The cold, hard truth about productivity

By May 3, 2018 No Comments

If you struggle with productivity and getting shit done, then listen up – I’m gonna give you some real talk that might sting a little bit to hear, but if you take it to heart – it might be the missing piece of the puzzle that you’ve been looking for and help you level up your productivity.

Spoiler warning: the answer is NOT in reading more books, downloading the latest app or some “”productivity hack”” you heard from some guru… the answer is DISCIPLINE.

Here’s the deal: I hear so many of you guys say “I don’t have time” to do this or that… and honestly, that is just straight up BULLSHIT. Unless you can honestly say that you’re making the most out of every single minute in the day, your problem isn’t a lack of time, it’s a lack of time MANAGEMENT.

Honestly, you aren’t that busy. I’ve worked with people who truly do not have a spare minute in the day – I’ve seen their calendars and these people are literally booked in meetings, calls, events and travel from 7am until 11pm every day.

I used to do marketing and design for Abercrombie & Fitch, and was in meetings with the CEO several times a week. He would land from Singapore or whatever at like 5:30AM and be in the office for a meeting at 7… and he was like 65 years old! Then he would keep going until late at night, fly out and do it all over again. People like him literally do not have time to do even half the things they want to do – and let’s be real, if you’re watching this, you are NOT that busy (and neither am I)!

So the answer to getting more shit done is simple… it’s almost certainly not a lack of time itself, you just need to do a better job of managing the time you do have.

The biggest thing I see is a lot of people thinking that if they read this book or download this app, that somehow it’s going to turn them into a productivity machine… WRONG! You can read all the books you want and download all the apps you want, but don’t expect it to make a difference in how effectively you use your time.


Because the problem isn’t your tools, it’s your MINDSET. You don’t need another book or another app, you need DISCIPLINE. The discipline to sit down, focus, and grind through that thing you gotta do even though it’s tedious and annoying as hell and you’d way rather be doing a lot of other stuff.

But let’s a little more specific. In my opinion, there are 3 things that stop people from being productive – and by no means am I saying I’m perfect; I struggle with this stuff too, maybe just not quite as much as other people. See if any of these sound familiar.

Thing 1: Procrastination

SO MANY people put things off until the last minute – they say “eh, I’ll do it later” again and again and again. The problem here is that when you do everything at the last minute, you’re rushed, stressed, sloppy and aren’t gonna do your best work. And when you’re talking about complex projects with lots of moving parts – as creative projects almost always are – you need time to iterate and polish the details, which takes time. Time you’re just not gonna have when you’re working until the last second. And let’s be real – half the time “I’ll do it later” means you’ll never actually do it at all.

Thing 2: Lack of focus

You may have heard people talk about “shiny object syndrome,” which refers to the phenomenon of losing focus because you get distracted by some new, exciting idea or project, and before you finish the thing you’re working on now, you start a new thing.

And before you finish the new thing, a NEW new thing comes along… you get the idea – the end result is a whole lot of unfinished projects, and you say “omg i’m never gonna have time to finish all this stuff” – yeah, no shit! Because you started 100 new projects and spread yourself way, WAY too thin

Like Gorilla Biscuits said, finish what you started! Don’t let yourself start something new until you’ve completed the shit you’re working on now.

I know creative people don’t like to hear this, but trust me: FOCUS wins. Finishing one thing is better than halfway finishing 10 things.

Thing 3: Unwillingness to sacrifice

I know people don’t wanna hear this one either, but it’s reality. If you really truly need more time, get up earlier. Don’t go out on Friday night, stay home and work on your shit. Then get up at 6am on Saturday and start grinding again.

In 2016 and most of 2017, I was getting up at 5am every day including the weekends and working until 8 or 9pm. It was fucking hard and exhausting, but it had to be done because there was so much shit I needed to do and there was just no way to fit it into less hours.

You may need to give up some shit you enjoy, like watching Netflix, playing video games, or a hobby like playing guitar or doing fantasy football. I know some of you are gonna get butthurt about this in the comments but it’s just the truth. You may need to have a less active social life… pretty much all of my business partners have no friends outside of work. That may seem sad to you, but that’s the choice we have all made based on what we prioritize.

Nothing worth having comes easy, and if you are really truly serious about getting shit done then you’re gonna need to be willing to make some difficult sacrifices at times.

This is Asana, by far my favorite project management/task-tracking tool
OK – lastly, let me get super, super specific. I know you guys want tools and tactics, so here’s my suggestions:
  • The most powerful tool in my opinion is super simple: lists! You can use a paper list, Asana, Trello, Google Calendar, email shit to yourself, it doesn’t matter… whatever works for you
  • I personally use a combination of paper lists, because I find that physically writing things down helps me remember them, and Asana to track the specific micro-tasks and assign them to the people on my team
  • Break tasks down into subtasks. For example, instead of “update my portfolio,” break that down into “get images of my last 4 projects, write case studies for each, and get testimonials from Jon, Joe and Jenny”
  • Use your lists and whatever project management tool to stay ahead of all deadlines. In fighting they say that the punches that fuck you up the worst are the ones you don’t see coming, and that’s true of deadlines too.

You want to be tracking ALL deadlines on your lists and stay way ahead of them so that YOU are setting the pace and YOU are in control of what’s happening rather than just reactively scrambling to keep up with one deadline after the next. You never want to be surprised by a deadline, like “Wait that’s due TOMORROW?! Fuck fuck fuck what am I gonna do, I thought that wasn’t due until next week!

So those are the tools and tactics I use – but they aren’t magical or special in any way. First and foremost, remember that they only work if you USE them – none of these are going to make you disciplined on their own. Go ahead and read a book about productivity, but honestly what is it gonna say that you didn’t already basically know??

What it all comes down to is DISCIPLINE – having the self control to force yourself to stay on task and get shit done even when it’s boring and tedious and you really don’t feel like it. And you won’t get that from any book or app, that’s something that only YOU can choose to embody.

So there you go, that’s my little rant on productivity – I hope it helps. Just remember, the answers aren’t in a book or an app, they are inside you – so you already have everything you need to be a productivity machine, you just gotta make the choice to unlock it!

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