Last year I wrote one of the most popular articles on Entrepreneur.com. It detailed the seven mental shifts that I implemented to accelerate my career success and become a millionaire at the age of 22. These were the ideas that pushed me to my highest-ever levels of productivity and accomplishment. As I reflected on the major concepts I covered in that piece, I had a profound yet obvious realization: If I wanted to continue to progress, I would have to take everything I had learned and reinvent my systems once again. Be amazing or get surpassed.
It’s now May. I have already worked more hours than most of my formidable competition will the entire year. I’ve blown past a million dollars of year-to-date generated commissions and I am on track to produce at double the volume I did in a record-setting 2015. My strategy has dramatically evolved and, with the application of a few important new concepts, I have managed to recalibrate my performance in a highly favorable manner.
Here is a summary of what I’m doing to push myself to a higher level of professional success, and how you can follow suit.
Redefine your definition of “working hard”.
Being world class requires world-class dedication. I wake up at 4:00 AM every single weekday. I’m in the gym within five minutes of rising, where I exercise hard for thirty minutes, followed by fifteen minutes of meditation. I’m in the office by 5:15 AM and proceed to work at a frenetic pace for 15 hours straight. No one is outworking me. You shouldn’t let your competition either.
Long hours are not enough though. You have to maximize every minute of your day. When I first shifted to this schedule, I lacked the mental stamina to remain focused all day. I found adequate sleep, exercise, meditation and nutrition to be hugely important to building and maintaining the necessary endurance. The biggest contributor of all? Practice.
Time is our most critical resource. Not just how we utilize it daily, but also how much of it we are afforded over our lifetime. Working insane hours does not result in balance, but if you take the time to provide the necessary nurturance to your mind and body then harmony is very achievable.
Huge progress can be made during long periods of focused activity. When I arrive at the office at 5:15 AM, I immediately dive into what I refer to as “deep work.” These are projects that are big-picture in nature and almost exclusively oriented toward creating sustainable, long-term successes. Making this happen daily is critical, as you will be guaranteed to move the needle on highly rewarding work, which will keep you motivated to perpetuate such a demanding schedule.
I find this work is best completed as early as possible. Your clients will be asleep and less likely to need you, willpower will be at its maximum and, if you get the first few sections of your day right, the balance will usually fall into place.
Master the art of the scramble.
Clients come first. They are the only reason your company exists. When they need you it is your job to deliver, immediately. Being known for your exceptional service can be a valuable differentiator, but also presents a unique problem in terms of keeping your productivity high. Frequent interruptions result in highly variable periods of time to make progress on top objectives. How do you stay productive?
Most business books will instruct you to check email only a few times per day and to protect your time from everyone in order to stay focused. If you are comfortable with all of your clients firing you for your lack of responsiveness, it is indeed a great productivity hack. An alternative is accepting the interruptions as an inevitable part of life and learning how to effortlessly flow from one activity to another without it becoming disruptive.
My solution was to make it a game. How can I most effectively “pause” my current task, dive into a complex discussion with a client, and subsequently emerge just as focused as I was before? Do this by developing an interruption checklist that initiates a systematized process. A good checklist will include the swift documentation of your current task, an action item for after the interruptions and a mental bookmark of the transition.
Let data drive.
Imagine making the most important investment of your lifetime without doing any research. No one would ever do that, yet most people bumble through their days without intentionally allocating time for their most important activities. Relying on your “gut” is almost as bad as negligence given how easily our personal biases can lead us astray. The only surefire way to optimize your time is to cultivate personalized analytics to determine which of your activities are most productive.
Start this process by identifying all of your inputs and outputs. In the context of prospecting, activities such as emails, phone calls and attending events would be considered “inputs.” Securing appointments with qualified leads or receiving new business would be the “outputs.” With enough data you can begin to create ratios to easily compare which methods are most effective at producing your desired outputs.
My most valuable metric is meetings generated per minute of time spent prospecting. Once I took the time to collect enough data, I was shocked by the resulting information. For example, I learned that I generate more meetings per minute cold calling than attending networking events, unless I had an active speaking role.
No boundaries exist.
Ever heard of Kobayashi? In the world of professional eating contests he is a legend. In one of the biggest competitions of 2001, he destroyed the world record for most hot dogs consumed in a 12-minute period. The world record was 25. He doubled it and ate 50. There are no limits on performance.
People are quick to impose mental constraints on their potential. Whether it is an anchor to your best year ever or the numbers posted by the top producer in your office, refuse to accept that there is a ceiling in your industry. You’ll quickly realize there never is one.
There’s always a way to succeed. If something is important enough to you, then pursue it with everything you’ve got.