Every time I walk into a coffee shop, I see guys fiendishly coding on their laptops. Although the chances are slim to ever make it big as an entrepreneur, thousands of predominantly 20-something year old men try their luck anyway. Huge respect for anybody who tries.
100% of the non-family tenant applicants for my previous house were males in tech, internet, finance, or consulting. No wonder why fellas complain that San Francisco is turning into a sausage town. At the same time, women also complain there are no good men in San Francisco either. Such a conundrum!
The title of this post may seem obvious, but I don’t think it’s obvious for the folks who 1) complain on the bus why their life sucks, 2) complain on message boards why what someone else wrote is terrible, or 3) complain on here why it’s too hard to save money or spend less. There has to be action, otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
Every single company we know of today started with someone who had a vision and a determination to produce something new. If you’re working 40 hours a week or less and wondering why you aren’t getting ahead, you might as well move to Europe where life is good and everybody makes roughly the same. A 40 hour work-week is an arbitrary amount to work given we have 168 hours a week.
THOUGHTS ON BEING MORE PRODUCTIVE
Do you own a iPad or a tablet? Congratulations. You are a consumer.
Do you own a laptop that you lug everywhere you go? Congratulations. You are likely a producer.
I’ve typed 1,500 word posts on my iPhone before, but those are rare occasions when I’m bored out of my mind on a 10+ hour flight. I love my smartphone, but it’s really a communications device meant for fun (and approving all your comments on FS). Let’s classify a smartphone as a necessity that can be used for both consumption and production.
If you want to make more money by becoming a producer, the first thing you should do is get rid of your tablet or never consider buying one in the first place. Not only will you save time, you’ll save money as well.
Besides the internet, the biggest culprit of time waste is watching TV. Just look at the correlation between the amount of television watched and income (chart below). 20% of people who make under $20,000 a year watch 5+ hours of TV a day. More than 50% of people who make under $40,000 a year watch more than 3 hours of TV a day. Sitting on the sofa for 3-5 hours can’t be too healthy. We sure as heck know it’s not productive.
I’m guilty of watching too much TV during major sporting events like the World Cup, the NBA playoffs, and whenever the 49ers play. Spending three hours watching a football game is an eternity, which is why I have a DVR to skip through all commercials, half-time and usually the first half to compress the game into one hour. I get in as many sets of sit-ups and pushups as possible to at least feel a little productive. You should check out my one-pack!
Every hour you consume is one less hour you can produce. Remember this basic tenet. If you add up the hours of consumption over a course of a year, you will be at a massive disadvantage compared to the person who produces during the same time. Imagine what you can create in 365 hours, 730 hours, or 1,095 hours. Absolute magic I tell you.
Bunching of tasks is huge when it comes to being more efficient with your time. I have a habit of always checking my spam folder every hour to release legitimate comments on this site because I feel bad when readers leave a thoughtful comment that doesn’t come through. However, if I would just check once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening I’d probably save at least 200 key strokes and an hour of time given there is so much spam I’ve got to wade through.
Try bunching your e-mail checking to no more than three times a day. It’s going to be hard at first, but you will be less stressed and save a lot of time in the process. You’ll probably also lower your chances of getting into a car accident because you won’t be using your phone while driving as much. I saw a woman mow over a 12 year old boy because she was on her phone driving last year. It was a tragic site.
If you can hack your time by getting up a couple hours before everybody else, go to lunch an hour before or after everybody else, and leave work an hour before or after everybody else, I am absolutely positive you are going to be much more productive, and much happier too. There is nobody to distract you from work at 5:30am. The are no coffee lines at Starbucks at 6am. Traffic doesn’t start before 7am or after 8pm. Why make yourself miserable by following the herd who don’t have the willpower to change?
If you can alter your time just even an hour differently than the majority of people, you will get so much farther. Make it a game. If you are on the West Coast, try waking up before your East Coast colleagues and friends and stay up after them.
Are you on the front end or on the back end? Front end jobs are generally client facing. These jobs are vital for organizations to grow their revenue and profits. This is why star sales people are often the most well paid. I knew several sales people who made much more than their non-producing managers. If you are still in college, or you are looking to change careers, search for jobs that are on the front end if you want to make more money. Front end jobs include: consulting, big law, medicine, banking, financial advisory, consulting, entrepreneurship, and sales.
Back end jobs are critical to any organization as well. Someone has to do the accounting, make sure all operations are running smoothly, manage the workforce, and so on. The only problem with back end jobs is that it’s harder to get rich because your work is supporting the organization and doesn’t involve bringing in more business. Back end jobs are considered cost centers that are first to be cut during slower periods.
Back end jobs can turn into front end jobs if you want. For example, you can move from a cushy in-house lawyer job with a set salary to working at a big law firm like Sullivan & Cromwell with a variable compensation structure . You’ll be paid on the business you bring in and the cases you win. Another example is going from IT support to joining or opening up your own IT consulting practice. The idea is to search for jobs where you have the ability to bring in business.
I’m currently in the marketing department of a fintech company. The marketing department can be considered a cost center, or it can be considered a fantastic lead generator. I view marketing as a vital part of any organization that helps build a company’s brand, and bring in business. But within the marketing department there are various front-end and back-end roles as well. For example, I am a producer of original content for my company. We then have a couple people who spend money marketing the content I’ve created and analyzing the content. What can’t happen without the other?
You can produce a thousand balls of crumpled paper, but you won’t get rich unless you make it a desirable piece of art. The time you spend producing should ideally be spent on something that’s in high demand, like a service or product. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to brainstorm for hours or days before starting your production routine. Ask as many people as possible what they think about your idea, and test out your prototype on your friends. Be open to criticism so you can get better.
Alternatively, you can see what is already working and try and build a better mouse trap. I’ve been a big fan of personal finance and lifestyle blogs for the past seven years until I finally decided to launch one of my own in 2009. I thought I could lend a different perspective as someone who went to business school and worked in finance for 13 years. I love writing and I knew I had the tenacity to keep on writing no matter how busy or slow things got. I didn’t invent the personal finance blog, but I’ve found my own small slice of success with ~500,000 visitors a month.
Whatever you produce, keep on producing so long as there’s strong demand. When things start to fade, or if nothing is happening, then it’s imperative to change what you produce. We call this “pivoting.” Always be testing as an entrepreneur.
As an employee, it’s important to envision a desirability ladder and be honest about which rung you’re currently on. If a fluffy panda bear knocked you out of commission tomorrow, would your department or company function absolutely fine without you? If so, then you are on the bottom rung of the desirability ladder. Very few companies allow for the “Superstar” model anymore given the lack of loyalty employees show to corporates nowadays (for good reason). But everyone knows some individuals are more vital to an organization than others. Position yourself with a skillset or project that makes you imperative.
WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING ON PRODUCING TODAY?
If producing is the key way to making money, lazy people who blame the world for their problems will never make money unless they get extremely lucky. Nobody is going to do anything for you for very long because everybody has their own goals to achieve.
The parallels to spending (consuming) and saving (producing) are very close. Are you going to spend time working on your finances? Or are you going to just hope everything will just turn out OK in the end? One of the best ways to start producing something is to create your own website and brand yourself.
Building wealth takes action. Nobody is just going to hand you great riches. I took action on my finances back in 2012 by signing up with Personal Capital to track my cash flow, run my investment portfolios through their free Portfolio Fee Analyzer tool to save me $1,700 a year in investment fees I had no idea I was paying, and stay on top of my net worth in order to optimize my finances.
Create something the world needs in 2016 and beyond. It’s been over six years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good passive and active income stream online now.
I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes with Bluehost.
You never know where the journey will take you!
Updated for 2017 and beyond.