So let’s sum up what we’ve covered so far:
- Most productivity advice doesn’t work (you know that by now).
- In my experience there are just three things that matter when it comes to being truly productive and getting ridiculous amounts of work done (the 80/20 principle at work).
- And these three things essentially make it effortless to get work done.
That last point is the key here.
True productivity is when you execute and deliver on goals whether you feel “ready” to or not. It’s when your brain feels forced to get work done whether it’s perfect or incomplete or you’re tired or distracted or whatever may normally hold you back.
Think of it like a caveman being chased by a saber toothed tiger. The second he sees the tiger, a series of chemical reactions begin in his brain and travel down throughout his body.
Eventually his body is so flooded with adrenaline that he’s operating in a complete different physical & mental state: fight or flight mode.
And, as a result, he feels a sudden instinctive drive to run away from the tiger as fast as possible. Even if just 5 minutes earlier he was yawning and tired.
His brain & body give him no choice but to exert full effort to run away.
We want to recreate the same thing with your productivity.
(Minus the adrenaline and fear of death, of course.)
True productivity is something that you feel compelled to do.
Something that you can’t second-guess or revise in endless circles.
So how do you do that? How do you create an environment where your brain is literally FORCED to produce work as fast as possible and just hit the “publish” button on it? And do it again, and again, and again?
That’s simple. On this page we’re covering the first two principles.
They’re principles you’ve likely heard before, but I’m going to cover them in a way that hopefully finally “clicks” in your brain.
In the next page, though, we’re covering the “mother” principle behind this.
This is one you’ve likely NEVER heard covered in any “productivity porn” online. And this is the one that enables the two principles today to actually work properly in the first place.
It’s the “tiger” in the fight or flight situation I painted above.
It’s the one that flips your brain into “immediate action” mode.
So what are the first two principles?
Principle #1: Real… And Hard… Deadlines
Deadlines are the key to forcing your brain into productivity mode.
But not soft deadlines you set for yourself. You know what I mean by “soft” deadlines… I’m talking about the deadlines you can easily break with zero repercussions (other than extreme stress, anxiety, and 24/7 worry over work).
Hard deadlines are when OTHER PEOPLE are riding on you completing it.
Maybe it’s a webinar tomorrow you’ve already got registrants for… but haven’t even started to work on (and it’s 8pm the night before).
Or maybe it’s a sales page that you HAVE TO have online in some format (and accepting sales) by Tuesday next week because a JV has already started warming up their lists to buy it.
Or maybe it’s a product you’ve already promoted to a list of customers.
There are a thousand situations we can come up with here.
Think back to times when you’ve had hard deadlines like this set for you.
Did you end up getting the work done, even if it wasn’t “perfect”?
And bonus points: did you worry that the work wasn’t up to your standards, or was low-quality, yet it turned out that customers absolutely loved it?
If you have real… hard… deadlines set for yourself, your brain is forced into productivity mode. It naturally ends up simplifying your work for you, it ends up forcing you to complete that work, it ends up by-passing your normal need for perfection, and it forces you to do one other key thing, which is…
Principle #2: Enter The “Just Get It Done” Mentality
Listen, if you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m a bit of a perfectionist.
Left unchecked, I can outline/write/revise/edit/repeat on a single project for years on end. And that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve done it before. YEARS.
It’s embarrassing when people ask you, “Hey how’s that project coming along?” And they do it every time they see you. Until they realize that there’s no point in asking you anymore because, in reality, it’s not coming along.
Yeah, that was my life for a long… long… long time.
This is how my brain seems to naturally function.
It’s especially bad when I’m writing sales copy.
I always think there’s a better way to write a certain phrase.
Or a more effective hook for a sales letter.
Or a better story I could be telling.
Or… you get the idea here.
So how do I force myself out of that “natural state” of mine? Simple, I do what all the most successful people I’ve observed have done (and what I end up doing when faced with a hard deadline): I just write the bare bones of what I need to get done and then just put it out into the world.
Previously, I gave you a link to the first CopyHour sales letter ever. If you missed it, you can see it right here.
It’s 693 words. There are no pictures. There’s no story.
It’s just a straight-forward offer.
“This exercise is the ‘secret’ behind the most successful copywriters. I’ve been meaning to do this exercise but I never do. I want a group to do it with me so we all hold each other accountable. Here’s how it’s going to work: join now, we start in a week, and it’ll last 8 weeks… with one assignment every day. The price is only $20. Join now because it’s starting soon.”
It took under 30 minutes to write from start to finish.
And you know what? IT WORKED!
It worked really, really, really well.
To the point where I got validation for a new business idea…
I made a little money on the side (it was never meant to be a money-maker)…
And I ended up having a LOT of fun in the process (both setting up the business, going through that first round, and building it out to the thousand dollar flagship product it is now).
Oh, and the email assignments for CopyHour? Uh, I’d love to say that I always batch-wrote them a week or two ahead of time…
But almost every single one was written literally moments before the deadline.
Again, I’m not a super-disciplined productivity master.
But I had the hard deadline of PAYING CUSTOMERS who needed the assignment at a specific time that I promised them. And that was enough to kick my brain into action mode… which then resulted in emails that had to follow the “just get it done” mentality.
Which, in turn, became assignments & emails that people absolutely loved.
Trust me, I was nervous every time I hit the “send” button.
“Something’s just ‘off’ about this… ugh it’s not good enough…”
Except that, because of the hard deadlines & the “just get it done” mentality that they forced, I hit “send” anyway – and absolutely no one complained.
In fact I only ever got positive feedback for each assignment.
(Ok, let me come totally clean here. I literally went through my customer database, found the one customer in the furthest time zone away from me [a specific part in Australia], and wrote emails that would hit their inbox at just the right time. This was the absolute latest I could push the assignments. And what’s funny is that I’ve talked with other successful entrepreneurs who had email-based courses… and who naturally ended up doing the exact same things. Hard deadlines, especially those based around customers who have already paid you, are magic. I would never have gotten ANY of these assignments done if I didn’t have paying customers who were waiting for them at a specific assigned time.)
I’ve done this again and again and again in other businesses.
I’ve done it with webinars, sales pages, products – just about everything.
And the beauty is, in every case, once I’ve been forced to put the very basic framework together and just ship it – I was able to iterate over it based on customer feedback.
Which resulted in better output than if I just sat there endlessly outlining/revising/repeating for months or years on end.
Tim Ferriss has a great mantra for this: what would this look like if it were easy? What’s the bare minimum you’d need to do to get it done?
What unessential pieces could you leave out in this first iteration?
You can always add them in later if customers say they need them.
But what are the ONLY pieces a customer would need RIGHT NOW to get what they want from you? What basic message in your sales letter do the most desperate customers NEED to hear in order to buy? What basic pieces to a product does that customer NEED to solve their problem? What elements & flourishes of design, copy, writing, etc can you leave out altogether because it adds nothing to the “core message” of what you’re selling?
When you’re faced with the hard deadline, revert to those bare essentials – and absolutely nothing else.
“But wait wait wait… I know these things already. They just don’t work for me!”
What I’ve just covered (hard deadlines and the “just get it done” mentality) are two of the key pieces to the productivity puzzle. When you have real hard deadlines, guess what? Morning rituals don’t matter. Getting up at 5am doesn’t matter. Using Pomodoro apps don’t matter. To-do list apps don’t matter.
Your brain enters the work environment equivalent of “fight or flight” mode – and chemical reactions FORCE you to act.
But I know for a lot of people this doesn’t work.
They set deadlines for themselves – but constantly break them.
Or they WANT to enter the “just get it done” mentality – yet their brains simply won’t let them “just get it done”. They go right back to endless editing/writing/revising/repeating until months have passed them by with no deliverables.
(At least, I know that that’s how my brain works when it’s left unchecked.)
Which is where that final productivity principle comes into play.
This is the one that forces your brain to act on these first two principles. That tricks you into having to meet your deadlines & just get the bare bone essentials of your work done. Just like how a caveman is chemically compelled to sprint away from the saber toothed tiger licking its chops and wanting to eat him for lunch – even if that caveman was getting ready for bed just 5 minutes earlier.
And it gets you to do it week, after week, after week… until you have a portfolio of successful projects sitting in front of you, making you money, and allowing you to finally turn off your brain (and the stress you feel 24/7) when you’re outside of working hours.