First, let me give credit to Tim Ferriss and Noah Kagan for introducing me to this beautiful concept. Although this it isn't completely original, the way that Kagan put it and Tim summarized it in an interview featured in his book Tools of Titans was eye opening for me.
Here is the concept as Ferriss summarized it in the book.
"Aim to optimize upstream items that have cascading results downstream. For instance, look for technical bottlenecks (choke points) that affect nearly everything you do on a computer. What are the things that, if defunct or slow, render your to-do list useless?"
Tim Ferriss // Excerpt From Tools of Titans
Certain tasks have a greater impact on other tasks and end results than we might be aware of.
Some things can either accelerate or decelerate our output throughout the day and it's our job to identify them and ensure they are optimized.
Some examples will make this more clear...
Internet Speed and Reliability = Top of Funnel for internet business owners.
Why? If your internet is slow, everything else you do is impacted!
Failure to identify and address these top of Funnel items will lead to bottlenecks in your output and overall success and performance.
Here are several other top of Funnel tasks that I recommend you optimize.
Some are more important than others.
#1 Getting Enough Sleep
I put this one first for a reason. Entrepreneurs have a toxic relationship with sleep. We often brag about how early we rise or how little we sleep as if it's a positive thing.
If we aren't getting enough sleep, our output is dampened tremendously.
Here are some important things to know about sleep as it relates to your productivity.
- Lack of sleep can lead to depression and irritability. Evidence suggests that people who suffer from insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression.
- Lack of sleep impairs decision making. In a May 2015 study titled, “Feedback Blunting: Total Sleep Deprivation Impairs Decision Making that Requires Updating Based on Feedback,” findings suggest that no matter how hard a sleep-deprived person tried to make the right decision, sleeplessness created short-circuits in the brain that prevented them from making the right choice
- Lack of sleep impacts our memory. Poor quality sleep in adults causes memories to stay stuck in the hippocampus and not reach the prefrontal cortex. This results in forgetfulness and difficulty remembering names.
Bottom line, when we aren’t well rested, we don’t perform optimally. Everything else we do is negatively impacted.
Don't give in to the lazy habit of not getting enough sleep.
#2 Purchase the Right Tools for the Job
If you have the wrong tools, you’re starting every task behind the 8 ball.
If you’re like me and pride yourself on your work ethic, does it make you mad to know that you’re getting out performed by people who are working half as hard but with the proper tools?
Here are some examples of the “tools” you need to consider.
- Your smartphone. Does it have enough storage to do real work? Is your provider constantly causing you to drop calls?
- Your internet. Do you find yourself waiting on pages to load and you aren’t on the fastest plan you can afford?
- Your computer. Is it always freezing? Do you need to wait hours to export videos to YouTube?
- Business related software. Do you pinch pennies and change how you run your business because you don’t want to spend the extra money?
Yes, tools have a cost but they also have ROIs.
Ask yourself, “if all this (upgrade) did was ‘x’ would it be worth the cost?”
For me, this is much more often yes than no.
“If all this higher speed internet package did was save me 15 minutes a day of loading time, would it be worth an extra $20/month?”
15 minutes x 5 days a week = 1 hr and 15 mins per week saved.
This is essentially $5/week for an extra 1 hr and 15 minutes of productivity!
Keep in mind, since I’m waiting for internet loading, I’m already “spending” this time it’s just not productive. Faster internet means more output for the same amount of time!
Adopt this mindset and things will change tremendously for you.
#3 Keep Things Organized and Systematized
This applies to physical and digital items. When you have things out of order, you’ll spend much more time searching for it than you would if you kept things organized from the start.
Make sure your work area is not only organized, but also distraction free
Life is full of distractions. When they come up, we naturally get frustrated but the truth is, it is often times a lack of poor preparation on our part. We can only blame external factors for so long.
#4 Proactively Minimizing Decision Fatigue
I’ve written about decision fatigue in the past and how simplifying what we wear each day can have a macro impact on our overall productivity.
What is decision fatigue?
Each day is full of of hundreds (maybe thousands) of “micro decisions.” Believe it or not, mental work is physically exhausting like physical work.
These micro decisions add up and by the end of the day, we are toasted. The secret to reducing decision fatigue is to reduce the number of decisions you make each day and instead, rely on habits (that require far less mental energy).
Ways to reduce decision fatigue include:
- Planning what you’ll eat for breakfast each day far in advance.
- Planning what your work day will consist of instead of playing it by ear.
- Planning what you’ll wear each day instead of spending 20 minutes picking out an outfit.
There are hundreds of decisions that you make each day that can be automated with a little upfront effort.
#5 Eat Well (or at Least Decently)
Look, I know being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you’re tremendously disciplined in all aspects of your life, but I do believe success in business is more closely linked to how well you take care of your body than many would like to think.
What you put into your body (especially at the first meal of the day) is the fuel that you’ll use to build your empire.
Is your empire fueled by shitty food or something somewhat healthy?
I challenge you to look at your daily routine and ask yourself “which tasks have the biggest impact on all the others?”
Once you identify these, optimize the hell out of them.
If they are tasks, make them simple and repeatable
If your tools are the problem, have some faith and invest the money to upgrade them.