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I started Asian Efficiency in 2011. It was a way to publicly document my learnings about productivity, efficiency, and goal setting for my friends and family. They constantly asked me the same questions about these topics so I decided to start a blog with my friend.

Every week a new blog post would go out to my friends and family. A year later, by accident, the blog took off and it became a sensation. All of sudden, I would get 20 emails a day asking if I had coaching, consulting or courses available.

I had to politely decline each email. This was a passion project, not a business.

After six months of constant requests, I decided to give this a try and see if this could become a viable business.

Almost 12 years later, I can say it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Between the blog and podcast, AE has reached millions of people over the years. We’ve helped over 16,000 paying clients since our existence.

I’m passionate about helping people become more productive at work and in life. However, I felt something was missing.

When you ask any of our clients or anyone who follows us what they like about AE, they’ll say things like:

  • “They have a holistic approach to productivity”
  • “They are very practical and not so much theory”
  • “They aren’t app or tool specific”

All of these are true. We’ve taken a jeet kune do approach. Just like Bruce Lee has taken the best things from other martial arts and then morphed them into something else, we’ve done the same thing.

We’ve experimented with dozens of productivity systems and methodologies. You name it, we’ve done it such as Getting Things Done, Agile Results, 12 Week Year, and so on. It also includes frameworks and systems for specific needs such as Building A Second Brain, The Bullet Journal, Zettelkasten, and the list goes on.

You name it, we’ve done it.

As a result, our content on the blog and The Productivity Show has been a culmination of all the best ideas from others. However, we’ve never had a comprehensive method for productivity itself.

If someone wants to become more productive, we don’t have a good centralized resource to help them. Do you need help with your email? We got a course called Escape Your Email for that.

Do you need help organizing your digital stuff? We have Easy Organization System for that.

Or maybe you need help with focus? We got Finisher’s Fastlane for that.

We have great courses for specific needs but we don’t have an introductory guide and course to productivity itself.

We resisted creating one for years.

Why?

There are lots of great introductory courses out there already. Plus, if you follow the blog and podcast long enough you’ll get the gist of it too.

But then something happened that changed my mind.

The AHA Moment

The productivity rabbit hole can go deep. You might start off with GTD, fall in love with note-taking apps, experiment with task managers, automate workflows with Zapier, and tweak settings within your operating system on your mobile devices.

You can spend thousands of hours tinkering and experimenting and go nowhere.

I’ve seen this happen too many times. People experiment and tinker for the sake of it. They lost sight of what they wanted to do in the first place: be more productive.

It’s kind of like going on a trip from Los Angeles to London and taking tons of detours. Instead of taking a direct flight, you might do a road trip to San Diego, cross the border into Mexico, take a bus to Mexico City, fly to Rio de Janeiro to experience the beaches, take a cruise to Africa and then somehow hike your way to London.

Did we get to the same destination? Yes. Was the effort to get there vastly different? Oh yes.

When I started AE in 2011, there weren’t that many resources around productivity and efficiency. Podcasts were barely a thing. Blogs started to pop up. You had a few books here and there.

For the most part, it was either the GTD book, Franklin Covey training, or an obscure blog post where someone outlined their own productivity method that worked for them.

Contrast that to today…it’s overwhelming how many options you have. Everyone with an audience now has a productivity course. There are hundreds of books on productivity. There are plenty of blogs, podcasts and ebooks around this topic.

It can be quite overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you trust to learn from?

I started to see this myself with people around me. More and more people are interested in becoming more productive and they ask me where to start.

And honestly, I couldn’t give them a good answer. Of course, I’m biased to say our stuff is great but we didn’t have an introductory program for them. That was always the blog and podcast but even they are fragmented.

The other introductory courses I’ve seen aren’t a good fit either. Most of them are based on one person’s philosophy. What if you and him/her don’t have the same life philosophy?

Many are started by entrepreneurs and are for entrepreneurs but most people aren’t entrepreneurs. 

Some are specific to single moms or dads. Many aren’t in that situation.

Some are focused on a specific app or tool. Why limit yourself to one app? Do you even need that app? What if you don’t like that app?

Being specific is usually a good thing. It attracts the right people when they know what they want.

But there’s a huge gap in the market where people are new and they don’t know yet what they want and need, or who they can trust.

This is where we come in. Since 2011, we’ve helped thousands of clients from all over the world with a wide range of backgrounds, experience levels, and age groups.

We didn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach because we were learning how to help every individual. Over time, we noticed that most people needed the same skills, habits, and workflows.

For example, everyone benefits from sleeping better no matter who you are. More sleep equals more energy which results in higher productivity. That’s why we believe everyone needs a Shutdown Ritual to help you get ready for a great night of sleep.

We also believe everyone needs to do a weekly review that can be done in 30 minutes or less.

Over the years, some of these specific habits, skills, and workflows have turned into courses. For example, Escape Your Email has our best workflows, habits and skills for managing your email so you can be done with it in less than 30 minutes a day.

Just like Easy Organization System has our best habits, skills, and workflows around digital organization so you become organized and win back time.

They all tackle a specific challenge people have.

As we saw more people struggle entering productivity, that’s when I realized we had a gap. We didn’t have a place where people could get the foundations of productivity. 

This led us to put together a foundational course on productivity to onboard people.

Productivity Mastery

“How do you know when someone reached mastery of productivity?”

This is a question we had trouble answering.

As someone who’s a lifelong learner, I’m always looking for ways to be more productive, effective, and efficient. I already have a morning routine for a decade, and sometimes I still tweak it to make it better. I’ve been doing a weekly review for years and I still make improvements to how I do them because life changes require adjustments to how I review.

For the longest time, I thought it would be impossible to define mastery of productivity.

But I kept challenging that thought. I kept seeing examples from different people in my life that challenged me.

When someone reaches a black belt in martial arts, it doesn’t mean they stop working on their craft. 

When someone gets certified as a scrum master and has multiple certifications, it doesn’t mean they stop learning to be a better scrum master.

This gave me hope. In fact, it allowed me to reconsider how to define mastery for productivity.

One day, I got a text from a former client. Here’s what he wrote:

This client was one of our top followers for 5+ years and then stopped keeping up with AE because he got everything he needed. He moved on to other projects and interests.

To me, this is the ultimate success story. Someone came to us to level up their productivity, they mastered it, and now can move on to bigger things in life. 

I started to think about what all of our top clients had in common. What made them successful? What made them be in the top 5% of all our productivity clients? What do they all share?

That’s when I started listing everything that came to mind. 

We debated internally at the company about what was essential and what wasn’t. This formed the foundation for our productivity mastery courses. We came up with a list of 40+ things.

After much debate and deliberation, we narrowed it down to 25 steps.

For anyone to achieve productivity mastery, they have to master 25 steps. 

Anyone we have worked with and that we consider masters of productivity…they all have these 25 steps in common.

Introducing 25X Productivity System

This is now the foundation of Asian Efficiency’s courses moving forward. Everything we do now will be focused on the 25 steps.

Hence, why our new productivity courses are named the 25X Productivity System. There will be an introductory course to master the foundations, and then an advanced course that allows you to have continuous education to master the remaining steps.

You might be wondering…what are the 25 steps?

Here is the list of 25 steps that everyone must follow to achieve productivity mastery:

(DOS = Definition of Success)

Time

Quarterly Planning – ability to look forward and make a plan 90 days out
DOS: You have a 90-plan to execute your goal.

Monthly Planning – ability to look forward and make a plan 30 days out
DOS: You have a 30-day plan to execute your goal and make progress.

Weekly Planning – ability to look forward and make a plan for your outcomes
DOS: You have a weekly plan to execute your goal and make progress.

Daily Planning – ability to make a plan to win the day
DOS: You have a daily plan to execute your goal and make progress.

Personal Systems – the tools and infrastructure that support your success
DOS: You have a to-do list, calendar and note-taking tool in place.

Time Audit – awareness of how time is spent and identifying opportunities to optimize for the upcoming week.
DOS: You have reviewed your calendar for the past week and made adjustments for the upcoming week.

Energy

Rise Ritual – master the first 30 minutes of the day
DOS: You have a Rise Ritual created for yourself.

Shutdown Ritual – master 90 minutes before bedtime
DOS: You have a Shutdown Ritual created for yourself.

Peak Positioning – have self-awareness about when you and how you perform best.
DOS: You have determined your Peak Performance times and adjusted your schedule to match that.

Movement – make time for movement to feel alert, change state & environment and how that relates to your performance.
DOS: You have scheduled at least 15 minutes of movement every day.

Daily Check-in – the ability to re-assess your progress and make adjustments throughout the day to accomplish your one thing.
DOS: You have scheduled a 5-minute daily check-in with yourself and have information on how to make adjustments.

Renewal Rituals (Recovery/Breaks) – every day, week, month, and quarter is planned for.
DOS: The Renewal Ritual is planned for the next 90 days.

Flow State – identify what you enjoy and is challenging enough to do, and create time and space to do it.
DOS: You have identified an interesting and challenging task. You have appointed an upcoming day to work on it.

Attention

Mindset – productive mindsets to have, realizing life is imperfect, getting back on track
DOS: You have written down the mindsets and signed a contract with yourself on paper.

Purpose / Your Why / Vision – bigger goal in life
DOS: You have written down your WHY.

Goal Getting – turn a big goal into action items for 90 days with accountability
DOS: You have action steps defined for the next 90 days and how will you be held accountable for it.

Focus Filter – one thing at a time and being reminded of it daily
DOS: You have prioritized your to-do list and chosen the first task to work on until it’s done.

Daily Target – your one thing for today with a clear definition of done for the day.
DOS: You have defined what “a productive day” is for you before you start working.

Focus Engine – how to get focused, anytime. Turn on your engine anytime (timer, environment, reduce distractions, handle people interruptions, favorite music, which apps to use, etc)
DOS: You have created your Focus Engine and it’s ready to be used.

Weekly Review – go over the past week, learn, and make adjustments.
DOS: You have scheduled a repeating time slot and a checklist of what to do.

Reflection Ritual – capturing, de-stressing, growth journal.
DOS: You have a journaling tool and you’ve scheduled when you will be journaling.

Thinking Time – dedicated time to zoom out and strategize about you
DOS: You have scheduled at least 30 minutes of Thinking Time with your question already prepared for it.

Life Leverages – where do you have leverage and use it (only what you can do). Do more of that and less other stuff.
DOS: You have a list of activities and things only YOU can do.

Personal Outsourcing – delegate everything that is not your life leverage
DOS: You have identified a list of things that should be delegated and done by someone else.

Self Management – self-awareness, changing things that work best for YOU, stop doing things. Self-assessment worksheet to bring self-awareness to the front.
DOS: You have completed the self-assessment worksheet.

When you review this list, you might recognize a few steps that you master already and see opportunities for you to master.

Anyone who has mastered all 25 is someone we consider a master of productivity. Based on our decade of experience with clients, we believe that all the top performers have these 25 steps in common. It’s a mix of mindsets, skills, routines, and habits. This is our holistic approach to productivity and now there’s a predictable path to achieving mastery.

How is 25X Different from other Productivity Systems and Methodologies?

When you look around the landscape, you’ll come across many different productivity systems and methodologies. We’re familiar with many of them and there are new ones coming up every year.

They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. We have and continue to recommend many of them on the blog and podcast.

As we surveyed the industry, we saw a clear gap and differentiator. Most methodologies and systems are excellent in one particular domain but lack a complete approach to productivity.

For example, Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great system for day-to-day work. Many of us at AE started with GTD before we moved on. One of the weaknesses of GTD is that you don’t get any high-level strategies for pursuing your goals and outcomes. All you get is “zoom out at 50k feet and see where you’re going.” 

It also does not address any of the habits and skills one needs to live a productive life. For example, we believe that everyone must have a shutdown ritual or renewal ritual to maximize their energy. We also introduce sleep hygiene in our system because we consider it to be a productivity multiplier. When you sleep better and more, you’ll naturally become more productive without learning or adding anything new to your toolkit.

That’s what we mean with a holistic approach. We address your whole life from different angles to maximize your potential. Other methodologies and systems only address one aspect of your life.

Think of it as a basketball coach versus a skills trainer. A basketball coach will show you everything you need to become a great basketball player. From dribbling, how to hold a ball, how to move around the court, and so forth. 

There are many trainers who only teach a specific skill such as shooting, dribbling, or jumping. They have careers just on teaching players one specific skill because they’re masters at it.

The same is true in our industry. We like to think of ourselves as the basketball coach that you can go to for anything related to productivity. With over 16,000 successful clients and a decade of experience, you can get everything from us. Many others in our industry are like the skills trainers that are masters in one specific area.

The great thing about all this is that there’s overlap and synergy too. We often recommend other programs, methodologies, and systems where we might fall short. For example, if someone wanted to get really good at note-taking, I would recommend Building A Second Brain without hesitation. If someone wanted to only work with paper journals and workbooks, then learning The Bullet Journal Method is a great way to go deeper.

They all supplement and complement what we do and it’s why we don’t hesitate to recommend other resources.

We also know that many people want to master the basics and then explore on their own and a small percentage want to dive deeper to pursue mastery.

When we first introduced the TEA Framework in 2017 – which is about maximizing your Time, Energy, and Attention – no one else had a holistic approach to productivity. We believe that anyone who maximizes the three pillars of productivity (TEA) will be uber-productive. 

However, what was missing was the “how”. How do you maximize your time, energy or attention?

We did have recommendations but they weren’t concrete for most people. There was no predictable path to follow. Only a collection of best practices.

That has now been solved by the 25X Productivity System. It’s an evolution of our TEA Framework and we will continue to reference the TEA Framework as it forms the foundation of our courses.

As you can see from the 25 steps, they’re broken down into three categories: Time, Energy, and Attention. Moving forward, we will have concrete steps and definitions of success of what mastery looks like for each domain.

What’s Next

We will introduce two programs that will teach the 25X Productivity System.

It will take about a year or two to master all 25 steps. If someone were to master two steps a week, you could complete the program in a year. Realistically, we suspect most people would take two or three years to achieve mastery.

It’s unrealistic to ask someone to commit for two or three years right out the gate. Not everyone wants to achieve mastery. Many people only want the foundation and move on to live their lives. Just like someone only wants to learn the basics of self-defence and some want to move on to get their black belt.

That’s why we will introduce a Foundational 25X course to get anyone up to speed on the 25X Productivity System. It will be taught live, online first and later this year it will be taught in-person.

The Productivity Academy will evolve to be the continuation program of 25X where every month new training, materials and coaching will be offered to members. In the future, all of our advanced courses will be part of the Productivity Academy.

Whether you’re new to AE or have been following us for a while, everyone will benefit from our 25X Productivity System. It’s a great way to start your journey and to refine what you already know and add to it.

Over time, we will introduce certifications so you can become certified productive. This allows you to advance your career, get promoted, get a raise, and recognition for your learning and skills.

The future is bright. We’re excited to have you with us and we hope you consider joining our 25X program when it comes out.

We have a live Q&A coming up where we answer your questions on productivity. Come join us and get your questions answered. We’re happy to help! Think of it as live office hours.

See you there.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.


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  1. It sounds interesting. Not sure about the times yet. I know I can’t make the Free MasterClass today, but I still want the information.

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