October is my most productive month. It is becoming a yearly tradition to combine three events in Thailand. During my writing retreat, I help entrepreneurs write their book in one week, and get some writing done myself. At the DCBKK conference of successful location independent entrepreneurs in Bangkok, I get inspired by the workshops, presentations and talks with my friends from all over the world. Afterwards all this inspiration gets processed during the ‘Get Shit Done Live’ productivity sprint in Chiang Mai. I just got back to Europe with a ‘scrambled’ brain and a jetlag, but also with new ideas and projects and a sh*t load of work done.
Time to share my eight best productivity ‘epiphanies’…
Maybe it’s weird to mention sleep as a productivity hack, but it might be my most important one. Our brain resets and refreshes while we sleep; our body regenerates. At university, when my fellow students studied throughout the night for next day’s exam, I preferred to get a good night rest, so at least my brain would work properly. Find out how much sleep you need and get those hours. Put it at the top of your to-do/priority list. A 20 min afternoon nap works wonders as well, by the way!
2: Ice bath
Another unconventional productivity hack. During a workshop in Bangkok, I got to try the famous ‘Wim Hof’ ice bath. As you sit in a bath of ice cold water, you fight your bodies panic and flight reflex by focusing on your breathing. After a while, your body relaxes. Afterwards you feel really alive. I would not recommend to ‘try this at home’, but a (daily) cold shower has the same effect. It revitalizes your body and strengthens your immune system.
3: Introvert or extrovert?
It helps to know how you recharge. I recently found out that I am an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I am not expressive or don’t enjoy being among people; it means I recharge by being alone, while extroverts recharge by being among people. Knowing how you lose energy and how you recharge, helps you decide how to manage your productivity and energy. For example, an introvert will want to alternate work with being alone, and an extrovert will want to go to a party or meet friends to relax.
4: Join an event
Joining an event where you work together with others is more fun and it provides structure, focus and accountability. Both during the writing retreat and Get Shit Done Live, I feel this massive increase in focus and productivity by being together with like-minded people.
5: Use time differences
If you are working on a project that needs stuff from a third party, get it done overnight on a platform like Fiverr.com or Upwork.com. I needed some icons for my website and a small video edit. I sent out the instructions in the evening, and the next morning the results were in my mailbox, ready for me to continue my work. You can get things done for as little as $5-10. For the best results with online cooperation, especially with people from other countries, cultures and languages, it is important to very clearly explain what you need.
6: Record it
If you explain something to somebody; record it. If you are like me, this tip will save you so much time and energy.
- Right now I am testing a few designers on Upwork to select one for a website design job. They all want to have a call for more clarifications; meaning I will have to share the same story, and answer the same questions to each one of them. However, if I record my specifications in a video and send it to all of them, I only have to do the work once. Plus, they all get exactly the same input, which makes their output easier to compare. I use screencastomatic to create the video: free screen recording plus voice explanation.
- Recording videos is also a good idea when you hire a new VA, or basically for on-boarding anybody. The person being hired can replay the video as many times as needed, to get all details and instructions at their own pace. There is another huge advantage: a friend of mine hired a new manager, and after explaining her entire business, instructing her and working with her for a few weeks, it turned out not to be a good fit. She had to find, hire and train a new manager. If she had recorded the on-boarding of the first one, she would not have to go through the same instructions and explanations all over again.
- If you are a creative person, like me, there is another benefit to recording your ideas and instructions in a video. When you have an ‘inspiration sprint’, your mind works really fast and not always linear. If you have to explain your ideas to another person real time, you have to slow down your mind, which works counter-productive. If you record a video, you can go as fast as you want, while the person carrying out the instructions may work with it in their own time. They can listen to it, pause, carry out the instructions, listen some more, pause again, rewind, ask you questions etc, all without interrupting your creative inspiration burst.
7: Helicopter view
When you’re writing a book, creating a website, writing a proposal or dealing with lots of data in general, you probably struggle with the amount of content. As a writer, I am used to working with large amounts of text. The secret is to switch to ‘helicopter view’. For a website, only look at the URL, slogan and the menu items; they should convey the main message, just like the back cover of a book plus its table of contents. Furthermore, each chapter of the book, each page of your website, should start with a short introduction. If you were to put only those introductions together, they should already tell the highlights of your story. I was looking at my own website that way and noticed “hey, I repeat something here and miss a step here.”
So take a look at only the menu items and the first paragraph of each main page of your website and see what message you get. Do the same for your book, proposal or report: only look at the table of contents and the first paragraph of each chapter. That should be your main story. This is a way to go through large amounts of material to make sure you’ve got everything.
8: Free transcriptions
Upload your recordings (both video and audio) to otter.ai for free transcription.You get 600 mins of transcription free per month! That is how I created this blog post: I used the voice memo in my iPhone to record the sharing of my ‘productivity epiphanies’ with the GSDL group, had it transcribed fast and free, made some changes, so now I can share these productivity hacks with you!
Where is Esther?
In Thailand, my Online Business Manager Lesley and I worked side by side instead of virtually. We launched my new Elite Mastermind program, which is almost sold out in the first week!
I know it’s a bit decadent, but two days after landing back in Amsterdam, I got on a plane to sunny Rome, where I am writing you now, my belly full of delicious pasta and artichokes… 🙂
The next two weeks I will have to make all my calls and do my online work before I go on my Cruise your Business (and digital detox) trip from Barcelona to Buenos Aires. While I am offline on the cruise, I am looking forward to finally write my book ‘Light your fire, without the burnout. Energy management for passionate people’.