Real tools and techniques to help you work faster, smarter and healthier.
2021 is here and I want to hit the ground running this year. For most of us, last year we tried hard to not have our “life on pause.” This year, we won’t let a pandemic be the excuse why we don’t make huge gains on our goals.
Let’s remind ourselves — there is a lot we want to achieve in our life, and there’s no time for excuses.
To that end, I’ll cover real tools and techniques to help you work faster, smarter, and maybe even healthier. It’s what I’m calling the Ultimate Guide to Faster Productivity. I know, ambitious!
And I’m not talking about a bunch of productivity hacks. With Venture Out, we aim for one-level deeper discussions with the intent that you takeaway more than just tips, but also the reason why.
The original thought for faster productivity came from reading James Clear annual review from 2020. In his self-assessment, he observes:
“Move fast. The original release date for Atomic Habits was set for March 2019. I pushed to move the date forward six months to October 2018 because I didn’t want to miss out on holiday sales around Christmas. My publishing team agreed, everyone worked their tails off, and we had a fabulous launch in October. 
What happened next was even more important: The book was available in January when everyone was thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. As a result, Atomic Habits jumped out to a very strong start during the fall and winter. By the time we arrived at the original launch date in March, we had already sold nearly 500,000 copies.
In this case, the difference between waiting and acting was massive.”
This inspired me to more deeply think, how can a person be even faster at productivity. So first, a definition:
Productivity measures the ratio of output quantity over input quantity. To achieve an increase in productivity, one must grow the output quantity at a faster rate than the input quantity. 
In other words, how can we crank out meaningful stuff with as little effort as possible.
Today, as you go about your routine, I want you to be aware of these 3 things. By being aware of them, we draw conscious attention to them and then we can alter our behavior.
1. What habits or chores do not add value to your daily life? For example, scrolling through Google News for 30 minutes before bedtime. Horrible habit, which I’m replacing with reading from my Instapaper saved articles.
2. Can you do that thing but faster? For example, pre-pandemic when I went grocery shopping, I would “jog” to and through the store, collect what I needed in my basket, and get out the door ASAP. A 30 minute grocery chore would become less than 10 minutes.
3. Instead of adding to your to-do list, just go do it. For example, James Clear observed in his annual review, “I joked earlier this year that my email response time is either 3 minutes or 3 months. Problem is… it’s not really a joke.” If it’s something you can do immediately and quickly, just go do it.
DIG DEEPER: Look for a deeper meaning on your productivity with… astrology?! Check your horoscope symbol to see how you should be more productive in 2021. I’m a scorpio but wish I was an aries this year!
Be productive faster by training like an athlete.
How do we hit the ground running and get faster at productivity? You may think you’re productive enough, but we can still do better.
I’ve been using the Nike Running Club App to help me train to run faster, ever since discovering it during the pandemic. The app has a feature to select a coaching plan, such as the training plan I’m on for a 5K over the course of 13 weeks. As part of the training plan, some days I run long distance (to build endurance), some are sprints (to build sprints), and some are core strength.
The analogy is if you want to be productive faster, then we should train like an athlete. You don’t necessarily get faster by doing the same thing over and over. You get more productive by having a well-rounded lifestyle that enables you to be faster.
Coach MJ Gasiv, a USAT Certified Coach and age group triathlete, broke down a training plan for athletes to run faster. I’ve taken the liberty to adapt her plan and apply it to faster productivity. Use an athlete’s mindset to be more productive than others!
Structure Yourself for Faster Productivity
You’re busy. Probably TOO busy. We look around at others who have the time to play video games or watch TV for hours, and wonder why we can’t do the same. The fact is, even when we try to chill, our mind is probably full of thoughts on what else we could be doing to be productive! (I blame and thank my Asian mom for instilling a strong sense of guilt in me.)
This leads me to believe, if we want to get productive faster, then we need to be efficient with our time and set ourselves up for maximum success.
Let’s dig deeper into our workflow and checkin on if it’s working for us. Perhaps over time, we’ve unknowingly adopted bad habits or are doing things that no longer bring value.
Efficient work flow = Faster productivity.
“Value stream mapping is a technique used to document, analyze and improve the flow of information or materials required to produce a product or service for a customer.” — Lean Six Sigma
I recently did a breakdown of my workflow in creating each of the Venture Out emails. The major steps consists:
- Review for quality
- Repurpose the content in a billion different ways (social media posts, Medium, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcast, etc.)
Over time, that last step of repurposing my content has taken more and more time, as I try to get my product out to as many places as possible, therefore maximizing my work.
But, it’s worthwhile to scrutinize the value of each repurpose. Just because it takes 5 minutes to make a social media post, I need to ask, is it even worthwhile to post on TikTok unless I’m dancing in it?!
For you to be productive faster, do these 4 steps:
1. Morning routine — Make sure you’re waking up early, achieving something of value (i.e. exercise, meditation, prioritizing, learning, etc.), and that it’s not wasted time.
2. One thing I must accomplish today — “Mark Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you.” Make sure you know what that one thing is today, then go eat it.
3. Save the mindless tasks for later — Specifically, do the mindless stuff between 1–3PM. Go do errands and chores, reply back to no-brainer emails, and respond to text messages. Your circadian, biological rhythm predisposes you to slow down during this time of day, so maximize it with less consequences.
4. Evening routine — Often overlooked but can pack a powerful punch, have an evening routine that preps your morning for success (i.e. get your workout clothes ready, have ample supply of coffee, setup your desk) and guarantees the best sleep possible (i.e. no TV or food a couple hours before bedtime).
DIG DEEPER: Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who wrote the best-sellers The Power of Habit and his recent book, Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity. He dives deep into numerous case studies on how people were able to find productivity from apparently disparate traits. The Amazon reviews are generously positive, but if not going to spoon-feed you any quick lifehacks.
Pro-tip: learn how to mindmap. When exploring ideas, mental models, options, anything — use a mindmap to visualize the possibilities. Everytime I do it, I’m surprised to discover what ideas I had in me all along. Here’s an article on The best mind mapping software in 2020: 11 tools to make great mind maps by Maria Myre of Zapier
Tools for Faster Productivity
Tim Ferriss wrote a best-seller called Tools of Titans, where he basically interviewed tons of super-successful people for their insider tips on what they do to be so successful.
Although I’m not a titan (yet!) in the field of productivity and positivity, I’d like to share some of the tools I use to stay on top of things.
I think it’s important for people like you and me to share how we get things done. Not because we’re trying to brag or 1-up each other, but to honestly learn from each other. What I do may not work for you, but perhaps there’s a takeaway in it that you never thought of before. My goal is not to just recommend apps, but to go one-level deeper and explain the workflow and why it makes sense.
In order to get faster at productivity, the tools we use matter. Much like a woodworker, you have to have the right tools to make a piece of furniture.
Writing + Medium = A repository where you can have your draft articles and it’s autosaved as you write. I have several draft articles, and whenever I have an idea, insight, or data that’s good for an article, I jot it down in there and I know it’s there and ready to go for the final touches eventually.
Collaboration + Google Drive = Free and efficient way to store, autosave, and work on “living files.” I’ve been running Venture Out from Google Drive for a couple years now, and recently up’d the ante and added teammates. Now we collaborate, sometimes real-time, on the same document and we all have easy access to all files (logos, graphics, research, etc.).
- Pro-tip #1 — Use the ‘@’ symbol to tag people for stuff like assigning actions.
- Pro-tip #2 — Map it as a drive on your computer, like an external drive. Now you can save and open files directly from your computer’s applications and search using “Finder” or “Explorer.”
- Pro-tip #3 — When making a document or presentation, use their templates, which I find to be more innovative than the boring Microsoft templates.
Social Media (Adobe Spark or Canva) + Scheduled Posting (Later or Buffer) = A more cohesive and consistent social media presence. In other words, a better personal brand. The fact is, our social media posts are judged, whether as part of a job interview, for networking, or to get dates! Use Adobe or Spark to make beautiful posts very easily, and then a service like Later or Buffer to schedule them for the future.
Exercising + Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club + Spotify = From a WFH situation, stop wasting minutes thinking about what kind of workout you’re going to do. Use the Nike apps to give you a workout plan, which you can target the type of muscle, and Spotify to get pre-made workout playlists. Remove as much friction from starting the workout as possible.
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- My 2019 Annual Review by James Clear
- The 15 best productivity apps of 2020 by Jared Newman
- The One Productivity Hack You Need In 2021, Based On Your Zodiac Sign
- PRODUCTIVITY: MORE THAN JUST SPEED by Uwe H. Kaufmann and Amy Tan
- How To Work Faster And Smarter by Amy Johnson
- 30 Lightning-Fast Productivity Hacks To Help You Work Better by Thomas Frank
- 10 Ways to Become a Faster Runner by MJ Gasik
- 6 Foolproof Tips on How to Run Faster from Experts and Athletes: Focus on these strategies to take your running to the next level. by Phil Latter
- The best mind mapping software in 2020: 11 tools to make great mind maps by Maria Myre