Top Productivity Tools & Framework for a Successful Start to 2018

​Originally published for my exclusive Monthly Email List.

Hello,

Happy 2018! I hope you’d a good start for the New Year – I had a hectic (good hectic) first weeks. It’s always good to start the New Year with a bang.

In this issue – three things:

a) “The State of Productivity” – My Recommended Tools and Updates for 2018
b) Theme, Resolutions and Project Ideas for 2018
c) World Tour – My Recommended Travel Tools & Plans for 2018

a) “The State of Productivity” – Tools and Updates for 2018

It’s January – the best time to up your productivity game. Everyone’s at the gym, the running tracks are packed, and the enthusiasm is in the air – (just for a few more days, at least ;)).

For inspiration, I’ll share below what I’m up to in routines, habits and productivity-related stuff.

The 21 Laws of High Performance – the Framework, in a nutshell

I wrote my whole, holistic productivity framework in my book, The 21 Laws of High Performance. I keep by those fundamentals – if you want to succeed tackling your resolutions for 2018, it’s imperative for you to:

– make your resolutions “smart” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound
– break down your resolutions into specific and actionable sub-projects – e.g. not putting “lose 20 kgs” as a resolution, but instead figuring out which actions you could take that will make it inevitable for you to lose those kgs
– make these actions daily, framing them so they can be a habit – e.g. “run at least 2,5km every day in January”, and “do not eat sugar for the whole of February”
– keep to just one new action per month, and be ruthless in its execution – put strong prizes and punishments for your success or failure, and get into accountability groups with friends

Moving Forward – My Productivity Tools for 2018

For 2018, I’m keeping roughly to the same morning routine I’d in 2017 – it goes like this:

– Wake Up Between 5.30 and 6.30 am. For me, having a “band” works better than having a set, specific time.
New: I started tracking my sleep cycles in late 2017 – I’ll expand on this practice and share tools for better sleep quality later this year.
–  Drink 0,5l of Water Upon Waking Up.
– Workout 20 to 30 Mins. I go to the fitness club and do a high-intensity and short routine 3-4 days a week, and run or cycle outdoors (or do a long walk) the rest of the week days.
– Listen Audiobook. This, or history podcasts – not interviews and “easy” content. All while I work out.
– Shower + Cold Exposure. I switch the water to “coldest” for the last 20-30 seconds (sometimes more, sometimes less).
– Meditate for 20 Mins.
New: I switched from Headspace (expensive) to Kevin Rose’s new free app Oak. Completely recommended!
– Journal. I use the simple 5 Minute Journal App on my phone – writing three bullets for “What I’m grateful for”, and “What will I do to make today great”. (You don’t need a fancy app for this, though).
– Write Affirmations. I write the same sentence – a major goal or aspiration – 15 times with pen and paper, as per Scott Adams’ instructions in his book.
– Do Anki Cards 5 Minutes. This on the way back from the gym or the last leg of the run, or otherwise at home.
– Eat Sardines. I eat half a can, straight from the can.
– No Internet! I don’t use internet – web, or apps, nothing – until 8.00 am. I’m very strict on this – no work email, no messages, no web surfing, (and, lately) no bitcoin price tracker 🙂

Two Notes 

i) It’s My Cornerstone. I’ve done this routine religiously – in one form or another – since 2011. I can have a bad week – a bad month even, but I always come back to it. It’s my one solid backbone – in good or bad times.

ii) The Order Doesn’t Matter. I often switch the order of the above items – sometimes journaling first-thing, or meditating before working out. It doesn’t matter as long as I do the whole list.

For the end of the day, I’ve sketched an “Evening Routine” – and it goes as follows:

– Complete Anki. This if I haven’t done it before.
– Meditate for 10 Mins. (So, second meditation).
– Journal. This, the “Evening Journal”, in the same app.
– Play Guitar for At Least 5 Mins. 
– No Internet After 21.00.

Looks simple, right? Still – I’ve tried to do an evening routine consistently for years, and I’ve failed every single time. I do it for a few days – sometimes a few weeks – and then back to square one.

(It’s much, much – MUCH – easier to install habits early in the morning than in the evening, believe me).

Ironically, the one only thing that I’ve done consistently every single day is finish my Anki cards, which is the most time and mentally-consuming action of the list. (Miss a day, though, and the next one will have double the amount of cards – the intrinsic penalty is right there in the app. That helps!)

My #1939 Trial for Evening Routine “Fixing”

So, for January 2018, I want to, naturally, continue doing my full morning routine – but I want to fix the evening round as well. I’ll try something new, again:

#1 – Tracking Habits, Daily

Like, did I do X, or didn’t I? I made a tracker out of a Google Sheet. Like, very simple stuff – I’m even embarrassed to show it here.

Thing is, I’ve tried a zillion apps for this before – Momentum, Habit List, etc. – and none of them clicked. I decided to now make my own template, and, if it’s a hit (so far, so good), I’ll add some complexity and analytics later – but, so far, keeping it to-the-point.

#2 – Prizes and Punishments for Success

I’m a minimalist – see the 100 Items Experiment. Still, I like nice, good things – and, for example, I wanted an iPhone X and to replace my Mac with a newer version.

So, like I wrote in The 21 Laws and mentioned above, I tried my own medicine – if I got a score (90%+) for habits completed every day before my trip, I would buy the phone. If not, no phone.

Does This Resonate? I’m open for feedback on this approach! If there’s anything you think I should tweak, or something I should try – I would love to hear from you. Also, if you try any of the above – I would love to hear about your experience. Don’t be shy – do reach out, just reply to this email.

b) Theme, Resolutions and Project Ideas for 2018

I don’t do “New Years Resolutions” anymore. Instead, I outline a “Talent Stack” of what I am and what I want to become, and then outline Projects – often short, but always measurable and with a specific end-date – that will help me develop in those Stacks.

For the New Year, I’ve thought – and will probably do – the following:

i) Strengthen the Business Development Stack – Specifically Negotiation. I work in procurement, and most of my work is project management, business analysis and negotiations.

In 2018, I want to re-focus more in negotiation – aiming to increase my “Total Negotiated” to, say, contracts worth over 500 million USD. (This as being the lead negotiator or active hands-on support). I work project-based in my company, and it is expected I’ll get involved – as lead or support – in multiple projects up to that amount. So far, so good.

(I spend a substantial part of my day at a “day job” – I know, sorry.)

ii) Do Specific, Tech or Persuasion-Related Projects. I’m looking into specifically:

– Do a series of “super sprints” or “blitz” (more on that, below) on learning to code basic web apps and doing data analytics. I don’t want to be a software developer, but I don’t want to lose my technical edge. I’m still outlining the specifics for this.

– Write 12 Newsletters – high-quality and shareable ones. (If you haven’t shared this Newsletter – Try “Control/Command + F” and send it to one or two friends – they (and I!) will all appreciate it!)

– Finish two info products – probably a) course on buying real estate in Denmark for foreigners, and b) my travel book

(I’m still aligning and outlining the projects above – as per Scott Adams, the idea is that they should’ve be a success even if they fail. For that, they need careful planning!)

I also have in my pipeline to plan, launch and do a book tour – in Europe, or maybe bigger. I don’t know if I could squeeze it into 2018, thought. Let’s see.

iii) Random “Quality of Life” Projects

I’m going to experiment with quality of life (QOL) projects in 2018. After living like a monk (a well traveled one, though), for the past few years, I’m now willing to invest time, money and energy in things that will be expected to make me stronger, healthier, and happier.

– Setting Up QOL House. I bought an apartment in December, and – for the first time – had to buy furniture. I had never bought a bed before, or a table, or ever non-IKEA kitchenware. I invested a ton of time to find the best-value for money deals across the board for bed, mattress, electronics, kitchen stuff, furniture and more. I went cra-zy. I’ll share the findings – the specifics, but the general ideas too – next month.

– Vegan Month. In spring – say, by mid April, or in May – I want to go vegan – so, vegetarian, but also no dairy, eggs, etc. – for 30 days straight. I’m a happy carnivore, so this is more as an experiment – both to learn to eat (and cook) new food, to see if I feel better health-wise, and also as a test of will. I’ll write about it when I get to it – aiming for the Northern spring.

The “Super Sprint” Concept

I’m experimenting with a new super-hard-working concept – I call it the “super sprint”. The idea is that for, say, three or four weeks, I work razor-focused and long hours on a specific project. This can be, for example, preparing and launching a new course, or doing a new coding project.

In those few weeks, I put my whole and unbounded energy into the project – I stay long hours after work, I work on weekends, and I basically zoom out of the daily grind and work, work and work to advance and finalize the specific project.

I start fully rested – normally after a short holiday, and then put a specific deadline – not too far in the future, e.g. no more than four weeks ahead – and grind it for that whole period. When I’m done, I take another 4-5 days mini-holiday.

I tried this for the first time this January. I came back from Estonia January 2nd, and left for my RTW Trip January 19th – in between, I wrote six months worth of newsletters, updated my website, and prepared the MVP for a potential product.

Notes –

– I’ve been doing this for a few years already – just didn’t put a fancy name to it until now. Still, this is the first time I bundle it with the Project-track of my Annual Review.
– I still have a day job – mind – but, as I work project-based, I schedule the super sprints for when I’m not expected to be too busy – e.g. in between projects, or when things slow down.
– I don’t expect I could do more than 4-5 super sprints per year – I hope I could, but I don’t know and don’t want to burn out. Let’s see.
– The idea is to work on only one project for each sprint.

c) World Tour – Travel Tools & Plans for 2018

I write this from Hawaii – I’m half way through my budget RTW Trip, soon jumping into Fiji and Australia (#114, #115) and maybe Samoa.

– In 2017, I only visited nine new countries – though I spent a ton of time in Panama, which was fun. I’m decided and focused on getting to the double-digits again in 2018 though.
– New Places in Mind – Galapagos (Ecuador), Colombia, Cuba, Easter Island (Chile), Belarus, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Reunion (France), Mauritius, Iran + weekend trips to new places in Spain, Italy and France and, maybe, a short trip in places I haven’t been in Asia.

 
Like – Mario, how does traveling so much – and for fun, mind – fit with your productivity goals, projects, etc.?

Well, it doesn’t – I’m sketching angles it could help, but, really – the truth is I’m consciously willing to:

a) “pay” that I’ll have less days a year to work than other people – traveling as much is not “free” – especially when your competitors are working while you’re away.
b) literally pay in cash – I spend a lot traveling, and if I didn’t, I would’ve more money saved, more assets, etc.

Travel Tools – What’s New

I haven’t made many changes to my packing list and travel tools. I still travel with my Minaal (with added hip belt), some packing cubes and only the bare essentials. Minor changes, though, are:

– Revolut Card. Danish banks (and all banks, worldwide – honestly) rip you off with the foreign exchange rates. For example, if you buy a 1.000 USD item in a store with your Danish card, the bank won’t charge you 1.000 * Exchange Rate, but instead 1.000 * (Exchange Rate + Ridiculous Top Up). Not good.

Revolut – and a multitude of other startups, mind – are to the rescue. They promise to minimize the fees, saving big travelers like me big bucks in the process. With Revolut, you get a physical, pre-paid Mastercard card and a bunch of “digital” cards you can use for expenses abroad.

It’s very easy to sign up and it’s free – you can try with my link here. You’ll only pay when you spend money, and if you decide to order physical cards (which are cheap, too).

– 4-Wheel Trolley. For the more business-y trips, I finally switched from a two-wheel trolley to a four wheeler. Long overdue. Still, I kept to a “soft case” (e.g. cloth) one – I still don’t get all the craze for the “hard shell” trolleys. I think Wirecutter hits all the good points on why “soft” is still a better option.

– Best Travel Shoes. I walked roughly 15-20km per day in Tokyo last December. I did that on new Nike Lunarepic Flyknit 2 Low – and have never been as comfortable. These are stylish, super lightweight and ultra-comfortable shoes – I liked them so much that I just bought another pair in advance of this RTW Trip. If you’re looking for a travel shoe – especially for a city-walking one – I suggest you check these ones out in your local store.

Alright – that’s it!

It was good to catch up – for next month, I’ll plan a) to share the long-list of small things I’ve done and items I’ve bought to increase quality of life in 2018, and b) share impressions of the round-the-world trip.

Until then, if you enjoy these emails – do write me and tell me, I’ll be happy to hear from you. You can easily share them with your friends.

Keep rocking 2018 –

Mario