This One Thing Is Killing Your Productivity

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 18, 2021
This 1 Thing Is Killing Your Productivity

Do you know what you have in common with Elon Musk, Steph Curry, Jeff Bezos, the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, and J. K. Rowling? You all have the same number of minutes to use however you choose, every single day. 

Twenty-four hours in a day multiplied by 60 minutes gives all of us 1,440 minutes—take away a reasonable amount of time to sleep, eat, shower, and hug your kids, and you’re left with 1,000 minutes. You can use your minutes to conquer the world and earn buckets of money, write books, train for a marathon, hang out with your family, have drinks with friends, buy groceries, meditate, do laundry, watch Netflix, or post pictures of your dog on Instagram. 

Every day you wake up with a fresh 1,000 minutes in your bank of time. You are the CEO of that bank, and it is totally up to you how to put those minutes to use. You’re as rich in time every Monday as Oprah and the actual richest man in the world. 

You can no longer think of your time as free anymore. Big you—successful you—knows that time is expensive, and when we think about our time like we do our money, we can shift our mindset to not throwing it away. You wouldn’t throw away $100 would you? Well, that’s what you’re doing with an hour and a half when you’re not being productive; you’re basically throwing your income out the window. Bye-bye, money.

The clock starts ticking the second you wake up, and if you aren’t aware of how those precious minutes are being used, it will suddenly be 9 p.m. and you’ll be wondering (once again) how you didn’t find the time to call back all your clients or follow up with that new contact you made last week. 

  • The day got away from me.
  • Such a busy day, I’ll do all that tomorrow.

Sound familiar? That’s because there are a few common minute killers sneaking around, trying to bankrupt our time bank right under our noses, often without us even knowing. By learning to identify and destroy these minute killers, you can take control of your day, maximize your time, and make more money. 

Minute Killer: The Perfection Trap

I like to be the first one at work. If I were to waltz in around 11 a.m., kick back and eat a breakfast burrito while listening to a podcast, that sends a clear signal to my team: No rush here. Just show up whenever you want to.

One day I arrived at around 7:30 a.m. (after my daily workout) to find one of my team members already at her computer, hard at work. Good for her. I answered my emails, then was off for a long day of appointments. When I got back to the office around 6:30 p.m., she was exactly where I’d left her. The look of concentration on her face was intense—like she was trying to split the atom. I returned calls, answered emails and had a meeting. When I was finally getting ready to leave at 8 p.m. she was still furiously typing away. What had she been doing all this time? I wondered. She must be writing a screenplay at work. I had to ask.

“Hi. You have been working so hard all day. How’s it going?” She took a deep breath. “Yeah. I just really want to get this email to a client perfect, so I’m working really hard on it. I’m pulling as much data as I can. I’m doing all my research. I need to convince him I’m right.”

I couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d just told me she was an alien from another galaxy. She’s been writing and rewriting the same email all day?

Although I appreciate the desire to send flawless communication, it doesn’t matter how perfect anything is if you don’t get results. And how can you be getting results if you’re spending 12 hours on one basic task? That’s 720 minutes. That’s a lot of time + money. She had fallen into the dark, ugly pit known as Analysis Paralysis, also known as the perfection trap. 

The perfection trap will rip through your 1,000 minutes and leave you broke. You were obsessing over one email all day, and now you have no minutes left. You should have saved some to go to that open house your client wanted you to preview in the East Village, and you managed to miss your networking drinks too. Wonder how many amazing potential clients you would have met there? You didn’t meet any new people today, and that’s your whole job. There’s nothing left to do but go home and inhale a peanut butter sandwich and toss the clothes you wore on the floor and pass out in your bed. Well done.

Analysis Paralysis is a disease that keeps many hardworking people from reaching their earning potential. They overanalyze and overthink everything to death because they believe that time is free and the result of their “hard work” will make them money. That’s wrong. Their time is not free and the result is a gamble even if the email is perfect. The perfection trap actually costs them MORE money, and they would know that if they just looked at their day like a CEO would look at their company. They would budget the appropriate funds for each task at hand, knowing that the only way to make a return on that new 1,000 minutes every day is to be as careful with them as you would with your own cold, hard cash. 

If perfectionism gets its grip on you, you’ll be wasting one day after another. Stay away from it and instead acquaint yourself with excellence. Excellence is real; perfection is a myth. Think about it. Have you ever read an obituary that said: “LAURA WROTE PERFECT EMAILS”?

A life full of excellence includes winning awards, running a successful business, and raising great kids—that’s the kind of thing you hear about. Excellence is about having high but achievable standards. Excellence doesn’t want to suck the life out of your minutes—excellence wants you to get results. You have two choices. You can go home at the end of a productive day to hang out with your family feeling great because you are winning at life.

Or you can make yourself another pathetic sandwich and step over sad piles of clothes so you can fall into bed feeling like crap because you didn’t get anything done. Again. Which scenario do you want for your own life? 

If you’ve been known to fall headfirst into the perfection trap, there’s a way to keep you out of it. You need to TAG yourself out, and here’s how:

T: Trust

Know what you’re doing. Overthinking is the gateway to perfectionism. You DO have the skills to execute the task. Don’t overthink it: make a plan for conquering this task. Write down your objective and list the steps you need to take to get it done. EXECUTE is your motto from now on. Just like a trader at a big investment bank. You will execute trades with your 1,000 minutes each day.

A: Ask

Talk to someone who knows more than you. This could be a colleague. If you’re terrified of making an embarrassing mistake, or you’re not sure your presentation is nailing the point home, or there’s a problem with that big deal you have in the works, quickly ask a trusted (non-perfectionist) co-worker to provide some feedback. You should have this person on speed dial, and they should be a strong decision-maker. And no matter what you do, do NOT ask a fellow overthinker, or the two of you will be trapped on your weird island of perfection together forever—with no way off.

G: Give

Give yourself a time limit. Two minutes for an email, an hour for a PowerPoint presentation. This will train your brain to move through these tasks without draining your minute bank. Every task you do and every action you take costs you time, which costs you money. 

That extra 10 minutes you took that you didn’t really need? That just cost you $10. Do you like cutting up $10 bills? There will be some clear signs that you’re climbing out of the perfectionist hole, and those signs will be in the form of MANY RESULTS. Are you flying through your to-do lists? Have you added more to your plate? Are you making more money personally, increasing clientele, or growing profit for your business? 

If you’re not finishing tasks and heading back to the opportunity buffet for second helpings and raking in more dollars, you may still have a problem. TAG yourself until you actually see the light in the form of getting things done.

Read Next: How to Manage Perfectionism

Excerpted from BIG MONEY ENERGY: How to Rule at Work, Dominate at Life, and Make Millions by Ryan Serhant. Copyright ©2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Ryan Serhant is a costar on Bravo's hit show Million Dollar Listing New York and the author of the national bestseller, Sell It Like Serhant. Ryan made just $9,000 his first year in the business. Twelve years later, he averages a billion dollars in sales every year, making him one of the most successful real estate brokers in the world. His social media platforms get a combined average of 3 million+ eyeballs. He is the CEO and founder of SERHANT., his eponymous real estate company, which launched in 2020 and is the most followed real estate brand in the world. He lives in New York City with his wife, Emilia, and their daughter, Zena.