Let's start off with an uncomfortable truth: You don't need yet another New Year's resolution.
If we're honest, didn't we do the same thing last year? What happened with "writing a blog post every day" or "finally starting that business"?
This year, let's take a different approach: Let's focus on eliminating bad habits instead of just adding more to your life.
You know what I'm talking about. The way we slump onto our couch after getting home, vowing we'll get up in "just 15 minutes"... only to spend the next three hours pecking away at some obscure Facebook page.
Hey, if you love watching "Vanderpump Rules," feel free. (I do.) But eliminating a few bad habits instead of piling on more things you "should do" will free up an unbelievable amount of time each week. Imagine what you could do with an extra five hours a week (just one hour a day): Spend it on your family, get to the gym, or just enjoy the downtime.
Here are three bad habits I broke, which helped me double my productivity every single day. Remember, you don't need to tackle all of these at once. Killing even one bad habit can dramatically transform your life.
1. I stopped doing it all myself.
When I first started my business, I personally responded to every email. There were hundreds, and I responded to Every. Single. One.
As the business grew, those hundreds swelled to thousands. I found myself drowning in emails… with no one to blame but myself.
You see, I wrapped my whole identity around this idea that "I'm the CEO who answers all his own emails!" But what kind of CEO responds to emails for two hours a day, when they should be focused on building the company? It was easier to pretend I was some CEO superhero than admit my behavior was slowing down our growth.
Eventually, I settled on a compromise — I still read ALL my email but only respond to some. The psychology here is that it's normal to outgrow certain habits.
For you, this might mean using something like Blue Apron instead of shopping for groceries. For your business, maybe it's delegating customer emails to someone else, or using Edgar to automate social networks. Whatever it takes so you can focus on your higher-value activities.
2. I stopped wasting time on things I didn't love.
There was a time when I thought I had to finish any book I started. In my mind, I was the kind of person who "finished what he started" — no matter what.
As I got busier, I realized even if I read a book a week, I'd never get to read everything I wanted. So why torture myself with books I didn't love?
I didn't love this book. It's an arcane text on the theory of maritime military strategy. I'm sure somebody liked it, but I read about 50 pages and then gave it away. However, here's the key: YOU SHOULDN'T EXPECT EVERY BOOK TO BE AMAZING. I see so many people deliberating over whether they should buy a book or not. They say things like, "Yeah, I'm thinking of buying that book at some point." And they wonder if book X or book Y is better. Ramit's Rule of Book Buying: If you're debating over buying a book, JUST BUY IT! (1) You get to learn from an author's years of work for $10, and (2) anyone can scrape one insight from any book. Guys, the most successful people I know read 10+ books a month. Some, they love. Some, they don't. Some, they don't find valuable until they re-read it 10 years later (as I did with 22 Immutable Laws of Branding). They don't deliberate and equivocate over buying one book. They buy ANY and ALL books that could even possibly be interesting. Of course, some won't suit you, and that's fine. In fact, if every book you read is amazing, you're not reading enough. But please stop searching for the perfect answer. The answer is in the journey. This is not just about books, btw.
For example, I really tried to read "Classics of Sea Power." But if it's not useful after 50 pages, I move on to the next.
Look, we've all got a finite amount of time. So let's spend it on the best stuff we can find. Obviously, this isn't just about books. The same is true for the movies we watch, podcasts we listen to, and people we spend time with.
3. I stopped working so hard all the time.
There's time to work, and there's time to rest.
However, most of us think we have to grind 24/7. We glorify "hustle" and idolize being "insanely busy."
Isn't it funny that no one talks about when to rest?
Don't get me wrong: Hard work is crucial for productivity. And there have been times when I had to work incredibly hard.
For example, years ago I was working on my first book. To hit my deadline, you'd find me planted at the coffee shop every morning at 5:30 a.m.
Miraculously, I made the deadline, but I couldn't keep up that writing schedule. I burned out. So I started experimenting with my writing time. I pushed it back to 7 a.m. and then 9 a.m. And guess what? The business continued to grow.
What I learned is, we can treat work like high-intensity interval training at the gym. When it's time to run, run HARD. Go all out, until your lungs burn and muscles quiver.
However, when it's time to recover, RECOVER.
There are still plenty of bad habits left for me to improve, like playing around on Facebook before bed when I should just turn off the dang computer. But the point is, becoming more productive doesn't require grand resolutions or the latest to-do list app.
What it does take is ruthlessly cutting in some areas of your life, so you can live a rich life where it counts.
Looking for more help with habits that'll increase your productivity, help you get in shape and even make more money? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Habits.
Ramit Sethi is a New York Times best-selling author and the CEO of GrowthLab.com, where entrepreneurs go to launch and grow their online businesses. On Tuesday mornings he binge watches "Vanderpump Rules."