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How to Get the Work Done to Build Your Business by Sebastian Marshall

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With only 24 hours in a day, how do you make the most of your time? Ultraworking, a tech-based company that’s building the future of work, focuses on precisely that. Ultraworking looks at productivity and creates methodologies for anyone to level up their working efficiency. Besides being the Co-founder and Head of R&D at Ultraworking, Sebastian Marshall is also a mentor for China Accelerator and a seasoned writer, publishing a popular essay covering actionable insights from history for the Strategic Review every Thursday. Learn how to unlock the secret to being productive in his Arcadier Inspire summit talk.

Find out What Determines Your Success

Sebastian calls something that will determine your success going forwards an impact area. You can have impact areas for both the personal and the business realms. Some examples of personal impact areas are health and finances. Impact areas for businesses differ depending on the nature of your business. Nevertheless, you should start by thinking about what will make your business successful. Sebastian also recommends that you should have at least one impact area that is related to growth or revenue. While some processes, such as gathering feedback from customers, may not appear to contribute directly to generating revenue in the short-term, don’t cross them out completely as they are likely to be beneficial in the long-term.

A personal tip from Sebastian for brainstorming impact areas for your business is to go to a café with a great ambience with just a pen and notebook. Get off social media, cut out technology completely for one to three hours and just concentrate on finding those impact areas. You may end up coming up with a long list but narrow those impact areas down to ten at the most. Any more than that and it will start feeling like paperwork, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

After you have jotted down your ten impact areas, schedule a weekly review for yourself where you use those impact areas as prompts to help you understand what you have accomplished over the past week and whether you have been productive. According to Sebastian, productivity is about making things happen reliably. If you tackled your impact areas on Monday, that’s great, but you need to keep up the momentum. Four unproductive work days effectively negates that one productive day you had.

During your weekly review, zoom in on these key questions: what’s really going on? What do I do about it? What matters; what doesn’t? Then look at your impact areas and link them to what you have achieved throughout the week. It’s alright to mix personal impact areas with business ones as the two are intertwined. After all, you can’t be productive at work if you’re sleep-deprived.

Sample of a Lights spreadsheet

Be Organised and Create a Schedule for Yourself

Sebastian suggested two methods of scheduling depending on your personality and what suits you best – calendar painting and Ultraworking’s lights spreadsheet.

Calendar Painting

Basically, calendar painting is about designing an ideal calendar for yourself and colour coding the different types of tasks which you need to complete. Sebastian recommends this method for people who are good at sticking to a schedule. Your first step is to go back to your impact areas and estimate how much time you will spend on them and allocate the appropriate amount of time to those areas. It’s also helpful to create a back-up calendar to prepare for unexpected events which may alter your ideal schedule drastically.

Lights Spreadsheet

Lights is a more flexible way of organising your schedule and is great for people who prefer a less rigidly structured workday. Jot down activities that you want to do every single day in the left-hand column of the spreadsheet and mark ‘yes’ if you did them that day. A tip from Sebastian is to start off by making these tasks easy. Make sure they are small enough such that you can complete them every day. If your success rate hits 70%, increase the difficulty of the tasks. On the other hand, if you find that you’re struggling to hit a 70% completion rate, break down the tasks you’ve set for yourself. It’s far more motivating to be able to check something off your list than to get stuck at it.  

Sample of a work cycle spreadsheet

Be Productive during a Work Session

During your work sessions, make sure that you are tackling your most important work. If you have concentration issues, look up ways to resolve them and try different methods until you find one that works for you. One simple way to sharpen your focus is to grab a notebook and jot down tasks which you need to accomplish with different coloured pens. Write out your to-do list in blue and cross out what you’ve completed in black. This quick and easy hack allows you to keep track of what you have actually done.

Alternatively, you can try out Ultraworking’s work cycles spreadsheet. A work cycle lasts for half an hour along with a 10min break. Note down the most important work you need to finish during the work cycle in the spreadsheet. Before you start on the work cycle, ask yourself why this task is important and valuable. Answering this question will give you motivation and a direction to head towards. In the end, it boils down to being able to hone your concentration such that you can enjoy several good, productive days. As Sebastian says, “Figure out what would make a difference if you did a little bit of it each day and do it the first thing when you wake up”. If you can stick to this, before you know it, you’ll be on track to achieving your goals.

Get more resources for working productively here.

Watch the full Arcadier Inspire summit talk here:

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