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Summary: Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity by Erica Schultz and Mike Schultz


During Ari Schultz’s five short years in this world, he spent 430 days in the hospital and underwent countless surgeries, including an unsuccessful heart transplant. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, his parents, Erica and Mike Schultz, had to keep their business going and care for two younger children. They became time management gurus through necessity. The Schultzes developed a nine-step productivity system by studying extremely productive individuals. Their system can help you achieve your goals and find your purpose, despite life’s slings and arrows.


  • Loss taught a young couple that time is a scarce commodity; that lesson led them to develop their “Productivity Code.”
  • Classify your time into four categories: “treasured” time engaging in activities you love, “investment” time working toward your goals, “mandatory” time doing chores, and “empty” time doing nothing of value.
  • The Productivity Code is a nine-step time management system that considers your purpose as well as your tasks and tactics.
  • First, “recruit your drive” to emulate extremely productive people.
  • Second, “ignite your proactivity” to get started.
  • Third, “reengineer your habits” to eliminate unproductive behavior.
  • Fourth, “obsess over time” and be deliberate allocating your hours.
  • Fifth, “say no” to low-priority requests so you stay on track toward your goals.
  • Sixth, “play hard to get” to resist distractions and interruptions.
  • Seventh, “sprint into the zone” by immersing yourself so deeply in an activity that you lose track of time.
  • Eighth, “fuel your energy” to build stamina as you become more productive.
  • And ninth, “right the ship” when you veer off course.

Book Summary: Not Today - The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity


Loss taught a young couple that time is a scarce commodity; that lesson led them to develop their “Productivity Code.”

Erica and Mike Schultz were a young couple with a new house and a budding business when life got tough. They struggled to conceive, and Erica’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. When she got pregnant again, an ultrasound revealed that their baby boy had a congenital heart defect. Baby Ari underwent two complex surgeries in utero to correct the defect, and he was born on February 16, 2012. In his five short years, Ari spent 430 days in the hospital, undergoing several surgeries before passing away on July 21, 2017.

“The great body of popular productivity guidance is all about stepping on the gas, yet never about filling the tank. All about yielding fruit, but rarely about planting seeds, and the time and often delicate and careful tending needed for their growth.”

During this time, Erica and Mike had to keep their business running in order to maintain their health insurance. Due to a mold problem, they had to demolish and rebuild their home. And they had to continue to be good parents for Lexi and Eli, Ari’s siblings. Erica and Mike had to produce and achieve, no matter how exhausted or emotionally drained they felt. When Ari died, and their “brightest light went dark,” they needed to rediscover their purpose and rebuild their lives.

Classify your time into four categories: “treasured” time engaging in activities you love, “investment” time working toward your goals, “mandatory” time doing chores, and “empty” time doing nothing of value.

Ari’s illness forced Erica and Mike to be strict about using their limited time. They realized that productivity isn’t a matter of doing more or working harder or smarter, but of doing the right things and focusing on your priorities and purposeful tasks.

“We looked at other so-called time management systems and found them to be (often overwhelmingly) brimming with tips, hacks and tactics…Never did we find much exploration of what we now believe to be essential for truly durable productivity: purpose.”

After extensive research and interviews, the Schultzes devised their Productivity Code. Before you use it, they advise identifying your most meaningful, important tasks. To increase your productivity and happiness, consider your purpose (the “why”), your actions (the “what”) and your tactics (the “how”). To remain on the path to fulfilling your goals, continually assess and define what matters to you. Classify your tasks and activities into four categories:

  • Treasured time – Time spent on activities you savor, notably those with people you love.
  • Investment time – Time focused making significant progress toward your goals.
  • Mandatory time – Day-to-day activities such as household chores and administrative tasks that must be done but lack meaning and could be delegated or outsourced.
  • Empty time – Wasteful time, such as scrolling through social media and procrastinating. Don’t confuse empty time with downtime, which is beneficial, revitalizing time.

Erica and Mike surveyed 2,377 respondents worldwide and identified three groups: extremely productive people (XPs), even higher-level productivity gurus (XP Champions) and the Rest, those who aren’t particularly productive. Extremely productive people spend almost six hours per day engaged in investment time, whereas the Rest spend only four hours. So, in an average five-day workweek, productive people find some nine extra hours to work toward their goals. Moreover, they spend 21% less time than non-productive people on mandatory activities, and they waste 37% less empty time. While two-thirds of XPs say they can take as much treasured time as they want, fewer than 50% of the Rest make that claim.

The Productivity Code is a nine-step time management system that considers your purpose as well as your tasks and tactics.

People who are deliberate about spending their time can enjoy more treasured time, build up investment time, minimize mandatory time and eliminate empty time. To use your time this carefully, turn to the Productivity Code, which is made up of three keys, each containing three habits:

  • “Manufacture motivation” – This includes “recruit your drive,” “ignite your productivity” and “reengineer your habits.”
  • “Control your time” – This key includes “obsess over time,” “say no” and “play hard to get.”
  • “Execute in the zone” – This covers “sprint into the zone,” “fuel your energy” and “right the ship.”

First, “recruit your drive” to emulate extremely productive people.

Motivation is not innate; you can learn to develop it. Three-quarters of the XPs feel driven. Additionally, drive is the second-most common trait among the world’s happiest people. The XPs are much more likely than other people to write their goals, create weekly plans and hold themselves accountable for their results. Three hacks can help you harness your drive:

  1. “Choose your new reality” – Your drive accumulates when you make a personal choice, not when you have a decision thrust upon you. Picture a “desired future state.” Decide to change something to make that vision a reality. Write your goals as a pledge of your commitment.
  2. “Plan actions weekly” – Clarify your tasks to muster motivation. Carve your annual goals into smaller, manageable pieces. Identify top priorities. Divide the year into four quarters, and list what you need to accomplish in the current quarter to reach your annual goal. Divide this quarter into three one-month segments and assess what you must prioritize this month to achieve the quarter’s goals. Finally, divide the month into four weeks, and define this week’s activities in relation to your monthly goal.
  3. “Track progress weekly” – To strengthen your intrinsic motivation, hold yourself accountable. Share your goals with others and enlist their support to remain on task.

Second, “ignite your proactivity” to get started.

The first step is the toughest part of any project, especially for the 20% of people who are chronic procrastinators. To overcome procrastination, focus on your greatest impact activity – the most valuable thing you can do with your time – and put it on your calendar. You’re more likely to follow through on a task if you schedule it. Tackle your high-impact activity first thing each morning. Once you start, eliminate distractions and focus solely on this effort for a set amount of time.

“Own your mental narrative, and you can change anything.”

Your self-talk can hold you back or propel you forward. Take command of your inner critic to boost your confidence and positive attitude. Once you rein in negative self-talk, launch yourself into action. Simply say to yourself, “Three, two, one, go!” and then plunge in. It may feel silly, but it’s effective.

Third, “reengineer your habits” to eliminate unproductive behavior.

Habits – your acquired, almost involuntary routines – are tough to break. Many self-help gurus define the habit loop as, “trigger, response, reward.” To break an unproductive habit, add a fourth element – thought – to that loop, between trigger and response.For example, if you want to stop checking your phone every few minutes, think in advance about what you could do differently: “When I feel my phone buzz in my pocket (trigger), then I will turn off that alert (thought-response) before doing anything else.” Once you execute a new behavior enough times, your response becomes automatic. Then, persevering will require less willpower. Another effective habit hack is to change your environment. For instance, declutter your desk or shut your office door to rein in your focus.

“You have to do things differently, and do different things, if you want different results.”

Finally, introduce a five-step morning routine: 1) “Read your objectives” to focus on your daily priorities; 2) review your mood and state of mind; 3) ask, “Will I?” to make sure you complete your high-priority activities; 4) think about how you can improve on yesterday; and 5) dive into your highest impact activity.

Fourth, “obsess over time” and be deliberate about allocating your hours.

To control your time, start with obsessing over how you use it. Workers spend an average of 4.3 hours (almost half of every workday) on mandatory and empty activities. Keep a time log for two days to learn precisely how you spend your time. This will help you identify the changes you need to make.

“Time doesn’t literally expand, but it feels like it does when you are mindful of where you spend it.”

To optimize your time, take treasured time with family and friends. Engage in your favorite hobbies. Increase your investment time, which gives you the greatest return on your hours and keeps you on course toward your goals. Convert mandatory time into investment time by, for instance, scheduling work calls during your commute or delegating errands. Eliminate empty activities, like unnecessary meetings.

Fifth, “say no” to low-priority requests so you stay on track toward your goals.

If you’re very busy but not making progress toward your goals, refuse any request that doesn’t contribute to your priorities. Declining requests is hard, but if you practice saying no in low-stakes situations, you’ll grow accustomed to it.

“It comes down to this: If you don’t take control of your time, someone else will.”

Keep a “to-don’t list.” List tasks you won’t do to free your time for your priorities. Your to-don’ts will change with time or circumstances. Pare down your priority list, so you’re not stretched thin. Remember, “If you’re not gung-ho, say no.”

Sixth, “play hard to get” to resist distractions and interruptions.

To own your time, make it hard for other people to commandeer it. Technology-enabled distractions abound, and few people can resist the siren call of a smartphone alert. Yet disruptions have a high cost: It takes more than 23 minutes to get back on task following a distraction. XPs use three tactics to resist interruptions and remain focused:

  1. “Be free from the shackles of alerts” – Turn off alerts, log out of distracting applications, silence your ringer and disable push notifications. Receiving texts, tweets, and the like gives you a feel-good dopamine kick, but you’ll feel better and become more productive when you lose the distractions.
  2. “Signal, ‘do not disturb’” – To protect your focus, find ways to transmit a do not disturb message, such as shutting your office door or activating your online out-of-office message.
  3. “Be someplace else” – Many people find they are more focused and creative when they change location. Try a quiet corner in a conference room, the local coffee shop or your home office.

Seventh, “sprint into the zone” by immersing yourself so deeply in an activity that you lose track of time.

The zone is a mental state of such productive, full engagement that you lose track of time, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

“When you’re in the zone, if you work for an hour, you don’t just work an hour: You work an amazing hour.”

A major differentiator between XPs and the Rest is that XPs excel at getting into the zone. Often, people associate the term “the zone” with athletes or creative workers, but the zone is available to anyone. Try these techniques:

  • “Sprint” – “TIME sprinting” is a proven method for getting and staying in the zone. To use it, focus single-mindedly on a designated activity for 20 to 90 minutes; then take a break.
  • “Relay” – Four TIME sprints in a row, with a six-minute break in between, make up a relay.
  • “Keep a distraction capture list” – When a stray thought pops into your head during a sprint, make a note and address it later.

Eighth, “fuel your energy” to build stamina as you become more productive.

Fueling your energy and stamina is essential for high productivity. When you’re fatigued, emotionally spent or overwhelmed, recharge your batteries by balancing the “energy triad” of mind, body and spirit.

“The secret to long-term extreme productivity is not to be perfect all the time (no one is, after all), but to get back at it quickly when you fall into unproductive habits.”

To nurture productive stamina, follow this formula:

  • Mind – Take advantage of your morning energy peak by dedicating mornings to concentrated effort. Minimize decision-making and practice mindfulness.
  • Body – Eat and sleep well, and exercise regularly.
  • Spirit – Prioritize treasured time, engage in meaningful activities that provide spiritual sustenance, and get out of the house or office to enjoy your natural surroundings.

And ninth, “right the ship” when you veer off course.

You may slide off track from time to time, allowing low-impact activities and procrastination to sideline your focus. Three tactics can help you right your ship:

  • “Practice free won’t” – Between a trigger and a response, such as the urge to check social media, is a millisecond pause during which you can choose to reject that impulse. To practice using your “free won’t,” say to yourself, “three…two…one…Stop!” to neutralize a distraction.
  • “Make a micro change” – If you’re struggling to get started or stick with a project, break it down into progressively smaller pieces until the goal is achievable. For example, if the idea of even a 20-minute sprint is overwhelming, start with a five-minute sprint. As you accumulate successes, you’ll build confidence and stamina. That’s the power of micro changes.
  • “Make a commitment contract” – Research suggests that when you commit to a goal in writing, such as quitting smoking or staying off social media, and when you enlist the help of an accountability partner, you significantly increase your odds of success. And the pay-off is more treasured time.

About the Authors

Husband-and-wife team Mike and Erica Schultz are parents and co-founders of RAIN Group, an international sales training company.



“Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity” by Erica Schultz and Mike Schultz is a practical and insightful guide that delves into the world of productivity, offering readers a set of actionable habits to enhance their efficiency and achieve outstanding results. The authors, renowned experts in the field, provide a compelling framework to help individuals overcome procrastination, prioritize effectively, and optimize their time management skills. In this review, we will explore the key concepts, strengths, and potential limitations of this book.

Summary of the Book

The book begins by introducing the concept of extreme productivity and highlighting its importance in today’s fast-paced world. The authors emphasize that productivity is not about working harder or longer hours but rather about working smarter and focusing on high-value tasks. They propose nine habits that, when adopted, can revolutionize one’s approach to productivity and lead to remarkable outcomes.

The first habit discussed is “Mastering Your Mindset,” which emphasizes the significance of cultivating a positive and growth-oriented mindset. The authors provide practical strategies to overcome self-doubt, embrace challenges, and develop resilience.

The subsequent habits dive into specific areas of productivity, such as effective goal setting, managing priorities, eliminating distractions, optimizing energy levels, and fostering a supportive environment. Each habit is explained in detail, accompanied by real-life examples and actionable steps to implement them.

Additionally, the authors emphasize the importance of habit formation and offer guidance on how to integrate these practices into daily routines. They provide insights on habit loops, accountability systems, and tracking progress to ensure long-term success.

Strengths of the Book

  • Actionable Strategies: “Not Today” excels in providing practical techniques that readers can immediately apply to enhance their productivity. The book is filled with actionable steps, tips, and exercises, making it easy for readers to implement the suggested habits into their lives.
  • Well-Structured Approach: The book follows a logical and coherent structure, with each chapter building upon the previous one. This approach allows readers to grasp the concepts gradually and understand how the habits relate to one another, creating a comprehensive productivity system.
  • Real-Life Examples: The authors support their ideas with relatable real-life examples, making the content engaging and relatable. These examples illustrate how the habits have transformed the lives of individuals in various professional and personal contexts.
  • Research-Based Insights: Erica Schultz and Mike Schultz draw from a range of scientific studies and research findings to support their claims. This evidence-based approach adds credibility to their recommendations and helps readers understand the underlying principles of productivity.

Limitations of the Book

  • Lack of Personalization: While the book offers a broad range of strategies, it may not cater to every individual’s unique circumstances. Readers with specific challenges or unconventional work setups may need to adapt the advice to suit their particular needs.
  • Repetition: Some concepts and examples are reiterated throughout the book, which might be perceived as repetitive by certain readers. However, the repetition can also serve as a reinforcement of key ideas.


“Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity” by Erica Schultz and Mike Schultz is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to improve their productivity and achieve exceptional results in their personal and professional lives. With its practical strategies, well-structured approach, and evidence-based insights, the book equips readers with the necessary tools to overcome procrastination, set meaningful goals, and create a productive environment. While it may not address every unique circumstance, the principles presented in the book can be adapted and tailored to suit individual needs. Overall, “Not Today” is an excellent guide for anyone looking to enhance their productivity and unlock their full potential.

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