Why You Should Stop Using Tools For Jobs They Were Not Designed To Do.

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Over the weekend I foolishly got myself into a discussion about why a certain app didn’t have the ability to print. Being a long time user of that particular app, I knew the reason was because the vision the app’s developers had was to give their users the freedom to go paperless. Being able to print out notes, would contradict their founding purpose.

I often see people complaining that this app doesn’t do this or that app makes it difficult to do that function, and in all cases I find it is because the person complaining is trying to get the app to do something it was not designed to do. In the case of the discussion I had over the weekend, Microsoft Word or Apple Pages would have done the job far better as those tools were designed for the job he was trying to do.

Over the years I’ve seen this happen time and again. People trying to get Evernote to be a to-do list manager and then complaining because it doesn’t do the job very well. Trying to get Google Docs to be a note-taking app and using their email inbox as a to-do list manager And then claiming being productive is hard. None of these tools were designed to do the jobs these people were trying to get them to do. of course it is hard. It means you have to hack the app and create workarounds and all that does is add complexity and an increased likelihood there will be a productivity system breakdown.

The goal of building your own productivity system should always be a seamless, simple system that is fast to collect, easy to organise and shows you what you need to see when you need to see it. You don’t need to be hacking anything to achieve that. There are thousands of free apps that will do the job for you. Even if you do not want to dive into the ocean of productivity apps available, Microsoft, Google and Apple provide specific apps for specific jobs built into your device for free. A simple system, using the tools that were designed to do the specific job you want to do will keep things simple and easy.

Here’s a short list of apps I use with the jobs they do for me:

Todoist — to-do list manager

Evernote — note taking and ideas

Apple Numbers — financial reports and attendance sheets

Apple Pages — one or two page documents that need to look good printed.

Adobe Photoshop — creating thumbnails, blog images and banners

Adobe InDesign — for professional production of workbooks and PDF help guides.

Adobe Premiere Pro — video editing

Scrivener — for book writing

Ulysses — for all other form of writing.

(A full list of apps I use can be viewed here.)

As you can see, there could easily be some overlap between apps. Pages and InDesign for example can produce very professional looking documents, but Pages does not have the professional print shop options that InDesign has. Page bleed for example, which is essential for printed documents. On the other hand, InDesign takes quite a Lot of setting up, where as Pages can be set up on the fly. So for short, one or two page documents that do not need printing, I would use Pages.

Evernote could be used for writing blog posts and books as you can write the text and add images. But, in order to get an Evernote note to look professional when printed would take a lot of steps and I would have to trade a lot of functionality for blog posts when exporting to my blog just to get Evernote to work. It is far easier, and better, to use Ulysses, which allows me to use Markdown which formats my documents as I write them and publishes directly to my blog from the app.

Simplicity does not always mean less. Simplicity means using the best tool to get the job done. I could use a trowel to dig a garden wall’s foundations, but it would take a long time and a spade would do the job faster and better. Just because the trowel is the best tool to dig up weeds in my garden, does not make it the best tool to dig the foundations. There are better tools.

Part of the process of becoming better organised and more productive is finding ways to do your work better and more effectively. Part of that process is finding the right tools to do the right jobs. Many of the tools you need are free, others, such as Ulysses and Todoist, cost as little as $30 per year and the time and effort these apps will save you makes that cost an investment worth making.

If you want to become better organised and more productive stop trying to hack apps to do jobs they were not designed to do. You have a lot of choice today, but a simple system based on having a set of tools to do specific types work will give you the best results in less time and with less stress. And that will do more for your productivity than trying to hack apps to do types of work they were not designed to do.

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If you are ready to become better organised and more productive then take a look at my latest course, From Disorganised To Productivity Mastery in 3 Days! — A course designed to take you to productivity mastery in three days through a step by step approach over three days. Hurry, the early bird discount ends on tomorrow! (Thursday 18 October 2018). This course will change your life!

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.

You Will Fall Off The Productivity Wagon. Here’s What To Do When You Do.

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No matter how strong your intentions are, there will always be days, weeks or even months when you will lose your productivity habit. It happens to us all from time to time. I’ve gone through it so many times myself when I have become a disorganised mess and yet, I’ve always found a way to get back into my productivity stride by following a few simple strategies.

Here are a few of those strategies you can use to get back into your productivity habits quickly when it happens to you.

1 Learn to recognise the trigger points.

As they say, “prevention is better than cure” If you find yourself regularly falling off the productivity wagon ask yourself why. There are multiple reasons why a person may frequently fall off the wagon. It could be having an overly complex collection system to not having your collection tools with you at all times. Problems can also occur when you do not have clearly defined projects and areas of focus or you continue to ‘trust’ your brain to remember things. Find the triggers or the bottlenecks to your system and discover ways to remove them now before your habits fail.

2 Keep your system as simple as possible.

One of the biggest causes of falling off the productivity wagon is over complexity. If you create a productivity system that is so complex, that when you find yourself inundated with work and imminent project deadlines, it’s easy to stop collecting and organising. The way to avoid this is to build as simple a system as possible. Focus on active projects, areas of focus and have a someday | maybe folder for all inactive or ‘would like to do’ projects. Creating a system involving complex project and task hierarchies may appear great at first but it will become a drag on your effectiveness eventually. Reduce the complexity.

3 Focus on the basics of COD

When you do find yourself in a productivity mess get back to the basic principles of COD — Collect, Organise, Do. These basic principles will always get you back on track. Collect everything that has your attention and is on your mind into one list. It does not matter whether it is a digital list or pen and paper list. All you need do is get everything into one list. Then organise the items you have collected into their right place — projects go into your project list, ideas into your notes app and appointments and deadlines onto your calendar.

Starting from this position will always get you back into a state of organisation and it returns clarity and control into your life.

4 take some time out to gather everything together.

Whenever I have fallen off the wagon, I set aside an afternoon or an evening to get things back under control. Usually, this would be a Friday or Sunday afternoon, but it really doesn’t matter when you do it. Once you recognise you have stopped being productive and you feel everything around you is a mess, that’s the time to take a step back and take some time off to get things back under control. Do a quick review of where your system is and what’s overdue and needs urgent attention, then go through the process of COD. I’ve always found this one step lifts a huge weight off my shoulders and fills me with optimism and energy to get things back on track.

5 Have a backup collection system on standby.

There are going to be times when there is so much going on at work and in your personal life that it becomes difficult to keep up with everything going on. These situations are rare, but they do happen. If you find you are unable to maintain your system, stop worrying. A great trick is to switch to a piece of paper on your desk to capture everything, or a simple note open on your computer where you can just drop ideas, commitments and tasks when they come up. You can then “organise” these collected items later. There have been many times when I have been working at a client’s office and have not had easy access to my regular collection tools when I have resorted to using a single page in my notebook (I carry a notebook in my work bag everywhere I go). Once I get back to my own desk, I transfer the relevant items into Todoist or Evernote later.

Don’t be too hard on yourself — nobody’s perfect. Situations change and things will break. The important thing is you have a system in place that makes it easy to jump back on the productivity track quickly and without too much effort when you do fall off. It happens to us all at times but the key is to have a way to quickly get back on the productivity wagon when you do fall off.

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.

Be Focused On Your Outcomes Not Your Tasks.

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There’s a common misconception about being productive — that productivity is about completing a lot of tasks each day and to become more productive all you have to do is complete more tasks. Of course, this is not true.

Becoming more productive is about doing work that matters so your measurable output increases. Completing two tasks that move a project or goal further forward is going to produce far better long-term results than completing a hundred tasks that have no impact on any of your important projects or goals.

Stop picking the low hanging fruit.

We have a natural tendency to go after the low hanging fruit. To check off the easy tasks because doing so makes us feel good. We get that dopamine hit and that puts a smile on our face and has us wanting more. So we populate our to-do lists with even more easy, non-important tasks just so we can check them off and get that dopamine hit. It becomes a vicious circle we put more and more unimportant tasks on our to-do lists hoping for more dopamine hits.

Of course, we tell ourselves we are completing important tasks. After all, we must have a clean desk so we can focus better on our work and we need to make sure we have enough staples in our top draw just in case we run out while stapling important documents. Oh, and we should check our email just one more time in case something important has come in.

Begin the day with a simple plan.

We all have a good mix of easy routine and hard project work to complete each day. Difficulties start when you are not clear about what work is important. Prioritising your work is a big part of becoming more productive. This is why beginning the day with a plan based on what current projects are important is vital. However, the routine work can very easily take over the day if you are not careful.

Assign time each day/week for your routine admin work.

There are a couple of ways you can make sure the less important routine work does not take over your day. One way is to assign one day each week for admin work. This could be Friday afternoon for example. Friday’s are famously difficult to focus on important work because we are often thinking about our plans for the weekend. If that is the case, you could assign Friday as your admin and clean up day (you could even make sure you have enough staples in your top drawer). This means you only have easy tasks to do on Friday and you don’t need a lot of focus to get them done. Another way is to allocate a time slot each day to do your admin and routine tasks. Giving yourself one hour a day to just get the routine, easy tasks complete will help you to stay focused on the important, project work for the other seven or eight hours each day. I assign one hour a day for all my routine admin work. I usually assign the end of the day to do this because I don’t need a lot of concentration to do it. But you can choose any time of the day or week to do it.

Focus on your desired outcome.

The key to better productivity is to focus on the outcome you want, not the tasks that will get you there. We often add unnecessary tasks when we are planning out a project. For example, “send email to get 2019 planning template”. Nine times out of ten, a phone call would get the desired result faster. You might also find you have tasks such as “talk to John about the presentation order” and lower down your list have a task saying “ask John for the 2019 sales forecast”. These two tasks could be completed either by one phone call or walking down the hall to talk to John, but because the tasks are not grouped together you miss the second one. That means now you have to communicate with John twice instead of once.

When you set up a project, you need to be very clear on what it is you are trying to achieve. What’s the desired outcome for the project? David Allen, in Getting Things Done, writes about this and Tony Robbins in his Time Of Your Life course puts a lot of stress on outcome thinking. The tasks help, they are signposts along the way, but more often than not the shortest distance between where you are now and successfully completing the project is not through completing all your tasks in the right order, more often than not the fastest way to completing the project is a simple phone call or going out to see the client or customer.

I use Evernote to plan out my projects and not Todoist. I can add tasks and steps I think will be needed to complete the project in a list at the bottom of my project note and once I am satisfied I have everything needed to get the project completed, I go through the list removing tasks I feel are not necessary. What I end up with is a list of absolutely essential tasks. This often reduces the number of tasks required to complete the project down by half.

If you are serious about becoming more productive, focus less on your tasks and more on what it is you are trying to achieve. The goal, the completed project and the outcome you desire are what you are looking for, not completing ten tasks so you feel like you have accomplished something. As Jim Rohn said, “Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. The question is: Busy doing what?”

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, please hit the life 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 Many Productivity Apps Do You Need?

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We are spoiled for choice when it comes to productivity apps that promise to change our lives and make us more productive. Each new app attempts to disrupt the field with new features, new ways to input our stuff and then spew it out in another cool way with lots of different colours, font sizes and swipes.

The difficulty this throws up is with that choice — which is a good thing — comes with it the temptation to experiment and play — which is a bad thing. Experimenting and playing takes time. Time, that for most of us, we cannot afford to use in this way.

How many apps do you really need?

This got me thinking. How many apps do we need to be productive? My definition of personal productivity is getting the work that matters done in the most efficient and effective way. So how does having more apps help this? More apps mean more time looking at apps and lists of things to do. That’s not doing the work. If you have to check your calendar to see if you have time to work on the projects Trello is telling you need to work on and then to open Notion 2 to see how all this fits into the bigger picture of your life before finally opening Google Docs to start writing the report you are supposed to be working on. That’s not being very productive. That’s being very inefficient and unproductive.

App switching is one of the most inefficient and ineffective things you can do.

I sometimes joke with my colleagues and friends when they tell me they have found a new app that promises to improve their productivity. If they have time to be switching apps then they are obviously not very busy. I don’t know where they find the time to switch. The truth is I have never come across anyone who has switched a productivity app and then become a lot more productive. I have often found the reverse to be true though. I’ve seen many people switch apps and become much less productive because they spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get a particular feature to work that worked perfectly well in the app they were using before they switched.

So, to help see if you have too many apps, here are a few indicators to look for:

  • If you are checking a task off in more than one place — that’s too many to-do list apps.
  • If you have to look in more than one place to see where you need to be and when — that’s too many calendar apps.
  • If you can’t remember where you put a note — that’s too many notes apps.
  • If you can’t remember where you started writing your report — that’s too many writing apps.

You only need one to-do list manager, one calendar and one notes app. If you are using more than that, you have too many apps and they will be causing a drag on your productivity, effectiveness and your efficiency.

One app for one type of work.

If you write reports, essays, articles and other written documents in more than one app, then you should ask yourself if you really need so many writing apps. I use two writing apps. Each has a specific use. Short and long-form writing is done in Ulysses and my books are written in Scrivener. Ulysses’s export options allow me to send any written document out in any form I want. That would be MS Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, PDF or even email if I chose. So there really is no reason to use any other writing app. This means if I want to do some writing, if it not writing my book, then whatever it is I want to write will be in Ulysses. Easy to find and no decisions to make about where I will write the document.

The same goes for creating presentations. I use Keynote for all my presentations and even if a client sends me a PowerPoint file to check, I can check it in Keynote, make any corrections and export it as a PowerPoint file. I have no need to spend time learning two apps. I only need to learn how to use Keynote and as I have been using it since 2004, there’s not much left for me to learn.

What is productivity all about?

Productivity is not about the apps you are using. Productivity is about the work you are doing. If you have too many apps, or the apps you do use are slow and inefficient either because they are too complex or you haven’t learnt how to use them properly, then you are not going to be as productive as you can be. You are not going to be remembered by the apps you use, but rather by the content you produce. That’s what people remember about you. The most incredibly productive people alive don’t use any apps, they use a simple pen and paper to collect their notes, ideas and to-dos. Sir Richard Branson, Cheryl Sandberg and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) collect everything into notebooks. We don’t need sophisticated apps to manage our work. We just need to do the work. That is what productivity is about — the work. It is not about the apps.

 

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.

For Better Productivity, Make It Personal And Make It Your Own.

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Many years ago when I moved over from an analogue productivity system to a digital one, I created a system based on what I had seen other people doing. I researched articles on the internet, read all the books and listened to podcasts. What I ended up with was a hodgepodge of a system that just didn’t work for me. I ended up with something that was too slow to collect tasks and ideas, was cumbersome to organise and seeing what needed doing next was a series of windows and button clicking that in the end, I was not bothering to even try and look at.

I also found my system changing all the time. I would read an article, watch a video or listen to a podcast that talked about another great way to organise all your to-dos and tasks and I would change my system. In the end, I had no consistency and no workable system.

Finally, I sat down and applied all the knowledge I had gained over the many months I had been researching and developing my own system. To do so, I began with two simple questions:

What do I want my productivity system to do for me?

Once I answered that question, I then moved on to the next question:

How can I create such a system given the tools and environment I have?

On a piece of paper, I mapped out exactly how I was going to create such a system. I applied a few rules, such as it had to be able to collect my ideas with one click, I had to be able to use keyboard shortcuts to process what I had collected at the end of the day and I had to be able to see what needed doing next simply by opening the app or apps I chose to use.

Speed and ease of collection were vital for me to get into the habit of collecting. I knew if it was hard to collect I wouldn’t do it and I would simply continue to rely on my rather unreliable memory. And there were other considerations such as the ability to sync across all my devices so I could collect with my phone and process from my desktop.

All these factors were written down on my sheet of paper. Once I had everything written down I began modelling different scenarios. I went through a typical day and imagined myself in those situations and with the tools I had with me, collecting thoughts and tasks. I imagined myself in meetings taking notes and managing the tasks I had been given in those meetings. I modelled every different scenario I could imagine. Even how I would manage my ideas when I was away on holiday. This modelling of different scenarios allowed me to tweak and adjust my planned system so it would work seamlessly in any given situation.

Most of all this work was done before I went down the road of productivity app selection. My to-do list manager was a gorgeous Quo Vadis Habana notebook for months. I wanted to know if the system I created on paper worked before I started investing in to-do list apps. The first app I invested in was Evernote because it synced across all my devices and I loved the idea of being able to collect notes on my iPhone and see them all magically appear on my desktop when I got home (that was a thing back in 2010 — the magic of it all!)

This process did not take a few hours. It actually took a few months, but over those few months what emerged was a system that worked for me. A system that has not let me down in the years I have been using it. Of course, as technology has improved I have adjusted my system. Now I can add tasks using Siri, I can also do a lot of my writing on my iPhone and iPad and I can store my working files in iCloud/Dropbox. At its core though, my system has remained unchanged over the years since I sat down back in 2010 and began creating it on a piece of paper.

Your life, your work and the way you think are unique to you and because of that someone else’s system is never going to work for you. Seeing other people’s systems can help give you ideas, but those systems will not work for you. You need to develop your very own system based on your personality type, the way you work, where you work and what is important to you. Just following like a sheep someone else’s system is going to result in something that just does not work for you.

At the core of my system is David Allen’s Getting Things Done Five Steps framework. It’s a beautiful framework because it is flexible and simple. I capture my stuff into inboxes, I process that stuff every twenty-four hours and I organise it into projects. I review everything at least once a week and I do the work. The one thing I have never been good at using is contexts, which I know is a fundamental part of Getting Things Done, but that is okay. I developed my own system. Instead of focussing on contexts, I have separate projects for my routine tasks and tasks that take my life further forward. That works better for me. However, I know for other people, working with contexts work brilliantly.

So, whether you are new to personal productivity or a seasoned master, the system you create needs to be a system you create for yourself. Sure, there is a lot of advice out there, but the only important thing about your system is that it helps you to make the right choices so you are doing the work that matters and not getting lost in an ocean of unimportant work that neither takes your life forward nor helps you to become a more productive person.

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 encourage you to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life. If you want to learn more about how I can help you, have a look at the various online courses I have. There might be something there that could change your 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 Time Management is Not the Problem and Distraction Management is.

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These days it seems popular to attack companies like Facebook, Apple and Google for not doing more to prevent tech addiction. It is as if these companies — that give us tools to help us get our work done better or keep in touch with friends and families across the world — are somehow responsible for our inability to manage what we do on their products. It is very easy to complain about how little time we have to get everything done and blame others for the problem when really the problem is ours and our inability to manage the distractions that come at us every day.

When it comes to time, nothing has changed for hundreds of years. We still only get twenty-four hours. We are not getting any less than the likes of Edison or Newton or Einstein. They had twenty-four and so do you. The problem is not with time, the problem is what you do with the time you have each day.

The biggest difference between Edison, Newton, Einstein and us is technology. Edison, Newton and Einstein did not have computers and mobile phones. They had minimal technology in their lives. If they wanted to research something they had to physically go to the library or visit someone in person to find the information. In Newton’s time, those visits could have involved travelling for days as the automobile was a long way from being invented. People like Edison, Newton and Einstein were incredible. To access the information they needed in order to move their work forward required a lot of effort. For us, to access the information we need requires a few taps on a screen. We should be out-performing these great people, yet most of are not. Why?

The simple answer is distractions. While it is much easier for us to access information, it is also much easier for us to get taken down rabbit holes of irrelevance. When we open up our phones the first thing we see are our notifications. Messages from our Facebook friends, emails from our colleagues and customers. We click on our messages and get lost in a conversation with our colleague for thirty minutes. Then we open up Facebook to comment on our best friend’s honeymoon picture and while we are there we see a cute little puppy video. And on it goes, rabbit hole after rabbit hole of distraction. Before you know it two or three hours have gone by and you haven’t started the research you planned to do and then you tell anyone who listens how incredibly busy you are.

Now it’s easy to blame the tech companies. “Apple and Google need to do something to prevent tech addiction”. “Facebook’s building a social network designed to turn us into device addicts”. Of course, they are. That’s their business. But wait a minute. Nobody forced us to download the Facebook or Twitter app. No one forced us to buy a smartphone. These were all our decisions. We chose to have a smartphone. We chose to download Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat apps onto our phone.

We are responsible for how we spend our time. That was true in Edison’s and Newton’s time and it is still true today. We are 100% responsible for how we spend our time. If we allow ourselves to be distracted by Facebook posts, messages from our friends and colleagues and emails when we really should be focused on doing some work, that is never the fault of Facebook, Apple or Google. That’s is 100% our fault.

Unlike the Tobacco industry forty years ago, tech companies are not trying to hide the negative effects of device addiction. Their whole marketing revolves around their product’s ability to stay connected and in touch with our friends and colleagues. Their goal is to make staying in touch with our friends and family easier, simpler and less expensive and to me, that is a very good thing.

The answer to our inability to get our work done is to take responsibility for how we spend our twenty-four hours. It is not difficult to turn off notifications on our devices for all except the important. It is not difficult to turn on “do not disturb” for an hour or two while we get on with the work that matters. Your friends won’t desert you if you do not reply immediately. Your boss won’t fire you if you take an hour to reply to her email and you won’t lose your best customer because you missed their call.

Taking control of your time and managing your distractions is not impossible. Every Monday morning, when I write this blog post, my email is shut down, my phone is on do not disturb and for ninety minutes I have complete silence to focus on writing. It is not difficult and it results in a completed first draft of a blog post and a real sense of accomplishment at the beginning of the week. Likewise, when I record my YouTube videos on a Saturday afternoon, I turn on do not disturb on all my devices and for two to three hours I am focused on nothing else but recording those videos.

If you want to stop feeling overwhelmed and get more of your important work done, then start managing your distractions. There are times when you need to shut off distractions and there are times when you can welcome distractions. No one is saying you should become a robot of productive output. But equally, there are times every day when you need to sit down and be focused on the work that needs doing. That is the time to turn off the distractions for an hour or two so you can focus on what is important. None of this is difficult. It’s not quantum physics or the laws of motion and universal gravitation.

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

My purpose is to encourage you to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life. If you want to learn more about how I can help you, have a look at the various online courses I have. There might be something there that could change your 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.

Using Personal Roles to Organize Files and Evernote Tags

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This is a guest post by Ernie Hayden. Read more from Ernie right here and see his photos here.

In the early phases of my productivity journey I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, listened to Getting Things Done Fast CDs by David Allen, and listened to Tony Robbins’ The Time of Your Life cassettes. Please note this was circa 1998 or so and the Internet was not an active idea and there was no such thing as YouTube, streaming videos, productivity websites, etc. Basically, if you wanted to develop your productivity skills you needed to listen to cassette tapes, CDs, maybe watch some VHS videos, and of course, read books.

Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?!

Tony Robbins’ program, The Time of Your Life, included and idea that has stuck with me for the past 20 years that I still use today. The idea revolves around what your key roles are in life.

YOUR KEY ROLES CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO ORGANIZE YOUR SCHEDULE

Tony’s idea regarding roles is centered on developing a weekly plan. Tony tasks the listener to make a list of all the roles you are “assigned” either voluntarily or due to your position in life. Then, using these roles, actions can be assigned to each identified role with associated outcomes. Then, as you look at your weekly plan you take each role and assign an outcome/action to each day of the week.

In summary, the weekly plan has a general structure as shown below:

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The matrix above is to help you schedule your outcomes/actions based on your roles.

Admittedly, I’ve not been a disciplined follower of this approach, but I’ve carried away an organizational approach using roles that I thank Tony Robbins for even today.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY ALL THE ROLES YOU FILL

The exercise is actually fun but not as obvious as you think. The task ahead of you is to make a list of every role you fill in your day-to-day life.

Below I share my current list of roles (with some minor editing) to give you some ideas.

EXAMPLE ROLES

Employment Related

• Employee

• Consultant

• Leader/Manager

• Salesman/Seller

Personal-Related

• Husband-Father-Son

• Citizen

• Consumer

• Family Historian

• Friend & Mentor

• Home — Auto Owner

• Learner/Student

• Medical-Patient

• Money Manager

• Pet Owner

• Photographer

• Spiritual/Religious

• Teacher/Speaker

• Traveler

• Writer/Author

In my case, this is a general list of my current roles that I’ve been referencing over the past 10 years or so. These roles have become the foundation of my computer file system as well as my Evernote Notebooks/Tags.

USING THESE ROLES AS A FOUNDATION FOR FILE ORGANIZATION

So, how do I use these roles for filing? Organizing?

The approach is quite simple.

I use the list of roles identified above and simply make folders in My Documents in my computer (pre-Evernote) titled with each role. I then put sub-folders into each role folder for related files and information.

Below is a screen shot of the actual list of folders in My Documents reflecting my roles:

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Of note, the numbers are used to organize the folders in an order I prefer based on my activity and use of the folders. You can use numbers or “@” or “#” or “^”, etc. to help sort your folders to your liking.

USING ROLES IN EVERNOTE

In my productivity journey, Evernote is relatively new, even though I’ve been using Evernote since June 2011. That said, I initially began Evernote in a haphazard manner and failed to realize the strength of the tags and the search engine. But, thanks to Carl Pullein’s YouTube videos on ways to use Evernote I’ve learned a lot and was awakened to the possibility of using my “roles” for tag assignments in Evernote.

Admittedly, I’ve got some ways to go before I’ve made a complete integration of my roles into Evernote, but it is on my Todoist list!

AN ORGANIZATIONAL SIDE NOTE

You may be wondering how I use my “roles” for reference files. Well, I don’t. Instead I have developed a series of reference or “REF” folders strictly for reference materials. However, I tend to use these folders less and less as I move my reference materials to Evernote.

In case you are interested my REF folders are in the screenshot below:

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EXAMPLE USE

So, how do I use this system? I literally began by taking each item in my “Collection System” (thanks to David Allen!) and ask the two questions: “What is it?” and “Is it actionable?” Yes, I still have my project folders but generally for any reference materials or incubation or archiving I think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs. Then, I will file the item into the Role file/Role Sub-file as appropriate.

Later, when I am wondering about the location of an item I simply think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs then do a focused search in My Documents and/or Evernote or GDrive if needed.

CONCLUSION

Please understand that this article is simply to give you some ideas on ways to organize all the myriad of “things” we collect in our lives. This is one way I’ve used for at least 10 years and I will admit that as I learn new ideas on using Evernote from Carl and Francesco, I make some edits and tweaks. Overall, though, my structure and approach to file management is still a role-based system.

I hope you find this useful and if you wish, please send me the Skype number and email of your favorite psychiatrist!

Notes:

1) The graphics are developed using SnagIt 2018.

2) The Getting Things Done Fast CDs produced by David Allen are no longer available; however, if you ever have a chance to listen to them, do it! They are a fantastic resource.

Personal Productivity is About Being Your Most Effective, Not Your Most Organised.

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We are not judged by the amount of work we do, we are judged by the quality of the work we produce.

Recently, Jason Fried of Basecamp and other fame, tweeted about people confusing “being productive” with “being effective”. Being productive is about numbers, it’s about doing more with fewer resources. In the personal productivity field, that means doing more work in less time. Being effective means doing your best work. Period.

A lot of the questions that appear on my website and YouTube channel are more on the productivity side rather than the effectiveness side. What you need to be doing is focusing more on the effectiveness side. As Jason Fried pointed out in his tweet, you are not a machine.

In my experience, the two do overlap, but if you want to be the best version of yourself, creating work of a high standard and consistency and spending more time doing the things you love doing, then you need to have a bias towards the effectiveness side. The question is, how do you do that?

To be at your most effective, you need to be well rested, not stressed and be in a place where your thoughts and expectations are clear. Obsessing about whether you have ticked off all your tasks for the day is not being very effective. Making sure you have ticked off the important things, the things that will drive your life forward towards the things you want to achieve in life, that is being effective. I personally do not care if I check off all my tasks for the day. The only thing I care about at the end of the day is I have checked off the two most important tasks for the day. More often those tasks have nothing to with my work but are more related to my life goals.

My personal productivity system is designed to reduce the stress of finding things when they are needed and to reduce clutter in my life. Clutter stresses me. I like things to be working, clean and in their right place. That’s just my personality type. My wife, on the other hand, is perfectly happy for things to be all over the place. That’s just her character. (You can imagine the wonderful ‘conversations’ we have about decluttering.) The thing is though when my wife has a piece of work that needs doing by a particular deadline, her ‘system’ works for her. She always hits her deadlines and the quality of her work is excellent.

Now, I could not work with her system. If I am cooking, I have to clean the kitchen first. My wife can cook with a sink full of dirty dishes. However, we both end up with the same result. Cooked, delicious food.

A good example of this is in the car industry. Toyota is famous for having one of the most productive systems there is to build a car. Every part, every component in a Toyota car is measured for productivity and managers are tasked with making that system more and more productive. Machines and robots are custom built if it will make the production of a car more efficient. If you were to visit the Aston Martin car plant, on the other hand, you would find the opposite of what you see at a Toyota plant. At the Aston Martin car plant, the emphasis is less on productivity, and more on quality. The leather in an Aston Martin car is hand stitched. There are sewing machines that would stitch the leather much faster and more efficiently and a lot cheaper, but the quality would not be as good. The goal of Aston Martin is not to produce a highly efficient production line, the goal of Aston Martin is to produce a beautiful, handcrafted car. Productivity comes second to quality.

I find air travel tedious and boring. There is no glamour in air travel today. On a recent flight from Seoul to Amsterdam, I had thirteen hours to consider why air travel is no longer enjoyable or glamorous. As I pondered this, I realised all the romance and pleasure of long-distance travel has been destroyed because airlines have become obsessed with efficiency and productivity. Seats are lined up with the minimum legroom they can get away with so they can maximise passenger numbers. Food is made and packaged in the most productive way. This results in food that is barely edible. This is business focussed on the spreadsheet, not business focussed on the customer no matter what an airline’s marketing material may say.

This is why, when you are building your own productivity system, your focus needs to be on what is important to you, not how many tasks you are completing each day. Your life should not be organised by spreadsheet or numbers. Those are not important. It doesn’t matter whether you get fifty tasks complete or five. What matters is that the five tasks you complete are meaningful to your life and take you closer to achieving the goals and dreams you have for your life. Your productivity system should be geared towards maximising your enjoyment and happiness and minimising the time you spend doing work you do not enjoy doing, no matter how inefficient achieving that is.

I love spending time with my family, walking my dog, writing and producing videos. I hate doing admin and working on spreadsheets. Those are a necessity, but I reduce the time I spend doing those tasks to their minimum. That is how you need to be working your own productivity system. Maximising the time you spend doing the things you love and minimising the time you spend doing the things you hate. Focusing your attention in this direction will mean you will become a much more effective you, and less like a machine cranking out work you hate doing for the sake of efficiency and productivity.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holiday Season Productivity Course Bonanza!

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I am very excited to tell you that I have created three bundles of productivity knowledge and know-how and these are on sale now at incredibly low prices. 


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All bundles now include copies of both my books; Your Digital Life AND Working With Todoist. 

This offer will end Thursday 30 November so order your bundle now 😃

(Don't worry if you have already bought a bundle, the books are now in the courses. You can download them right away.) 


This offer is on until the 30th November 2017, so now is your chance to buy some fantastic courses at incredibly wonderful prices. 

All bundles include courses that give you:

  • Lifetime access when you want, how you want.
  • No additional payments once you are in, no matter how often these courses are updated.
  • Downloadable files on most courses so you can watch the videos even if you have no internet access. 
  • Direct access to me through the Q&A section.
  • Copies of Your Digital Life and Working With Todoist books

The three bundles are:

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Get all 6 of my online courses. Normal price $180 

  1. Supercharge Your Productivity
  2. Supercharge Your Email Productivity
  3. How To Create And Achieve Your Goals
  4. Time And Life Mastery
  5. The Complete Guide To Creating A Successful Life
  6. Create Your Own Apple Productivity System 

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Get my 3 Life success courses. Normal price $100 

  1. Time And Life Mastery
  2. The Complete Guide To Creating A Successful Life
  3. How To Create And Achieve Your Goals

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Get my 3 Productivity courses. Normal price $80 

  1. Supercharge Your Productivity
  2. Supercharge Your Email Productivity
  3. Create Your Own Apple Productivity System

My Courses on Udemy

Many of my courses on Udemy are now available for $10.00. This is a limited time special offer so if you want to pick individual courses you can enrol through Udemy on the links below

Supercharge Your Productivity 

Supercharge Your Email Productivity

How To Create And Achieve Your Goals

Complete Guide To Creating A Successful Life

Creating An Apple Productivity System

TIme And Life Mastery

Now there really is no excuse for not learning to get yourself in contgrol of your life and your time.