Triple Your Productivity Instantly

Being productive is more about eliminating resistance (drag) than about getting better at anything.

Here are 3 simple practices that, in my experience, will triple your output:

  1. Do one thing at a time, for a focused block of time (using a digital timer), to the exclusion of all else.
  2. Check email only once per day.
  3. Accept no incoming phone calls, and return voicemails only once per day.

And here’s the thing: for these practices to work, you can’t do them halfheartedly. You must be a fanatic. You must bring intensity to the game.

Try it with full-on emotional intensity for one week and see the difference in your output.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.WishListMember.com Stu McLaren

    Great post Ray.

    I think you nailed it on the head when you said you must be “fanatical”.

    It takes discipline and I think that's what people struggle with more than anything else. Productivity is a by-product of discipline.

    • http://facebook.com/marismith Mari Smith

      Hey Stu – ya, totally agree!! My spiritual mentor hounds me to have rigorous discipline for every single aspect of my day-to-day regime… so that it can all run on “auto-pilot”… much like a Buddhist philosophy. I get good for a week or so, then everything gets whacked out on my travels and it takes twice as long to get back in the groove! Ah well, practice practice!

      • http://netslingers.com Andy Duncan

        Hey Mari and Stu! We're all in agreement…being a fanatic of guarding your time is huge! I realized my weakness is taking on way too much stuff. Hence, a full time VA is necessary. Thanks for the referrals Mari! The discipline to follow through, making the time for the most important and leveragable stuff, has made a tremendous difference. Thanks Ray!

        • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

          My pleasure Andy! Thank you for adding some real substance to the discussion.

      • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

        Good points Mari – and good advice about “auto-pilot” regimens. I have found that a bit more challenging moving from city to city in the motorhome over the last two months. But as you say – practice!

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      And discipline is a strength. We develop strength by pushing against resistance… and I feel another post coming on…

      • http://netslingers.com Andy Duncan

        Please do. And this is a strength everyone can and should develop for too many reasons… If we're not growing we're stagnating. Looking forward to seeing more here Ray.

        • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

          Thanks Andy – you'll see more. I'm having the time of my life, so I couldn't stop even if I tried!

  • http://twitter.com/stopbeinglazy Rotem Cohen

    That's obviously good advice, in theory. The problem is in implementing it. For axample, like many people I CANNOT turn off my phone, ever! Not that I don't want to, it's simply that my job (and family actually) requires that I'd be availabe at all times. By the way, I find it hard to beleive that you, Ray, check email once a day. Do you really?

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      One possible solution: get a second number for your family only.

      I haven't taken incoming calls — NONE — for over a year now.

      And most of the time, yes, I only check email once a day. Not every day – but maybe 80% of days.

      I have colleagues who don't use email at ALL – most of them are doing quite well.

      It is possible.

      • http://twitter.com/stopbeinglazy Rotem Cohen

        Well, I respect your reply, but I can't really follow those 3 rules to the letter. For email, for example, I prefer this rule: Don't start your day with checking email. Get at least one significant task done before you go check email, stats and stuff like that.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeSigers Mike Sigers

    #2 and #3 won't work for about 99% of people on the planet.

    In the “real” sales world, returning email, phone calls, voicemail's, etc is paramount to actually getting work.

    If you sell digital products online and don't care if people like you, your products or your service, this might work.

    Maybe.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      I completely disagree.

      As I have written here earlier, I haven't taken a SINGLE incoming call in over a year. And my business increased. And people seem to like me well enough.

      And the quality of work I do for my clients has improved.

      And the demand for my services has increased.

      Now, I'm not saying there should be no customer service. There MUST be, and it must be top-notch. A real live person answers my office phones Monday – Saturday, 8am – 6pm. I also have a personal Virtual Assistant who takes care of a lot of screening and client interaction.

      It does work. It will work for almost any business.

      And let me just say it outright: I com

      • http://facebook.com/marismith Mari Smith

        I definitely agree on the incoming calls. I rarely EVER take an unexpected call — that's what my tollfree number and assistant is for. I let all my private cell calls go to voicemail and return the calls later.

        • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

          Exactly what I do.

  • http://www.topbusinesswriter.com Stacey

    I am working on number one. At one time, I thought I was a great multi-tasker but I realized my productivity was suffering because of it.

    I have been doing number three for quite some time, much to the dismay of some of my friends who like to call during my work hours.

    Number two is the hardest for me to stick to but I’m getting better.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Keep after it Stacey – it's worth the effort. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • http://facebook.com/marismith Mari Smith

    Woweee, Ray!! I just love the absolute simplicity of these three practices. But, *whew*, these are uber hard to do. I've become such a rabbit-hold-addict and make myself take enormous discipline to keep to regular hours. In fact, several weeks ago, I went on a 3.5 day “digital fast” where I unplugged from every piece of technology. And now, I've banned my iPhone from my bedroom – my quality of sleep has improved hugely as I don't check my virtual world last thing and first thing. I'm doing my best to turn off my computer in the evenings…

    As for that focus on one thing, hm… for example, over the weekend I was writing a humdinger blog post tutorial about Facebook. I have to do research… I go to Facebook and it takes me three times as long to write a post because I keep getting distracted. LOL!

    I'm a work in progress. I aspire to your discipline!!

    • http://abundancehighway.com SuzieCheel

      I thought I was reading about myself- I got put on a twitter diet last week, it has slowed down. I get the research bit and like you i 'm a work in progress. I aspire to your discipline!!
      The discipline is what I do know I need- I have the timer, now I need to use it- starting right now with a 10 minute block
      Thanks for sharing and i am looking forward one day to running on auto pilot too. Now do these coaches have this under their belt?

      • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

        Thanks Suzie – glad you found value in the post and the discussion!

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      If you can do it – ANY of us can do it! After all, you're the “Pied Piper of the Internet”!

    • Elizabeth Clark

      Marie, I`m with you on the absolute simplicity of these three practices. It`s SO easy to do. And so incredibly rewarding with the increased productivity. Yet, as the late great Jim Rohn would say, it`s also easy not to do it.

  • sandik

    I agree Ray! I haven't taken incoming calls as well for over 2 years. I also use a private Skype line so that when someone does call, a message comes to my inbox and I check it later. Then have my assistant schedule when I'll call back OR give the answer. Most times incoming calls don't need a phone call answer, a fast email back works just as well. We have classes, products, coachings and more… so I agree that it's not needed. The ONLY people I talk to, in the last 2 years, are those who have an appt to speak to me. :)

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Here's my favorite part of what you said: “Most times incoming calls don't need a phone call answer, a fast email back works just as well.” That is my experience exactly.

      • sandik

        Not to mention it seems that many clients and customers much prefer this. So many people don't want to be on the phone all day, they prefer email, live chat, IM over a phone call. Which is exciting for those of us who want to live clear, concise phone call living. ;)

  • Dr. Andrew Colyer

    Hey, Ray:

    You are right on about this.

    I've been doing my best to practice this for several years,
    but ever since I got certified as a Productivity Coach with Dave Crenshaw
    (at the recommendation of Alex Mandossian), I've really turned up the intensity.

    That is definitely the key.

    Here's another tip: Schedule the time to do these things – as if it were a business appointment with a client. Otherwise, these specific times/tasks get “moved around” at the mercy of “incoming” – whatever that is.

    Make the appointments on your schedule – “Processing” as we call it in NAPC (National Association of Productivity Coaches) – and stick to it!

    I'll be sharing these Productivity tips with our Holistic Practice Development clients as well.

    Thanks!
    Dr. Andrew Colyer

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Wow Andrew – that sounds exciting. You've been busy. Can't wait to see where this takes you.

  • http://twitter.com/scottlewis Scott Lewis, MSW

    Yes, you can do one thing at a time, and for many people it's just not that simple. They don't have the skills or strategies to keep focused for a block of time. For example, one strategy is to keep one window open on your computer at a time. It reins you in and helps manage your work flow.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      That's a great top Scott – thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/stopbeinglazy Rotem Cohen

      I'm one of “those people”. Usually 10 minutes after I start “working” I have at least 2 browsers and 1 other window open, like a video on WM running in the background.

  • Kris Edwards

    Nice! I'm all over 2 and 3.. One… is tough :) Even if I commit to physically doing one thing exclusively, making my brain actually think about one thing is virtually impossible (especially in office environments with other human beings milling about the halls, knocking on your door, or just walking in and having a seat). It would be nice to just look at those people and say “I'm sorry, I can't think about you right now. Please leave until you're the thing that I'm thinking about.”

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Maybe you should do just that! ;-)

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  • http://www.ilenesaidel.com Ilene

    Doing one thing at a time is a great “being there” and “being present” way to be more creative and productive.

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      You are really onto something here. I think it may be the ONLY way to become more creative and productive.

  • Bee Johnson

    I love this post! So relieved to know that I am not the only person who struggles with discipline. I taught it to my children and then forget to learn it myself. The internet has exacerbated that too, as I can get into all kinds of stuff I need to learn, do and read. Discipline! That’s the word.

  • Elizabeth Clark

    Great suggestions, Ray. Thank you.

    #1 has already changed my life, doing one thing for a focused block of time. I definitely need to improve on #2, not opening my email so much. One thing I love to do is work a few solid, productive hours before checking my emails. I accept your challenge – a modified challenge, though – (answer the phone certain people) to try this for a full week!