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The Efficiency Manifesto

A collection of tactics, strategies, and principles to boost your productivity, eliminate distractions, and move you closer 

to your goals.

Brody Elkins – March 20, 2020

There was a point in the early stages of starting my own business where I became fed up with the quality of work I was doing. I felt I was drowning in shallow work, constantly being busy and never getting anything done. I had a strong bias towards planning, thinking, and learning which kept me in a perpetual loop of never completing anything.

Then I decided I was going to change. I studied 30 of the most prominent books (to see the list of the books I used, see the bottom of this post) on productivity, eliminating distractions, purpose, organization and creativity – then consolidated the most impactful and actionable lessons from each book into this “Efficiency Manifesto”. Doing so completely changed the way I perceive, organize, and execute my work.

Be warned, this document was not written for optimal readability for an audience. These are my notes organized in a way that makes sense to me, but since we’re all stuck at home working because of the Corona Virus, I figured why not share it with everyone.

If you read through it, I’m sure at least one or two of the principles here will help you be more productive, organized, or less distracted in any part of your life.

The manifesto is organized into eight sections – Goals, Productivity, End of Workday, Beginning of Workday, When Adversity Hits, No More Planning, Procrastination & Distractions, and Purpose.

Goals

  • You need to outline ONE singular, clear, precise goal. The only thing you are working toward, even though you want to do a bunch of things, you pick the most important and you attack it full force. 
    • Extraordinary results come as a direct result from how narrow you can make your focus. Not from how many hours we work, but from getting more done in the hours we do work. 
    • “If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either of them” 
    • “Busyness does not take care of business”
    • “Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there.”
    • “If you try to do everything, you may do nothing. If you do one thing, you’ll get somewhere. If you do the right thing, you’ll get to where you need to be.”
    • Knowing exactly what you have to do will give us a tremendous amount of energy. If you find yourself easily distracted, task switching, not motivated, mind drifting- what needs to be done may not be clear enough
      • It starts with the main goal, and transfers down into the smallest of daily tasks
      • Greatness comes from getting clear on what drives us, then doing it everyday
        • “The master is the one who is willing to try and fail and try and fail as long as he lives
    • This goal must excite you, be achievable within a specific time frame 
    • Your vision of what your life is like when you achieve this goal must fire us up and make us want to attack work 
      • You can have a practice where for 10 seconds in the morning or at night, you visualize yourself in this life
    • Constant reminders of this goal
      • Write it down and keep it in our wallets, homescreen, on clickup
  • From this one goal and timeframe, you break it down into smaller goals or milestones, and assign a timeframe to them as well
  • Then you outline all of the tasks that you need to do to get each goal done 
  • Then you prioritize those tasks by
    • 80/20ing the list until you have one thing

  • Focusing questions
    • What can I do today that will give me more time tomorrow?
    • What is the one thing I can do right now that will move me closer to the wildly important goal?
    • What’s the one thing that you could be doing right now that would have the most beneficial impact on your life?

Productivity

  • Its either your number 1 priority or it is a distraction
    • Time blocking – once you’ve identified the most important task, set a time to work on it, and do not do anything else during that time period. 
      • No messenger, no email, phone in airplane mode/upside down/different room, no snacking
      • Literally say NO to every single other thing that may come up during this time block of work
      • Try setting time blocks of 90 minutes max
        • Apparently working for 90 minutes and taking a small break maximizes our ability to work at a high level all day
          • If we drain yourself with 3 straight hours of work, you may not be able to perform the same the rest of the day (try it out)
          • Our attentional system needs space to recover
      • Focus intensely at ONE task at hand while purposefully ignoring distractions
        • The more you practice this, our brain creates myelin around the neural circuits, which makes it easier and easier to do it in the future (myelin is like the brain building a highway for a particular skill: the more myelin, the easier it is for you to do that thing) 
        • Also the better you are able to place your attention on what you want, for how long you want, whenever you want – the better your livfe will be
          • So you can practice this intense attention during brushing teeth, walking, eating
        • When you are talking to someone, you are not doing anything else 
          • Give each other sole, undivided attention
      • DO NOT switch back and forth between tasks
        • Our attention doesn’t fully transfer, some is left on the previous task, which makes it more draining energetically 
      • After completing a task, ask:
        • “What is most important to do right now?” 
        • What is the one thing that I can do, such that by doing it makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
      • No more “to-do” lists. Write “to-succeed” lists
        • Succeed lists only have “should-do” tasks
        • To-do lists have “could-do” tasks
    • Outline what your perfect day would be
      • Now just do it today only. Do today, the year will take care of itself. 
    • “Forget happiness. Just get into action”
    • Offer to help each other always
    • Celebrate completion of tasks
      • High five yourself
    • Take breaks from work during the day and during the week
      • Breaks during the day reset our ability to work
    • Breaks from work overall, leisure activities do the same thing, just on a larger scale
    • Aristotle – high quality leisure time is essential to a life well lived
      • Not Social media breaks, not always a zombie netflix binge.

Beginning of the Work Day

  • DO NOT start work with email, texts, or any notifications.
    • Get in your Pre-Input Wins.
      • Working before you receive these inputs ensures you’re giving your creative genius the space he needs to come out
      • It makes you creative rather than reactive
      • No matter what fires need to be put out in those notifications (90% of the time it’s not serious or urgent) you will have already gotten meaningful work done
      • Work on our most important task when we are in that fresh, present-moment focused laser one (adenosine is also lowest) 
    • Start your work day with a time block on the most important task of the day

This way, you’ll have already had a good day by noon.

  • Creativity requires two things:
    • 1. Create the conditions for your creative genius to show up (pre-input wins)
    • 2. Never stop creating things – quantity leads to quality

End of the Workday

  • Arambhashura – Sanskrit word meaning “hero at the start”
    • we start a goal with great enthusiasm, then it fizzles out 
      • Documenting how you are moving toward your goal everyday establishes a continual sense of achievement, which keeps fueling you
      • You have to know the score so you can tell if we’re winning
      • The thing that boosts energy, motivation and perceptions during work is making progress on meaningful work
        • 1. Clear goal
        • 2. Do work to achieve it
        • 3. Track the work you do
    • Write down the one thing you’re going to do tomorrow (more than one if they are short) – eat the frog in the morning
      • When you create list of things to do every night, mind starts to solve problems and prepare for completion of those tasks bc it doesn’t like those closed loops
        • Its called the Zeigarnik effect
    • Pay attention to what worked and didn’t work that day – this is MASSIVE
      • You will continually improve and get more efficient. 
    • Hard stop – a clear, singular stopping point on work, in which you are not allowed to work afterwards
      •  Work is over, relax into sleep, recover to crush tomorrow

When Adversity Hits

  • We have little control over our thoughts and feelings. So just accept them, and focus on action. Feeling overwhelmed? Anxious? Afraid? → take decisive action.
    • TO DO: Get a paper, split it into 2 columns. List what is controllable, and what is uncontrollable. The controllable side will tell us what we can do. 
    • “No pressure, no diamonds”
    • “Are you afraid of something? Take decisive action” – Dusan Djukich
    • “Always, always, always, always, always do what you’re afraid to do.” – Emerson
    • Spit in your hands and do something. 
    • You can solve all worry and decision-making anxiety by taking action. What’s my next move? Do it now!
    • When faced with a challenge, ask: What opportunity have we been presented with here?
    • Persistence is not a long race. It is many short races, one after the other. 
    • Fear, self-sabotage, desire to procrastinate, self-doubt are all part of the path
    • The more important an action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will fell toward pursuing it
    • When it’s hard:  just show up. Physically move your body to where it needs to be to complete the task. 
    • The main common theme throughout all these books: Just keep going.
      • If you never stop, you’re unstoppable. 
    • Life is about balancing, not being balanced. 
    • Quit getting ready for life and just get on with it. 
    • This is right here – You have much more control over your behavior than you do over your thoughts or emotions so paradoxically the best way to master your emotions is to let them be, stay relaxed, and focus on constructive action.
    • Life is a dancing leap over a chasm that doesn’t exist
    • When presented with a problem: Within 60 seconds identify one thing to do that will make the situation better. Even just 5% better. 
    • There are two things in life – the external circumstances that happen for us, and how we choose to react to them 
    • If iIwanted something to go a certain way and it didn’t, that is exciting! Because that means that something else is going to happen
    • Everything is divinely perfect – Amor Fati – love of your fate. 
    • The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.

No More Planning – Just Go.

  • It’s Not ready, aim, fire. Its Fire, Ready, Aim.
    • “Smart people are always trying to find a better way, an easier way – they just never get around to doin’ nuthin.” – Art Williams
    • Do it especially when you think it will be bad
      • When we feel unprepared or afraid, this is a sign we need to go in and do it, even if its going to be bad. (not reckless, but action-biased)
      • When unsuccessful people feel unprepared or afraid, they stop and want to spend more time planning, thinking, readdressing motives. 
      • WE GO. 
      • “I dream of men of who take the next step instead of planning out the next 100 steps” Teddy Roosevelt
    • Ask yourself: when is the last time you were proud of something you did? Were you prepared, or not prepared for it?

Procrastination and Distractions

  • You do not need to be motivated, to feel like doing it, to do it. Attitude follows behavior. Just start it. 
  • Pay attention to the things you say to yourself before you put things off

  • If you’re working and you don’t have the best focus, the best thing to do to improve focus is to just keep working on it. Keep funneling your attention on the right task – the distractions will dissipate. 
  • What are the limiting beliefs you hold about your work?

  • Being busy has come to mean being reactive – being immediately available for anyone else’s agenda
    • Ripping you away from your work that is making your goal into a reality. 
  • Distraction is a choice. 
  • Saying no keeps you in the same place – focused
  • Saying yes brings you to somewhere new – distracted (this is only in terms of work, not a life principle. We always want to experience new things in life) 

  • You are either consciously saying no to the things that don’t matter or you are unconsciously saying no to the things that do matter
  • Partial attention DESTROYS performance
    • When we are attending to a number of different things without resolving them
    • We see a text but don’t answer it then, we know we have to do something and don’t do it right then
    • Partial attention leads to constant low level anxiety – paying small amounts of attention to a variety of things opens loops in our brains that we never close. Makes it hard to think clearly because we have all these unresolved things floating around in the brain. Leads to overwhelm and being unfulfilled. 
      • When you look at a text, email, or watch a video CONCLUDE IT RIGHT THERE. (or make a note to do it another time) or else they WILL take up mental energy and space and inevitably leak into the thing you want to pay full attention to in the present. 
      • See something, finish it right there. 
    • The longer you delay in doing something the less likely you are to actually do it. 

Purpose

  • Did the work I do today really matter?
  • What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
  • What have you dreamt of doing?
  • Is there anything that I am currently doing, that knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t get into again if I were starting over again today?
  • What would you do now, if you knew you only had 6 months to live?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and have whatever you wished for in any part of your life, what would it be?
  • If you could design your perfect lifestyle… what would it look like?
  • How would you change your life if you received $1 million cash, tax free, today? What is the first thing you would do?
  • What parts of your work do you enjoy the most and do the best? Where do you excel? What sorts of activities make you the happiest?
  • What one great thing would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail? If you were absolutely guaranteed success in any one goal, small or large, short term or long term, what would it be?
    • 3 most common excuses – I don’t have enough time, money, or expertise
    • Experiment : take 1 day. Drop all responsibilities, You have 10 trillion in the bank. Do something.

  • God has given us marching orders. Our purpose is to find those orders and carry them out. Those orders acknowledge our gifts. 
  • The master and master’s path are one.

List of Books

Deep Work

The Art of Taking Action

Fail Fast and Fail Often  

Solving the Procrastination Puzzle

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Indistractable

The ONE Thing

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Make Time

Time Warrior

The Progress Principle

Die Empty

Do The Work

Improv Wisdom

The Power of Concentration

The Power of Starting Something Stupid

Focal Point

Organize Tomorrow Today

Procrastinate on Purpose

Eat That Frog

Digital Minimalism

Wired to Create

Irresistible

Fully Engaged

Flow

Turning Pro

Wooden

Manage Your Day to Day

Living Forward

Be Unstoppable

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