How to be more productive: the simple formula for getting sh*t done

how to be productive

Use systems to foster your creativity, productivity and wealth

I can’t tell you how often I hear “I’m just not that creative,” or “I could never do XYZ, because ____,” or “I could never earn enough to be wealthy”.

Well, I am here to tell you that is all bullsh*t.

Wealth takes time.

Creativity takes effort.

Productivity takes a system.

Sure, most of us are not talented artists, graphic designers, musicians, comedians, or actors. But personal talent factor doesn’t really matter… Unless you capture lightning in a bottle, you aren’t going to get anywhere on talent alone.

So that means that we must learn to be creative. We must work to be productive. And wealth almost never happens overnight – it is built over time.

How to be more productive with a system:

To get anywhere, with ANYTHING, you need to implement a system.

When I started Accidentally Retired, I was starting something from scratch. Sure I could just wing it and get going and see what happened.

But if I wanted to be able to measure my progress, and ensure that I wasn’t simply shooting random darts everywhere, I needed to come up with a plan and I needed a system.

 Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. 

Scott Adams – Goals vs. Systems

Building a system

A system needs to be built around the desired output.

For AR, I decided that for the first month, my goal would be to create 15 pieces of content for the month. It could be anything from an article to a resource page. But 15 pieces of content.

To accomplish that I needed to create a system.

I blocked out time to write every weekday, and the goal of each writing session was to produce a piece of content that could be published.

I am also assuming that one thing per week will likely come up that derails my writing session and so that is why I settled on an average of less than 4 pieces a week and not 5.

My writing blocks are typically limited to about 2 hours a day, but sometimes less.

During the blocks, I do nothing else but write until an article is published.

Lastly, I don’t worry about what other bloggers have written about on this topic. I focus on what I can bring to the table from my own experiences.

My Current System:

  1. Write four days a week during pre-scheduled blocks of time
  2. Publish a piece of content for every writing block, but if I get into the zone, then I may produce an additional piece of content
  3. Do something to promote content or the site during my time block (twitter, commenting, research, etc.)

That is it. I have a 3 step system for producing, publishing, and promoting content on AR.

Schedule the time

If you want to be creative. Or if you want to accomplish anything in life, you need to put in the hours. You have to do the work.

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Whether Malcolm Gladwell is right or wrong about true expertise, his overarching point was that you need lots of time to truly become a master of anything, even if you have natural talent.

So if you are still thinking. “But I don’t have writing talent?” or “I’m not creative enough to blog” or whatever it may be. No one has that level of talent. No one.

I have gotten to be very good at many things over the years. I have taught myself how to code, I have become quite good at data analysis, growing companies from scratch, and more. But none of this came naturally to me. I put in the time over the long-run. Day after day.

And while perhaps you do need 10,000 hours to become a true expert or reach the top 1% in your industry, that kind of aptitude is not needed for most things in life.

I am very good at many things, but I am an expert in nothing.

If you put together the right system and then carve out the time, you will be able to accomplish whatever it is you put your mind to.

You can become more creative.

You will become more productive.

You will grow your wealth.

But remember, you can’t expect to learn to play and become proficient playing the piano overnight.

Mastering anything takes time. And it takes a system.

Getting sh*t done = Systems * Time.

Don’t believe me? How about these real life Titans?

In Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans as well as on his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show he loves to dive deep into how top performers reach the top of their profession and stay relevant for years.

After listening to hundreds of these interviews it is clear to me that the top performers have a lot in common.

Their creativity, productivity, and ultimately wealth flow from the output of having a system and committing to it for years.

Here are a few examples of creative and highly productive top performers talking about their systems:

Jerry Seinfeld writes. Every. Day.

I still have a writing session every day. It’s another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here. The pad goes here. The notes go here. My writing technique is just: You can’t do anything else. You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else.

Jerry Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld Is Making Peace With Nothing: He’s ‘Post-Show Business’

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert & best selling author is an ardent lover of systems:

With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.

Scott Adams – Goals vs. Systems

Neil Gaiman, best selling author of Coraline, Stardust, The Sandman, and many more:

I would go down to my lovely little gazebo at the bottom of the garden, sit down, and I’m absolutely allowed not to do anything. I’m allowed to sit at my desk, I’m allowed to stare out at the world, I’m allowed to do anything I like, as long as it isn’t anything. Not allowed to do a crossword, not allowed to read a book, not allowed to phone a friend, not allowed to make a clay model of something. All I’m allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write.

Neil Gaiman – Tim Ferriss Show Transcript

But it’s not just for celebs. This is a definitive formula for getting sh*t done.

Productivity = Systems * Time

If you want to get sh*t done, you can follow the same steps. Whether it is in a creative venture or not. Systems executed over a long period of time will help you to reach your goals.

You cannot skate by on talent alone. Anyone who tells you otherwise is BS’ing you.

Guess what? It works for wealth too.

Wealth = Systems * Time

If you want to become wealthy, you need a system. There are many different ways to go about it, but YOU need your own system.

  • You can work a normal 9-5 job and save/invest a tremendous amount, max out your 401 (k) and then one day look at your net worth and realize that you are wealthy.
  • Or you could earn a lot of money by starting and owning your own business via the systems that you have created to earn money and grow wealth.
  • Or you could invest in real estate rentals and slowly but surely build up your equity, acquire more properties via leverage, and slowly over time increase your cash flow and wealth.
  • Or you can side hustle on top of your 9-5 and use that to bolster your bank account and/or eventually fund your retirement.
  • Or you can work a high paying job; lawyer, investment banker, doctor, etc. Then make sure to save/invest and fight off lifestyle creep.

There are many different routes. But you can’t become wealthy without a system in place.

Once you create your system, then you simply need to let time/compounding do its work. You can’t get anywhere without a system, and you can’t become wealthy overnight. It takes time.

But you can do it, just the same way that you can learn to be creative and productive.

Just remember the formula:

Getting sh*t done = Systems * Time.

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