The graveyard is the richest place on earth,” said motivational speaker, Les Brown.

“It is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”

Ouch.

Unless you’re dead, that should hit you where it hurts.

I totally agree with Les, and today we’re going to do something about it.

One of the most common complaints I hear from people at my speaking gigs is that they can never find time to “write that book.”

Well, the answer is that you can’t find time.

It’s not hidden under the bed with your ab rocker collecting dust.

If you don’t make time for this important matter, your dream of writing a book will end up in the graveyard of lost hopes, along with so many other dreams.

Listen, we all have big plans for our lives.

So what separates the people who actually achieve their dreams and the people who spend years without making any progress?

It isn’t “desire”.

It isn’t “motivation”.

And it isn’t “luck”, either.

It’s the ability to ‘get stuff done’.

And today, I’m going to share my 7 favorite tactics that will help you double your productivity and make real progress toward your biggest goals.

Sound good? Then let’s dive in…

1. Live Your Life by Rules and Principles, Not Feelings

“Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behavior that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.” ~Ray Dalio

Of the many productivity strategies and tactics I’ve tested and implemented throughout the years, none of them come close to the power of personal rules and principles.

Sure…

An 80/20 analysis might help you identify and eliminate the tasks that aren’t serving you.

Understanding Parkinson’s Law–that work expands to fill the time allotted for completion–can create a radical shift in the way you structure your work weeks.

And keeping tabs on the latest “biohacks” and nootropic supplements might give you a 10% edge over your competition.

But creating and keeping a set of personal rules and principles trumps them all.

Because your personal rules are an inextricable part of your identity. They are part of who you are, not just what you do.

And when you have these rules in place, success happens faster. Decisions become automatic, you no longer need to think about what to do–you just do it. You won’t waste your finite willpower debating whether you should do this or shouldn’t do that. Instead, you already know exactly what you will and will not allow in your life so you simply act accordingly.

My favorite example of principles/personal rules in action is people who follow the Paleo diet.

When someone who has a personal rule that they only eat Paleo foods, they don’t have to think about what they will or won’t eat.

They don’t have to use willpower to say “no” to the jar of candy at Grandma’s house or decide in the moment, if they will or will not imbibe that sugar and alcohol laden cocktail while they’re out with friends.

They have a personal rule that is a part of their identity, their “operating system for success”, and they stick to it.

It’s that simple.

If you want to tap into uncommon levels of productivity and focus so that you can achieve your big goals and dreams faster, the first step is to create your personal rules.

What are the principles that must become an unbreakable part of who you?

What are the habits that you want to be a part of your identity, not just a semi-consistent activity?

For example, some of your personal rules might be:

  • I will go out on a date night with my spouse every Thursday night at 6 p.m.
  • I will go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday
  • I will exercise for at least 60 minutes a day
  • I will spend the first 60 minutes of my day on deep work

Take some time today to think about and create your personal rules. I promise that once you do, everything in your life will become simpler and success will come that much faster.

2. Get Public Accountability Around Your New Rules and  Identity

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” ~James Clear

Deciding upon your personal rules and new identity is one thing.

Consistently (notice I didn’t say perfectly) sticking to them is another entirely.

It’s relatively easy to say, “I will wake up at 7 a.m. everyday and go for a one-mile run”.

But dragging yourself out of bed, lacing up your shoes, and hitting the pavement when all you want to do is curl up under the sheets and sleep until noon… not so much.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution that will help you make your new habit changes all but automatic.

Public accountability.

For most people, it is much easier to break a promise or commitment that you’ve only made to yourself than it is to break a promise or commitment made to the people closest to you.

If you tell your best friends, mentors, and even your social media trolls that you are going to wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write a daily blog post, you’ll be far less tempted to hit that snooze button.

It’s more painful to face the public shame and humiliation of failing to live up to your new rules than it is to put your head down and take the actions you need to take.

For example, I tell almost everyone I meet about my personal rule that I don’t swear.

That way, if I ever slip back into my old habit of swearing like a sailor, I have people around me who will call me out and ensure that I remain in integrity with my values.

So this week, after you’ve created your new principles and personal rules, I challenge you to get accountable.


Whether you need to share a post on Facebook, hire a coach, or get an accountability partner, do something that forces you to be accountable to someone other than yourself.

Because when you are held accountable by someone, especially someone whom you deeply do not want to disappoint, success becomes almost automatic.

3. Use This Box to Accomplish More Important Work

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” ~Stephen Covey

One of the biggest reasons that people fail to achieve their big goals and instead live unproductive and unfulfilling lives is, quite simply, they focus on the wrong things.

They prioritize minutiae and things that are important to other people, but they never take the time to consider what’s most important to them.

Each week, they have a laundry list of “urgent” tasks that must be accomplished. Things like:

  • Responding to proposals
  • Sorting through emails
  • Filing TPS reports

And countless other things that do nothing to move the needle forward in their life or bring them closer to their goals.

But the secret to real and lasting productivity is not to do more things, but to focus only on the right things.

To help you determine what those “things” are and create a schedule that reflects them, we’re going to use a planning tool first introduced to me by Stephen Covey and first created by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower (who was possibly one of the most productive characters in all of history).

Here’s how it works…

First, take a quick “brain dump” by writing down all of the tasks, responsibilities, and activities that you currently have or would like to do on a weekly basis.

From date night to the gym to weekly meetings to starting your side hustle or writing your first book, get everything that you must do or want to do out of your head and onto paper.

Once you’ve done this, you’re going to draw a box (like the one pictured below) with the following four quadrants.

  1. Urgent/Important: These are tasks that both move the needle forward in your life and need to be done now. Examples would be: following up with a coaching lead, signing the contract on a time sensitive investment opportunity, or buying tickets to The Perfect Life Retreat at the early bird discount 😉
  1. Non Urgent/Important: These are the tasks that will break the needle in your life and lead to the highest levels of satisfaction. But since they aren’t urgent, they’re the actions that often get relegated to “someday”. For example, writing 500 words for your next book, starting your side hustle, improving your craft, or learning about new investment opportunities all fall under this quadrant.
  1. Non Urgent/Non-important: This is where most people spend the majority of their time. From mindlessly surfing the internet to checking social media to watching your favorite TV show, anything that doesn’t move your life forward and doesn’t need to be done now falls into this quadrant.
  1. Urgent/Non-important: This the quadrant that kills the hopes and dreams of more high performers than anything else. The simple fact that you’re reading this article shows me that you’re above average and chances are good you don’t waste that much time in the Non-urgent/Non-important quadrant. However, you likely waste dozens of hours each week responding to emails, booking flights, scheduling interviews, and engaging in other activities that are urgent… but just not that important in the big scheme of things.

Take some time right now to actually go through this exercise and fill out your own 4 quadrants.

Get an clear understanding of where you’re spending your time and how it could be spent better.

Then, once you’ve assigned all of your tasks to a specific quadrant, you’re going to use the following formula to immediately increase your productive output.

  • Not Important/Not Urgent: Delete it. It doesn’t need to be done and it certainly doesn’t need to be done by you.
  • Not Important/Urgent: Delegate it! Hire an assistant, assign it to an employee, give it so SOMEONE other than yourself who can make it happen without your input
  • Important/Urgent: Do it and do it NOW. Get it off your plate and cross it off of your checklist so that you can move on to other matters.
  • Important/Not Urgent: Schedule it in your calendar. Make it one of the “big rocks” in your Perfect Week Schedule (which we’ll talk about in just a minute). Treat these tasks the same way that you would an important doctor’s visit and NEVER allow them to go unaccomplished.

By revisiting this exercise on a regular basis, you’ll ensure that you are always investing time and energy into the tasks that will serve you at the highest level and truly help you achieve your vision.

4. Plan EVERY Day the Night Before

No strategy, tactic, or hack will have a greater impact on your daily productivity and peace of mind than setting aside 15 minutes every night to plan out the following day.

You can keep this particular tactic as simple or as complicated as you want.

Some nights, I’ll simply review my weekly calendar and then write out only my top three priorities for the following day.

And some nights, I’ll write out what I’m going to do each hour of the following day in borderline excruciating detail.

How you plan your days doesn’t matter, only that you plan them.

If you wake up without a plan, you’re already behind and the day is as good as lost.

You’ll waste the most valuable hours of your day in procrastination or planning when you could have spent them pushing forward towards your big goals.

However, when you wake up knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished, what your schedule looks like, and what priorities must be met everything runs smoother.

You’ll be more productive, focused, and energized as you enter your day and you’ll be less likely to succumb to overwhelm, confusion, or “what-should-I-do-nowitis?”

5. Follow the Perfect Week Planning Formula  

“Every Sunday morning, I sent aside an hour to review the past 7 days… This ritual is one of the best habits I’ve developed. And has helped so many of our clients achieve more in a few weeks than most people get done in a year.” ~Robin Sharma

In addition to planning every day the night before, a new non-negotiable that you should implement into your life is to plan every week on Sunday using my Perfect Week Formula..

Unlike most planning strategies that will instruct you to schedule out all of your work engagements, meetings, and sales calls first, my method is a little different.

Instead of putting your work first, you’re going to plan your week by first identifying those “big rocks” that need to happen for you to have your best week possible.

Things like date night, going to the gym, quality time with your kids, deep work on your next book, your morning routine, game night with the guys or appetizers with the girls.

Find the activities that bring you the most fulfillment and whole life satisfaction and schedule them before you put down a single meeting or call.

Then, once you have scheduled your big rocks and set aside time for the things that are most important to you, finish filling in your calendar with anything else that you need to accomplish that week.

When you’re done, it should look something like this.

As simple as this strategy might sound, it’s changed my life and the lives of hundreds of my best clients and it will ensure that you make time for what matters most.

6. Create and Follow the Not-to-Do List

Often times it isn’t the things you aren’t doing that are sabotaging your results and preventing you from success but the things you are doing that you shouldn’t be.

Just imagine someone who is trying to lose weight. They go to the gym every day and lift weights for 60 minutes. They do high intensity cardio for another 30 minutes each morning and even finish off their days with a 30-minute walk in the park.

But after their workouts, they go to McDonald’s and consume more than 4,000 calories in processed “foods”. They don’t need to spend two hours working out everyday. They just need to stop eating so many high-calorie foods.

The same is likely true in your life.

You’re probably doing most things right.

You probably work hard, know how to provide value, and are on the path to mastery in your respective field.

But it’s the little things you do that you shouldn’t that are holding you back.

To combat this, increasing your productivity and performance, you’re going to create a “Not to do list”. Or a list of activities, habits, and patterns in which you will NOT engage.

For example, your list might include….

  • I will NOT check email before 11 a.m.
  • I will NOT hit snooze in the morning
  • I will NOT watch more than 60 minutes of television a day
  • I will NOT have more than 2 alcoholic drinks a week

7. Push Towards Your Peak Potential

Make it your daily obsession to make the most of your potential” ~Tom Bilyeu

At the end of the day, the most important productivity “strategy”–if it can even be called that–is to develop a single-minded and myopic obsession to make the most of your potential.

I don’t mean to make the most money or to build the biggest business or have the most followers.

I mean to make the most of your unique potential, whatever that might be and however it might manifest itself.

We all have one shot at this life and it’s passing away one second at a time. As such, you must become obsessed with unleashing your full potential onto the world. Do whatever it takes to get more out of yourself, accomplish more in less time, and bring your unique vision to life.

Your goal as a human should be to come to the end of your life and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you left everything on the table and gave this life your all.

Push towards your peak potential. Never settle. And become unstoppable.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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