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You would think that the people who are most into advanced productivity ideas and systems would be the most productive people who, having mastered the basics, are looking for ways to eke out even more performance. In my experience, though, the people looking for "five weird productivity hacks" are usually the ones who think they're too good for the basics.
The most productive people I know are people who absolutely master the basics. They know how to fill the time in the day with the most important tasks they have, and they know how to string those days together in such a way that they're making meaningful progress.
The most important basic skill to master, without a doubt, is consistency. I've seen this in my own life, in my friends' lives, and in all of my coaching clients paths. Those who are able to be consistent end up with huge success, very often much greater success than they expected or even hoped for.
People in finance say that people aren't able to comprehend the benefits of compounding interest over time. Consistency in productivity creates compound benefits which people are similarly not able to comprehend. Your starting point doesn't matter, because you can quickly scale up to your capacity once you have a history and habit of consistency.
Let's say you wanted to write a book. Maybe you'd tried and failed before. If you commit to writing for thirty minutes every day for a month, you'll write at least 10 to 15 thousand words. Not bad. Then the next month you up your quota to just one hour. Now you have a cumulative 30 to 45 thousand words. Not quite a book yet, but you're a month away.
And how easy does that process sound? Anyone can do half an hour a day. Anyone who has done a half hour a day for a month can do an hour a day. And anyone who has done an hour a day can do another month.
That doesn't guarantee you'll have a book. Maybe you need a lot of editing or the idea you had didn't play out as well as you hoped it would. But the truth remains that you are now pumping out 20 to 30 thousand words per month in your spare time and you're doing it with confidence and consistency. It just gets easier and easier. Work on some auxiliary skills and you've got a book.
This is how I ran 10 miles. A friend bet I couldn't and I barely did a mile the first time I ran. So I just made a rule that every week I had to force myself to run one extra mile. If it was hard I'd do one extra run during the week. I ran the ten miles without any problem despite never having run any distance before.
The amazing thing about consistency is that once you are consistent on one thing, you can fairly have a lot more confidence that you'll be consistent on the next thing. Being consistent is just a skill, albeit an incredibly powerful one.
Interestingly, it doesn't seem to matter what you choose to be consistent on or how easy or difficult it is. I've experimented a lot with this, and even the easiest tasks lead to a positive spiral of consistency. I've found that as soon as I get a coaching client to be consistent with any tasks relevant to their lives, they will generally remain consistent forever, with a few variances here and there.
Do productivity hacks and all that if it's fun for you, but make sure you have the basics down first. Set a goal, figure out a daily habit that will guarantee progress, and then just set yourself at it with relentless consistency.
Photo is me and a manta ray off the coast of Kona! After two failed attempts, my friends and I finally found manta rays at night without a guide.
I've been writing out my yearly blog posts and as I've gotten near the end I've realized that I haven't written anything about tea this year. It seems almost inconceivable that a year could pass by without my shilling for the tea industry at large. In thinking about that, I started to think about why I like tea so much, which led me to the idea for this blog post.
I've been drinking tea regularly for around ten years. I can't remember when I first started drinking it nearly daily, but I'd estimate that it's been at least five years. I love tea and feel like it, along with its surrounding culture, is a very special thing that is often overlooked.
One thing that is unique about tea is that it is the only social consumption based activity I can think of that is actually good for you.
Coffee isn't all that social, as it's quick. People go get coffee together, but that tends to be a more superficial meeting. Meals are often indulgent, though sometimes healthy. Drinking and smoking are obviously bad for you.
Every year I struggle to write my gratitude post a little bit, not because I can't think of anything I'm grateful for, but because there are so many things that it's hard to focus. This year, just for fun, I'm going to try to highlight some smaller things in my life that I'm grateful for.
But first, I can't write this post without acknowledging and thanking all of the people in my life. I have the most incredible friends and family and they all contribute a tremendous amount to my life. Everyone has the ability to make great friends, but not everyone has the chance to meet as many great people as I've met and befriended, and I think it's pretty rare to have a meaningful and positive relationship with every single member of one's family as I do. I may not be a 1%er financially, but I think I must be in terms of people in my life, I must be.
So first, to my friends and family who read this: thank you so much for being in my life.
Each day I think many times about how grateful I am for various things, both big and small. I do this because I have a lot to be grateful for, but also because I know that the active process of being grateful will make me more happy and satisfied with my life. Being grateful is a skill that you can build, and building it enables you to get all of the benefit of everything in your life, which makes it a very high-leverage skill.
When I asked for blog topics before writing this annual batch, I got a lot of great suggestions with almost no overlap at all. The one exception? Everyone wanted to know what I think about marriage.
I think that this comes from my history as a pickup artist, and a perceived incompatibility with the two. This is sort of funny to me because I think that getting into a great marriage with a great person is a very obvious end goal to pickup. Or maybe the confusion just comes from the fact that I live a pretty weird life. In which case: fair enough.
I'm still very happily married. On our anniversary I realized that I was even happier to be married than I was on our wedding day. Maybe that's because you don't really understand if or how your life will be changed once you get married, but once you settle in and proactively make it a good marriage, you get to feel the benefits.
Marriage, or even relationships, seem to be a much bigger chore and more difficult to most people than they feel to me. We've had exactly one argument ever that I can remember (though it did resurface again a few months later before being totally resolved). Once in a while one of us raises some concern or issue and we have a "difficult conversation", but I can't think of any where both of us didn't leave feeling better and glad we had the conversation.
Almost twenty years ago I was a professional gambler and I ended up getting a little bit sloppy with my procedures, which resulted in casinos catching me and confiscating all of my money. I only paid taxes when I removed money from casinos, so I kept most of it in them, which meant that my net worth dropped by over 90% in one day.
Should I regret my actions which caused that?
I remember the day. I remember waking up, where I was sitting when I looked at my computer and realized what had happened, and even where I went for dinner, who was there, and what I ate. I also remember not being upset by it, and in some ways feeling relieved. I had had enough gambling and was ready to move on anyway.
I'd certainly take the money back if someone offered it to me, but maybe my life would be different now in a way that I wouldn't want. I'm 100% happy with my life now, so I can't really say that I regret it, because maybe that small change would have a ripple effect and make my life worse today.
I saw an interesting debate on Twitter recently between two guys who were debating whather it was better to focus on one's strengths and leverage them for results, or whether it was better to shore up weaknesses and become more well rounded.
The conversation caught my attention because it really is a common situation people find themselves in, and most people tend to focus exclusively on one side or the other. But just like the idiom "Work smart, not hard", you might ask yourself why not just do both?
The way I see it, your primary output should come from your strengths. I coach people because I have a lot of experience with understanding people and giving advice, and I'm now very good at it. I would never have done it 10-15 years ago when it wasn't an absolute strength.
At the same time, it's important to realize that your greatest strengths are actually the combination of several strengths, just as a dish you eat is good because of the combination of ingredients more than any one ingredient individually. So the way that you create a valuable and defensible strength is by building up weaknesses until you have a combination of strengths.
A few years ago I started writing a monthly report to a few friends sharing my progress on CruiseSheet. My primary motivations for doing so were that these friends were interested and asking about it anyway, and I felt that they might hold me accountable or offer me some good advice along the way.
Those benefits came, but the biggest benefit was unexpected. Writing a monthly report forced me to take an accurate look at my month, assess my progress, and think about where I wanted to go from there. Sometimes a month felt pretty lackluster but I'd look back and see that I'd done a lot more than I remembered. Other times it went the other way and I realized that I hadn't done much at all.
I enjoyed writing the monthly report so much that I started writing a general life one for a much smaller group of friends. I have categories like finance, coaching, friends, family, and miscellaneous. Just as my CruiseSheet specific one made me reflect on what I was doing within the business, this one helped me keep track of my life.
The biggest thing I've learned from my general monthly email is how much actually happens in a month. Sometimes the month seems to have flown by, but as I am forced to take a few minutes to reflect on it and look through my schedule, I realize that actually quite a lot has happened.
Four years or so ago I bought a small condo in Las Vegas. I did it almost entirely because it seemed like a great deal and because I visited Vegas sometimes, and not at all because I intended on moving to Las Vegas. Since then, things have escalated.
I now live in Las Vegas full time with my wife. She bought the condo next to mine and we combined them to make a bigger condo. In addition to our two condos, friends and friends of friends have bought ten others in our neighborhood. We have a waiting list and continue to try to buy nearly every condo that comes up for sale.
My one complaint with Las Vegas was that it didn't have as many of the types of people I like to hang out with as other cities, so I figured I would try to change that by importing them.
We are beginning to approach a critical mass where there are usually other people in town besides us, which has made it even more fun to be there.
Sometimes new tasks can be daunting. I was in Hawaii trying to fix our minivan, and even though the steps involved in replacing spark plugs and wires looked quite easy, I wasn't particularly confident that the van would start when I turned the key.
I've noticed that a lot of people, including people who are incredibly competent within their own domains, are terrified of doing something new. Sometimes they're so paralyzed that they're not even willing to try it.
I may have been that way before too, but something I always remind myself is, "Dumber people than me have done this before."
That's not an insult to anyone else or a mechanism to inflate my own ego. It doesn't mean that I'm smarter than everyone who has ever attempted whatever it is that I'm up against. All it means is that at some point in history, someone with less ability than me has probably succeeded in doing whatever it is I want to do.
One of the main reasons my friends and I have bought home bases around the world rather than just relying on AirBnBs is that it makes it easier to develop good routines in each one. I've found that having a good routine in a place and going back to it over and over again is a great way to stay productive while traveling and to get to know each place in more depth.
I thought that I'd share my routines in each one to illustrate how I stay productive and why I like each place so much.
Vegas is definitely my main home base and I spend more time there than any other home base. For that reason, my routine there is tho most important one to me and it's the most strict and developed.