Summary of the book “The 25th Hour – Supercharging Productivity: Secrets from 300 Successful Entrepreneurs“: The authors of “The 25th Hour” share the productivity secrets of 300 start-up entrepreneurs and business leaders in terms of organization, focus and acceleration.
By Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh, Jérôme Dumont, 2018, 180 pages
Review and summary of “Supercharging Productivity: Secrets from 300 Successful Entrepreneur“:
Free up time to be happy
By way of introduction, the authors of “The 25th Hour” draw our attention to the fact that life is short. Therefore, in their opinion, you need to make the most of it. They then emphasize how important productivity is in this context.
In “The 25th Hour“, productivity is not presented as a goal, but as a means. The more productive you are, the less time you spend on tasks that bore you. Productivity allows you to free up time to do what really makes you happy. Basically, it allows you to live your life as you would like to do so.
The paradox of progress
However, within this there is a paradox that the authors point out: despite progress, we still have to work more and more.
They highlight the fact that since the industrial revolution, the number of hours worked per person has mainly decreased. This applies to all economic sectors. However, the technological, information and communication revolution has been quite different. Contrary to what might be expected, the number of hours worked has actually gone up, within these fields, people work more hours than before.
Inefficient systems within the work environment
Machines made it possible for workers to work less. In contrast, new technologies have not had the same effect on the work hours of management. Why not? Because the new ways that operate within the workplace actually reduce efficiency.
Therefore, what the authors try to explain in this book is that new technologies should not overwhelm you with work, but quite the opposite, they should create more free time. There’s a need to reverse our relationship with digital technology, so that humans are its master, rather than its slave.
Instead of constant pressure, humans must learn to use it to organize, focus and accelerate the rate at which they work. In short, you should let digital technology do the tedious tasks for you so you can focus on the ones that require more creativity and that provide more interest at work and in life.
The secret of productivity, in the view of “The 25th hour”
For our three start-up authors, what is required to be productive is a matter of mindset. They believe that you must learn to become lazy!
The idea is, in fact, to teach yourself about investment logic: make a short-term effort to obtain a long-term return. So, the secret of productivity is to invest time to make small incremental gains. These gains will eventually make a huge difference. Even if, at first, the progress seems invisible, with time, if you stand back and analyze the situation, you will see the huge amount of progress that has been achieved.
“The 25th Hour“, a book written in (almost) a weekend!
Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont have gradually become obsessed with the same objective: increase their productivity to spend as little time as possible on what bores them and as much time as possible on what they really care about.
Thus, to write “The 25th Hour”, the three authors utilized their own knowledge, with regards to productivity, but also relied heavily on the advice of more than 200 successful start-up entrepreneurs, who answered questions by email, about their productivity secrets and tips. Once they had all of this information, they decided to go to Normandy for the weekend. On their return on Sunday evening, they had the first version of their book.
After the success of the book in France, six months later, they wrote an international edition that included contributions from other entrepreneurs from around the world. In total, there are 300 start-up entrepreneurs and business leaders who offer their expertise in the book “The 25th hour”.
The productivity equation and its three golden rules
Productivity follows a simple equation: work done = time spent x intensity of concentration x speed of execution.
Therefore, the three golden rules of productivity are:
- Get organized: to allocate enough time to each task;
- Concentrate: to dedicate as much attention as possible to each task;
- Accelerate: to complete each task as quickly as possible.
The significance of each of these three rules will depend on its importance in the company.
So, the book “The 25th Hour” is divided into three chapters, based on the three key areas of productivity: Organization / Concentration / Acceleration
Chapter 1 – Get organized
Objective: to set up an efficient productivity system
The development of technology has never been as fast as it is today. Scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil calls this phenomenon “the Law of Accelerated Returns”. As we rely on current technologies to develop new ones, technical progress does not follow a linear growth but an exponential one. As a result, future changes are expected to be even faster.
In this context, companies must continuously adapt and reinvent themselves. Faced with these increasingly fast-paced changes, all sectors of activity are confronted with, or will experience, some form of disruption. Employees must also be able to adapt to the changes in their company’s priorities.
Whilst all this happens, the scarcest resource is time. That’s why it’s necessary to set up an organization, a “productivity system”, that allows the company to allocate sufficient time and energy to important projects.
The power of no
For the authors of “The 25th Hour”, productivity is not about the accomplishments of lots of different tasks, what is important is to “choose your battles based on the objectives you have set for yourself”.
There’s a tendency for people to say “yes” to other people’s requests too often. The authors believe there are two reasons for this:
- No clear knowledge of personal goals
To respond effectively to different requests, these questions need to have clear and exact answers: “What are my main goals?” or “What are my goals for this quarter?”.
- Fear to offend or hurt people’s feelings
This thought process needs to be changed. It is important to remember that a “no”, if the reason why can be clearly explained, is always better than no answer at all or a “yes” that means something that can’t be properly achieved has been agreed to.
The authors of “The 25th Hour” suggest a few possible responses to turn down a request. For example, if you agree to a meeting, they suggest that you should ask yourself this simple question: “If I were sick that day, would I have to reschedule it?”.
The to do list
The numerous tasks that need to be performed clog up the mind. So, it’s essential that this mental burden that you carry with you always is eliminated. One of the methods recommended is to store them on an external memory: a to-do list. If all these tasks are written down, in an organized manner, it enables the mind to be freed up. In addition, the fact that they are written down, increases the likelihood that they will be done.
There are different to-do list tools:
- Paper format (A4 sheet or post-it);
- Basic note-taking tools provided on a computer (such as Notepad or TextEdit);
- More comprehensive note-taking tools (Evernote is the most widely used) ;
- If your hands are busy, or take part in some sort of physical activity: Siri or Google Voice, which offer geolocated reminders.
There is no need to spend too much in search of the right tool: it’s how it’s put to use that’s important.
The “two-minute rule”
The “two-minute rule” was invented by David Allen, author of the best-seller “Getting Things Done“. This rule is as simple as it is powerful: if a task on your to-do list takes less than two minutes, it has to be carried out immediately. Otherwise, it’s simply just a waste of time to schedule it for later.
The first question to be asked when you look at your to-do list is what tasks can be delegated. To do this, you need to be prepared for it to cost you time now in order for you to free up time later.
The real secret to productivity is not to the work you do, it’s the people you manage. As a manager, if you can motivate your team and get them to be cohesive, from the very first day, the goals that you have set out will be achieved much quicker.
Delegation needs a few key principles to be taken on board:
- Gives meaning to the task you delegate to someone;
- Provides as many details as possible about the context;
- Give a clear deadline so that the person to whom the task is delegated can get themselves organized;
- Practice so that you don’t have to do it the next time;
- Thank others;
- Only delegate the desired result but don’t give them instructions on how it is to be achieved (no micro-management).
In addition to those you already work with, you can also delegate to any freelancers you may have, which is a common occurrence when you are a start-up entrepreneur. There are platforms like Malt, Upwork, Fiverr or 5euros for this. To outsource tasks that are very repetitive but can’t be carried out by machines, a company can use the well-known (and also much criticized) Amazon Mechanical Turk.
Prioritization: the three-task rule
The metaphor of the jar
The authors of “The 25th Hour” refer to a metaphor to describe your use of time: that of a jar, a pile of sand, pebbles and large stones. In fact, this metaphor is the one Stephen Covey mentions in his best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
In this metaphor, the jar is your day. The stones, pebbles and sand are the tasks you have to do. The stones symbolize the most important tasks, the pebbles the less important ones and the sand the countless small tasks with little added value. Your mission is to put as much as possible inside the jar. Therefore, if you start with the big stones, then the rocks, then the sand, it is obvious that a lot more will fit.
The moral of the story is very clear: if you start your day with the small tasks, it will be much harder to accomplish the big ones. That’s why it’s so important that you identify the most important and even most difficult tasks (the “big stones”) to kick off your day; and to do this, the question to ask yourself every morning is: “What are the three things I need to do so that I will be happy with the worked I have carried out at the end of my day?
Once these three tasks have been defined, the next step is to timebox them, i.e., allocate enough time to complete them, the same as it would be for a meeting.
The three start-up entrepreneurs suggest:
- To use the “Pomodoro” method, divide your time into 25-minute sub-slots, with a 5-minute break between each sub-slot;
- To write down all the main activities of the day, both meetings and personal work sessions, in your schedule.
Passive tasks first
By “passive” tasks, it means tasks that are 90% passive, but still require some form of action on your part to initiate them. These are:
- “delegated” tasks
- “time-sensitive” tasks
So, when there is the choice to start either an active task or a passive task, the passive task should always be the option to choose. This is because it is carried out by others, so once it has been started, all you must do is wait for it to be completed.
Try to prevent procrastination
When a task is difficult, there’s a tendency for most people to put it off until tomorrow. Faced with a tough decision, the brain reacts with a defence mechanism, a resistance. This is “Laborit’s law”, named after the French neurobiologist who devoted his research to this human tendency to flee from difficulty in search of a new pleasure.
Over long periods, procrastination can literally poison our lives. Moreover, procrastination has hidden costs: financial penalties, efficiency penalties and time penalties.
In this part of “The 25th Hour”, Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont share several techniques to help overcome procrastination and, as a result, increase productivity.
An overly complex task: the ladder technique
The idea is to divide the project into mini tasks that provide more motivation, i.e. that are simple enough to be completed quickly. These mini tasks can be written on the to-do list and crossed off one after the other. This is a good way to remain motivated throughout the project.
An unpleasant task:
- The deadline technique: set yourself as many deadlines as possible, and maybe schedule some “pleasant” deadlines directly after the “unpleasant” one in order to force yourself to finish quickly;
- The first second technique: contrary to what we think, you don’t need to be motivated to act but rather to act to be motivated. The idea is to get started. Once you start, everything will be easier.
A tedious task: the power hour technique
This makes a tedious task more attractive. The challenge is to complete the task so that it is enjoyable (have some snacks, listen to music, do it with colleagues…).
Chapter 2 – Stay focused
Objective: To have the keys to stay focused
50 years ago, in comparison to today’s work environment, you were far less likely to be disturbed at work. The work environment is now the opposite of what it used to be.
This is mainly due to three main factors:
- the rise of open space within work spaces;
- the introduction of computers and smart phones (multitasking);
- the huge growth in content production.
In this environment, there is constant disruption. This continuous flow of various tasks makes it appear that people are very productive (impression that everything is non-stop, that people respond to numerous requests…).
However, in reality, the alternation of tasks is one of the worst problems of productivity. The most productive people are those who are 100% present in what it is that they do and are able to in the moment. This idea is clearly expressed in “Carlson’s Law”: a task done continuously requires less time and energy than a task done in several stages. In other words, it will always be faster to do A and then B than to do A and B at the same time.
Therefore, in this second chapter of the book “The 25th Hour”, the authors offer to provide you with the key points so that you can stay 100% focused on your given task. These key points aim to avoid as many distractions and interruptions as possible and will lead to improved productivity.
Chase away extraneous thoughts
All of these extraneous thoughts that clog up your headspace are the worst thing for your concentration. So, these five techniques can allow you to find peace.
The to do list
The main technique to get rid of these unwanted thoughts is the to-do list. So, as soon as you think of a new task crosses, you should immediately write it down and try not to analyze it.
The second recommendation is to use techniques that will remember for you. One of the most useful, in this regard, is the Mixmax extension for Gmail. This one specifically allows you to:
- Schedule an automatic reminder e-mail;
- Schedule an e-mail to be sent at the date and time of your choice (“send later” button);
- Determine the optimal time to send the e-mail to maximize the response rate of your contacts.
The Inbox Zero
The idea of the Inbox Zero in “The 25th Hour” is to keep your email inbox empty in order to achieve greater peace of mind. The Inbox Zero methodology has three options, namely, if the email:
- Does not require you to do anything: archive it immediately.
- Needs you to reply and you have time: answer it and then archive it.
- Needs your attention but you are busy: add this to your to-do list and then archive the e-mail.
A sensible goal so that you can be more productive is to stick to an Inbox Zero routine twice a week (for example on Wednesdays and Fridays).
A clean desk
To keep your mind free, it is essential to keep your desk tidy: a cluttered desk = a cluttered mind. You need to set up a weekly routine not only for your real office but also for your virtual office. However, there are other tools that automatically take care of this (for example, Hazel for Mac can group all the files on your desktop that are over a week old into a dedicated folder).
The authors of “The 25th Hour” found that about one in five entrepreneurs regularly engage in meditation.
No wonder Soren Gordhamer’s “Wisdom 2.0” conference on the practice of meditation brings together thousands of high-tech executives every year.
Meditation teaches you to embrace the thoughts that cross your mind and then to quickly refocus on yourself. Meditation requires a great deal of discipline. Even if it is not its initial objective, meditation offers a great way to train your brain. It allows you to gain the power of concentration.
The best way to learn how to meditate properly is to go on a course. However, you can also meditate every day for a few minutes, if you download an app on your smartphone.
Protect yourself from temptation
Most media and social networks have built their interfaces with one objective in mind: to make you stay with them as long as possible. It is, therefore, imperative to protect you from yourself, so that you can’t use them!
Two types of tools can help us:
Tools that are designed to prevent the ability of people to access the Internet
The Freedom application, which means that you are access to Facebook or other sites of your choice is blocked, for as long as you decide to keep it that way.
The temptation when someone sends you an article to read or a video to watch is to want to do it right away. The advice given by the authors of “The 25th Hour” is to use the Pocket tool that allows you to store articles to read or videos to watch in one click via a Chrome extension, and then allows you to locate them later, on an application on your smartphone.
Create your own bubble
The best way to complete a project is to isolate yourself as much as possible. This is not always easy. So here are four great techniques to help our productivity.
Wear some headphones
This will serve two main functions:
- To make it clear to your colleagues that you are busy with an important task and that you do not want to be disturbed;
- Listen to music to help you concentrate.
Also, the acoustic atmosphere can be very conducive to work. With regard to this, the Noisli site is a media library that offers dozens of sound collections (coffee, train, river, storm…).
Work outside of the office surroundings
If you are able to work outside of the office environment, at home, in a café, in a park, in a shared work space, anywhere (as long as you are disturbed as little as possible) it can allow you to have real tunnel vision so that you can truly focus on the work at hand.
Go far away for a few days
A more radical solution is to leave for several days and go far from everything to isolate and make some serious progress with certain projects. A number of the entrepreneurs we interviewed mentioned that they had been able to get away from it all for several days. Their feedback also highlighted the fact that they thoroughly enjoyed these times of hyper-concentration and productivity.
The psychologist, Mihály, calls this the state of flow: if you can dedicate 100% of your attention to a really complex task, not only will you perform extremely well, but you will also experience a feeling of intense joy, almost ecstasy, to the point where you lose all notion of time.
Keep control of the “time-suckers”
Some colleagues always ask for advice or praise. Others talk incessantly. These are the people who consume your time. To prevent this interference with your work and productivity, here are two tips to use from “The 25th Hour“:
- To deal with those who constantly interrupt you:
Just tell them that you need them to be fully focused to finish your tasks, and come back at an agreed time (and for a given length of time) with a list of specific questions. Usually, this gives them the time to think about what they want to ask and, generally, they will work them out themselves.
- To deal with the “chatterboxes”:
You need to be prepared to interrupt their chatter and then make it abundantly clear that you need to get back to your work.
Prioritize asynchronous communications
Synchronous and asynchronous communication
There are two types of communication:
- Synchronous communication: the participants share information simultaneously in order to communicate (face to face, telephone…);
- Asynchronous communication: the participants do not have to reply to each other immediately (mail, telephone, text…).
The biggest drawback to productivity is synchronous communication. The authors believe that this form of communication should only be used in two cases:
- Situations that are too complex to be handled by e-mail: Phil Simon’s “three e-mail rule”, if you exchange more than three e-mails in a row, it’s time to talk
- In really important situations
In all other cases, it is far more effective to use asynchronous communication.
If your job allows it, the advice of the authors of “The 25th Hour” is to find alternatives to synchronous communications: don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers, or don’t answer any calls, leave a message on your voicemail to encourage people to send you a text message, turn off your phone’s voicemail…
To manage your e-mails more efficiently
On the other hand, in regards to how you deal with your emails, the authors have drawn inspiration from Tim Ferriss’ “Four Hour Week” to recommend that you:
- Only deal with them two or three times a day so as to prevent interruptions (e.g. at 10, 2 and 6);
- Wait until you have the time to deal with them properly;
- Do not read your business e-mails outside of your work hours: if there is a need to send a business e-mail over the weekend, you can just add it to your to-do list, or even schedule it so that it is only sent on Monday morning.
So that you can’t be tempted to respond to e-mails that you receive, the Inbox when Ready extension for Gmail is a tool that can be useful because the default setting is to hide your inbox. Last, but not least, the authors encourage you to use e-mail for really important information, and to leave instant chat for day-to-day projects and less important matters.
Say no to notifications
What is recommended in the book “The 25th Hour” with regard to all types of communication is:
- Turn off all notifications on your smartphone and computer (except for a few exceptional cases, such as cabs and flights);
- Install an ad-blocker on your browser (such as AdBlock);
- Unsubscribe from pointless newsletters (for example, Unroll.me which allows you to unsubscribe from all your newsletters in a few clicks).
Chapter 3 – Accelerate
Objective: to apply the FAST method
In “The 25e Hour“, there are 4 steps to help increase your speed of execution and productivity. It’s called the FAST method:
- Fundamentals: create a solid foundation to save time on your future tasks;
- Automation: automate repetitive actions;
- Speed: complete your manual tasks quicker;
- Twenty-Eighty Rule: 20% of the effort for 80% of the impact.
Many productivity tools, some of which are fee-based, are presented in this section on “acceleration”. To work out if you should invest in such tools or outsource them, the first question to ask is: “How much is an hour of my work worth?”.
To this equation, you need to add a subjective assessment of the task, as something unpleasant could have an economic cost, as well as a psychological one. In this instance, the impact on your peace of mind often exceeds any potential financial gain?
In the end, the real question to ask is, “How much would I pay to save an hour of time?”
Fundamentals: start off on the right foot
The time spent on preparation is just as important as the execution of the task itself.
In order to become more productive, it is essential to take breaks and to adhere to strict rest periods, without any guilt (real lunch breaks, power naps, i.e. power naps of a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes that provide energy for 3 or 4 hours). This rest allows you to be more efficient and more creative.
In addition, it is essential to reduce the amount of daily micro-decisions that force you to think about things, with the result that it makes you tired. To achieve this, it is necessary to limit the number of options available, as much as possible. This will allow more time and energy to make the really important decisions throughout the day.
Many start-ups entrepreneurs begin their day with a work-out. They believe that this allows them to improve their concentration and productivity. The endorphins generated by physical activity help them feel good. In addition, the dopamine released when you workout has been shown to reduce feelings of tiredness, improve your concentration and memory for the rest of the day.
Due to lack of time, many entrepreneurs practice the “seven minute workout”: this new training method (12 successive 30-second exercises with a 10-second break between each exercise) means it is possible to achieve, in 7 minutes, physical results that are comparable to those achieved in much longer endurance training.
The digestive system is like your second brain: there are 200 million neurons in your intestines (as many as in a dog’s brain) and more nerve cells than in your ears, eyes or skin. So it is obvious that food has a much greater impact than we think on our overall energy levels.
The body clock
To be more productive, it is important to know at which point of the day that your biological energy is at its peak. This is the moment when you reach your greatest level of motivation and concentration. For this, there is the Horne Ostberg Circadian Typology Questionnaire (online). Once you have determined your chrono-type, you then need to adapt your schedule to suit it.
For many entrepreneurs, early morning work is a key factor in their productivity. They believe that the morning is a time of great tranquillity. Their minds are clear and free from any outside distractions. This is what many entrepreneurs do in their morning routines:
- Define the three most important for the tasks that you have to complete that day and then start with the most difficult one;
- Play sports;
- Drink a large glass of water;
- Make the bed.
High quality equipment
Increased productivity also depends on good hardware and work conditions. The most important thing is your computer. The authors share some useful tips to help increase your rate of work. These will require a high-performance mouse, back-up cables and chargers, headphones…
“Google is King”
The authors of “The 25th hour“, state that 99% of the entrepreneurs contacted use Gmail for their emails and Chrome as their browser. This is what they recommend that you use. Beyond their speed and power, they allow you to have access to thousands of extremely useful extensions.
On the other hand, almost all entrepreneurs have switched to Google’s online solutions (Google Sheets, Google Docs and Google Slides). as well as the fact that they are for free, these tools have three essential advantages:
- Easy collaboration with other users;
- Permanent record of documents;
- Some unique and sophisticated features.
If you’re not sure about which software to choose, it makes sense to choose the one that has the most developers that work on it, so it’s likely to be the most used. Google Trends allows you to access this type of information.
Automation: automate repetitive tasks
The golden rule: if you have to carry out a task more than once, you should try to automate it.
In this section, Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont present four areas in which automation is very easy to apply.
Set up your computer to fill in the forms
There are great tools that can fill out your forms for you, and automatically (e.g. 1Password, Dashlane).
Let your computer handle your e-mails
In the opinion of “The 25th Hour“, there are many similar tasks that can be automated, such as:
- Apply a header to our emails (in Gmail);
- Automatically reply to certain emails;
- Automatically delete (or archive) certain types of unnecessary emails.
In addition, the authors make strong reference to the Mixmax tool that increases the functionality of Gmail tenfold. Among its features:
- Send Later: allows you to send an e-mail later, at the time of your choice.
- Reminders: can send you a reminder if your contact has not replied.
- Show when you are available: you can share your availability with someone else with just one click.
- Tracking: to know if a person has read your e-mail, and even the time that they did so.
- Sequences: allows you to send a mass mail out (send a personalized e-mail to as many contacts as you want at the same time) with the choice to send a reminder to your contacts if they don’t reply.
Let our computer control your workflow
It is good to automate any tedious and repetitive tasks, so that you can focus on the higher value ones.
In “The 25th Hour“, several tools are suggested to achieve this:
- Zapier: this tool connects more than 750 apps (Gmail, Google Sheets, Expensify, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.).
- Hazel (for Mac) or DropIt (more or less the same on PC): these tools allow you to define rules to manage the files on your computer (automatically delete files that contain a particular word, create a copy, rename with the current date and automatically put it in a folder, etc.).
- IFTTT (If This Then That): this tool replicates some of the features of Zapier, but also enables you to connect tools in your home network!
If you use applications that are specifically for your business and, therefore, not connectable via Zapier or IFTTT, then you have the option of “RPA”: Robotic Process Automation. The leaders in this sector are UiPath and Blue Prism. The objective is to entrust robots with tedious and repetitive tasks. This allows employees to focus on what they can do best, based on their empathy and judgment.
Use of artificial intelligence
Advances in artificial intelligence accelerated in the 2010’s, with the way in which it functioned and started to use deep learning. With this, the way in which machines learn has been modelled on the way in which humans learn. As a result, the advancement of artificial intelligence has rapidly changed the way we work. Its impact on the economy and society, in general, will be huge. You can already benefit from it and outsource some of the more low value-added tasks to artificial intelligence.
Voice recognition makes it possible to write down your ideas very quickly. In May 2017, thanks to deep learning, the failure rate of Google’s artificial intelligence voice recognition fell below 5%. That’s less than the error rate of a human transcription.
Among “The 25th Hour’s” tips to save time, is to use your smartphone’s voice recognition feature (to send SMS or WhatsApp messages from your smartphone). Nevertheless, the ultimate achievement of voice recognition is the connected speaker (Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s Homepod). Thanks to voice control, these speakers make the screen-keyboard interface disappear completely. Alexa for business, for example, could soon take over meeting rooms.
Type on your mobile
The Swiftkey keyboard, which is already installed on most smartphones, allows you to increase the speed at which you type, by a huge margin, grace of the three options that appear above the keyboard. The accuracy of these predictions took a huge leap forward in 2016. Before this, Swiftkey was based on the frequency of use of groups of words. Now, the tool uses deep learning to offer three different options.
As a result of deep learning at the end of 2016, the quality of translations performed by new artificial intelligence applications is now higher than that of most non-native speakers. So, this means that the language barrier will very soon disappear from all our written communications. The whole of the Internet and the services it provides will become accessible to the whole world, whatever their language.
Organization of meetings
Although it is still somewhat expensive for now, so as not to waste time on the management of your timetable, you can use “Julie Desk”, a virtual assistant based on artificial intelligence.
In conclusion, with regards to artificial intelligence, the authors believe that it is the start of a new revolution. In the future decades, artificial intelligence will be paramount in the execution of repetitive tasks within the workplace. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, has predicted that within 30 years, thanks to artificial intelligence, you will only work 4 hours a day and 4 days a week. What will count then is the creativity and quality of your work!
Speed: speed up everyday tasks
The first thing to do is to evaluate the breakdown of the different tasks that need to be carried out each week. To help with this, you can use a specific software tool (such as RescueTime).
Increase the speed at which you write
Here, the authors of “The 25the Hour” suggest several ideas and software options:
- Don’t use your phone work;
- Control your smartphone from your computer with one of the various available bits of software;
- Use one of the many free online software tools on the web to test yourself and learn to type faster (e.g. 10fastfingers, Typingclub);
- Use applications to pre-record a list of phrases or information that you use on a regular basis and are likely to repeat or commonly used words with their appropriate abbreviations (e.g.: Auto Text Expander, aText, Alfred App);
- Use Gmail’s pre-formatted templates or “Canned responses“;
- And use the “Mail Merge” technology for direct mail.
Next, four techniques are outlined in “The 25th Hour“ to help speed up communication by e-mail:
- At the start of the e-mail, make it clear exactly what you want from the person to whom you send the message, preferably with one clear question;
- Use an “if… then” structure;
- Prioritize the information as much as possible with bullet points or numerically;
- Illustrate the information with images, graphs or videos, etc. (Cloud App).
Speed up the rate at which you read
Fast readers have two key tricks: one, they don’t sub-vocalize and two, they speed read the text.
Fast readers have two key tricks: one, they don’t sub-vocalize and two, they speed read the text.
Many books or sites claim that you can double or triple the rate at which you read in just a few days (Legentas or Spreeder, for example). However, research now indicates that when you speed read, the level of memorization or comprehension tends to decrease. This is why the authors of “The 25th Hour” recommend that you apply these techniques to read dull or tedious information. If there is no time to read, they suggest an alternative is to listen to podcasts.
Accelerate your navigation
If you want to speed up your navigation, it is wise to forget the mouse as much as possible (or even forbid it for spreadsheets). On the other hand, if you have the time to learn keyboard shortcuts, it can be very useful.
So the authors of “The 25th Hour” have developed a long list of valuable shortcuts for the reader. It includes Gmail, Google Sheets and Excel shortcuts, our web browser, word processors (Word, Google Doc…).
Learn to browse faster
If you want to speed at which you browse, you need to forget the mouse as much as possible (or even not use it at all for spreadsheets). However, if you can take the time to learn keyboard shortcuts, it can be very useful.
Advice is provided on how to carry out your searches in the most efficient way possible:
- Search for files: the fastest way to find a file is to use an instant search tool (Ex. Spotlight, Alfred App, Cortana,Wox).
- Search for applications: the fastest way to open an application is to use an “application launcher” (e.g. Spotlight, Alfred App, Cortana, Wox).
- Search for e-mails: Gmail gives you the speed and efficiency of the most powerful search engine in the world.
- Web search: the advanced search functions of Google are very useful (Chrome extension, Resulter).
To round off this list of tips, “The 25th Hour” raves about the Alfred App. They believe, it is really efficient in terms of productivity. Among its many features, these are the most useful: instant search, “web custom searches”, snapshots (it is possible to enter variables in the replacement texts and to pre-load ready-made lists of snapshots), the clipboard manager, workflows...
Speed up your meetings
Generally, meetings are a very inefficient way to use your time. The first thing you should do before you schedule a meeting is to ask yourself if it is really necessary.
A meeting should only be used to:
- Make a decision that requires input from several people;
- To announce a complex decision or, alternatively, to inject new energy into the process.
In almost all other cases, an e-mail should suffice.
Rules suggested in “The 25th Hour” to help save time on meetings”:
- Put in place the rule of 0 delay (start at the exact time) / 1 screen (avoid phones and laptops) / 2 pizzas (in other words, 4 to 6 people maximum);
- No more than 30 minutes: in most cases, this is enough time to make decisions;
- Make use of “stand-up meetings” for meetings of less than 15 minutes: when you are on your feet, you are less inclined to have endless discussions;
- Construct a clear agenda in the form of objectives, which is always announced to all participants at the outset of the meeting;
- Start off with the objectives that cannot be achieved in the allotted time and save the more uncertain discussion topics for the end;
- Don’t let things go “off topic” in the meeting: a good idea is to put all extraneous ideas in a “suggestion box”;
- To have achieved your objectives by the end of the meeting, to outline the decisions made and the next steps for everyone, with precise deadlines;
- Do not write voluminous minutes.
The 12 indispensable tools for productivity freaks
Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont list the twelve most commonly mentioned time-saving resources of the entrepreneurs interviewed in “The 25th Hour”:
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator Lite: if a person contacts you via email and you need some background information to reply, there’s no need to waste time to search for information about the person on LinkedIn, this extension for Gmail (free) provides the LinkedIn data of this person.
- Fullcontact: this extension is similar to the previous one, with the added advantage that it can source a person’s social network accounts from their email and add their contact information to your address book.
- Clearbit: this extension of Gmail allows you to find the e-mail of someone you don’t know if you enter their name and the name of the company concerned.
- Acrobat Reader or Docusign: these tools allow you to send back a signed contract or letter, with a stamp, signature or just your initials if you have already digitized them.
- AutoPagerize: it transforms any page into a continuous scroll (no more wasted to have to click on “Next results” or “Next page”).
- Expensify: to automate a company’s payroll or to effortlessly produce expense claims for the company’s employees.
- Chrome One Tab: this extension allows you to close all your tabs in one click.
- Paste: this application saves the history of your copy/paste.
- The Self Journal: this paper journal helps you to co-ordinate your daily work with your main overall objectives in life.
- Sanebox: helps to filter emails.
- iScanner or Drive: these smartphone applications means that you don’t have to use a scanner.
- Franz: this free software can combine all of your e-mails into a single interface.
- Bose Quiet Comfort headphones: these noise-cancelling headphones will really help with your concentration.
Twenty-Eighty Rule: 20% of the effort for 80% of the effect
The story of this universal law begins at the end of the 19th century in England. An Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, discovered that 20% of the owners owned 80% of the wealth. A few decades later, research shows that the principle of wealth distribution discovered by Pareto actually applies to many other areas of the economy. In fact, 20% of customers bring in 80% of the sales, 20% of the issues produce 80% of the production problems in a factory, etc.
Better still, the now famous Pareto principle transcends the economic sphere and can be applied to our daily lives: 20% of all causes produce 80% of all consequences. It is somewhat counter-intuitive but it is a huge driver of productivity to abandon the 80% of low impact actions and focus on the 20% of those that are most significant.
However, in everyday life, it’s difficult to stop when you know you can achieve more. So, to help apply this 20/80 principle, the authors believe that the solution is to define “unrealistic” deadlines. They also emphasize that it is better to have finished something rather than to seek perfection.
Conclusion on “The 25th Hour“, by Guillaume Declair, Bao Dinh and Jérôme Dumont:
How do you apply “The 25th hour”?
If you follow the advice in “The 25th Hour”; it should be fairly easy to free up several hours each day. The choice of how you use this time is up to you.
The authors suggest that there are two ways to convert these productivity gains: either into money or into time.
First option: Turn “The 25th hour” into money
The obvious option is to turn these productivity gains into financial rewards if you remain at the same pace as you were before. These huge productivity gains won’t enable you to work less hours. They will only serve to increase your income and increase your expenditure.
To help further with this line of thought, the authors of the book refer you to a comprehensive study conducted by the two Nobel Prize winners of economics, Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman. This study focuses on what they call “the $75,000 household income threshold”.
The study shows that the level of real happiness increases with income, but only up to a certain level: $75,000 per year. From that point on, objective happiness, defined in terms of the emotions felt, ceases to increase. In other words, to be happy, the level of income required to make you happy is often lower than you might have imagined. This level of income means that you can take care of yourself, have a drink with your friends, go on vacation or spend time with your family over a meal.
Second option: turn “The 25th hour” into time
To turn productivity gains into “free” time means that you leave work a little earlier each day; take a day off each week, or work part-time.
In Anglo-Saxon countries or in Northern Europe, these lifestyle choices are now widely accepted. But in France, shorter workdays or part-time work are still associated with a lack of proper professional commitment.
The authors of “The 25th Hour” have researched the history of the value of work. They explain how work has been, over the centuries, linked to servitude or even punishment and how idleness was; conversely, highly valued. In fact, it was only from the 19th century onwards, after the start of the first industrial revolution, that material welfare began to be considered as the primary source of happiness and that a positive vision of work evolved.
A book that delivers on its promise
“The 25th Hour” delivers on its promise: it brings together hundreds of valuable start-up tips and techniques. They are simple to implement and very effective for increased productivity. The suggested resources are modern and practical. There is no unnecessary or superfluous jargon, no repetition of ideas.
The book has a very practical feel. This is evident in the very last part of the book, which provides a lengthy recap of all the resources covered in “The 25th Hour”.
However, it is important to note that many of these tips may seem familiar to some readers. In fact, it is very likely that those who have already studied the subject will not find many new approaches to productivity. Therefore, this book will be of interest to novices and newcomers who have not yet delved into these issues.
- A large number of practical, simple, effective and up-to-date techniques and resources;
- A book that is easy and quick to read, and that goes straight to the point;
- A modern and user-friendly style.
- Many of the techniques and tips for productivity are already known.
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