No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy: Notes

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  • If you don’t know what your time is worth, you can’t expect the world to know it either.
  • People who can’t be punctual can’t be trusted.
  • Regimen, ritual, commitment, and discipline are of vital importance in relation to successful achievement.

The Five Big Ideas

  • Calculate your base earning target.
  • SlayTime Vampires.
  • Stop“productive interuptuts.”
  • Practice“clearing the calculator.”
  • Link everything to your goals.

Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Time Truths

If you don’t know what your time is worth, you can’t expect the world to know it either.

Vampires will suck as much blood out of you as you permit. If you’re drained dry at day’s end, it’s your fault.

If they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.

Punctuality provides personal power.

By all means, judge. But know that you too will be judged.

Demonstrated self-discipline is MAGNETIC.

Good enough is good enough.

Liberation is the ultimate entrepreneurial achievement.

Chapter 1: How to Turn Time into Money

The use or misuse (or abuse by others) of your time—the degree to which you achieve peak productivity—will determine your success.

Entrepreneurship is the conversion of your knowledge, talent, guts, etc.—through the investment of your time—into money.

The more you think like an investor-entrepreneur than just an entrepreneur, the better you do financially. It is “investor-think” that makes you wealthy.

You’ve got to decide how much money you’re going to take out of your business or businesses this year in salary, perks, contributions to retirement plans, and so on. What is that number?

Second, you have to eliminate the need for doing or delegate those tasks and activities that just cannot and do not match up with the mandated value of your time.

Deciding what you shouldn’t be doing—this moment, or at all—is at least as important as deciding what to invest your time in.

Chapter 2: How to Cheat Time

There are only three ways to make money: your own work; overrides or profit margin on other people’s work; money making money for you.

You should consider any resource you are having to create, manage, or maintain with your time and ask yourself who else is doing the same work and how you might get some kind of “ride along” on their efforts.

Few entrepreneurs understand the incredible leverage, time savings, and capital investment reduction available from using OPC: Other People’s Customers.

Chapter 3: How to Drive a Stake Through the Hearts of the Time Vampires Out to Suck You Dry

Time Vampires are needy, thirsty, selfish, and vicious creatures who, given an opportunity, will suck up all of your time and energy and leave you weak and debilitated.

Being willing to deal with Time Vampires as you would a vile, evil, blood-sucking creature of the dark is the first step in freeing yourself from them.

“Mr. Have-You-Got-a-Minute?” is perhaps the most insidious of all the Time Vampires.

How to deal with “Mr. Have-You-Got-a-Minute?”: “I’m busy right now. Let’s meet at 4:00 P.M. for 15 minutes, and tackle everything on your list at one time.”

“Mr. Meeting” is another dangerous Time Vampire.              

Being in meetings is seductive. It is a way to feel important. It’s also a great way to hide from making and taking responsibility for decisions.

You need to stop and ask yourself: do I really need to be in—or hold—this meeting? Is there a more time-efficient way to handle this? A conference call? A memo circulated to each person? Heck, a posting on a bulletin board. On an internet or intranet site. An email. Hey, anything BUT another meeting.

If you are going to hold a meeting, there are several stakes you can use to stop the vampires from making it an endless “blood klatch”:

Set the meeting for immediately before lunch or at the end of the day so the vampires are eager to get it done and over with, turn into bats, and fly out of there.

Don’t serve refreshments.

Circulate a written agenda in advance.

Have and communicate a clear, achievable objective for the meeting.

If you must attend a meeting, you also have some stakes available so you can slay Mr. Meeting:        

Determine in advance what information you are to contribute, and then do it with a prepared, minimum-time maximum-impact presentation.

Have an exit strategy: someone coming in to get you at a certain time, a pre-arranged call on your cell phone, whatever. You can then excuse yourself only long enough to make a call and return if you need to—but you probably won’t. Or get a drop-dead end time pre-set for the meeting—the tighter the better.

Another Time Vampire to watch out for is Mr. Trivia. He either can’t or doesn’t want to differentiate between the important and unimportant, minor and major.

How to deal with “Mr. Trivia”: “I have an exceptionally busy day, so I am only dealing with 9s and 10s on a 1 to 10 scale. Everything else MUST wait until tomorrow. Are you convinced that what you want to talk to me about is a 9 or 10?”

Chapter 4: Stopping “Productivus Interruptus” Once and for All

If you’re going to achieve peak personal productivity in an interruptive environment, there are five self-defense, time-defense tactics you’ll have to use:   

Get lost.

Don’t answer the phone.

Get a grip on email, texts, and faxes.

Set the timer on the bomb.

Be busy and be obvious about it.

Leadership is not about visibly outworking everybody. Actually, brilliant leadership is about getting everybody else to out-work you.

You have absolutely no legal, moral, or other responsibility to answer the phone or take a call unless you want to.

If your clients, customers, or patients, and prospective clients, customers, or patients view you as one of and the same as many—so that if you aren’t instantly accessible or responsive and, whoever’s next by alphabet or Google Local or whatever reference will do just as well, you have lost—you will suffer and die in the marketplace.

When you are visible to others, it’s best to be visibly busy.

Have pre-set appointments with start and end times.

The average worker is interrupted every 3 minutes, 50 seconds. 44% of these are self-interruptions, 56% inflicted by others, in person or via phone calls, texts, email, etc. given attention. That equates to 137 interruptions in an 8-hour workday. If you aspire to be only an average worker achieving average performance and average outcomes, then going along with this will meet your needs and guarantee your mediocrity.

Attitudes and actions have direct consequences. If you accept the attitudes of the average—in this case, accepting frequent interruptions as unavoidable, and you accept the behavior of the average—in this case, the habit of distraction and self-interruption and of instantly or quickly or even same-day response to interruptions inflicted by others, you can count on being and staying average.

Chapter 5: The Number-One Most Powerful Personal Discipline in All the World And How It Can Make You Successful Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

Dan believes a person who cannot keep appointments on time, cannot keep scheduled commitments, or cannot stick to a schedule cannot be trusted in other ways either.

Chapter 6: The Magic Power That Makes You Unstoppable

Regimen, ritual, commitment, and discipline are of vital importance in relation to successful achievement.

There are three kinds of action: starting things or implementation, follow-through, and completion.

The two things that seem universal are that self-disciplined action is evident in every winner, as is the ability to differentiate between action and purpose-specific action—between busyness and purpose-driven busyness.               

Chapter 7: The Ten Time Management Techniques Really Worth Using          

Information marketing revolves around the public’s stubborn belief that there must be a “secret” to success concealed from them, possibly by conspiracy, that, if uncovered, would change everything.

Technique #1: Tame ALL the Interruptions

Technique #2: Minimize Meetings

Technique #3: Practice Absolute Punctuality

Technique #4: Make and Use Lists

Technique #5: Fight to Link Everything to Your Goals

Technique #6: Tickle the Memory with Tickler Files

Technique #7: Block Your Time

Technique #8: Minimize Unplanned Activity

Technique #9: Profit from “Odd-Lot” Time

Technique #10: Live off Peak

Bonus Technique #11: Use Technology Profitably

For years, Dan’s operated with four basic lists:

My Schedule.

Things to Do List.

People to Call List.

Conference Planner.

If you aren’t making lists, you probably aren’t making a lot of money either.

Jim Rohn often said that the only real reason more people do not become millionaires is that they don’t have enough reasons to.

Similarly, Dan insists that the only real reason more people aren’t much, much more productive is that they don’t have enough reasons to be. A secret to greater personal productivity is more good reasons to be more productive. That’s why you have to fight to link everything you do (and choose not to do) to your goals.

If you’re going to achieve peak personal productivity, you’ve got to define peak personal productivity.

Dan defines productivity as, “The deliberate, strategic investment of your time, talent, intelligence, energy, resources, and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals.”

To determine whether you’re being productive, ask yourself, “Is what I am doing, this minute, moving me measurably closer to my goals?”

Anything beyond a 50% “yes rate” qualifies as peak personal productivity.

One of the real, hidden secrets of people who consistently achieve peak productivity is that they make inviolate appointments with themselves.

The more you know about yourself and what works best for you, to liberate your creativity and to power your performance, the better you can arrange things to your satisfaction.

If you do project work, it’s important to estimate the minutes or hours required and work against the clock and against deadlines. Every task gets completed faster and more efficiently when you have determined in advance how long it should take and set a time for its completion.

Deadlines refine the mind.

Dan can tolerate some compromise of desired quality, but he cannot tolerate winding up underpaid.

You can’t actually manage time; you can only manage yourself and those around you.

There is no excuse to simply waste time while waiting in an airport, stuck in traffic, or parked in a reception room.

When you say to yourself, “It’s only ten minutes,” you miss the entire point of time. You either take it seriously or you don’t.

Acceptance of ordinary realities that are counter to deriving maximum benefit from your time equates to surrender of control.

Guilt about creating benefit for yourself blocks any benefit coming to you.

If you are to take a goal, objective, or target seriously and have a hope of its achievement, you need to link it to time. Time must be made for it, allocated to it, budgeted for it, and booked into your schedule as firm, inviolate appointments with yourself and/or with others.

Chapter 8: Decisiveness

We do not get paid for our ideas, our intentions, our thinking things over, for trying, even for doing. In the real world, there is no A for Effort. We only get paid for DONE.

Chapter 9: Fire Yourself, Replace Yourself, Make More Money, and Have More Fun

You must systematically, aggressively divest yourself of those activities you do not do well and do not do happily, or you must find routine, so as to systematically invest your time (and talent, knowledge, know-how, and other resources) in those things you do extraordinarily well, enjoy doing, and find intellectually stimulating.

There is a profound difference between delegation and abdication.

You cannot delegate if you believe there’s only one way to get things done right.

You cannot move ahead without jettisoning some responsibilities and tasks in order to make room for new, more valuable tasks and responsibilities.

A six-step process to effective delegation:               

Define what is to be done.

Be certain the delegate understands what is to be done. This means asking to have the assignment restated by that person. Never assume you’ve successfully communicated. Hope but verify.

Explain why it is to be done as you are prescribing it to be done. With anything but the most menial of tasks and lowest level worker, there is room for differences of opinion about how a thing should be done. If they have a better sense of the actual doing than you do, they should be encouraged to voice it. If you want exactness of your instruction followed, you need to make it clear that you have “method to your madness.” Be sure the delegate understands the how-to process.

Establish what defines a successful outcome. Dan often catches his clients putting people in charge of important and relatively complex projects without clear agreement about what will constitute success or how it is to be measured. Everybody ends up frustrated.

Set the deadline for completion or progress report. Open-end delegation without a timeline is doomed. YOU have to set the timer.

Follow-up. If the person and delegated task do not return to you at the agreed-on date and time, you need a means of noticing the absence (failure) so you can deal with it at one minute late—not hours, days, or weeks.

If you’re looking for the answer that turns your time into the most money and wealth possible, then turn your attention to marketing. Why? Because it is infinitely easier to find or train someone to take care of a business’ operations than it is to get someone to do its marketing. Marketing is the highest-paid profession and most valuable part of a business. The person who can create systems for acquiring customers, clients, or patients effectively and profitably is the “money person.”

Chapter 10: The Link Between Productivity and Association

The phrase “time management” is inaccurate shorthand. You can only manage things that affect your ability to convert time to value, like environment, access, and all the other things discussed in this book.      

One of the most significant, that you can control to a great extent, is association—your choices of whom you permit into your world, whom you give time to or invest time with, and whom you look to for ideas, information, and education.

Each minute of your time is made more or less valuable by the condition of your mind, and it is constantly being conditioned by association.

Chapter 11: Buy Time by Buying Expertise

Here are four questions to ask when considering hiring an expert:

Has the expert actually done the thing he is advising you about—or is he an academic theorist giving book reports?

Is the expert current?

Does the expert have satisfied clients?

Are there at least three other successful entrepreneurs who have done more than one deal with you?

Do you understand what your chosen expert is doing and how he does it?

Never blindly delegate to mystics. If you can’t understand how the investment makes money, how the sales strategy works, or how the expert’s advice about anything works—run.

Chapter 12: The Inner Game of Peak Personal Productivity

There is a certain state of mind that best facilitates achieving peak productivity.

Achieving maximum personal productivity requires that you become extraordinarily facile at stopping, storing, and clearing so as to direct 100% of your mental powers to one matter at a time—to the matter at hand.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psycho-Cybernetics, called it, “clearing the calculator.”               

If you can’t control your thoughts and manage your mind, you can’t control or manage your time.

Dan is a big believer in populating my work environment with “psychological triggers”—objects that remind me to think a certain way.

Chapter 13: Reasons Why a Year Passes and No Meaningful Progress Is Made

This is one reason why a person fails to advance much from one year to the next: he is so busy whining about how unfair everything is and feeling sorry for himself that he has no time left to make anything happen.

Eric Hoffer, the author of The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, wrote: “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement, for an achievement, does not settle anything permanently.

No one who is good at making excuses is also good at making money. The skills are mutually exclusive.

Alibi-itis: Choosing a nifty alibi over a difficult path to achievement.

Here’s how to get focused if you’re too majoring in minor matters: identify and write down the three most important, most significant, most productive, and most valuable things you can do to foster success in your particular enterprise—just three. Write them down. From there, translate them into three actions you can take each and every day. Write them down.

For about 30 years, Dan has not let a day go by where he did not send out a letter or a package, get an article published, do something to keep my books on bookstore shelves, secure a high-profile speaking engagement, or do something else to create and stimulate “deal flow.” It didn’t matter how busy he was or how tired—or if it was the Friday before a holiday weekend. Whatever. Before sunset, at least ONE thing had to be done intended to stimulate demand. He has only eased up on this in very recent years, as he chooses to rein in myself and wind down my work schedule, but still, at least half of his days include this.

Chapter 14: Taming Tech and Surviving the Social Media Swamp

We have finite amounts of willpower that become depleted as we use them, get drained away, and replenish slowly if at all. Therefore, it is far more beneficial to structure a success environment and install and enforce protections for your mind and its ability to do deep work than to cultivate and call on superior willpower.

Technology tempts us to ignorance and sloth.

The embracing of new technology often masks a downgrade.

Dan is not a fan of social media for reasons Cal Newport outlines in his book, Deep Work.

Other Books by Dan Kennedy

My Unfinished Business

The Ultimate Sales Letter

Recommended Reading

If you like No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, you may also enjoy the following books:

Built to Sell by John Warrillow

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

Buy this book

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When by Daniel H. Pink: Summary

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When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing breaks down the science of time so you can stop guessing when to do things and pick the best times to work, eat, sleep, have your coffee and even quit your job.

Here are 3 lessons about timing that’ll help you structure your life in better ways:

  • Our emotions run through the same cycle every single day.
  • Knowing how you “tick” will help you do your best at work.
  • Taking a break or an afternoon nap is not counterproductive,if anything, it helps you save time.

Lesson 1: There’s an emotional pattern each of us follows on any given day.

If I asked you to divide your day into three parts, you’d most likely first think of morning, afternoon, and evening. For thousands of years, humans have lived through this pattern. However, if I asked you to write down the dominating emotion for each of those parts for a week, we’d spot another, much subtler pattern, as a study by Cornell University analyzing 500 million tweets has found:

Morning peak. Whether it’s right after waking up or 1-2 hours later, most people feel pretty good early in the day.

Afternoon trough. You know how it’s tough to stay awake after lunch? This is it.

Evening rebound. Once you knock off work, even the toughest days take a turn, don’t they?

Regardless of age, race, gender, and nationality, we all go through some variant of this pattern on a daily basis. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, confirmed this with the Day Reconstruction Method. This holds powerful implications for how we should go about our day, but it’s also a good pattern to be aware of to deal with your emotions more efficiently.

Lesson 2: Figure out your chronotype to produce your best work.

Keeping our daily, emotional cycle in mind, we can learn even more about ourselves if we combine it with something more familiar: our circadian rhythm. Over time, we naturally come to some insight as to when we have our highs and lows throughout the day. “I just can’t get up before 7,” “I’m a night owl,” and “I love to get up early” are lines we’ve all said or heard before.

While it’s easy to dismiss those as people not being used to certain behaviors, science says there’s some truth to all of them. How you feel at certain times during the day is called your chronotype, and there are three major ones, says Dan:

The lark. People like me, who love to get up early, and have all their emotional highs and lows a few hours earlier than most people.

The owl. If you don’t like getting up early and can really get to work around 9 PM, that’s you.

The third bird. The majority of people, who are neither late, nor early, and just follow the standard pattern.

Over 50% of folks go into the last category, meaning they should do analytical, logic-based work in the mornings, when they’re most alert. The more creative tasks, where it’s helpful if your mind wanders, should be reserved for the late afternoon. Larks should do the same earlier, while owls might want to do cognitive work late at night.

Whichever type you are, doing boring admin stuff in the afternoon trough is always a good idea!

Lesson 3: Regular breaks and nappuccinos help you save time, not lose it.

Public awareness about health has risen dramatically in recent years, so the view that breaks are a waste of time is largely outdated, though still prevalent in some older companies and institutions. The science behind how much we should work and how much we should relax is surprisingly much in favor of chilling out.

Time tracking company DeskTime did a study using millions of data points from their software, determining the ideal break to be 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work. That’s one hour of down time for every three hours you work! While it’s easy to think that there’s no way this could lead to better results, they found that the quality of the work ended up being higher overall, compared to shorter or less frequent breaks.

But even if your boss won’t allow so much “slacking,” taking five minutes every hour to get up, move around, walk outside, get some fresh air, and have a glass of water, can make a significant difference in your productivity. Lastly, Dan recommends the ‘nappuccino.’ Ideally after lunch, you have a coffee, then set your timer to 20 minutes. If it takes you seven minutes to fall asleep, you’ll wake up a little later, fully refreshed and with the caffeine just kicking in.

Saving time by doing less, what a great motto, don’t you think?

The Five Big Ideas

  • Our cognitive abilities fluctuate over the course of a day.
  • Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. This is known as, “The Inspiration Paradox.”
  • Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people are “third birds”—neither larks or owls.
  • Lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day.
  • If you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project, picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.

By Chapter Below:

Chapter 1. The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life

In one study, positive affect—language revealing that Twitter users felt active, engaged, and hopeful—generally rose in the morning, plummeted in the afternoon, and climbed back up again in the early evening.

An important takeaway from one study on corporate executives is that communications with investors, and probably other critical managerial decisions and negotiations, should be conducted earlier in the day.

Scientists that measure the effect of time of day on brainpower have drawn three conclusions:

First, our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day. As Pink writes, “We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others.”

Second, these daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realize. In fact, according to Russell Foster, a neuroscientist and chronobiologist at the University of Oxford, “[T]he performance change between the daily high point and the daily low point can be equivalent to the effect on performance of drinking the legal limit of alcohol,”

Third, how we do depends on what we’re doing. “Perhaps the main conclusion to be drawn from studies on the effects of time of day on performance,” says British psychologist Simon Folkard, “is that the best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task.”

Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. This is known as “inspiration paradox.”

Our moods and performance oscillate during the day. For most of us, mood follows a common pattern: a peak, a trough, and a rebound. In the mornings, during the peak, most of us excel at analytic work that requires sharpness, vigilance, and focus. Later in the day, during the recovery, most of us do better on insight work that requires less inhibition and resolve.

According to research over several decades and across different continents, between about 60 percent and 80 percent of us are what Pink calls, “third birds”—neither larks or owls.

People born in the fall and winter are more likely to be larks; people born in the spring and summer are more likely to be owls.

To solve insight problems, type, task, and time need to align—what social scientists call “the synchrony effect.”

“All of us experience the day in three stages—a peak, a trough, and a rebound. And about three-quarters of us (larks and third birds) experience it in that order. But about one in four people, those whose genes or age make them night owls, experience the day in something closer to the reverse order—recovery, trough, peak.”

To do better in the morning:

Drink a glass of water when you wake up;

Avoid coffee immediately after you wake up;

Soak up the morning sun; and

Schedule talk-therapy appointments for the morning.

Chapter 2. Afternoons and Coffeespoons

In one study, judges were more likely to issue a favorable ruling— granting the prisoner parole or allowing him to remove an ankle monitor—in the morning than in the afternoon.

Science offers five guiding principles for restorative breaks:

Something beats nothing. High performers work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes.

Moving beats stationary. One study showed that hourly five-minute walking breaks boosted energy levels, sharpened focus, and “improved mood throughout the day and reduced feelings of fatigue in the late afternoon.”

Social beats solo. Research in South Korean workplaces shows that social breaks—talking with coworkers about something other than work—are more effective at reducing stress and improving mood than either cognitive breaks (answering e-mail) or nutrition breaks (getting a snack).

Outside beats inside. People who take short walks outdoors return with better moods and greater replenishment than people who walk indoors.

Fully detached beats semi-detached. Tech-free breaks also increase vigor and reduce emotional exhaustion.

“The most powerful lunch breaks have two key ingredients—autonomy and detachment. Autonomy—exercising some control over what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and whom you do it with—is critical for high performance, especially on complex tasks. But it’s equally crucial when we take breaks from complex tasks.”

Lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day.

The ideal naps— those that combine effectiveness with efficiency—are usually between ten and twenty minutes.

“Each day, alongside your list of tasks to complete, meetings to attend, and deadlines to hit, make a list of the breaks you’re going to take. Start by trying three breaks per day. List when you’re going to take those breaks, how long they’re going to last, and what you’re going to do in each. Even better, put the breaks into your phone or computer calendar so one of those annoying pings will remind you.”

The 20–20–20 rule: Before you begin a task, set a timer. Then, every twenty minutes, look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. If you’re working at a computer, this micro-break will rest your eyes and improve your posture, both of which can fight fatigue.

One of the simplest breaks of all: Stand up for sixty seconds, shake your arms and legs, flex your muscles, rotate your core, sit back down.

Take a five-minute walk every hour.

“In [Anders] Ericsson’s study, one factor that distinguished the best from the rest is that they took complete breaks during the afternoon (many even napped as part of their routine), whereas non-experts were less rigorous about pauses. We might think that superstars power straight through the day for hours on end. In fact, they practice with intense focus for forty-five- to ninety-minute bursts, then take meaningful restorative breaks.”

Chapter 3. Beginnings: Starting Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together

Beginnings have a far greater impact than most of us understand. Beginnings, in fact, can matter to the end.

“Although we can’t always determine when we start, we can exert some influence on beginnings—and considerable influence on the consequences of less than ideal ones. The recipe is straightforward. In most endeavors, we should be awake to the power of beginnings and aim to make a strong start. If that fails, we can try to make a fresh start. And if the beginning is beyond our control, we can enlist others to attempt a group start.”

These are the three principles of successful beginnings: Start right. Start again. Start together.

Before the project begins, convene with your team for a premortem. Ask them, “Assume it’s eighteen months from now and our project is a complete disaster. What went wrong?”

“By imagining failure in advance—by thinking through what might cause a false start—you can anticipate some of the potential problems and avoid them once the actual project begins.”

There are eighty-six days that are especially effective for making a fresh start:

  • Thefirst day of the month (twelve)
  • Mondays(fifty-two)
  • Thefirst day of spring, summer, fall, and winter (four)
  • Yourcountry’s Independence Day or the equivalent (one)
  • Theday of an important religious holiday—for example, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eidal-Fitr (one)
  • Yourbirthday (one)
  • Aloved one’s birthday (one)
  • Thefirst day of school or the first day of a semester (two)
  • Thefirst day of a new job (one)
  • The day after graduation (one)
  • Thefirst day back from vacation (two)
  • Theanniversary of your wedding, first date, or divorce (three)
  • Theanniversary of the day you started your job, the day you became a citizen, theday you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school oruniversity (four)
  • Theday you finish this book (one)

There are four situations when you should go first:

  • If you’re on a ballot (county commissioner, prom queen, the Oscars), being listed first gives you an edge.
  • If you’re not the default choice—for example, if you’re pitching against a firm that already has the account you’re seeking—going first can help you get afresh look from the decision-makers.
  • If there are relatively few competitors (say, five or fewer), going first can help you take advantage of the “primacy effect,” the tendency people have to remember the first thing in a series better than those that come later.
  • If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re up against several strong candidates, you might gain an edge from being first.

There are four situations when you should NOT go first:

  • If you are the default choice, don’t go first.
  • If there are many competitors (not necessarily strong ones, just a large number of them), going later can confer a small advantage and going last can confer a huge one.
  • If you’re operating in an uncertain environment, not being first can work to your benefit.
  • If the competition is meager, going toward the end can give you an edge by highlighting your differences.

To make a fast start in a new job:

Begin before you begin (e.g. pick a specific day and time when you visualize yourself “transforming” into your new role).

Let your results do the talking.

Stockpile your motivation.

Sustain your morale with small wins.

Chapter 4. Midpoints: What Hanukkah Candles and Midlife Malaise Can Teach Us About Motivation

“Happiness climbs high early in adulthood but begins to slide downward in the late thirties and early forties, dipping to a low in the fifties. But we recover quickly from this slump, and well-being later in life often exceeds that of our younger years.”

In one study, teams that were behind by just one point were more likely to win. In fact, home teams with a one-point deficit at halftime won more than 58 percent of the time.

According to the researchers, “[M]erely telling people they were slightly behind an opponent led them to exert more effort.”

The best hope for turning a slump into a spark involves three steps. First, be aware of midpoints. Don’t let them remain invisible. Second, use them to wake up rather than roll over. Third, at the midpoint, imagine that you’re behind to spark your motivation—but only by a little.

If you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project, picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.

Chapter 5. Endings: Marathons, Chocolates, and the Power of Poignancy

“Endings of all kinds—of experiences, projects, semesters, negotiations, stages of life—shape our behavior in four predictable ways. They help us energize. They help us encode. They help us edit. And they help us elevate.”

“Someone who’s forty-nine is about three times more likely to run a marathon than someone who’s just a year older.”

“At the beginning of a pursuit, we’re generally more motivated by how far we’ve progressed; at the end, we’re generally more energized by trying to close the small gap that remains.”

“When we remember an event we assign the greatest weight to its most intense moment (the peak) and how it culminates (the end).” (For more on this, read The Power of Moments by Chip & Dan Heath.)

We downplay how long an episode lasts and magnify what happens at the end. Daniel Kahneman calls it “duration neglect.”

“This “end of life bias,” as the researchers call it, suggests that we believe people’s true selves are revealed at the end—even if their death is unexpected and the bulk of their lives evinced a far different self.”

“Adding a small component of sadness to an otherwise happy moment elevates that moment rather than diminishes it.”

“The best endings don’t leave us happy. Instead, they produce something richer—a rush of unexpected insight, a fleeting moment of transcendence, the possibility that by discarding what we wanted we’ve gotten what we need.”

If your answer to two or more of these is no, it might be time to quit your job.

Do you want to be in this job on your next work anniversary?

Is your current job both demanding and in your control?

If your job doesn’t provide both challenge and autonomy, and there’s nothing you can do to make things better, consider a move.

Does your boss allow you to do your best work?

Are you outside the three-to-five-year salary bump window?

Does your daily work align with your long-term goals?

Chapter 6. Synching Fast and Slow: The Secrets of Group Timings

“Groups must synchronize on three levels—to the boss, to the tribe, and to the heart.”

“The first principle of synching fast and slow is that group timing requires a boss—someone or something above and apart from the group itself to set the pace, maintain the standards, and focus the collective mind.”

“After individuals synch to the boss, the external standard that sets the pace of their work, they must synch to the tribe—to one another. That requires a deep sense of belonging.”

“Synching to the heart is the third principle of group timing. Synchronizing makes us feel good—and feeling good helps a group’s wheels turn more smoothly. Coordinating with others also makes us do good—and doing good enhances synchronization.”

Chapter 7. Thinking in Tenses: A Few Finals Words

“Research has shown we plan more effectively and behave more responsibly when the future feels more closely connected to the current moment and our current selves.”

Other Books by Daniel H. Pink


To Sell Is Human

Recommended Reading-If you like When, you may also enjoy the following books:

Ego is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Buy The Book: When

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

The Productivity Project Summary

Categories ProductivityPosted on

 The Productivity Project recounts the lessons Chris Bailey learned over the course of a year running various productivity experiments to help you get more done in all areas of your life.

I used to look for the perfect productivity system. When I first embarked on improving how I work, I thought I’d just have to find the one set of rules that works. Of course there is no such thing. I transitioned to trying to assemble the one set of rules that works for me. But even that doesn’t exist.

We all need different rules at different times. Keeping this in mind, there is still reason to thank people like Chris Bailey, who sacrificed a year of his life in service of experimenting with productivity. In his book, The Productivity Project, he compressed everything he learned from his sabbatical, so you can make better tweaks to your own productivity.

From watching 296 TED talks to working 90 hours a week to waking up at 5:30 AM, he’s done it all and he found a philosophy, strategy and tactics that improved his productivity. Maybe these 3 can help you too:

Productivity is about managing your time, energy and attention.

Try organizing your work around the Rule of 3.

The 40-hour workweek has its rightful place.

Our biggest human advantage is that we can simulate and learn from others, without having to use trial and error. Let’s put that skill to good use!

Lesson 1: Think of your productivity in terms of energy, time and attention.

The New York Times once called Tim Ferriss  “a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk.” Chris suggests that’s exactly what you want to be. Neither as frantic and distraught as a Wall Street trader, nor as slow and perfectionist as a cleric.

There’s a fun analogy about life’s curse concerning energy, time and money: When you’re young, you only have energy and time, when you’re grown up, you have energy and money, but lack time and when you’re old you have money and time, but no energy.

Productivity from Chris’s perspective is similar: you can’t run on just energy and time or time and attention. You need all three.

Energy comes from your health. If you’re too weak to work, all else is meaningless.

Time is a skill you can learn. It’s about managing your priorities.

Attention is what makes having the other two worthwhile. If you spend all your time and energy chasing distractions, that’s no good either.

Therefore, productivity becomes a mix of health, time management and designing your environment to reduce distractions. Let’s look at one of the tool’s he found for time management.

Lesson 2: The Rule of 3 could help organize your schedule.

In a book by a Microsoft executive called Getting Results the Agile Way, Chris found a way to chunk his goals into more achievable milestones. It’s called The Rule of 3 and prompts you to think in three time frames:

What three things do you want to accomplish today?

Which three milestones do you want to complete this week?

What three goals do you hope to achieve this year?

Answer the first question on a daily basis to make sure what you do aligns with your weekly goals. This’ll also help check how your weekly targets relate to the big picture. This is a full productivity system in a nutshell, but it needs one tool to function: your calendar.

When planning your daily and weekly tasks, make sure the size of the chunks you pick doesn’t collide with what’s already in it, like birthdays, car repair appointments, and the other necessities of life.

Pro tip: Adding a 50% time buffer is a great way to make sure you don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in a given time period.

Lesson 3: There’s a reason most businesses follow the 40-hour workweek.

While in no means originating from scientific research, the 40-hour workweek actually happens to live up to academic scrutiny. In his experiments, Chris went all the way from 20 hours of work per week to 90 and found he accomplished more or less the same in both extremes.

Thus, he thought, he might as well pick the middle and work somewhere from 40-50 hours. The studies he looked at confirmed his approach, showing a steep decline in workers’ productivity after crossing the 55 hour mark. After 60, it even takes us twice as long to accomplish whatever task!

Of course you have to find your own rhythm here, but the gist is: neither extreme slacking nor a burnout work ethic will lead to much more accomplishments at work – so take it easy!

My personal take-aways

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far about productivity is that it’s fluid. Don’t try to nail it to one standard. In the same sense, don’t pick up this book expecting the golden goose of getting things done. See it like Chris did: as a series of experiments. Pick which ones you want to run and which ones you want to skip, based on his experience.

Don’t be afraid to keep revising and going back to this and other productivity books either. Chances are you’ll need a different system at a different time. With a take-what-works approach, The Productivity Project can make a valuable contribution to your work.

Buy this book

The Pomodoro Technique Summary

Categories ProductivityPosted on

The Pomodoro Technique is the simplest way to productively manage your time with only two lists and a timer, by breaking down your workload into small, manageable chunks to stay fresh and focused throughout your day.

Francesco Cirillo is a German-Italian programmer and owner of an IT consultancy. Way back in college in the 1980’s, he read a study that suggested chunking work into manageable 25 to 40 minute time blocks, to make work easier.

Based on this study, he created his own little time management system using his tomato-shaped timer, a pencil and two lists on paper.

But it wasn’t until later that what’s now the most widely used productivity technique in the world took the world by storm. Cirillo started sharing his technique openly in the 90’s and published a book of the same name in 2006, where he describes it in detail.

Today, over 2 million people use the Pomodoro technique in their lives, so it’s likely worth for you to give it a try.

Here are the 3 biggest lessons from the book to get you started:

  • Chunk your work so you won’t drown in it.
  • Use physical stimuli to develop flow and focus.
  • Commit to each Pomodoro as if you’re getting married.

Ready to change the way you work? Let’s go!

Lesson 1: Break your work down into small time blocks.

This is of course the underlying idea of the whole concept.

Cirillo suggests a 25-5 structure.

25 minutes of focused work on a single task are followed by a 5 minute break.

Focused means no interruptions, email, notifications, Amazon browsing, chitchat or coffee refill.

Similarly, break means break: Never check email or think about your work during breaks. Use them to get up, move around, drink some water, stretch, and get some fresh air.

Cirillo says 25 minutes are long enough to make substantial progress, but at the same time not too long to sit through. You can easily push back your urges to check email, knowing you can do so 20 minutes later.

On the other hand, the technique forces you to define your tasks well in advance, because you can’t fit a mammoth project into 25 minutes.

This way it also takes away the frustration of chugging away for hours without seeming to get anywhere.

My friend Chris Winfield switched his entire workweek from 40 normal hours to 40 Pomodoros, simply because he gets more done with 40 focused 25-minute blocks than most people in their heavily distracted 40 hours at the office.

The most common objection is that people are afraid of not putting in enough time in total – but this focused time blocking works.

Sometimes, less is more.

Lesson 2: Use physical stimuli to develop flow and focus.

So what’s the best way to implement the Pomodoro technique? After all, it’s so dead simple, every smart and even dumb phone could be used to do it.

While there are hundreds of digital Pomodoro timers (I like this one, it tracks your Pomodoros), Cirillo says using a physical timer still works best.

Winding it up will strengthen your sense of commitment to the time block, while the ticking noise is a signal that it’s time to be focused.

The ring upon hitting the 25 minute mark is then a signal to get out of your flow state and take a break.

Train your brain with these physical stimuli, and you’ll make the Pomodoro technique a habit faster.

Lesson 3: Commit to each Pomodoro as if you’re getting married.

With so many people successfully using the technique, it’s highly likely to work for you too.

But it only does when you strictly adhere to the rules.

Cirillo says there are only complete Pomodori (the original, Italian plural form of the word).

No half Pomodori, no 80% ones, and no “let me check email I finished 60 seconds early” blocks (there’s always more you can do, the least being a review of what you’ve done).

The only reason to stop a Pomodoro is when your house, pants, or butt are on fire.

Don’t count half blocks and when you catch yourself watching a Youtube video, reset the timer to zero.

Why commit to each Pomodoro as if you’re tying the knot?

To make it a true habit, ingrained deep down in your brain.

You eventually want your brain to default to the Pomodoro technique on autopilot, and committing big gets you there much faster.

My personal take-aways

I’d known the Pomodoro technique before, but only really started using it recently and it has it been a game changer.

A German came up with this? You bet! Not surprising though, given our obsession with efficiency.

The reason you get a week’s workload done in 2-3 days with this technique is that at the workplace, we’re interrupted every 8 minutes on average, but it takes us 23 minutes to get back to where we were before.

If you use the Pomodoro technique, you’ll get 10x as much done as most of your friends. The rewards are going home early, having time for your own projects or spending more time with your family.

The book is hard to get (and a bit expensive, I think) for a technique that’s written about for free everywhere.

The ONE Thing Summary

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The ONE Thing gives you a very simple approach to productivity, based around a single question, to help you have less clutter, distractions and stress, and more focus, energy and success.

I learned about this book from Tai Lopez, who did a video on it in 2014 (see my comment?). After watching another one of his videos on speed reading, I thought this would be a good book to try it with.

I’ve also read its summary on Blinkist and GetAbstract, another book summary service (for more details, see here), and now, because my friend and fellow coach Marshall asked me, on Blinkist again.

Gary Keller has been running one of the world’s largest real estate companies in the world for the past 30 years. Apparently, that wasn’t enough, so he had to write a New York Times bestseller.

It’s called The ONE Thing and here are the 3 biggest takeaways from it:

  • You can figure out your long- and short-term priorities and goals with a single question.
  • In order to get focused, you have to learn how to say no.
  • Never sacrifice your personal life for work.

Lesson 1: You only need one question to figure out your priorities, both long-term and short-term.

If you only take away a single sentence from this book, let it be this one:

“What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

That’s what Keller calls the focusing question and it’s the core concept around which the entire book is built. Much like Tim Ferriss, Keller is a big fan of the 80/20 or Pareto principle, where 20% of the input gives you 80% of the results.

Not all items on your to-do list are created equal, so in order to make the biggest leaps in the shortest amount of time, you’d be best off ruthlessly prioritizing them.

The beauty of the way this question is asked is that sets you up for focus on a single thing, while simultaneously picking the priority from the top of the food chain.

Keller suggests to ask this question on two levels: macro and micro.

If your ultimate goal in life is to fly a plane across the Atlantic, then the answer to the focusing on a macro level would most likely be to get a pilot’s license – it will make actually flying a plane a lot easier.

But on a micro level, i.e. “What’s the ONE thing I can do right now, such that…”, that would probably mean to sign up for flying lessons.

Once you have found the answer to the focusing question on a macro level, all you have to do whenever you find yourself in “what-should-I-do-next-land”, just ask it again on a micro level, and you’ll know what to do.

One helps you figure out the direction of your life, the other the next action you have to take to get there.

Lesson 2: Getting focused means learning to say no.

I wish I had a dime for every time anyone quoted Steve Jobs on something, because I’d probably be richer than the man himself was within a year.

The man’s advice is just too good. At the 1997 WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), Steve said that “you’d think focus means saying yes, but it actually means to say no.”

When he returned to Apple he cut the product lineup from 350 to 10. He said no 340 times. That’s a lot of no’s. But look at what the few Apple products we know today have become, and you’ll see he was right.

Asking the focusing question is the easy part. Saying no to all your other seemingly important and urgent to-do’s is what’s hard.

The best way to make saying no easy is to make yourself unnecessary in the first place. For example if employees bother you with the same questions, create an FAQ and direct people to that.

Try to reduce incoming requests and low-level distractions, so you won’t have to say no as often, and if you do, make sure you give people a time when they’ll have their answer.

Lesson 3: Never sacrifice your personal life for your work.

A great quote to make a great point.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – James Patterson

You can always make another phone call, send another pitch, or catch up on yesterday’s work tomorrow. But you can never undo a missed dance recital, a forgotten date or chronic back pain.

Work priorities number 2, 3, and 17 are always negotiable and can be put off or sometimes not done at all. As long as you are working on your ONE thing, you’re making sure that when you’re working, you’re doing what’s most important.

That more than compensates for having to take off early, allowing yourself enough sleep and taking extra time to buy flowers on the way home.

After all, what good is it to achieve your ONE thing when there’s no one left to share the story of how you got there with?

My personal take-aways

You could argue that this book only has one gear and that you could pull out the focusing question and be done with it. But then you’d miss the point. While the focusing question is the core concept, the chapters around it are like supporting pillars, making the whole thing come together in a big, beautiful picture that makes a lot more sense than the question alone. I think I’d recommend this to productivity newbies over some of the more classic books, because it provides a wholistic approach, including topics like willpower, multitasking, saying no and living with purpose.

Happier At Home Summary

Categories ProductivityPosted on

Happier At Home is an instruction manual to transform your home into a castle of happiness by figuring out what needs to be changed, what needs to stay the same, and embracing the gift of family.

This was Gretchen Rubin’s second book after The Happiness Project, and the one before Better Than Before (ha!) and The Four Tendencies. When Gretchen suddenly felt homesick, even though she was standing right in her own kitchen, she knew some things at home had to change to make it the happy place she remembered. She went on to dedicate 9 months with one change each to improving the happiness of her family and thus, herself.

Going through different themes, she looked at the most important factors of a cosy home: time, possessions, parenthood, marriage and family. She found out that making tiny changes is more than enough to become Happier At Home and spread happiness like a wonderful infection wherever you go.

Try these 3 lessons in your own home and watch your happiness-meter go up:

  • Get rid of clutter.
  • Under react to problems.
  • Meet your neighbors.

Ready to help yourself to a happy home? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Unclutter your home.

It sounds so simple, but I can vouch that this is life-changing. Go through all of the possessions in your house, one by one, pick them up and ask yourself this: “When’s the last time I used this? How much do I like it?”

No matter how little you think you might have, you’ll realize there’s a ton of junk among it. Works every time.

A house full of stuff doesn’t just make your house full. It also fills your mind to the brim. You’ll notice you tend to think a lot more about what you could improve and contemplate the important things in life once you find yourself in a less cluttered space. You can start asking your family questions about what they really want and then get them just that, instead of cleaning up all the unnecessary stuff they already have.

Also make sure to actually get familiar with the things you do decide to keep. If you won’t read that coffee-maker manual about how to clean your machine, then toss it out!

Lastly, always keep the things that matter most to you where you can see them. If you love seeing pictures of your family vacation from 5 years ago, hang some of them right on the center wall in your living room.

Less clutter = more happiness.

Lesson 2: Underreact to problems.

Overreacting is overrated. Why not underreact to problems for a change?

For example, when her daughter spilled a bottle of open nail polish on the carpet, Gretchen didn’t yell at her and make a big fuss. Instead, she calmly told her to search the web to find a way to clean the stain and get rid of it, so that’s exactly what she did. Nobody was upset, the stain was gone and her daughter had even learned a new skill – how great is that?

So stop being a drama queen (or king), take a deep breath, and get people to solve the problems they’ve caused calmly and without aggression.

Lesson 3: Get to know your neighbors.

The bigger your family, the bigger your happiness, that makes sense, right? So how about extending your family by connecting with your neighbors? Over 30% of Americans don’t even know who their neighbors are, which is quite a depressing statistic for a species that has for thousands of years relied on one another to survive.

Sure, you don’t have to invite everyone to a big BBQ right away, but you can at least start. Maybe you want to ease into things by strolling around the neighborhood and getting to know buildings, locations and culturally important sites – who knows who you’ll end up talking to!

Then you can start walking down the street with a batch of fresh muffins, ready to take your neighbors’ hearts by storm. Some of the greatest friendships started with people bonding over a borrowed cup of sugar or someone holding the ladder, so don’t neglect your neighbors.

They might become part of your family circle and thus play a great role for your happiness down the road (pun intended).

My personal take-aways

Happier At Home is short, to the point, personal, relatable and actionable. The summary on Blinkist is jam-packed with tips and insights, usually multiple in one blink. Gretchen really knows how to conduct proper experiments and document the results.

I loved the idea of underreacting to problems and displaying important memorabilia front and center. Now guess what I’ll do once I press publish on this. Especially if you’re in a slump in your family life, I recommend you run some experiments to become Happier At Home.

Slipstream Time Hacking by Benjamin Hardy

Categories ProductivityPosted on

The Book in Three Sentences: What if we measured our lives based on “distance” traveled rather than time elapsed? If we measure life by distance rather than time, then it becomes very clear that you can hack time by figuring out how to jump further along the timeline of life. This enables you to live many lives in one lifetime. For example, someone who retires at age 30 will free up an extra 40+ years of life compared to their peers, which means they can live an entire second life that many people will never get to experience.

Read the full book summary »

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

Categories Business, ProductivityPosted on

Doing work and making money are not the same thing. Simplify your problem to the point where you understand the true goal of your organization. With your goal in mind, identify the constraints within your system (i.e. bottlenecks) and focus on improving the output of that constraint without worrying about the productivity of all related processes.

Read the full book summary »

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