Disclaimer: I know very little about sports.
But it’s fascinating to observe from the outside (AKA overhearing my husband during draft pick season).
Each sport has their own technical jargon that isn’t always understandable to someone at first glance, but one term I did pick up on is the concept of a playbook: a book of strategies for victory. It represents a series of plays a player can take for offensive, defensive, and special plays.
Over the years, I realized that I’ve accumulated a number of different strategies and techniques to help me 1) get work done and 2) do better work over time.
What I didn’t realize however, was that my library of tactics could also be categorized in a similar method. I have tactics for things like fighting procrastination (defensive plays), ways to be more effective (offensive plays), and miscellaneous strategies for unique situations (special plays) to help me win my day and do my best work.
Below is a playbook of offensive tactics I use to help me win the day — be victorious in the work I need to do to reach my goals. I’ve broken them down below:
- Understanding effectiveness: AKA the 80/20 rule
- Know Yourself: Self-awareness is crucial to get things done.
- Manage your mental energy. Do the hardest thing first.
1. Understand efficiency vs effectiveness.
This took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize, but over the years I’ve understood one important takeaway: It’s not about efficiency. It’s about effectiveness.
A lot of productivity focuses on efficiency: how can you get more done in less time? Personally, I don’t abide by that philosophy.
Instead, I like to think in terms of effectiveness. I follow the 80/20 rule: understanding that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event.
This is a fancier way of saying that there is an unequal distribution between your efforts and results. The 80/20 rule, AKA the Pareto Principle, is essentially challenging you to understand effectiveness.
An example I’ve recently discovered where I’m not being effective is networking. I’ve systematized how I’m able to connect with people, schedule calls, have an enjoyable conversation, and part ways. In other words, I’ve become very efficient at networking.
I’ve been able to meet a lot of interesting people and have insightful conversations, but over the past six months I’ve realized that it’s contributed little to my results.
If my goal is user engagement / building an audience, I’ve realized this is an extremely ineffective way of going about it. One hour of work gets me only one lead for engagement.
That’s a very ineffective return on investment of time. The hour or so time I spend speaking with one person could be reallocated to something that can generate larger returns. In this case: writing and publishing more content.
Writing for an hour can connect me to the entire world wide web and has a much higher result impacting my presence than a single hour long conversation. Moreover, it’s tangible and has lasting results — whereas a single conversation is ephemeral and once spent, carries little long term value.
Since coming to this realization, I’ve started to drastically cut down networking and focus on writing instead (so meta, as I’m writing this).
Key takeaway: Beyond understanding the things you’re good at doing quickly, it’s important to understand what task of yours can generate the largest amount of return.
What are the things you do (inputs) in a day that can lead to the largest returns (outputs)? In essence, what is your low hanging fruit?
2. Know yourself. What are tasks you dislike doing?
There are always going to be tasks we dislike to do.
Identify the tasks that are the most tedious and time consuming to do. Eisenhower Matrix them. Ask yourself: can this be delegated or removed?
The urgent / important that can’t be delegated or removed are the items that remain. (Admin tasks for example, are high on my list) These are the tasks that you need to do, but don’t necessarily enjoy doing. These are your points of failure: the areas where you’ll need to bolster your defense and reduce friction to get them done.
This is an instance where procrastination can rear its ugly head.
There are many methods to reducing procrastination — procrastination has been a constant companion of mine (I’ll write more on this topic down the road) But a lot of what procrastination is, really, is the pain of getting started.
And so, allocate time and commit to just starting the work. Block out your calendar. Tell yourself: from the hours of 11AM – 12PM, I’m going to work updating my expenses. You’ll be surprised at how much momentum you build once you get started.
Key takeaway: Understand the tasks you feel “pain” toward, sit down and do them. It doesn’t matter if you finish it at that session. But set aside time to start. And once you start, you’ll be surprised at how much you finish.
What are things you enjoy doing? What are things you dislike to do and tend to procrastinate? How will you combat them?
3. Mental energy is finite. Eat your frog.
Our energy / willpower / clarity / motivation levels — whatever you call it, are not limitless. They have reserves. And yes, they can be replenished. But do you want that guy that overestimated his gas tank capacity and is now left towing his car, at the expense of everyone else on the traffic jammed highway?
Work effectively with your energy, not against it. Prioritize difficult tasks during peak mental clarity.
Figure out the tasks that require the most energy / effort to complete, and prioritize them at the start of your day. Doing them at the start of the day when you are well-rested and have yet to be pulled in a million different direction helps tremendously with your focus and mental clarity.
In essence: eat your frog. This is a concept coined by Mark Twain — who used this method to help him write his prolific work.
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the BIGGEST one first.Mark Twain
In the morning when your motivation and willpower is at its highest, this is the time you should complete the most difficult task of the day.
I use this concept every day — literally every day — including weekends. My morning routine consists of me identifying what is my ‘Daily Frog’: the task I absolutely must complete in order for this day to be a win.
Thinking of your task as your daily frog is a key formula to productivity: the combination of commitment, prioritization, and effectiveness.
Once this task is complete, you can move onto other things. And the satisfaction boost from finishing your difficult task is the dopamine cherry on top that also serves to replenish your mental energy, because you’ve worked on something of value.
So. Pinch your nose, close your eyes, have a gallon of water ready to chug after, and eat that frog. AKA get to work.
Key Takeaway: Understand what is the most difficult / most important task you need to get done for the day and prioritize that first thing.
What is the most important, most difficult task for you to do today?
Productivity is a tricky game to win. It’s helpful to have a collection of strategies to assist you — on days when you want to go on the offense and maximize the things you get done, and on days when you need to be on the defensive and prevent negative emotions from overtaking your productivity.
Don’t let the blue team (procrastination) win. Now, go forth and get shit done.
Commonly used offensive tactics in my productivity playbook:
- Understand efficiency vs effectiveness.
- Know yourself. What are tasks you dislike doing?
- Mental energy is finite. Eat your frog.