Interview with Marissa Brassfield

What projects are you involved in? 

At Ridiculously Efficient, I help high-performance teams and solopreneurs dramatically increase their productivity so that they can free up time to work hard and play harder. I also do online business development and marketing consulting with private clients.

How did you get interested in productivity? 

After I got my journalism degree, I began my post-grad career as an opening manager of a high-volume upscale restaurant. Those workweeks were rough — nine-day spans of 12- to 16-hour days, split days off, working on your feet all day long in a high-stress environment — and I eventually burned out and left the industry to start freelancing.

I was originally motivated by the freedoms of becoming my own boss and being able to create my own schedule, but I soon became fascinated with the idea of controlling my income, lifestyle and overall life satisfaction. Instead of relying on others to determine my professional growth, I could essentially create the future I wanted, if I worked hard and played my cards right.

The game-changer happened in 2009, when I read “The Four-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. Of course the title lured me in, but it was Ferriss’ idea of mini-retirements that really intrigued me. I read about all the unusual “bucket list” achievements he’d racked up during those mini-retirements and the hackerlike mentality he used to break each task down to manageable pieces.

I remember my biggest takeaway from the book: if most tasks have a hackable solution or workaround, then that means I have the power to optimize every aspect of my life — I just have to figure out how. I began messing around with my own work routine and continued reading all the productivity content I could get my hands on. The rest is history.

How many meetings do you normally have each week? 

One face-to-face meeting, on average, and four phone meetings ranging from 20 to 40 minutes. I handle the rest with texts and emails.

What are some of your favorite productivity tips/apps? 

Apps: I’ve tried a zillion, but very few stick around in my workflow for longer than a few months. However, I love Basecamp, because it lets me work through an idea and quickly delegate out to a virtual team.

– Make important decisions when you’re fresh.
– Decide the three to-dos that, if completed, would still make your day a success even if every other part of your day went down the drain, and do those before you do anything else.
– Question every aspect of your workflow: why is it done this way, and is there a better, faster or cheaper option?
– Recognize the times of your day in which you’re most and least creative, and let them inform your schedule. For example, if you’re not a morning person, reschedule those 9 a.m. brainstorming meetings until you’re firing on all cylinders.

What’s the most recent adjustment that you’ve made to your personal productivity routine? 

In 2011, while experimenting with my workweek structure and time management, I discovered a formula that doubled my income. I tested that same system again the next year, and doubled it while cutting my workweek in half. I tested it again this year, and doubled my income without adding to my workweek. It’s been completely life-changing: my satisfaction with my life, health and career have all grown exponentially.

It’s all because I began measuring my energy levels throughout the day and week, and using that data to schedule my workday and prioritize my to-do list. Following this system gave me the mental clarity I needed to make several key decisions that multiplied my productivity even further.

After the above, some of the smaller, yet most effective adjustments I’ve made this year are: adding to my virtual team, freeing up time to get back in shape, picking up a couple new hobbies to de-stress, and investing in my sleep quality and nutrition to properly recharge.

Do you measure your productivity? If so, how do you do it, and what is your metric? 

Absolutely — you cannot improve what you cannot measure. I evaluate three primary areas: workday/workweek length, my perceived stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, and mental clarity on a scale of 1 to 10.

My perfect day is one in which I can crank out my to-do list, plan ahead for the next workday, have a great workout, make healthy food choices all day, and set myself up for at least 8 hours of sleep. Every day, I shoot for that ideal. But I never forget what my workdays used to be like, and so even if I miss hitting this ideal workday, I still celebrate and reflect on everything I did that represents progress. Read Dan Sullivan’s book and works on avoiding what he calls “The Gap” for more on this mindset-altering idea.

What do you think the next productivity trend will be? 

All workers — not just upper-level managers — will soon delegate non-mission-critical tasks to global freelancers. (Think PowerPoint creation, transcription, image editing, and so on.) In that sense, they’ll all become quasi-project managers. My hope is that they’ll use their freed-up mental resources to contribute new ideas and strategies, and that supervisors will recognize and welcome this new influx of innovation rather than quash it.

You can learn more about Marissa Brassfield through her website, and be sure to follow her on Twitter, too.

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