online order once a week, that’s great.
Dealing with the little now-now-now matters makes you less efficient with handling the important things in life.
It’s essential to be completely on top of which tasks should be allocated your best “brain” time (which is early in the day when your brain is most fresh).
One of the most important things about the long list is to cross off the little things quickly.
3. Preplan the Week on Saturday Mornings
Do your schedule and planning well in advance. You should ideally make a weekly plan on Saturday morning during your best “brain” time.
By Monday morning, you should already know exactly what to tackle… otherwise you risk spending too much time staring at the wall, feeling paralyzed, not knowing what to do.
When planning your week, remember to also ask yourself, “What can I do this week that will make next week easier?”
If you ask this question every week when planning the week, it will have a big effect over time. It’s about outsourcing tasks and finding easier solutions so that you can focus on what’s really important.
When planning the week, remember to scan the field for landmines. You need to consider what could go wrong that could prevent you from completing the tasks so you can make backup plans. What do you do if the flight is canceled? Or if a child gets sick?
4. Make a List of Tomorrow’s Tasks
Every evening, I write down three important tasks that I must complete next day, come hell or high water.
I write the three things down the night before so that I am completely aware of what I want to prioritize when I wake up the next morning.
There is something magical about the number three. Studies have shown that most people pass up free samples of jam in the supermarket if there are more than three flavors to choose from, because it seems overwhelming to them.
There is a reason why the hero in fairy tales always has to go through three trials. Four trials and you lose both the hero and the reader.
However, I have heard of a slightly more sophisticated system that I am considering implementing. It’s called the 1:4:5 rule.
The idea here is that you should limit yourself to 10 tasks per day. One large task, 4 medium and five small tasks.
Whether you choose 3 or 1:4:5, remember to write your tasks down the evening before. Being prepared is crucial.
5. Evaluate and Adjust
When the week is over, review it and consider what you would do differently if you could have a do-over.
In this way, you can improve your own ability to work effectively with the most important things.
Was there anything that distracted you last week? Did something interrupt you? Were there unforeseen “landmines”?
How can you get rid of what went wrong last week so it doesn’t show up again?
If social media is distracting you, can you delete the app from your phone?
If messaging with a loved one is pulling you out of your productive zone, can you make an agreement only to text during work hours if really necessary?
Are there any urgent, but not important tasks at work that you need to learn to say no to?
If there is something in the home that distracts you, can you sit somewhere else?
Try to look at your distractions in detail and find out how you can improve.
Become a Better Investor, Too
What does this have to do with investing in stocks.
As an investor, it’s also important that you get things done: research, follow up, invest.
Many people get paralyzed when it comes to investing.
I often hear people say things like:
“I believe in value investing, and I really like your method. But I can’t seem to get it done.”
If that’s you, review these five points with investments in mind:
Write down what you need to do to invest.
Prioritize what is important to get done.
Get your tasks scheduled.
Write down 3 things you have to do tomorrow with your investments.
Evaluate how it went and why you maybe weren’t super efficient.
Sometimes a small decision can have a gigantic effect. Nine years ago, when my eldest son was still a baby, I discovered that Netflix was dominating my evenings to the point where I was getting sloppy with our nighttime routine because I wanted to watch my shows.
How could Netflix be more important than showing love to a small child? It seemed completely wrong to me, so I decided to cancel my subscription, and guess what? I’ve never gone back to it.
Yes, I’ll miss out on Squid Game and Tiger King, but I can use that time to do things that are of a greater importance to me. Like quality time with loved ones, reading and studying, and – yes – investing.
Not getting things done is probably one of the biggest barriers that prevents most people from becoming good investors.
The first thing you need to do is download my e-book Free Yourself, where you can learn a lot more about investing. You can download it here.