4 Time Wasters That Kill Your Productivity

4 Time Wasters That Kill Your Productivity

So, you want to get things done.

The only problem is, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.

Yet, if you look at some of the most accomplished people out there, it’s not as though they have more time than you do. They don’t have a time machine either.

This isn’t to say you should compare yourself to them. But it is important to realize that time isn’t the issue. How you use and manage that time is.

Time isn’t the issue. How you use and manage that time is. Click To Tweet

Here, I look at several time wasters that can end up killing your productivity without you even noticing. Ready for this? Let’s get into it!

1. Meetings

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not hating on meetings. When they are necessary, and organized, they can have immense benefits for a business, community, collaboration, or otherwise.

The challenge, of course, is that most meetings aren’t. They don’t have an agenda. They aren’t targeted – so, the whole team shows up when they don’t need to be there. And they aren’t intentional or organized.

Understand that if the people in the meetings don’t even want to be there, and don’t need to be there, they are getting absolutely nothing out of the meeting. You are wasting their productive hours. Interruptions, regardless of when they occur in the day (or week), tend to break concentration and flow.

Interruptions, regardless of when they occur in the day, tend to break concentration and flow. Click To Tweet

In my observation, meetings go counter to how we as humans work, too. We’re expected to pay attention for an hour or two, when we know our brains are bad storage devices for information, and our memories are faulty at best.

If no notetaking happens, then it’s even worse. By the way, the onus is on you if you aren’t taking notes, because that’s about the only way I’ve found to ensure meetings are productive on some level.

If you want to be effective with meetings, have a read through Steve Goldstein’s article on Inc. about how to fix meetings.

2. Scanning the News

To say that the media exaggerates is an understatement. There has been more fearmongering, sensationalism, and propaganda in 2020 than any year I can remember.

Scanning the news isn’t going to change the situation. And for the most part, it just makes media companies richer. They get paid for your attention.

Further, it tends to focus you on the negative. And I don’t care how positive a person you are. Spend enough time watching the news and you will come away with doom and gloom.

Per Sara Lindberg on Verywell Mind:

A constant stream of sensational or “disaster” reporting, whether you are exposed actively or passively, can elevate stress levels and trigger symptoms like anxiety and trouble sleeping.

How do you expect to be at your productive best when you’re constantly stressed and are sleep deprived? It’s simple – You won’t be!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay informed. But you might need to balance it out with a healthy dose of positivity.

On the Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman say the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio is 5.6 to 1. That means you need five to six times the positivity to balance out the negativity!

If you’re going to watch an hour of news, you’d better be prepared to watch or listen to something inspiring for five to six hours!

If you’re going to watch an hour of news, you’d better be prepared to watch or listen to something inspiring for five to six hours! Click To Tweet

3. Social Media

Author Dr. Joe Dispenza says we often begin our days in the same manner – by checking our phones, reminding ourselves of who we are. And then we expect to have a different day than we did yesterday, when we’ve just gone through the process or reminding ourselves and reinforcing who we think we are.

They say today is mutually exclusive from yesterday, but that’s not necessarily true when you go through the same morning ritual of comparing yourself to others, taking note of what they have that you don’t, feeling inferior, and so on. Your experience of today will be much the same unless you adopt new rituals.

I have known this for years, so it’s not news to me, but documentaries like The Social Dilemma have been making the public aware of the ill effects of social media. It’s been designed to be addicting. And big tech companies have endless data points on us to where they might know us better than our best friends.

The issue about fake news, however, is grossly misleading. By pointing to an extreme example like flat earth, they oversimplify a rather complicated issue. Because frankly I’ve seen more fake news from the likes of The New York Times, CNN, BBC, and so on, this year than ever.

Regardless, the core of it is this:

Social media makes you feel like the hero of your own story. So, it trains you to be selfish. And when things don’t go your way, you compare yourself to others and feel bad about yourself. When you feel bad about yourself, you want to buy something to solve your problem. And guess what’s right there on social media? Products for you to buy.

I’m not saying don’t use social media. I’m saying, if you can, use it wisely.

4. Smartphone Notifications

Does your phone constantly buzz or chime? And do you find yourself checking every time it does?

Like social media, smartphones have been created to be addicting. And the worst part is that they are addictive in all the wrong ways.

You’ve got all your vices right there – social media, news, email, texts… And if that wasn’t bad enough, you can download games and other distracting apps.

We’ve all got smartphones, so I’m not suggesting you toss yours. But here’s a suggestion you may find useful:

Turn off all notifications. Yes. All of them.

Creative work requires concentration, and every time you break it, it takes a little over 23 minutes for you to recover it, according to Blake Thorne on I Done This Blog.

Creative work requires concentration, and every time you break it, it takes a little over 23 minutes for you to recover it. Click To Tweet

If you turn notifications off, your phone won’t be constantly vibrating or notifying you of new messages and notifications. Then you can check your phone when you want, on your own terms. It’s quite empowering.

Don’t let your smartphone rule your life. Turn notifications off and check your phone on your breaks. Trust me, you’ll have more than enough time for texts, voicemails, and so forth.

Don’t let your smartphone rule your life. Click To Tweet

Time Wasters, Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, what might be a time waster for me might not be a time waster for you. And vice versa. So, it’s a little subjective. You’ve got to look at this in consideration of your work and goals.

If you’re a social media manager, for instance, spending time on social media is not a waste of time. It’s your job!

Still, I hope you found the above helpful, and you’re able to get more of the right things done as a creative or creator. After all, it’s not just about getting more done. It’s about getting more of the right things done.

Are there any time wasters I’ve missed? What are your best productivity tips?

Let me know in the comments.

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How to Use Sunday Planning Sessions to Improve Your Life

How to Use Sunday Planning Sessions to Improve Your Life

Have you ever woken up Monday morning only to discover that you completely forgot about a meeting you’d been booked for?

If you managed to pinpoint this oversight in time, you may have narrowly avoided a disaster.

But if you missed out on the meeting completely, you might have angry emails or voicemails waiting for you. Even if they aren’t angry, you still feel bad, because you know it reflects on your integrity.

And while no one is perfect, oftentimes, this type of situation is avoidable (it doesn’t have to be a meeting – it could be any kind of commitment). That’s what we’re going to look at here.


You may have seen one of my #StrategySunday posts.

To tell you the truth, I resisted doing anything of the sort for a long time.

But then I started publishing daily. And as I gained more practice and learned more about writing and marketing, I started to see the wisdom in coming up with a plan.

Which is why each day in the week has a specific theme on my blog:

  • Monday – entrepreneurship
  • Tuesday – self-improvement
  • Wednesday – productivity
  • Thursday – creativity
  • Friday – inspiration

It’s also why I started writing for a specific audience – creatives and creators.

Once I’d settled on this format, I’d figured out what to publish on the weekends – a weekly digest on Saturdays, and a #StrategySunday post on Sundays.

These posts serve functional purposes to be sure, and people are already finding value in them. But truth be known, they are also a lot easier for me to write. I get to have a bit of a mental break on the weekends.

So, you can see from this example that Sunday planning sessions have helped me create a stronger focus and gain more clarity on my vision.

It has also helped with my Medium strategy. Since I’m looking to grow my following and earn some more cash on Medium, having all the above in place takes a lot of guesswork out of the week. It has already paid off, even if it’s only in cents and not in dollars.

Why Plan on a Sunday?

Whether it’s author Darren Hardy or business mentor Lori Kennedy, you will find that many creatives and creators have a Sunday planning habit. My mentors plan on Sundays too.

Does this make Sunday the best time to plan? Not necessarily.

Again, I had some resistance to this. I was brought up in the church, where Sundays were sacred and were thought to be “a day of rest.”

I have no issue with that whatsoever.

But I think what makes Sunday planning powerful is that it’s quiet and no one else is doing it. It gives you space to think.

I get that Monday is the day most people dread, so planning on a Sunday could give rise to feelings of anxiety.

That’s not the case with creatives and creators who love what they do, though. They look forward to making the most of the week ahead.

And when you think about it, if you can work out all the “unknowns” in advance, Monday morning doesn’t have to be such a slog.

Of course, things can come up, and we may not end up doing everything according to our plan.

But if you have a plan, you’re more likely to put your priorities first in your schedule. That way, even if you end up getting a headache halfway through Wednesday (or any day), you will have at least completed what was most important and urgent on your to-do list.

If you have a plan, you’re more likely to put your priorities first in your schedule. Click To Tweet

5 Benefits of Sunday Planning

There are probably more benefits to Sunday planning than I can realistically identify or expand on.

But here are some of the main benefits I’ve reaped:

1. You Can Get Everything Out of Your Head

Author David Allen says your brain is a horrible storage device. I agree.

Getting your thoughts and ideas down on paper (or even down on your iPad) allows you to clear your mind and begin a new week knowing everything has been accounted for. That could contribute to a better sleep, too.

Writing everything down also tends to reduce anxiety. Because you can get clear on everything you need to do, including errands and minor to-do items.

2. You Can Boost Your Productivity

If you do all your planning on a Sunday, you should be able to identify gaps in your schedule and times when you aren’t booked for a meeting or anything else.

I’m not suggesting you fill every available gap in your schedule with productive work. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet was said to have surprised Bill Gates with his blank calendar. There is tremendous value in unscheduled time.

But if you want to squeeze more productivity out of the week, you should be able to identify gaps in your schedule where that can happen. Such opportunities tend not to present themselves when you’re “flying by the seat of your pants.”

3. You Can Brainstorm Ideas

Although I’ve never run out of content ideas, it often happens that by the time Sunday has rolled around, I’ll need to brainstorm additional ideas for the week ahead. Especially since I’ve settled on the format detailed earlier.

So, if you need to exercise your idea muscle, and determine worthwhile actions for the week, you can use your #StrategySundays to get clear on next steps in your projects.

4. You Can Speculate on Possibilities

I’ve shared about some of my journaling habits already. One of the things I love to do is speculate on possibilities.

Speculating on possibilities is just that. It’s not about trying to come up with right answers. It’s not about trying to form perfect answers. It’s just asking yourself, “What’s next? What are my next steps? What could I do to move towards the outcome I desire?”

And then you just write down what comes to mind, free form.

5. You Can Ponder Questions

This is a recent favorite and a valuable exercise at that.

Ask a question related to your projects. It could be something along the lines of, “What could I do to enhance my results in X area?” Or “What could I do to ensure I follow through on Y?”

Then, ponder the question and write down your answers. Again, your answers need not be right or perfect. The act of pondering is sometimes enough to cause a breakthrough.

Sunday Planning Sessions Final Thoughts

Whatever you focus on expands. Or so they say.

Whatever you focus on expands. Click To Tweet

So, if you focus on your projects and plan for them, you will achieve more meaningful results in your creative efforts.

If you focus on your health, well-being, and self-care, you will begin to feel better and have more energy for what matters.

Consider what you’d like to accomplish and in what areas you’d like to improve. Your Sunday planning sessions should revolve around those items and activities.

You can even take it a step further and time block everything in your schedule, so you know what you’re doing and when. After all, if it’s not in your calendar, it doesn’t exist.

Do you have a Sunday planning habit? What’s your method like?

Let me know in the comments.

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Enjoy the Game of Survival

Enjoy the Game of Survival

What game do you want to play as a creative?

That might seem like an odd question, but the reality is that life itself is a game with rules and boundaries.

But no one can tell you when you’ve won. No one can make a scorecard for you. You’ve got to tailor it to your passions and desires.

There are different paths leading to different destinations. There, too, choice must be exercised.

The Game of Survival

Creativity is like a game of survival. And that’s what makes it fun.

Creativity is like a game of survival. And that’s what makes it fun. Click To Tweet

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. But the same could certainly be said of freelancing, business, or any other endeavor that involves risk.

Former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers was the first to inspire me to think of things this way. He talks about it quite eloquently in his book, Your Music And People.

School is fine and all. But most of what you learn there is theory. And when you consider how much of it, you’re going to forget anyway, it’s kind of crazy how much time and effort we put into education.

In the real world, you make real connections, spend real money, and take real chances and risks.

Yes, it can be scary. But this is also what makes it fun.

Because when you’re faced with losing it all, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves, figure out how to make a real go of this creativity thing, and take actions that are aligned with your goals.

The Power of Choice

In life, there are choices aligned with comfort, and choices aligned with risk.

One is not better than the other.

Choices aligned with comfort offer some certainty and stability. They are not guaranteed, and they can even be expensive, but most people will support you in your decision to be comfortable and you will find them doing the same things right alongside you.

Choices aligned with risk offer more excitement and upside opportunity. Again, they are not guaranteed, but they don’t necessarily need to cost more (just that you will inevitably win some and lose some). You probably won’t find much support on this side of the fence, and people will call you “lucky” if you succeed.

(I don’t know anyone on this side of the fence that doesn’t work their butt off.)

At different times, we will all make choices on either side. But choices aligned with comfort are always easier, and choices aligned with risk are always scarier.

The Playground of Adulthood

Entrepreneurship is like the playground of adulthood (again, that’s something I picked up from Derek Sivers).

So, the question is whether you want to play in the sand, or work in a cube.

“Oh, it’s just that simple?”

Well… maybe not.

Because you’ve got to know what you want in life. What you enjoy. What you could see yourself doing for 12, 14, or even 16 hours per day.

I’m not advising anyone spend that much time at work. I’m just asking if you could see yourself doing that if need be.

Many people can’t see themselves working for longer than eight hours per day. And if they were honest with themselves, they’d see that between bathroom breaks, lunch, idle chit chat, social media, and email, they are only productive for two hours and 53 minutes per day. That’s based on research.

It’s not the eight hours per day that’s making you tired. It’s the constant task switching that’s killing your productivity.

Of course, you will have many added responsibilities on the playground, with the most important being having a product and a way to sell it. Money is required in the game of survival.

Enter the Jungle

So, the question is:

Do you want to go out into the jungle, risk danger and failure, and enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction of figuring it all out for yourself?


Would you prefer to stay in the city, where the well-worn path is laid out before you, and help is always available?

Creativity is closer to trail blazing than following a clearly defined path. That’s what makes it difficult, but that’s also what makes it rewarding.

There’s a limit to how much you can learn about creativity or entrepreneurship in school. It’s all just hypothetical until you’ve got real skin in the game.

There’s a limit to how much you can learn about creativity or entrepreneurship in school. Click To Tweet

The jungle is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where all the real learning happens.

It won’t necessarily be easy. And there will be risk involved. But the skills are learnable. With enough determination and perseverance, you can learn to survive, and eventually, thrive.

Game of Survival, Final Thoughts

While there are many unknowns in the jungle, if you choose it, you will probably find that you are scrappier and more adaptive than you ever thought you were.

And instead of wading through theory, you will be forced to figure out what works, fast.

Again, not all risk is good risk. And the riskier choice isn’t always the right one.

But an entrepreneur is “one who takes risks.” So, in the jungle, you will always be risking to a lesser or greater degree.

Are you enjoying the game of survival?

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How to Boost Your Creativity with a Journal

How to Boost Your Creativity with a Journal

If your creativity needs a kick in the pants, then it might be time to start journaling.

I’m not talking about starting a diary. I’m talking about writing intentionally to capture inspiration in everyday ordinary circumstances.

But how can we go about that?

Here’s a guide on how to boost your creativity with a journal.

Journaling Forms the Foundation

This summer, I engaged in a personal development program that revolved around keeping seven daily habits for 21 days.

(Actually, I ended up taking the course twice.)

I chose journaling as one of my core habits both times, because I knew that if I spent more time in reflection, I’d begin to identify patterns and become clearer on what mattered to me.

Since then, I’ve been using my journal to take notes on the books I read, dream up products and marketing strategies, and even engage in my #StrategySunday planning sessions.

The reality is, there are some entries I will never look at again. And there are more ideas in my journal than I will ever get around to implementing or using.

Despite that, my journaling will form the basis of many things I write, publish, create, execute, and more.

Would you like to boost your creativity? Here’s how to do it with your journal.

Speculate on Possibilities

The number one thing that stops creatives and creators from journaling is perfectionism.

The number one thing that stops creatives and creators from journaling is perfectionism. Click To Tweet

Even when we don’t necessarily have all the right questions, we still try to get all the right answers, like we were frazzled teens facing our final exams in high school.

Quotes like this don’t necessarily help:

The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of the questions you are asking yourself. – Tony Robbins

I’m not saying Tony’s wrong. But we need to leave high school in its proper place – in the past.

But that’s why, instead of trying to be perfect, I like to speculate on possibilities.

For instance, I might ask myself “how am I going to market my next book?”

Then I will proceed to brainstorm ideas. And no idea is a wrong idea because I’m just speculating on possibilities. I’m not trying to be perfect.

If I am stuck in any area of life or business, I find this to be a valuable exercise. It helps me come up with more ideas where I might be otherwise stopped.

Next time you’re stuck, maybe try speculating on possibilities instead of merely brainstorming or trying to ask the right questions.

Make Note Taking a Habit

How many conversations, meetings, or events do we sit through without takeaways? In the age of “Zoom Gloom,” quite a few, right?

While I don’t want to come across as a productivity fiend, you may as well not have attended a meeting you didn’t take notes on.

You may as well not have attended a meeting you didn’t take notes on. Click To Tweet

Meetings and conversations are a treasure trove of useful information and inspiration just waiting to be captured.

For instance:

  • You might hear about a book or resource that intrigues you and want to look up later.
  • You might hear a sentence that could be turned into a poem, blog post, book, or a song.
  • Action items may come up in conversation, and if you don’t write them down, you may forget them.
  • You may have spur of the moment inspiration that needs to be captured then and there.
  • And so on.

I’m not saying every conversation or meeting has got to be productive. I’m just saying every conversation or meeting is an opportunity, and the opportunity is to listen for inspiration.

Document Your Journey

Documenting your journey is also something you can do with a blog, as it gives you the opportunity to let others in on what you’re doing.

Either way, writing down your thoughts, ideas, feelings, and so on, can have more long-term value than you even realize.

First, writing is known to help you organize your thoughts. Many people try to organize their thoughts first, and then write. I suggest going about it the other way. This is not a term paper. Practice will make you better. Just get started and don’t worry about today’s journal entry or blog post.

Second, writing helps with memory retention. If there are things you want to remember for later, you should certainly write them down.

Third, the opposite is also true – you can also journal away emotional baggage. Oftentimes we feel stuck, not because of present circumstances, but because we think the past will just keep repeating itself in our lives. Try on the idea that this is within you, not outside of you, and see if you can journal it away.

Fourth, you can return to your journal entries later and scan them for memories, thoughts, ideas, action items, and anything else you’ve taken down. Many songwriters and poets like to begin with a great title, and you just never know where a great title might be hidden.

Finally, your journey can also help and inspire others.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to journal, and more benefits than I can count. So, the above should not be considered comprehensive.

The point is to get started and stay started. Don’t worry about trying to get it right or being perfect. That’s not the point.

Your journal is only valuable or helpful to you to the extent that you use it. So, start using it!

How do you use your journal? What’s the greatest value you’ve derived from it?

Let me know in the comments.

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Priority vs. Productivity – Which is More Important?

Priority vs. Productivity – Which is More Important?

Our heads fill with ideas that actively excite us. If we could, we’d dive right into working on them today.

Then reality sets in. And we’re cast into our daily responsibilities, chores, errands, and of course, work.

The life of a creative or creator isn’t all that glamorous once you realize that creativity often happens in the margin of life, if at all.

But if we can distinguish productivity from priority, we can unleash the idea machine in a more organized manner.

The Anatomy of a “Productive” Day

Tell me if you’ve had days that have gone something like this:

You wake up, make your bed, and get a few minutes of exercise in before meditating.

You’ve got a few urgent emails to answer, so after breakfast, you process your messages. You also check your phone, answer voicemails, respond to texts, and do your usual rounds on social media.

Afterwards, you’ve got a little bit of work to do, so you hop on your computer, put in your remote hours, have lunch, and finish up for the day.

Now it’s time for a little bit of creative work. Finally. So, you work on a song. Or write a poem. Or read a few Photoshop tips online.

After about an hour of that, you have supper, write a blog post, do another round on social media, update your website, answer emails, and wrap up the day by reaching out to your collaborators.

This all sounds very productive. But is it?

Getting Many Things Done isn’t Productivity

If any part of this sounds judgmental, know that I have had many days that have gone exactly as described.

I did this, that, and the other. I got a lot done. To-do items got checked off. Tasks got completed. Emails got answered.

But I’d still finish the day hyper aware of the projects I’d never gotten around to. The things I’d identified as being closest to my identity. The creative pursuits that would bring the greatest results, joy, or fulfillment.

Somehow, those things just weren’t getting done. They were always relegated to tomorrow.

I’d have the odd day where I’d make big progress on things that mattered to me, but I wasn’t consistent.

And we know from Jerry Seinfeld’s example that if you want to achieve something meaningful in your creative pursuits, you don’t want to break the chain.

Changing How We Think About Productivity

The way most people approach productivity is to see how much they can accomplish on a given day, week, month, or year.

And I promise you, it’s possible to get a lot done in a year. I feel like I’ve lived that year over and over since discovering Steve Pavlina’s article, Do It Now – the same post I suggest everyone read if they want a crash course in productivity.

I’ve written 365 songs in a year. I’ve launched two books in a year. And I’m smack dab in the middle of publishing daily blog posts for a full year (today is day 142).

But this is where quotes like the following are thoroughly unhelpful:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years. – Bill Gates

Do you even have a 10-year vision for what’s possible? I would venture to guess you’re in the top 2 to 3% of the population if you do.

Most of us are in the moment. Worried about whatever we’re worried about. Thinking about how the money is going to come in. And so forth.

It’s okay if you’re not seeing 10 years ahead. Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (affiliate link) even says we shouldn’t obsess over the extraordinary or try to become like them.

What I’m saying is this:

If getting a lot done is the point, then there’s nothing wrong with this approach. But if the point is to get the right things done, then it’s critical we revise our method.

How to Prioritize Your Priorities

It’s okay if you can’t see 10 years ahead. What you need to identify are the projects that are important but not urgent.

If you aren’t familiar with author Stephen Covey’s four quadrants, then take some time to acquaint yourself with them.

For us creatives, for the most part, it’s going to fall under the category of a book, a series of paintings, an album’s worth of music. Basically, a product.

You don’t know why, but you just never seem to get around to it, am I right?

I mean, sure, you might mess around with graphics in Canva or make an outline for your book, but are you getting any of the real work done?

One of the key reasons we end up putting off the important, non-urgent work is because it’s not urgent. We easily get swallowed up in the world of urgent instead.

And it’s not bad that we deal with the urgent. But it has a way of stealing from our productive working hours. After all, there’s only so much time in the day.

So, What’s the Solution?

The solution is relatively simple, and it can be found in a classic analogy that has been passed down through the years. It has been credited to many people, suggesting that its source is unknown.

Either way, here it is in simplified form:

You have a jar. Sitting beside it are rocks, pebbles, sand, and water.

The question is – how do you fit the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water in the jar?

If you put it in in the wrong order, the jar will certainly overflow.

But if you put it in as follows, it all works out:

Rocks, pebbles, sand, and finally, water.

Rocks are your big projects. Pebbles are your important tasks. The sand represents your smaller to-do items. Water is everything else.

So, if you do everything in the right order, there is more than enough time and energy in the day to accomplish what matters most to you.

If you do everything in the right order, there is more than enough time and energy in the day to accomplish what matters most to you. Click To Tweet

If you do it out of order, and don’t prioritize, you will struggle to get the most important things done.

And always remember – tackling the most important things in your schedule has a way of making the less important things irrelevant.

Tackling the most important things in your schedule has a way of making the less important things irrelevant. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Productivity without prioritization is just getting things done.

Productivity with prioritization is effectiveness. Effectiveness is what most people really want.

And we are most effective when we focus on the few things that matter instead of the many things that need to get done.

We are most effective when we focus on the few things that matter instead of the many things that need to get done. Click To Tweet

If you focus on the few things that matter, you will be able to end more days feeling accomplished. And if you keep doing that, you will hold a product in your hand before long.

What is your strategy for productivity? How do you manage your priorities?

Let me know in the comments.

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