Chaotic Productivity (And Calendar Freedom)
A lot of people ask me how I manage my time. How do I manage to get things done? Do I have a calendar that is always full? Do I sleep only 5 hours a day? Do I wake up at 5 am every day? Do I have all A-team with all 5-star employees?
The answer is no. It's all chaos.
I follow a chaotic productivity schedule and nothing is planned. Though I have borderline OCD for many things in my personal and professional life, I manage not to have OCD for how my week looks like.
Some people, supposedly, make a plan and stick to the plan. I don't know if it works for them or not, but it definitely doesn't work for me. I have tried making plans for the week and have failed many times, only to feel bad about myself for not sticking to the plan.
I do make plans, but the plans are for the near long term and distant long term.
Imagine you have a car. Do you plan to drive 200kms every week and stick to it? Do you have a plan for refueling 20 liters every Monday and stick to the "plan"? No. You keep driving and keep refueling whenever you need.
I function in a similar way. When I have the time and energy, I work. Whenever I am tired, I sleep. When I feel burnt out, I take a vacation. Or just have a day in my week where I do nothing. It could be a Wednesday or a Thursday, and if I don't feel like working, I take the day off. Sometimes I take two days off mid-week until I feel recharged enough to be productive again.
We are not mentally and physically fit all the time, and our fitness levels go up and down. Humans are not machines. The need to stick to a routine or a plan is over-rated. Yes, good habits are necessary, but that doesn't mean that you have to make a schedule for yourself, try to stick to it, and feel bad if you miss.
It is a luxury to be in this position and it takes years to find what you love to do and get paid for it.
When I was in a job, I did not have this luxury. But with the money I saved while I was in a job, I invested my excess capital in things that would have a long-term return. I missed out on investing in crypto in 2013, but I started my blog in 2013 and started building an audience.
What I did almost a decade back has helped me spawn new companies with the personal brand that I've built. I had to grind, but I knew that the way I wanted to grind was a different way. I wanted to be a content creator, a mentor, and a digital marketer, on my own terms.
If you are a digital mentor like me, you are mostly creating content. Creating content doesn't need to stick to a plan. You can create content when you want, where you want, and how you want.
The content you create becomes an intellectual property that keeps paying dividends for a long time. Such a business model makes the fertile ground for chaotic productivity.
If you are in a job, you have to attend meetings on time and work from Monday to Friday. Go to the office if required. Take off only on the weekends. And vacations have to be planned in advance.
Many people are used to having a strict weekly routine, do it for decades, and don't complain. That's something that wouldn't work for me and I found that I was unemployable a long time back. I have switched 5 different jobs in 5 years and in many companies, I did not even complete 6 months.
If you are a freelancer, you have some level of freedom but you still have to schedule calls with your clients and make sure that you are on time. Synchronous communication is a pain.
If you are not in a mood to work, and if you are pushing yourself to work, you might hate doing work and that's a dangerous path to go down on.
When you are an entrepreneur, you can have the luxury of not having to stick to a schedule, work anytime you want, and still get a lot of things done and be super productive.
That's why entrepreneurship is not just about making the dough (which is definitely an incentive) but also bringing in the luxury of chaotic productivity. It is freedom for work timings.
Only when you are well-rested, well slept, had good food, work out, and feel positive about the world around you, you can do great work.
The culture of working hard is overrated because as soon as you "work hard" in a way you push yourself to do things even when you don't feel like doing it, and the quality of your output (especially if you are in a creative field) will suffer.
Shipping good quality work, done with the right mindset, while you are feeling mentally and physically fit will always make up for doing 3x work but with 1/3rd quality.
When you are well-rested, as and when needed, you will make better decisions. Good decision-making will beat hyper-productivity any day.
One right decision could bring you 10x more wealth than blindly having to slog each day. And you can re-use that wealth to make your calendar free, further. Slogging through the week will make you pessimistic and decision-making will go for a toss.
Years of hard work will be undone with one wrong decision. And trying to push yourself to be "productive" and over-working yourself to exhaustion will lead you to make wrong decisions. You will be pressing the accelerator and the brakes at the same time. You will end up coming back to square one.
As an entrepreneur, find something that will help you do the work when you want, where you want, and then find a way to make money off it.
- If you are building an education company, learn how to keep making good quality content that will keep paying dividends without you having to run the system all the time yourself.
- If you are building a services agency, find out a way to build processes and systems in such a way that the system gets extraordinary results from ordinary people (instead of you trying to be extraordinary all the time).
- If you are building a D2C product brand, spend enough time researching the market and find a niche that is profitable, where you have a competitive advantage, and build loyal customers who trust and keep coming back to you.
The most important work that you will do in your business are things that are not urgent, but important. To do important but non-urgent tasks, you have to have the time, space, and biological fitness to do it. And you will never get that time and space if you are trying to fill up your entire week with meetings and things to do.
You don't want to "feel productive" but miss out on the long-term, important and non-urgent tasks. You will end up back to where you have started.
For example, most of my friends who read this blog (probably you too) wish they could write a blog like this regularly. They understand that writing is therapeutic, helps you organize your thoughts, refines your goals, and most importantly helps you build your personal brand. But they complain of not having enough time to do it. That's because their calendar is full all the time.
This blog post that you are writing right now has been made possible because of a blank Thursday morning in my calendar with no plans. It's blank. Only during times like that, do I feel like, ok let's write an article.
When I have free time, this is what I might do (it is never planned, and always chosen based on what I "feel like" doing):
- Write a blog post
- Edit an old blog post and re-publish it
- Write a book chapter
- Make a mind-map
- Make a video
- Do some market research
- Spend time with the members of my community (AlphaClub & MasteryClub)
All the above tasks move the needle in my business. A little bit here, a little bit there, and it keeps compounding.
Yes, there are times when I have to have a meeting with my CA, do a live webinar that is scheduled, meet with a client for my agency or have a meeting with one of my team members. But scheduled meetings are always at the max two per day, rarely three.
The rest of the time, I do non-urgent, important things for my personal growth.
Personal growth tasks include:
- Reading a book
- Watching a training video
- Listening to audiobooks/podcasts
- Working out
- Eating well
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Travelling and Vacations
- Staring at the ceiling and dreaming about the future
Unless you are retired, it might be impossible to do away with schedules completely. But if you are an entrepreneur, you can move the needle as far as possible to keep your week free without schedules.
Remember, schedules are for slaves.
Entrepreneurship is about freedom for yourself first. Use that freedom to create value for the world. Don't enslave yourself to your calendar in the name of making the world a better place.
First, make a better world for yourself and then use that to make the world a better place. Because creativity cannot happen without the time and space freedom that you create for yourself. Don't wait for freedom to fall in your lap one fine day. That's never gonna happen.
One more question that might pop up with my thoughts around this is: what about my team members. They are employed and will they have the same level of freedom? Probably not. But I do encourage people to have some free time for themselves and do a side hustle while they work with me.
The percentage of scheduled tasks that has to be done on time might be more for them, but they can work on reducing it over a period of time by building systems and processes within the business. And hiring younger people to follow the systems.
With time, the money they earn will also help them earn their freedom in the future and they can make the time and space to find something that they can do without sticking to a schedule, and still make money out of it. And hopefully, the money they make will be re-invested into creating more time and space for themselves.
P.S. Want to learn the art of becoming a "free entrepreneur"? Join our AlphaClub Mastermind group to hang out with high-performance professionals who are focused on creating something great without enslaving themselves. Mail me at email@example.com for more information.