Category Archives: Productivity

How to get a job fast

I 100% accredit this notion to Earl Nightingale.  I heard this on his Direct Line series of tapes.  If you don’t know who Earl Nightingale is, do yourself a favor and AT LEAST do a YouTube search on him.

He tells a story (and I’m paraphrasing here):

During the Great Depression, there was an over abundance of people going around to businesses “asking for jobs.”  They’d literally go up to a place of business and ask if they had an positions available.  No one was hiring.

Well I had a friend, who during the most severe economic crisis in American history, got a great job and prospered.

Why did HE get a job while MILLIONS could not?

The millions who could not find employment remind me of the story of the man who told the stove, “Give me heat, THEN I’ll add wood.”

My friend took the opposite approach:

First, he sat down and decided what type of work would be agreeable to him.  Something that at least moderately interested him.

Next, he learned ALL HE COULD about that business.  He devoured books from the library on the subject, took notes, read articles, asked question to people already in the business, read trade magazines and EVERYTHING HE COULD FIND about his prospective job.

Next, he made a list of the places he wanted to work, and he did something VERY DIFFERENT from the millions of others:

He went to the business and asked to speak to the manager/owner and said, “I believe I know quite a few ways I can improve your business very quickly….and quite significantly” Right away the managers were interested and he got hired almost immediately!

You see, businesses ALWAYS have a position available for someone who can increase their profits or add tremendous value.  They DON’T always have positions for someone just looking for a handout.

By simply doing a few weeks of research, my friend was FAR ahead of millions of potential job applicants.

This reminds me of a A LOT of people right now….they’re simply looking for jobs.  However if they simply took some time and effort to learn more about a particular industry, they could easily see how to add TONS of value.

Harvard MBA applying for a job?  WHO CARES.
What can you do for me?  That’s what matters.

Even for my own business HouseOfRave, I’m not hiring.  However if someone came up to me and said, “For $5,000 I can almost guarantee your profit will go up by $10,000/month…”

…do you think I’d say no?

Effort

I write this for two reasons:

1.) I am starting that 6-pack experiment in April and have begun preparing for it by eating ultra-clean and ultra-lean. Pretty much all day I’m eating 100% raw foods only…that’s not the plan for the whole month, but it’s been my diet for the last week.  It’s not hard as I expected (because I’ve been eating well for a few months now), but keeping this up for a full month and resisting the urge to pig out at social events gets HARD.

However for the month of April I want to see a dramatic change in the way my stomach looks…and for that I need to be calorie deficient for weeks at a time.  I can easily keep my current physique with the way I’m eating now, but my diet must be extra-ordinarily good to see those extraordinary results.

2.) As you know I own a business called House Of Rave which is all online.  Over the last year I made a lot of small tweaks which cut down on the number of customer support inquires and time spent getting orders out.  At a bare minimum I need to spend less than 30 minutes every weekday administering the site…the rest runs on it’s own.  That alone can pay all my bills and still save money.

Pretty cool eh! 30 minutes of work per day!

Well…I also like the business to GROW….so to maintain AND grow the site takes about 2 hours per day (mainly spent adding product photo/video reviews).

I will admit…over these first few months of 2010 those small required amounts of time have spoiled me. I’ve stopped updating the site as much as I should.  The 1st quarter is never a FANTASTIC time for a business like mine (which sells party supplies) and is also enduring a bad economy, but I think I’ve been slipping quite a bit on my responsibilities to it.

Extraordinary effort doesn’t necessarily mean long hours (although that certainly helps)….because with this business a very consistent tweaking of small things every day can make a HUGE impact.  I’ve proved this many times, including one time I documented 30 small changes I made with very clear results (aka MO MONEY)!

I think what I’ll do in April is one day blog about a small HoR change, then the next day document the diet and steps I’ve taken to get a ripped-ass six pack.

Find merchant supplies and POS terminals at Moneris Solutions.

iPhone Goals = Awesome

I stopped making monthly goals a while ago because I rarely followed up on them. They always get stuck on a sheet of paper somewhere which I promptly forget about on day 2 of the month.

I wrote my goals for February recently and snapped a pic on my iPhone….then had a brilliant moment where I SET IT AS MY WALLPAPER:

Now every time I look at my phone, guess what I see? Monthly goals staring me in the face waiting to be completed!

The 2009 To-Do List Format

A year ago made a post called “Evolution of The Daily To-Do List” and added on the 2009 formatting of my to-do list.

Here’s the section of update, although reading the original post is better to read. This update covers a simple trick I use to massively improve my productivity.

—–2009—–
(updated 10-08-2009)

The 2008 formatting was very successful and I still use it till this day, however there was one problem: With so much work to do everyday, I’d get overwhelmed and scatter-brained about the work. Almost immediately I’d see tasks which I avoided doing or wanted to put off. This lead to many incomplete to-do lists, and postponing work till the next day, then next etc….

So one day I took a sheet of paper and covered the whole to-do list. I inched the paper down to reveal ONE task. I completed it. Then I inched down to reveal the next. Completed it.

Having a singular goal to work on helped imensely!

Towards the end of that day I inched down only to reveal I had completed every single task I assigned the day before! It was a great feeling to get through all the work in such a quick and easy manner. Since then I’ve been using this little trick to help me complete to-do lists, and it’s still working great.

Here’s a quick video documenting how I structure, complete and save my to-do lists:

At the end of every day I put each to-do list into a binder for future reference.

After doing this for several months, it’s nice to go back and look through them. If one month I didn’t progress much, I can clearly see why by looking at these daily performance reviews. I make notes of good days, bad days, workout regimens, interesting happenings etc.

4 Months of The Seinfeld Calendar

I made the original Seinfeld Calendar post 4 months ago.

It’s simply a giant year calendar that faces my bed so I see it all the time. If I accomplish my daily to-do list, I put a checkmark. If I don’t finish the to-do list, I put a dot:

The whole reasoning for this calendar is to make finishing my daily goals consistent. The quote I keep on top of the calendar sums it up:

Excellence is not an act, but a habit
–Plato

Here’s the number results of these four months (weekends included):

Good Day: When my written-the-night-before to-do lists get completely finished.
Bad Day: When to-do list not fully finished. Most of the bad days are weekends.


UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES:

The to-do lists I give myself are generally quite a bit of work. A standard to-do list generally will keep me occupied for a full 8-12 hours. Sometimes it takes less, sometimes it takes more. Most of this work involves me staring at a computer, so 8-12 hours of this per day gets a little straining.

I noticed when I tried getting a checkmark 7 days of the week, I burned myself out! The following days would be very unproductive and filled with low quality work because I was burning myself out. So after figuring out different ways of becoming more productive, I found out the best way is to allow myself about 2 bad days per week. This can be the weekdays or weekends…whatever I feel. This way the work is enjoyable and I still get large amounts of work done.

Here is a recent shot of the filled out calendar:

The first month I was getting REALLY pissed if I didn’t fill out a checkmark for the day, so I started working very hard the next day to fill it out. After a while I started making checking these off a habit. It’s helped me stop procrastinating as much, because in the middle of the day I think, “I can either continue to screw off and get a dot for the day, or just start doing this work, getting it out of the way and get a checkmark for the day.”

I also have less fun going out if I don’t finish all my work. When I finish off a great day of work, it feels good and well deserved to go out. So being more productive actually allows me to have more fun!

Anyhow, I’d highly recommend this Seinfeld Productivity Calendar method. It’s definitely helped me become more focused and productive through the day!

Favorite Books

I love reading books. I’m particularly into non-fiction books and auto/bio/graphies of great people. I spend a massive amount of time in the public library reading and have gone through hundreds of books. Rarely do I recommend anything to anyone except the absolute best books I’ve come across.

Books are possibly the highest ROI investments you’ll ever make in your life, as you can often learn a lifetime of lessons from a person in just one sitting.

As Epictetus said: “Books are the training weights of the mind.”
Below are some of my favorites:

Felix Dennis – How To Get Rich
Quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had reading a book! A self-made wealthy man himself, he’s the owner of Dennis Publishing which owns Maxim, FHM, The Week and other magazines. There are maybe five books I’ve EVER read twice…this is #1 on that list.

Earl Nightingale – This is Earl Nightingale
Earl Nightingale is a rather obscure name today, but he is by far the absolute best personal development writer/speaker I’ve heard. Zero B.S. and filled with fantastic content. Most modern self-development programs are based on this. You should definitely listen The Strangest Secret (link) to get a taste. This book is mainly a transcription of his spoken essays he’s so popular for. If you can find a copy of his program “Direct Line” I suggest you buy it. I couldn’t find it anywhere except a bit torrent network.


Epictetus – A Manual For Living

I’ve bought two pocket sized copies of this book and lost both of them in airplanes. Any translation of this still fits in an exceptionally tiny book. There is an outstanding amount of timeless information in this book packed into quick, short passages that make you THINK how to apply them to your life. There is literally zero room in this book for B.S. advice and useless philosophical analysis. If you have a problem, quickly flip through this book and I bet some sort of solution will arise. Written about 1,900 years ago and still 100% applicable.

 

Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich
This is a classic. I’d be surprised if you HAVEN’T read this yet. I’d bet money this book has restored countless relationships, made millions of millionaires and saved many lives. It’s been around since the 1920′s, so enjoy the slight racist and sexist remarks (don’t buy the “21st century version” which may be censored)! :-)

Motivations – The Seinfeld Calendar

I remember reading a Zig Ziglar quote that said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

That made me laugh out loud!

I used to put all sorts of post-it notes on my bathroom mirror and on my walls but in the last year or so I haven’t done that. I’ve always put little post-its on my computer monitor, but those quickly fade into the background. In fact until I wrote this I forgot I even had one on the monitor AS I TYPE!

Perhaps something I look at for 10+ hours a day isn’t the best place for a reminder as it fades into the background so quickly.

About a year ago I read every book I could find on Jerry Seinfeld, and one of the keys to his success was his small, but extremely consistent generation of new comedic content. Everyone interviewed said, “Jerry was the only comic I knew who wrote new material every single day.”

There was a passage of him talking about his method (Don’t quote this as I’m reciting it from memory):

I take one of those giant year-long calendars and post it on the wall. If I write new material that day, at the end of the day I put a big, red “X” over that day.

He goes on to explain that after you have a long streak of X’s marking the last few months, you don’t want to break the streak by not writing that day. This way he is motivated to write everyday, and pretty soon it just becomes a natural habit…and I’m sure a lot easier too.

This “Seinfeld Calendar” can easily be applied to any task you want to perform daily.

First order of business: apply it to my life.

Step 1.) Buy a big damn calendar. Office Depot. Check.

Step 2.) Define what I want to put an “X” on each day for. This took longer than expected. I had no idea what I wanted to do everyday! It has to be something you’re dead serious about performing EVERY DAY no matter how tired or busy you are.

After jotting down some possibilities I came upon the realization that I’m great at making challenging to-do lists, but can be a bit of a slug trying to complete them. What good is a daily to-do list if not completed daily?

So my personal “X” for the day is if I fully completed my pre-defined to-do list.

I of course append different things to that requirement in my mind like “Did I do valuable work today?” but then things get too subjective. A simple, concrete, singular goal will be best.

So here is the “Seinfeld Calendar” I hung in my room. When I wake up in bed it’s the first thing I see.

I put small quotes here and there on the calendar for fun. I started this calendar on June 1st, 2009 and I’ve done a decent job, but not consistent of knocking out full to-do lists everyday. Out of 26 days so far in June I’ve missed my goal 8 days. Most of those are weekends (which I still make to-do lists for), but there are several weekdays which are completely inexcusable.

However I’m getting better. Those blank spaces piss me off. They make me think, “What was I possibly doing that in the long run could’ve been more helpful than completing all my work for the day?”

**Update: 4 Month Update here.

Analogy

Like most crazy/new/different things in life this is generally the pattern:

  1. Come up with an idea or something you want to do
  2. Most people think it’s crazy, silly or just “eeh”
  3. You start doing it
  4. For a while it’s just you without much support
  5. Turns out what you’re doing is pretty cool
  6. People starting joining you
  7. More people join you
  8. Your success starts to compound on itself

Perfect and hilarious example, this video (which has been buzzing around the net after it was on front page Digg):

Evolution of The Daily To-Do List

It’s kind of interesting to look back on this blog and see the ways in which I’ve kept myself organized.

Everybody has their own personal preference when it comes to organization, and I thought I’d take a quick analysis on the evolution of my daily to-do list:

—–2004—–

I was still in college this year, and my tablet PC was with me pretty much every step I took. I opted to keep all my tasks on the tablet using Microsoft OneNote (the most underrated piece of software on the planet) and my desktop:

As you can see all my tasks were physically displayed on the desktop of the computer, and I could edit/drag those boxes with ease.

—–2005—–

Around this time I started realizing that having to open my laptop to view my to-do list was not the most convenient thing, so I decided to go more low tech and use plain old sticky notes:

I would generally start with one sticky note, then start “chaining” them as the list got bigger. I’d say this method was pretty effective since you can carry them anywhere and edit them with ease.

—–2006—–

Around this time I realized the sticky notes were too small to write larger tasks, so I stayed low tech but upgraded to full sized sheets of paper:

Piece of paper with my tasks on it…basic and works very well.

—–2007—–

After a while I realized while I was getting my tasks done, I wasn’t sure how much time they’d taken me. In fact I wasn’t sure if I was even getting at least a full 8 hours of work in per day.

Solution: The ancillary to-do list tracking sheet:

I would make this sheet everyday in addition to the to-do list, so I would have two pieces of paper on my desk at all times. I would record the hour, what I did during that hour and the dollar value that work brought in.

After a while I removed the dollar value column since most work I do doesn’t bring in money itself, but helps make money down the road.

This tracking sheet worked extremely well since it made me self conscious about how much work I was actually completing per day. If I was slacking off, I could clearly see it.

—–2008—–

So the to-do list plus tracking sheet seemed to be a great combination for me, then one day I got the brilliant idea of combining the two sheets. I don’t know why I was messing around with two separate sheets per day when I could just as easily combine the two. So now I have something on my desk everyday that looks like:

Top column: Date, daily goals (if any), random reminders.
Right column: Daily events and times, hourly work tracking.
Bottom footer: Daily summary, income earned.

—–2009—–
(updated 10-08-2009)

The 2008 formatting was very successful and I still use it till this day, however there was one problem: With so much work to do every day, I’d get overwhelmed and scatter-brained about the work. Almost immediately I’d see tasks which I avoided doing or wanted to put off. This lead to many incomplete to-do lists, and postponing work till the next day, then next etc….

So one day I took a sheet of paper and covered the whole to-do list. I inched the paper down to reveal ONE task. I completed it. Then I inched down to reveal the next. Completed it.

Having a singular goal to work on helped immensely!

Towards the end of that day I inched down only to reveal I had completed every single task I assigned the day before! It was a great feeling to get through all the work in such a quick and easy manner. Since then I’ve been using this little trick to help me complete to-do lists, and it’s still working great.

Here’s a quick video documenting how I structure, complete and save my to-do lists:

At the end of every day I put each to-do list into a binder for future reference.

After doing this for several months, it’s nice to go back and look through them. If one month I didn’t progress much, I can clearly see why by looking at these daily performance reviews. I make notes of good days, bad days, workout regimens, interesting happenings etc.

My Best Advice On To-Do Lists:
Figure out your own way and try many different methods. Most methods work extremely well for about two weeks then trail off. Your work and commitments are most likely much different than anyone else’s, so come up with your own to-do list style.

The one piece of advice I will give that should work for everyone:
Always make your to-do list the day before. If it’s Wednesday right now, you should have your Thursday to-do list made before you sleep. Seriously, it helps a lot.

————————–
NEVILLE’S TO-DO LIST
————————–
1.) Write post about evolution of to-do list.
2.) Say goodbye.

Goodbye!
-Nev

Never Having a Job, good or bad?

Person: You’re your own boss? That’s awesome…it must be nice not to work for anyone.
Me: I guess so.

Since I’ve never had a real job it’s hard to say it’s nice since I don’t know the other side.

I suppose it’s nice I’ve never had a real job, but there’s a big problem: I’ve never learned the procedures and discipline you get by working for a company.

I’ve always contemplated taking on a job just for the experience, but this obviously takes away a lot of time from doing my own businesses. Perhaps I can find a fair medium where I can get the experience, but further advance my knowledge.

When I was in college and heavily active in a lot of financial clubs, a lot of big companies would try to hire the active people such as me…..they didn’t even care I was a government major instead of a business major. However these companies require you to be at the office at 8am or earlier and leave at 5pm or later. They also teach you relatively little about running your own company, or anything particularly interesting besides stock. Even then, general entry level positions at these companies keep you busy with all the boring work no one wants to do….this isn’t bad, but if you’re not learning from your surroundings whilst doing the grunt work, it doesn’t seem worth it. They ALSO don’t allow you to run businesses on the side. Seriously, the people at Morgan Stanley said they’d hire me, but I was absolutely not allowed to run businesses on the side. Obviously a deal breaker for me.

One of the places I ABSOLUTELY ADMIRE and want to be more involved in is the IC2 Institute and the Austin Technology Incubator. I won’t go into much detail, but these two organizations are divisions of the University of Texas and spin out some amazingly interesting companies and programs worldwide. I think these two organizations do some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, but sadly hardly anyone knows about them except people in the entrepreneurial fields.

Being at one of these organizations, especially the Austin Technology Incubator would put me directly into a place filled with startup companies, investors, buyers seasoned industry experts and tons of accomplished and intelligent people.

I want to be around a place like that.

I’m thinking if I got some sort of small job or internship at one of these places, it would be immensely useful in helping me get the discipline and procedural training I want from a job, but allow me to run my own businesses at the same time. I would also be in a place swarming with ideas and innovation.

Ideally I would like to work or intern at one of these places for around 4 hours a day. A paid position would be fantastic, but I’d be willing to work for free, just don’t tell them that!