Based on an interview with public relations master, best-selling author and host of the #1 ADHD Podcast Faster Than Normal, Peter Shankman.
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Peter Shankman lives a faster than normal life and rocks it. He’s an uber-successful entrepreneur, public relations master, best-selling author, host of the #1 ADHD Podcast “Faster Than Normal,” and single-dad to his 5-year old daughter. Not to mention a licensed skydiver, marathon runner, Ironman participant and Peloton junkie. It’s not that he has more time on his hands, he’s learned how to leverage his ADHD and use it as a gift.
It all started in the mid-90’s when Peter was in an online chatroom and was encouraged to apply to a newsroom start-up. With minimal experience outside of a journalism degree, Peter helped build the largest digital online newsroom in the world — AOL — in just 3 years.
In the wake of the dot-com boom, with the priceless experience gained from AOL, Peter wanted to start a PR firm. The only problem was… he had no money. With the upcoming release of the movie “Titanic,” Peter had the idea to take his rent money and get 500 t-shirts made with the quote “It Sank. Get Over It.” and sell them in Times Square. He sold out in 6 hours.
Taking the t-shirts online, he cleared $100,000 in under two months. Enough money to start his PR firm.
“Try it, see what happens, somehow make it work.”
Peter hasn’t slowed down since. To what does he attribute his success? In his mid-30’s Peter was diagnosed with ADHD, and learning how to “drive” his faster than normal brain has been a game-changer.
“When you’re driving a faster brain — just like when you’re driving a Lamborghini — you have to know how to drive it.”
Here are 5 productivity hacks that helped Peter leverage his best life:
- Systems and Processes
- Structured Days
- Wake-up Early
Know Thyself: What is important to you? What kind of life do you want to live? What are your priorities?
Our priorities shape our lives by the choices we make. You can’t have everything, and that’s why you need priorities to determine the best way to spend your time.
“It’s not about willpower, It’s when your desire to change becomes greater than your desire to stay the same — you change. It’s not rocket science.”
One great example: a couple of years ago Peter quit drinking alcohol. Not because he had a drinking problem, but because he noticed how unproductive he was the day after and the valuable time that was wasted. While he initially thought this would affect business-related networking, he’s learned that he is far more productive at an early morning breakfast meeting than evening cocktails.
That trade off has been worth more than he could have ever realized.
Peter developed an “all or nothing” mindset when learning to drive his faster than normal brain. ADHD is connected to obsessive nature — so diving into a project or lifestyle, all or nothing, comes naturally.
“I have two speeds, and I only have two speeds: Namaste and I’ll cut a b**ch. There’s no middle ground.”
For example, his best selling book Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans was written on a round-trip flight to Japan. There was no other purpose for that trip — Peter needed that travel time to focus on writing without any interruptions.
Chapters 1–5 were written on the first 14-hour flight to Tokyo, and chapters 6–10 were completed on the fourteen hours home — with only a quick stop at the Tokyo airport for a shower in-between trips.
2. Systems and Processes
Creating rules through systems and processes has been a significant productivity hack for Peter. By having these in place, his brain can focus without the noise and distractions of choices.
One particular system Peter has in place is his closet organization. He has two closets that are very strategically categorized. The closet in his bedroom has one side for office/travel clothes and one side for speaking events/TV appearances. All clothes for other occasions are kept in a closet in another room. Peter found that looking at a full, unorganized closet every day was exhausting and reminiscing about the memories attached to different pieces would run him down the rabbit-hole of memory lane. Categorizing clothes by use took the time and decision out of dressing.
Some other suggestions for creating systems and processes are:
- Have a place to “Brain Dump” your ideas — a place to capture all your ideas. Something that is easily accessible and on hand most of the time, such as a Trello board or list on your phone.
- Setting up automations at home or in the workflow. In Peter’s home, Amazon Echo connects to his lights, blinds, thermostat, etc. and can be turned on and adjusted with a voice command or with an automation.
- Signing up for workout classes or fitness events in advance
- Meal Prepping
- Laying out clothes for the next day
3. Structured Days
The human brain is sensitive to different environmental factors or conditions, such as time of day, which can affect our degree of productivity. By becoming aware of the level his brain operates at certain times of the day, Peter is able to optimize his time by structuring his days with work or activities that align his biological clock.
Days with structured routines also instills discipline in his everyday life. This helps alleviate the stress involved with daily decisions and allow him to gain more control over his priorities.
4. Wake up early
For Peter, waking up early sets the stage for his day and is extremely important for his productivity.
To start an early morning habit, try waking up just 30 minutes earlier and preparing as much the night before as you can. The less you have to think about in the morning and the fewer choices that need to be made, the more productive you will be.
Two systems Peter has set up to support his early morning alarm clock include:
- Sleeping in his gym clothes.
- An automation scheduled to gradually turn the lights on, mimicking the sun rising, turn on the lights and open the blinds.
There’s no excuse to go back to bed when you’re already wearing your gym clothes and you’ve got an early morning Peloton Class scheduled!
As busy as Peter is, he makes fitness a priority.
Exercise has substantial cognitive benefit: the dopamine released into your bloodstream when exercising is a major motivator. The amount of work that can be done in the first hour after working out may take double the time or more on a tired brain. Exercise also protects your body from injuries that can slow you down.
Here is our podcast with Peter:
To learn more about Peter, and his Faster Than Normal life: