When I first stumbled upon the self-improvement community on the Internet I was a little bewildered. How do those people find the time to write a couple of thousand words, work out, journal, meditate, practice yoga, film videos, edit videos, cook healthy meals and read a 300-page book all in one day? Compared to the “productivity gurus” I was a big ole lazy slob. I could watch a season of a show in one day, procrastinate and put off any work I had for the last day and still feel like I don’t have enough time during the day. If you can’t relate – congrats! If you play the cards right you might be halfway there to becoming the next Tim Ferris! If you can relate though, let me share a very helpful analogy that made the productivity secret not so secret anymore.
To understand this analogy, imagine that you have to perform three roles. The role of The Pilot, The Plane, and The Engineer.
First, let’s establish The Pilot’s responsibilities. He or she guides the plane, creates a procedure and a plan for the journey as well as finds solutions in the face of stressful conundra.
Your job as The Pilot is to find a bit of free time in your day when you can focus and plan your journey. It doesn’t have to be long. Sit for 10 minutes with your digital or physical planner and write down all the things you want to do the next day. Really focus on what’s important, what you have been struggling with, and what comes to your mind when you think “productive”. Being a pilot your role is to make sure you’re prepared for any problems along the way. If you think you might be getting tired around dinner, plan the biggest tasks for earlier. The more precise your plan is the easier it is to then follow it. Set time blocks for completing a certain task, prepare a gym bag the previous evening, or set reminders to take vitamins. Make the plan as frictionless to follow as it can possibly be.
The Plane’s job is simply to fly. Guided by The Pilot it just acts out on consecutive points of the plan. The only thing it has to worry about is to just follow the procedure.
It is hard to remember what you wanted to do even if you’re done with work. Thus we usually end up going back to our old habits. Sitting on the couch and scrolling through social media or watching TV. But thanks to the work you did as The Pilot that won’t be the case anymore. You have a clear plan and the only thing you have to be concerned about is to follow it and x out one task after another. You ought to literally switch to autopilot. People should spend the majority of their time being The Plane. We’re best at it. The task is written down and there’s no place for self-negotiation. I’m going to quote Nike on this one and say that you “just do it”.
The work of The Engineer is to make sure The Plane is at its best, safe to perform at its highest level. He or she provides The Pilot and The Plane with tools needed for an effortless journey. It is also the Engineer’s responsibility to learn about new ways to improve The Plane.
When performing the role of The Engineer you make sure that it will be truly frictionless to follow the procedure as The Plane. You check if The Plane has everything it needs for that. That might be a journal, clean space, or noise-canceling headphones. As The Engineer, you also should focus on growing and learning about things that might help The Plane and The Pilot perform better. For example, listen to a podcast like “The Tim Ferris Show”, or read “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield.
However, it is important not to focus too much on this role. You should spend about 5% of your time as The Engineer, another 5% as The Pilot, and approximately 90% as The Plane. Sure, it’s important to learn about the tips and tricks on how to make one’s life easier but at some point, you have to actually get to work. And remember that you will develop your own helpful strategies along the way.
This analogy was a real game-changer for me. It clarified how I should manage my time. Personally I sit in The Pilot’s chair the preceding evening and plan for the next day. Then, from the moment I wake up, I focus only on completing the tasks. In my plan, I also include breaks for reading and some rest so I don’t get distracted and think “maybe I should take a little break now” in the middle of the task. I make sure the plan is as specific as it can be. I usually perform the role of The Engineer when I commute while listening to podcasts and in the evenings when I read. I also make sure that my space is clean, ready for me to work as well as that I have the tools to (if I have to) work from anywhere adnd everywhere.
Try to apply this method to your life and let me know if it changed anything in the comments or on Instagram.