I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of people who are all talk and no action when it comes to actually getting shit done.  As a business owner, I interact with plenty of wannabe entrepreneurs who talk a big game about their big ideas, but then fail miserably when it comes to execution.

Usually, the interaction goes something like this…

Entrepreneur: “You’re going to love this great new business idea I’ve had – it’s really going to revolutionize my industry!”

Me: “That’s great to hear!  How far along are you with the business?”

Entrepreneur: “Well, that’s the thing… I haven’t really started yet.”

If I were all talk and no action, I never would have started the car part business that launched my entrepreneurial career – and I definitely wouldn’t have launched Single Grain, which has afforded me some tremendous personal and professional opportunities thus far.

The bottom line is this: Words don’t matter – actions do.  To learn how to translate your ideas into actions, check out the following steps to maximizing your productivity and getting shit done:

Step #1 – Educate yourself on productivity

Here’s the thing…  Growing up, we’re taught that some people are naturally productive, while others procrastinate and fail to achieve any meaningful progress.  Well, I call bullshit!

Productivity is a skill just like any other – it can be taught and it must be maintained through consistent practice.  If you aren’t an inherently productive person, you can learn the skills needed to do so (though it’s up to you to find the drive and motivation needed to take this critical first step).

If you’ve never studied productivity before, one great starting place is the “Getting Things Done” book, written by efficiency expert David Allen.  In this seminal tome, Allen lays out a system for enhancing productivity that’s worked for thousands upon thousands of people around the world.  Even if his system doesn’t ultimately work for you, understanding the theory behind his recommendations is an important part of developing your own productive practices.

Alternatively, if you aren’t a big book reader, search the internet for articles on productivity tips.  There’s been plenty written on this subject before, so you should be able to find at least a few pointers that help get your level of motivation back on track.

Step #2 – Understand your personal productivity needs

Since there’s no single way to guarantee productivity in every person, I’m a big believer in the importance of experimenting with different techniques in order to come up with a system that makes sense for you.

Just to give you an idea, here’s the process I use to write blog posts for this site (a task that I’d almost certainly procrastinate on if I didn’t have the following system in place):

Whenever I come up with an idea for a new blog post, I add it to a list in Trello – the project management tool my team uses to coordinate content publication across our various web presences.  Then, as these topics draw closer to their scheduled publishing dates, I’ll sit down with Paige – Single Grain’s Project Manager – to outline my thoughts into a rough article guideline.

From these notes, either I’ll write the post or I’ll work with a member of my staff to flesh out the outline into a fully-fledged article.  But I’m not through yet…

Once the first draft of each new blog post is completed, I’ll undertake a rigorous process of editing and revising until I’m happy with the final message.  Many times, I bring my wife Amy into the process as an outside editor to ensure that I’m communicating as clearly as possible.  Only after this process is complete does Paige load the article into this site for publication.

Now, that might all sound like overkill for something as simple as a few blog posts.  However, in many ways, this process that not only ensures that the content I publish is helpful and error-free – it also guarantees that things get done in the first place.  Because I’ve put a defined system into place, I’m much less likely to blow off the important process of updating this site.

With this in mind, I’m a huge advocate of putting your own productivity systems in place (as what works so well for me may not make the slightest difference in your life).  Be aware that any new productivity process requires two separate elements: practices and tools.

Practices are the behaviors you adopt in order to ensure productivity.  A few examples of productive practices include:

  • Not checking email at the start of your work day
  • Hitting the gym first thing in the morning
  • Using your most productive times of the day for focused work
  • Tackling your least desirable tasks first
  • Batch processing similar tasks to reduce mental strain

Obviously, the specific practices you’ll want to adopt will vary based on your own unique working style.  To jumpstart your personal productivity, I recommend using the educational tools described above to find at least 3-4 new habits that resonate with you and can be adopted quickly in order to get you back on track.

In order to facilitate the adoption of these practices, you’ll also want to make use of tools.  Productivity tools can include any of the following options:

  • An email folder system based on David Allen’s “GTD” principles
  • A “To Do” list manager like Remember the Milk
  • A project management program like Trello
  • A “Pomodoro” tracker to help you work in short bursts of productivity
  • Software programs designed to automate repetitive needs

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different productivity practices in tools in order to find the right ones for you.  Just because the Remember the Milk tracker isn’t the right list management program for your needs doesn’t mean that there isn’t one out there that will work even better!

Step #3 – Reevaluate your productivity systems from time to time

Realistically, it’s unlikely that the practices and tools you choose to experiment with right off the bat will be the ones that ultimately help you to lead your most productive life.  That’s where the power of “validated learning” comes into play.

Validated learning refers to the process of evaluating where you’re at in your productivity journal in order to determine what’s working and what isn’t.  Continuing with our previous example about my blogging habits, it took time to refine the process and determine which elements were key to keeping me on a regular publishing schedule.  However, if I hadn’t taken the time to evaluate these different aspects and make changes, I never would have made it this far with my personal site!

As a result, I recommend taking time at least once every week or two to sit down and analyze which practices and tools are making the biggest difference in your life.  If you identify any weak areas, resolve them with new practices or tools.  Or, if you see aspects that are going well, try to understand what’s contributed the most to your success in order to take your productivity to even higher levels.

As you go about this process, remember that productivity is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to stay strong.  Just because you haven’t been productive in the past doesn’t mean that you can’t be now!  Trust me, the results of taking the time to put personal productivity systems into place is well worth the effort – whether you’re doing so in order to capitalize on a great business idea, get more done in your personal life or reach the summit of any other challenge in your life.

  1. Love the article…. great insight for people like myself who struggle with productivity, or at least keeping it consistent


  2. Very good blog. One of the few productive articles I have browsed recently. I like the personal example of how you write blogs productively. By citing this example, you demonstrate that you practice what you preach, which alas, very few motivational authors demonstrate.

    Now I need to sign-off and work on improving my own productivity.

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