Written by Nguyen Le

Today I'd like to share with you a super simple productivity framework that I use. I get asked a ton of questions about, design, career advice, freelance and how to get things done in general. So how can we get the most of “what we do” to achieve the goals that we want. This is how I approach my work most of the time.  

“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”


It's about prioritising

The hack is simple. Do the most important tasks first. Or more specifically do the thing that will give us the most amount of impact. It’s about the output of high value activities vs. time. And then try prioritise those tasks first everyday and tracking it. 

If you could only do one thing a day that would drive the most results what would that be?

Once you’ve done the high impact activities – the activities that really move you close to your goals.

Then you can move on to the secondary tasks that come our way. Answering emails etc. Don't get distracted by the secondary tasks first.

Our capacity to operate at an efficient and optimal level everyday is arguably only a few hours. 

Think back to your day, how long was your most productive AND creative stretch? That’s the window that you want to maximise. 

So you have to prioritise and use that peak mental energy effectively. 

To be productive don't get sidetracked

Everyday, month, and year we are bombarded with a ton things that we have to do. Tasks and activities we perform that zap our mental energy. It takes up most of our time, yet it’s output doesn’t necessarily add any extensive value to what we want achieve. 

It’s this vicious cycle of meetings. 

Replying to emails. 

Checking and consuming social media. 

Working on our folios when we should be out building relationships and getting leads with clients. (If you want to freelance)

Working on tweaking our logo rather than going out there and doing the HARD thing like generating revenue. 

You get the drift, it’s the law of diminishing returns. 

The goal is to reserve that peak mental energy of a few hours everyday and use it for high impact activities. Prioritising like mad. 

20% of the work creates 80% of the results. Focus on that high leverage work.

So you don’t have to work yourself to the ground to get results. The hard part is being honest with yourself, what is the most important thing I can do to achieve the outcome I want. What can I today? This month? This year. It won’t always be the easiest tasks, but it’ll be the most important thing you can do to leverage high volume output. 

Once you identify the outcome you can brainstorm different ideas for getting stuff done. 

Example of a goal and high impact activities

If my goal as a freelancer was to get clients. High impact activities would be:

  • Identifying who my ideal clients are
  • Identifying where my ideal clients exist and how I can get on their radar
  • Creative ways I can get the attention of my ideal clients. Creating a roadmap and strategy that I could execute against. 
  • How to generate value and build relationships with prospective clients.
  • How to turn prospective clients into leads by building trust and that upfront value. 
  • How to turn leads into paying clients. 
  • How to turn clients into repeat clients and brand advocates. 

You need to prioritise and focus most of your energy on this. Everyday I would pick a cross section of this and work on it.

80% of everything else that you do won’t matter.

Revenue is the lifeblood of a business. Your optimal time should be used to work on high impact activities as a priority. The reason we avoid these activities is sometimes we don’t face the music. It’s feels more satisfying ticking our random to do list off, even though it's not really doing anything that is generating much value, but it's easy to do and it feels like we are doing a lot.

Continuing on from the above example. 

Don’t spend 6 months working on a folio in isolation. 

Instead get in front of your ideal clients. Try cold emailing (it’s a lot of rejections and it’s hard, but done right it can yield results), creating content, providing value, connecting, and building awareness with that audience. Those are the hard things that you should be doing. 

Work harder and smarter

Hard work is always part of the equation, but working yourself to the bone won’t necessarily garner better results, if the person who is productive leverages their time better AND works hard. Their results will be worlds apart from the person who just works hard. Focus your energy on that 20% that generates most of the results and prioritise it. The more focused you are the more it keeps leveraging on itself, creating a compounding effect. 

When I’m at my best that’s how I operate. I have a clear overview for 1 month, what I hope to complete in that time, my hypothesis for what those activities will yield results wise. (Which I measure at the end)  And then every week I track what I will be doing. Each day I have 1 key thing that I hope to complete. And usually 5 secondary things that are optional that I can do if I have time. 

In summary

  1. To be at your productive best, leverage and prioritise your best mental energy (which is usually in the morning, but you can define when that time is best for you) and focus on doing the hard tasks that output the highest amount of results and leverage first.
  2. Focus on delivering on that 20% that delivers the most results.
  3. Focus and try to accomplish 1 key thing a day.
  4. Track your month. What were the results? How much was useful and optimal work?
  5. Track your year and then repeat the framework.