The 2018 Planning Guide Part 2

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This is the second part of my 2018 planning guide. The first part can be read here.

In the first part of this process, I wrote about gathering your ideas and giving some thought to how you would like things to change for you in 2018. This process really just involves thinking about some basic questions. These questions are:

Ideas — Things you’d like to try or do

What would I like to change about myself? — these might be things like to spend less money or give up smoking/drinking etc.

What would I like to change about my lifestyle? — Things like where you live, where and who you socialise with etc.

What would I like to change about the way I work? — Because of the way our work environments are changing, would you like to work from home more often?

How can I challenge myself? — It is easy to get stuck in a day to day, non-challenging life, this question is designed to get you thinking about moving away from your comfort zone.

On the surface, these questions are quite simple, and that is what they are designed to be. But, if you go a little deeper you will see they are designed to challenge you, to get you thinking about the way you live your life and what you really want to achieve in life.

Now for the second part.

Once you have spent a few weeks thinking about these questions, adding answers and developing some thoughts about how you would like to change, then it’s time to pull out all the actionable steps. To do this you need to go through your list and look for things you feel are actionable and, more importantly, achievable next year.

One way I do this is to begin an action list at the bottom of the note (I do this process in Evernote) I pick out things I know I can turn in to action steps. For example, this year on my list I have “to begin writing a journal every day”. This can easily be turned in to an actionable step, so I have added: “write daily journal” to the list. This can then be copied into my To-do list manager as a daily recurring task when I am ready to do so.

Another example from my list is something I have added to my “how can I challenge myself?” list. In there I have “to become an expert on social media marketing” This means I will need to study social media marketing, do a few online courses and read as many books as I can on the subject. Tasks related to that would be “find and read articles on social media marketing” or “research online courses on social media marketing” . These can also be added to the list at the bottom of my note.

Again, like the first process where you gather your thoughts and ideas about how you want to make 2018 a fantastic year, this process may take a week or two. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time. This is another reason why I keep this note in my “Incubator” file. I am adding to it daily, when I am on the bus, when I am waiting for a client or student to arrive etc. The list is growing.

Then, in the final week of the year, when most businesses are away on holiday and everyone is enjoying eating too much and binge-watching TV, I start putting these tasks and projects into my to-do list manager. Things like write a journal would be added to my daily routines folder and becoming a social media marketing expert will become a project.

The hardest part of this two-step process is the first part which, hopefully, you will already have done by now. This second step is the easiest. All you need to do is to find the things you can do either by turning them into a routine (my journaling, for example) or into a project (becoming a social media expert)

The only warning I will give you is don’t try and start everything in January. This is why so many people fail to achieve their goals in the first place. They try and do everything all at once. My top two goals are journalling every day and learning more about social media marketing. These two (and some work projects I will be doing for all you guys) are the only two I will be focused on in the first quarter of next year. Other things I have on my list will be spread out throughout the rest of the year and, if timed correctly, I should have completed my goals by the end of the year.

So, as we approach the end of 2017, start collecting the actionable ideas you have written down and turn them into projects and tasks. Think about how you will achieve them and when will be the best time to start working on them.

Good luck and I wish you all the very best in 2018.

 

 

 

If you don’t already know, I just published Your Digital Life 2.0. A book created to help you to get the most out of your technology. You can find out more right here.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below  It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

[YDL 2.0 EXCERPT 5] You Need To Do Something To Make It Happen

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Here is another excerpt from my forthcoming book, Your Digital Life 2.0. This excerpt comes from the Goals section of the book and talks about the necessity of action.

Your Digitial Life will launch on Monday 11 December on Amazon, iBookstore and directly from my website. For more information click here  

Action
Without action nothing happens. So many people say they want to achieve something, yet they never do anything to make it happen. It always astounds me that so many people use the phrase “I want…” yet just sit there and do nothing to make that want happen. I strongly believe that all human beings have the ability to achieve almost anything they want, if they would just get up off the sofa and take some action. Do something, anything. To make something happen, you need to do something. To make a cup of tea, requires you to put the kettle on, put a tea bag in a cup and pour the hot water over the tea bag once the kettle has boiled. That is action. Your cup of tea is not going to make itself. Even if you do not make the tea yourself, you still need to ask someone to make it for you. That is action.

One of the biggest causes of inaction are the words “when Christmas is over I am going to…” or “after the New Year I will…” or “when my kids have gone back to school I will start…” These are excuses to not do something. There is never a right time and there will never be a situation when the conditions, time, weather or whatever it is that you are using as an excuse to not do something will be perfect. Once you have decided you want to do something, then that is the time to start doing it. If nothing else, you can start by capturing your thoughts into your note taking application and begin the process of planning out how you are going to achieve it and why you want to achieve it.

This book did not write itself. Each day I scheduled time to write at least 500 words. Some days it was easy, other days it was very hard. But I knew that unless I took action and typed at least 500 words each day this book would never get published. And that really is the point about taking action, it does not have to be one huge effort, done right, taking action on anything whether it is a goal, a project or writing a book, it is small, manageable action steps that take you closer and closer towards whatever it is you are wanting to achieve.

Take some time to have a think about all the things you are making excuses for not doing. Things like, cleaning out your wardrobe, looking in to enrolling in a further education programme or even buying your first home. Whatever it is you want to do, write them down and then write out the reasons why you have not started. When you have completed this exercise, take a look at those excuses. What you will find is that they really are not stopping you from starting. Quite often the reason you have not started is because you really do not want to do it, or the motivation for doing it is not in line with your real values. This is where your note-taking application can be of real value because it will show you exactly what you truly want to do, and what you do not want to do. If you do not want to do it, then remove it or put it into your someday | maybe folder to review at a later date.

Remember, action is what makes things happen. Excuses never do.

[YDL 2.0 EXCERPT 4] 'You Don't Manage Time, You Manage Yourself'

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Here's another excerpt from my forthcoming book, Your Digital Life 2.0. 

You can find out more by clicking here. 

Your Digitial Life will be available from Monday 11 December on Amazon, iBooks and directly from my website. 

You don’t manage time, you manage yourself.

You will no doubt have noticed some people have amazing ability to achieve a lot each day, they seem to meet their deadlines and still have a full social life. How do they do that? Why can’t you do that?

When I researched this I discovered something really special. The most productive people I’ve learned about—Sir Richard Branson, Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and Margaret Thatcher to name but a few—always had a set structure to their day. They woke up and went to bed at the same time every day and stuck to a rigid routine they rarely, if ever, altered. Even on holiday Margaret Thatcher stuck to her normal routine of waking up at 7 AM and going to bed around 2AM (she famously survived on four hours of sleep every day—not something I would recommend) Winston Churchill always took a nap between 3:30 PM and 5:00 PM everyday so he could work late into the night. And Ian Fleming would close all the windows and doors of his study in his Jamaican home, Goldeneye, every day between 9:00 AM and 12:00 PM and he would write undisturbed. These habits were rigidly stuck to and everyone around them knew they could not be changed or disturbed.

Routine and structure seem to be the golden thread running through amazingly productive people’s lives. If you have no structure, no discipline and no routine, somebody else will dictate what happens to you and this is very rarely a good thing—trust me on that one. You are the captain of your own ship and if you are not in control, the winds and seas of this world will take you far away from where you want to be. Understanding that you cannot borrow time from today to add to tomorrow is the best starting point to establishing a daily routine. Knowing that all you have is 24 hours to work with, all you need decide now is how you will make use of those precious 24 hours.

[YDL2.0 EXCERPT 3] You Need To Take Action

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If you are going to achieve anything it will require some form of action from yourself to make it happen. 

Here's an excerpt from my forthcoming book explaining why action is so important.

You can find out more about Your Digitial lIfe right here

Action
Without action, nothing happens. So many people say they want to achieve something, yet they never do anything to make it happen. It always astounds me that so many people use the phrase “I want…” yet just sit there and do nothing to make that want happen. I strongly believe that all human beings have the ability to achieve almost anything they want, if they would just get up off the sofa and take some action. Do something, anything. To make something happen, you need to do something. To make a cup of tea, requires you to put the kettle on, put a tea bag in a cup and pour the hot water over the tea bag once the kettle has boiled. That is action. Your cup of tea is not going to make itself. Even if you do not make the tea yourself, you still need to ask someone to make it for you. That is action.

One of the biggest causes of inaction are the words “when Christmas is over I am going to…” or “after the New Year I will…” or “when my kids have gone back to school I will start…” These are excuses to not do something. There is never a right time and there will never be a situation when the conditions, time, weather or whatever it is that you are using as an excuse to not do something will be perfect. Once you have decided you want to do something, then that is the time to start doing it. If nothing else, you can start by capturing your thoughts into your note taking application and begin the process of planning out how you are going to achieve it and why you want to achieve it.

This book will did write itself. Each day I scheduled time to write at least 500 words. Some days it was easy, other days it was very hard. But I knew that unless I took action and typed at least 500 words each day this book would never get published. And that really is the point about taking action, it does not have to be one huge effort, done right, taking action on anything whether it is a goal, a project or writing a book, it is small, manageable action steps that take you closer and closer towards whatever it is you are wanting to achieve.

[YDL2.0 EXCERPT 2] Learning From NASA's Mission Control

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One of the most productive and effective places on earth is in Houston, Texas. NASA's Mission Control utilised the latest technology to not only put a man on the moon in 1968 but were so well practised and dedicated to their cause they were able to bring back the astronauts of the fated Apollo 13 mission safely. 

Here's an excerpt from my forthcoming book explaining how they could do that. 

For more information on Your Digital Life 2.0, you can visit the page

 


"One of my favourite films of all time is the film, Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks. The film is the story of the Apollo 13 moon landing mission in April 1970. The problems for Apollo 13 began about twelve hours into the mission when a simple procedure caused an explosion in the engine bay of the spaceship, which started a sequence of events that kept the whole world on tender hooks for four days. The question was, would the crew of Apollo 13 survive and make it back to earth safely?
What most people did not know at the time was the amount of planning and preparation the engineers at Mission Control Center in Houston did before every mission. It took months of testing scenarios, contingency planning and then more testing and simulating before a mission launched. The engineers and flight directors tested every conceivable scenario so they were prepared if anything went wrong. Nothing was overlooked. Unfortunately, one of the very few inconceivable events happened and Mission Control went into full crisis management mode. 
The most inspiring part of the whole Apollo 13 mission was the way Mission Control managed the problem. Once they had the spaceship stabilised and the crew safe, they went about planning the next steps. While the film does not show the timeline very well—it makes it look like all this happened over a few hours, in fact, the rescue mission took four days.—Each step was meticulously planned and tested in the flight simulators. Each problem and potential problem was evaluated and steps were planned to manage or mitigate those problems and a full re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere plan and a checklist was developed and tested before being given to the crew around fourteen hours before the re-entry phase began so they had time to check it themselves. 
The crew of Apollo 13 re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and returned to earth safely. The rescue mission and that is exactly what it was, was executed perfectly and it was all because the team and crew had trained for any eventuality and had plans in place to avert any disaster. 
In many ways, the productive person is like Mission Control Center. They have every potential problem covered. If anything goes wrong with any part of their work or day, they have a plan to quickly and efficiently overcome the problem. They have every possible permutation of scenarios covered, leaving them confident in whatever they do and free of stress and worry."

[YDL2.0 EXCERPT] Don't Let Complexity Creep Destroy Your System

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Complexity creep is the evil force that has one goal: to destroy your productivity system. Here's an excerpt from my upcoming book, Your Digitial Life 2.0.

Your Digitial Life is out Monday 11th December 2017. Find out more right here

 
"The biggest risk to your system is ‘complexity creep’. This book has outlined a way to build a basic system. A framework if you like for you to build on and customise to fit your way of working and thinking. With that responsibility, though, comes the need for constraint. With this responsibility, comes the serious risk you will start adding things to your system in the belief it will make it better. The chances are it will not. Anything that may make your system better needs to be focused on one single area; how fast will it allow me to add a task, an event or a note? It’s really about speed.
If you maintain a strict rule to keep a hard edge between your to-do list manager, your calendar and your note-taking application you are certainly on your way to developing a system that will work for you for many years to come. The mistake I see so many making is they begin to try and merge everything together. In my experience when you do that, when you try to use one app to maintain your whole system, you are inviting in complexity and you will start to compromise the integrity of your system.  It is possible to create your whole system around one app, Evernote for example, will do it but in doing this you will have to make compromises and build workarounds in order for it to work. This is completely unnecessary. It is far better to use the tools you have for the purpose they were built for. After all, a Ferrari will tow a horse trailer, but why would you do that when a Land Rover Discovery would do the job so much better?" 

How To Use Your Calendar To Achieve The Big Things

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This year has been an interesting year for me. I have greatly expanded what I do in the personal productivity and self development space by launching eight online coursesa podcastwriting a book and continuing to develop my YouTube channel. It has been hard, but a lot of fun and I have got to know some incredible people.

As I reflect on the year, I wonder how I created so much when in previous years it always felt a struggle. In the past, I would be happy writing a book and get at least one YouTube video out each week. This year, I have written the book, created nearly 200 videos for YouTube and developed a lot more. What changed?

One of the best methods I discovered this year was to make better use of my calendar. My calendar has always been where I put concrete commitments, either to myself or to others. But I realised that was stopping me from using my calendar effectively. This year, I used it to commit to things I wanted to do like recording and editing my YouTube videos. There is a recurring event in my calendar now between 4pm and 6pm each Saturday to sit down in the studio to record my YouTube videos. There is also another recurring event between 10pm and 2am to edit those videos. On those Saturdays when I had a commitment with my family or friends, I would reschedule my recording and editing times — usually to Sunday morning. By utilising my calendar in this way, the recording was committed to and I felt no stress or overwhelm because I knew I always had scheduled time for the recording.

This also worked for creating my online courses. To record an online course requires around twelve to sixteen hours of recording and up to twenty hours of editing. This meant I needed to find at least three days to record and edit videos as well as time to write and develop the courses. The way I did this was to look for public holiday days, because these gave me a full day free to do whatever I wanted to do. It also meant I was able to plan ahead as public holiday dates are known well in advance. The planning and development for these courses was done during my normal working day. I would use my phone to capture and develop ideas while on a bus or train in Evernote, and so when the recording day came around, I was able to get straight in to the recording.

I applied the same system to writing my book, Your Digital Life 2.0, writing this blog and developing my podcast. I have scheduled time in my calendar to write/record each week. This blog, for example, is written every Monday morning between teaching. My podcast is written on a Tuesday afternoon and the recording of the podcast is done on a Friday afternoon. All of these events are scheduled in my calendar.

What happens now at the start of each week is I have firm, concrete commitments to write, record and edit the content I produce and because I treat my calendar as sacred territory and I can say “no” to other, conflicting commitments, I know this content will be produced.

I know a lot of people want to start doing something new. It could be a hobby, it could be to learn a new skill or it could be to write a book. All of these new endeavours require a time commitment and because of that most people will never start. There will always be the excuse of: “I don’t have time at the moment” or “I’ll do in next year”. The problem, of course, is these excuses will still be there next month and next year. You will always not have enough time, and next year is just another way of saying, “I am not going to do it”. The truth is, if you really want to do these things you are going to have to allocate time and you are going to have give yourself a firm start date.

This is why using your calendar for commitments you will not break is an extremely powerful way to start doing the things you really want to do. If you use your calendar to schedule time to try the new things you want to try, or to write, or exercise, there is a much greater chance you will do them. This year, for example, I have not been as disciplined with my exercise routine as I would like to have been. I identified this as an issue around September and so I started scheduling thirty minute blocks for exercise. This worked as it got me exercising regularly again. It was a simple change and it worked.

Your calendar, when used properly, is a very powerful tool. It is easy to become blind to long lists of to-do items in a to-do list manager, just like it is easy to add your wishes to your to-do list. But if you use your calendar for your concrete commitments, then anything on your calendar must be done at its allotted time. It means each day will be structured and you will know in advance what you are going to get done. A to-do list manager does not do this very well. All a to-do list manager does is tell you what needs doing. Your calendar will tell you when you are going to do it. When you get your to-do list and your calendar working together harmoniously like this, you can start achieving incredible things.

So if you want to start achieving the things you have always wanted to achieve, make a firm commitment today to only use your calendar for concrete commitments and start doing the things you really want to do.

 

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below   It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

The Working With... Podcast Episode 5

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This weeks question comes from Alice in Italy:

"Coming from a paper planning environment, one of the issues I have with task management apps is I don't know where to add tasks that have to be done during specific weeks or months but not on a specific day. How do you handle this kind of task? I tried to put them as all-day events in my calendar, but I don't like the way they clutter my entire week/month." 

Don't forget, if you have a question you would like answering, just leave a comment here or you can email me directly or DM me on Twitter or Facebook 

Why The Front End Work Is Essential If You Want To Be Productive.

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One of the biggest barriers to starting a productivity system such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done is the front end work. Most people want the results a productivity system like Getting Things Done gives, but most are not prepared to put the front end work in to get the results. Without doing the front end work though, you are not going to get the results you so desperately want.

No matter what productivity system you choose to use, all of them require you to do some front end work. You need to set up the notebook to use a bullet journal, you need to put your appointments and tasks into your calendar if you want to create a simple calendar system and you need to set up your collection buckets and projects and context lists if you want to start getting the most out of GTD.

Setting these systems up requires time. They require you to do something. The weirdest thing is, most people are willing to spend between $5.00 and $100 to buy the apps but are not willing to spend the five to hundred hours needed to set up the system so the app works for them.

We are not yet in a place where technology can find all the tasks in our heads and display them in a beautiful user interface on our phone or computer. You still need to get all that stuff out of your head and type it into your device. You still need to decide which task goes into which project and which context to attach to it. Machine learning can make a suggestion, but in my experience eight times out of ten the “machine” doesn’t quite get it right. Our lives are a bit more complex than machines would like them to be.

The reality is, if you want the results, you need to put in the front end work. You want washboard abs? You need to eat the right foods and spend time in the gym. You want to create your own app? You need to sit down and write code. There are no shortcuts. The same rules apply to getting yourself better organised and becoming more productive. You need to sit down and get all your stuff together into one system and you need to organise that system into projects and contexts. Doing that takes time. And if you want to maintain your washboard abs or to keep your app relevant and selling, you need to continue working at it to maintain it. Your productivity system is the same. You need to spend time maintaining it.

Setting up a productivity system that enables you to do more productive work and eliminate the non-productive work needs you to collect everything that is shouting for your attention. It needs you to decide whether those noisy attention seekers are worth your valuable time or not and it needs you to make a decision about what is important to you. All of which requires time. If you are not prepared to give it the necessary time, you are not going to change your current, unhappy situation.

At some point, over the next few weeks, you are going to have a few quiet days. During the end of year holiday period you are going to be faced with the opportunity to take yourself off to a quiet room, sit down and get all your stuff into a working productivity system, or you could sit down and watch the usual holiday movies of The Wizard Of Oz and Home Alone for the umpteenth time. It is a choice you will be faced with and what you decide to do will tell you a lot about how much you want to change your life. If you decide to spend the three hours watching the same movies you have watched in previous years, don’t go into the new year complaining about how stressed and busy you are. You had the opportunity to change that situation and you decided to do nothing. If however, you decide to use those three hours to develop your own productivity system and if you are determined to maintain the system you create, you will find the new year brings you a better life, a less stressed life and a much more organised life. That seems to me to be a much better use of your valuable time.

It is easy to get caught up in our stressed and busy day to day life, not feeling happy about the situation and not doing anything about it. The reason you are unhappy, the reason you are stressed and feel worn out at the end of the day is that you have not made the decision to take some time out to sit down and get your stuff organised. You can decide to change that at any time, it is your decision to make. Equally, it is your decision to do nothing. My advice is choose wisely.

If you do decide to make the change, then I recommend you start by reading David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. Buying and reading this book, could turn out to be the best investment you have ever made. It is your choice.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.