Your Office Worker Mindset Is Destroying Your Chances Of A Successful Life.

For many years now, we have been conditioned to believe we need to get a good education, go to university and get a job with a big global company. We are told time and time again this is the formula for a successful life. Yet, if this was true more people than the estimated 0.08% of the world’s population would earn above $100,000 per year. That means 99.02% earn less, most a lot less than this.

The truth is, if you are relying on just one income, your salary, you are not going to have any kind of financial success unless you are extremely lucky or you are wise enough to know the importance of investing when you begin earning your first salary cheque. Which, let’s be honest, very few twenty-somethings understand or even want to do.

I know success should not be measured in terms of money, but even if we measure success in terms of spending time doing pleasant things with our families and friends when we want to, most people spend more time at their place of work than they do with their family and friends. In Korea, where I now live, most office workers are working on average 10 hours a day, they then have dinner with their colleagues before heading home around 8 or 9pm. Not much time to spend with family and friends here.

The truth is if you think working for a company, earning a regular salary is going to give you the life and lifestyle you have always dreamed of, you are going to be very very disappointed. It will not. If you truly want to have the freedom to spend time with the people you care about, doing the things you love doing, you are going to have to dramatically change your thinking and start to understand that you need to be more opened minded about how and where you earn a living.

The success of books like the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and the growth in entrepreneurship is indicative of the changing attitudes to work. In the past working for a company for a regular salary offered us security. These days that is less true. Automation and AI could take away your job tomorrow. In the past when industries declined, it took many years to happen and gave employees opportunities to retrain and move to other jobs or companies. Today that time no longer exists. The speed of change in technology today is having a very disruptive effect on job security.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Indeed, all these changes have given us so many more opportunities to create a life for ourselves. The internet has given everyone the chance to spread their ideas, showcase their talents and interests. It is a fantastic time to be alive. We no longer need to rely on one salary. The opportunities to increase our income streams are endless. You could create a YouTube channel that can earn you a few extra dollars a month, it is very easy to buy and sell on the stock market, you can create online courses, develop a website to sell your expertise to other individuals who want to learn new skills through Skype or FaceTime. There are so many opportunities to earn additional income. But if you have the office worker mindset, you are not going to be able to take advantage of all these opportunities because you still think in terms of “9 till 5”.

It is time to take a look around us and see the amazing opportunities we all have to create the lifestyle we have always dreamed of. There are of course some basics, things like hard work, a little imagination and the ability to have a vision of what our perfect life would look like. But once you have the basics, the next step is to start trying new things. Start writing a blog, create that YouTube channel you have always wanted to start, begin writing the book you promised you would write one day. Just start now.

The way to create the life you have always dreamed of is to break away from the office worker mindset. You life is worth so much more than a commute to a 9 till 5 office or factory job Monday to Friday followed by a weekend spent feeling tired and worn out stressing about the week to come. You could spend a few hours each week creating content for your blog or YouTube channel. You could learn how to make cushions, smart phone cases or hen coups. Anything that could help you increase you income streams.

And that is what it is all about. Increasing your income streams. using your talents, your experience and your know-how to help other people find the things they are looking for. None of this will happen if you have the office worker mindset though. With that mindset you will spend the best years of your life giving your valuable time to a company that will take everything it can from you, while paying you the least amount it can get away with, before leaving you on the scrap heap of former employees. You deserve better than that and the great thing about life today is you have the power and opportunities to break away from all that.

So open your mind, start thinking about you being your greatest asset and make that asset work for you in as many ways as you can. And always remember, you only have this one life, this one life to make an impact on the world and the people around you. Don’t give up the best part of you to a 9 till 5 job. You, your friends and family deserve so much better.

In the spirit of not having an office worker’s mindset, check out my latest online course on email management. If you hate email and find it a burden, then this course is just for you. With this link there is a 50% discount as well.

If you want to receive all my video and blog posts in one convienient place each Friday, then you can now subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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The Goverment Won’t Change Your Chances Of Being Successful

With elections recently in France, and the election this week in South Korea and of course the UK’s General Election in June, a lot of people seem optimistic these new governments will change conditions so they can be more personally successful. The sad truth for these people is no government is going to make you successful. The only person who can help you to become more successful is you.

Political, social or economic conditions do not make people successful. Indeed, a lot of the most successful companies today were born at a time of economic downturns or social unrest. Whether you are successful or not is entirely in your own hands. And that is the way it should be.

For most people, the reason they are not more successful is because they are searching around for something or someone to blame for not being successful. Blaming others, your parents, your government or your company is no excuse. If you truly want to be successful you need to make it your own personal responsibility. You need to take deliberate action and you need to make sure that in everything you do, you are focussed on your own success, your own goals and your own plans.

As human beings we all have the ability to be hugely successful. We all have talents, we all have the capacity to think for ourselves and we all have extraordinary opportunities to build a successful, fulfilled life. The only way to do that is to take responsibility for our achievements and our failures and not blame anyone or anything if we fall short. If we do fall short we need to pick ourselves up, analyse why we failed and try a different approach. I often think life is really a journey involving a lot of failures and a few successes and it is continuous. Too often, people blame outside influences and these are the people who achieve very little in their lives. Don’t be one of those people. Accept responsibility for your successes and failures. If someone lets you down, don’t blame them. You chose to rely on that person. That was your choice and therefore that is your responsibility. Find someone else more reliable.

In my work, I meet a lot of people stuck in middle management, who are in their mid-fifties and they are stressed out. They live in a state of fear of losing their jobs and are doing absolutely nothing to change their circumstances. They blame society, their government, they blame their university, they blame their company but they never blame themselves. Let me spell it out clearly: the reason you are not successful is not society, your government, your company or even your parents. Millions of people living in situations with backgrounds far worse than yours have become successful. The reason you are not successful is because of you, your choices and your inability to take full responsibility for your own life.

No matter who you are, how old you are, what your background is or where you live, you always have the ability to learn new skills, to start new projects and to thrive in this world. You only have to make the decision. To decide what to learn or do and start. That is it. You may not be successful at first, you will fail, you will be disappointed, but eventually you will succeed at learning something new. You will be able to learn from your mistakes and those failures and by taking full responsibility for those mistakes and failures you will come out of it a better, stronger person, who has taken themselves a little bit closer towards success. The key is to decide to take action, to persist, adjust and learn.

So make a mindset change today. Stop blaming others and start accepting full responsibility for your own success. Don’t place you faith in your new government, company or people. Put your faith in yourself, decide what you want to accomplish, make a plan and start achieving today. Take it one step at a time, believe in yourself and if you fail, figure out what it was you did not get quite right, adjust and start again. Your government will not be the reason you failed, just like your government will not be the reason you succeeded. The reason you succeed or fail is simply down to your choices and your work ethic.

Now go out there, take full responsibility for your actions and see the positive changes in your life.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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Supercharge Your Productivity

I am really excited to announce, I’ve written and produced a productivity course called Supercharge Your Productivity for the Udemy online learning site. The course gives you the overview of my productivity system and will allow you to build your own system that will supercharge your productivity and help you develop an essential skill for the twenty-first century.

In 2017 the business world is in the middle of some dramatic changes. With the growth in digital technology, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence most of the jobs in the world today will have disappeared by 2025. The question to ask yourself is: are you prepared for this future?

Productivity is one of the key soft skills required of executives today. Productivity means you are able to manage all the work that comes your way, to handle all the distractions from your smart phone and computer without missing anything and without becoming overwhelmed and stressed. If you cannot do that, you will not survive in the future business world.

My course is designed to give you the key skill of personal productivity. To help you get the most out of your technology and to give you time and space to grow yourself professionally and personally.

You will not become more productive overnight. It takes time and it takes deliberate action to get your life together. The strategies and methods in this course will make you incredibly productive, which means you will become less stressed, more creative and have more time to do the things that are important to you. But that will only happen if you take action.

Just reading through the supplied workbook and watching the videos will not, on their own, help you. To really get the most out of this course you need to make a determined decision to change the way you work, to be focused and to set up the systems you will need to become a master of productivity.

It is not difficult, but it does take time. Taking that time to really get your life organised and productive is not something you should take lightly. Your very survival in the business world and your career now depends on it.

The course is currently on a special introductory offer of $10.00 (normal price is $40.00) so now is the time to take action and start to really develop a fundamental skill you will need to future proof your career. Get the course today and get lifetime access to the course.

 

You can access the course right here for 50% off

 

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me at carl@carlpullein.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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It's All About Doing, Not Tweaking

Recently on my YouTube channel, Enrico Nahler did a fantastic video for my Working With Productivity series in which he pointed out that many people get stuck between the processing and reviewing stages of GTD (Getting Things Done) and never actually move on to the “Engage” stage. In GTD speak, “Engage” means do. Do your tasks and complete your projects.

This got me thinking too, I also find most people are very good at the middle parts of GTD, the “processing”, the “organising” and, to a point, the “reviewing” but are terrible at the “engagement” or the doing.

Instead, I find is people are very good at creating a system, in fact they are so good at creating a system, they often go back and redo the system over and over again. Unfortunately, this is not productivity. This is procrastination dressed up as productivity. Sure, a good reorganise of your tasks and projects can make you feel better, it can also help motivate you, but it does not take you closer to finishing your tasks or projects or goals. It’s a bit like repainting the road sign at the bottom of your road. Yes, the road sign is going to look fantastic, but you are still no closer to your destination. The only way you get to your destination is if you follow where the road sign points you to.

And that is what you need to do. You need to follow the signs to their destination. Of course you may need to stop along the way to check you are still going in the right direction or you still want to go to that destination, but once you have developed the project, and decided on your tasks, you need to get on and do those tasks so those projects get completed. Changing the map along the way is not going to get you to your destination any faster. Which means, once you have your system set up, you need to stick with it. Not play around with colours, bold or italics. You need to get on with completing your tasks, which lead you to completing your projects which lead you to achieving your goals. That’s productivity. It is completing projects and accomplishing goals. It is not cleaning, pruning and tweaking a system.

There are times of course when you do need to stop and rethink your system. When you find a lot of your tasks are being forgotten, you miss deadlines or you did not do something you promised someone you would do. These are signs your system is not working. Quite often, in these situations I find it is because the individual is not capturing everything, or is not dating things and relying on labels only. When this happens, tasks either do not get captured at the right time or they get lost in a sea of labels that no one, including the person creating them, can figure out. When you find this happening to you, you need to stop and look at your system. It is usually because all the tweaking and playing around has caused a system to become too complicated and too heavy with add ons, hacks and work arounds. This is a time when you need to take a good, long look at what your are trying to achieve and to find ways of simplifying it. In these situations you need to go back to basics. Find simpler, faster ways to capture. Simplify your labels (contexts lists) or make sure the dates you are adding are real dates and not ‘hopeful’ dates. It is not difficult to figure out where the problem is, but if you want your system to work properly, you do need to figure out where things are going wrong.

However, once you have taken the time and effort to build a productivity system, with all the component parts in place, you need to let it work. Do its stuff so you can focus on the doing, the completing of tasks and completion of projects and accomplishment of goals. That’s where productivity happens. When you are doing stuff. Your system tells you what you need / should be doing, and you do the doing. That’s it. Simple.

So, as long as your system is doing its job, telling you what to do, and you are doing your job, doing the tasks, then everything will work. If one or the other is not doing its job, then everything will breakdown. It is not really about how your tasks look, whether a new app will do it better (it won’t) or even how much AI is being used by your apps. It is simply about whether your system is telling you what you need to work on and when, and you are getting on with the job of doing those tasks so everything gets done on time and to the highest possible standard.

If you are a “tweaker” and you find yourself with the compulsion to always be tweaking and playing around with the way your system looks, stop. Try to figure out why you have the need to be doing that and fix the underlying problem. Perhaps create a task to look in to it at your next weekly review or in your next systems review (I have one of these come up every three months). But don’t start tweaking your system when you know you should be doing. That just makes having a system pointless. Your system needs to help you to get the right things done at the right time not be a toy to play with.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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Stop Making Excuses!

One of the most destructive forces for human productivity is the excuse. Time and time again I come across people making excuses about why they cannot get themselves organised or why they cannot be more productive. I’ve heard excuses ranging from “I’m not the organised type of person” to “my boss makes it impossible for me to be more productive”. I know it is very easy to blame others or blame your personality, it could be because it is so easy to blame others that is why we do it.

The truth is there are no valid excuses not to be better organised or more productive. Being organised and more productive is a choice we make, it is not a talent or a skill we learn at school or university. We either choose to get ourselves organised or we choose not to get ourselves organised.

The problem for most people is the time it takes to get organised. After years of neglect, our desk draws are a mess, filled with stuff we have collected over the years. Our garages have become dumping grounds for all kinds of junk and we rarely, if ever, maintain a functioning calendar or todo list manager because the effort required to set one up is too much for us. The latest episode of Elementary or Game Of Thrones is far more appealing than spending a hour collecting all the things flying around in our heads into a digital or paper todo list.

It is very easy to find an excuse not to do something, often it is very hard to find a reason to do something. But that is what separates the productive, highly organised people from the stressed our wrecks. Highly productive people find reasons to be productive. They do not like having to take work home with them every night. They do not like wasting hour after hour looking for something that has disappeared under a pile of junk and they certainly do not like being distracted by work related stuff floating around in their heads while they are at the park with their kids.

Rather than spend an evening sat on the sofa watching episodes of the latest drama, you would find it much more fulfilling to spend an hour cleaning out your closet. You could spend an hour collecting all the things in your head onto a piece of paper or typing it all into a digital todo list manager. If you make the decision to spend an hour every Saturday and Sunday evening cleaning out an area of your home / life, in one month you would have spent eight hours doing something productive. That would still allow you time to watch an episode or two of your favourite drama. The difference this time is you would feel much better about doing it.

In the workplace, a clear sign of an unproductive person is the way they speak about projects. They blame everything. The timeline is too tight, the documentation is not up to date, the weather is bad, it’s the wrong time of year to do this kind of project, the government’s regulations don’t allow us to do something. There’s always a reason why something cannot happen. Yet, if you truly want to be an effective, productive person, then you need to stop making these excuses and starting finding ways to make something happen. Successful and productive people don’t complain. They get on with it. They find ways to make successful outcomes happen, no matter what barriers or pressures they are up against.

It is true outside influences can make a project more difficult, but these difficulties are the same for everyone. If it’s raining, it’s raining for everyone. If the government regulations are strict, they are strict for everyone. Productive, effective people find ways to make things happen and they get results. They get creative and work within the boundaries they are set and they see everything as an opportunity to do. unproductive, ineffective people on the other hand use these outside influences as an excuse not to do.

There is no excuse for not getting yourself organised and more productive. It could be argued that not doing so is seriously damaging your health and wellbeing. Stressed in not a pleasant state to be in. It effects your relationships and it effects your ability to make good decisions and, more seriously, it effects your health.

I have an interest in what makes truly successful people successful. And the common trait among them all is they don’t make excuses. They don’t blame the government, the environment, the economy or their company. If they identify a weakness in their system they fix it. They have routines that allows them to get stuff done and they are incredibly productive. They use a calendar, they have a todo list that is up to date and they set goals every year. They are all about action, about doing and about finding ways to make the impossible possible.

If you want to be successful. If you want to improve your productivity, your relationships and your health, then stop making excuses and start finding ways to make these things happen. As a member of the human race you were born with the ability to be successful, to be productive and achieve great things. If you want to do that, then stop looking for ways not to do something, and instead find ways to do it.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

Amazon iBooks | Website

Shifting Priorities In A Crazy Week

Last week was a full week for me. I had a number of presentations to deliver and a full schedule of meetings and classes. As usual with full weeks, I found my priorities for each day shifting by the hour. An email, text message or phone call could instantly change the focus of the day and turn my planned day into a disaster zone.

Over the years I have found some strategies that help when these inevitable days or weeks occur and I thought it would be a good idea to share these with you.

Core Priorities

The first strategy is to make sure your core priorities are firmly in place. For me these priorities include ensuring I get enough sleep. That means I will not work past 11pm and I will always make sure I am in bed by 11:30pm. I find I cannot work efficiently or creatively when I do not have enough sleep, and a lack of sleep often results in me catching a cold. When combined, the debilitating effects of feeling tired and sick is a guaranteed way of turning a difficult week in to an impossible week. Experience has taught me this, so trying to be a hero and fighting through tiredness and feeling achy and sick is counterproductive.

Focused Daily Mini-Review

Another strategy I follow is to make sure I maintain my todo list manager and calendar. This means I will spend twenty to thirty minutes at the end of the day reviewing my tasks and making sure my calendar has all the latest updates and changes to my schedule. On busy days, I don’t always have time to be checking off tasks as I complete them or updating my schedule when things change. Fortunately, I am in the habit of capturing everything as it happens and I will be entering any new tasks, projects or changes to my calendar directly into Todoist. I can always tell when a lot is happening in my life when my Todoist inbox is collecting more than ten items a day. Taking those twenty to thirty minutes at the end of the day to check off the tasks I have completed, updating my calendar and pushing off the less urgent tasks to another day or week is my way of putting myself back into the driving seat of my life. On a normal week, my daily mini-review would only take around ten minutes, but when things are hectic, it is important to start each day in control of your agenda and being very clear about what must be done.

Say “No”

My third strategy is to say “no”. Have you ever noticed when you are in the middle of a hectic week, you get more requests for your valuable time? In these situations I have taught myself to be brutally protective of my time. If I get a request from a friend, client or student when my schedule is under pressure, I will always say “no” or at the very least put off having to make any decision, or do any thinking, until the current workload has been reduced and the pressure is off. I would say 75% of the time, I will delay making a decision about something. I will always say I cannot do something this week, but I will be happy to look at it next week. In almost all cases, the person asking for my time will understand and be happy to let me make a decision on something later. I know saying “no” is difficult, but if you are going to be the most effective version of yourself, it is something you really need to learn to do.

Learn From The Experience

My final strategy is to learn from the experience. Whenever I have week as I did last week I will review what went well, and was did not go so well. I enjoy the experience of ‘stress testing’ my system because it allows me to fine tune things and make my system better at handling those crazy times. It is about learning to decide what is genuinely important and what can be delayed or cancelled. In my case, I published my blog post a day later than usual. This was because I made the decision that spending an hour practicing for a presentation was more important than editing the blog post. These decisions can be hard, but they are equally very important. Trying to maintain your routines as well as dealing with a full schedule is likely to lead to a breakdown somewhere. Publishing a blog post a day late is not going to change my life. But not practicing for a presentation could result is a poor presentation and that is something I will not accept.

Life is full of surprises and when you have a system that is stress tested and you fully trust you will always be able to manage those surprises and will always be prepared for any unforeseen events. To me that is one of the best things about being organised — having the systems in place to help me maintain my life at it’s more productive. And now, having come through a hectic week of meetings, presentations and classes I have learnt that my system is working fine and it is not broken. This week is looking like a much more normal week so I can now return to some of those things I put off from last week and give my full attention to them. It’s a great way to start the week.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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What We Can Learn From Designated Survivor.

Over the weekend I began watching Designated Survivor. A US drama by ABC in which a low level minister in the US administration becomes the President after the incumbent President and all of Congress and House Representatives are killed in a terror attack on Washington DC.

The new President, played by Keifer Sutherland, has never had so much power and responsibility and suddenly finds himself having to deal with incredibly challenging situations. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend you do. It is gripping and very entertaining. 

From a productivity point of view, I found myself admiring the way President Kirkman, (Keifer Sutherland’s character) handles these challenging situations. Advisors demanding decisions, foreign countries taking advantage of a weakened US government to benefit their own causes and terrorists striking all over the US, there never seems to be a moment where President Kirkman can just sit down and relax for a few moments. 

This reminded me of how many of us work today. There is so much stuff being thrown at us, from emails arriving at every minute of the day and night, text messages and demands from our colleagues for a decision on this project or that project. Professional and personal issues demanding our attention all at the same time. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. How do we cope in these testing situations? 

Here are a few lessons we can learn from the Designated Survivor that may help in our quest for a better, more productive life. 

Be guided by your values

What I saw in President Kirkman is a man who at first is overwhelmed by all the decisions he has to make evolve in to a decision making machine. President Kirkman’s abiding value is “the truth”, he is never once tempted to show a slight of hand or to deceive. He only wants to govern in the fairest and most open way. Occasionally he will delay announcing something if it gives him and his advisors a little breathing room to make a better decision, but his overriding values of truth and openness prevail in all his decisions. And this is true in our real world. If we allow our values to dictate the decisions we make we will always make the right decisions. This decisions may not always be in our own short-term best interests, but because the decision came from our values, they will always be the right decisions in the long-term. 

Values such as integrity, honesty and hard work are values that will always serve you well. You may have other values, but the important thing is you allow all your decisions be guided by your own values. When you do this, no matter what, your decision will always be the right decision for you, whether or not they are the right decisions in the short-term.

Don’t put off difficult decisions

Another trait I noticed in President Kirkman is his ability to prioritise what is important and needs dealing with right now and what can be dealt with later. Putting off the hard decisions does not make them go away, they hang around like a bad smell. You need to deal with the difficult decisions first. The easy decisions can wait. Deal with these early in the morning. Make the decision, and then move on to the other things you have to deal with. You will find yourself so much more productive if you do that. My advice is to take some time out either in the evening or before you begin your day to decide what needs to be done and make sure the most pressing, urgent and difficult decisions are the first things you deal with. You will feel so much better for doing this. 

Get ahead of existing and potential problems

One of the most commonly used expressions in this drama is the expression “we need to get ahead of this”. Meaning, when something goes wrong, or something looks like it is going to go wrong, you need to be ready with your response. You may even need to deal with the problem before it becomes a problem. The only way to do this to be completely aware of what is going on in your world. Maintaining a todo list manager and an up to date calendar helps here, but so does taking some time out to review everything that is going in your world, both professionally and personally. If you manage a team of people, give them space to work, but make sure they are giving you regular updates. You don’t want an employee coming to you with a problem that is already a week old. You need to be anticipating and reviewing, so the problems either don’t occur or you are able to mitigate them when they do arise. 

Give yourself some quiet time

In almost every episode there is a scene where President Kirkman, stands alone either on the balcony overlooking the White House gardens, or by his desk in the Oval Office. These quiet moments of contemplation help him to see the bigger picture and evaluate all the advice being given to him. This is a great trick you can use to help you to make better decisions by allowing your brain to process the information. Once you have processed the information you can make much better decisions. 

Listen and trust your advisors but make your own decisions

After President Kirkman has been in office for a few days he has learnt who to listen to and who he can trust. One of the striking characteristics of President Kirkman is he will make decisions contrary to the ideas of his advisors. But he still listens to them. In one of the early episodes one of his generals insists they begin an air attack on a terrorist suspect immediately, but he disagrees. The president wants better confirmation the suspect is there. Remember you are in charge of your department and your own life. You should listen to advice, particularly when you trust the person giving you the advice, but ultimately you will take the responsibility if things go wrong, so be willing to make contrary decisions if you feel you need more time is required or another way would work better. 

No matter how busy you are, whether or not you run a large department or you are just starting out in the world of work, if you make all your decisions based on your own values, you never put off the difficult decisions, you make sure you are always aware of potential problems, you allow yourself some time each day to think through all the things going on in your life and you trust and listen to those people closest to you, you will very rarely, if ever, go wrong. Always remember you are responsible for the decision you take in your life. You can’t blame others if things go wrong. 

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity.  Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative. 

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Why Does Email Get Such a Bad Wrap?

I love email. It is a great way to communicate and it gives me a way to organise mails in a way that is far better than paper mail ever was. Paper mail used to hang around the door at home, work mail used to be dropped in to a never ending pile in my physical inbox. It was horrible. And then, if you lost that important letter, it was so much hassle trying to get a copy of the original letter.

With email I can control what I receive. I can block spam, newsletters and other digital debris that periodically enter my inbox, and unless I foolishly delete an important email, I am unlikely to lose those vital mails as the search functions in my email client is excellent. And since the introduction of smartphones I can reply to emails quicker than ever. Before email, Tuesdays used to be horrible. That was the day when I received the most mail and it was just a huge pile of important mixed in with a lot of crap, but to get to the important, you had to physically open the crap to see what it was before confirming it was crap. With email, you can see immediately, without opening the mail, whether it is important or not and a quick swipe on the screen permanently removes it if it is not important.

This is why I can’t understand why so many people give email a bad wrap. It is not as if we did not receive hundreds of physical letters every day before email went mainstream. We did, and it was a much bigger hassle to deal with it all. Okay, there was less time pressure. And we did of course have the excuse that the letter was “lost in the post”, but we can always claim an email was never received just as easily. And, if you are on top of your email, the time pressure should never really be a problem.

I think the reason why email gets such negative press these days is because someone somewhere back in the early 2000s once complained they got too much email. And that single person was a very disorganised, unproductive person. Their comments about email caught on and now it seems to be a cool thing to say that they get too much email. A kind of badge of honour if you like. It’s the “hey look at me! Aren’t I important. I get so many emails!” type of person.

The truth is, email is easy to maintain. If you treat your inbox as just that, an inbox, and whenever you get new mail, you decide immediately what it is and what you have to do with it (and of course, do it) email should never ever be a problem. If you are strict about what you receive, treat your email address as your home address, i.e. Not giving it out to just anyone who asks for it, and not subscribe to anything and everything that asks you to subscribe, you will find you don’t really get all that many emails. However, if you treat your inbox as a storage centre, give your email address to any person or website that asks for it, and you never make a decision about an email — what it is and what you have to do with it — of course your inbox will grow into a pit of despair. But that is not the fault of email. That is your fault.

If you want to love email again, here are some simple rules you can follow:

  1. Whenever you get an email, immediately decide what it is and what you need to do with it, and do it. Do not leave it in your inbox.
  2. Unsubscribe from all those newsletters you do not read. Only keep the ones you do read.
  3. Create 3 folders. 1 — Action today (all emails that need a reply today) 2 — Waiting for (all emails you are waiting for a reply) 3 — Archive (for all emails you need not do anything with)
  4. If an email does not fit in to any of the above folders, delete it.
  5. Treat your email address as you would you home address. You wouldn’t give your home address to any stranger you just met. Do the same with your email address.
  6. Create a dummy web-based email address you can use for home shopping accounts and other places where an email address is needed to join. Do not add this email address into your email client. Keep it as a web-based email account. This way the crap these companies send won’t clutter up your real inbox.

And that is all it takes to love email again. There should be no reason at all for having a long list of read emails in your inbox. If an email is opened, you need to do something with it. Reply, archive or delete. Simple. The real reason email is a problem today? People overcomplicate it. It really is simple. So, keep it simple.

Take some time this week to empty your inbox, a good tip is to select all the emails in there, save for the the most recent ten emails, and hit the delete key. Don’t worry, if you delete an important email the sender will soon send you a reminder. Alternatively, you could do a “soft email bankruptcy” and just move these emails into a temporary folder called “old inbox” and process that when you have time. Then follow the six rules above. You will soon find yourself falling in love with email. And that means one less thing to get stressed about.

Good luck.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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Collecting All Your Stuff In One Place Is… “a bit obsessive”?

A recent conversation with one of my clients revealed an unhealthy negativity among some people about todo list managers. It seems some people think there is something “a bit obsessive” about capturing all your ideas and commitments into an ‘external brain’ — whether that is a digital application such as Todoist or a simple notebook. What surprised me about this conversation was people thought capturing ideas was a “bit obsessive”.

There are countless examples of immensely successful people using some kind of capture tool to collect their ideas from Leonardo Da Vinci to Sir Richard Branson. There must be hundreds of thousands of articles written about the benefits of writing everything down, I even remember in school teachers telling us to write some important fact down into our exercise books. It seems incredible that some people think capturing ideas into a notebook or digital device is “a bit obsessive”.

So, what are the benefits of having a method to capture all your ideas and commitments? To begin with, in the world we live in today, there are now numerous ways people can communicate with us. It could be by telephone, email, Slack, letter, text message or through social media. That’s a lot of places where a message that needs replying to could hide. Having a central place to remind you to reply to a message just makes sense. It’s faster, more efficient and means once you have captured the commitment, you no longer need to think about remembering to reply. It takes less than thirty seconds to type “Reply to Alan’s text”. The consequences if you do not reply, might not be very bad, but then it could also mean you miss the opportunity to get the job you have always dreamed of, or a sale that could mean the difference between making your bonus or not.

In terms of your own health, stress related illnesses are now the biggest killer in the developed world. The stress of trying to keep so many balls in the air has a profound impact on your wellbeing, your health and your happiness. Trying to remember everything that needs to be done and by when destroys your ability to relax. You constantly have this nagging feeling you should be doing something else instead of what it is you are doing right now. Your brain is in a constant state of work. You think you are relaxing, but your brain is in overdrive. That is not relaxing. Relaxing is being able to think of nothing, or of calm beaches where the ocean laps softly on the rocks. To doze and to enjoy a joke with your partner. Sadly most people are distracted. When your closest friend tells you something important to them, you don’t hear it because you are trying to remember what it was your boss asked you to do for tomorrow. People are distracted and not able to enjoy the moment because their brains are trying to tell them they forgot something.

And the most common one of all. Waking up at 3AM, suddenly remembering you should have emailed your CEO the itinerary for their visit to Germany. Then not being able to get back to sleep because you left the itinerary on your desktop in the office and so you cannot send it until you get to the office. You nervously check your phone in case the CEO has messaged you about it. Then finding you cannot get back to sleep because you are so worried about about how P’ed off your boss will be when he lands in Germany in the next hour.

Writing these things down when they first come in to your head avoids all these issues. You find yourself being enveloped by a calm serenity because you trust your capture tool. When you process everything you have captured during the day, you know what you have to do, when you have to do it and you need not give it another thought until you decide to do it. There’s no more “Oh damn! I forgot to…” There’s just calm, control of everything that is going on in your life. You no longer wake up at 3AM suddenly remembering you should have done something. You sleep better, you are less stressed and your rarely feel overwhelmed or too busy, and you are able to enjoy time with your friends and loved ones completely without the distraction of mentally being somewhere else trying to remember what it is you should be doing. Surely that is a much better state to be in, than a stressed out wreck, overwhelmed with work, yet not knowing what needs to be done next or by when.

So, if you are someone who has learnt the value of capturing everything that comes to mind when it comes to mind, and you have friends and colleagues who think you are a “bit obsessive”, then do not worry. You are the smart one. They are the irresponsible ones. They are the ones who are putting their long-term health and wealth in danger. They are the ones that will get trapped in middle management and they are the ones who will become a statistic in the next calculations on stress-related illnesses. You are the one who has a better chance of enjoying a long, healthy and prosperous life. You will enjoy the times you have with your friends and family and have time to build quality relationships with the people who matter most to you.

And you will have all that because of your simple practice of capturing and writing everything down when it comes in and processing those captured things every day.

Next time someone tells you that writing everything down is a “bit obsessive”, have sympathy for them. You’re not “obsessive” you’re just practicing good old fashioned common sense.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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The Essential Skill Everyone Needs in 2017.

In 2017, the business world is in the middle of some dramatic changes. With the growth in digital technologies, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, most of the jobs we recognise in the world today will have disappeared by 2025. Some will have been replaced by machines, other will have evolved into something completely different. The question to ask yourself is: are you prepared for this future?

To protect yourself in this changing world, developing key, so called soft skills is vital. The ability to communicate, the ability to make decisions quickly and to solve problems creatively are just some of the skills you need to develop, but by far and away the most important skill is that of personal productivity. Personal productivity means you are able to manage all the work that comes your way, handle all the distractions from your smart phone, colleagues and computer without missing anything and not becoming overwhelmed and stressed. If you cannot do that, you will not survive in the future business world.

To survive, you will need to know how to get the most out of your technology and to give yourself time and space to grow yourself professionally and personally. You need to become the master of technology and not allow technology master you. Companies today are not going to give you that kind of training. In the past, when employees stayed with a company for 10 to 15 years, companies were willing to invest in the personal development of their staff. After all, it benefitted the company in the long-term. Today, with so many employees staying with a company for no more than two or three years, it is no longer economic for companies to invest in the personal development of their employees. Your personal development has now become your responsibility.

The trouble with personal productivity is you do not become productive overnight. It takes time and it takes deliberate action to get your life organised and together. You need to read, study systems and learn what works best for you and your lifestyle. None of this will happen unless you take action. Too often I find people thinking they do not need to change, that they are okay and job losses only happen to other people not themselves. Sadly, over the coming years that is not going to be true. The people who survive are the people who have taken it upon themselves to get the training that will develop their skills so they can adapt to the changing nature of work. And the work is going to change. Autonomous cars, Robots and AI are here already and their development is not going to be over a period of decades, it’s going to be over a period of months. Uber intend not to be ‘employing’ drivers by 2030 — that’s only thirteen years away!

Just reading books and taking part in courses will not, on their own, help you. To really get the most out of the courses you take and the books you read, you need to make a determined decision to change the way you work, to be focused and to set up the systems you need to become a master of productivity. You also need to be reading about the latest developments in technology, experimenting, learning new applications that may, or may not, help you to do your work more efficiently and more creatively and most of all, be open to change.

It is not difficult, but it does take time. Taking time to really get your life organised and productive is not something you should take lightly. Your very survival in the business world and your career will depend on it.

I teach a lot of 40 plus year olds and many of them have settled into a career destroying mindset of “I don’t understand all this new technology”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it. You have no choice but to learn how to understand and use it. You need to be better than the Snapchat generation at using the technology that is at your fingertips, and if you are not, your responsibility to yourself is to schedule some regular time to learn how it all works and how it can benefit you and your organisation.

Once you decide to get yourself organised and more productive, the benefits are more than just professional. You will experience less stress, less time having to work late and your creativity will reach new heights. Lack of creativity is caused by all the stuff your brain is trying to remember. Once you get all that stuff out of your head and into a trusted external place, your brain will be free to think of new, creative ways of improving yourself, your business and your life.

It takes a huge commitment to become organised (just take a look at the above video with David Allen, the GTD creator). It will not happen with the reading of just one book, it will take many months of experimenting, making a few mistakes and learning. But the effort is worthwhile. Once you get organised, you no longer forget things, you will not wake up in the middle of the night suddenly remembering you should have replied to an email from your boss but you had forgotten about it, and nothing will stop you from achieving your goals. You will be more focused, more creative, less stressed and you will achieve much more both at work and in your personal life. The effort is truly worthwhile.

As ever, it’s up to you. You can carry on as you are, hoping one day you will get the promotion you desire, or you can take positive action now and and take control of your future and make the necessary changes to your lifestyle so you move yourself closer each day to the life you want to lead in the future. Your future is in your hands.

Carl Pullein is a personal productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more productive and creative.

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