You may not recognize the name Benjamin P. Hardy but if you are a regular Medium reader or have just Googled basic career or life advice in the past few years (and who hasn’t done that at least once) then you have definitely stumbled upon his work. At only 30, he is one of the most read and followed writers on Medium — 194,000 followers — and his articles appear on Inc. and Forbes. He is also the author of four books. His latest, Willpower Doesn’t Work, came out earlier this year. In other words, this is a very productive person.
The father of three actually has an article called “6 Reasons You Must Write A Book (And How To Write It In 48 Hours Or Less)” and you know he has done it. So how does one become a skilled productivity machine at such a young age? Ladders spoke with Hardy (whose work also appears on this site) about what has helped him build his career in record time.
On creating an environment that enables his focus and willpower
The first step in building an environment is being hyper-aware of your environment. When my wife and I decided to go a year off of refined sugar, we had to start by throwing out ALL of the refined sugar in our house. We could not keep even a bit of it. We also worked on saying, “No thank you, I’m sugar-free.” Working on it in advance prepared us and the kids for those tempting encounters at birthday parties and friends house. We also had a plan for what we would do after really tough encounters.
For example, after we declined sugar at a social event, we would go home and play a game as a family. These simple strategies of cleaning and preparing took the pressure off the need to resist temptation using willpower. In my work environment, I use the same tactics. I keep a really clean space where there is little distraction. I have plans in place where I predict times I once used willpower. Now, my better instincts kick in.
On forcing functions
My wife and I have three kids. They wake up between 6 and 6:30 and sit down to study scriptures at 7:30 before leaving for school. I use their routine as a forcing function for myself. I need to get up before them and be out of the house before they wake up. I spend that time writing in my journal, getting into a peak state, going to the gym, and listing to audiobooks. I have until 7:30 to accomplish that so that I can be home for their scripture study. If I don’t make it, they go on without me but I use it as a forcing function to be in peak state by a certain time. Then, they leave and I am ready to work.
I also block off 4:00-7:00 p.m. every day as family time. I can’t work past 4. This is another forcing function. Lastly, I am quick to set public deadlines for myself. I don’t wait for anyone to tell me when I need to have something to them, I exceed their expectations by telling them I’ll have it much quicker than expected, then I stick to it.
Parkinson’s Law says that we fill the space we are given. If you set a goal with an end date of 10 years from now, you will likely spend 10 years getting there. However, if you make the goal 6 months away, I find that I can meet that goal too. This is genius time hacking and is rarely utilized. Set your goal, cut it in half, let everyone know you can do it!
On reaching super successful people
The best way I have found to get in proximity with super successful people is to compete with them then serve them. When I was a new writer, I really wanted to get the attention and help of Ryan Holiday, an editor and writer at the New York Observer. So I got a blog on the New York Observer and put a ton of energy into writing pieces that would get attention. I had another editor there, who I loved and who helped me connect with Ryan. Now Ryan and I have a relationship in which I help him and he helps me.
So, instead of seeking for what I can get, my ambition is to help my desired mentors as much as I can. I also seek to use the capabilities I’ve worked so hard to develop to help as many other people as I can. In doing this, I’ve found far more purpose. I’ve found far more joy in my work. I’m far happier with the investment I made in my own self-improvement. This thinking and living is allowing me to not only 10X or 100X my investment, but to 10X my mindset.
On keeping that high level of productivity
Done is better than perfect. I am not a perfectionist and I don’t write for others. I carry my journal everywhere I go, getting insights from research, books, movies, my kids, my life. I am constantly open to inspiration and when I get that inspiration, I am excited to share it. So everything I write gets shared. Each time I publish an article, I get a whole bunch of emails from people correcting my spelling, grammar, and typos.
This is all well and good but I probably won’t fix them. I hope they got the message because if I spend my energy reading, re-reading, and correcting, my writing would become more a product of what others want and less from that place of pure inspiration and excitement. Books are different, they have timelines and go through an editing process.
But for my blogs, my focus is on my message. I think that is why so many people resonate with it. Everything I write comes from a personal place and my own desire to improve myself, my family, and others.
On the morning hack to try when nothing else is working
Mornings are make-or-break for me. If I’m just not feeling it, the cold shower usually does the trick. Your morning routine does not need to be perfect. Most of mine takes place in my car where I have a quiet place to think outside of my home and work environment.
On the best advice he has ever received
Don’t be limited by others’ expectations of you.