Productivity Hacks for the Lazy and Undisciplined

hammock

I am the most unfocussed, laziest entrepreneur in the whole world.

No, this isn’t a self-effacing, falsely modest boast. It’s a fact.

  • I’ve used an alarm clock on only a few occasions this year
  • I rarely get out of bed before 10am
  • I never spend more than 15 minutes on anything before I get distracted
  • I never plan out my days – I’ve no idea what I’m doing from one day to the next
  • I have a history of bad school reports, bad exam results, bad working relationships and bad hair (that last one’s not my fault)

If you read to the end of this article (and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t bother) you’ll find out how, in the last year, I have:

  • Written 4 books (one a bestseller)
  • Created 5 premium video courses
  • Written 50 blog posts
  • Posted 65 YouTube videos
  • Written various guest blog articles, presentations and meaningless social media messages

And all this whilst getting divorced, selling a house, buying a flat, servicing my corporate clients for my design business and trying to be a dutiful family/community person.

“Productivity gurus” advocate strictness. This works for them but it may not be right for us:

Wake up at 3.30pm, two hours before you go to sleep, take a cold shower, self-flagellate and write 3,000 words before your raw seaweed and nettle breakfast. Don’t even think about enjoying yourself before your 5.30am bedtime.

I’m being facetious. I don’t have all the answers. I get a lot wrong. But I also get a lot of people saying “I don’t know how you do it, you’re so productive!”

Do the following to free up time and energy

I’m going to start with a lot of things I don’t do which gives me a lot of time and energy for everything else. Hang in there, I’ll get to the positive stuff later.

lazy cat

Stop having a go at yourself

Yes, we’d all love to follow our self-imposed rules to the letter. But, you’re human. You will err. If you sleep in, get annoyed, eat a burger or fail in some way then don’t worry.

It happens. It’s OK. Really.

Don’t watch the news

Bad things happen. History books can confirm this so we don’t need any more evidence that this is so.

Hearing that another bad thing has just happened is a stressful waste of your time and energies. If you can stop bad things happening, then stop them. Otherwise, constant visual confirmation of the existence of bad things will not help you or the people they happen to.

Don’t watch TV

So, the news is out. But so are game shows, soaps, reality TV, comedies, dramas, kid’s TV, etc., all TV. Especially adverts. It’s all a complete waste of time. Read a book when you’re incapable of doing anything else.

Don’t buy or read newspapers

Newspapers, like TV news, are more biassed opinions about bad things (why they’re bad, why the person writing the news is better than the bad people that do the bad things and why we should be frightened of other potential bad things and bad people that we don’t even know about yet). They serve other peoples’ agendas, not your own. Avoid the websites of newspapers and media companies for this reason.

Now that you have no opinions about the news, the bad things, the latest reality TV shows, etc., you’ll have nothing to say to anyone. Which brings me to my next point…

Lose your friends

Do you have “friends” that use you as a sounding board for their latest problems? Do you feel exhausted after talking to them? I know this is difficult advice to follow. But, get rid of the negative people from your life!

Don’t blame anyone or anything

Bad things will happen to you. Use the bad things as opportunities to exercise your problem-solving muscles, rather than wasting time and energy getting emotionally involved in the bad things.

Don’t judge people

I’m going to sound like a hypocrite here. As I said, I get it wrong all the time. But I know for a fact, judgment is the source of all your problems and wasted energy.

There’s no such thing as a bad person or a bad thing. Just temporary states in our lives that we judge as “bad”. So, whenever you find yourself seeing a large person and saying to yourself, “oh, I couldn’t never eat so much junk as s/he did!”, stop yourself, concentrate on your breathing and move on. You’ve eaten crap as well. But don’t have a go at yourself either.

Don’t complain

And now that you’re not judging or blaming anyone or anything, you’ll have nothing to complain about. This is a huge time and energy win.

I used to complain a lot: when airlines lost my luggage, when solicitors over-charged me, when a website annoyed me. It was a complete waste of time. People say, “if you don’t complain nothing will improve”. Nothing has improved. People are still complaining as much now as they did when I was a kid. More, in fact.

Complaining is all about your ego. It’s revenge for a perceived bad thing. Revenge is wasted energy and counter-productive.

Don’t stay seated for longer than 20 minutes

Get up and walk around. Take breaks. Change your seating position. Straighten your back.

Use a laptop and work in as many different places as possible.

Don’t drink or take drugs (much)

Try not to drink during the week. At least go more days without alcohol than with. When you do drink, only drink two or three at the most (this is difficult if you meet young people in the evenings). Drink causes a less than perfect physical and mental state and hampers productivity even if you’re young and fit.

Drugs are mostly bad for you. If you do take them make sure it’s once in a blue moon and never, never, never make it a habit.

More don’ts

  • Don’t stay on Facebook or links you’ve clicked on from Facebook for more than 5 minutes
  • Don’t say “I’ll do this once I’ve done that” – you can always do this
  • Don’t do stuff you don’t like to do

lazy-cat

How I get things done

Now that I’ve got through all the ways I try to alleviate stress and free-up time. Here’s what I do to get things done.

Do one thing every week

Blogging is an incredibly useful practice as it improves your personal brand recognition as well as your writing. So it’s an important habit to keep up. I write a blog post every week. I would feel bad if I didn’t. This has helped me so much.

What enormously important task you could do every week that would really benefit you?

Do one thing every day

When I’m writing a Kindle book, I try to write 750 words everyday. I’d feel bad if I didn’t get at least 400 down. I’ll have a book done in a month (subject to a couple of read throughs and a professional copy check).

When I’m making a video course, I try to record a video everyday. Recording a video isn’t that hard; editing can be time-consuming. I outsource the initial editing and then add a few finishing touches afterwards. By the end of a month, I’ll have a video course ready to sell on Udemy.

What one thing could you do everyday that would lead to something amazing?

Identify the 20% of tasks you do that will give you the 80% of benefit

Writing that book, setting up that sales page, connecting with that influencer, creating that video course – these are the things you should be concentrating on. Do the things that’ll take your brand to the next level – not spending time on social media, posting your links in LinkedIn and Facebook groups you never spend time in, reading industry tittle-tattle.

Work out “the 20%” tasks which give you “the 80%” benefit. Don’t worry about client work, the work you have to do. You’ll do that.

What tasks could you do more of now that would take your business to the next level?

Outsource

I try to outsource tasks that drive me crazy. The problem is that outsourcing drives me crazy.

I’ve been using oDesk and Elance for years. You get out what you put in. Write extremely detailed descriptions of the tasks you want completing. I even record the task on Screenflow. Never use the cheap candidates and see what previous work they’ve done and how they were rated.

What drives you crazy that you can outsource?

Do different things everyday

Walk a different way to work or a different way to the shops everyday. Work in different cafes everyday. Read a book that isn’t “your thing”. If someone invites you to an organ recital or the ballet or something you wouldn’t usually be interested in, go.

Mixing things up like this will stop you getting Alzheimer’s according to Super Brain by Rudolph E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra and will make you more energized and productive.

What one thing do you habitually do the same way everyday that you could change and have fun doing it differently?

Read

Instead of watching TV, you can read. Try to vary your reading as much as possible.

Exercise

I’m struggling with this at the moment. I try to exercise at least three times a week. However, it may be better to do something everyday.

Whether it’s 20 minutes running, 30 minutes walking, yoga, tai chi or whatever you’re into – it’s quite enjoyable when you do it, it’s just so hard to get it done. Just do it. Start by changing your clothes. Change into your sports gear then you’ll feel pretty stupid if you don’t exercise.

Be grateful

You’re working towards personal freedom and helping people. You are an amazing success. Be grateful for it. Be grateful for anything.

Don’t worry about money. You’re not hungry. Money is just a number in a computer that you’ll care little for when you’re on your deathbed. What will you care about on your deathbed? Care about that now.

Be happy

Whatever you do, make sure it makes you happy. If something seems like a bind then you’ll probably do a bad job, get tired and give up. I know, we’ve all got to do things we don’t want to do. But we can do everything we can to minimize the bad stuff. Break it up, outsource it, pretend you’re happy even if you aren’t.

Conduct your life as though you are successful and happy – it makes a huge difference if you do this. But it’s real subtle. Believe in your success and happiness without thinking about it. Try not to make it an ego thing.

Don’t get all puffed up when you see some success. Instead, humbly continue to provide better products and improve people’s lives.

Ignore my advice

I’ve read all the productivity books and bloggers and I do little that they suggest. So, if these books and bloggers resonate with you, it’s probably better to ignore me. I’m saying “do this” and “do that” but they’re just suggestions. Do what you think is best. And it’s probably better to ignore me anyway.

You can do it

I’m sure you can write that book, create that video course, earn a life-changing passive income – if you’re happy doing it then you are a success.

I positively, absolutely, genuinely believe in you. You are amazing. You are a success.

photo credit: Jamie In Bytown, (*◡*) and 55Laney69

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” ― Bruce Lee

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post, Rob.
    I think it all boils down to this; if you are not happy with the results you are getting, then try something new.
    You can read as many books and articles as you like about productivity, but unless you actually TRY something, you won’t know if it works. If something doesn’t work, try something else.
    What have you got to lose, really?

    • says

      I quite agree, Tristan, I think none of the “productivity gurus” are saying “do this, do that”, they’re saying, “this works for me, maybe it’ll work for you. Try it!” :) And that’s what I’m saying. You’re right, keep an open mind. Do what works for you. And keep trying things.

  2. says

    Great stuff Rob, I completely agree. I have the Don’ts mastered…um ..think I best leave it there!

    No seriously, I learnt a remarkable amount for just giving up trashy TV, newspapers, negative people and reading motivational blog posts (OK, so I lied about that last one).

    And … Nah, still not convinced you are lazy – nice try though.

    • says

      Thanks for coming out of retirement in Goa to write this comment, David, so nice to hear from you again. Hope you kick your motivational blog post reading habit soon.

      I am so lazy. Please believe me!

      • says

        Ha ha, retirement – It certainly feels that way out here.

        It’s the monsoon session now, but when it is sunny and bright (most of the time) I notice how helpful it is to getting things done. Back in the UK it was an effort for me to eat healthily,exercise and leave the computer monitor. Not so here.

        Now the priority is enjoying the freedom of the day first. What happens, of course, is I get desperate to do a few hours work, And I’m sure these are more productive than a whole day trying to discipline myself. Time will tell.

        • says

          That’s an interesting insight, actually, David. I might be about to find out what working is like in a tropical paradise. I can see there are advantages and disadvantages.

          • says

            That’s sounds great. Moving has been fantastic for me, but I do owe so so much of it to my wife.

            It took years of loneliness to find her, but having that constant support when the inevitable culture clashes occur is invaluable.

            Hope you have better luck with the internet service.

            • says

              Wow, you should write about that, David. Your life is actually really interesting (from London civil servant to Goa beach bum – I was never good at titles!)

              The internet’s meant to be better in Chiang Mai, Thailand and really good in HCMC, Vietnam. :)

              • says

                Is that where you are heading? We are going to Thailand and Vietnam in Nov just for a trip (and we always have an eye out for a new location too).

                I might just write about it, but after way too many false starts I’m all excited about a little hush hush WordPress project I’ve just started ready for next year.

                I think I learned that I have to stick with what I really love. I partly got that from knowing you.

  3. says

    Rob,

    Love how you straddle humor, down-to-earth advice and inspiration … all at once.

    I gave up news and TV some years ago, and I’m working on getting my family to do the same. I can’t agree with you more about it is probably one of the most energy-sucking, unproductive and useless thing ever – except MacDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy :)

    I think it’s your honesty with yourself that’s made it possible for you to be so prolific, and it’s a good lesson for all of us.

    Great post.

    Naima

  4. says

    Haha I swear the cold shower thing works. I don’t know why, but it does.

    I’m 5 months into it. Will see if I can keep it up once the weather turns cold again :)

    • says

      Yes, I remember the episode where you discuss the cold shower treatment. I can’t remember who it was that advises it. But, when I was listening, I was thinking I should try that. It’s all about being comfortable with being uncomfortable and I totally get that. I’ll get round to it one day (probably on a tropical beach with no hot water available though ;) )

  5. says

    Having read this I feel ready to tackle day. Not sure I can give up TV though as I like the escapism. However I am trying to read more and also make the time to comment on blog posts, listen to webinars, do a bit of yoga, go the gym etc. Hopefully soon I’ll start publishing my own content! Correction – I will publish my own content! See… it’s working already.

    Thanks Rob.

    • says

      You really should publish more, Mark, your experience with graphic and web design is huge. You’ve learned so much over the years and many people could learn from it. Glad you liked it. :)

  6. says

    Howdy Rob,

    I agree with you on many of these points and action them every single day.

    I don’t watch TV and certainly not the news.

    I haven’t drank alcohol in 9 months or something like that.

    I don’t listen to negative people and one of those is my own mother.

    But one thing I do, is that I get up earlier and work harder than anyone around me to the point of insanity. This one isn’t for everyone but one thing you cannot say you haven’t done is deliver and be accountable.

    Enjoyed the post!

    Matt

    • says

      Hey Matthew, interesting to hear about your lifestyle. I had no idea you’d given up alcohol. You must have noticed some quite extreme health benefits from having done that?

      I did know that you are a hard worker. And I know from your podcast that you’re an early-bird. I’m more like your partner in crime, Dave.

      Exactly, everyone’s different and we do what works for us. Thank god everyone’s different, lol!

  7. says

    Hi Rob,

    When I first saw this title it was my first choice. Because of that “Lazy” word I thought it fits more the photo description. Glad you choice this title instead. And this is a great way of engaging your readers to something much more interesting to read. Kudos to you!!

    I am the same way. I don’t get up at 6:00 AM unless I have to and I’m trying to finish a deadline. I like to start reading around 10:00 PM on all of my education ebooks, I’d be reading till 3:00 AM and then fall asleep. Then I will wake up around 10 or 11. I just cannot do to the real sticky hours of say 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. I know others are doing this, it works for them. But for us, Artist, we have a different schedule. Most Artists are nocturnal and can’t change that, we’re related to hamsters! LOL

    I don’t watch TV and I hate watching news OR reading news. I read more and more nowadays. Remember I said I have to finish reading 40 books this year, I’m getting there.

    And I have lose all my negative friends! I’m always grateful and always meditate on the positive things in life. Even if the cupboards are out of food, I still think I’m blessed compare to the life in some countries who are suffering of famine. There’s always things to be thankful for. Anyhoo, thank you for the excellent post.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Angela

    • says

      I thought long and hard about putting that “lazy” word in there, Angela. Thank you for letting me know your reaction to it.

      It’s very interesting, as well, how all the commenters are quite similar. Also, interesting to see how they differ as well. But we all seem to hate TV, lol!

      Thanks, as always, for your positivity.

  8. says

    Hello Rob,

    It was a fun, wisdom filled read!

    It occurred to me while reading your post that when I focus on helping other’s succeed I feel more fulfilled and encouraged to get through my own pitiful, pathetic life.

    I really like your approach in helping others succeed and your brutal, self effacing honesty…….I hope it doesn’t hurt your business now that people know your lazy and can’t stay focused on anything longer than 15 min….:-)

    So a better definition for success has emerged…..
    Helping other people succeed = personal success.

    Thanks for the post,
    Mark

    • says

      Thank you, Mark. I definitely agree with you that helping others succeed = personal success. I would take that even further and suggest that we are better off trying to help other people than we are just helping ourselves.

      I don’t think calling myself lazy will hurt my business, at least I hope not! :)

  9. says

    Thanks Rob for the great article; it could be the basis of your next book! We are on the same page in many ways; I have struggled for many years with “discipline” and wondering why I don’t seem to have it! Yet when I do get down to work that I enjoy, I can be extremely productive, churning out a web page, video and blog article all in a day. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that some us work in spurts while others are “plodders.”

    Stephen Pressfield, author of the War of Art, has this to say: “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” (http://gezzmedia.co.nz/blog/do-you-keep-putting-off-doing-your-work/)

    Which reminds me I need to get back to writing those blogs! Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement.

    • says

      I agree, Gerald, I think the productivity gurus tend to be “plodders” rather than “spurters” which has skewed the debate. “Plodders” are rewarded in school and corporations; whereas “spurters” are more likely to succeed in entrepreneurial pursuits. You’re right, I’ve got another book here! :)

      I haven’t read the War Of Art yet but I love that quote.

  10. says

    I absolutely agree with every bit of this article and I live in this awesome way! Sometimes I am really surprized how much I’ve already done – of course not as much as gurus who wake up at 3.30, but at least I have nice colorful morning dreams :)

  11. says

    Love this post!

    I think you’re being too modest, though – I think there’s a lot of sound advice there on saving time and using the time that’s left more usefully.

    I do try and avoid news and newspapers, especially if there’s a bad story. I don’t watch a huge amount of TV now – I probably spend more time online. I wish I could complain less – it’s just become ingrained.

    I wish I could blog more often, too. I’m managing one post a month. It always falls to the bottom of my to-do list because no-one is paying me to do it. You’ve made it a good habit to blog regularly. I find it can start off as a bit of a chore but get more enjoyable as I go on.

    Ok, off to stop beating myself up now! :-)

    • says

      Hey, thanks, Claire. Maybe I put the “don’t complain” thing too simplistically. I meant more about not complaining to companies about being over charged by a few bucks and writing letter after letter to their complaints department secretly hoping for an apology to put an end to it – that’s what I’ve been wasting my time on!!!

      Yes, you’re right, I do enjoy writing more than I used to. Like a lot of things, you get better at it and quicker at it, and therefore it becomes less of a task and more enjoyable.

      Yes, stop beating yourself up – your website and blog look great!

  12. says

    Hi Rob
    Great post, thanks for sharing your ideas.
    It’s so true what you say about saving energy by not complaining or judging. It’s true for me and also when I spend time with my family. It’s so draining finding fault with things or people all of the time.
    That energy can be used to have such a positive impact on your own life instead.
    Also, I’m happy to be lazy if it means being authentic!
    Craig

  13. says

    More great advice, Rob. The thing that resonated with me most was stopping watching the news. I do that all the time, especially when something tragic happens like the recent terrible events in the Ukraine. I even get annoyed when the same articles come round and around time and time again. Why do I do that? You’re right, I do need to stop. I don’t know about soaps though, I need that for escapism and the routine of watching TV for a couple of hours on an evening is about the only relaxing we do as a family. I am going to try to replace news watching with book reading and see how it goes. Thanks again for the inspiration, Rob.

    • says

      Thank you, Garry, I’m glad it resonated. I totally understand when you have a family that things are different. The problem with writing these sorts of articles is that they come across as “do this, do that” when I’m saying what works for me and I don’t have kids of all ages and all tastes running around. Haha!

      Ukraine was a good example. Lots of potential for misreporting, conjecture and general comment that is of no help to anyone.

  14. says

    Hi Rob

    I love this post and your tone, especially the “Ignore my advice” haha.
    Lot of things I agree with in your post, not everything of course ;)

    Most of my activities that take my time, and that I cannot outsource and shrink time on are everything related to my 3 (full of energy) kids (3 to 7 years old), of course all productivity advices we can read here or there are good, but not always possible! (in my evenings, when they finally sleep, even if I would like to watch TV instead of work I couldn’t even do, as I crash on the sofa, hahaha)
    I’m not complaining, right? (I love my family), I just have to accept that I do everything business-related a bit slower than all of you :) I think this is worth a post one day!!

    I want to add that I’m extremely glad to have met you, very happy to be “in your circles”, and I remember your reaction to one of my domain names, and will never forget your encouraging words!!

    Looking forward to see you again!!

    • says

      Hey Patricia, as I was saying to Garry above this what works for me and I don’t have 3 (full of energy) kids (3 to 7 years old) with all their demands. Oh boy, I don’t think I would cope too well with that! Good idea, write a post about how you juggle all your family responsibilities with entrepreneurship – that would resonate with lots of people!

      I’m extremely glad to have met you and very happy to be in your circles, Patricia.

  15. says

    good one some great advice, I often sit too long at the computer and end up feeling tired, must get up and walk around etc more …

  16. says

    This was an awfully good article on being productive. I stopped watching or reading any media years ago and I am delighted to hear others have also done so.

    My favorite recommendation here is to focus on the 20% of things you do that will provide 80% of the benefits you enjoy.

    • says

      Yes, Theron, it’s interesting so many people don’t do TV and newspapers – and quite heartening. Nice to see you again and hope you got something out of it.

  17. says

    Rob, your style of writing disarms and then follows through. I don’t mean to flatter you; this is sincere. Your writing just shouts with authenticity! You put down actual word rates per day. You write about managing time and alcohol and contact with young people. I have been reading you for some time and you are simply a remarkable person. Your work style may not work for others, though. Your ability to avoid alarm clocks, newspapers, and TV, for example, is odd. You offer good reasons, granted, but only a serious person would try to follow in your footsteps. I hope people will because one has to give up something (not being happy!) to follow a dream. When the plan comes first, well, other things have to go. In closing, I am so fond of you as a person and a writer, I feel silly trying to put it in words. No, I am NOT a spammer. :) Am linking to a Squidoo piece that I hope all your readers will delight in. I have a day job so perhaps I may be forgiven for trying all angles, Hey, it made me a few bucks.

    • says

      Hello Astro Gremlin, nice to see you back here. Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate you coming here, reading and leaving a comment, as you have done here and as you’ve done before.

      Of course you are forgiven for adding a Squidoo link in the website field of the comment form. Everyone is free to put what they want there. We’ve all chased dreams and I’ve toiled over Squidoo Lenses in the past as well. :) Although, as a postscript, I’ve always found that I’ve got to enjoy what I’m doing, even just a little bit. And, I enjoy not watching TV, not drinking and exercising (although, just a little bit!) :)

  18. says

    “I am the most unfocused, laziest entrepreneur in the whole world:

    Written 4 books (one a bestseller)
    Created 5 premium video courses
    Written 50 blog posts
    Posted 65 YouTube videos…
    Ha ha, it was really funny. I would love to be THAT lazy ;-)

    Rob, I agree with all dos and don’ts. Media imposes the dominant ideology on us and I feel used every time I watch TV, so I rarely do. And absolutely no watching the news for me..

    There is no right or wrong when it comes to productivity techniques/methods, as long as you are getting results. The goal is to find what works for you.

    I’ve been struggling with productivity, and I read a lot of material on that subject. All the productivity gurus, in position of their authority, teach their methods as the ultimate and the most effective solution to your problems.

    I like the way you offered your tips: it works for me, it might work for you too. If it doesn’t, just ignore me. And that approach didn’t belittle your competency a bit.

    • says

      Hello, Anna, I don’t often write posts like this. I usually concentrate on the technical stuff that works so “do this and this will happen” but I couldn’t be like that on this post. So glad that people liked it. :)

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