Personal Productivity and Time Management

What is First Principle Thinking?

“What Do We Know To Be Absolutely True?

Using First Principles thinking is one of the most effective ways to solve problems simply because it forces you to break down complex issues into small bite-size steps. Doing so helps you find the quickest path to a solution.

Many eminent thinkers throughout history have used the First Principles approach, but my two favorites are inventor, Johannes Gutenberg (you know the whole Printing Press thing) and most recently, entrepreneur Elon Musk (yes, that Elon Musk). It is said that the ancient philosopher Aristotle is responsible for creating this way of thinking, but there is no solid proof of that. But I’m going to go ahead and say it totally sounds like something he would have said.

First Principle Thinking in Real Life

Let’s use Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, as an example, because the Gutenberg stuff is a little too dense and weighty. In 2002, he had the idea of sending the first rocket to Mars. Immediately he faced difficulties in coming up with a plan and a strategy for tackling such a feat. The biggest one was the cost of purchasing a rocket was somewhere around $65 million.

You have a couple of options when you are faced with this situation. You could suck it up and pay the $65 million to purchase a rocket, you could give up, or you could break the situation down using First Principle thinking.

I’m sure you realize what Musk did.

He broke down the problem into a bunch of pieces, (well, maybe more than a bunch, this is a rocket we’re talking about here). Then he reassembled them, putting them together again in a completely new array.

He took the cost of the individual parts and discovered that even after labor and overhead, he would still be able to build a rocket for a fraction of the cost.

SpaceX would eventually build the rocket for 10x less than what it would have cost to buy one and…he still made a profit.

Understanding First Principle a Bit Deeper

Let’s dig a little deeper into First Principle thinking. When you are putting this into practice, you want to ask yourself:

“What do we know to be absolutely true?”

If you think beneath the surface, you find solutions that didn’t exist before.

Back to the example of Elon Musk.

He knew that the cost of the rocket was too high, but he also knew that the cost of materials was lower. So, build a rocket, don’t buy one.

Simple as that.

Now I get it, we’re not all sending rockets to space, but as entrepreneurs, we each have our own rocketship to Mars problems every day.

If you flip houses professionally, you might find that you don’t have enough staff to flip before winter; meaning you’re going to sit on that property for the whole winter.

Big problem, right? The carrying costs would make quite a dent in your profit.

So we ask ourselves, “what do we know to be completely true?”

We know that we cannot afford to keep that house over the winter and that we don’t have enough staff to finish the flip.

You can then break it down to all the reasons why you can’t finish the flip and all the reasons why you can’t afford to hold over the winter. From there, you’ll find your solution, and it might even be different than you originally thought.

How First Principle Thinking Drives Change

The first principle forces you to break things down into smaller pieces and look at each component as its own individual moving part. When you break things down in such a way, it drives innovation because it makes you look at things from a different perspective.

For example, if you have a bike, a boat, and a car, you could take those three completely different things and break them down. Find each part that makes each thing perform its duties, and in the process, you might find that you can build something completely new with parts you pulled from all three things.

First Principle thinking, this process of boiling things down to a binary level has had a tremendous effect on people’s ability to make decisions and foster change.

The reason breaking ideas down is such a revolutionary idea is because people spend most of their time looking on the surface. Most people never look where the ideas are. The ideas don’t sit on the surface because that is where everyone else is looking. It takes the visionaries and innovators to really make an impact — this process of exploring leads to incredible ideas and life-changing breakthroughs.

How To Implement First Principle

It’s easy to sit here and read about the First Principle, but it’s more difficult to practice it in your daily life. This is because we love to optimize form instead of function. When we think of breaking things down to a smaller level, we’re always thinking about changing the appearance or look of something rather than changing its function or purpose.

If we go back in time to ancient Rome, we’ll find a perfect example of changing form but not purpose. For thousands and thousands of years, people have used backpacks for a variety of purposes. During ancient times, people used leather bags to store things for school, travel, or every day.

Later, zippers were added to bags, and more recently, nylon backpacks became a thing. But even though we saw improvements and changes to the bags, nothing about the function of the backpack was changing.

We were changing the appearance and overall look of the bag without changing the function. You don’t always need to change the function; if something works the way it is it’s perfectly fine to leave it that way.

But if you are looking for a solution to a complex problem you should always break the problem down and make sure you focus on changing the function, not the form.

Now if we go back to the Rome example, for many years, people carried messenger bags and satchels of food around on their bags or in their hands. While they are doing this, carriages and wagons are rolling around transporting things from place to place. No one at the time ever thought to put wheels on a bag to make it easier to transport. It wasn’t until 1970 that Bernard Sadow invented the first rollable suitcase. Can you even imagine if we had to carry all our luggage by hand through the airports?

Making Things Simple: Four Steps to Implement First Principle Thinking

I won’t complicate things and make you feel like you can’t start using this way of thinking in your life. It’s simple and easy when you break it down into small bite-size pieces. (see what I did there? We’re breaking down the process of breaking down.)

Step 1: Identify your problem

As a business owner, you have a problem you are looking to solve. Let’s say your problem is that your employees are taking too long to complete jobs. Something is happening in your business, and everyone is moving slower now.

Step 2: Make a list of the reasons why you can’t solve the problem

We’re going to go off in a different direction and write down all the things that are preventing you from solving that problem. Maybe you can’t afford a manager, or you’re employees are too old, or perhaps morale is too low.

Step 3: Write down all apparent solutions to the problem, but they don’t solve it adequately

There are always simple solutions to a problem, but they usually come with their own issues. You could hire a manager, but then you’d have to pay them, which means less money for you and the employees. You could spend more time at work supervising, but that means less time at home with your family. This is where compromise comes in.

Step 4: Ask yourself, “if the problem didn’t exist, and I could create a solution, what would it be?”

What is your ideal solution? Your ideal solution might be to retrain your employees, hire a manager, or maybe let go of some of the employees who are causing bottlenecks in your process. You may find that cutting the slack and starting fresh actually results in a better outcome.

9 Growth Accelerators Every Founder Needs

Honestly, who among us doesn’t want to unlock our constraints, unleash our team, and create a business that’s unstoppable? I mean, that’s the goal, right? That’s the day you get to say, you’ve become a Replaceable Founder.

It’s serious work, moving toward replaceability and maybe, just maybe, it’s not the same kind of work you’ve been doing; the relentless, indefatigable march of self-reliance that got you where you are. (which is fantastic, BTW, you killed it!)

Still, it can be both a great and terrifying day when a founder realizes she’s no longer shepherding a start-up; when she must manage rather than create; when she must relinquish control to drive the business forward; when she must stop working in her business and begin to work on it.

So let’s break it down into nine critical accelerators every successful entrepreneur needs for sustainable, measurable growth.

CAVEAT: this isn’t apple picking with kids; grabbing the ones you like, throwing away the ones that look a little weird, ignoring the ones that seem too hard to grasp. Nope, you’ve got to put ALL the apples in your basket. What you make of them is up to you. (We’re attempting pie tonight. Wish me luck. I have four kids. Under 8.)

The 3Ds

Most entrepreneurs lack a system for making effective decisions. They believe this is an innate skill, but most allow the sheer volume of choices they have to make in a day overwhelm them or derail their productivity.

Hard truth: You are the bottleneck in your business if your decision-making isn’t fast, informed, or precise.

The Remedy: Limit everyone (you included) to 3 decisions. Really.

  • Do: Complete a task now or assign it to someone else
  • Delete: Decline a request
  • Defer: Determine the best time to focus on the task


Most businesses lack intentionality around communication. They either don’t know that they should or don’t know how to be intentional. As a result, their businesses are plagued with noise: people are constantly bombarded with information and requests that are neither timely nor relevant. What’s worse is that people’s most productive times are often interrupted by this noise.

Hard Truth: You need a framework (yesterday) for how, when, and why you communicate with both your team and clients to stop the noise and encourage action.

The Remedy: The Less Doing Communication Mindset

  • Be intentional and purposeful about what, how, and when you communicate
  • Use multiple tools, so people know where to go for what type of information
  • Minimize interruptions at all costs

The 6 Levels of Delegation

Most entrepreneurs have experienced failures when it comes to delegation. They have asked people to take responsibility for a project and have not received the results they were expecting. It may be because they do not know how to delegate appropriately and lack experience in accurately communicating their intent.

If you’ve said on way too many occasions, “I got this.” You are not a master of delegation.

Hard Truth: You must accurately and effectively communicate your intent to others for them to operate successfully.

The Remedy: The 6 Levels of Delegation

  • Level 1: Perform — Do as I say
  • Level 2: Investigate — Look into this, and I’ll decide
  • Level 3: Recommend — Give me your advice, and I’ll decide
  • Level 4: Conclude — Explore, decide, but check with me
  • Level 5: Decide — Explore and decide within these limits
  • Level 6: Achieve — Take care of it for me

The External Brain

Entrepreneurs are full of ideas, but they lack a system and a plan for turning those ideas into reality. They either fall into the trap of letting a new idea hijack their time, or they completely forget about it and never apply it to grow their business.

Hard Truth: Your ideas are the fuel of your business. You must have a system to capture those ideas whenever and wherever you have them so you can act on them appropriately.

The Remedy: The External Brain Pathway

Capture Ideas — There’s a different time to have ideas than there is to process them. It would help if you had a way to keep them from distracting you.

Process Ideas — This is when you sit down to go through your ideas and determine what you’ll do with them.

Turn Ideas into Action Items — A method of getting your ideas from your capture point into your project management system.

Radical Transparency

The goal of a project management system isn’t just to have a place to dump an endless pile of to-do items. An effective project management system enables the leader to see precisely what is going on in the business so they can quickly, accurately, and effectively bring resources to bear to prevent bottlenecks.

If you look at your project management system and can’t tell what’s going on, can’t see where projects are in danger, or have to hunt down updates, then it is a hindrance.

Hard Truth: You need to have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in your company at any given moment to identify bottlenecks and break log jams.

The Remedy: The 5 ITs of an Effective Project Management System

  • It defines phases — some form of “to do,” “doing,” and “done.”
  • It is dynamic — shows tasks moving through phases.
  • It shows ownership — There is some way to indicate who is responsible.
  • It sets deadlines — The owner knows when a deliverable is due.
  • It allows work to happen — It tracks conversations and details.


Many entrepreneurs fear accountability. So they don’t have a system to ensure projects get completed on time and to standard. Without a system, successful completion is left to chance or sweat or throwing more people at the problem. None of these tactics is a solution.

Hard Truth: You must be able to hold yourself and your team accountable for accomplishing the mission.

The Remedy: The Three Criteria for an Effective Accountability System

  • Clear expectations — People know what is expected of them and by when
  • Precise plan for tracking progress — Published accountability chart, Regular check-in schedule, and transparent lines of communication
  • Predictable response when things go off track — This system is applied consistently but centers on improvement, not punishment.

Optimize for Clarity

Most businesses fail to consider how and why they do what they do regularly. They rarely take the time to dissect a process to get clarity on it, work to make it more efficient, and then document it so that that efficiency can be replicated.

As a result, most businesses are fraught with wasted time, money, and resources.

Hard Truth: You must regularly review every process in your business to minimize waste, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

The Remedy: The 9-Step Optimization Blueprint

To optimize a process, you must:

  1. Take an inventory
  2. Choose a place to begin
  3. Make a high-level map
  4. Make a video
  5. Give the video to someone else to create a checklist
  6. Give the checklist to someone else to run through
  7. Edit as necessary
  8. Document the process
  9. Regularly update the process

Automate for Precision

Most businesses fail to use technology to their advantage. They don’t consistently examine processes, implement appropriate automation, and ensure that every team member understands and embraces the technology.

Hard Truth: You must automate routine tasks to save time, save money, reduce mistakes, and allow you and your team to engage in higher-level pursuits.

The Remedy: The Automation Code

  1. Choose a process you have already optimized.
  2. List the tools you use in that process.
  3. Choose one.
  4. See if the appropriate trigger step is supported by Zapier.
  5. If it is, determine the action that follows that trigger.
  6. Choose the appropriate tool from Zapier.
  7. Follow the prompts to create your automation.

Outsource For Empowerment

Most founders fall into two traps when it comes to outsourcing. First is the “I have to do everything myself” excuse and second is the “We have to do that in-house” justification. It’s a stubbornness that invariably leads to overworked and overtasked teams who squander their talents on task better suited to someone or something else.

Hard Truth: You should outsource or delegate as much of your business as possible because it empowers you and your team to focus on the value each individual brings to the organization.

The Remedy: The Done Method

  1. Identify an area that is outside your zone of genius
  2. Identify the skill set needed for that task
  3. Determine if you have that skillset in-house or if you need to outsource it
  4. If you have that skillset in-house, does that person has the bandwidth for this task?
  5. Next, find the right “who”
  6. Do you need a specialist or generalist?
  7. Will they be dedicated or on-demand?
  8. Now you can outsource.

So that’s it.

Those are the nine concepts every founder needs if they want to become replaceable.

We teach all these principles in darn near-microscopic detail, through our online Replaceable Founder course, at our One Day Intensives in NYC and in our Less Doing Leaders Program.

Which program do you think best serves your learning style?

Since you dutifully read to the end, I can tell you are hungry for answers. I can also tell that you understand that the only way up is through.

Click here to embark upon your replaceability journey.

Who’s Got Time to Save Time?

You do.


It’s that one commodity that nobody has more of than anybody else.

Everybody has the same 24 hours of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, what ethnicity you are, where you live. We all have the same amount of time. I’m sure you’ve all heard that many, many times before. It’s so cliche. However, sometimes, cliches are more accurate than we like them to be.

The amount of time doesn’t matter. It’s how we use the time.

We already know that work expands to fill the time allowed to complete it. It’s known as Parkinson’s Law. So if you give yourself 30 minutes to complete a task, you’ll do it. So if you give yourself 60 minutes to complete a task, you’ll do it in 60 minutes as well.

When we ask people when they come to our website, what’s your biggest productivity challenge? Most people say time. I find that to be such a cop-out because the truth is, is that you have the time to do these things that you want to do. You’re just not using your current time the right way; you’re distracting yourself, spending time and attention on the things that are not the most effective.

One of the best definitions I think of productivity and efficiency and effectiveness I love is that productivity is producing more, efficiency is producing more with less, and effectiveness is producing the right things. So time is never the issue. You’re spending time on the wrong things period.

The biggest thing that makes me crazy is when you have people say that they don’t have time to save time.

I can’t tell you how often I’m looking at businesses that have no documented processes of any kind or if they do have documented policies, people don’t know where they are. Also, if they don’t know when they are, they’re not updated in tested regularly, which means they’re useless.

Then some businesses say, “Oh yeah, we don’t have time to start working on that.” Which is like saying you don’t have time to sleep. It’s absurd to me. It’s frustrating because there’s no change and we can’t make that change unless it’s painful enough not to change.

So I would argue that no matter how times stretched you think you are, if you restricted your time, even further, innovations would start to come.

Imagine this. You’re 20 years old, you’re working on a project that you’re spending 18 hours a day, you’re young, you’re full of energy, full of vigor, and you’re working nonstop 18 hours a day. Hard-charging, being super productive, and three years of doing that, you find yourself with a chronic illness, and it nearly kills you. All the while, you’re building up debt and not getting things done. This chronic illness takes you from working 18 hours a day to barely struggling to get an hour of work on any given day. What do you do? I think most people would probably give up.


You find a new way of doing things in that one hour that you have.

Now, that was me when I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and my response to that was creating a brand new system of productivity that would allow me to get a maximum amount done, actually more than I’d ever gotten done before in much less time.

If you ask somebody, who works a nine to five job, “what would you do? If you could only work till four? The answer is easy, “skip lunch,” but if you ask that same person, what would you do if you only had an hour of the day to get that work done?

It requires an entirely different kind of thinking. One that most people are not even aware of because the question isn’t what would you do? It’s what wouldn’t you do? If those things that you wouldn’t do still have to get done, who or what is going to do them for you?

The whole idea of working smarter versus harder is particularly relevant here. No time restriction says you can not be more productive. It does not exist. I’ve seen so many different situations where people thought that they had no more time, and the time was their problem.

Time is never the problem. It’s just about how you use it.

Fortunately, this is one of the things that we teach you. We have this great program called The Replaceable Founder, which we deliver as an online program or a One Day Intensive taught here in New York every month. I teach all of that content, nine weeks of it in one single day. So if you’re strapped for time, one day might seem a lot more appealing than nine weeks.

One day in New York with me can change your life, and I don’t use that lightly. It is the goal of the event. I want to change your life and your business.

I bet you can make time for that.

Click on to save your spot.

How Would You Feel If You Were Insanely Productive?

By now, you’ve probably heard me go on and on about getting rid of your To-Do list and the harmful effects of the Zeigarnik Effect; that voice in our subconscious that nags at us to finish the unfinished.

Still, People wonder how they should prioritize.

“Every time I get something done, I have to add two more things to the list.”

“I just keep buying planners, but I still have the same problem. I can’t make headway.”

“Everything seems urgent all the time”

Well, real talk here.

The list is the problem.

Simply figuring out which tasks are more important than others doesn’t change the fact that there are still 30 things on your list and you won’t suddenly forget about all the other “low priority” items just because you rearranged the order.

It might be time to work on your timing.

Carpe Diem

This famous saying about seizing the day is actually part of a longer phrase Carpe Diem Quam Minimum Credula Postero which means “Seize The Day and Put Minimum Faith in the Future.”

There will always be more tasks and more things that need to get done. It would be foolish to think that simply arranging tasks in a pecking order will have any bearing on your productivity or your life tomorrow or even an hour from now.

Obviously, it’s important to think big picture when setting a long-term vision for a company or personal projects, but when it comes down to actually getting things done, we must live in the moment.

You assign yourself a task at the relevant moment, you complete the task, and you move on. You don’t worry about what you have to do next because your system will “assign” it to you when the time comes.

You are delegating the responsibility of worrying about these things to an external brain otherwise known as a system of productivity.

Ok But How?

Essentially, any kind of reminder system that is disruptive in nature, like email, a text message, or even a regular old calendar reminder that pops up and makes a noise will do.

You can set an appointment for yourself in your calendar or use to send yourself a reminder via email with all relevant information and at just the right time.

Some examples:

  • Grocery Shopping — Email yourself the list at 5:30 PM when you know you’ll be on your way home
  • Year-long book project — You do your best writing on Saturday mornings, set reminders for 6 AM on Saturdays and include notes relevant to each chapter so when you wake up on Saturday’s you are presented with the info needed to fuel your creativity
  • Getting paid by a client — Email them your invoice with a Follow Up Then set for 1 month from now
  • Waiting on an employee to produce a long-term project — Set a follow up email every week to check in and see how they are progressing
  • Meeting someone new in a public place — Have their number and description sent to you a few minutes before the meeting
  • Making lists of things to buy for an upcoming baby — Forward those links from Amazon to Follow Up Then for 4 months from now
  • Write in your journal — use Daily Minded to send you nightly prompts about your day that you simply reply to
  • Check in with your project team every Thursday afternoon — Geekbot for recurring reminders at regular intervals.

Where to start?

Take a good look at your list, whether it’s your to-do list, bucket list, leap list, whatever form it’s in, and really think about WHEN these things need to get done or take place.

You want to attack these items in such a way that things can get accomplished as soon as reasonably possible because there will always be more stuff. The good thing about this system is that once you use it, any new task that comes up simply needs to be “timed” and then put out of your mind.

If a task seems to large, then you need to break it up into what I call “micro goals” and then assign timing to each one of those bite-sized tasks.

Remember, the first rule of Less Doing is to optimize, so you want to get your tasks down to their leanest, most basic form, so you can power through them.

Timing tasks is a skill.

Fortunately, it’s an easy skill to pick up and you will quickly get to a place where you become an expert at optimizing your time and resource allocation. Things will get done efficiently but most importantly, you’ll start doing less and living more.

The Best Way To Help Your Team Be More Productive

Raise your hand if you want your team to be more productive.

I don’t even have to count all the hands that are up right now, because I know that’s everyone’s ultimate goal.

Our businesses depend on our teams being productive.

In our efforts to maximize our output, we try to find the best team size, and we frequently come up with ways to hire extra people so we’d get more things done.

And that’s a hilariously bad way to improve our productivity.


I’m glad you asked!

It all started in France, in the year of 1913…

What Do the Ringelmann Effect and Productivity Have in Common?

In 1913, a French agricultural engineer by the name of Maximilien Ringelmann decided to perform a group productivity experiment.

What he wanted to know was how productive would teams be when you increased or decreased the number of people working on the same task.

What happened was that Ringelmann had participants play tug of war for 5 seconds.

The participants pulled on a rope individually, then in groups of 7, and finally in groups of 14.

He used a dynamometer to record how much they were pulling.

The results showed that participants pulled with a force of 85.3kg per person when they were pulling on the rope individually.

When they pulled in 7-person groups, they pulled 65kg per person.

And when they played tug of war with the maximum number of members on their team (14), quite counterintuitively, they pulled the least:

Only 61.4kg per person.

Now, you’re probably wondering:

“What the heck, how is this even possible? There were more of them!”

But it turns out, as Ringelmann increased the group size, the individual force people on the team used decreased.

Ringelmann tried the experiment again by asking the participants to push a crossbar on a two-wheeled cart.

The same thing happened.

When people pulled individually, they used significantly more force than when someone else was helping them.

It turns out: people’s efforts diminish as the team size increases.

And the gap is even greater as we add more team members.

The total force one worker exerted was 1.00.

When one more was added, the two members exerted a total force of 1.86.

When three team members pulled, their force was 2.55. Similarly, four workers pulled a lot more; their force rose to 3.08.

Five workers pulled up to 3.50, and six reached 3.78.

And then the results started stagnating drastically.

When there were seven workers pulling on the rope, they only managed a total force of 3.92. And when eight pulled, they exerted the same force as seven.

It was only 3.92, meaning that one worker exerted half the force they would exert if they had been pulling on the rope alone.

Now, Ringelmann thought the reason behind this was lack of coordination.

It’s much harder to coordinate within groups of 7 and 14 people. Two people who pulled on a rope together were more likely to stay in sync as they pulled.

For Ringelmann, that was the most likely reason behind the phenomenon.

However, he also stated that it could be due to motivation loss.

After all, if you knew you weren’t the only one responsible for taking care of a task, you’d be more likely to sit back and relax — doing your bare minimum.

It turns out, Ringelmann was only partially right when he talked about lack of coordination.

Teams’ decreased productivity actually comes from motivation loss AKA social loafing.

How Does Social Loafing Affect Your Team Productivity?

Now, Ringelmann may not have been 100% right when it comes to the reasons behind decreased productivity, but he was onto something.

That’s why a group of researchers in 1974 decided to conduct the experiment again.

This time, they had an ace up their sleeve: pseudo-participants, with only one participant actually pulling on the rope.

Hey, who said business wasn’t just like tug of war?

Now, those researchers tried the experiment again.

One participant was told that they’d all pull on the rope, while the other members were instructed to only pretend they were pulling on the rope.

And these researchers got the same results as Ringelmann got back in 1913.

There was no reason to coordinate, so lack of coordination could not be blamed for the fact that one team member pulls harder alone than when in a team.

We call this social loafing. Team members reduce their effort because they feel less responsible for the output.

When the one active participant thought everyone was pulling, they didn’t pull as hard.

Other researchers also performed shouting and clapping experiments on blindfolded participants who also wore headphones.

And every time, it was proven that people just aren’t going to do their best if they know they’re not the only ones responsible for getting something done.

To put it simply: individual members think their efforts won’t matter for the outcome, so they don’t give all they’ve got.

But what does that mean for your business?

Social Loafing in the Workplace

Here’s the thing: when too many people at your company feel responsible for the same thing, each member won’t try hard enough and your total productivity will go down.

You can see social loafing everywhere:

If you walk by a construction site, there are always construction workers who are sweaty, tired, and still shoveling. Then you have those who look like they’d just come from a walk in the park.

Go to your local McDonalds. Some employees are doing their best to take all the orders while others are lounging around.

Heck, look at your office. Chances are, half of your team members are just aimlessly clicking on their keyboards or scrolling down their newsfeeds.

This doesn’t happen because they’re mean, lazy or want to ruin your business.

It happens because they don’t feel integral to the success of the company.

They don’t feel responsible for the output.

Your team members feel like cogs in the machine, and they won’t give their 100%.

Now, when this happens in your team, your revenue isn’t the only thing that’s suffering.

Your team members are suffering, as well.

When one part of the group is doing the majority of work, it’s easy for them to grow resentful of the team members that aren’t doing as much.

Additionally, if your team members are comparing themselves to other members’ levels of productivity, they won’t want to improve and reach their own standards of excellence.

Instead, they’ll put in only as much work as they see everyone else putting in.

And that’s a problem.

How to Eliminate Social Loafing and Increase Your Productivity

Now, we know that one of the main causes of social loafing is group size.

According to extensive scientific research, the ideal team would have 4.6 members.

I guess Tim from Accounting is just going to have to say goodbye to the limbs he likes the least.

Joking aside, the number majority of business owners (myself included) found to be the perfect ratio for productivity was 6 team members.

Anything less than 4 team members is too small to be effective.

Anything more than 5 is too complex, and the returns will start decreasing.

As you look at your organization, you don’t want to have teams that have more than five members.

If you need a big team, if you’re doing work that’s that complex, what you can do is break down complex tasks and clearly assign responsibilities.

This way, every team, and every team member will feel personally accountable for the outcome of that task.

What I know from my experience is that when you shrink a team or shrink anything, establish a limit, you’re actually forcing innovation.

Your people have to think differently.

They have to be more effective.

The best thing we can do is have teams that are slightly smaller than what the task requires.

They’ll be more efficient together.

Look at your organizational chart and make sure that no individual teams are larger than five members, and you’ll see a massive increase in productivity.

Everyone will start pulling their weight, and they’ll do their best work.

Conversely, if you make your team members work in huge teams, you’ll see how fast their productivity levels spiral. Especially if you aren’t clearly delegating tasks and making sure they know who’s responsible for what.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

Team members who feel that their skills are inferior to that of other team members will sit back and let the seemingly more capable teammates handle their work.

Your team will suffer, and so will your business.

And reducing social loafing follows the same principles of working out.

If you really want to get fit, you can’t just do the minimum work required every day.

You have to push your muscles day in and day out, and keep increasing the intensity.

Only then will your system dance to the tune of increased productivity.

I Call BS on the Morning Routine

I know, I’m coming in a little hot there. Honestly, I don’t want to knock the morning routine per se. In fact, I’m cited in Hal Elrod’s book, “The Miracle Morning For Entrepreneurs”.

But people put so much emphasis on it; like if you don’t have a morning routine, there’s no way you’re going to be successful.

The thing is, setting the alarm is easy. It’s what you do after that, that determines your productivity.

I get up at 5:45 in the morning. I have four children who go to three different schools, want four different lunches and require a full-court press of attention from my wife and me before I drive them to their respective schools.

I mean, it is a morning routine, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with me, and I like it like that.

After drop off, I have a full day of work that requires me to schedule interactions before 2:30 pm, because I pick my children up from school. Everyday. I’ve cleared my schedule to allow me to be entirely present for my kids while they are home. No distractions, no phone calls, no meetings.

After the kids go to bed, I get on my gym clothes and go out for a four-mile hardcore run in all kinds of weather over two bridges. I think about ideas, for my clients’ businesses and my own. I can solve many problems at a 7:00-minute mile pace because my body knows what to do, and my mind is free to engage in higher level thinking.

I can work stuff out in the half-hour it takes me. When I get home, I immediately make Trello cards for my team about those ideas. Then I shower, get in bed and watch TV.

I feel amazing. I look forward to that part of the day. It allows me to clear out my brain so that when the day starts, it can begin without lingering anxieties or unsolved problems. Plus an evening routine is so much more in my control. A morning routine can get easily derailed by a sick kid, a hectic travel schedule or a miserable night’s sleep.

The building of a nighttime routine requires self-discipline, as you only have yourself to hold to account. I believe developing that mind muscle is a cornerstone to building a more productive life.

My point in describing this routine to you is not so that you’ll be impressed, or irritated, it’s to illustrate the importance of a day designed around a singular priority, one at a time.

Super interesting sidebar here, did you know that the word priority was only used a singular noun until the Industrial Revolution? Then it quickly became a plural. So, if you think about it, there can only be ONE priority, because the definition describes something of the utmost importance.

So when you think about organizing your day, developing a routine, think about a singular priority during a specific time. When you make something a priority, then you make the time for it. Having too many priorities (more than one) is a sure-fire way to get your brain to do none of them. “I’m so swamped, everything’s a priority” no longer works, and that feels pretty damn good.