When Ian Fleming sat down to begin writing Casino Royale on 17th February 1952, all he had was an idea, an old Remington typewriter and a few reams of paper. Every day over the next six weeks, while he was on holiday in Jamaica, he began his day with a swim then breakfast in the warm Jamaican sun and afterwards went into the living room of his bungalow, closed the blinds, sat down at his typewriter and for the next three hours wrote.
He did this every day for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, he had the first draft of Casino Royale and James Bond was born.
If you study anybody who has created something special, from Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso, you will find they never had a complicated system of task management. There was no hierarchy of projects, contexts, filters or Kanban boards. There was just an idea and a consistent amount of work produced every day until the masterpiece was completed.
Yet many people believe if they create a complex hierarchy of projects and sub-projects with an array of assorted tags, filters and dates they will miraculously become super-productive and all their work will get done.
To become super productive, you need two ingredients: focus and consistency. Focus on the project or goal you want to accomplish. When you begin each day with the sole purpose of working on your masterpiece (the project) and you dedicate time every day to work on it, over a period of time you will have a masterpiece. That is how great things are made. Focus and consistency.
Ian Fleming did not wake up in the morning, check his mail, review a long list of to-dos, have a chat with his colleagues and review his social media feeds (which did not exist in 1952 anyway) He woke up, ate breakfast and began writing.
This consistent routine, repeated every day for six weeks, resulted in a finished draft yet he still had the afternoon to go snorkelling, sunbathing have dinner with his friends and explore the beautiful Jamaican island.
Even in our time, the most industrious people still do not have a complex hierarchy of projects, sub-projects, tags and filters. They have instead a focus on what it is they want to accomplish. Sir Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur, runs numerous companies with multiple projects and manages all this armed only with a little notebook. When he wakes up in the morning he follows a simple routine of exercise, breakfast and work. He knows exactly what he wants to achieve that day and he remains focused on that outcome. He has no need for a complex to-do list manager because he is completely focused on the outcome he wants to accomplish.
To achieve this level of super-productivity all you need is to apply a little focus consistently every day. You do not need to isolate yourself from the outside world. You only need to begin each day with a purpose. A purpose to move forward on whatever project you are working on at the moment. Focus two to three hours on that project every day and within a matter of weeks, you will have a completed project. There is nothing complex about that and there is no need for complex productivity systems. A notebook, a pen and clarity for what you want to accomplish is all you need.
Every Monday morning I begin the day with two objectives for the day. Write my blog post and do my exercise. The first thing I do after waking up and making my coffee is sit down at my computer, open my writing app and begin writing. For the next ninety minutes, that is my focus. Email is off, my phone is on do not disturb and I write.
Likewise, at 2 pm my phone goes back on to do not disturb and I will exercise for about one hour. By 3 pm, my objectives for the day are completed and I still have plenty of time to handle replies to emails, work coming in from clients and any admin tasks that need to be done for the day. That’s just two-and-a-half hours out of a day that has twenty-four. There is nothing complex about that.
People often say to me “ah yes, but I have to be available for my customers and boss” Really? That’s only true if you do not set any boundaries. Ian Fleming regularly had house guests staying with him while he was in Jamaica, yet everyone knew that between 9 am and 12 pm he would not be available and nobody complained because he told them he needed that time to write. From after lunch until bedtime he was available for his house guests. No one complained. Instead, people respected his time.
No one will respect your time until you respect your time. Take control of it and set some boundaries.
If you want to become super-productive, create your masterpiece and still have time to take care of your colleagues, bosses and customers, then set aside two or three hours every day to focus on your most important project. Tell everyone — colleagues, bosses and customers — that you are doing your important work at that time and you will be off the ‘grid’ for a little while and very soon you will be turning in quality work without the stress and overwhelm so many people have today and no one will complain.
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