Super Human Productivity: Getting More Done in Less Time

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day! I totally get it. I have been fascinated by the constraints of time and how to maximize efficiency for as long as I can remember. I’m going to share with you the secrets I’ve learned over the years that have allowed me to reach insane levels of productivity and efficiency.

From going through medical school to becoming a plastic surgeon to running multiple weekly YouTube channels to running Med School Insiders to being the founder of other companies, I’ve had to meticulously manage my time for years. I have learned how to get a lot done in a short period of time, and I’ll show you exactly how you can do the same.

 

Does Optimizing Productivity Drain the Fun Out of Life?

One quick thing before we get into time management strategies. A lot of you may be concerned that becoming so efficient and productive may drain the fun out of life. That could not be further from the truth.

When you achieve heightened levels of productivity and efficiency, you open up free time that you never knew existed. You can then use that time for fun, leisure, socializing, and side projects. My balance between work and play may be different than yours, but by being efficient, you are actually able to decide how you spend your time.

Most people don’t maximize their efficiency and are a slave to time. Becoming efficient will free you, so you can decide if you want to spend more time in the gym and get jacked, spend time with your family, or pick up a second or third side business like I did. That’s completely up to you.

My philosophy is since time is limited, maximize it. That means either fully enjoy yourself or be fully productive and present in the moment. Avoid that nonsense in the middle where you aren’t getting much done but feel like you’re working, or those times when you’re trying to relax and get work done at the same time—these things just don’t work.

 

1 | Treat Time as Money

Time is your most valuable asset, but the problem is most people don’t treat it as such. When you add up all of the inefficiencies throughout the day, you are wasting hours. Every. Single. Day. Begin by acknowledging the importance of time and treating it as such.

A common mistake many people make is wasting time trying to save a few dollars. Does going out of your way to pick up dinner from the restaurant make sense, or should you spend the $3 for delivery in order to save 30 minutes of your precious time? Does signing up for a grocery delivery service like Instacart or a local farm delivery make sense if it saves you a few hours every week? If you save $100 on a flight by adding a 4 hour overnight layover, are you really coming out on top?

This analysis will yield different results day to day, depending on where you are in your life and how much an hour of your time is worth to you. Now that I am no longer a student and have a steady income, I place a higher price on my time. Ultimately, determining how much your time is worth is a very personal decision.

I personally would argue that waiting in line for 10 hours to get a good deal on a TV on Black Friday is a complete waste of time, but you may enjoy the experience and see value in doing so. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s your call to make. But be deliberate about how you spend your time and know that time holds value. Put a price tag on your own time so that you better understand the cost of each decision you make.

 

2 | Understand Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. This means if you give yourself 5 hours for a task rather than 2, it will take the full 5 hours. If you give yourself 2 hours, you will be much more efficient, and although you may go over the target of 2, you will still spend far less than 5 hours.

This is a tricky technique because you have to purposely cut things close and not give too much time for any one task. The downside is this can generate unhealthy amounts of stress if you don’t have good coping mechanisms or if you are too aggressive with your deadlines. This is something that takes experimentation to get just right. I use this regularly, including when researching and writing Med School Insiders content, to keep myself efficient.

Experiment a little. If you usually spend 3 hours completing a task, see if you are able to accomplish similar results in only 2.5 hours. What about 2 hours? Avoid open-ended schedules that give you the whole day to finish one or a number of tasks. You absolutely will fill this space if given the chance to.

 

3 | Identify Tasks You Can Perform Anywhere

I want you all to start paying attention to how much time is wasted waiting in lines, standing around, and not doing anything fun or productive each and every day. I guarantee that you will be surprised how much time is sapped each day.

The best way to navigate this problem is to have tasks you can perform anywhere. In residency, I still needed to study to be a top performing plastic and reconstructive surgeon. I used Anki flashcards when I waited in line at the grocery store, waited for someone at a restaurant, or during other brief moments of downtime.

The brilliant thing about these flashcards is that you can do them anywhere in just brief spurts of free time. You don’t need to set aside 20 minutes. If you only have 2 minutes and you get 10 flashcards done, that’s still a very effective way to use 2 minutes.

When I’m driving, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. This allows me to consume valuable information when I would otherwise not be doing anything. The same can be said for riding public transit, showering, or cleaning.

When I was finishing medical school and flying around the country for residency interviews, I maintained my productivity even while traveling. When on the plane, I said I will either sleep, read my Kindle, or do work. I don’t watch TV or movies on planes since I can’t enjoy entertainment fully that way. By being productive, I step off the plane feeling satisfied and fulfilled. I feel like I spent my time the best way possible, and it means I have more time to do the things that are important to me.

I did the same thing when I was on vacation. Flying to South Africa took about 30 hours. I rotated between working on Med School Insiders and research projects and sleeping. When I got off the plane, I didn’t have to worry about work since it was done. I could truly enjoy my vacation and be present in the moment.

This is NOT stressful if you do it right. It is an efficient and optimized way to manage your time, so you have more flexibility to do the things you love. If you are able to squeeze in an hour of work every day during brief moments of downtime, then that means you have 1 more hour free later in the day to do the things you love.

 

4 | Optimize Your Breaks and Switch Tasks to Maintain Momentum

Our brains cannot run at 100% intensity at all times. An effective method to maintain focus and avoid burning out is to use the Pomodoro technique. However, even with Pomodoro, you will be unable to maintain intensity later in the day. This is where I use two tricks: optimizing breaks and switching tasks.

When I say optimizing breaks, I mean doing the things you have to do every day as a break from work. If you’re getting fatigued from work and need some time away, then go shower or do the dishes or do laundry. Do tasks that you need to complete anyway while allowing yourself to take a mental break. Other examples of this are checking the mail, walking your dog, or preparing a meal.

Switching tasks is another trick I often utilize. If I find myself getting bored with a task or if my focus is slipping, I will switch to something else.

Let’s say I’m working on a research project for a couple hours and my rate of progress is sharply declining. I can either take a break or switch over to something else, like doing flashcards or working on Med School Insiders. This keeps things interesting for me, and I am much less likely to get bored and slow down.

 

5 | Delegate Appropriately

No matter how efficient you get, there are only 24 hours in a day. Even Elon Musk has learned his own limits. He doesn’t pursue everything on his own; he tasks others with working on his world-changing ideas. While I am far from being an Elon Musk, I too have learned the importance of delegating tasks.

Med School Insiders has expanded to a team of trusted experts who help me with animation, script research, article writing, and more. With the other company I started, I stepped down and allowed my former Vice President to run the show. With research, I have medical students help me perform chart review and other tasks that are less critical for me to be actively involved with, so I can focus on data analysis and writing the manuscript.

For you, this may mean taking turns getting groceries with your roommate or dividing up chapters in your study group and taking turns teaching each other the important concepts. Take a look at the Feynman technique for more information on that time-saving study hack.

It all comes back to the original point about time being money. If you are strategic, you can actually buy yourself more time. Figure out what your time is worth and delegate some of the tasks that don’t need you to run the show.

Also, take into account the weight of the task and how much you either enjoy or dread doing it. If you absolutely hate cleaning your apartment and continually put it off to the point of it causing you notable stress, you may want to hire a service to do this for you. Yes, this is an added cost, and you may be on a tight budget, but you need to consider what you will gain. How much of your time does it take to clean the house, and how much stress and anxiety does it cause you? What is that time worth to you?

 

Final Thoughts

It all comes down to making smart, intentional choices about how you spend your time. When you let time control you, you lose so much of it, which means lower productivity and less time for activities you actually enjoy.

I would love to hear how you are going to apply these tips or what some of your own efficiency and productivity tricks are. If you had two or three hours of extra free time every day, what would you do? Let us know in the comments below.

For more productivity hacks, study strategies, and lifestyle advice, follow the Med School Insiders blog. We continually add new content to help you optimize your life, get accepted into medical school, and succeed in becoming a doctor.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Christian Chartier

    Do you have any strong anki decks for plastic surgery?

Leave a Reply