Photo by Autumn_Leaf
I will not teach you how to work 4 hours in a week. If you want to build a self-automated business that frees you up from work and allows you to live a lifestyle-design kind of life, then this is not the post for you. Though I have made each work day 6 hours more effective, I still work my 70+ hours a week.
Why do I do it?
Because I’m building an internet empire here. My team and I want to make Viralogy the next Facebook or LinkedIn. In an internet company, we constantly have to evolve our product to beat out the competition and we need to consistently market out our site so that we exponentially grow in users.
Yu-kai and I live by a simple principle: Once you learn how to work the 4 hour work week, take those principles and work 70 hours a week. We make sure that the 70 hours we put in a week are highly effective and are consistently pushing the company forward.
The following are concrete and actionable tips about how I took my 70 hour work week, reduced them to 20 hours, and then bumped up my work time to a full 70 hours of pure effectiveness. You will be able to utilize these tips immediately and see an increase in your work effectiveness instantly.
Optimize your work life and you will have a much better chance of making your startup company succeed!
And yes, I do make time for friends and family throughout my week
The simple fixes
1. Use stealth or invisible mode for Gchat, Aim, and Skype
Though I used Gchat sporadically throughout my day, I knew that it was cutting into my work-time effectiveness. Every time you receive a chat, you can’t help but engage in a 5-10 minute conversation with the other person. I decided to document the time I spent on Gchat and this is what I found out:
Project: Write a blog post
- On days that I had Gchat open, it took me on average 2.9 hours to completely write a blog post and publish it
- On days that I was invisible on Gchat, it took me on average 2.4 hours to completely write a blog post and publish it
I was 17% more effective in writing a blog post when my Gchat was on invisible mode. This means that if I work 11 hours in a day, I could potentially shave off 1.87 hours if I removed Gchat from my work time.
Time Saved: 1.8 hours
2. Turn off your Tweet Deck, Twhirl, or Seesmic Desktop
Twitter is my crack. I can spend a ridiculous amount of time on Twitter just reading what everyone is Tweeting and linking out to every link that they recommend. This is dangerous for the startup entrepreneur, so I documented my effectiveness when I had Tweet Deck turned on compared to when I had it turned off. Here are my results:
Project: Edit video for Awesome Revolution
- On days that I had Tweet Deck turned on, it took me on average 4.0 hours to completely edit and publish a video
- On days that I had Tweet Deck turned off, it took me on average 3.6 hours to completely edit and publish a video
(Times include exporting and ripping which can take a ridiculously long amount of time)
I was 10% more effective with my time when I had Tweet Deck turned off compared to when I had it turned on. In an 11 hour work day, this means I can potentially shave off 1.1 hours of ineffective time.
Time Saved: 1.1 hours
Effectiveness versus Efficiency
3. Clump emails into batches
I used to LOVE having Gmail open 24/7. Nothing made me feel more effective than to answer every single email that came in immediately. At the end of every night, I would have a completely clean inbox that would allow me to sleep quite soundly and satisfied. However, how truly effective was I by answering every email that came in immediately?
I decided to test how long it took me to answer a days worth of emails when answering immediately, compared to batching emails and answering them only 3 times a day. This is what I found out:
Project: Answer a days worth of emails
- On days that I answered and composed each email immediately, it took me on average 2.2 hours to clear out my inbox and send all necessary emails
- On days that I answered and composed emails on 3 set times in a day (11am, 3pm, and 12am), it took me on average 1.4 hours to clear out my inbox and send all necessary emails
I was 36% more effective with my time when I sent emails out in batches instead of immediately as they came in. This means that I now spend .8 less hours a day on emails.
Time Saved: .8 hours
4. Focus all your attention on 1 task and don’t move on until you finish
I naturally do this on my own. In contrast, people like Yu-kai Chou naturally switch from one task to another freely like some form of ADD. I decided to measure if I actually was more effective by focusing on one project at a time and how much more effective I actually was. Here are my results:
Project: Build relationship with bloggers
- On days that I contacted bloggers while working on other projects, it took me on average 1.3 hours to contact everyone on my target list
- On days that I contacted bloggers while focusing solely on that 1 project, it took me on average 1.1 hours to contact everyone on my target list
I was 15% more effective with my time when I focused on a project compared to sporadically working on several projects at a time. In an 11 hour work day, this means I could potentially become 1.7 hours more effective with my work time.
So how can you discipline yourself to just focus on 1 task? Instead of writing a completely new post to answer this question, read Leo’s advice here at Zen Habits about How NOT to Multitask.
Time Saved: 1.7 hours
Prepare yourself the night before
5. Create a Must-Do-or-Die List
Every night before I go to sleep, I create a Must-Do-or-Die List. No, I’m not talking about any regular To-Do List; I’m talking about a list of 5 core objectives that you must accomplish the next day. Only focus on what is necessary and what will truly push your company forward.
I compared my effectiveness between days I wrote a Must-Do-or-Die List to days I didn’t write the list. These are my results:
- On days that I did not have a Must-Do-or-Die List, I spent an average of .6 hours figuring out what’s important and what I need to do next
- On days that I had my Must-Do-or-Die List, I spent no excess time figuring out what were the truly important things I needed to get done that day
I noticed that on days I didn’t have my list, I would spend a good .6 hours each day thinking about what I should do next. This is what killed my effectiveness and added wasted work time.
Time Saved: .6 hours
6. Create a do NOT do list
I carry the same do NOT do list around with me everyday. The simple list reads like this:
- Do NOT go on Gchat…
- Do NOT go on Facebook…
- Do NOT turn on the television…
- Do NOT turn on Tweet Deck…
- … until your Must-Do-or-Die List is done
Whenever I get the urge to turn on these applications, I take out my List and think about what is truly important in my life. I love building relationships online and talking to my friends; however, building a successful startup company is my main priority. Plus, I can always log on to all of these applications once my List is complete.
Time Saved: Prevents me from engaging in habits that inhibit effectiveness
7. Cut sleep to 6 hours a day
You do NOT need 8 hours of sleep per night! If you are to become maximally effective in your startup career, you need to train your body to only sleep 6 hours a night. I’ve tried to cut it to 5 hours before, but the result was an afternoon nap and I would end up binge sleeping on certain days.
The most effective way that I have found to cut your sleeping hours is to FORCE yourself to wake up early. I do the following to force myself to wake up early:
- I schedule early morning meetings. I schedule meetings at 8am or 9am so that I have to wake up or I look like a fool because I missed a meeting
- I only set 1 alarm and disable snooze. If you only set 1 alarm, then you know you won’t have a backup alarm to wake you up after your snooze. You either wake up with the first alarm, or end up wasting the entire morning.
Doing these two simple things has allowed me to sleep 6 hours every day of the week. For more effective tips, read Steve Pavlina’s tips on How to Become an Early Riser.
Time Saved: Doesn’t save time but gives you more time to enjoy your life!
Total Time Saved Per Day: 6 Hours!
One of the biggest challenges we face in the startup life is ourselves. Those who are undisciplined and unfocused will be beat by those who do have self-control and can focus on what’s truly important. Use these tips and create a more effective work life!
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