TRIPLE Your Productivity With the 30-Minute Method

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half-an-hour Most people really underestimate what they can accomplish in 30 minutes with complete focus.

Feeling overwhelmed with too many things on your to do list? Too many days where you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing?

I get asked quite a bit about my productivity systems and how I handle my workload throughout the day. This is a method I stumbled upon a while back, and I’ve adapted it to my own use. The best part is there’s no expensive software needed and it’s extremely simple. Try this out for a week and watch your to do list slowly shrink & your banks account grow.

The 30 Minute Method

Step 1: Gather Your Tasks for the Day

Ideally you already have a task manager where you list everything you need to do. I use Omnifocus.

The first step in the morning or night before is to collect the tasks we want to accomplish for the day. It’s important to create day by day because our priorities frequently change.

If you’re unproductive in general then I recommend keeping it simple by focusing on just 3 tasks. It keeps you from having analysis paralysis from seeing too many tasks and procrastinating. Once you accomplish the 3, then simply add more tasks. I usually do 6+ tasks (I’m a black belt at this stuff), so I’m going use that many in the example.

For the tasks we want to make them specific. Having a task like “Find a job” is bad. We want to break it down into: location 10 potential jobs on monster.com, create cover letters for jobs, submit job applications, etc. I also like starting each task with an action verb.

Here’s an example of a good to do list for the day:

  1. Write Blog Post for 30 minutes (Work)
  2. Upload Facebook ads for Dating offer (Work)
  3. Read for 30 minutes (Personal)
  4. Interview on Elance for Virtual Assistants (Work)
  5. Call Bob to negotiate higher payout on offer (Work)
  6. Book flights & hotels to Asia (Personal)

Next we’re going to organize them into most important tasks. What makes a task important? A combination of how important the task is, and it’s due date. So putting these tasks in order it would look like.

  1. Upload Facebook ads for Dating offer (Work)
  2. Call Bob to negotiate higher payout on offer (Work)
  3. Interview on Elance for Virtual Assistants (Work)
  4. Write Blog Post for 30 minutes (Work)
  5. Book flights & hotels to Asia (Personal)
  6. Read for 30 minutes (Personal)

Step 2: Track Your Progress

30 Minute Method

Now we’re going to break our workday into 30 minute increments, and track what we actually accomplish in each block of time. I keep it simple by using a spreadsheet.

I create a sample sheet in Google docs here so you can take a look. Just copy & paste it into your own spreadsheet software.

Productivity Tracker

I love working in 30 minute blocks because there’s a built in Pomodoro timer. The first 25 minutes of each block I’m working, and the last 5 minutes I’ll take a small break. Every 4 work sessions, I’ll take a 30 minute break to relax.

I make one file for each month (Jan_13_Worklog), and I’ll make a separate tab for each day.

Step 3: Reflection

At the end of each day I like to look at my log and see how I did. Did I take too many breaks? Did I take enough breaks? What is one thing I can do to improve for tomorrow? Don’t worry if your workday isn’t what you want it to be. The idea is to improve each day until you get there.

I also like to give myself a score on my productivity: either a 1, 3, or 5. Too many 1′s and 3′s lets me know I need to make changes.

Why I Love This Method

  • Momentum – When I’m completing tasks and logging them, I feel good. It’s a shot of good dopamine and makes me want to accomplish more.
  • I Value Time More – By consistently working in 25 minutes, I understand how much work I’m capable of. I rarely waste time anymore knowing the value of 30 minutes. It’s easy for someone to check Reddit or another time wasting website for a few minutes, and it somehow turns into hours. Imagine writing 10:00 am – Reddit, 10:30am – Reddit, 11:00am – Reddit…I would feel like shit and want to switch gears.
  • A Database of work – Do you know what you did 5 Mondays ago? I can look at my Excel sheets and know exactly what I was doing that day.

Important Concepts

  • Be honest with yourself –  If you wasted 8 hours on Facebook today, write it down. The first step in improving is to be aware that there is an issue instead of being in self-denial.
  • Focus on Progress – You just tracked your first day and discovered you only did 2 hours of focused work? That’s fine! Tomorrow try to do 2.5 hours of work. Self-discipline is a muscle that gets built slowly. If you’re new to bodybuilding you probably shouldn’t try to do Arnold’s old workouts immediately.
  • Be Consistent – Track everyday. You will be amazed at how different day 1 and day 60 look.

Back to work for me, this article took quite a few 30 minute excel cells to write.

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  • http://thecruziest.com/ Steven Cruz

    Love the article! I was wondering if you had a post on your virtual assistant (tasks executed, etc.) or if you could possibly write one in the future.

    • drngo

      I have an article on hiring virtual assistants here.

      http://www.charlesngo.com/the-advengers-pt-2-outsourcing-w-virtual-assistants/

      I’ll probably have another one next month on what a typical team looks like and tasks.

      My reading consists of real books and maybe less than 10 blogs in my RSS feed. For articles I’ll read whatever people in my twittersphere link to.

      I work past 8pm. The excel sheet was just an example to show the system, rather than what my typical day is like.

  • Raj

    Curious how many hours of sleep you aim to get each night?

    • drngo

      6.5hrs M-F, on weekends I don’t set an alarm.

      • Jimmy Two Times

        6.5 is all you need? Or you are just going on short rest?

  • Tom

    Close to the same method but dif tracking. Brainstorm, organize, prioritize in with mindmaps. Then switch the view to outline mode as I complete the tasks throughout the day. Since mindmaps is where the lists began it made it simpler to keep within one app.

  • Dan

    So awesome. I LOVE YOU CHARLES!!!!!!! Biggest fan ever

    • drngo

      I hope Dan is short for Danielle…

      • Ryan

        i lol’d

  • Mitchell

    Great post charles.

    I’ve been looking for something to replace my 3×5 note cards and this should do the trick.

    • drngo

      Yea, I’m completely digital. Better for the environment, never lose your notes if you sync to the cloud, and it’s with you when you travel.

  • O’blong Johnson

    This is what went through my head while reading this blog post:

    My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.

    • drngo

      I was totally confused and thought you were a spambot for a male skincare line lol

  • Rick

    Hey Charles,

    Great post, as always. Been enjoying your blog since the beginning. Question:

    What do you normally do on your breaks (short and long)? Do you lose your train of thought when returning from breaks?

    thanks!

    • drngo

      Short breaks: go outside for a bit, restroom / water break, stretch break

      Longer Breaks: Nap, Food, Walk my dog, Surf some websites.

      The point of a break is to give your mind a rest so when you get back to work, you have more focus.

      Thanks for reading.

  • insane

    great post. gonna try your spreadsheet idea, i think it’ll stick to me better than mindmaps.

    hope to see more posts from you more often

    cheers

    • drngo

      Mindmaps are good, but they’re more for organizing ideas.

    • http://profiles.google.com/coreybornmann Corey Bornmann

      I use mindmaps to organize my day and break out my task list for the day. It also helps me to look back. I use iMindMap software for a lot of brainstorming but find it to be a good tool for my daily todo list.

  • John

    Thanks for the great post! What do you use as your pomodoro timer? There doesn’t seem to be any good menu bar timers for Mac.

    • drngo

      Vitamin – R

      http://www.publicspace.net/Vitamin-R/

      Don’t worry about small details like which Pomodoro software, at the end of the day even something as simple as a kitchen timer works. Focus on the work and implementation.

  • Chris

    Hey Charles,

    really nice post man! I needed something like this ..

    At the end of december I told myself I would kill 2013 (in 2012 after 5 months of affiliate marketing I was averaging 1.5k-2k profit a day) and I told myself 2013 I would do 5k+.

    I did a pretty big mistake by starting too launch many campaigns in many countries (I mainly do adult dating) .. I couldn’t handle the optimizing since most of them were not profitable right of the bat and my good campaign started to decrease on ROI since I had too many things to handle without having a plan for the day. In January I still did 39k or so profit but I was fucking stressed and didn’t have any plan to hit that 5k a day profit.

    I decided to drop every campaign that I had and start back from 0 and focus on one campaign at the time (one country) make it profitable and than scale and than start a new country, while using some of your method up there.

    I was just wondering .. if you have any tips for my situation and if my decision is the best way to go?

    • drngo

      hit me up on Skype

      • Chris

        what’s your skype again

  • Stan

    Hey Charles,

    a friend of mine told me about your blog couple of weeks ago. I’m comparatively new to this business (8 months experience), so I started reading post after post but this 30 min method is something I was looking for. After adapting it to my daily tasks my productivy erupted. It’s really amazing how much you can do if you focus on short term results and how much you have done by the end of the day doing so.

    Btw. it’s really cool when blog has additional value, something beyond affiliate industry. This one has it definitely.

    Regards from Poland

    Stan

    • drngo

      Thanks man…I wasn’t bullshitting when I said this would triple your productivity

  • Erolmintie

    This method has saved my days. Much less scattered. You really do build momentum.

  • David

    Hi Charles,

    I’m a big fan of the blog, lots of good content here. Is there any way you could do a post on how you set up and use Omnifocus for affiliate marketing projects/tasks? I bought it recently, and I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m a newbie to it, but I find it difficult to organise my affiliate stuff in there. I guess a lot of the jobs seem too sporadic and brief to file in Omnifocus. Even just some screenshots of what you’ve got going on would be greatly appreciated.

    • drngo

      Ya sure, just added it to the to do list.

  • Leon

    I use toodledo for my 2 do list. I have tired almost every product out there and this one is the best for me for several reasons

    01) Iphone app & website. I like to do the heavy data entry on the website and work off my iphone if I am on the road.

    02) Supports priorities. I like to assign the task a priority. MUST it be done? Top, would be a very good idea to do it? High, Etc

    03) Supports contexts. This is something new i have started using. I tag what needs to be there for me to get the task done. Is it my iphone? Skype? A person?

    04) Easy date entry. I can just type 3 weeks when inputting via web and it is smart enough to know

    05) Now interfaces with IfTTT

    06) And this one is the keypoint: it has its own algo to show you what it thinks you should do. This is based on things like date due, priority, is it starred, etc. I love this. I might have something that is ranked High priority to do tomorrow but something that is ranked as Top in 3 days. It will rank the Top one has higher on the priority list.

    07) It also lets you decide how you want the tasks presented. By date? By its algo? By context? I personally work off of date and the algo.

  • Love Raj Singh

    Hey Charles,
    I would like to join AdSimilis however, they require a referral to join. Could please refer me in?

    Thanks

  • fuxes

    Well, this really changed things up for me. The awareness that this method brings it’s amazing!
    Before this I would go into some task and when found it kinda difficult just switch to facebook for few minutes (that ended being an hour or even more). Now if I do that I’ll notice it by when I have to update my table.
    I knew about pomodoros and used them everyday, but I struggled with doing more than two one after another. Now that I’m tracking my day I’m being more accountable with myself and feeling great seeing my outcomes.

    Tonight I’m going to share this method in a presentation about productivity for an NGO volunteers. Spreading the word.

    So thanks Charles!