Choose to Spend Time on High Impact Activities


As somebody with ADHD and an attention span of about 2 hours, I’m forced to continually understand my own productivity habits. As I study those habits, I realize more and more why the people of the world waste so much time.

In my Jack Bauer Guide to getting Shi#$# Done, I wrote extensively about the power of implementing time constraints. But, that’s just the beginning.

How you choose to spend your time and what actions you chose to focus on will ultimately determine the impact of you have.
Sniper Rifles and Machine Guns
If you ever watch anybody in any tv show or movie, the sniper always seemed to accomplish his or her goal in one shot, while the people shooting machine guns seem to get caught up in a whole world of nonsense that results in nothing but a big mess. In many ways, our own attempts to be productive are similar. The worst thing I think we do is that we try to do too many things. I’ve become a strong believer in the idea of quality over quantity and when it comes to the actions you take, I think many of the same principles apply. I may not work 14 hours a day (not even close), but I make sure during the time I’m working I focus on only the activities that will have a high impact.

High Impact Activities

  • Writing: In the context of blogging, the highest impact activity that you can spend your time on is writing. If you are an early stage blogger you should be writing and submitting as many guest posts as possible since that will have more impact than publishing posts on your new blog which nobody is currently reading. Even if you have been around for a while writing is one of the activities that will have the highest impact.
  • Brainstorming/Mind Mapping: Some of you might question this one, but done the right way brainstorming and mind mapping can be extremely high impact. An hour brainstorming or mind mapping session could give you a month’s worth of content and in an upcoming post I’ll actually share my mind map of new blog post ideas with you.
  • Reading: I believe that reading can be an extremely high impact activity depending on what you are reading. I’ve recently been spending time going through Dave Navarro’s Launch Coach library and reading his mini-courses and actually going through the worksheets is something that can have a very strong impact almost immediately. It’s highly likely that you often come up with an idea for a post while reading another person’s blog and if you use something like Evernote and keep reminders of blog post ideas you can significantly increase the impact of your reading.
  • Networking and One True Friend: Networking events are an interesting place to test the productivity principles I’m talking about here. There are many people who will go to a networking event with the goal of talking to as many people as possible and getting as many business cards as possible. In my mind that’s a complete waste of time because you don’t give any value to the people you are meeting. I usually aim for one true friend or one genuine connection. I never concern myself with how this person can help me because it’s really not important. Genuinely connecting with them will ultimately have a much stronger impact in the long term.
  • Insights vs. Hours: Last week sometime a good friend of mine was here and during our bike ride we were discussing the way I’ve setup my life. In this strange hybrid blend of entrepreneurship and a “real job”, one of the things I realized is that I get paid for insights more than hours. This is largely the reason I don’t even bother with hourly projects anymore because it’s not an efficient use of time. One insight that makes a big difference is worth way more than countless hours spent on pointless nonsense that doesn’t have an impact.

Low Impact Activities

  • Email: I’m at the point now where I’m beginning to think I could get away with checking email once a day. Email is one of the biggest time sucks. In many ways those of who have to check email constantly seem to have created a false sense of urgency. I’ve had a habit of checking my email the second I get out of the water on the days when I’ve been out for a long time, and there’s never once been any sort of crisis that requires my immediate attention. The truth is if I checked email once a day, then I think I would be all good.
  • Facebook/Twitter: As a social media marketer and blogger I do think that Facebook and Twitter play an important role in everything I do. I even wrote about how to use them when I talked about the ways you to build relationships with bloggers online. But, if you don’t use them strategically, they can be a real time suck. It’s really easy to get distracted by something that is completely irrelevant to what you are doing especially when people share links that grab our attention almost immediately. If we batched our time on these sites I think we’d be in much better shape and get much more done.
  • To Do Lists: I create to do lists but I try to keep them small. Have you ever spent so much time creating your to-do list that you didn’t have time to actually do anything on the list? Seems ridiculous doesn’t it? Talk about a low impact activity. If you are into to-do lists, I would say limit your activity to the 5 things that will have the biggest impact today.

Imagine if you spent half the amount of time working that you currently do and worked on the things that had twice the impact. You would not only work less, you would get more done, and you would be working on the things that actually make a difference. Give a try and let me know what happens.

Written on 6/12/2010 by Srinivas Rao. Srinivas is an avid surfer/personal development blogger at The Skool of Life. He’s also the co-founder and host of BlogcastFM, a podcast for bloggers. Photo Credit: Simone Artibani
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