Oct 20, 2016

My body was connected to ICU machines in early 2012.

Prior to that, I had been feeling sick and losing weight for several months. I was denied life insurance, as results of a blood test revealed that I had diabetes. My organs were betraying my body, and I was only 30 years old.

According to the physicians, my death was imminent. Like “any second now” close.

You do a lot of thinking when you’re lying in a hospital bed. I thought about the people I was fortunate enough to have in my life, all the things I wanted to do, the legacy I wanted to leave behind, and the opportunity I squandered to do so.

I decided I was going to make some drastic changes in my life. I wanted to watch my newborn son grow up. I wanted to grow my business as well.

I made 6 significant improvements to my life over the next several months. Such changes allowed me to spend more with my family, and also made me more productive at work. Before long, I was earning $117,000 monthly, which was three times more than my income in early 2012.

This article is about the improvements I made, why I made them, and what those changes resulted in.

If you apply these tactics to your own life, you, too, can become more profitable and productive.

Making decisions are tiresome and expensive

Everything I’m about to say will help you minimize what is known as “decision fatigue.”

Whether those decisions involve figuring out what to wear or who to call, each time you are forced to make a choice, your brain uses its willpower. Much like a muscle, willpower can get exhausted if it’s repeatedly used for a substantial portion of the day.

As an example, recently, 1,100 Israeli parole board decisions over the course of year were analyzed. It turns out that 70% of the prisoners who were granted parole had their hearings early in the day. 10% of prisoners whose hearings took place late in the day had their parole granted.

The crimes themselves had no influence on the decisions, as all the prisoners in this study were jailed for similar assault and fraud charges. It was the timing of the parole hearings that affected the decisions.

The judges had made particularly favorable decisions when their minds were fresh. When they were exhausted from making decisions for the better part of the day, they were more inclined to deny prisoners parole.

After reading this, I thought about my own decision making process. I made a decision to utilize my focus and willpower on things important to me, like my business and family.

I intended to remove as many insignificant decisions as possible, and figured out six ways to make that happen.

Improvement 1: “Work Station”

When I first launched my business, my office was composed of a lawn chair and a second-hand laptop. The space was not structured for productivity.

As I grew my company and began hiring staff, I realized my work space needed an upgrade.

I restructured my whole set-up and called it my “Work Station”, where I had what I needed at my disposal, which happened to be a comfortable area to work, and was completely distraction-free. I was able to focus in a setting and work while my mind fresh.

Let me break down some of the elements of my efficient “Work Station”.

1. 3-monitor set up On one monitor, I have my schedule displayed, and on another, I have our team communications info. I have documents I’m constantly going through on the third monitor. This allows me to see everything at once while working in one place.

 2. A height-adjustable walking desk I happen to think best on my feet, and if you haven’t heard, sitting all day is very unhealthy. The standing treadmill desk was a no-brainer here.

I can sit and work at the desk while walking on a treadmill. I can stand and continue walking anytime my mind starts to zone out. Whether I’m sitting or standing, I’m being productive, and burning calories at the same time.

You don’t have to get a treadmill desk, as they can be quite expensive. But a stand-up desk is affordable, and the health benefits alone make it a worthwhile investment. Stand up desks can be found at your local office furniture store.

3. Headset The headset phone is ideal for me. I’m constantly on the phone, and a quality headset lets me walk anywhere, from the office to the balcony - even to the front door of my building - I can walk anywhere without losing reception. The headset was an essential purchase for my “Work Station”.

4. Anti-fatigue mat An anti-fatigue mat decreases the exertion placed on our arches and heels. I happen to be on foot for the better part of the day. Though I was sceptical about such a furnishing, I can attest to the anti-fatigue mat. My body is less strained, has more energy, and using the mat eliminated back and leg pain.

5. Ergonomic mouse

My wrist no longer feels sore or tired thanks to the ergonomic mouse I bought. There is less strain on my hand and wrist, allowing me to work longer and pain-free.

6. Wireless solar keyboard My solar keyboard is not heavy, never requires a battery change, and is thinner than my mouse pad.

It only took a few weeks to get my work station assembled. The products I specifically wanted cost around $2,000. It was money well invested, as I found myself more productive than ever. The amount of things I was able to get done by changing the way I worked freed up time to increase my clientele and, as such, allowed me to increase revenue.

I was able to remove physical barriers to increase my efficiency, but how was I going to structure my mind to be as efficient?

Improvement #2: Simplifying fashion

If I don’t have to be in public, looking good is no longer an importance. As such, I was able to choose what to wear, and I kept it simple. Having the same style of work attire in different colors meant I didn’t have to spend time wondering what to wear. I simply wear whatever is in front of me based on how I organized my closet. I managed to eliminate a time consuming decision. Even if it only took away a minute or two per day, those minutes add up.

Improvement #3: Automate your exercise

I was never an active person. Though I heard that exercising could lead to more productivity, I simply didn’t have the time to get to a gym, at least on a consistent basis. Working out was one thing, but the commute, the change of clothes, and everything in between seemed time consuming.

I decided to be accountable and hire a personal trainer. That way, someone else could manage my exercise intentions, and keep me committed to them. Now I work out three times a week with my trainer. I’ve turned into someone who never misses a gym session. All I have to do I show up, and my trainer makes the rest of the decisions. The results make me more focused and productive during work. I also have more energy, and am mindful of what food I put into my body.

Improvement #4: Make healthy eating easy

If I wasn’t very active before I made all these changes, you can imagine what my diet was like. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted …until I was rushed to the hospital.

I told myself I was going to eat healthy and simplify my diet, while spending minimal time on meal preparation.

Eating the same thing every day might sound boring, but the amount of time I saved by keeping meal prep as basic as possible helped me to focus better.

If eating the same nutritious thing every day saves you am abundance of time, isn’t it worth considering? You can always change up your meals upon getting sick of them.

Improvement #5: Disconnect and recharge

One assumes that the more amount of work you put in, the more efficient and productive you’ll be. Believe it or not, that is not the case, according to recent research.

As it turns out, you’ll be more productive if you can periodically detach yourself from work.

In Sweden, employees work, on average, 6-hours a day. Their economy is doing just fine. The mentality is that the longer the work day is, the more you dread it. The shorter the day, the more efficient you become at getting things done.

This might make sense to you. How many of your work hours are actually spent working? How many of those hours are spent working at peak productivity?

If you continue to work 8 hour days, at least take periodic breaks to let your mind recharge. Perhaps take in a massage every weekend to unwind after a gruelling work-week. Or consider a walk in the park, without answering your phone at all. Maybe a weekly art class would be a great distraction, or possibly mediation is what you need.

Find something to do that takes your mind of work completely, and make a habit of taking that much-needed time to disconnect in order to rejuvenate your mind and become more efficient.

Improvement #6: Accomplish 3 years of work in 1 year

You wear many hats when running a small business, switching back and forth between making strategic decisions and manually getting things done.

Fatigue can set in when you multitask like this. I decided to create a checklist of things that I needed to get done. I then allocated a portion of my time exclusively to making decisions, and another portion taking action. I checked off accomplishments off my checklist as I progressed.

The idea is to plan time-consuming tasks ahead of time, breaking down larger projects into baby steps necessary. By planning for such things in advance, you can focus completely on each task, rather than constantly worrying about the next thing.

Integrating my suggestions into your work system can make you productive enough that you can accomplish a few years’ worth of work into just one, without fatigue setting in or sacrificing your rest. If anything, you’ll get more time to sleep and be more energetic than ever.

Consider my personal system for planning things in advance:

1. Spend a day planning out the next week or two. This might sound terribly time consuming, but it’s worth it. The more specific your plans are, the less time you’ll waste. You’ll be more focused doing exactly the task at hand. Also, the more you pre-plan, the faster you’ll get at doing it.

2. Don’t overwhelm yourself when planning your schedule. As suggested above, break down a bigger project into smaller steps if a particular task will take a lengthy amount of time. Be as specific as possible on each of those steps so you’re not wasting time planning when you should be working.

3. Turn Your Tasks Into a Checklist Keep it handy, perhaps beside your schedule. Your checklist is your best friend, as it will prevent you from planning or strategizing when you should be working.

Following the suggestions above is a sure-fire way to increase your energy, eliminate decision fatigue and get an abundance of things done.

You’ll also feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment going into the weekend by adhering to the checklist, because you’ll know all that you intended to do actually got done. This will motivate you to repeat the process for the following work week.

 Making changes is a process

Don’t expect overnight changes, and don’t make all these changes at once. Ease such changes into your schedule so you can adjust to it accordingly. By integrating these improvements over the course of weeks or months, you can completely alter the way you work for the better.

Personally, I can tell you that the changes I made helped me become a better family man, a smarter businessman and a healthier person.

And once again, I tripled my income within a course of a year. I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made the changes I did.

It took a trip to the emergency room to make me decide to take drastic measures to live the life I wanted. It doesn’t have to be that extreme for you.

Start today by making one change to your routine, in order to strengthen your business and eliminate decision fatigue. When you feel comfortable, make another change. Over time, you’ll start to feel those changes inside, and see the results in your bank account.

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