Be Comfortable Not Doing What You’re Not Doing.

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Last week I received an email from a student in my Learning Centre saying he now felt guilty playing videos games — a hobby he loved to do. Despite becoming much better organised and more productive, every time he sat down to play video games he felt he was wasting valuable time.

Becoming better organised and more productive is not about doing work all the time. Becoming better organised and more productive is about freeing up time so you can do the things you love doing. Whether that is playing video games, watching your favourite TV show or taking a walk in the countryside.

One of the inevitabilities of life is our to-do lists will never completely zero out. There will always be something to do. Washing the dishes, cleaning the house, doing expenses, preparing our kids’ sports kit. While not all our tasks will be work-related, there will always be something we should be doing.

If we accept our to-do lists will never be completely empty, and that it is impossible to be doing stuff 24/7, then we need to get relaxed about not doing work when there is work to be done. One of my favourite quotes from David Allen is “defining what you are not doing is as important as knowing what you are doing”and that is where you need to get comfortable. Knowing there is work to be done and being comfortable not doing it right now.

The key to creating a stress-free life and being productive is to be fully aware of what needs doing and making the conscious decision not to do that work at this moment. Instead, if you prefer to relax on the sofa and watch an episode of Mock The Week or Would I Lie To You ( two of my favourite TV shows) then do so.

Of course, if you have a project deadline at 8 am tomorrow and you have not finished whatever work is required to complete the project, sitting down on the sofa playing video games or watching TV might not be the best way to spend your time. The project needs completing and that is where you would best be applying your time.

This is where getting all the stuff that needs doing into a system helps to keep stress down. Because you know what needs doing you can make better decisions about what you should be doing right now. When you know what you are not doing and knowing you have everything under control and time to do the work that needs doing you no longer feel the stress and overwhelm from not knowing what needs doing. ( I do hope that makes sense)

And that is where the stress comes from. If you have a pile of stuff you are not sure what needs doing with, your brain is going to be constantly telling you to do something about it. It’s what in GTD speak is called “open loops” — unclear stuff to do with unclear deadlines and unclear next actions. The fear of missing something important becomes overwhelming and so if you do try to sit down for an hour or two to play video games or watch TV you will have this nagging voice in your head telling you you should be doing something else. The problem is you don’t know what. And so you have this vicious cycle going on inside your head and that is where your stress (and guilt) comes from. It’s a fear of the unknown and thinking you should be doing something else instead of what you are doing right now.

When you have everything processed and put in its rightful place, you no longer have that worry. You know what you are not doing and are comfortable with the decisions you have made about what you are doing right now. You can play video games or play with your kids knowing everything is under control and you will have enough time to complete all your upcoming projects. That’s the wonderful thing about becoming better organised and more productive. No stress, no overwhelm and enough time to do the things you enjoy doing.

If you feel stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, then I have a FREE course that will help you get control of your stuff. It will give you a framework to collect your ‘open loops’ and organise them in a system you create for yourself so you have control and you know what you have to do and you know when you can relax and do the things you love doing.

You can get yourself enrolled right here.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

Maintaining Culture and Efficiency With Remote Workers.

This is a guest post by Rae Steinbach Thank you, Rae, for writing this for me. 

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While the traditional office might not be a thing of the past, the relationship many employees have to these shared work environments is changing. According to a report from IWG, 70% of employees are working remotely at least one day a week, and 53% are doing at least half their work at a location other than the office.

Some companies have embraced the shift toward remote work and have smoothly transitioned to more flexible arrangements. For managers that have a more traditional outlook, the trend of increased work away from the office is troubling. The primary concern for many of these managers is the worry that they will not be able to effectively manage employees if they are not in the office with them.

This concern is understandable, but there are significant benefits that can come with allowing employees to work away from the office. Many employees today prefer the flexibility that comes with being able to do work elsewhere. They may have family obligations or are indulging in the digital nomad lifestyle. Allowing for remote work can be an incentive that helps businesses attract top talent when hiring. In fact, 74% of employees said they would leave their current job for one that allows for more remote work.

Culture and Remote Work

Creating and maintaining a culture can be difficult when employees do not regularly share the same physical space. However, you need to remember that culture is not bound to a location; it is a set of values, beliefs, and ideals that your company keeps alive with various practices. Some of these can be performed remotely, like all-hands meetings via video calls. Sharing a common work environment might be an advantage for culture, but it is not a necessity. Company leaders just need to take steps to keep the culture in place for employees that work away from the office.

If you have offices, they should still play a role in the working life of employees. One way to do this is to set a minimum number of days per month that have to be spent in the office. You can also do things to make the office a more attractive work environment. If workstations are comfortable and have all of the tools an employee could need, like green plants and standing desks, your people might prefer to spend more time there.

Team events are another good way to make sure employees get some in-person time with each other. Face-to-face meetings are beneficial for building team cohesion, so try to get your employees together as a group. Hold training seminars to get everyone together; if the company is reaching an important milestone, celebrate as a team. These events can be great for building connections and maintaining a vibrant work culture.

Remote Worker Productivity

Some leaders might worry about a drop in productivity if they let their employees work outside the office. For the most part, the keys to avoiding this are to make sure employees understand your expectations and to instill accountability as an important part of the company culture.

For example, the management by objectives process encourages managers and employees to set goals together, and share progress regularly. This then allows leaders to have a more accurate idea of how remote workers are performing and reaching key objectives.

Working remotely comes with its own set of skills, so create trainings that ensure communication and performance remain as fluid as if everyone was working in house. For some employees, skills like time management will come naturally, but this is not true for everyone. If you want your employees to have success as remote workers, check-in regularly to see if these need to be changed or refreshed.

Managers can also leverage technologies that can simplify remote work. Modern communication technology offers a range of platforms that can make it easier to stay in contact with remote workers, and there are project management applications that can be used to ensure collaborative work stays on track.

Finally, hold regular in-person (or video) meetings to give everyone a chance to check in. The frequency and format of these meetings will depend on the specific culture and work-cadence at your company, but assemble everyone as often as is practical to go over the progress they are making on key projects. These meetings are also a fantastic opportunity for employees to give updates and appreciations to each other, and for managers to provide important news about the company.

Remote work shouldn’t be viewed as a compromise by management. When done well, it can be a way to increaseproductivity and allow people the space needed to access more creativity. As a leader, you just need to take the right steps to build a culture where people want to perform and produce for the good of all.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content for the HR industry. Her specialization is in performance management and leveraging team talent for the future of work. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

How Becoming More Productive Improves Critical Soft Skills.

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To get ahead in your career it is not enough to have the right degrees from the right universities. Today, to make sure your career moves in the right direction, you need to develop a number of critical skills that collectively are known as “soft skills”.

Soft skills are skills that are developed through practical experience. Communication, decision making, negotiation and conflict resolution, for example. Skills that cannot be taught from a textbook or in a lecture hall. These skills can only be developed by practice. School and university curriculums are, for the large part, built around the tired old tell teach method where a teacher or lecturer stands at the front of the classroom or lecture hall and tells students what to learn. Not a very useful way to prepare students for the realities of the modern world. School and university do not prepare you for life, they prepare you to pass exams. The development of soft skills — skills that are essential for life — are left to outside influences. Your friends and parents. Life experiences and the skills you get from reading the right books and applying what you learn to everyday life.

However, one skill tops all of them because it is a skill that develops all other skills and that is time management and productivity. Here are six ways improving your time management and productivity skills will improve all other soft skills

Communication.

Most people’s relationship with email is bad. Email is considered annoying, stressful and overwhelming. Yet, it is the primary form of communication in business and being slow to respond to a colleague or customer ‘s email causes delays in projects and important decisions as well as frustration from the people that are waiting for you to reply.

When you become better at managing your time you become better and faster at responding to your emails. You are in control of your inbox and know what’s in there, what needs responding to, reading and deleting and you have time to respond in a timely manner to all important emails.

Decision making (critical thinking)

If you practice a system such as my COD system or David Allen’s Getting Things Done you learn to make decisions quickly. You ask the right questions about what something is: “What is it?” Is it relevant to me? What’s the next action? Etc. With practice, you develop decision-making skills that can impact your whole life.

Asking questions such as “what is it?” And “What do I need to do next to move this forward?” Helps to develop your ability to make decisions based on available facts and information quickly and decisively. The very skills companies are looking for when hiring potential executive level employees

Conflict Management

You might be wondering how being better at time management and productivity can help with conflict management but it does. It does so because when you are better at managing your time you are able to give people better attention. You are not just physically present, you are also mentally present.

Being present and giving another person your full, undivided attention means you are able to listen and understand their perspective and are able to make better and fairer decisions about what to do to resolve issues before they become conflicts. When you are in control of all that is coming your way and have a system in place that allows you to compartmentalise your work, you become much better at managing people and their issues.

Stress management

This may be an obvious one. When you are in control of your time and have your work and commitments prioritised and organised you will experience a lot less stress. Stress in the workplace is generally caused by over-committing to work and increased workloads that pile up. Not knowing what needs doing and by when leads to panic setting in and this causes stress.

When you write everything down and have everything organised in its rightful place you feel in control. You know what needs doing and by when and you do not feel overwhelmed.

Flexibility / adaptability

Having a time management and productivity system in place means you can handle any changes that come your way with ease. All projects change over time. Outcomes change, timelines change and so do the people involved in the project. When you have all your next actions organised in a list you can change them, adjust timelines and adapt.

When you don’t have a system in place any changes to a project you are working creates uncertainty, a lack of clarity on what needs to happen next and a lot of confusion. Being a productive person allows you to accept changes and adapt accordingly.

Leadership

When you are in control and you know what the outcome is you are leading. Too often, we are doing work each day that has no clearly defined goals or outcomes and we just keep out heads down, do the work and not worry about which direction we are going in.

Organised productive people know the outcomes of all their projects with clarity. They know what the outcome needs to be and they lead their teams forward knowing they are going in the right direction. With that clarity of purpose comes clear communication which ensures all team members are moving in the right direction with purpose.

So, If you want to improve your overall soft skills, start by improving your time management and productivity skills. That one skill will lead to improvements in all other soft skills and allow you to build a career of success and fulfilment.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

5 Reasons Why You Feel Busy (And 5 Fixes)

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Busyness is not a physical state it’s an emotional state. Everyone has a lot of things to do each day and that list will never end. Every day we have to make breakfast, make our beds, brush our teeth, prepare our kids for school and choose the clothes we will wear for the day and then go and do a day’s work. Millions of people around the world have the same or similar routine every day seven days a week. Yet some people say they are busy while others have everything under control and feel calm and relaxed. Why?

In this week’s article, I give you five reasons why you feel busy and five ways to fix them.

1 You don’t write things down

This is the number one reason so many people feel busy. Not writing down what you have to do means you are relying on your brain to manage the things you have to do. Our brains are terrible at being a to-do list manager. Our brain does not compartmentalise what needs doing. So it reminds you to reply to an email while you are brushing your teeth just before going to bed. It reminds you to wash your daughter’s sports kit while you are in the middle of an important presentation.

Your brain is just not designed to be a to-do list manager.

Get yourself a simple ring-binder notebook and carry it with you everywhere. Whenever you think of something that needs doing write it down. Alternatively, if you prefer a digital notebook or list manager, then get yourself an app. There are thousands of them in your App Store. It doesn’t have to be a complex app with a steep learning curve. You just need a trusted place to collect everything you have to do.

2 Your ‘system’ is too complicated.

Another common mistake. An effective to-do list is simple. It does not have a complex hierarchy of projects and sub-projects. It is just a list of the projects you have on at the moment with the tasks you have to do to complete those projects nested nicely and simply inside those projects.

I often get questions about dependent tasks, tasks that should recur every 3.5 days and tasks that may or may not be a task because the way it has been written is not very clear. Stop! A to-do list does not need all that complexity. All you need to know is what should be done today. That’s all you need to see. You do not need to be messing around with complex organisation structures. It’s just a list of things to do.

3 You’re not using your calendar properly

Your calendar never lies. It has 24 hours each day and you get to choose what you do with those 24 hours. Most people delegate responsibility for their time at work to their colleagues by allowing them to schedule meetings on their calendar. If you want to get control of your time start blocking time out each day on your calendar so you can get on with the important work in your life instead of being at the beck and call of your colleagues who love nothing more than to have another meeting to discuss a problem they are incapable of taking responsibility for.

Do you have four hours in the evening? Then schedule an hour or two for self-development every evening instead of watching pointless TV shows that are doing nothing for you except making you fat and lazy. Read a book, go out for an evening stroll or learn something on YouTube.

With your calendar, anything you decide to put on there gets done. No excuses. It gets done. This is to golden rule of any calendar. This is your time. Sure you may have contracted out eight hours of your day to the company you work for, but that still leaves you eight hours for sleep and eight hours for whatever you want to do. Use that time constructively. Don’t waste it.

4 You can’t say “no”

Here’s an interesting thought. For every “yes” you say to a commitment or event, you are saying “no” to doing something else with that time. If you fill your days with other people’s work and requests how much time do you have left for what you want to do?

People often see any free time on their calendar as time to fill. But that’s not true. If you have free time on your calendar, schedule that time for your family, or taking a gentle walk in the park. You don’t have to fill every available time on your calendar. Part of the reason people feel overwhelmed and busy is they are not allowing any time for themselves and that’s because they can’t say “no”.

Every day you need at least one hour for quiet time. To read, to do your hobby or to get some exercise. This is your time and you should never ever give it up for anyone else. Learning to say “no” gives you complete control over your time. When you have control over your time you feel less stressed and less overwhelmed and busy.

5 You Don’t have a plan

If you are not planning the day, you are giving responsibility to someone else to plan your day. Whether you like it or not, every day you live is planned. Either it is planned by you, your company, your partner your school or your clients and customers. Every day is planned. In my experience, the people who feel less busy are the ones who plan their own day and do not leave it to fate to plan it for them.

And planning your day does not mean spending hours thinking about what you want to do. Planning your day should only take around ten to fifteen minutes and the best time to plan your day is the evening before.

When you take ten to fifteen minutes to look at your calendar for the next day, review the tasks you have scheduled for the day and add or subtract tasks where necessary, you sleep better and you start the day with the things that you want to get done. When you plan in the morning — when you arrive at work — you waste time and energy deciding what to do. You will get a lot more done and feel a lot less busy when you start the day knowing exactly what it is you want to get done.

So there you go, five reasons why you feel busy and five fixes so you no longer need to feel busy. We all have enough time to get the important things in our life done. We do not have to spend every day feeling busy and overwhelmed. When you stop and write everything that needs doing down, keep your system simple and have a plan for the day, you will feel more relaxed and in control, have more energy and find that all the work that used to make you feel busy just gets done when it needs to get done.


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.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

Why The Backend Work Matters

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A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went on a family trip. It was only a three-day trip, but before going I needed to do some backend work.

What do I mean by backend work? The backend work is going through your calendar and to-do list manager and looking to see what is coming up over the next week. It also means looking at what work you would normally do on the days you will be away and scheduling time to do the work before you go. The worst thing you can do is put it off until you return. When you return you will have the work you didn’t do as well as all the additional work that mounted up while you were away — not a good way to restart your work when you return.

Because trips like this are planned, I knew it was coming up and because I am always looking ahead to see what is coming up and seeing where I can relieve any potential pressure and bottlenecks before they occur, I was able to schedule my YouTube video recordings, podcast recording and editing and write the following week’s blog post before I went away on the trip.

It sounds like a lot of work to do, but when you have the backend processes in place, it is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, there is an increased volume of work for a few days, but when you make full use of your calendar and to-do list manager, it is a lot easier than you think.

The alternative is to not plan ahead and have my family break ruined by worrying about when I will have time to catch up with my work. To me, that is not an option. I would much rather have an intense few days before my break, followed by a fully engaged, worry-free time with my family.

That’s a managed interruption to a normal working routine, what about unplanned interruptions? A crisis at work, a loved one becoming seriously ill or your car breaking down on the way to work?

This is where having the processes in place to handle these crises comes in. I often tell my coaching clients to stress test their systems once they have them up and running. It’s fine for a system to work when you are doing your normal day to day work — when things are running smoothly — the real test is how well your system works when things go crazy. And things going crazy is a guaranteed part of life. For example, When you do the weekly review, you can look ahead and see what your schedule looks like for the week ahead. You can review all your projects and identify work that needs doing next week and schedule time for doing that work. You can also build in flexible time to handle crises and any work you have not managed to get done or finished.

This week, for example, I have an article to write for Lifehack. The deadline for that is Tuesday evening. I don’t have articles to write for Lifehack every week so it is additional work. Whenever I get work like this, I look on my calendar for 3 hours. I know I need two hours to write the draft and a further hour to edit. So, I scheduled 2 hours for writing the article Monday afternoon and will edit the article on Tuesday afternoon. The backend work is knowing how long an article will take to write and scheduling that time on my calendar. The writing of the first draft will be an objective for Monday so if the day goes crazy, I know it will get done — my objectives always get done. That’s the power of the 2+8 Prioritisation system. Each day have two objective tasks and eight focus tasks to complete.

Having the backend work done, knowing what you have to do and by when, scheduling the appropriate amount of time on your calendar to get it done and then doing it, that’s making sure you have the backend work done.

So while you might think taking time out of your already busy schedule to plan and have in place a system to make sure the work gets done is time you do not have, the alternative — not having a plan or a system — is what is causing you to feel too busy, overwhelmed and stressed. If you want to end that perpetual feeling of being too busy, you should stop, sit down and gather together everything you have to do and make a schedule to get it done. Put in place a system that prevents interruptions — blocking your calendar, turning off notifications on your phone for an hour or so and listening to some soothing music — you don’t have to disappear completely, just for an hour or two each day. Don’t worry, your boss, customers and colleagues can wait.

The backend work — putting in place the planning and system — is a guaranteed way for you to finally rid yourself of the daily overwhelm and stress. It is your key to having the freedom to do the things you want to do when you want to do them.

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

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

The Fun You Can Have By Finding Your Own Solutions.

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Every day I see on my Twitter feed requests to app developers to add more features. Things like adding a calendar view to a to-do list app or making an app more GTD (Getting Things Done) friendly. And yes some of these features might be nice, but when you reach out to other people to solve your problems for you you are missing out on an opportunity to learn some very valuable lessons.

There’s a very good reason for not wanting developers to solve your problems for you and that is learning for yourself how to overcome minor issues. If life was as easy as requesting someone else solve your difficulties for you, we would already have been replaced by robots and computers. We haven’t and that’s because we have the ability to solve problems far better than a robot or computer can.

One of the biggest drags on a productivity system is not learning how to use your tools. If all you do when you come up against an issue that your current app does not solve is go looking for another app that will do what you currently want to do, you will only find later the new app doesn’t do something else you want to do so you switch again. You end up in a never-ending cycle of app switching and never spending any time learning how to get the most out any single app. Often all you need to do is spend a few minutes on Google and you are likely to find a workaround or a simple solution to your issue.

One of my favourite past times is to take a problem, look at my existing apps and figure out a solution to the problem only using the tools I already have. In almost every situation I have been able to find a workable solution. I have never felt the need to reach out to developers and ask them to add another feature that would solve my problem.

One of the most important skills one could have is the ability to solve problems. We see this again and again in articles about skills a person needs to protect themselves from automation. Asking someone to solve a problem or difficulty for you does not help you learn how to solve problems. You are just delegating responsibility to someone else. Instead, why not spend some time and figure out a solution yourself using only the existing tools you have.

When the Apollo 13 space mission developed problems and put the astronauts in a life or death situation, Mission Control did not ask developers of the software to come up with a fix or a new feature. What happened was a team of amazingly talented people, together with the astronauts, looked at what resources they had available and came up with a fix that would get them safely back to earth.

This scene from the film, Apollo 13 demonstrates perfectly how this team of incredibly talented people solved problems.

It’s easy to write on a resume “I have good problem-solving skills”, but the question is: do you? Is your idea of problem-solving reaching out to developers and asking them to create a fix for you, or is it something you relish solving for yourself?

Real problem solving is taking a set of imperfect circumstances and finding a solution using only the things you have available to you. Problem-solving is not about asking someone else to fix it for you.

If you want to become better organised and more productive, then focus more on your system and less on the tools. Once you have mastered the art of collecting, organising and doing (C.O.D) and can do everything you have planned to do each day (the 2+8 Prioritisation System) without any difficulty, you will find you have less need for the tools you use and your productivity will skyrocket.


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.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

How To Avoid Overwhelm By Only Allowing 10 Tasks per Day.

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Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of people, in the forums I follow, commenting on how overwhelmed they feel and how many tasks they have on their to-do list every day. I’ve seen numbers ranging from twenty to sixty tasks per day and I know, from my own experience, that these numbers are not sustainable and what will happen is people will end up rescheduling many of these tasks because they won’t get done.

The problem with a long list of to-dos is the very sight of such a list leads to that feeling of overwhelm. Looking at a list of thirty to-dos first thing in the morning is just going to put you off wanting to even start attacking such a list. Instead what you need is a list of around ten items that will leave you feeling inspired to get started.

Why ten?

We live in a world of distraction. No matter who you are or what you do, you are going to get distracted. Email brings new tasks, bosses and colleagues ask us to do little pieces of work for them and clients and customers demand attention. These are unavoidable. When you start the day with a list of thirty tasks something is going to break, and usually that something is your task management. When you assign yourself a maximum of ten tasks a day on your to-do list two things happen. The first is you have time to deal with the distractions that will come in and second you will be forced to prioritise what you want to get done that day which helps you to focus on the things that are meaningful to you.

The Ten Task Maximum

The ten task maximum does not include your regular daily routines. If you have a morning routine of exercise, planning and learning for example, then the morning routine would not be included in your ten tasks. A morning routine is just something you do every morning and if you do it regularly — ie every morning — you should not need any reminder on your to-do list to do it.

I have a morning routine that involves 45 minutes of studying and 15 minutes of meditation. These two tasks are not on my to-do list, but the one hour is scheduled on my calendar as my self-development hour. It is a non-negotiable part of my day. I have been following this routine for nearly a year now and I really do not need to be reminded to do it in my to-do list. All I need to see is at 5 AM tomorrow morning I will do my studying followed by fifteen minutes of meditation.

I also have around eight routines admin tasks that need doing at the end of every day. Little things like writing up student feedback, updating attendance records and tracking new students in my learning centre. These routine tasks are on my to-do list, but I filter them out and they only show up at the end of the day when I need to see them. For the majority of the day, I do not need to see these tasks because they cannot be done until the end of the day and they act as little reminders to make sure I have done them. I do not include them on my list of ten tasks.

What I want to do is see ten tasks (or less if possible) when I begin the day and those ten tasks are meaningful and advance my work or projects in a positive way. I have a daily calendar event on my calendar for doing admin tasks (8:00 pm to 8:50 pm) and so I know they will get done.

Time Blocking

Because it is inevitable we will be distracted by something each day, be that a request from a customer or a demand from a boss, blocking an hour or two off each workday to get on with the ten tasks you have assigned yourself is crucial. All of us should be able to find an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon for undisturbed focus work. There really isn’t anything so urgent it cannot wait an hour or so. Of course, if you work in the emergency room of a hospital or are a firefighter, then you are not going to be able to do this, but any information worker who cannot block off an hour or so each day has bigger problems than just a long list of to-dos.

In twenty-five years of working in the legal and education professions, I have never once come across a situation where I was not able to block one hour off to get some focused work done. I have some language students who sometimes tell me they are too busy to do their English class, yet they are always able to find ninety minutes for their lunch (officially they have one hour, but they go for lunch at 11:30 am and they don’t return to their desks until close to 1 pm.) When we need to, we can find the time. It’s just a question of priorities.

Priorities

And that nicely leads me to the biggest benefit of only allowing ten tasks on your to-do list each day. It forces you to prioritise. We all have a lot of things we would like to do each day, but we only have twenty-four hours to do them. We cannot do everything at once. When you are limited to just ten meaningful tasks each day you are forced to think about which of the tasks you have to do will have the biggest positive impact on your day and your active projects. When you choose tasks that will move your projects forward each day you are making a bigger impact on your projects than if you were randomly picking away at a long list of tasks. You become more focused on the outcomes and less focused on the trivialities. Ultimately, projects need to be completed and focusing on the tasks that will get you to completion rather than the little insignificant tasks will get you to the outcome you want faster.

Having a long list of daily to-dos does not make you a hero. All it does is cause you to feel overwhelmed and that leads to procrastination. Reducing your to-do list to the ten most important tasks each day allows you to begin the day focused and energised and ready to move your projects towards the outcomes you desire faster. You will procrastinate less and you will still have time each day to deal with the unforeseen interruptions and distractions that are an inevitable part of living in the twenty-first century.

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.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

The Brilliance and Weakness Of GTD And The 5 AM Club

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GTD — Getting Things Done by David Allen — is a great book with an equally great message. The principles and methods detailed in the book are sound, they work and have helped millions of people around the world to get organised and to become less stressed.

But as with all things as good as GTD, the weakness in it is how people apply its principles. One good example is David Allen’s definition of a project which is, anything that involves two or more tasks is a project. Taken literally that means making an appointment for a haircut could become a project. You need to find your hairdresser’s telephone number and then call them to make the appointment. That’s two tasks. That’s a project.

But really is it a project? Those two tasks could be done sequentially in less than five minutes. Do you really need to create a project for these tasks?

The missing part of Getting Things Done is the part where common sense comes in. Were I to make a hair appointment, or a dental or doctors appointment, it would not become a project. Common sense tells me that to make an appointment to see my dentist can be done with a single task — make appointment to see dentist — even though there may be two or three tasks involved.

Another example where taking what is written in a book too literally can be found in Robin Sharma’s brilliant latest book The 5 AM Club. The book’s premise is that you wake up at 5 AM, do twenty minutes hard, intense exercise (enough to make you sweat), then do 20 minutes planning — preferably in your journal — and finish off the hour with 20 minutes studying, or self-learning.

I adopted the 5 AM Club principles early last year but modified them to better apply to my life and my circumstances. I wrote about my experiences and how I was getting a tremendously positive experience from it, yet I was informed by a well-meaning reader I could not be a “member” of Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club because I do not follow the 20/20/20 principle. I do not do 20 minutes exercise followed by 20 minutes planning then 20 minutes learning. I disagree. Exercise first thing the morning causes me to feel dizzy and nauseous and I have found that planning my day is better done the night before. It removes anxiety and stress and leaves me waking up with excitement, energy and purpose. What my reader misses is that the 5 AM Club and GTD are not about the steps. They are about giving you a framework in order to achieve a desired end result.

Whether I do my exercise at 5 AM or 2 PM as I do, doesn’t matter. What matters is I do the exercise every day. Whether I do my planning at 10:00 PM or at 5:20 AM doesn’t matter. What matters is I do the planning every day. I achieve the same results as if I did my exercise and planning at 5:00 AM. And that is the point.

I wake up at 5 AM and do 45 minutes studying and 15 minutes meditation. It works for me. It leaves me feeling refreshed, energised and ready to make each day the best day of my life. Which is exactly what the 5 AM club is all about.

And the same goes for Getting Things Done. Whether you turn your hairdresser’s appointment into a project or treat it as a single task doesn’t really matter. What matters is you get your hair cut. Getting the work done is far more important than the process you have in place to tell you what needs doing.

We are all different, we all have different ways of doing things and we all think differently. What GTD and the 5 AM Club do is provide you with fantastic ideas and a framework to improve your life. How you implement those ideas into your life is up to you because those ideas need to work for you.

Pure GTD did not work for me. Too many things slipped through the cracks and my projects list became overwhelming. It took far too much time to maintain my system and it wasn’t until I broke away from treating every multiple task as a project that GTD really started working for me.

But at the core, my whole COD system is built on the foundations of GTD it’s just stripped down to work better for the way I think and work. Equally, the message in Robin Sharma’s book is about making a significant improvement in your life by waking up early and spending some time developing your mindset, heartset, healthset and soulset. I do that every day. It’s just I do things in a different order, an order that works better for me.

And that’s really the point. David Allen’s GTD and Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club have a fantastic message and they both give you ideas and strategies that can give you incredibly positive results. But you do need to take those principles and apply them to your life. If you start work at 5 AM in the morning, then perhaps you need to wake up at 3 AM and do your self-development work, or with GTD perhaps you want to redefine what a project is for you. It could be four or five steps before something becomes a project. The way you define it is less important. What is important is that you are capturing your stuff and then organising it in a way that is meaningful to you. That’s how you get to improve your life and that’s how to take the ideas you learn and apply them to your life to make positive change.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

Why You Should Not Be So Hard On Yourself.

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The pressure to be constantly on your best game and to always be producing, delivering and executing is intense these days. Not only are the expectations of other people placing us under pressure, but the pressure we apply to ourselves is relentless. There’s never any let-up and no drop in the pressure. Just constant demands, endless work and high expectations.

We are living, emotional beings that from time to time get upset, angry, feel tired and are just not in the mood to do the work expected of us. The push to standardise work — to make sure we are always following the SOP (standards of procedure) manual — has left us feeling we have to get the work finished on time every time to the exact same standard on time every time.

Take a step back.

I think It’s time to step back. Time to realise we are not machines. We have our own independent thoughts and feelings. Some days we are going to be on fire. On those days we can achieve an inordinate amount of work to the highest possible standards. Other days we are less energetic. Maybe we didn’t get a great night’s sleep, perhaps we had a fight with our loved one or a relative is seriously ill. There are many factors that can have a debilitating effect on the work we produce.

And that’s the point. We need to understand we cannot produce a consistent amount of work every single day. There will always be days when we are not at our best. We are human beings, affected emotionally by external events subjected to our own body’s biorhythms and our own body’s physical fragility and we need to become comfortable with that fact.

On days when you feel fantastic, take the opportunity to get a lot of work done. On days when you feel particularly fragile just focus on getting whatever you can do done. Small steps taken every day can lead to amazing destinations. You do not have to accomplish everything in one day. When you feel great, do a lot. When you feel not so great just do what you can.

You don’t have to be hyper-productive every day.

That’s a problem with the world today, we feel we have to be hyper-productive every single day and that’s simply not true. It’s not only not true, but it’s also impossible.

This is why we need to be less hard on ourselves. Accepting that there are days when we are not going to be as effective as we would like and instead of sitting at a computer screen and getting more and more frustrated with ourselves, we should give ourselves permission to get up and go out for a walk or just take a nap. Just do something different and that we want to do and feel like doing.

Each week I have a number of things I want to complete. This blog post for example usually gets written on a Monday morning and posted Wednesday morning. Although I like to get it written Monday morning, there’s absolutely no problem doing it Monday night or Tuesday morning if I am tired and not in the mood to write Monday morning. It’s far better I write when I am in the best mood for writing rather than forcing myself to do something my heart is not in the mood for. This need to feel under pressure all the time is what leads to break down and that is not something we should be aiming for.

There are, of course, things you can do to maximise your energetic and productive self. Make sure you get enough sleep. Pulling all-nighters three times a week will just lead to burn out and a terrible state in which to get quality work done. Likewise, if you are filling your stomach with greasy, sugary food all day this will impact your brain’s ability to stay alert.

A few small steps…

To maximise the number of days you perform at your best make sure get enough sleep and drink enough water. These are the basics. On top of that make sure you get enough exercise each day — and no, that does not mean going to the gym or doing a 10k run every day. It just means you do at least thirty minutes walking each day — eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid alcohol. Take regular breaks throughout the day. Trying to sit at a desk for several hours without a break every day won’t produce more work than a person who works for ninety minutes and takes a thirty-minute walk. It’s likely you will produce less work and the work you do produce will be of a lower quality than the person taking regular breaks.

And it is not just healthy physical habits but also mental habits too. Avoid stressful situations. Understand you do not, and will not, have the answers for every problem and never allow yourself to get upset, stressed or angry about events you have no control over. Accept negative events and situations for what they are and deal with them. As the Stoics would tell you, you may not have control over the events that happen to you, but you do have control over how you react to them. Letting small inconveniences annoy or cause you to get angry will not change the event.

Stop putting yourself under constant daily pressure to produce and execute. When you feel you need a rest, take a rest, even if it is only for an hour or so. Just take that time out. When you come back to what you were doing you will be refreshed and energised and ready to produce amazing work. Life should always be about enjoying what we do every day and being proud of what we produce. So be proud, stress-free and well rested.


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.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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

Why You Should Be Scheduling Me Time every day.

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It’s very easy to be dragged kicking and screaming through the day by events outside our control. From bosses demanding more work, partners and family members asking us to do little favours for them and friends on social media asking (indirectly, of course) to like their latest picture of them drinking a cup of coffee. We all fall into this routine and for many, it becomes the sum total of their lives. Living their day to day existence on the demands of other people.

The damage this does in the long-term is incalculable. It’s not that running around after our highly strung and disorganised boss for one day is going to hurt our career prospects or damage our health, but when this is repeated every day it does damage our wellbeing and our own personal development because it stops us from working on our own lives, doing the things we enjoy and spending time with the people we love and care about.

One of my language student’s average attendance rate is one class every six weeks. She’s supposed to have a class every week, but she always has some crisis that needs attending to. It could be her boss has just given her some urgent work to do, or one of her colleagues is upset and needs someone to talk to. I’ve heard all the excuses. From having to go to the bank to not feeling very well. She’s mastered the art of finding excuses.

The thing is, learning English is something she decided to do as a valuable self-development activity. Learning a language might not be urgent or result in an immediate benefit. But it is something you do for yourself. Likewise, if you were learning anything such as a musical instrument or martial art. None of these will result in an immediate benefit. Before you receive any benefit there will be a lot of hard work, consistency and frustration. But the benefit to you by pushing through those difficult times is worth it.

Anchors keep you grounded.

It is important to have a few anchors for your life. Things like having a morning routine dedicated to your own self-care. Having time dedicated to physical exercise each day, quality time to spend with your family and an evening routine again dedicated to your self-care. These are essentials that should be non-negotiable. Your boss, customers, friends and colleagues should not be allowed to take that time away from you and the only way that happens is if you let them.

The skill is learning to protect your time and to say no. Of course it easy for me to write that, much more difficult to do, but then learning to drive a car is difficult if you have never driven a car before. With practice, driving becomes an automatic response. You don’t need to think about starting the engine and driving off after a few weeks of consistent practice and the same goes for learning to say no. At first, it will be very hard — uncomfortable even — and you will feel guilty, but after a little time your default response will change from yes to no and then you will find it easy to protect your time and the activities you have decided are important to your life.

Learn the skill of saying “no”.

And that is the skill — turning your default “yes” into a default “no”. We are programmed from an early age to please people and a part of pleasing people is to say “yes” to their requests. If you want to take control of your day, though, you are going to have to default to “no” and to protect your valuable time. Unlike money and material things where if you lose those you can always get them back, time is something once gone has gone forever.

I protect two-and-a-half hours each day for “me time”. I have forty-five minutes for self-development and fifteen minutes for quiet reflection every morning. I also have thirty minutes dog walking and fifteen minutes for planning each day as well as forty-five minutes for exercise. That’s just two-and-a-half hours out of twenty-four. Of course, in that twenty-four hours, I need to include sleep, washing and eating time, but time focussed on me is just two-and-a-half hours. If I am available for my bosses, colleagues, friends and family outside of those hours each day, then I have nothing to feel guilty about. And that is how I see it. I dedicate two-and-a-half hours to me-time every day and outside that time I am available to anyone else if I can help them.

Those two-and-a-half hours each day keep me grounded and focused on what is important to me. I see them as a vital part of my personal wellbeing and would never consider sacrificing even one minute for anyone else except in an extreme emergency.

Saying “no” is not selfish.

It is not selfish to give yourself some me-time each day — in fact, I would argue it is vital to your own wellbeing — because when you take care of yourself you will always be in a better position to help other people with your energy, knowledge and strength. When your life is a spiral of drama, gloominess and negativity you are not going to be of much help to anyone. When your life is a beacon of energy, light and positivity you will inspire others to lift themselves up and be like you. That is not being selfish, that is giving back to the world at large and one very strong reason why you should be protecting your me-time every single day.

So how much time are you going to give yourself every day? What will you do with that time and how will you protect it from the demands of others? If you haven’t answered those questions yet, perhaps now would be a good time to do so.

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.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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