Still, in the Hunt for the Holy Grail…

PrintI’m productive. Efficient. I’ve been told by many – obsessively productive and efficient.  I chew up tasks and spit them out.  Yet, one can always be more productive, right?  I’ve been in a life long search for the Holy Grail of a Zero Email Box solution at the end of each day.  A search for the best To-Do program.  A hunt for a better way to manage projects. A race to squeeze more into each day.  I believe being more productive is possible. Within reach.  Just within the ends of my fingertips.

So, when I came across Robin Sharma’s post titled “Become The Most Productive Person You Know”, I was like Zeke on his bone – on it.   When Sharma opened his post by stating: “I want to help you create explosive productivity so you get big things done (and make your life matter)…”, I was giddy.  I was delirious with anticipation. Imagine that – I WILL ACHIEVE “EXPLOSIVE” PRODUCTIVITY.

I’ve graded myself from “A” to “F” on each of his 21 Productivity tips and self-categorized my competency into three buckets: “Utter Failure”, “Journeyman” and “Master.”

My initial reaction to Robin Sharma’s tips was that I could be more productive if I stopped reading these “How-to” posts. Then after I settled in…I saw that there was some value in the exercise.  And he did manage to highlight some nagging areas of personal concern (more consistent exercise, email addiction, extreme multitasking, need to take breaks to refuel.)

My Overall Score:

  • Master: 9 out of 21 (43%)
  • Journeyman: 3 out of 21 (14%)
  • Utter Failure: 9 out of 21 (43%) – Wow! Shocking.  So, my search for the Holy Grail will continue.
    You’ll find each tip below (or an excerpt) along with my grade/reaction.


#1. Check email in the afternoon so you protect the peak energy hours of your mornings for your best work. (DK Grade: “F.” Wait 7 hours to check work email? Really? Not realistic in corporate world. Dear Robin, what planet are you on?)

#11.Outsource everything you can’t be BIW (Best in the World) at. Focus only on activities within what I call “Your Picasso Zone”. (DK Grade: “C -“. Have work to do here. Difficult to outsource all non-BIW activities. Carry serious control freak syndrome in DNA.  Work to do here.)

#12. Stop multi-tasking…Be one of the rare-air few who develops the mental and physical discipline to have a mono-maniacal focus on one thing for many hours. (It’s all about practice). (DK Grade: “F.” Horrible.  Intervention required here.)

#13. Get fit like Madonna. Getting to your absolute best physical condition will create explosive energy, renew your focus and multiply your creativity. (DK Grade: “D“. Weekend warrior. A lot of work to do here.)

#14. Workout 2X a day…Here’s the key: exercise is one of the greatest productivity tools in the world. So do 20 minutes first thing in the morning and then another workout around 6 or 7 pm to set you up for wow in the evening. (DK Grade: “F.” With all due respect Mr. Sharma, do you have a real job? 1 a day on weekends is an accomplishment for me. 2 days on weekends, and I feel like I’m in the groove.  If I can get to 4 days a week, I’ve hit nirvana.)

#16. Work in 90 minute blocks with 10 minute intervals to recover and refuel (another game-changing move I personally use to do my best work). (DK Grade: “F.” Current intervals. Zero. Need to do this. Need. To. Do. This.)

#17. Write a Stop Doing List. Every productive person obsessively sets To Do Lists. But those who play at world-class also record what they commit to stop doing. Steve Jobs said that what made Apple Apple was not so much what they chose to build but all the projects they chose to ignore. (DK Grade: “F”. I consider this a total waste of time. Not going to do it.)

#18.Use your commute time. If you’re commuting 30 minutes each way every day – get this: at the end of a year, you’ve spent 6 weeks of 8 hour days in your car. I encourage you to use that time to listen to fantastic books on audio + excellent podcasts and valuable learning programs. Remember, the fastest way to double your income is to triple your rate of learning. (DK Grade: “F”. I’ve tried books on tape. I day dream. I miss pages at a time. I then have to rewind. Frustrating. Forgetaboutit. Leave me alone to my music, my thoughts and my cussing at traffic for 30 minutes. Not going to do it.)

#21. Get lost. Don’t be so available to everyone. I often spend hours at a time in the cafeteria of a university close to our headquarters. I turn off my devices and think, create, plan and write. Zero interruptions. Pure focus. Massive results. (DK Grade: “F”. If I get lost, I will be told to get lost. Not realistic in corporate world. Wonder if Mr. Sharma has been in a management/leadership post?  But I get it Robin, a little balance here is in order.)


#2. Stop waiting for perfect conditions to launch a great project. Immediate action fuels a positive feedback loop that drives even more action. (DK Grade: “A”. Just Focus and Drive baby. Just drive.)

#3. Remember that big, brave goals release energy. So set them clearly and then revisit them every morning for 5 minutes. (DK Grade: “A.” I don’t need big goals. They are handed to me. I have all the inspiration I need…and then some.)

#4. Mess creates stress. So clean out the clutter in your office to get more done. (DK Grade: “A”. I believe this to be true. My desk is spotless – to the point where some wonder if I do anything.)

#6. Say goodbye to the energy vampires in your life (the negative souls who steal your enthusiasm). (DK Grade: “A”. Zero tolerance. Happy to agree with Mr. Sharma here.)

#7. Run routines. When I studied the creative lives of massively productive people like Stephen King, John Grisham and Thomas Edison, I discovered they follow strict daily routines. (Peak productivity’s not about luck. It’s about devotion.) (DK Grade: “A”. Monday to Friday: Blog. Work. Read. Eat. Blog. Work. Read. Eat. Blog. Blog. Work. Read. Eat. I’m not saying this is healthy – just gradin’ the routines.)

#8. Get up at 5 am. Win the battle of the bed. Put mind over mattress. This habit alone will strengthen your willpower so it serves you more dutifully in the key areas of your life. (DK Grade: A+. 4:00am shot clock.)

#10. Don’t say yes to every request. Most of us have a deep need to be liked. That translates into us saying yes to everything – which is the end of your elite productivity. (DK Grade: “A+”.  All-pro back here…Master craftsman level.)

#19. Be a contrarian. Why buy your groceries at the time the store is busiest? Why go to movies on the most popular nights? Why hit the gym when the gym’s completely full? Do things at off-peak hours and you’ll save so many of them. (DK Grade: “A”. Mr. Go-Against-The-Grain scores high here. Finally get credit for it – LIKE IT.)

#20. Get things right the first time. Most people are wildly distracted these days. And so they make mistakes. To unleash your productivity, become one of the special performers who have the mindset of doing what it takes to get it flawless first. This saves you days of having to fix problems. (DK Grade: “A”. But come on. This is silly. This is like motherhood and apple pie. Met anyone who doesn’t want to get things right the first time? Yet, I believe that work ethic and stick-to-itiveness (Mimi word) does lead to getting most things right the first time.)


#5. Sell your TV. You’re just watching other people get successful versus doing the things that will get you to your dreams. (DK Grade: “B+”. Since the advent of blogging, TV watching has been cut by 75%.)

#9. Don’t do so many meetings. (DK: Grade: B-. Occupational hazard. Can’t get away from this.)

#15. Drink more water. When you’re dehydrated, you’ll have far less energy. And get less done. (DK Grade: B –. Have some work to do here. And happen to agree with him. Although multiple trips to the rest room does reduce productivity.)

Image Source: InJoeWeTrust

Related Robin Sharma Post


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  2. Once again, I find myself kinda-sorta (Mimi word) where you are..and yet, I’m ok with the areas where I’m an utter failure (using the criteria above, because I’d feel awful if I was really an utter failure, you know? But I digress – look a chicken…) – because I’m not sure these are realistic or critical. I don’t get all the “A’s” you do, but I score on the higher side of B. I enjoyed the recommendations though I couldn’t really relate to the ‘Journeyman’ category – don’t watch much tv, never held a lot of meetings (though got roped into many) and drink a lot of water..Happy Thursday Dave


  3. The most productive person I know is a jerk… a mindless workaholic with an unfulfilling life on a fast-track to a heart attack! I don’t want to be like that. Sharma has a couple of good points here and there, but mostly… Sharma sucks!


  4. Reblogged this on What I see, what I feel, what I'd like to see… and commented:
    Good stuff, David. I’m doing a series on Getting Things Done [GTD] on the internet. Coincidentally, I wrote about Email last week here:


  5. Lots of good stuff here. Don’t be so hard on yourself. In my opinion, you accomplish more than most of us do in our dreams.


  6. Ed Onofrio says:


    Ed Onofrio

    617 909 7667


  7. Read this post when it was emailed to me awhile back. Normally like all of Sharma’s ideas but some of these just didn’t make sense. But maybe that’s the point…not to agree to all of them but to get “Better” at some of them.


  8. Fascinating, David. I have to say that, much like you and Mimi, I’m not terribly bothered by the items in my “utter failure” pile. I *am* religious about my exercise (though I stick to once a day and make it count), but I do get caught up in the “multitasking trap.”. I have never spent terribly long stints in “corporate America,” actually never spent ANY time in hardcore corporate–it’s always been in academic settings where the rules seem to be a bit more flexible. Where I WOULD like to do more work (and envy the hell out of your MASTER status) is in the “don’t say yes to every request” and “be a contrarian” categories. I think my whole life, not just professional, would benefit from a bit more heavy lifting in these areas. Thx for another engaging discussion…. 🙂


    • Interesting…thanks for sharing Lori – we operate in such different worlds. I so envy your 1x a day exercise discipline. And let’s be clear – not climbing the infinite step ladder. 🙂


  9. LaDona's Music Studio says:

    LOVE the post!
    Laughing out loud at your response to “#4 Mess creates stress.” There’s a Seinfeld episode about that…
    And I’ve been vindicated! Thought I might have pushed those students too hard last night – big internal argument with myself – but you nailed it with “#20 Get things right the first time.” Now I can write that post….
    (And I see my ellipses are increasing – every time I kind of get one bad writing habit somewhat under control, another takes over.)


  10. David, this post is fabulous, and I honestly appreciate your transparency with your own answers, it drives home the points so much more poignantly. I agree with Mimi and Lori, there are a few items where I fail, but they are not priorities, but others are, and are framed so so well, it’s great to see it in a new way. Thank you!


  11. I am exhausted just reading the post. For those of us that search for the magic formula to get it all done, not be stressed and still have time for more, we will probably always be searching g and redefining our strategies. I have to agree with Mimi, and just be okay with some areas that get left behind a bit, that is until I wake up at 2 a.m. And begin to stress over them. Such is life…


  12. I stressed just reading all of this 🙂


  13. Okay. If you guys really care about productivity, just take a moment to look at your *resistance* to the suggestions. There’s no sense in yearning to be more productive if you’re not willing to make changes. If you think you’re doing the best you can now, let go of the Grail Quest. There was only one Galahad.

    If you can’t let go, pick one of these ideas that seems do-able and focus on that. One. And if you make that a habit after 3 weeks, pick another. Or create your own list.



  1. […] finding something you love and practicing to improve.” The other – quoted in a post by David Kanigan – “Get things right the first time… this saves you days of having to fix […]


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