Productivity Hack: Designing Your Life For "Optimal Defaults"

Productivity Hack: Designing Your Life For "Optimal Defaults"


Human behavior typically follows the path of least resistance.

Make one option close and another option far away, a human will take the close option almost every time.

We can't help it, it's our "default".

What people don't know, is that you can design your environment so that the "defaults" we fall into are the ones that serve our goals.

Example: If you want to get out of bed on time, set the alarm on your phone and put it far away from your bed. This small environment change dramatically improves your likelihood of getting out of bed VS hitting snooze. 

Think of it as a game of snakes and ladders. Ladders are good (things that serve our goal) and snakes are bad (things that distract from our goal). We want to design our environment so that we're more likely to find ladders and less likely to find snakes. 

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

Here's what we cover:

1. Why it's always the simple things in life and business that get the big results but everybody believes its something "more advanced".

2. Why we spend the first day of our mastermind events covering productivity and time management (even though more than 50% of our group are at 7-figures and some at 8-figures). 

3. How to track your time and categorize the major areas where you spend it. Categorize it and then judge  the categories as "negative" (doesn't serve goal) or "positive" (does serve goal).

4. Why you should eliminate the negative things and do more of the positive things. Basically do more of what's working and less of what doesn't. 

5. Why humans are heavily influenced by their environment and why our behavior typically takes the path of least resistance (good or bad) within that environment. 

6. How to audit your environment by listing all the objects in your house/office and then categorizing the objects as "negative" (doesn't serve goal) or "positive" (serves goal). 

7. How to optimize your environment by removing negative objects from your house and making positive objects more noticeable so that your behavior is more likely to default to the best path. 

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 everyone, Sam Ovens here and today I just wanted to make a quick video called designing for optimal defaults. Now what that means is, designing your life and your environment and your routine so that the default that you go to, the path of least resistance is the right thing to do and the most productive thing to do in order to achieve the goal that you want to achieve. Now, right now I just got back from doing my mastermind event in New York City and you will probably hear my voice is a little bit different. Ended up getting sick and the mastermind went really well. And the mastermind that I've got, we've got a group of about 60, 70 people and I think about four of them are making eight figures a year and more than half the people there are making seven figures a year. A lot multi seven figures. And it's a really advanced group of people [00:01:00] and they're doing really big things and a lot of the people in this mastermind, influential people with masterminds of their own. And what's always amazing is that I think a lot of people believe that these masterminds are going to hold really advanced information. And if you go into one of these masterminds, it's going to be like the most advanced stuff ever. Like which color should I have this button or how many milliseconds [00:01:30] should this pop up wait before it loads. All of this advanced technical stuff. But really there couldn't be any further from the truth, these masterminds pretty much what we spent the entire first day doing is just trying to become more productive. And this is a funny thing because a lot of people would think what you joined the mastermind to become more productive or time management skills or just. Everyone knows time management skills. Everyone knows about productivity. So why would I join [00:02:00] a mastermind group to learn about time management and being productive? I want to get the advanced stuff, right. That's what a lot of people believe. But here's the thing. It's always the simple things in life and in business that get the major results. And to give you a perfect example, if we look at fitness, health, and fitness, if you want to be healthy and if you want to be in good shape and all of that and be fed, all you really need to do is number [00:02:30] one, get sleep, get a good amount of sleep, seven, eight hours. Number two, drink water to be hydrated. Number three, exercise. And number four, just eat well. That's it. That is all you need to do. You do those things, you'll be fit and healthy, but the whole world goes and complicates this whole damn thing and they're like, oh no, I need this special raised shoe or I need this new Nike Watch that tells me what it is even though really, I know I should just be going to the damn gym. But no one need this Nike Watch or this new Nike App. People just complicate the hell out of this stuff. But really when it comes down to it, those are the things you need to do. And so why is it that people want to think or want to believe that it's something else? And the reason I don't actually know the answer to that, if I knew the answer to that, then I would be able to solve the human condition. But really what I think it is humans don't want to accept that it's [00:03:30] the hard thing. If someone's overweight, they don't want to accept that it's just the fact that they're living like shit. They don't want to accept the fact that they don't exercise and they eat like crap and they sleep like crap and no wonder they've had. All right. They want to accept that it's something else. It's something more complicated. And I find this is the same in business as well. People know that they need to just work harder, more intensely, more focused. They need to keep things simple and [00:04:00] they need to work on things consistently for long periods of time and they need to just do this relentlessly, day in, day out, just repetitively for years to achieve the results. That is the truth, but they believe that, oh maybe it's just something a little bit more, something a bit nicer, something a bit more palatable, but it never is. And so on the first day of the mastermind, this time round, I completed [00:04:30] two main exercises with everyone to really help them find we're most of their time is being wasted and how to fix it and also how to optimize their environment so that they designed for optimal default. And this is what this video is about, how to design your life and your lifestyle and your environment so that your default, the path of least resistance is the right thing to do. So first of all, I'll tell you how to [00:05:00] really manage your time and this is a very simple thing to do. So all you need to do is for seven days you can do this starting today. Measure where your time goes every 30 minutes, just have your timer on your iPhone or whatever go off every 30 minutes and then just keep a note pad out and then just write down where your time goes and do there for seven days, and do it in your personal life and when you're working. And if you're asleep for eight hours, just right sleep. And to do that for seven days. Then at the [00:05:30] end of those seven days, what I want you to do is look at all the areas where your time wind and then I want you to define some categories or some buckets that can contain similar types of time spend. So for example, if you spend a lot of time browsing Facebook, whatever you can just bucket they're into social media and then social media within that could have Facebook, Instagram, whatever. And so then what you do is you categorize [00:06:00] the major areas where your time goes and then you assign a number of hours to each bucket. So how many total hours did you spend on social media? On email, on driving, on fitness, on reading, on watching Netflix, all of that. And then once you've written all of that down, what you want to do is then define your goal. So what is it that you're actually trying to achieve? And this is an important one and a lot of people are like, Oh wow, I don't even know my goal. Well [00:06:30] you really need to know where you're trying to achieve. Otherwise it's kind of like going to the airport and being like, I don't know where I'm supposed to go, but I'll just get on a flight and you will end up someplace. But whether that place is where you actually want to be, that's a different question. Alright? So you have to know where you want to go. So once you've defined that goal, let's say it's to make like, a million dollars for the year, right? And once you've defined that goal, now you want to look at all the different categories where your [00:07:00] time is being spent. And you want to think, well, which of these categories contributes towards achieving my goal? And which of these categories does not contribute towards achieving my goal? It's very simple it either contributes or it does not contribute. So what I want you to do is go through that list of categories and write negative or positive next to them. All right? So class them negative or positive. [00:07:30] And then once you've done that, then what I want you to do is weigh each category. So if something is a negative, let's say social media and it doesn't help you achieve your goal. Now weigh it, how negative is it? How much of a distraction is it? If it's really a distraction, then way it's like 90% and if something like doing sales calls or working on your Facebook ads or creating more content for your course or your program, or helping [00:08:00] your clients get better results, if it's very constructive, and if it contributes towards your goal, then what I want you to do is weigh that category. And if it contributes a lot, you're probably going to weigh it at about 90%. And the reason why you want to class these things first and weigh them second is because we need to know of the things that help us, the actions that contribute to our goal, which ones are most potent and powerful, and all of the things that distract us from our goal and how and basically [00:08:30] are things that we expend energy and time on but are of no value to us. Well, how bad are these things, right? Because something isn't just good or bad or positive or negative. They have varying degrees and that's what we use the weight function for it. And so once you've done this exercise, you should know exactly where your time goes on a weekly basis and you should know which things contribute, which things detract and also the potency of each thing. Once you know this, then [00:09:00] it's very simple what you do. You simply eliminate the negatives. And I really mean it. You eliminate them. There's nothing better than just getting rid of it. And a lot of people think, oh no, I don't want to get rid of this thing. I just want, I should just try and work an extra 10 minutes a day and I can just fit this little thing in here. Get rid of it. Stop hanging on to this shit. You honestly, there's nothing quite like getting rid of something. It's one thing to automate something. It's another thing to delegate [00:09:30] it. It's another thing to try and create a system to fit it in, but nothing works as well as just eliminating it, and that's one of my favorite things to do just to get rid of it. So get rid of all of the things that you do that don't serve your goal, and then once you've done that, then if you can't get rid of things completely, then what you want to do is you want to minimize them as much as possible. All right, and do them at least frequently. Things like that, [00:10:00] right? You want to get rid of things. Then to minimize things, get the negatives as small. You want to try and get rid of the negatives or if not possible to get rid of them. Make them as small as possible. Now the positives, what do we do with these value actions, these actions that we do that contribute towards the achieving of your goal, while we want to find the most potent ones, the ones with the heaviest waiting, and then we want to try and do these things more often. So if we're doing it once every two days, why not daily? If we're doing that once every week, why not daily, [00:10:30] and if we're doing something daily, then how many hours are we doing it for? If we're doing it for one hour, why not eight? If you're doing it for eight, why not 12? All right. If you find something that works, do it until it can no longer be done, exhausted the thing. All right. One of the skills and strengths I've picked up over the years is to really get good at finding the things that ... Well, I've really gotten good at determining signal from noise, so finding the things that really [00:11:00] don't do anything, which is most things by the way, and then finding the very small few things that actually contribute and add value and help growth. And then what I do is I just lock, like I put a terminator gaze on the thing that adds the value and I just don't let go of it and I just execute on it relentlessly as much as I possibly can. I just unleash hell on this thing and that might mean working on it 12 hours a day, six days a week [00:11:30] for years on end and it might even mean hiring other people so that they can add their energy to it too. And then unloading money and investment capital on this thing so we can really just hammer it in. When you find something that works, just do it more, do it until it can no longer be done. And when you find something that doesn't work, get rid of it. really my system can be described pretty simple. It's just do more of what works, less of what doesn't. That's really it. [00:12:00] And that's the system that I use. I just described it to you. Do an audit of your time, seven days, measure where it goes, right it down, categorize it, put it into buckets, then assign either a negative or a positive, a label to each one of those buckets then weigh each bucket and into more of what works, less of what doesn't, that's it. Now that is my method for like time management and it works really well. And the beauty of this thing is that no matter how [00:12:30] many times you've done it, no matter how wealthy or successful you are in business, right, there's still more. And so you might think, oh, but somebody's making $1,000,0000 a month, $3,000,0000 a month. They don't need to know about time management or that system. That's not true. I still applied this thing probably once or twice a month and I still find more waste. The way you can never, there's always more efficiency to be squeezed out of something. And you want [00:13:00] to be relentless in your pursuit of perfection and you always want to be looking to squeeze more. Even when people are like, oh my God, this thing could not be any more efficient, surely this thing couldn't go any harder. I want more and I'm looking to squeeze more and it never ends. It is a never ending relentless pursuit for years on end for life. That's how you make something powerful by never ever, ever stopping improving it and optimizing it. Now [00:13:30] that's my method for finding out where your time gets wasted and optimizing it. And just on this one thing you can make yourself a lot of money just by performing this one activity. The second thing which really contributes to the first thing is optimizing your environment. Now, what a lot of people don't understand is that human beings we're really influenced heavily by our environments. [00:14:00] And what I mean by that is if we're in an environment where all of the defaults and all of the easy paths for us to take are not constructive, then we are much more likely to go down one of those paths. For example, if I may, let me give you a very, very simple example to make my point here. So let's say that I want to lose weight, right? And if I keep [00:14:30] like chocolate and ice cream and unhealthy food in my kitchen or if keep beer and alcohol and all of that in there, then I'm much more likely to go and eat and drink that. And if I do that, then I'm much less likely to lose weight. So if your environment influences your decisions a lot of the time we think how will power is really responsible for us making decisions or not, but it's not so much how willpower [00:15:00] it's more the environment and willpower, you have to work on that too. It's like a muscle you have to really work it out. You have to grow the thing. But from my observation, the environment is the easy place to intervene and to make changes. And so what I've noticed with me is if I'm trying to focus, it's very hard to just sit and try to focus. All right? And so instead what I seek to do is invert focus and what is focus when it's inverted, [00:15:30] it's distraction. And so if I don't do distraction, then I'm doing focus. Alright? So what I seek to do instead is not do distraction. So what I try and do is I find all things that are distracting and I eliminate them. So I do that on my time audit. I find out where all my time goes to things that are distracting, I eliminate them, I try to get rid of them. And then what I do as I perform an audit on my environment. And this is a fascinating thing for people [00:16:00] to do and it will change your life when you do it. So what you do as you walk around your house and your office in your apartment or whatever, and you do an audit of every single object that you have in there. So you know your desk, your laptop, your, let's say you've got a TV or you've got, I don't know what you have in your house, just list all of it. Maybe you've got some different toys in your garage, different things. Just write an audit of everything, every single objects that you have [00:16:30] and interact with on a day to day basis. Write it down. You can put this in a Google sheet or something, list it down. Now, once you've identified all the objects in your environment, the second thing you want to do is class them. Are they negative or positive? And how do we define that? Well, an object would be deemed positive if it contributed to us doing some action that was constructive towards our goal. [00:17:00] All right, so let me give you an example. If I have my desk in a really good spot in my office or in my house where I'm likely to see us and likely to want to go and spend time there, and if I have my laptop on my desk and then if I have my to do list next to my laptop planned the night before, listed down, then I am much more likely when I just see this disc notepad laptop just sitting there in the morning. I'm much more likely to go over there, [00:17:30] sit down and do what's on that list. Right? So some objects are positive, they're more likely to influence us to do behavior that is constructive towards our goal. All right. And some objects are negative and by that I mean they're more likely to influence us to do an action that is not constructive towards our goal. Example, you could have an x [00:18:00] box and in a TV right. Now, if in your living room you've got a massive TV in this x box sitting there and all of these games and controllers and whatnot, and if you're more likely to notice your Xbox and your TV, than you are at your desk and your computer. Then which thing do you think you're more likely to do each day? You're more likely to default to playing that damn Xbox and watching their TV. And so a lot of the time it's not building up willpower to try not to play the Xbox and to do the work instead. I mean you can do that, but it's hard and you'll fail eventually. It'll get to you. So really what you want to do is both fix the environment by eliminating the Xbox. Get rid of the damn thing, get rid of the TV and then also work on your willpower to go to your computer each day and complete [00:19:00] your work. And so you want to go through every single object in your environment and find out whether it's positive or negative. And then you also want to weight each item. So how positive visit, if it's really positive, give it a 90 or an 80%. If it's really negative, then weigh it as well. And some examples of some very negative things, One, alcohol, having lots of that in the house, that's not good. That's very, very. can't think of anything more distracting and harmful towards achieving a business goal than alcohol. So, that's one that I'd get rid of. Another one would be video games, get rid of those because they're very addictive and time consuming. TV's get rid of those damn things. When I just moved into my new place here in LA, there was like five TVs on the walls around the house. And so on the second day we were here, [00:20:00] I just started walking around the house with like a socket set and I just took all of them off the wall and just got rid of them. And then I called up the cable TV company. I was like, yeah, turn this thing off, don't want it. And then also unplugged all of the home lines, all of the home phones got rid of them all. All right? Because I don't want to see TVs on my wall each day. I don't want to even think about watching TV. And then even if I do think about it, I don't want to be able to. [00:20:30] I don't want to have a cable connection. I don't even want to have a TV. I want to get rid of those damn things. And this is what you've got to do. You've got to optimize your environment so that your default behavior is more likely to be good. Because if you don't keep bad food in the house, right, you're much more likely to eat good food. And if you don't have video games and TVs and things in there, you're much more likely to focus. If you put your office and your disk in a room that is [00:21:00] enjoyable to be in and you like being in there, you're much more likely to work because you're attracted to things that you enjoy and you're comfortable doing. And you're also, Your environment heavily influences this too. I see some people that put the officers in these horrible, like the home offices and these horrible little caves with no windows or they. I saw one who put one in his laundry. He has a standup desk and his laundry, just no windows with fluorescent [00:21:30] lights flickering. Just next to like a washing machine and a dryer going like, yeah, he's not going to be very likely to go in there and complete work because he's not going to want to be in there. And so you want to put these things in places where your likely to want to go. And by doing this, your training your mind to enjoy work and enjoy doing these things that are good and constructive towards achieving your goal. And you'll also at the same time as training your mind to do the [00:22:00] things you should be doing. You're removing the things that it shouldn't be doing and making it less likely for them to happen in the first place. So we're winning on the upside and we're winning by removing the downside, both on our time and on our environment which influences our time. So just by doing these two things, you really do pick up a huge amount of productivity and efficiency and it's quite insane really, how much more you can get done if you do this sort of stuff. And to give you some [00:22:30] quick wins, like quick things that you should probably get rid of. A huge one as your phone. Like delete all of the apps off your damn phone. Turn your phone on airplane mode and then put it in your drawer. You destroy it and close it. You do not need to have your phone next to you to make any money. People who have the phones going off all the damn time and they're looking at them all the damn time. They're either insane or poor or both. And so when you see people who are very successful, [00:23:00] they're not. Their phones, don't own them. They don't care about their phone. They're building something. They're working on a project that has some meaning, much more meaning than just being distracted by some Tweet, some person did or just a random message about someone saying, Hey, what are you doing? Like, get rid of all of this crap. And another one is when you go to bed at night, turn your phone on airplane mode and set your [00:23:30] alarm and then plug it into charge and have it away from your bed. Haven't like out of your room or just by the door of your room as far away as your bid, as far away from your bed as possible. And why you want to do this is number one, when you go to sleep, you can't just grab it from your side table and start like reading crap, so you're more likely to go to sleep on time and you're more likely to have a good sleep. And number two is when your alarm goes off in the morning, [00:24:00] it's going to be going off somewhere. We have to go and walk to get it and turn it off. And this is a good thing because it'll force you to stand up and get out of bed. You can't just reach over and turn it onto snooze so you have to get up and you stand up and you walk over there. And by the time you actually get over there and you turn it off. Even if you think about going back to bed you are like, I'm already up anyway, so I might as well just keep going and this is what I do. And it works really well. And the other good thing is that it [00:24:30] gets you out of bed so you don't just decide to lie there and just have a scroll around and your email and things like that. So this is designing for default, designing to make us more likely to do things that are constructive towards our goals and more likely to help us achieve the things that we want to achieve. So two things remember the first one, audit your time. We just go map it for seven days. Assign it into different buckets, different [00:25:00] categories then rate each one, is it negative or positive? Then weigh each one out of 100% and then do more of what works less of what doesn't. And then look at your environment. Audit all of the objects in your environment. Then list each one is it negative or positive? Does it contribute to the goal positive or does it detract from the goal? Negative. And then why each one out of 100%. And eliminate the objects in your environment that distracts you. Get rid of them. Or if you can't get rid of [00:25:30] an object in your environment, then move it away from you as far away as possible. Get it out of sight. If you have to keep it, then put it away out of sight, put it in a drawer or something. Put it in another room, and proximity too, move it out away from you. You want to draw closer to you, the things that are going to help you achieve your goals and make them much more visible than likely to see and you want to hide and move far away from you The things that are going to distract [00:26:00] you from your goals. This is how you optimize your environment and when you work on both things, optimizing where your time goes and your environment and then back to your time and then back to your environment in a never ending loop, you will turn into a machine. And I mean like a real man machine, human machine, you will get 100 times more things done than most other people and they will look at you and be like, Whoa, what is this person doing? And [00:26:30] really it might look fancy and kind of amazing from the outside, but from the inside is very simple. It's just doing more of what works, what doesn't, and completing those two exercises that I just explained to you in this video. Now, if you liked this video, then just click that like button and also leave me something in the comments section below. Just give me some feedback, let me know what you thought of this video, if you liked it or whatever, and also subscribe to my YouTube channel. I release [00:27:00] a video like this every single week and I also released a customer interviews with some of my students as well. So thanks for watching this video and I look forward to seeing you in the next one next week.