A few tips on how we can all achieve more with our time
My goal with The Red Pill is to write about things which take my interest. Crypto will continue to be a big part of this work, however going forward I’ll start exploring other aspects of my life - Venture Capital & Investing, biohacking & longevity, fitness & performance, markets and more. I’d also like to experiment with shorter pieces to compliment the longer essays. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics and start a discussion…
I’m not a great multi-tasker. Yes, I can manage a few tasks at the same time, like texting someone and maintaining a conversation, or walking and writing an email, however I’ve never enjoyed splitting focus. Structure and prioritisation are two words I live my life by. I grew up with a school teacher as my mother, my life was regimented and scheduled to the minute. We had colour-coded timetables on the fridge listing tennis lessons, piano practice and time for homework or chores. The military would have been proud.
As I have gotten older, these habits have become core to who I am, the only difference is in the activities - The tennis court was swapped with the gym floor. Piano evolved into podcasts. Homework and chores are now catching up / getting ahead on work. You quickly realise we all have the same 24 hours in every day, however some people pack it with more than others. My wife tells me I have a ‘never stop’ personality, I’m constantly planning & optimising. I wake up every day with a list of things I want to achieve and I stick to this subconscious timetable until I fall asleep.
In order to juggle multiple workflows I’ve become ruthless with prioritisation, and this is something I recommend to all my friends, founders and colleagues. ‘Ruthless prioritisation’ may sound imposing, however it is simply a framework for ensuring you allocate your time to the highest impact tasks. We all have seemingly endless to-do lists, yet in reality there are only a handful of core items which if executed well, yield the largest results. The Pareto Principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes, so we need to ensure we are focusing on that high-impact 20% first.
Extrapolating this framework to my job as an investor, I’ve seen a strong correlation between successful founders/entrepreneurs and their ability to prioritise. Not just as individuals, but by extension the businesses they create. I couldn’t agree more with the adage “its better to be everything to someone, than something to everyone”. The top-performing businesses are hyper focused on being the best at one thing. I become uncomfortable when entrepreneurs pitch multi-faceted business plans and immediately question where they will spend their time and how they will prioritise.
From a day-to-day perspective, here are a few habits I’ve formed to be ruthless with time allocation:
📃Maintain a running to-do list & reprioritise it each day: I have a running to-do list which I carry over each day. I add to it throughout the day, and cross things of as I go. Tasks are either ‘high priority’ (aka needed in the next 24-48 hours) or standard. It includes both personal & professional items, and when I get into work each morning, I rewrite the list and re-assign the priorities.
🔝Start with the highest priority tasks, focus on them, and accept you wont complete them all: It sounds obvious, but I work from top to bottom on my list (highest to lowest priority) and focus on one task at a time. I don’t switch between tasks and will work at one until it is 100% complete. A wealth of research shows multi-tasking is inefficient and switching just wastes time. Our minds cannot parallel process so you are better focusing on one thing and going it well.
🙈 Ignore low priority tasks: You can’t do everything and many tasks are a complete distraction, with little to no benefit. As an example, I receive 30+ cold outreach emails a week from people looking for funding, or trying to sell me software. It may sound harsh, but if I don’t recognise the sender or have some second-hand connection, I immediately delete the email and move on. Responding to all of these would take hours a week, compounded by the lost productivity which comes from task switching.
🎧Remove distractions: I work with noise-cancelling headphones playing background music (often melodic techno fwiw). I put my phone on airplane mode and close my email browser. Complex work requires deep thought and there is no way you can do that if surrounded by distractions. It may come across as anti-social in a workplace, but I find its the only way to be efficient.
⏲️Use a timer and set yourself constraints: We as humans have a bad tendency of letting work fill the allocated time. If you don’t set yourself constraints, you will often procrastinate. I work best in 45minute blocks and time myself with my phone or a productivity timer. You will be surprised how much you can achieve if you are 100% focused on a single task. When I’m doing something creative (e.g. writing) or requiring deep thought, I’ll block 1-2 hour slots in my diary instead.
🍰Create an incentivisation or reward mechanism: Once you’ve finished a task, give yourself a reward. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, have a snack. Create positive feedback loops. I enjoy going to the gym in evenings and use that as a reward for the day’s work done.
Ultimately we all have different methods of learning and ways of focusing, so what works for me, may not for another. I hope these tips help unlock productivity in some of you and feel free to comment on what hacks you use - I’m always willing to test new methods!
😎 About the Author
I’m an Investor at Felix Capital, a London based early-stage and growth fund specialising in the intersection between consumers and technology. We have been fortunate to support the likes of Ledger, Sorare, Lightspark, Rally, Flooz and others, and actively looking for great founders to invest in. For entrepreneurs looking for funding (or wanting to chat), you can reach me via email - Joseph@felixcap.com or Twitter @Jpizzolat0