5 Techniques to Actually Skyrocket your Productivity

Spoiler: getting up at 5 isn’t one of them.


Life is busy. Shiny objects are all around and distractions wait at every corner.

Fellow entrepreneurs know that working for yourself can make it even harder. Lack of structure, deadlines, and routines put you into the only position of authority. If you don’t force yourself to change from your pajamas into proper clothes nobody will.

The result: we over-schedule, over-stimulate — underperform. We get to the end of a day realizing we have spent most of our time on low-impact activities.

Don’t Give Yourself an Option

This article is written for you to challenge some of the common productivity hacks. I have found that many of them are nothing but hot air. They may work in theory but fail in practice. Here are the only five productivity techniques that have helped me improve the quality of work I do.

Here we go:

Don’t Set Artificial Deadlines — Make Them REAL

I’ve tried to get up at 5.30 am for a year — failing 90% of times. I felt discouraged.

Then I moved to San Francisco. All my meetings with European clients got shifted to early morning hours. Nothing is more effective in getting me out of bed than a real meeting at 7 in the morning.

If you struggle with “artificial deadlines” as much as I do — try to make them real.

I keep reading blogs that tell you to mark your work-outs in your calendar and then sticking to them. DON’T. Schedule a work-out with your personal trainer three times a week or commit to a session with a friend. The same principle works in business. Book that investor meeting for next week — I guarantee, you’ll have your business plan updated by then.

Prioritize Your To-Do List (the RIGHT WAY)

“Don’t prioritize your schedule. Schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey

Though Steven Covey is right, I have found myself struggling with know what my priorities are and should be.

Between putting out fires and getting new leads, which one do you choose? I never knew how to prioritize until my business partner showed me Dan Martell’s Focus Filters. Here is his technique:

Use a scoring system for prioritizing your to-do list

1. Activity makes money (3 Points)

2. Makes customers happy (2 Points)

3. Helps you scale/ is a repeatable system (1 Point)

Assign points to every activity on your list and for each use the weighted score. Those that get most points should be top of your todo list.

Simple, right? Simple and effective.

Get out There from Time to Time

I know the struggle: your calendar is full to the brim. You sit down at your desk and swear yourself to “knock everything out”. Next thing you know, four hours have gone by and you find yourself lost in the Internet. Don’t waste your own time: you can’t sit down and get “everything done” without ever taking a break.

Carve out time to go on walks, meet friends, meditate, call a loved one, or go out there and see something new every once in a while. I have found that traveling helps me increase my productivity and creativity in the long run.

Manager and Maker Days

Meetings are the worst. You sat down to write an article or work on a website overhaul. You’re in the zone and deep in thoughts when your co-worker taps on your shoulder from behind asking for a meeting. You cringe… follow suit…. have the meeting…. go back to your desk… and can’t get back into the flow…. you end up browsing through your emails…. killing time… until the day is over.

The problem: you tried to divide your time between two vastly different tasks. Making and managing.

Venture capitalist Paul Graham talked about this a few years ago:

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour. (…)

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

When I first read these lines it blew my mind: how did I not discover this earlier? What happens to me and follow entrepreneurs is that we’re both makers and managers.

How do we carve out time to be both managers and makers?

We divide our week into makers and managers days. Instead of telling clients to call you “whenever” block off whole days when you’re not available.

Jumping on Calls Instead of Texting

I learned this one from my friend Catalina. She is one of the youngest women in the US to hold a general contractor’s license and builds energy-efficient houses in Kansas City with her company Greenovate Construction. She has one habit that I totally admire: she never texts. She doesn’t even have Facebook messenger installed on her phone and you barely see her typing.

She makes phone calls for anything she needs. Canceling a phone contract: call T-Mobile. Telling a contractor that the key to the house is under the flower pot: call the worker. Asking her husband what he wants to eat at night: call him. Telling her mom she loves her: call her.

Phone calls create accountability, a much deeper human connection and are far more effective in sorting things out than just emailing or texting back and forth.

Stop Thinking Productivity Tools Will Save You

The principle is primary. The tool is secondary.

A tool is only useful if it helps save time instead of creating more work for you.

I have tried them all: Asana, Trello, Todoist… There’s also this tool that synchronizes all your todo-list with yet another planner. Yippie, now I can stream my to-do’s into another tool, which integrates with my calendar, which sends a notification to my phone and watch. Awesome. Now I will never again forget my deadlines. WRONG.

After two weeks of using any of these tools I lose the discipline to update them. All these productivity tools send notifications to my phone, which is buzzing all the time. Notifications pile up. I swipe them all away.

How I fixed it? I got a notebook. One of these dumb physical notebooks that you write in with a pen. It works like a charm.

(No hate on productivity tools though — they are awesome. They just don’t save you unless you’re disciplined enough to stick to them.)


Finally, please remind yourself that you are in charge of your own life. Have fun and enjoy the ride. If you struggle with productivity maybe make some changes? Do what you love and are good at — outsource the rest. You owe it to yourself, the talent you were born into, and the ones that love you to bring out the best in yourself.

I hope some of the techniques I’ve shared will help you shine.

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