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Personal Productivity Stack for being an Idea and Execution Machine
The very first experience of working with a group of people to achieve a goal started when I was 16 years old (2006) and we launched our School’s Platform where Students would interact and share their experiences etc.
Since then I have had the privilege to be a part of many extra curricular teams in School and College and then later on much bigger teams in Flat.to, Flatchat and Unacademy. And then I have had some privilege to see other Founders in action.
Thus when I say this, it comes with my years of experience seeing a lot of Founders and Leaders firsthand (and having read about many others) on how they operate and work:
Lack of Personal Systems is one of the biggest bottlenecks for Founders and Leaders in achieving what they want to achieve.
Without Personal Productivity Systems:
Leaders are often confused about the direction they should be going on. They don’t have an Iconic Goal either in the near time or in the long term which is properly documented which they look
Leaders are mostly in autopilot mode which means they will keep on doing repetitive work which keeps them busy but avoid the difficult work which is outside of their comfort zone but is massively needle moving. They are happy being busy, but busy (or hard work) != best outcomes
Leaders think they don’t get good ideas, but ideas are about systems and not about magic. If you make the right systems you will get a lot of remarkable ideas
Leaders can do good execution without systems but great needle moving execution is not possible without systems
Personal Productivity Stack for being an Idea and Execution Machine
Having 2-3 Iconic Goals which are extremely ambitious and are extremely long term help you to think big and take decisions faster. How? It begins with first writing the Iconic Goals for yourself or your organisation which are extremely long term and will bring a lot of fulfilment and satisfaction once they are achieved.
Once these goals are set, every decision becomes much easier than it was before. Usually the question becomes binary: Will this help me achieve my Iconic Goal? Will it bring me closer to my Iconic Goal?
These are some of the Iconic Goals I wrote for myself almost an year back. And I make it a point to update these Goals whenever I find that something has changed. Usually it’s a new insight or a new learning or a new piece of information from the running experiments that are going on.
Similarly we have yearly Iconic Goals for the organisation (I can’t share all of them, hence I am selectively sharing):
Multiple meetings and 20-30 hours are spent on getting the Goals right. These goals give us direction every single step of the way.
Spend a lot of time setting the right Iconic Goals. Make them highly ambitious. And yes trust me when I say this, when you achieve them, it will be worth it :)
How do we shift the orbit from here? - Running Document
My work day begins with looking at this Running Document. The “How do we shift the orbit from here?” is the list of needle moving things that you need to do today, this week or this month to bring you closer to the Iconic Goals. Most of the time in the day we keep ourselves busy with the BAU stuff. But what I have seen historically is that yes the BAU stuff is super important but it is equally or even more important to keep doing orbit shifting stuff. This orbit shifting stuff is usually outside of the comfort zone (that’s why it’s not in your BAU list) and will take a lot of patience and solid execution on a daily basis to get it done. But when you achieve these orbit shifting things, the game changes. This running document is looked at several times in a day whenever I am confused about what to work on TODAY or THIS WEEK. And then I keep adding and subtracting stuff from this list as and when needed.
Write down a list of things you can do today to shift the orbit. And then spend a significant time on this daily apart from the BAU stuff.
Database of every single thought, idea, suggestion, feedback
Every single thought, idea, suggestion or feedback should go into a Database or a simple Note on your Notes App where you add everything that comes into your mind. Noting down everything is a personal moat. Ideas come when you catch them in these little moments. And then when you think more on them. Everyone gets an idea or a thought some time during the day, the difference is that some people write down that thought. And when they are out of ideas or want to brainstorm on something - they just open this list which has many many ideas. Some of them are bad, some of them are good and some of them are game changing.
At any point of time you will have a repository of hundreds of ideas and thoughts. And I will talk about this in the next section on how this will come in handy (along with the orbit shifting stuff document) when you plan your Weekly Sprints.
Weekly Sprints using your Calendar and the Ivy Productivity Method
At this point you have the following things handy:
“How to shift the orbit from here?” Document
And a database of every single idea that you got
You need to now put things in action. And the best way to do that is to prioritise what to work on and when to work on. What and When. Both are super important.
Weekly Sprints which will involve Calendar and Ivy Productivity will solve for What and When. The two most crucial aspects of peak productivity.
How do Weekly Sprints work?
Allocate 3-4 hours for this task on a Saturday or Sunday for the coming week
This needs to be a ritual that is done every weekend to plan for the next week
This will lead to peak productivity levels that you have never imagined
Go through the three documents above: Iconic Goals, How to shift orbit from here? and the Idea Database and write down list of actionable items that will also have the highest impact that you need to do next week
For eg. if your orbit shift document says that you need to launch a new content marketing campaign then you need to write down “Do a meeting with the key stakeholders to brainstorm on the Marketing Campaign”
These actionable items need to be extremely, well, actionable and very high impact / relatively the most impactful of anything else you could have done :)
Once you have written down this list it’s time to add the When to it
Take each task and add a slot on your calendar assigning a time on when you will do it / it may be a meeting or a brainstorming session or reading a book or even sitting in silence and thinking of ideas / but what’s super important is that you add it to your calendar on when you will do this high impact actionable task in the coming week
Iconic Goals + Orbit Shifting Stuff + Database of every single thought + Weekly Sprints = you will be able to achieve more in a week that you have been doing in months
It works and I have been following this (or a variation of this) since 2013. Obviously it wasn’t this evolved when I started. When I started it was just a Database of thoughts and Calendar but over the years it has evolved into a proper system which can make you achieve much more.
It’s not the intent or the hard work that gets the work done, it’s the personal productivity system you follow. A good system can help you achieve 10x more outcomes than just plain rigour.
There are so many people working so hard and achieving so little - Andy Grove
Increasing your Network as a System
The amount of work we are able to do is also directly proportional to the network of people we know in our domain or even outside of it. We get to learn from them, see how they execute certain things, even hire them when the time is right or be hired when we are looking for a job.
In 2018 I made a simple system to increase my network. Usually people reach out to other people reactively, I decided to do this proactively so that when the need arises I know who to call.
System is as follows:
Every week reach out to a few people on Linkedin who you can learn something from
Back in the day when Unacademy was small I used to reach out to the Leaders of other organisations like Swiggy, Zomato, PayTM etc and I would just meet them without any specific agenda
I would be prepared about the questions I want to ask, I would learn more about what they do and I would also pitch them about Unacademy (in case they are ever looking out in the future)
2 meetings every week / that’s it
That’s a network of 104 people in one year and 1040 people in 10 years
I would also save their name on my phone with the tags “Product” or “Engineering” etc and add a tag called “Hire” if I found them to be great for Unacademy
I would continue to send them updates about what’s happening at Unacademy
Two good things happened:
I would be the first person they call if they are looking to switch organisations
If I had an open position, I knew 5 people I can immediately call and the position would get closed quickly
Needless to say that a lot of people were hired through this system
Oh, and I followed this to build a network of investors also / I would meet them and just tell them about Unacademy / and when I was actually raising then I had 10 investors to call who already had met me
Build a network proactively. It’s extremely rewarding.
Looking at Productivity Stack Cost as an Investment instead of Expense
People are often pennywise pound foolish. They will spend a lot of money eating out or travelling but they avoid spending money in Productivity Stack which can actually give exponential returns over time. Please don’t be like this. Spend on Apps, spend on Tools and spend on anything that makes you more Productive.
Few Products (apart from the usual suspects) that can take your Productivity Game to the next level:
Having a separate phone for reading and writing without any games or communication apps or anything distracting
Leave a comment and tell me if this makes you more Productive or share your insights and learnings for me to improve my systems :)