How to Be Insanely Productive Without Going Insane

By phildrolet

Dec 01

Audio version: Reading time: 10 minutes

There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a nonrenewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and if you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever.” ~Neil A. Fiore


Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, there’s never enough time for everything?

Confession time: I struggled with that for years.

My entire life was one giant race against the clock- I was always rushing, trying to go faster and fit everything into my schedule.

From the outside, it seemed to work well: in less than 3 years, I earned my MBA, created a successful blog, and built a profitable business.

But the frenzy was taking its toll. I became exhausted, my dating life was a barren desert and I even started losing my hair.

In 2014, I got so worn out that I had to take a month off. I hit pause, flew to Peru and re-assessed my approach.

Since then, I’ve been experimenting relentlessly to find a gentler, more peaceful way to achieve extraordinary productivity.

Thankfully, the experiment is paying off:

(Almost) every Friday afternoon, I finish my workweek having accomplished everything on my to-do list… And I do it without feeling rushed or stressed out.

I’m also exercising 5-6 times/week, meditating 30 minutes daily and spending lots of quality time with my girlfriend.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I have enough time for everything.

Did I learn magic in Peru? Not quite. But I did figure out something that changed my life.

In this article, I’m going to teach you a simple system to master your relationship with time, get more done every day, and do it without rushing around like crazy all the time.

Goodbye stress, hello serenity.



The Time Masters

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to get a ton done every week… and still have extra time to do fun stuff on the side? (They have have sweet Instagram pics to prove it).

What makes them different?

Do they possess secret cheat codes to life?

Do they have 26 hours in a day?

I don’ think so. The reality is, they use a superior strategy to manage their time and energy.

While most people float through life, the Time Masters have figured a system to make the most of each moment, day and week.

If you haven’t fully mastered this this yet, don’t worry.

We never learned it in school (where was Optimal Time Management 101 in College? How about Intro to Bending the Time/Space Continuum?).

And if you look around you, there are very few great role models for this. It seems like everyone is running around stressed out and overwhelmed.

The good news is, I’ve done extensive research and experimentation on this topic, and today I’m ready to share my findings with you.



The Framework: The 4 Productivity Modes

To achieve extraordinary productivity without having to rush through life, there are 4 “modes” you need to master.

Together, they make up the 4 ingredient to consistent, world-class performance.

Here are the 4 modes:

  1. Visionary Mode
  2. Manager Mode
  3. Employee Mode
  4. Recovery Mode

I’ll explain each one in a minute, but first you need to understand that if you’re like most people, you probably excel at 1 or 2 of these modes while being weaker at the others.

Even if you’ve mastered all 4, it’s likely that you’re not using the right proportion of each which still creates significant inefficiencies.

To become a Time Master, you need to be highly proficient at each one, know when to use them, and do so in the right proportion.

It can sound tricky but with the right system, it’s much easier than you think.

In the next section, I’m going to show you exactly how to do this, and explain my system so you can apply it to your life or use it as inspiration to create your own.


1. How to Master Visionary Mode


“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” ~Albert Einstein

Visionary Mode is the starting point. It’s where you dream big and fantasize about a better future.

When we were kids, we were wonderful visionaries. The problem is, as we got older we started using that mode a lot less.

We got too busy hustling and being “responsible” to let our mind explore unchartered territories and discover exciting possibilities.

This is devastating in many ways: it cripples your creativity, represses your soul desires, and makes your work uninspiring or unoriginal.

Let’s look at how you can reverse that and master Visionary Mode.

The Keys to Mastery:

  1. Dedicate a block of time (1-2 hours) each week to being in Visionary Mode.
  2. Create optimal conditions: Go in nature, get in an “elevated state” and/or mastermind with a coach/mentor/friend.
  3. Put your worries and responsibilities aside, let your mind run free and unleash your imagination.

How I Do It:

  • Every Sunday night, I go to the sensory deprivation tank here in Boulder.
  • I take about 30 minutes to relax deeply and clear my mind.
  • Then I take 60 minutes to connect with my life vision, visualize my dreams and set powerful intentions for the week.

Reflection question: how can you create more sacred space to connect with your big vision?  

2. How to Master Manager Mode


Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ~Steve Jobs

Now that you’ve connected with your big vision, it’s time to switch gears from imagination (right brain) to organization (left brain).

This is where we put our manager hat on, and break up the vision into concrete, bite-sized pieces and create a clear game-plan.

If you have employees, this is also where you figure out what they should be focusing on in the coming week.

Read carefully: if you skip this step (like many people do) and go straight from visionary to employee mode, you’re going to do the wrong tasks in the wrong order and waste a ton of time. 

Manager mode is not as sexy as dreaming up a big vision or as exciting as getting shit done but it’s essential. It’s the connecting piece that allows you to be effective, make rapid progress, and feel on top of things (instead of getting overwhelmed).

Do the cognitive heavy lifting here so that the execution can be easy and fun.

The Keys to Mastery:

  1. Before starting your week, take ~30-60 minutes to create your weekly game plan.
  2. Every morning, take 5-10 minutes to review your weekly plan and create your daily game plan.
  3. Make your weekly and daily planning time non-negotiable. This means you do it every time, no matter what, because you know you perform better when you take time to get organized.

How I Do It (Weekly Game plan): 

Every Sunday night (after the float tank), I go to my favorite sushi restaurant, order some delicious food and:

  • Identify my Big Tasks (BT’s) for the week.
  • Identify my Little Tasks (LT’s) for the week.
  • Write the outline for my next article.

Note: BT’s are the tasks that significantly move the needle towards my big vision, LT’s are the tasks that allow me to honor my commitments and stay on top of day-to-day things. 

How I Do It (Daily Game plan): Every morning before starting work, I take 5 minute to review my weekly plan, and create my daily plan as I:

  • Identify 1-3 BT’s I’m going to do in the morning.
  • Identify 1-5 LT’s I’m going to do in the afternoon.
  • Review my calendar to mentally prepare for calls/meetings.

Note: I ALWAYS do the BT’s first, and never start the LT’s until I’ve finished the BT’s. This is very important- it prevents me from avoiding the uncomfortable BT’s by doing mundane tasks like responding to email. I highly suggest you do the same. 

Reflection question: How can you make your Manager Time non-negotiable? 


How to Master Employee Mode


“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~Alexander Graham Bell

Now that you’ve got a clear game plan, it’s time to execute it. If you’ve done the first 2 steps well, this is the easy part.

In reality, at this stage, there’s one thing that can really throw you off: distractions.

We live in a world that’s filled with distractions, and our brain is always looking for instant gratification and a quick dopamine hit.

If you want to achieve world-class performance, you have to learn to keep distractions at bay and develop unbreakable focus.

The Keys to Mastery: 

  1. Don’t check social media/email until noon.
  2. Don’t schedule calls/meetings until noon.
  3. Put your damn phone away until noon.

Note: If you’re thinking “OMG that’s crazy I MUST check my phone/email before noon“, start by with 1 hour of distraction-free work in the morning.

If this experiment works well for you, scale it up to 2+ hours before opening the distraction floodgates.

How I Do It: 

  • Every morning, from 7:30am-9am I do my morning ritual (meditation, yoga, cold shower) to get myself in a peak state.
  • From 9am to noon, I work on my BT’s without distraction.
  • From noon to 3pm, I do my calls/meetings (after 3 hours of focused work I’m ready to talk to another human).
  • From 3pm to 4pm I take a nap and recharge my batteries.
  • From 4pm to 5:30pm I take care of my LT’s and finish up the day on a strong note.

Reflection question: How can you optimize your daily schedule to focus on your BT’s while still taking care of everything else? 


How to Master Recovery Mode


Activity and rest are two vital aspects of life. To find a balance in them is a skill in itself. Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have.” ~Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Finally, now that you’ve executed your game plan diligently, made meaningful strides towards your vision, and honored all your commitments… it’s time to relax!

The interesting thing is, for a lot of high-achievers “switching off” at the end of the work day/week is actually really hard.

But here’s the deal: if you never switch off properly, you’ll never recover fully and you’ll never recharge your batteries. This will cloud your thinking, make you more prone to distractions, and generally less productive (and happy).

Repeat after me: “Recovery is not an indulgence, it’s essential. Without rest, I can’t produce my best work.”

The Keys to Mastery: 

  1. Decide on the rest periods you want to have each day/week.
  2. Develop a clear “switch off” ritual at the end of your work day/week (to help you transition better)
  3. Use your recovery time to do the activities that rejuvenate you the most.

How I do It: 

  • I finish my workday at 5:30pm (at latest) and never work on weekends (except Sunday night for Visionary/Manager Mode).
  • Every afternoon at 5:30 I do a workout (kickboxing, circuit training or trail running) to help me switch gear and turn my work brain off.
  • At night and on weekends, I love to: go to the movies, watch football, spend time in nature, read novels and cuddle with my girlfriend.

Reflection question: how can you better switch off every night and make the most of your recovery time? 


Conclusion: Being Insanely Productive Without the Insanity

As you can see, achieving insane productivity without going insane is not rocket science.

It’s all about having a clear system and having the discipline to use it consistently.

If you master Visionary Mode, you’ll always be inspired and excited about your work.

If you master Manager Mode, you’ll always be clear on what to do and what order to do it in.

If you master Employee Mode, you’ll always be focused and you won’t waste time with distractions.

If you master Recovery Mode, you’ll always feel rested and bring your A-game to work.

If you master all 4, you’ll be able to get a ton done every week, fill up your 5 buckets, and still enjoy inner peace.

Now I’d love to hear from you: which mode do you most need to work on, and what one thing can you do to improve it? Let me know in the comments below.

Even a small adjustment can make a huge difference, and have a significant impact on your destiny.

Will you be a high-potential man who’s all over the place and never reaches greatness?

Or will you be a man who works smart, has incredible focus, and puts a dent in the Universe?

I know my answer. What’s yours?

Much love,

PS Please share this post because that’s how more men can master time and do great work every week. 

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