Death By 1,000 Cuts: How You Waste Time

Death By 1,000 Cuts: How You Waste Time


Tired of moving slowly and getting pulled in 100 directions?

Tired of projects lying in limbo and not completing anything?

Chances are, you've suffered "death by 1,000 cuts".

It's the little things that waste our time and suck our energy dry. Its the "got a minute", "quick check" or "just this once" that sneak up on you and suffocate you.

The worst part is that you never see it coming because it disguises itself as a tiny task and we're standing guard for big tasks. 

If you want to get anything meaningful done, you've got to become a ruthless defender of your time. You've got to stand guard 24/7.

This video shows you how to heal the 1,000 lacerations and get back to optimal efficiency as quickly as possible. 

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments section below?

Here's what we cover:

1. Why most people expend their energy making food, travel, social and schedule decisions and have nothing left to build anything (death by 1,000 cuts). 

2. My recent move to Venice Beach, California and how it taught me a massive lesson on productivity. 

3. Why productivity is a harmony of the individual, their environment and their routine and why you need to balance all three to unleash efficiency.

4. Why poor people make the same trivial decisions everyday and rich people make decisions that eliminate all future decisions (this lesson will change your life).

5. Why you should analyze the "half-life" of all the decisions you make to see how long they pay back dividends for.

6. "100 Units of Time: A useful exercise to see where your time goes each week and how to fix it by eliminating waste.

7. Why most tasks you think you need to do to be successful are actually the tasks you need to eliminate in order to be successful.

Check out the video and let me know what you think in the comments?

To Your Success!

Sam Ovens & the team at

Transcript / MP3

Hey, what's going on everyone? It's Sam Ovens here. I just wanted to make this quick video for you today called Death By 1,000 Cuts, and specifically why productivity is death by 1,000 cuts. What I mean by that is, you know, when people are trying to be productive, and when people are trying to get things done, and deliver projects, and ship things, and you know, really build something great, or build a great business, whatever it is, the thing that really trips people out is that they think it's going to be something big that comes in and steals all of their time and makes them not productive. That isn't really what happens. Instead, what happens is it's 1,000 little things, and each of them all look like, "Oh." When it pops up into your day, you're like, "Oh, this is just something small. It'll only take five minutes," or, "Oh, this will only take one minute, or 30 seconds." It's these things that really get us when it comes to productivity and time management. That's why I call it death by 1,000 cuts, because it's not one big dagger that gets you. It's just these little paper cuts that are just getting you over time, and the end result is that the 1,000 little paper cuts, it just kills you, and it kills your productivity. Right now, I'm in my new place out here in Venice Beach in California. You can kind of see the ocean through there. Right now, I'm sitting at my temporary desk, and I can show you it. It's an Ikea desk with a $40 plastic drawer set from Amazon. We just made the move out here to California, to Venice, and I'm going to be doing another video soon where I give you a tour of the place, and also explain why I moved here, and the rationale, and logic, and reason behind that decision and everything. For now, I'm not going to give you a full tour or anything, because we really don't even have any furniture, and we're waiting on a truck to bring our stuff from New York over here to Venice Beach, and it's not going to be done until like four or five weeks from now, and so it's not really worth giving you a tour in the state it's currently in. Making this move from New York to Venice, it's really shown me an important lesson, and that is that your environment, and the systems, and routines, and process that you have established, they are crucial to your productivity. What I thought ... You know, I'd gotten quite productive in New York with my company and everything, and I started to think I'm a really productive person, and it doesn't matter what environment you throw me into, I'll be productive, I'll get things done. I just moved over here to Venice thinking that's what's going to happen, but then as soon as I arrived here, and we moved into this place, you know, my productivity just fell off a cliff. Everything kind of just ground to a halt, and I was shocked. I was like, "Oh my god. What's going on here?" Really what it was is my environment wasn't set up the right way to really make me as productive as I was back in New York. What I learned from this experience was that it's not so much an individual that's productive, it's more the individual, and their environment, and their routine. I can't say which one's more important. You know, the individual, the environment, or the routine. I think they're all really as important as each other. I was very productive over there. You move me over here into a bad ... well, not a bad environment, but into a different environment, and I'm not as productive. Really, what happened there is that there's all of these small little things that you take for granted and don't realize [inaudible 00:04:06] that you set up earlier that really builds a foundation for you to be really productive. What I mean is just simple things, like the internet connection, how fast is it? Also, having a charger. Not just a charger where you work, but if there's multiple places where you take your computer during the day or whatever, then you should have a charger in both rooms, because what happens is you might move room, you might be working, and then notice that your battery's going flat. Now you've got to get up, go to the other room to get the charger, and bring it back again. That might seem like, "Well, that's just a small thing." That might only take you one minute, two minutes, but like I said, productivity and time management, it's death by 1,000 cuts. All of these small things just creep up, and the end result is that you can't get anything done, because you have to make all of these small micro decisions all the time. You know, it goes deeper than this. It's not just about having a fast internet connection. It's not just about having a charger in every room. One of the biggest things that I see that is just so tragic for most people is just food and eating. To think about, "What am I going to have for breakfast?", and then have to go out and get that. Then, to think, "Oh, where am I going to get a coffee?", to have to look that up, and then go and get a coffee, and then maybe wait in line or whatever. Then, to think about, "What am I going to have for lunch?" Going out and getting lunch, probably waiting in line again, coming home, eating it. Then, dinner, it happens all over again. Food is one of the biggest thing that crashes productivity. It's because we need to eat like constantly throughout the day. We need to have breakfast, lunch, and then dinner. That's three things that happen every single day. If every single time one of these things, you know, you need a meal, you have to think, "What am I going to have to eat?", and then go out and get something, and then bring it back, and then eat it, before you know it, you've got no time left in the day. If you've got a slow internet connection, you have to think in the middle of the day, "Oh, I'm going to go get this charger from this other room," and then if you have to go out and get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you know, just doing all of those things, that has probably cut your productivity by, I would say, 75%. It's not just a small thing here. It's a massive performance killer. Why it is, and this is one of the reasons why people don't understand this, when they think about doing a task ... let's say it's going out to get lunch, they think, "Oh, that'll only take me 30 minutes," but it's not that. It's so much more demanding than that. If you have to think about it, it's using mental bandwidth, and that means that when you come back from lunch, you've got less mental bandwidth to commit to your work. It's draining that. More than that, if you've got these small things that pop up during the day, it doesn't matter if it just takes one minute to go and get a charger and then come back. If you're in the middle of some task where you were deep in the zone, and focused, and concentrated on something, then it doesn't matter if the thing only takes one minute to do. It's going to take you half an hour to get back into that same state of mind, and into that same depth of zone that you were in. These small, trivial things that look like they only take one minute, two minutes, or whatever, they actually end up costing you 30 minutes, an hour, or more. By the time we've got a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner, finding a charger, a slow internet connection, pretty much we don't have really anything of the day left. Our mental bandwidth is so drained that even with the small little spots that we do have left to apply our energy, there isn't much energy to apply. The way that people ... What I've noticed, and the purpose of this video here ... What I've noticed is that the way people look at time is wrong. What they do is they just look at a task, and they think, "This is just going to take a minute." What they don't take into account is that it's going to take them half an hour to get back into the same gear they need to be in to keep going on the project they're working on. It might take longer than an hour. For example, when I'm creating content ... let's say I've got to create some slides, or some videos, or some training for my online courses at ... If I'm in the middle of that, and then I get distracted from something, and have to come back, it might take me up to one hour to get me back into that same depth of concentration and focus. You get my point. You really need to protect your time. What you really need to watch out for is the small things. Remember the saying, death by 1,000 cuts. It's a perfect way of illustrating it. I actually got this saying from the financial world, where in a lot of training programs, where they teach people how to save money, and how to become financially free, they say the same thing. Death by 1,000 cuts. Why they say that is because it's not big expenses that really cripple people. It's the small things. It's just the lunch out every day. It's the Uber ride here and there. It's going out on Saturday and having a few drinks there. It's buying a new T-shirt or a new pair of shoes there. Each one of these small individual purchases, they don't really look like they're going to do much, but the sum total of all of these things is devastating. It's not just finances that work like this. It is your time, too. Your time works like this. I think time is better suited to the saying death by 1,000 cuts than money is, because people are shocking with their time. They don't protect it, and they don't treat it like the rare resource that it really is. You know, a lot of people, they're out there all the time, and they're worried about money, but no one seems to really be worried about time. To me, time is more valuable than money. You know, money, I have a lot of and can get a lot of, but time, I only have a finite amount. Really, I encourage you to be more mindful of where your time goes. One thing that I recommend doing, if you're not feeling very productive, and if you're kind of getting frustrated and annoyed because you can't deliver on the project that you want to deliver, then one exercise that I highly recommend is just called 100 units of time. All you do is, for one week, you just track where your time goes. Every single day, you chunk it out into 30 minutes, and every time you do something, you just write it down, and you track from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed at night, every day for seven days straight, and track where your time goes. Then, at the end of the week, look back over that, and then look at these different buckets that it goes into. Then, you can create some buckets or some categories. Then, you can start to work out as a percentage how much time do you spend doing all of these different things? Once you're aware of where your time's going, the real trick to it is not to just try and become more efficient or more productive. The real trick is not to get more apps on your phone, and it's not to get some to-do list software, or anything like that. That's the stupid way to do it. You know, you don't try to do more. You try to do less. The real masterful way of dealing with time once you've been made aware of it, and where your time goes, you just want to start eliminating the wasteful practices. Just get rid of it. There's nothing better than just eliminating something. You know, creating a system or a process, or hiring someone, or delegating it, these are all things that aren't true fixes. They're kind of just patches and putting a Band-Aid on something, but eliminating something? It's just gone. Eliminating things is what I encourage you to do all the time. You know, once a month, you should do this 100 units of time exercise, just one week out of the month, every single month. See where your time's going, identify the wasteful practices, and eliminate them. Then, there's always going to be some sort of argument, which is like, "Oh, but I have to do this, or I have to post on Snapchat, or something." The truth is you don't. You know, a lot of the things that people are doing that they think they have to do just aren't that important. The way to really determine whether something's important or not is it's a process of elimination. Let's say you're in business, and you're helping somebody ... Let's say you're helping plumbing businesses get customers, right? Let's say that's what you're doing. Now, if we're eliminating things that you're doing in your business, and we're trying to find the point at which it becomes troublesome for your customer, who is the plumber. If we start eliminating you doing social media, you doing all of this different stuff, it's not really going to affect the customer, and he or she just is fine. Business can continue as usual. The moment you start eliminating like delivering services to your clients, or looking after your clients, or delivering results to your clients, or actually marketing and selling to get new clients, you know, these things are mandatory. These things must be done in order for the business to stay alive. All of the other things that aren't essential to that plumber being your customer, they're not necessary. What you should do is just eliminate all of those things. I didn't do content up until really this year, like January 2018. I've only just started doing YouTube videos once a week, and Instagram. It's been around for a long time. I only started doing it in January 2018. If you don't believe me, just go to my Instagram profile. Just scroll back to the first ever post I did. It is January this year, 2018. My point with this is that I was able to grow a successful business to the point that it was making about 18 million a year ... That was at the stage last year, like end of the year. This was done without having an Instagram account. I didn't even have the app on my phone. I didn't have a Snapchat account. I don't have the app at all. I didn't use Facebook either. I only really logged into Facebook to just answer people's questions in my customer community and stuff, but I didn't use it as a consumer. I only used it as a producer. I was able to grow my business by not doing these things. Where this really gets people is they're like, "Oh, but I have to do this. You know, I have to do this. This is what has to be done." The truth is that, really, one of the reasons that I was able to make such massive jumps and grow to the size that my company is, it's because I ignored all of the stuff that everybody else is obsessed about. I obsessed over getting results from my clients, attracting clients, and really looking after my clients, and getting as many of them as I could. That was really where all of my time went. 100%. Then when it came to things that were just perception, like posting on social media and all of this stuff, I just ignored it completely. I eliminated it. That was actually one of the reasons why I was able to make such rapid progress, by not doing that. I encourage you, when you're doing this 100 units of time exercise, and you're finding where all of your time goes, when you spot these areas that are social media and things like that, or maybe it's creating content, posting videos on YouTube, or whatever, I'm telling you it isn't mandatory. You might think, "Well, Sam, why are you doing it now if it isn't useful at all?" I'm not saying it's not useful at all. I'm saying it's not mandatory. You know, you don't have to do it to be successful. I did it without doing that. There is a lot of other people who do it without doing it, too. Why did I start doing it this year? That's a good question. The reason I started doing it this year is because it helps. You know, if you're spending a lot of money on ads, and if you've got a bunch of customers, and if there's word of mouth and stuff out there buzzing around, then it actually helps to have a little bit of a social presence, and it helps to produce a little bit of context, right? Now, the key word here is it helps. It isn't necessary, but if you can, you should do it. I wasn't in a position to be able to do it responsibly until January this year. The reason why is because if I was creating content or doing social media, then it would've been taking my time away from helping my customers, and creating good training for them, and also getting more customers. Now, I'm not willing to make that trade-off. I'm not willing to do less of what's most important to do more of something that isn't important. It's mindless. That's stupid, moronic activity. I only started doing the stuff that is helpful, but not mandatory, which is social media content, all of that, when I had hired and trained enough people in my team to cover all of those bases, so that when I started doing this, I wasn't taking away from that. That's what I encourage you to do, too. Ignore social media, and all of this noise, and all of this crap, and focus on the main thing. Keep the main thing the main thing, which is helping your customers with whatever it is that you're promising them, delivering amazing results, amazing support. You know, nothing is more important than adding value to your customers. That is the main thing. If you're the best at that, it doesn't matter what everything else is like, you'll win. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the company and the business that delivers the most value to their clients wins, regardless of whether they've got Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or whatever. That is not relevant. That's my point, is don't die from 1,000 little cuts. Look at everything properly. Do that 100 units of time exercise and eliminate all of those sources that are sucking your time dry. Then, try to have uninterrupted focus on the main things. When you put uninterrupted focus, and when you channel it into those main areas, that's when you really start moving the needle of your business. You know, putting focus and energy into these things is so explosive to your business, but most people's focus just gets bled out into all of these trivial things that isn't that important at all. I can't tell you the difference it makes in your business, and in your life, and in your finances, and everything, when you make this change. It's hard to do, because you've probably been trained to be all ADD and spastic, and it's going to be hard to try and channel that focus into the main things, and you just have to put up with that resistance, and you have to keep going against it, and keep going against it, until it breaks. Then, the resistance will break, and then you'll flow with this, and it'll be your new mode of operation. It'll be your new norm. You have to keep working at it until it becomes the new norm. Another really useful tip that I've got for you, when it comes to eliminating time sucking activities is decision making. Whenever you come to a decision during your day, or during your life with any stage, you want to ask yourself, "What is the half-life of this decision? What is the half-life of this decision?" What I mean by that is, "If I make this decision, how long is it going to last for before I have to make this decision again?" For example, let's say it's 12:30 on a Monday, and I'm hungry, and I need food. I have to make a decision. Where am I going to get food from today? I Google it, and I find a place, and I go out, I walk, I go there, and I get food, I bring it back, and I start eating, and then I'm done. That's how poor people think. The same decision keeps popping up the next day, the next day, the next day. Shit, it pops up three times in one day. Yet the person doesn't realize that they keep wasting all of this time thinking what I should get to eat, when it's going to keep happening forever, for the rest of their life, and it's going to happen three times a day. Yet, this person never really thinks like, "Oh, maybe I should make a better decision about this. Maybe I should make a decision that's going to last longer than four hours." The half-life of that decision is really only four hours, until you're hungry again, right? What smart people do is they make a decision once that fixes that problem and solves it forever, or if not for forever, for a long time. Let me give you an example. When I noticed that food was taking a lot of time, I decided to hire a chef. I hire a chef, and we got her trained and everything, and then she would order the groceries and all of that, and then after I'd eaten, she'd even do the dishes. Just end to end, full stack, cupboard, everything. From planning the meals, buying the groceries, putting them in the fridge, putting in the pantry, cooking the meals, cleaning everything up, and doing the dishes. I made that one decision, and that one decision took probably the same amount of time as it took to buy one meal, right? With the same mental bandwidth and energy that it takes to make one decision to get some food, I found a chef who would make food for years. That's what she did. She continued to make me lunch and dinner for more than a year. It was honestly one of the best investments and productivity things that I ever did in my entire life. That one decision was worth millions of dollars, even though it just seems so small, like just hiring a chef. It's worth a lot of money, because it saved me so much time, cumulatively. These are the things you want to think about, is make sure that the decisions you make have a long half-life. Instead of thinking, "How can I just solve this in the short term?", start thinking, "How can I solve this so this decision never has to be made by me ever again?" Another way to do this is with your schedule and your routine. I see people all the time, like they go to bed at different times, and they wake up at different times. Whenever you do that, you can't really hold a schedule, and you can't really plan out in advance, because you don't really know whether you can schedule something in for 9:00 AM on a Friday, because you're not sure if you're going to be awake at 9:00 AM on a Friday. You can't really plan, and you can't schedule. The real trick to this, it's to set standards, and principles, and routines, and rules. What I mean by this is instead of having everything open and flexible, start bolting things down a bit. What this really does is, when you create constraints, it actually releases more productivity. You know, a lot of the time, we have freedom from constraints, and it's quite the opposite of what most people believe. A lot of people believe, "Oh, if I have just true freedom, no schedule, no calendar, no routine, then I'll be really productive." That's not true. Just try and operate, but when you're doing that. You're all over the place. You're a mess. Instead, you need to set some standards and have some discipline. When I started doing this, it changed my productivity immensely. I started going to bed at 11:00 every night. Then, I started waking up at 6:50 in the morning every night, and going to the gym at 7:00 in the morning pretty much every day. Five days of the week out of seven. When I really stuck to that, it meant that I was able to schedule my days better. I was able to schedule things well out in advance, because I knew when I was going to be working and when I wasn't going to be working. It totally unlocked a lot of efficiency for me. If you're an entrepreneur, then I bet you you suffer from too much freedom. This is what happens, because when you've got no constraints on you, and when you're your own boss, and you can kind of set whatever limits you want for yourself, sometimes you can have too much freedom, and you just end up in a tangle and in a mess. What I recommend for you is to set some standards and some rules, and then stick to them, and stay on the rails. Really, what we're doing here is we're kind of building rails that we can stay on, and when you stay on those rails, you're able to just execute and get things done so much more efficiently than you would've without them. I didn't really experience this until I came here to Venice when my rails were removed. You know, my personal trainer, [inaudible 00:25:52], wasn't here, our chef wasn't here, and my desk and workspace is all different, the internet was different. Everything was different. I didn't really have this realization until all of that was taken away, and then I realized how helpful these rails really are, and that's what I'm in the process of now, is putting these rails back in place so I can get back to that optimum efficiency that I was at before. That's it for this video today. I just wanted to tell you watch out for those 1,000 little cuts. It's those little things that get you. It's those little things that are going to take you out and really consume all of your life without you ever really being aware of it. If you liked this video, just click that like button and also leave me something in the comment section below. I'm going to be reading these comments and replying to them, so let me know what you think down there. Also, if you like this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I release a blog video like this once every week, and I also do customer interviews, and Q&A calls, and other things that might help you along your journey. Thanks for watching, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one soon.