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What I'm reading #42: Are you productive, or simply a busy fool?

By Sam Instone - October 20, 2022

Each of us has just 168 hours per week to accomplish our tasks and goals - at work, at home, and out in the world. 

It's common to feel like you spend too much time on things that don't add value to your life. 

So, are you a busy fool?

Busyness is like a disease.

It gets worse over time.

It's easy to work more hours than ever before, while not being as productive as we should be.

The good news is that, just like with investing, it's now easier than ever to achieve better results with less effort.

The key is to work smarter, not harder. 

Taking actions that make you significantly productive. 

Freeing up precious hours to live a better life. 

Here are 5 'hacks' to achieve better results, with less effort:

1. Make the most of your mornings

Mornings are the time to set the trajectory of your day. 

Starting your day with intention and a plan to accomplish tasks is a huge driver of success. 

If you use a to-do list, create this the night before and organise things by priority. 

Put the thing you don't want to do at the top, also known as "eating the frog". 

The goal is to take the smallest number of actions that will produce your desired outcome. 

Break down any task to its fundamentals and eliminate any step that's not necessary. 

2. Plan your day hour-by-hour 

Planning your day hour-by-hour will help your efficiency and time management, and doing so gives you an intentional focus. 

Schedule time blocks that are dedicated to completing a specific task or bundle of tasks. 

Although this technique may not be necessary every day, it's extremely helpful when your schedule becomes overwhelming or spirals out of control. 

It will not only help you see where your valuable time is going, but it will force you to consciously consider the importance and urgency of the task. 

3. Set boundaries 

Time is your most valuable and finite resource. 

Setting boundaries will help protect you this. 

Warren Buffet once said, "We must choose, with intention, what we say yes to and what we say no to. It all comes down to simplifying, prioritising, and focusing our attention on what matters most."

Prioritsing yourself and learning the power of saying no, are ways to set boundaries. 

Stand up for yourself and your beliefs. If things don't align with your goals and purpose, say no.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for all of your problems and all of your accomplishments.

4. Take breaks 

There's significant research pointing to the importance of breaks and holidays, and how time away from your tasks only increases productivity, creativity, and concentration.

Those who dismiss breaks because they think stopping is hindering their productivity, are heading for burnout. 

Incorporating time-outs into your schedule is proven to restore motivation and focus while supporting better stress management. 

5. Measure your results, not your time

Measuring the number of hours you've worked is putting emphasis on the wrong metric.

We often assume the number of hours spent on a task is an indication of the effort, interest, and accomplishment applied.

This is not necessarily correct and can instead lead to inefficiency.  

The 80/20 rule states that "80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts". 

This principle highlights the importance of focused efforts on the 20% of your actions that yield 80% of the results.

In other words: work harder on the tasks that matter the most and don't sweat the small stuff. 


You can apply the 'smarter, not harder' rule to your finances too. 

Owning a globally diversified portfolio of low-cost funds means you own businesses that already make money.

You aren't chasing shiny new ideas, glued to the financial news, or trying to keep up with Bob next door. 

What's more, globally diversified portfolios always eventually recover after the markets drop.

For performance chasers or stock pickers, that recovery could be longer.

You can work smarter by continuing to add money whenever you can. 

Because when markets do recover, as they always do, you'll have more money for the things that add value to your life. 


Further reading

If you're investing in highly diversified portfolios right now, keep adding money. You have ground beneath your feet. Everyone else is on thin ice.

Goldman Sachs has lowered it's prediction for the S&P 500 four times this year alone. But being a long-term investor means stomaching short-term guesses...

What I'm reading #41: Stupidly simple habits I've discovered to have the highest ROI

Save and invest for a better life, book a call - SAM