3 Rules to Ignite Your Workstyle

The primary motivation that gets me out of bed each morning is not my beloved work, it’s breakfast. I’m hungry for hashbrowns and maple sausage, not for changing the world.

I tend toward idealism, as illustrated by one of my favorite quotes:

Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, however old or young, and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again today.”
– Whit Hobbs

Doesn’t that sound amazing? I totally want that version of success. However, I have been unable to maintain a level of excitement in my work that triggers me to bound out of my warm bed, plunk myself down in front of my laptop, and create masterful combinations of words that instill you to do the same.

Rather, I generally daydream for a good hour after my alarm goes off, stumble into the kitchen when the smell of coffee and breakfast hits, and then plunk myself down in front of my laptop to battle with an increasingly long task list. This is where I have ended up 15 months after abandoning the 9-to-5 paradigm.

So, while I will continue to hope that one day I will throw off the constraints of earning a living and instead enjoy boundless excitement each morning doing only what I love, that day is not today. Which is why I find workstyle such an important concept.

Workstyle is about getting stuff done. The important stuff and the mundane stuff. It’s about enjoying the act of doing, which is critical to getting results. Until we have reached Tim Ferriss level and can afford to hire out the day-to-day stuff that chokes out the high impact projects we crave to a team of virtual assistants, we need to become masters at getting stuff out of the way.

Efficiency is underrated. The ability to burn through your task list while making steady progress on the bigger picture changes the entire landscape of work. It’s the difference between pushing papers and making an impact.

3 Rules to Ignite Your Workstyle

  1. First things first. As Goethe put it, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Ask yourself: What one thing could I do today (or everyday) that would have a drastic, positive impact? The first on this list is your highest priority. Find a quiet space. Turn your email and your phone off. Get it done first.
  2. Worst things first. This goes hand in hand with Rule #1: If you are avoiding or putting off a high impact priority, do it now. E. M. Gray studied successful people looking for one common denominator: “The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do.” An accountability partner is key to adhering to this rule consistently.
  3. Do It Now. This is your saving grace. When “stuff” pops up, do it right then. Don’t add it to a list. Don’t put it off for later. Just do it now. This rule governs your workstyle outside of tackling the hairy, high impact priorities above, at which times you must quarantine yourself from the distraction of stuff.

Developing an efficient workstyle isn’t just about efficacy and getting the stuff out of the way, it creates peace of mind, confidence, and mental space for creativity. It’s a combination of action and habit that moves you forward toward a bigger picture. As the maxim goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character; reap a destiny.”

What workstyle rules do you live by? 

4 Comments
  1. As you know, I’m a recent proponent of doing things now, in the moment. But I’m not yet actively prioritizing the activities, and doing the important things first. I know Covey and Goethe are right, but I still procrastinate on the important (exercise, personal development, reflection, etc.).

    Cool post, and I am bookmarking it for the near future. That time of year is approaching when I (and everyone else) start rethinking my approach and get the motivation to try anew.

  2. I have the habit or reversing these three rules – I do all of the stuff right away, but never get around to doing the high impact projects that I really want to do. It’s even worse for the high impact scary goals, which are so easy to let slide by going grocery shopping or answering emails. Thanks for the wake-up call!

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