Guest entrepreneur and author Chandler Bolt shares valuable tips for maximizing your productivity and striking the work-life balance many find elusive.
Covered in the podcast:
00:30 – Chandler Bolt, author of “The Productive Person”
01:40 – Want-tos versus must-dos
04:21 – The entrepreneurial paradox
07:39 – Getting up and staying up
13:15 – The 50-10 rule
16:31 – Parkinson’s Law
20:39 – The Pareto Principle in motion
22:23 – What can you do daily to reach your goal?
26:50 – Power lunches with multi-players
28:18 – Chandler’s top tip
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James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. I’ve got a special interview today and the topic is productivity. I was over in San Diego and I met a young author who had put together a book on the subject of productivity called “The Productive Person.” Welcome to the call, Chandler Bolt.
Chandler: What’s up, James. How are you doing?
James: Very good, thanks. So, you’ve co-authored this book and your co-author is called James Roper. You put together some information around productivity and I am always interested in this topic as I’m sure most of our listeners are because it seems like, if you speak to most business people, they always have the sense that there are more things to do than they have time to do. Would that be a fair statement?
Chandler: Exactly. And that’s kind of why we wrote the book.
James: So a lot of the ideas in there I was familiar with. There’s a few distinctions that I thought was fantastic. Let’s treat this like a book club where we sit down and chat about some of the ideas that you mentioned in the book and how you perhaps discovered them and what sort of implications it has for people when they started applying it. All right?
Chandler: That sounds good.
Want-tos versus must-dos
James: So, one of the first things is that people are confused with the “want-tos” and that “must-dos.” Perhaps, you could develop that a little bit for us.
Chandler: Just a little bit on the story of the background of the book… James and I, we basically decided to write this book and it came about because him and I both run businesses and we were also students along with all these other things that we also had to get done.
It was kind of forced productivity and we realized that the major thing there was as a student and as an entrepreneur, you know you have a lot of things that you just need to get done but then you also have a lot of things that you just kind of want to get done.
Like we talked a little bit about like, the Shiny Object Syndrome, which I am sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with. All these great ideas pop up and you want to do them all but you just can’t, so that’s kind of what we are talking about. That’s just really there is just nailing down on what you need to do.
Like, this is not critical to move my business forward or this is not critical as a student to make good grades. So that is not a must-to. That is just a want-to. And so it’s really making those priorities and focusing on the things that you absolutely need to do.
James: So you had a few exercises in the book. What would be the technique to help someone work out the difference between the “must-dos” and the “want-dos”?
Chandler: What we use is top 3 which like what you said this is not reinventing the wheel here but it’s definitely important. Basically where it comes from, you take your top 3 priorities so the night before you go through it and you say “tomorrow if I get three things done and just three things done, what are they?”
And you say these things like “I am not gonna be satisfied with my results tomorrow unless I get these three things done.” And how that really helps is I mean all of us find ourselves…
We kind of get in reactive mode and we might get up and check our emails and then next thing we know we are on Facebook and you know you are just gonna be bouncing around and just reacting to what the world or your employee is sending your way so it really helps to get those top 3 there.
What we talked about in the book is that take that top 3 and if there’s any point of the day and you just kind of take a step back, “hey is this working me towards my top 3?” And if the answer is no and what you are doing in that moment is not finishing one of those items, then you just stop doing it. And it makes really easy to know just don’t need to be doing it.
James: I like your definition of freedom with the paradox of working harder now for more freedom later on. I think I first heard this concept from Eben Pagan but it’s doing something now that seems a little bit extra work but it will enable you later on.
And certainly in my own case the community that I enjoy and the business that I have which has been running for a few years provides a lifestyle that I certainly did not have in the beginning.
I was putting in a lot more hours and I was going through a lot more strain to build what I ended up with. And also when I was reviewing Pat Flynn, he had a great quote something about creating the passive income is not passive.
Chandler: (Laughs) Yeah.
Do the upfront work
James: So tell me about that. With that paradox, you think a lot of people just shirk that extra work upfront and then they have to suffer later on. How do you convey this idea to make it stick with someone that there’s a little bit of upfront work?
Chandler: That’s a great point James. Its so, like we took hold of entrepreneurial paradox. All of us deal with this as entrepreneurs. You have to work now to create more freedom later. It’s like, OK but I am working now which is taking away the freedom I currently have. Am I just gonna suddenly come in to this freedom?
It’s like, do you work less to have more freedom, or do you work more? It’s kind of like this crazy paradox. You are always questioning yourself and your work-life balance. And so that’s when it comes back to doing a few of the exercises we do on the book.
It’s just kind of setting clear goals and going through what we call pre-work. And it gets you really very clear so you can distinguish that so you don’t feel guilty when you are taking those breaks and when you are kind of enjoying life which is really why we are an entrepreneur, right?
James: Well, for me it is. It is about freedom. I didn’t understand the notion of retirement. Ever since I read Tim Feriss’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek” that It was such as slap in the face, really saying: What? I am gonna work, sit behind this desk and deal with these crazy customers and bosses for another 20 years or 25 years or 30 years?
Probably at that time I think I was reading this at about the age 35 and to think that I’d have to go another 30 years and then I can go on visit a holiday resort or whatever. It’s stupid. But imagine this now, just a few years later, I am living the lifestyle that I enjoy, that is because I put in a little bit of work.
It is like that overnight rock sensation that actually I was working clubs for 10 years prior to that and it’s interesting watching my son go through that phase of picking up an instrument, playing gigs, laying down tracks, building a fan base and one day he’d be famous but right now it’s just the hard slope. Not much money, not a lot of fans, but it’s just one at a time.
Now, moving topics here, I thought you have a pretty good routine for the morning, especially for someone who just keep keep on hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock.
Firstly, I will say that I think most people don’t get any near enough sleep and you should be able to just open your eyes and hop out of bed and not feel like you are having a hangover.
Beating the snooze monster
But in the instance when maybe you are in transition period when you have a job and also an entrepreneurial gig on the side or maybe you put in an all-nighter and you just have to get up to do a podcast or something, what would be your technique for getting up and staying up?
Chandler: Yeah. So, you know, obviously, we have our morning routines but for most people, the toughest part is actually getting out of bed and getting that thing started.
This is kind of like what you are saying, if you are not getting enough sleep, it could be really tough, and sometimes when we’re in that startup phase, like what you are saying with your son it is just the hustle phase. When you are in that phase, you are probably not getting enough sleep.
So basically what we are talking about in the book is that you’ve got the snooze monster. That snooze monster wants you to hit that snooze button and that’s what we do if we’re not disciplined. But what we recommend is putting that alarm clock across that room and also when you get up, you tell yourself, hey I am getting up.
And even just telling yourself that, as weird as it sounds, it kind of tells your brain, oh I actually need to wake up. And then, you are turning on the lights or opening up the windows, making the bed if that is your thing. But basically just getting out of your bedroom so you will not be tempted to get back in there.
James: Yup and I say the best fix would probably to go to bed earlier and set up the environment to be an awesome sleep.
And I certainly found out that when I moved close to the ocean and don’t have blinds and I would just wake up with the sun which is automatic.
This is someone who used to wake up at 11 o’clock after going to bed at 3, which was probably very unhealthy and a bad habit that I justified to myself but I would say that life has improved so much when I hop into bed well before midnight probably, 9:30 or 10 o’clock, I am exhausted and I’m ready for sleep and I wake up at the sun and the sun triggers your melatonin release and it keeps you alert.
And that is another traveler’s tip if you change time zones, try not to wear sunglasses in the morning because that would slow down the release of the melatonin and keep you drowsy.
Chandler: And that is a great point you just made there James. You are talking about how you used to wake up late but then you made a habit of waking up early. I think that is the important thing there is, there is a habit. If you habitually hit the snooze button, that’s a habit that you have to break.
It is not just an overnight thing wherein you can put a switch but that’s something you have to really focus on and in putting certain things in that habit, like flipping the light on, or having the blinds open like you were saying, it can really trigger that habit and make you change from someone who hits the snooze button five times and starts their day off the wrong way into someone who doesn’t want to hit the snooze button and gets up ready to go.
James: I could guarantee that someone will listen to this because there will be several thousands of people who will listen to this who knows that they are that person. I am fully expecting some comments below this podcast saying, you know I was this snooze button-dude and now I am going to be bed earlier and waking up naturally.
For me it was literally overnight and it was the removal of blinds, and having the sun rising over the ocean, it just… straight away.
And the second thing is, I had a mental stubbornness by the end of the day and this was before I’ve read the book called “Willpower” which is one of the greatest books I have read, I was just hanging on to the work and just trying to get that last bit done without realizing that all my willpower had gone, it was taking me longer than it would early in the morning and I just felt like I had to do it.
What I found is when I was able to go to bed 9, it was outstanding work but I was writing it up on my whiteboard to attack in the morning and that’s what you call pre-work in your book.
I was able to wake up and just absolutely demolished it when I have my full energy and full willpower so I like the concept a lot in your book. It really leverages a lot of the other things that I have studied.
Chandler: You know that is like what we are talking about the top 3. That’s why we recommend that you do the top 3 the night before because like what you are saying if you put your head in the pillow and you have all these things spinning in your mind of what you need to do tomorrow, it’s gonna be really hard to go to sleep.
But sometimes, it is just writing those out really, really helps because now that they’re on paper you know you’re not gonna forget them and your mind is not gonna be erasing like telling yourself, oh I need to remember this and doing this in the morning.
James: Yeah I like that. It think it’s like letting them free. It’s releasing. For me, once they are on the whiteboard or I have taken a picture of them I really can let my ideas go, more than I can ever implement.
The 50/10 rule
James: I love some of the other stuff. You talked about the nonreactive stuff. Especially in our market space, a lot of people spend way too much time on social media, just playing I guess or distracting themselves for sheer boredom or as an excuse for not doing any real hard work and I would say I don’t use social media that much at all.
I check Twitter twice a day. I log into Facebook a couple of times and I answer messages or make a strategic post in a group that I belong to or I might answer a detailed question. Or I’d upload some pictures but for the most part, I am not there to play Candy Crush or whatever.
I am just logging on and logging off. I call this a hit and run approach. I think you have a rule around the social media and that is called the 50/10 rule.
Chandler: Basically what we are talking about there is… because we talk about uninterrupted action. And how your best productivity comes when there is no interruption so turning on that “Do not disturb” button so you’re not getting notifications from Facebook, from your texts, calls and all that and just really focusing.
But the principle you are talking about there is the 50-10 rule that is basically for those people who have to have communication or maybe they can’t totally disengage from their social media, is just work for 50 minutes with no distractions, put the phone in the other room or whatever you have to do.
Then taking those 10 minutes at the end of the hour as a kind of a reward and you just go in there, pull back up your phone, get your messages, go back on Facebook, whatever that is. It’s kind of a midday break and it’s kind of repeating the cycle.
James: I really like that, and that’s exactly how they operate at Strategic Coach, the Dan Sullivan training. They never go more than 50 minutes without a 10-minute break, even with the high level strategic work with entrepreneurs.
James: It’s probably not wise to do more than an hour straight of anything, if you want to be good at it.
So, the other thing I think that’s partially generational, I mean I grew up without Facebook, and Twitter, and Google Plus. It didn’t really appear until the latter part of my career as it stands now, which will in the long run probably be the early part, right?
Chandler: That’s right. Let’s hope so, right?
James: I know what it’s like to actually cruise around without an automobile phone, and life was quite different. The closest I get to it now is when I go for surf, where I don’t wear a watch, I don’t have any electrical gadgets, it’s just me, a wetsuit, and a surfboard.
And that reminds me of what it was like years and years ago, where you actually have your own self chatter, and you’re responsible, without any, you can’t just connect and look up a Google Map instantly, and find out the current and all, that sort of stuff.
You’ve got to survive on your own. I think it’s a good discipline to build. And at your age, you’re only 20 years old, you’ve probably really only known the technology world.
Chandler: Yeah, for the most part.
James: Yes, so interesting to see how it’s changed. You’ve covered some of the classic theories which I really think are worth visiting such as Parkinson’s Law, and that one is one that I learned early on in my business career and I’m really glad I did.
And when you combine that with deadlines, you end up being far more productive. You might want to explain Parkinson’s Law.
Chandler: Yeah, sure. And one thing just to quickly add on the last thing you were saying there about being totally disconnected, I know I didn’t answer that question, but, is I really like when we were in San Diego, and you’re talking about surfing, how that’s your free time from all of distractions.
I thought what was really cool, is that you said, I won’t even take my watch out there. Because that’s one more thing that you’re just looking at, and without that, you can totally be free. That was really cool, I like that.
James: I draw a little bit from Dean Jackson’s rules, and one of them is along the lines of “I wear a watch merely for curiosity”. Dean is not beholden to schedules, and I once published his rules and had them pasted to the side of my filing cabinet in my garage, that guy has really mastered this productivity stuff.
Definitely, I should ask him to come along and talk about it as well because, he’s like the super version of what your life can look like when you don’t have to do anything. It’s amazing.
Chandler: Yeah. Just being totally minimalist there.
James: Yeah, it’s frictionless living, I think he calls it.
On Parkinson’s Law
Chandler: Yeah. Of course. I’ll go ahead and answer your other question there too, about the Parkinson’s Law. Basically, a lot of your listeners would have probably heard this, and this is mentioning Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, kind of like what you’re talking about a little bit earlier, but basically, it’s just setting deadlines.
And just taking a look at what you have to do and, the whole a task was in proportion to the amount of time you give it. So setting shorter deadlines and sometimes what seems unrealistic deadlines, you’d be surprised at how much you actually get done, and a lot of times, you might not even think you’ll get close to finishing, but then you finish it.
I mean this can apply in the entrepreneur world, the student world. James and I talk about it in the book. We would study for two hours, when our friends would study for five or six, for like a big exam or something. But when you only have two hours, you’re only studying what really matters and you’re going to remember it all.
James: So you’re bordering on the Pareto Principle there as well, you’re combining two techniques.
James: But I think it’s fair to say that most employees, most students, will leave things to the last minute. That’s really what this thing is saying, that all the time up until the time just before the task is done is wasted time, it could be used for something else.
James: So, if you want to take some takeaways, one is, have deadlines. Like, have a hard deadline when something must be done by. And two is, keep it quite short because you’d be surprised what can be done on short order. I often say that I can do so much in like 10 minutes if I really apply myself.
I can crack open a slide deck, and build out the majority of a presentation in 10 minutes just overlaying the whole grid. And then I can fill it in, like color it in later. There’s so much you can be doing in 10 minutes. Ten minutes you can word an email to a team member with specific, clear instructions that could result in an amazing productive work of art.
Some point, you can be instructing them on how to build a website, on what topic, which domain to use, what you’d like to see on it. Less than 10 minutes, you can set in motion something that can be amazing. But sometimes if we think a task is big, we allow too much time and it becomes overwhelming, it’s like a vicious cycle.
Chandler: Yeah, it is.
The essential 20%
James: Now, coming back to what you were saying before, when you forced to only work on the most important things, that really is the Pareto Principle, which is the 80 percent of the results will come from just 20 percent of the stuff that you’re doing.
Chandler: Yeah. It’s crazy how much there’s work together. Like when you use Parkinson’s Law to set that deadline, suddenly the 80-20 becomes very prevalent. It’s like I only have so much time, what my 20 percent, that’s going to yield the 80 percent of my results. What can I do right now that’s going to make the most impact?
James: Exactly. And it’s fractal as well. And that’s covered by Perry Marshall in his book, where you can really drill down on this, and I love that concept so much. I really took code of that and worked that to the next level and that is 4 percent of the things you’re doing, getting a 64 percent of your results.
Chandler: Yeah, he really takes that down to the very bottom, that’s great.
James: So, he pointed out the 80-20, and I worked out the numbers. And I’ve applied that principle to my business over the last year. And I’ve seen some fantastic results. Everywhere where it’s been applied, we’ve really been able to have continuous improvement. The end result is we can do less and have more.
I really got back to a normal, productivity routine like within probably less than the normal employee these days, which is lucky. But it wasn’t always like that. And just continually learning about this stuff. I want to keep pushing through.
What’s your 20-mile march?
We’ve covered a lot of tips but I really liked your story about The Seinfeld Chain and The 20-Mile March. If you could just expand on that for a second.
Chandler: Yeah. So basically, you know 20-Mile March, if you’ve read “Good To Great“, or “Great By Choice“, Jim Collins’ books, he talks about the 20-Mile March. And in that, it’s breaking down your tasks so figuring out, where do I want to go, and then breaking that out into a 20 -mile march, which is basically a daily activity.
What can I do everyday to get me where I want to go? And basing from from the story of, there were two groups of people trying to get to the North Pole, like be the first to go to the North Pole. And one group of people, when it was a great day, they would just go crazy, just go to a crazy pace, and crank out tons of miles.
And then the other group, they said, hey we’re going to do 20 miles no matter the weather. So the group that was going very far on the good days, they would hand her down and go nowhere on those really bad snowy days. But the group that did 20 miles everyday no matter the weather, they’re the ones that made it there alive and back.
And the other guys, they all died trying, because it was just unsustainable. So when you apply that to your listeners, and prospective entrepreneurs, it really helps because if you figure out, like, if I’m in sales, I need to make five sales calls a day and that’s going to yield this result.
And you can figure it out on other levels even if you’re not in sales. But when you really break it down that small level, it helps you get in clarity because once you’ve completed those five calls or once you’ve done this, maybe, it’s writing 500 words, once you’ve done that task, you can go about your day feeling good and not those entrepreneurs who are always thinking, oh man, I really need to be doing something else.
Once you’ve done that, you know, like, hey, I’ve accomplished my task, this is my 20-mile march. It really applies the layers of life. Like last year, I did a hundred pushups a day challenge. And so at the end of the year, the goal was like 36,500 push ups and I ended up doing like 42,000 something.
But it’s just ‘cause I broke it down and I had an accountability group, and we did a hundred, at least a hundred a day. So when you start the year, you think there’s no way you can do 36,500 push ups, but then knocking out one day at a time just really helps.
James: You know I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for what’s happened to my website, SuperFastBusiness.com. It really was not doing a whole lot, 20 months ago.
By just popping out a video or an audio here and there, every few days, would you believe, in the last 30 days, I’ve had 93,018 page views and 34,500 visitors who stick around for over four minutes.
It’s really fascinating to watch, I mean this particular recording will be listened to thousands of times, and in combination, I’ve had, well over a million podcast downloads, and that’s just from one little basic content at a time.
So I really, really like this concept. If you think about it in raw terms, it sounds a lot of work or a big result, but it’s just stacking a little win, on top of a little win, on top of a little win. Just move forward.
Chandler: Exactly. And James, you know you’re a great example of this for your listeners. A lot of podcasters, they might only do one a week, but I mean you get it.
If you look at your page right now, there’s February 4th, February 4th, February 3rd, like you’re consistently completing your 20-mile march. Like you just said, you’ve reaped some great benefits for that.
James: Yeah, I’ll end up winning in the long run. And I’ll keep going, and it’s taking enough spark because you get this compound effect. Compound effect is kind of what we’re talking about very early on, about this idea that you put in a little more work now for a lot more benefit later. It’s like saving money or whatever. You get the compound benefit in the long run, it’s really powerful.
Lunch with multi-players
So, I want to touch on a final concept before I relate you back into the world. And that is the concept of power lunches with multi-players. I kind of smiled when I read that because probably every day or two, I would have coffee or catch up on Skype with someone who’s in my power play network.
And I think it’s a great use of time, is to combine something that has to be done anyway with something that could move forward. So just dig into that one a little bit for us.
Chandler: Yeah, you know, you took the words right out of my mouth. It’s something that you’re going to do no matter what, so why not make it beneficial, why not make it productive? And really, more than just productive, it makes you feel really good.
When you’re having that power lunch with someone that’s an influencer that you can just bounce ideas off of, or that you can just pick their brain… I mean not only do you learn a lot, you leave with stuff that you can instantly implement, but you also feel great. Like coming back from those, it’s like a conference, like a little mini-conference, you know?
Coming back from those lunches, you were very productive in the afternoon because you were inspired. You know, having lunch with people that influence you and that you aspire to be like, they inspire you. And so you learn a bunch of stuff and you got some great productivity in the afternoon.
Chandler’s best tip
James: Beautiful. What a great way to finish off the call. So I’m going to ask you for your top tip. Of all the things that you talk about in your book, which you can get on Amazon, it’s called The Productive Person: A how-to guidebook filled with productivity hacks & daily schedules for entrepreneurs, students or anyone struggling with work-life balance, by Chandler Bolt and James Roper. What’s your best tip, the one that you feel is the closest to your heart, Chandler?
Chandler: Oh, man. I would have to say it’s kind of two working together. But it’s the whole idea of proactive versus reactive mode. And so basically it is, you know, you talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and you’ll find out that their mornings are sacred.
You know, like they really just block off that time for themselves, and they immediately start doing proactive things for their business. Because what’s interesting is, when you start off in that proactive mode, it just keeps building.
But when you start off in reactive mode, like say you roll over in your bed and you start looking at Facebook and you start pulling up emails, like you’re instantly reacting to everything that’s being sent your way, and so that just kind of spirals.
And what I’ve found is that when I start my day in reactive mode, like I very, very rarely come into full proactive mode. Because you feel like you’ve wasted that time. So kind of the way that I do that and that we talk about in the book is having a good morning routine.
And for me, that’s basically like getting up, having some barley, like a health drink, you know, doing some pushups, some sit-ups, like get a little bit of physical activity. Then I write a thank you card. It makes you think of what you’re grateful for, so you’re automatically putting yourself in that good state of mind.
And just doing, you know, like at the very end of that you’re eating breakfast and then you’re ready to go. And the important thing there is make it short enough so that you will consistently do it, but long enough so that it’s effective.
And so mine’s about 40, 45 minutes, but what ends up happening is you get to the end of that morning routine and you already feel like you’ve accomplished so much. It’s kind of given you a couple of little wins and it’s got you in the right head space and the right mindset for the rest of the day.
And then you can make sure that that morning is very proactive. Because it’s almost like a trigger. As soon as you finish that morning routine, you feel great. And you start tackling those tough tasks that you wouldn’t have otherwise attempted if you wouldn’t have been in that good head space already.
James: Beautiful. I summarize this as you’re either consuming or creating. And I think if you take the proactive approach to working on your tasks, to creating something… I mean, it’s the beginning of my day, and I’m creating something before I go and consume anything.
I haven’t looked at my emails or Facebook or whatever, answered forum posts. First thing is to create something, and then I’ll go and consume and dig into the reactive stuff. But do the creation or the forward proactive thing first, and then your day can’t help but be successful.
James: Well, I just want to thank you so much for hopping on the podcast, having a little chat with us about productivity.
I think you’re a remarkable young man for your enthusiasm and your success at such a young age and having published a book and to be studying these topics at the age of 20 is just setting you up for a really great future. I’d love you to come back and tell us what you’ve been up to, and the next installment is bound to be very interesting.
Chandler: I really hope so, right?
James: Yeah. Thanks, Chandler.
Chandler: Thanks so much, James, and I really appreciate the kind words. You know, it means a lot coming from you and it was great to be on.
James: Take care.
Chandler: Alright, you too.
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