Reaching peak productivity is no accident. There are certain rules and principles to follow that reliably and consistently lead to highly productive days.
In fact, through years of trial and error, I’ve established 7 productivity rules that I live by on a daily basis. Nowadays, they form the core of my performance.
Whenever I deviate from these rules, I instantly notice a dip in my performance and productivity. And whenever I strictly follow them, I make fast and meaningful progress.
Productivity Rule 1: When You Work, Work. When You Relax, Relax.
Most people are never entirely ‘on’ and never fully ‘off.’ When they’re supposed to work, they procrastinate and waste time on personal stuff instead. Every few minutes, they get distracted by private messages, social media, or news websites. This leads to low productivity and slow progress.
On the other hand, most people never fully relax when they’re supposed to rest. Especially with the rise of technology, the boundaries between work and relaxation have disappeared.
During the evenings or weekends, they quickly check their work email or send their co-workers a message regarding a project. All in all, most people are never fully engaged with their work and never fully relaxed during ‘off’ hours.
That’s why one of my top productivity rules is to work when I work and relax when I relax. As Brian Tracy said: “When you work, don’t waste time. Work all the time you work.”
Wasting time at work doesn’t make any sense. Every minute you spend procrastinating could have been spent either producing something valuable or in full relaxation mode on a hobby or with your loved ones — not somewhere in between.
During work hours, I want to get the maximum ROI on my time. This way, I leave my work with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which helps to completely relax during my ‘off’ hours.
Productivity Rule #2: Pursue The Vital Few Instead of The Trivial Many
Most people major in minor things. They obsess over getting their email inbox to zero, finding the latest productivity app, getting more followers on Twitter, or redesigning their website.
All of these things are nice, but far from essential.
In reality, only a few things truly matter. Only a few activities significantly move the needle towards your goals. It’s our job to identify these vital few among the trivial many, as Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, puts it.
I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. In the past, I thought I needed to do it all to become successful. My goal was to build a successful business, and I assumed that I had to start a YouTube channel, podcast, Twitter profile, blog, Instagram account, Facebook group, and many more.
Because of this belief, I had spread my resources — time, energy, and attention — dangerously thing among way too many projects. This resulted in the fact that none of the projects turned into a real success.
Only when I started to focus on the 20% of activities that were getting me real results — blogging on Medium and growing my email list — did I see a degree of success. Only when I relentlessly pursued the vital few instead of the trivial many did I see exponential gains on my efforts.
That’s why one of my all-time productivity rules is to relentlessly focus on my one to five most important tasks — the vital few — and outsource, delegate or eliminate the lesser important tasks.
As you only have so many hours in a day and so much energy to spend, it’s essential to say no to good opportunities to protect your resources for the great opportunities.
Productivity Rule #3: Protect Your Focus
If there’s one thing that many ambitious people struggle with, it’s staying focused on their work for extended periods of time without getting distracted.
However, it’s those who can focus intensely on their work — without getting distracted every few minutes — who produce high-quality work much faster than their peers.
Unfortunately, the statistics on our lack of focus are worrying:
- A Harvard study showed that the average knowledge worker spends 47% of his or her day in a state of (semi)distraction.
- RescueTime has researched that the average knowledge worker checks email 55 times per day (every 8.5 minutes in an 8-hour workday) and instant messaging apps about 77 times per day (every 6 minutes in an 8-hour workday).
Because of these worrying statistics, I made it a priority to protect my focus at all cost — especially when I’m working on highly valuable tasks such as writing articles or making new products.
Ever since doing so, I noticed that my productivity skyrocketed. Tasks that would normally take me 4–8 hours to complete now only take about 2 hours — all because I no longer waste time getting sucked into a vortex of distractions.
Many of my clients and readers have reported similar effects on their productivity. Therefore, I highly recommend that you protect your focus on a daily basis. To do so, make it a priority to fight off distractions:
- Disable all notifications from email, social media, news apps, and messengers
- Put your phone away and on flight mode
- Work in a quiet space
- Put in noise-canceling earbuds and listen to focus music (classical, techno, beats)
- Close all tabs that aren’t related to your task at hand
- Avoid multitasking
Protect your focus for what’s truly important instead of letting the ‘urgent’ things hijack your attention. Often, that what’s urgent is hardly ever the most important, even though it may feel like it.
Productivity Rule #4: Follow A Daily Deep Work Routine
Deep work is the most productive state we can be in. It’s when you work on a highly valuable task uninterruptedly for a longer period. Even with a 2-hour deep work session, you’re likely to make more progress than most people do with two full days of work.
“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.” — Cal Newport (author of Deep Work)
The reason why deep work is so powerful is that you combine the two most productive things:
- Working in deep focus mode — free from distractions and time-wasters
- Working on the most important tasks that generate the most value
This way of working is exponentially more productive than how most people approach their work.
Where most people work on many non-essential tasks in a state of continuous distraction, you work in a highly focused way on things that truly matter. That’s where peak productivity is achieved.
Productivity Rule #5: Create Clarity On a Daily Basis
Procrastination hardly ever comes from laziness or a lack of motivation. Instead, it comes from not having enough clarity.
“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” — James Clear (author of Atomic Habits)
Most people fail to create a clear plan for their workdays, which is why their work isn’t deliberate. Instead, they reactively work on whatever pops up. They act impulsively and unfocused instead of consciously following a clear pre-planned path.
To create the clarity necessary to perform at peak levels, you need to ask yourself important questions on a daily basis:
- What goal am I working towards? What do I want to achieve this month/quarter/year?
- What 1–3 important actions am I going to take today to significantly get closer to this goal?
- When exactly am I going to do which activity?
“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” — Cal Newport (author of Deep Work)
I clearly notice that on those days where I haven’t created any clarity because I failed to identify my priorities, make my ‘success list’ or schedule my day, I procrastinate much more, and I get distracted by non-essential work.
On the contrary, the days in which I do create enough clarity, I’m much more focused, and productive — which is why creating clarity is one of my daily go-to productivity rules.
Productivity Rule #6: Prioritize Your Health
Your health and vitality heavily influence your productivity. If your health declines, your energy levels decline — and energy is critical for high productivity.
When you feel sluggish, it’s hard to stay motivated and productive. And when you get tired, you’ll have a much harder time concentrating on your work and get distracted much quicker.
This will fuel you with the energy necessary to stay motivated, remain focused, and avoid procrastinating.
Productivity Rule #7: Start The Day With An Empowering Morning Routine
Starting the day by following an empowering morning routine has been one of my core productivity rules for years now. In my experience, a morning routine is one of the most reliable tools for consistent peak performance because it primes your body & mind for a highly successful day.
The way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your day. And when you start it motivated, focused, healthy, productive and stress-free, you tend to carry that flow throughout the rest of the day.
People like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates all have a morning routine because they understand the power of starting the day by proactively focusing on your goals, priorities and personal development.
Most people, however, start their day reactively. They start their day hurried, get distracted by other people’s messages & requests, and waste time away on social media or Netflix. This immediately sets the tone for an unfocused and unproductive day.
Personally, my morning routine consists of meditation, reading, journaling, reviewing my goals, identifying my priorities, and creating a ‘success list.’ By following these empowering habits & activities in the morning, I start the day strong, and I prime myself for a highly successful day.
Now Do It
Change only comes from taking action, not just knowing about it. That’s why I highly encourage you to try out three of these productivity rules for yourself.
Let me know in the comments which ones you’re going to try out!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab