The Working With... Podcast | Episode 31 | How To Prioritise Your Day

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about prioritising the tasks you do each day.



You can also listen on...

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud


Script

Hello and welcome to episode 31 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week it’s all about prioritising, and how to prioritise your daily tasks. I know this can be difficult because we often feel every task has a priority and so deciding what must be done and what you would like to do can be overwhelming sometimes. Getting good at this takes a little time and continuous practice but it is possible.

Before we get in to this week’s question, could you do me a little favour? If you like this podcast or any previous episode of the Working With… Podcast and you feel what is discussed could help someone, please share it with them. This way, together we can help a million people discover the wonderful benefits of being better organised and becoming more productive. 

Okay, it’s time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, who has found her voice again, for this week’s question. 

This week’s question from from TJ. TJ asks: 

 How do you use the concept of "priority" in your daily tasks? Is it strictly an indicator of "importance" or does it serve some other function in your system?

Excellent question, TJ. 

For me a task becomes a priority when it is important to me and the work that I do. Seldom does a task for someone else become a priority unless it leads directly to achieving something important. Let me give you an example. If I have a task such as write this week’s blog post and a task to review a presentation for a client. The priority for me would be write the blog post first as that directly contributes to my goals and purpose. Reviewing the presentation, while important for my client, it would only be done after I have written the blog post. It would still get done that day, but I would not drop everything else to review the presentation file for my client. For me, my higher purpose is to help as many people as I can get better at productivity and time management. The blog post would help more people. The presentation helps one person. Bear in mind, the presentation review still gets done that day, it’s just a question of priorities and in which order I would do the tasks. 

Another reason I would choose to write the blog post is that it requires a lot more creative energy. Reviewing a presentation is simply checking keywords, spelling and grammar. Writing a blog post requires creativity and thought. I know my brain’s ability to be creative is much better in a morning, so that task would get done first. 

To get better at deciding what your priorities are I would always suggest that tasks that contribute to your higher purpose, your goals and the things you want to achieve should always come first. They should be your priority. The dangerous trap we often fall in to is when we want to please people. When we prioritise pleasing other people we sacrifice what is important to us for what is important to someone else. That never leads to a good outcome for us. 

Of course to get better at prioritising we need to know what is important to us. I find a lot of people have never taken any time out to think about this. That is a mistake. When you don’t know what is important to you, the things that are important to other people will always become your priorities. If the only important thing about your work is the pay cheque every month, then the priorities of your boss and colleagues will become your priorities. Your own career, happiness and development will not be a priority. You will just do work set by other people, you will never volunteer to be involved in projects that develop you, you will never grow your own skill set and you will never go very far with your career. You will be, in effect, stuck in a dead end job. A dead end job of your own making. There’s no one else to blame… Really.

If you haven’t done so already, I would recommend you take a piece of paper and write out the fifty things you want to do in the next ten years. This is a great exercise because if forces you to think about what you want and not what someone else wants. When you do this you will find the first ten to fifteen things are easy. It’s after you have twenty things on your list when things get harder. Then you have to force yourself to go deep and think. What you will find revealing is the things you come up with after the first ten or fifteen. These are the real, subconscious things you really want to do and it will tell you a lot about what is really important to you. It might be travel, it might be a beautiful home, it could be experiences you want to experience in your life or it could be skills you want to acquire. All these are good things. 

So how do you prioritise on a daily basis? For me the best way to do this is to ask the question:

What two tasks could I complete today that would have the biggest impact on my goals/projects?

This question is powerful in that it really focuses your mind on the things that are important to you. What you are looking for are the two tasks on your daily list of tasks that you feel will take you a little closer towards achieving what you want to achieve. Something as simple as going out for a walk at lunchtime would contribute to your goal of losing some weight, or spending thirty minutes on the outline of the book you want to write. Anything like these would be good tasks to prioritise as they are focused on the things that are important to you. 

Now of course, I am not suggesting you exclude everyone and and everything from your priorities. That would be impractical. What I am saying is that you should never forget about what you want. If your career is important to you and you want to climb up the company towards senior management, then your boss’s priorities may very well be also a priority for you. If your family and friends are important to you, then prioritising spending time with them is also important. What is important is that you get to choose what is important to you and what is not. Not someone else!

I always recommend you only prioritise two tasks in this way. Two tasks are achievable. If you start getting greedy and try to achieve four or five such tasks per day you are going to fail to complete them every day. When that happens the power of your two objectives for the day loses it’s power. Two tasks are achievable and once they are completed you will feel great. 

Now for the rest of your daily tasks I would suggest you prioritise eight more tasks. This means each day you have ten tasks that you have assigned a priority. Your two objectives and eight other tasks. The reason for this is that we all probably have more than two tasks we need to complete each day. Some are more important than others. Some must be completed that day others not necessarily. By selecting eight further tasks as would really like to get done today—but it would not be the end of the world if you don’t—it helps you to keep focused on other projects and keep things moving forward each day. 

The beauty of prioritising in this way is that you are always moving forward on your goals and projects. Nothing gets missed and you are forced to stay focused on what you want every day. The problem most people find is when things get very busy in their lives, and it will from time to time, it is far too easy to lose focus on what is important to us and end up sliding towards doing work that is not important to us. We start to feel busy and overwhelmed which leads to stress and a feeling we are running around in circles achieving very little. This method of prioritisation allows you have two tasks every single day that you can focus on getting done. 

I mix my two objectives for the day up quite a bit. On busy days, when I have a lot of classes and meetings I would make them easy tasks to complete not requiring a lot of time to do. On less busy days I will choose tasks that may take longer. This is why when you do your Golden 10—the daily mini-planning session at the end of the day—you can see from your calendar how busy you are going to be and make wise choices. 

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to prioritise your day, but it does take commitment. Spending ten minutes at the end of the day to look at your calendar, your tasks for the next day and selecting two tasks to be your objectives for the next day are well worth the time. This ten minute period, and that’s all it takes once you get in to the habit of doing it, can transform your productivity. It can focus you on what is important to you and it can keep you moving in the right direction. And that is what being productive is all about. 

I hope that helps you. Please remember, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, please drop me a line either by email or by DMing me on Facebook or Twitter and I will be delighted to answer your question.

Thank you very much for listening. It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With Podcast | Episode 30 | How to Maintain an Exercise Programme When Working a Full Time Job.

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about how I have manage to maintain a running and exercise programme despite working a full time job.


Also available to listen to on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 30 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s episode, I have a question about health and fitness. This is an important question because we all know being fit and healthy and doing some exercise regularly is vital to our long-term health. We are living longer and expecting more, yet if we don’t look after our health in our early lives, it will come back and destroy the quality of our lives when we get older. What we eat, how much alcohol we drink, whether we smoke and how frequently we exercise are all important factors if we want to maintain our health and vitality long in to our lives.

Before we get to the question though, thank you to all of you who have enrolled in my Ultimate Goal Planning course. I will be updating this course regularly, as I do with my Your Digital Life 2.0 course, so keep you eyes open for additional classes coming through each month. If you haven’t enrolled yet, you can enrol in the course from the link in the show notes for this podcast. The whole purpose of the course to get you thinking about what you want, rather than spending too much time worrying about what others want from you. This is your life and you get to decide what you want to get out if it, if you just take some time out to decide what it is you want. 

Okay, let’s get on with answering this weeks question. Unfortunately, the Mystery Podcast Voice has lost her voice this week, so I shall be reading out the question:

This week’s question comes from Bjorn in Norway. Bjorn asks:

Hi, Carl, I have just started running and would like to know how you manage your running programme. I’d also like to know if you have any tips on equipment and training that you could pass on. Thanks.

Thank you, Bjorn, for this wonderful question.

Firstly whenever starting any exercise programme you need to decide when would be the best time to do it and how often. Usually, when someone starts out on an exercise programme they haven’t exercised for many years and so just deciding you are going go out running or to the gym every day is not realistic. Your muscles are going to be sore, in some cases very sore, and you need to allow time for your body to adapt to this new stress you are putting on it. My advice to all newbies is to go for three times a week for the first month. Any more than that and you are likely to find it so painful you are going to want to give up in the first week. You don’t want that to happen, so go for three times a week to allow your body time to adapt.

Next up, is to decide when you are going to do it. I found asking the question am I a morning or night person? Was a great question to ask. There’s a lot of advice out there that tells you to exercise early in the morning and in general, this is good advice. But for me, I hate exercise in the morning. I never look forward to it and I feel very uncomfortable. I prefer afternoons for exercise and because of the nature of my work, the afternoons work perfectly for me. Find the best time for you and the type of person you are. We are not all morning people and some of us prefer evening times. If you are one of those people, then do your exercise in the evening. 

The next thing to do is to schedule your exercise time on your calendar. Block out one hour. Even if you only exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, you will still need to shower afterwards. So block one hour. This time is sacrosanct. You must decide never to allow anything or anyone take away your exercise time. This is why it is important to schedule that one hour at a time you know will not easily be stolen by something or someone else. I schedule 2 to 3pm for my exercise days. This works for me as I have classes and meetings in the morning and I teach in the evenings. The afternoons are generally free for me, so this time works. It is on my calendar and what goes on my calendar gets done… My golden rule. 

While on the subject of blocking your exercise time on your calendar, I would also suggest you do the scheduling of your exercise sessions on a week to week basis. This means you can look at your calendar and see which days are very busy. On those days you may find you are not likely to have the time. Don’t schedule sessions for those days. Wishfully thinking you will exercise on exhausting days is a sure fire way to lose your commitment. Only schedule sessions when you know absolutely you will be able to do them. 

When scheduling your sessions, don’t just write “exercise” be more specific. For example, write “run 5km” or “Do 30 mins gym session”. The more specific you are the more motivated you will be. On my light days I usually write “do 20 mins circuit training” I find this is much more motivating than having a vague term such as “gym” or “run” on my calendar. 

Once you have committed yourself, how do you start a running programme? This is much easier than most people think. Always start with what I call a run/walk session. What this means is you run until you feel uncomfortable and then walk until you feel recovered enough and then run again until you feel uncomfortable and repeat the process. If you are new to running you will find you do not run very far. Don’t worry, that is perfectly normal. 100 to 200 metres might be all you can manage. That’s fine. Remember, it takes months and months of regular running to run a half-marathon. It takes time for your body to adapt and the right muscles to develop. So don’t expect to run 5km without the need to walk in your first few weeks. It might even take you months before you can run 5KM without stopping for a walk. It all depends on your physical condition when you start. The important thing is you keep going out on your scheduled runs. Over time you will find you can run farther and require less walking. 

A quick tip here is you can use lamp posts to measure you progress. If you can run 3 lamp-posts when you start and at the end of the month you can run 5 lamp-posts without stopping you are making progress. 

Just a quick word on muscle soreness, you are going to feel it. You are going wake up in the morning and feel very sore and stiff. That’s normal when you start any kind of exercise programme. After a few weeks that soreness and stiffness will disappear. It is just your body repairing itself and making your muscles stronger. You need to go through that process. It’s good for you. It makes you stronger and you join the same club millions of new runners and exercisers have joined. The pain of starting the journey. Enjoy it, it does not last long!

One thing I would add here is that as time goes by and as your programme develops you will find you start to feel so much healthier and more energetic. It inspires you to look at all areas of your life from your diet to the amount of time you spend sitting down each day. I found after a few weeks I enjoyed the feeling of losing weight (I lost 10 kilos that’s 22 pounds in 3 months when I started running again ten years ago) This inspired me to change my diet and make it healthier. I cut down the amount of sugar I put in my tea and coffee, I started eating salads for dinner during the week and only allowing myself things like pizza on a weekend. Over a few months my whole lifestyle went from a slow decline in physical abilities to energising my whole lifestyle with increased strength and energy. It was an incredible transformation, not just physically, but mentally too. 

Now as for equipment and training.

For running the most important investment you make is in your running shoes. Go to a proper running store (not an online one) and get advice. I find buying running shoes that are half a size bigger than I normally wear is a good tip. Exercise socks are usually thicker than everyday socks and your feet will expand quite a lot when running. Another piece of good advice is change your running shoes every six months. The shock absorption abilities of your running shoes declines as you build up the miles you run. You need to take care of your knees and shins. So don’t be economical with your investment in running shoes. These are you most important investment. 

As far as clothing goes, just wear something that you feel comfortable in. If you are running long distances (10k or further) then the lighter the better. And on those sunny days, don’t forget the hat! 

As for training, the best advice here is don’t increase your distance (or weight in the gym) until you feel comfortable with what you are currently doing. When you push yourself to go further, faster and longer too soon you are just going to get injured. Slow down. There’s no rush. Remember, once you decide to get fit it is a lifetime commitment, not just for a few weeks. So, don’t rush things. 

One final tip for any new runners. Set yourself a goal to run a 10k race in six months time. 10k is a great distance because you will need to have a reasonable level of fitness to complete it. But don’t just set it was a goal. Enter the race. Pay your entrance fee and get it in your calendar. That way you are committed. It gives you a purpose beyond better health and fitness. It makes it feel more important every time you go out for a run. 

Running for me has been a real pleasure. It is a great form of exercise because it not only improves my overall fitness, keeps my weight down and gives me bundles of energy every day. It also allows me periods of time to be with my own thoughts, listening to my favourite music and just to be out there off the online grid and be with nature. It’s not just physically good for you, it’s also mentally good for you. 

Well I hope that has answered your question, Bjorn and again thank you for your wonderful question. I also hope these words have inspired you to at least start thinking about beginning an exercise programme. I can promise you the transformation you will see in yourself in just a few weeks will inspire you to make some incredibly positive changes to you life in so many other areas. 

Don’t forget, if you think this podcast will inspire others, please share it with as many people you know. Together we can be part of a movement to help one million people to learn the wonderful benefits of being better organised and becoming more productive.

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 29 | Maintaining Your Daily Plan When Receiving Other Demands.

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about maintaining your plan for the day when new demands are placed upon you.

Also available to listen to on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 29 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Before we get started, I would like to thank everyone who has supported my Project 1 Million. There has been so much support and I feel deeply grateful to all of you who have helped spread the word about the benefits of getting better organised and becoming more productive. Don’t forget, if you like what you hear in this podcast, please share it with as many people you know. The more people we can help discover better productivity the more people we can help change their lives for the better.

This week I answer a question about the problems we all face every day when despite our best efforts to plan the day and do the work we want to do, something comes up that changes the plan. I don’t think anyone can escape this and I know it can be very frustrating. So in this week’s episode, I thought I could answer the question by sharing my strategies for staying on plan with you.

So, now it is time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This weeks question comes from Biraj and Simon who ask: No matter how well planned we are for the day ahead when the day starts a new demand is made that has to be done that day and all our plans have to be changed. Is there anything we can do to stay on plan?

Thanks, guys for your question and I am sure so many of you listeners also have this problem. So, here’s how I deal with this:

The first thing is I never schedule too many tasks for the day. Basically, I set myself two objectives for the day and these can be anything from exercise or preparing this podcast. In fact, as I look at my objectives for today, that is exactly what my two objectives are. To do a minimum of 30 minutes exercise and to get this podcast prepared. Now, as far as my objectives are concerned, I will not go to bed until those two objectives are completed. That is the rule. Of course, if there was an emergency that required all my attention for the day, I am flexible enough to change my objectives, but it would have to be a pretty big emergency for me to change my objectives and I cannot remember when an emergency took me away from completing my objectives.

Today is a busy teaching day for me, so the preparation and notes for this podcast are being prepared either at my desk, while sat on a bus or standing in the subway. The prep notes for this podcast is my objective and I use an app called Ulysses for preparing all my written articles and podcast scripts. Ulysses allows me to write either on my iPad, iPhone or desktop. Basically, I’ve given myself no excuses for not writing. The app is on all my devices and it syncs in real-time through iCloud so as I started writing this on my desktop, when I get to the subway, it will be available on my iPhone to continue writing. 

Exercise is a little different. I need to make full use of my calendar with my exercise schedule. So today my original plan was to do a scaled back exercise session at 11AM and head out to teach at 12pm. This meant I could realistically do 30 minutes exercise, have a quick shower, a bite to eat and off to my next teaching appointment. However, I had a cancellation this afternoon, so I rescheduled my exercise session to be done at 4:30pm. I have more time then and can do a longer session without the rush. 

The thing is because when I woke this morning, I only had two objectives to complete and I knew no matter what the day threw at me, I would be able to find the time to do those tasks. As usual, my original plan had to be modified, but I only had to modify two objectives, not a long list of to-dos that I hoped to be able to do. 

And that is where I think most people have problems. They over commit to tasks. The truth is if you looked at your long list of to-dos you would find only a very few actually must be completed that day. Most of the to-dos on my to-do list are “I hope to do today” tasks and if I am being completely honest with myself, as long as those tasks get done this week I will be fine. I know that Friday afternoon this week is looking quiet for me, and if I need time to catch up with my tasks I could block out Friday afternoon to catch up. 

The second list of tasks I have on my to-do list are what I call my “Today’s focus” tasks. These tasks are the priority tasks I have for the day. As a general rule I keep this list to ten tasks or less. I manage this list when I do my Golden 10 in the evening. I look to see what I have planned for tomorrow and if I have more than ten tasks on my Today’s focus list I will remove whatever I have to so there are no more than ten. I also compare this list to my calendar. If I have a day like today, where I will only have a couple of spare hours, I will reduce this list down to around five tasks. I am being realistic here. Just because a task is on your list doesn’t mean you will have time to do it. And I think that is key. You really need to be realistic and try wherever possible to keep the “hope to complete” tasks off your day list. If you have time you can always go to the wish to do lists. 

And that brings me to my third list. This list is my next actions list which are all the very next tasks on my projects. Every week, when I do my weekly review, I add the label to the very next action in each of my active projects. This means one task in each of my active projects has a label of next actions. So, each day, if I have completed my objectives and my today’s focus lists, I move into my next actions list and start doing those tasks. The truth is on a week to week basis I really only get to that list maybe twice. It doesn’t really matter too much. If a task is important and needs doing this week, then it will be on my today’s focus list anyway, so nothing is missed. 

So the system I have set up is:

First thing in the morning I review my “today’s Objectives” list. This will have the two tasks I must complete that day no matter what. Once I have reviewed that I will usually start on one of them. So this morning, I began writing the script and notes for this podcast at 6:30am while I was on the bus. 

The next list I work from is my Today’s Focus list. This list has no more than ten tasks that have a priority and should be done today. It would not be the end of the world if I cannot complete them today, but on the whole, even given a lot of detractions I will get them done before 6pm. I should point out that my two objectives for that day are also on this list. So, my today’s focus list really only has 8 tasks on it. 

Finally, if I do have time I will move into my “next actions” list and begin doing as many of the tasks as I can. 

This system has allowed me to keep the most important tasks front and centre of my day and also gives me enough flexibility each day to handle any distractions and additional work that must be done that day. 

The biggest reason why most people really struggle with this is that they are placing far too many tasks on their daily to-do lists. What you need to do is reduce those daily to-dos down to the essentials. This means you need to get good at deciding which tasks are a priority. I understand this takes practice and time, but it is well worth developing. When you do your Golden ten, the ten minutes at the end of the day when you plan the next day, make sure the tasks you have for tomorrow are important. If they are not, remove them from your daily list. Try to get your daily list down to around ten tasks in total and have a backup list for those days when you complete those ten tasks early. Assign two of those ten tasks as daily objectives and make sure that whatever else happens that day, those two tasks are completed. 

Another way to make this work for you is to stop thinking in terms of days, but rather weeks. Instead of seeing a task as having to be completed on a particular day, think of it as a task that needs to be completed this week. I have found this works brilliantly because it allows greater flexibility each day. I often find if I have a meeting or a class cancellation, I can bring forward a task or two from another day that week. It helps lighten my load later in the week. I like to gamify this a little by trying to complete as many tasks as I can early in the week so I can spend Friday afternoon in the park with my little dog. He loves it and I feel fantastic because all the tasks I wanted to complete that week are done and I really enjoy that time the little one and I spend together. 

I recently did a video explaining my system and I will put a link to that in the show notes. It shows how I have this set up in my to-do list manager of choice, Todoist and how I use the new pinned favourites feature to really make this workflow work for me. 

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Before we finish, Just want to let you all know I have a new goal planning course out, The Ultimate Goal Planning Course, and it is a course created to help you to discover what it is you want to achieve and show you, step by step how to make those goals happen. This course has an early-bird discount offer if just $14.99 which will end on Thursday 7th June, so get yourself enrolled before then to take advance of this wonderful offer.

Thank you to Biraj and Simon for the question and thank you all for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, please email me, or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be delighted to answer your question. All the links are in the show notes.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 28 | Coping With Crises And Remaining Productive

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about dealing with major and minor crises disrupting your plans for the day.



Script

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about dealing with major and minor crises disrupting your plans for the day.

Hello and welcome to episode 28 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a question about what to do when no matter how well you plan the day, crises of one form or another regularly interrupt your best plans and leave you feeling busy but not really knowing what you have accomplished for the day. 

Before we get into this week’s question I’d just like to remind you if you have a question you’d like answering in this show, please get in touch via email, Twitter or Facebook (or LinkedIn for that matter) and I will be happy to answer your question. Also, if you haven’t enrolled in my FREE online course; The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System, then please do so and don’t forget to share the course with as many people you know so together we can help a million people to discover the benefits of an organised and productive life. 

Okay, into this week’s question, so it is time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question:

This week’s Question comes from Keith in Ireland. Keith asks: I work in a highly reactive environment where dealing with crises every day is the norm. This means I often do not have time to collect the tasks and just have to get them done leaving me feeling frustrated because I do not know what I have done and I am not able to get the work I want done. Do you have any tips for handling this kind of environment?

Thank you, Keith, for your question. I have noticed a lot of questions about this kind of situation regularly come up on my YouTube channel or in comments on my Medium blog and I understand it can be an incredibly frustrating situation when you want to get yourself better organised and become more productive. 

Okay, there are a few things you can do. 

The first is to not schedule too many tasks on your to-do list in the first place. Now, I know it is much easier to say this than do, but if your days are regularly disrupted by crises, then there really is no point in trying to schedule twenty tasks on your to-do list. The reality is you will never get them done anyway, so not only are you feeling frustrated at not getting the work you want done, you are also wasting a lot of time scheduling those tasks in the first place. It is far better to organise your to-do lists by contexts and work from your lists based on where you are, what tools you have with you and who is with you. In a sense, you follow the GTD principles of only scheduling tasks that absolutely must be done on a specific day and at a specific time. 

For example, if you must call your colleague in Galway before lunch-time because she is flying to Geneva at 12pm, you would schedule that call in your calendar or put a date an time on the task in your to-do list manager. At some point you will have to call her before 11:30pm—never call her at 12pm, she has to leave at 12. Calling her then will not make you her most popular person—That gives you 2½ hours between 9:00am and 11:30am to make that call. 

Now in my experience of crises, they often need some form of action immediately, but there are always a few minutes between events unfolding where you have time to make a call. That would be the time you make that call to your colleague. 

Many years ago, I worked in the hotel industry and that is one of the most reactive industries to be in. Guests and customers have a bad habit of asking for things at the most inconvenient of times. And, while to the guest their request may be simple, the reality is I would have to go from one side of the hotel to the other, talk to the chef, and anyone who has experience of the hotel trade in the 1990s with know that most chefs in the 1990s hated everyone who was not a chef and they always had a big knife in their hands. Ask very gently for what I needed and then get back to the other side of the hotel as quickly as possible, Any delay and the guest would be calling reception asking what had happened and then reception would ‘bleep me’ which meant I had to run to reception to find out what they wanted, only to find they wanted to know about something I was already dealing with. And this went on ALL day. 

It left little to no time for doing the work I was employed to do. Back then, GTD had not been invented and I was already writing down on paper (no smartphones back then) the things that had to be done that day and carrying that little notebook with me everywhere I went. 

Every day when I came on shift, I would have a hand-over meeting with my co-worker and he would tell me what he had managed to do that morning or night and what was left to be done. I had to learn very quickly how to prioritise. A meeting scheduled to start at 8:30am in one of our meeting rooms always took priority. Fresh iced water had to placed in the room at exactly the right time. 

What I learned was that as long as I had a list of the things that needed doing that day, I could manage the requests and crises when they came up. I dealt with them, did want needed to be done and carried on getting my work done. Sometimes, a meeting organiser would ask for the tea and coffee to be served an hour earlier. There was often no time for this to be written down on the function sheet, but I made sure I wrote it down in my little notebook. Between all these little jobs, crises and requests I would be referring to my notebook— what needed to be done next? 

The important thing is that the work or task gets done. There is always time at the end of the day to take a breath and reflect on what you had done and what still needed doing. Whenever I finished my shift I had a handover with my colleague and I would go through what was done, what was almost done and what still needed doing. It was a wonderful cycle and I also learnt the importance of working as a team. 

Sometimes there is no time to write down the task. You just have to do the task. Call the right person, email the documents or just go talk to the customer. There is always time afterwards to reflect on what it was and decide whether you need to record what you did somewhere. 

Because of my experiences in the hotel trade, a wonderful trade to be in, by the way, I learnt that long lists of to-dos rarely get done and this leads to frustration and more often than not giving up on trying to be organised. Maintaining as a shorter list of planned to-dos as possible always gave me the best chance of getting what I wanted done and it also meant I learnt the importance of being patience. Small steps each day soon build up to big achievements. 

And this shorter list of planned to-dos also means on those rare quiet days, once you have completed the to-dos you want to do, you can look at your contextual lists and decide what you can do next. There will always be something you can do from what you have planned tomorrow, today and that does keep you moving forward. 

One more thing I learnt in the hotel trade was the ability to anticipate problems. I learnt early on that no matter how well planned you are for something, once that plan meets reality everything changes. It’s like the famous quote “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Or as Mike Tyson put it more eloquently, “we all have a plan until we get punched in the face”. This is the reality of life. As I learnt more about my industry I found it was actually quite easy to anticipate what might go wrong and so I developed methods—templates if you like—for dealing with those issues. I still use that today. Whenever I am scheduled to do a talk I know there are likely to be problems with the IT department not knowing how to connect a Mac to their projector or the power disappears in the middle of my presentation. I make sure I have a PowerPoint copy of my presentation on a USB drive and a PDF print out of my slides in case I have to go without the use of a projector. I haven’t used any of these backups for a very long time, but I know one day it will happen so I prepare myself. Always prepare yourself for the worst happening.

So, the best advice I can give you,Keith, and anyone else who works in a highly reactive industry is carry a little notebook with you where ever you go. If you prefer you can use your phone, but in reactive situations, I have always found the trusty pen and paper is the best way to capture what needs doing and crossing them off when they are done. Expect things to go wrong and keep your scheduled tasks to barest minimum. Work from contexts— the people, place or tools required to do the task— and develop strategies for dealing with the common crises that occur. 

Finally, even if you are not handing over to a colleague at the end of a shift, it is always a good strategy to do a five or ten minute reflection at the end of your working day. Reflect on the things that happened, how you dealt with them and ask yourself if there is anything you can do in the future to either anticipate that kind of crisis or prepare for the crisis happening again so next time you are prepared and can put in place a trusted action plan. 

I hope that helps, Keith and I hope that helps anyone else who works in a very reactive industry. 

Don’t forget to keep your questions coming in. I want to help a million people between now and 2020 to get better organised and become more productive and I can only do that with your help. Please spread the word, share this podcast, share my blog posts, YouTube videos and share my online courses with anyone you feel will benefit from learning more about the wonderful benefits of being productive. 

Thank you very much for listening and it just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 27 | Finding Time To Work On Your Goals

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about finding time to achieve your goals.



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 27 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s show I answer a wonderful question about finding the time to work on your goals when you have a full-time job and little spare time in the evenings and at weekends. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer then all you need do is email me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes.

Oh and I would just like to thank all of you who have enrolled in my recently published new FREE online course; The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System. I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have enrolled and I feel so thankful to be able to help so many people. So a BIG thank you to all you who have enrolled. It really does mean a lot to me. 

Ok, let’s get in to this weeks question, so it is time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Alana. Alana asks, Carl, I have a lot of goals and plans, but never seem to have time to do anything about them. Is there anything I can do that will help me focus on my goals every day?

Great question Alana and thank you for sending it in.

I think this is a problem many people face when they really want to change their lives, but have work and social commitments that always seem to take up much of their available time each day. I know I have struggled with this in the past. 

The thing is if your goals are important enough to you, then you will always find a way. If what you want, and your reasons for wanting it is strong enough, finding the time usually comes naturally. Whenever I am working with a client and I see they always have an excuse for not doing anything towards achieving their goals, I always ask them about the reason they want to achieve that particular goal— what we call “their why”— most of the time I find their reason for wanting to achieve the goal is not personal enough. 

What I mean by that is if the reason you want to achieve something is to impress your boss or impress your family and friends, then the reason for doing it is not for you. Sure, if you do achieve the goal, people might go “WOW!” for a few minutes, but then your achievement will be quickly forgotten. If, however, your reason for achieving the goal is deeply personal, then when you do achieve the goal, the feeling of accomplishment and achievement lasts much longer and always inspires you to set yourself another, more ambitious goal. It becomes a beautiful cycle of achievement. 

Let’s take an example. Let’s say you have always wanted to build your very own application. You want to create a note taking app that you believe will be the best in the market. That’s a good starting point, but the next question you need to answer is “why? Why do you want to build this app? Now, there could be a number of reasons. Reasons such as you have never been able to find a note taking app that works for you and you want to build one, it could be because you love building things or it could be because you really want to start your own business. All of these are good, valid reasons. Get these reasons written down underneath your goal. 

Your reasons are your motivation. Almost everyone I know would love to be a millionaire. I’m sure you would too. The reason most people will never become a millionaire is because their “why” is not strong enough and not personal enough. Building your own app, losing weight, becoming a millionaire is easy, but the process to building, losing or becoming any of these things is hard. Often very hard. Losing weight is a great example. Most people make a decision to lose weight just after they have eaten a very large Sunday dinner and finished that off with a ginormous helping of chocolate fudge cake Hmmmm. As they sit down after eating, thy look down at their stomach and see this bloated beachball of a stomach and say “I must lose some weight”.

Well, when you are full it IS easy to decide to lose some weight. But what about the next day. You eat a banana for breakfast and you have a salad for lunch. How do you feel at 4pm? You’re very hungry. Now how easy is it to maintain a diet? Not so easy. Past experience has taught me ignoring hunger pangs is incredibly difficult and if someone comes round to your table with a packet of biscuits (cookies to my American friends) how easy is it to say “no” now? THis is why your “why” has to be strong and has to be personal. 

I say “personal” because often we think we have a strong “why”, but the “why is someone else’s why. A great example of this is when we visit our doctor for a checkup and the doctors tells you you need to lose a little weight. Sure, losing weight might be good for your long-term health, but what if you are happy with your weight and you don’t see it as a problem? Here we have a situation where the goal is clear - lose some weight, but the motivation to lose weight is not strong. You are not going to lose weight. The why is some else’s why. 

When you have a clear goal, and a strong, personal why, finding the time to do something with the goal is much easier. But before you can go about achieving the goal you need tasks that will help you to achieve it. Let’s take the note taking app goal. To create an app of any kind involves a lot of steps. It is not just about writing the code. You need to think about the design, the colours the features and interface. You also need to start building the code. If you have no idea how to code, then you need to start learning how to code. There are many steps. This is great because there will be a mixture of big and small tasks. Tasks that will take many hours and tasks that will only take a few minutes. Get these all written down somewhere. In a task management app, a notes app or a notebook and paper. Just get them all written down. 

Okay, I know this is a very long way round to answering your question Alana, but the truth is, unless your goals are set properly, they are crystal clear, have a strong why and have a precise deadline, you will never find the time to do anything about them because there will always be something else that seems more important than your goals. Once you have your goals set up strongly, then you will find it much easier to motivate yourself to find the time. 

I have found in the past if I am trying to achieve a personal goal when I am working it can be very difficult to motivate myself to spend time working on the personal goal once I finish work. A few years ago when I decided to take part in the ChunCheon Marathon here in Korea, I found it incredibly difficult to find the time to do the running to prepare for the marathon. What really helped was my desire to prove to myself that although it had been ten years since I had run a marathon, I could still do it even though I was now in my forties. So when I came home after a long day of teaching and it was pouring with rain outside, all I had to do was remind myself of my reason for running the marathon and I soon found I was dressed in my running gear and heading out the door for a run. It really does come down to your reasons why you want to achieve the goal. 

Another way to keep yourself moving forward with your goals is to schedule time each day to work on the goals. Don’t go mad here, just allocate time between say, 9:00pm and 9:30pm to work on your goal. It could be doing some research if you are very tired or it could be writing code, running, doing yoga or any number of things. All you need to do is refer to your list of tasks the night before, choose one task that you will complete the next day and write it down into your to-do list or calendar. The very action of choosing the task, writing it down and having a set time for you to work on the goal will be enough to motivate yourself to get it done. I have a set time each day between 10:30pm and 11pm to study something. It could be anything, a TED talk, a motivational video on YouTube or some reading research. All that matters is I do some learning each day as that is a goal for me. To learn something each day that improves my life and my skills. I have been doing this for over four months now and it is surprisingly easy to sit down at 10:30pm and get started. 

Of course there are the elements of PACT. Patience, Action, Consistency and Time. When you throw these into the mix you really are setting yourself up for success. To build an app, lose weight run a marathon, they all require patience. You need patience because none of these will happen overnight. Likewise, if you are not taking any action, consistently over a period of time you are never going to reach the finish line of any of your goals. You have got to make a “PACT” with yourself and make it happen. 

The truth is we all think we are busy. But busy is just a state of mind. Sure you might have a lot of things to do each day, but we also have the same time each day—24 hours— and what we do with most of those hours is entirely up to us. Prioritising the things that are important to us, should always be at the top of our lists and pre-planning what we will do, the night before when you do the Golden 10 minutes, and committing yourself to doing those tasks is the only way you are going to make it happen. There are no substitutes or quick fixes. You just have to do whatever it takes to make it happen and we all have that ability. Whether we choose to use that ability really does come down to us and out motivation for doing whatever it is we want to do.  Which is why having the right “why” for doing achieving you goals is so vital. 

I hope that answers your question, Alana and thank you for sending in your question. Thank you all for listening to this show, please subscribe to the show so you can have each episode delivered automatically to whatever app you are using to listen to podcasts. 

It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 26 | To Treat Work & Personal Tasks Separately?

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about work and personal tasks.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 26 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a fantastic question about dealing with work and personal tasks and whether or not these should be treated differently. It’s a question I am frequently asked on my YouTube channel about the Your Digital Life 2.0 system and so I thought this podcast would be a great place to answer the question. 

Before we get into this weeks question, I want to let you guys know I have just launched a brand new FREE beginners guide. This online course is a little under 1 hour long and is an update to my other FREE beginners guide to getting your self better organised and more productive. This new course gives you the building blocks for building your very own productivity system. It is just an outline but is packed full of useful tips and tricks. So, if you are new to productivity and time management and want to build your very own system, then this course should really help you to start off with the right tools and mindset. The link to the course is in the show notes for you. 

And one more thing. This new course is the start of a new project. PROJECT 1 MILLION. This is all about me helping one million people by 2020 to find the benefits of becoming better at time management and more productive so they can enjoy their lives stress-free with better health and better relationships with the people that matter to them. More details of this project will be coming out over the next few weeks, but if you like what I do, then please share my podcast, blog posts, videos and all the other content I produce with as many people as you can so together we can help the people in our lives discover the amazing benefits of getting organised. 

Okay, enough of my preamble, now it is time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Joshua and Joshua asks: Do you separate your work tasks from your personal tasks or do you treat all tasks the same? 

Thank you, Joshua, for the question. 

This question is often asked of me and I can answer it simply. I treat all tasks the same. To me, a task is a task and just needs doing. It does not matter whether it is a work task or a personal task. 

Many years ago, I did try and separate the different tasks. And a few years ago it was actually quite easy to separate work and personal tasks because I worked in an office with set hours and my mobile phone had no email. But then came along the iPhone and other smart phones and now email is with me 24 hours a day and my clients and students don’t think twice about messaging me late in the evening to let me know about a meeting reschedule or asking me to check something. 

This meant that it became very impractical to try and separate the two types of tasks so I just decided to treat all tasks the same. If a task needs doing and I have the right device or tool with me, then I just get it done. This has meant that I have fewer decisions to make over all. The only decision I need to make now is “what can I do next based on where I am, who I am with or what tools I have with me?” I no longer need to think whether I am in work mode or personal mode. All modes are the same. 

An example of this was last week. Usually, I take Friday nights off and just relax in front of the TV. But I was going away on a trip last weekend, so around 10 pm I sat down at my computer and did a couple of hours work. Because I no longer distinguish between work and personal time, I had the freedom to just get on with some work. It meant I was not stressed at all on Friday. I was not rushing to get my work finished before 6pm, I just had a normal day and decided I would do some of my work tasks after I had had dinner and watched a little TV. 

And that’s the problem with drawing hard lines between your work life and personal life. It just causes unnecessary stress. Of course, you do need to maintain some balance, but when you try and only do your work tasks Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm and only do personal tasks in the evenings and at weekends, something is going to break. You have no flexibility. And when you have no flexibility your stress levels will increase and you will start missing deadline on important work or you will not achieve the quality you want to achieve. Work related issues will be on your mind on a Sunday evening but because of your strict lines, you will not allow yourself to do anything about it. That to me is avoidable stress. If something’s on your mind and you have the time and are in the right place with the right tool, then just get it done. Don’t worry yourself about when you are doing it. Just get it done. It’s a lot less stressful to think like that rather than trying to erect un-natural barriers. 

If you have a free Sunday evening and there’s nothing else to do, why not start doing some of those work related tasks? Same works for Friday afternoon in the office. If you have all your work done and there are a few things you want to buy online, then just go ahead and place those orders. These are tasks on your to-do list anyway and it really shouldn’t matter when you get them done. The only thing that matters is you get them done. 

Sometimes we over complicate things when we put up unnecessary barriers. I know it always sounds great when people tell us they don’t do anything related to their work after 6 pm or at weekends. The thing is the effort required to not think about or do anything related to our work at home or not do anything related to our personal lives at work, just doesn’t seem worth it to me. 

There are times when I will just shut off the work tasks of course. For example when going away on holiday. I remove the dates from my work tasks in my to-do list manager so they do not show up in my daily lists. But as I run my own business, I do need to keep an eye on my email in case there are any emergencies brewing or I need to reply to a client. But on the whole, I do not separate anything in my daily lists. Personal and business routines are all in the same project folder called “routines” and my Areas of Focus projects are a mix of personal and business. These are just placeholders anyway as the tasks I want to complete on certain days will come up in my daily lists as and when they are due to be done. 

If you really think about it though, tasks naturally fall into place. Your work tasks are generally tasks that can only be done during the so called ‘office hours’ or in the office and your personal tasks can only be done when you are at home or in the evening. This means there really is nothing to be too worried about where you place your routine tasks. As long as you are dating things appropriately and getting tasks done when they should be done—that’s all that matters. You are getting the work done. 

A lot of time when I am asked this question it is in relation to my routines folder in my to-do list manager. In my Your Digital Life 2.0, I advocate that you take all those routines tasks that just have to be done, but do not take your life further forward or help in any way towards achieving your goals—things like take out the garbage or update the weekly sales report—and put them in a folder called “routines” and inside that folder create three sub-projects called “daily”, “weekly” and “monthly” and put all those routines in their relevant folder. This way you can remove these tasks from your daily lists when you are focused on your work and only see them when you need to see them. 

The reason for doing this is because when you look at most people’s to-do lists they are a mix of work and personal tasks, important and not important tasks and as most people tend to pick and choose what tasks to complete based on their mood they end up doing tasks that are not taking their lives further forward or doing anything to achieve their goals. It is far better to see a list of tasks that need doing and are going to take your life further forward and focus you in on the work that matters. Once you have the important tasks done for the day, then you can go into your routines and work on doing the routines that need doing today. 

So there you have it. That’s why I do not keep my work and personal tasks separate. If a task needs doing it needs doing and I do not discriminate between work and personal. All tasks are created equal in my mind. 

Than you again for your question, Joshua. I hope this answers your question. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 25 | Managing Your Student Life

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about managing university life.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 25 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s show I answer a question about managing time pressures when you are at university. This comes from a question I asked on Twitter and YouTube a couple of months ago about what difficulties university students face while at university. It’s a great question that touches on quite a lot of time management practices. 

Don’t forget if you have a question you can DM me on Facebook or Twitter or you can do it the old fashioned way and email me at carl@carlpullein.com

Okay, it is now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Antonin, a university student from France

Hi Carl. I’m personally struggling with three points: Living on my own for the first time, I now have to do my own laundry, cooking, cleaning etc which can be very time consuming. Managing my social life, there are so many people who want to permanently hangout and having to constantly study new topics, prepare for tests and exams and write papers. Do you have any advice on handling all this? 

Thank you, Antonin for such a great question, and a question I think many of my listeners will find similarities with their own life particularly those at university.

Okay lets get started with priorities. One thing I strongly believe in is people should not have to sacrifice their social life because of their studies or work. We are human beings living in the twenty-first century. We should not be spending all our time working, studying and doing chores. Life is not about those things alone. We need time to socialise, spend time with our friends and university particularly is a time when we build friendships that will last a life-time. So, time spent socialising needs to built in to our schedules. 

But, the main purpose of being at university is to get out with a degree. So this needs to be addressed first. 

Your most powerful weapon with all of this is going to be your calendar. You will also need to practice “what’s on my calendar gets done” This is vital if you are going to manage all your commitments, obligations and get your course work and test and exam preparation done on time and to a high degree of quality. Your calendar is non-negotiable and must be done when you assign the time to do it. Of course you can build flexibility into it, after all, you are in control of your calendar… I hope! 

My advice here is at the start of the semester take your class schedule, exam periods and assignment due dates and get them into your calendar first. You should be doing this before you do anything else. These ‘events’ need to be built in to your calendar because your lectures, meetings with professors, exam dates and assignment due dates are non-negotiable. The good thing about being at university is that these events are usually on a subscribeable calendar you can subscribe to so, adding these dates to your calendar should be as easy as simply subscribing to your course’s calendar. If you cannot subscribe, then you will have to manually enter them. The advantage of manually entering the dates is you have control over them. When you subscribe to a calendar you have no control. So the choice is yours.

Once you have these events on your calendar, look for assignment due dates and the exam period. Now depending on how much time you want to prepare for these events, block off time leading up to them for revision and writing. When I was at university I began my revision for exams six weeks before the exam week. So for me it would be simply blocking time off for revising six weeks out from the exam period and reducing my social life time for that period. 

For assignments and tests you again can decide how long you want to prepare for these and block off the appropriate time. What you are doing is making sure before you put anything else on to your calendar you are taking care of your university work first. That of course is the main priority. 

Now, when I was at university our first semester began at the beginning of October and ended the end of January. There were no exams in that period, but we did have three written assignments to complete by the end of the first week of January. This essentially gave me plenty of time to enjoy freshers week and spend time socialising before beginning my written assignments from the middle of November. My aim was to get the first drafts written by 20 December, where I could take a week off, enjoy time with my family over the Christmas holidays and then get back to finalising my assignments from the 27th December. This gave me around 10 days to do nothing but finalise my assignments before their due dates. It also allowed me time to enjoy the new year festivities and still have plenty of time to get the final drafts completed.

This was all possible because I used my calendar to schedule the time required to get these important assignments completed. 

I followed the same routine when it came to preparing for my exams. I would go in to lockdown during the week. But, and this was important. Every Friday and Saturday night I made sure I went out with my friends. Friday night was rugby night where we went to watch Leeds Rhinos when they played at home and then out for a few beers afterwards. Saturday was “Top Banana Night” at the Town & Country nightclub in Leeds. This was where they played nothing but eighties classics and was a fantastic night out. Seriously, the eighties had some awesome dance music! I should point out I was at university in the late 1990s, so going to club that only played eighties music was out of this world. 

After finishing at the club my friends and I would stop off at the Rajput Indian restaurant for a curry before heading home… Usually in a not too good a state. However, Sunday afternoon was back to studying… Often with a banging headache. 

The thing is, if I were to lock myself away seven days a week to study, I would have gone mad and the quality of my studying would have suffered. Our brains need a rest and Friday and Saturday nights were a great way to get out, let my hair down (what I had left of it) and just enjoy myself. It always helped me to get back to my studies refreshed and ready to start again. These nights were scheduled in my calendar.

As for doing the household chores here you need to be a bit strategic. If you assign a cleaning up day once or twice a week you are going to spend too much time cleaning and tidying up. It is far better to do a little often. I usually did my cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping in between my studying. I would study for a couple hours, and then spend twenty minutes or so cleaning something up. Doing the dishes, doing the laundry or vacuuming my house. That physical work would give my brain a break and household chores are not brain taxing, so they were a great way to give myself a rest and keep myself on top of my cleaning. The funny thing is, I still do that now. It worked so well when I was at university, I carried the practice on once I entered the workforce. 

Now for managing the work you need to do for your individual classes, here I would use a good to-do list manager. What you can do is create projects for the different courses you are taking and put the work related to those courses into your to-do list. The thing here is you have a list of all the work that needs doing. You can see what needs doing and you can collect all the work your professors give you straight into your to-do list manager. I would recommend Todoist for this as it is very easy to use and the free version would do the trick perfectly. If you want to upgrade to the premium version of Todoist it is not too expensive at $28.99 per year. But, the upgrade is not essential for your university life. Just being able to organise your to-dos into projects would be enough to keep you on track with the various assignments, essays and test prep you have. You can also add a project for your domestic routines, the cleaning, the laundry etc. 

What your to-do list manger does is maintain the micro level tasks for you. Your calendar works on the macro level. So your calendar will say “work on Biology assignment” and your to-do list will tell you exactly what needs doing such as “edit intro” or “add in results excel file”. This really does work well and prevents you having to waste time trying to decide what you need to do next. 

If you want to learn more about getting the most out of your to-do list manager and calendar, I have a FREE online course called, The Beginners Guide To Getting Organised you can take. This is a 45 minute intro to getting yourself better organised and will help you to understand the basics better. If you are ready to go to the next level of productivity, I do have my latest course, Your Digital Life 2.0 Online available which will really take you to the next level of productivity and time management. 

Hopefully, that has helped, Antonin. I also hope this has helped all of you who are struggling to manage their daily work or student life as well as their family and friends commitments. Remember, no matter how busy you are, you should not be sacrificing your social life completely. Sure, you may need to reduce it a little from time to time for busy periods, but you should not be sacrificing it completely. No matter how busy you are, you do need to take some time off. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Contact me at anytime if you have any questions and I will answer them as soon as I can so we can help as many people as possible get control of their time and their life. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 24 | Finding Time For Rest And Relaxation

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about rest and relaxation.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 24 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, it’s time to take a rest, well okay maybe not for me, but this week’s question is all about the importance of being well rested so you can get the important work done. 

Before we get into the question, if you have a question about productivity, time management, goal planning and getting the important things done, then please get in touch either by email or by DMing on Twitter or Facebook. I will be more than happy to answer your questions. 

And one more thing, for those of you enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I have now released the second supplemental class which you can watch right now. In this class, I take you through how I do my Golden 10 every evening. 

Okay, let's get it to the question, so it is now time for me to hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question…

This week’s question comes from Sander. Sander asks:

Hi Carl, I have a real problem with taking rest at the right times. I am a graduate student and when I am under pressure writing my assignments and other university work, I find I always sit down to write when I am tired. Do you have any tips on getting the right amount of rest and doing work when I am not tired?

Thank you, Sander for your wonderful question. 

One of the most important things you can do is to analyse when you at your most effective. On this everybody is different. Some people do their best work in the mornings, others find the afternoons or evenings are best for them. There really is no standard here. What you need to do is to analyse yourself for a few days and see when you feel most alert.

The funny thing here is even if you believe you are a night person, you may find you do your best work in the morning. I found that out. I have always been a bit of a night owl and so I naturally thought I would do my best, creative work in the evenings. This was not true. I discovered that the best times of the day for me to write or create something was between 8:30am and 12:00pm. After lunch, I find it is very difficult to remain focused on a single piece of work. I find the evenings are the best time for me to study something or read a book. The afternoons are disaster zones for me. So, I schedule my exercise for the afternoons and after dinner I do my basic admin tasks and learn something.

I started a new routine this year to study something every evening between 10:30 and 11pm. This studying can be anything I am in the mood for. So for example, after reading about Elon Musk’s passion for going to Mars, I spent a whole week watching videos and reading about Mars. Likewise a few weeks ago I went through many of Robin Sharma’s Mastery series of videos. Originally I was going to do this Sunday to Thursday and give myself Friday and Saturday nights off. However, I am enjoying it so much, I now do it 7 days week and the notes I write as I learn go straight in to my journal. My journal is filling up with so much valuable learning. It’s great fun and incredibly educational. 

What you can learn from this is that once you have found when you do you best work you can then schedule the work around it. You can do this even if you work a traditional nine til five office job. If you find you do your most creative work in the mornings, then schedule creative work for mornings. Resist any meetings if you can and just focus on the work. If, like me you find afternoons are difficult to focus, then you can do basic admin tasks, return phone calls and reply to emails in the afternoons. The non-creative tasks that just need doing. 

There is something else I have learned over the years. Take a nap in the afternoon. I learnt this from Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill was famous for taking naps every afternoon. He would retire to his bedroom around 3PM and sleep until 5PM. Now, I know not many of us could get away with sleeping for ninety minutes every afternoon, but just twenty minutes can do the trick. Winston Churchill said that by taking a nap every afternoon he could get a day and half’s worth of work done every day, and Winston Churchill was a prodigious producer of work. He wrote around 33 books in 51 volumes, he was always writing articles and he was the Prime Minister of the Britain for a total of ten years. He had time to write, paint, be a politician and have two hour lunches and 3 hour dinners. And we complain about not having enough time to socialise! He socialised for 5 hours every day, had time to nap for 90 minutes and still got a huge amount of work done without the aid of a single computer. 

There is definitely something in taking a nap every day. I try to have a nap for 30 minutes every afternoon. I know I am lucky, I have complete control of my schedule, but you should try it if you can. It certainly boosts your creative energies and helps you get through the day. 

The funny thing about taking naps every day is I found out that Ian Fleming, the creator and author of the James Bond novels, also used to take naps in the afternoon. Fleming would write between 8am and 12pm every day for six to eight weeks as he wrote a book. He would then have lunch and afterwards take a nap. He would return to writing around 4pm and work until 6pm when he would stop for dinner and socialising. There seems to be a connection between taking naps and socialising every day and pushing out a huge volume of work. If you can you should try it. 

The thing is, if you are serious about getting your important work done then you need to find out when you are at your most creative. Experiment with different times of the day and once you know when you are at your most energetic and can easily move into your focus zone start using your calendar to schedule you most difficult, creative work at those times in your calendar. If necessary, talk to your boss about this. I have found if you have a good boss and they are understanding they will help you. Your boss wants you to be doing your best work every day, so they are going to want to help you. I find most people never talk to their bosses about this because they don’t think their boss will understand and end up blaming them for not being able to get their work done. If it’s an issue, talk to your boss! 

Your calendar is really the most powerful tool you have for getting you motivated to do the right work at the right time. I schedule all my writing tasks in my calendar because that’s when I need to be at my most focused. I also schedule my workouts and other important work in my calendar because I have a very important rule: If it’s on my calendar, it gets done.  That rule enables me to treat my calendar as my time manager. It only allows me to schedule work over a period of 24 hours. This prevents me from over-scheduling and helps me to make sure I am getting enough rest between heavy workload sessions. By that I mean if I have scheduled a big writing session between 8am and 12pm, I know not to schedule more writing for the afternoon. If I did, I would not get much quality writing done and it would be a waste of time. I would be much better scheduling some physical work instead, such as a workout or house work. Then early evening, I could do some more writing work. My brain would be well rested and ready to attack another session of writing. 

Over the years I have learnt that by doing a weekly review on a Sunday I can see the big picture of the work I want to get done for the following week. This allows me to schedule sessions of work throughout the week based on my appointments and where I need to be on specific days. So, if I were trying to finish the preparation for an online course, I would look at my calendar for the following week and find the time where I will be able to sit down in a morning and do the outline and preparation. I would also be looking at my calendar for times when I could do the recording of the course and all the other parts involved in developing a big project like this. It’s my calendar that helps me to know when a project like this can be completed by. My to-do list manager only tells me what needs doing next. It does not tell me how much time each piece of work will take, or how much time I have to complete a piece of work. My advice is use your calendar strategically. It can really help you to make sure you are getting the important work done. 

Hopefully, that has given you a few ideas to work with Sander. Remember, the best thing you could do right now is to figure out when you are at your most creative. Once you know that, you can utilise the power of your calendar to make sure you are doing your important work at those times every day. Even thirty minutes are better than no minutes. 

Thank you very much for listening to this show. If you liked what you heard, please share it with as many people as you can. I want to help as many people as I can to become super-productive and get their best work done. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 23 | choosing the right productivity app for you

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You can also listen on:

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Script

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about choosing the right productivity app for you.

Hello and welcome to episode 23 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s show I answer a question on the thorny issue of apps and which app is best for becoming more productive. I am being very brave here as this is something that can generate a lot of emotions and loyal support for one app over another. But, I am brave and if nothing else, at least I can give my view on this topic.

Before we get into the question, though, let me remind you, you can ask me anything about productivity, time management, goal planning or self development. All you have to do is send me a DM on Twitter or Facebook or email me at carl@carlpullein.com. All the links are in the show notes. 

Okay, now it’s time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Sergey. Sergey asks: Carl, I’ve been following you for a while now and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for the best apps I can use to get myself more productive. 

Thank you Sergey for your question and for putting me in the deep end. 

The advice I always give to people who are starting out of the journey of getting themselves more productive and better at time management is to use the built in apps on the device you have. That means if you are using an iPhone, then I would always recommend you use Apple’s Reminders, Calendar and Notes apps. These apps are built in and are free. They are all supported by iCloud, which you also get for free (to start with) and it allows you time to find out what works best for you. Likewise, if you are in the Android or Windows ecosystem, both Google and Microsoft provide to-do lists, calendars and notes apps for free with their services. 

What you need to focus on is finding out what works for you. Not necessarily the apps, but the framework and system you build. The truth is, being more productive and better at time management is not really about the apps. Getting better at productivity and time management is about the framework you put in place. A great framework or system would work even if you were using s simple pen and paper. That to me has always been the goal. If I lost all my technology tomorrow, could I reproduce my system using a simple spiral-bound notebook and a pen? If the answer is no, then it means my system is too complex. And that really should be where you begin. With pen and paper. 

I put together a free online course designed to help you get started with becoming more productive, and that course will give you the basic framework. If you want to take your productivity and time management to the next level there is also my latest course—Your Digital Life 2.0. A course designed to give the complete framework to a fantastic digital system. Even though I am a huge fan of Todoist, in both those courses I do not recommend any specific app because apps are always a personal choice. Each one of us are looking for something different. I want something that is simple and easy to collect stuff when it occurs to me, I know other people who like apps that are feature rich and offers a lot of options. In this field the choice is yours. 

There are of course a few things you should always be aware of when you are ready to go into the third party productivity apps world. A lot of apps appear, look great and promise a lot of things, but after a few years they go out of business or get bought out by one of the big tech companies (I’m thinking Wunderlist and Sunrise here). When that happens your whole system can be destroyed overnight or just stops working. That really is the danger of seeking out only free apps. Apps that are free are often looking to be bought by a big tech company (what we call their exit strategy) while there is nothing wrong with this business model, it can leave users high and dry if either they do not attract a big tech company or the big tech company absorbs their technology into their own. This is why I have no problem investing money in the best productivity apps because I know I am investing in something that gives me a huge return on that investment. Todoist costs me around $30.00 per year and I know that the fantastic people at Doist, the company that develops Todoist, uses my $30.00 to make sure I have an app that works, is not going to disappear over night and serves me brilliantly. The same goes for Evernote. I pay for the premium version of Evernote which is about $50.00 per year. The cost of that is nothing compared to the value I get out of Evernote every single day. 

Of course, it could be argued that Microsoft’s OneNote and Apple’s Notes are better value because they are free and it is very unlikely they will disappear overnight. I would agree. But I’ve been using Evernote for close to ten years now and I know it intimately and it has never let me down. I should point out that both OneNote and Notes are fantastic apps and if I were starting out from fresh again, I might have chosen one of those apps. 

Another thing you should be very careful of are apps that try and do everything. Apps that have a calendar, notes and to-do list built in for example. I have tried many of these apps over the years and have found they end up compromising features and it can become extremely frustrating. Another thing you should watch out for are feature rich apps. I know they are very tempting because it allows you to play around with settings, colours and layouts and so much more. The problem here is that temptation to play around with the settings means you are not actually doing any work that matters. I recently tried out Notion 2 and it was a joy. There were so many things I could do. I accidentally ended up playing around with it for a whole afternoon. That evening I deleted the app simply because I knew if I used Notion 2 I would NEVER get any work done because there would always been another way to show me what I needed to do and review and that temptation to play would be irresistible. Fortunately, painful past experience has taught me to stay away from apps that have too many features and view options. I play and the temptation to play always beats me. You, of course, may be different. 

In my experience though, the simpler the app, the more likely it is going to work for you. I’ve tried many of the more complicated apps and none of them have helped me get the important work done. One app I loved was Omnifocus. The issue I had with Omnifocus was with the perspectives. This gave me far too much freedom to play around and try and find the ‘perfect’ views. The truth is, there are no ‘perfect’ views. The only view you need to see in your to-do list manager is the view that tells you what you need to work on right now given the place you are in, the tools you have with you and the people or person you are with and any app, with the ability to show you lists based on your context (the place, tool or person you need to complete the task) will do that. 

And that really is the point here. No app is going to be perfect for everyone. What you need to look for, Sergey, is an app that focuses your attention on getting the important work done and disappears into the background when you are doing the focused work. A good to-do list manager does make it easy to collect stuff, but apart from that it needs to be in the background waiting for you to decide you want to do the next piece of work. And this is why so many people still use the trusty pen and paper. Pen and paper does just that. You can move it away when you are doing the important work and you can move it back when you are ready to see what needs doing next. 

Remember, the amount of work you do and the quality of that work is not affected by the to-do list, calendar or notes app you use. Your work and the quality of that work is affected by you, your mood, your energy level and the amount of focus you put in to that work. So my advice is focus more on your system, and when you feel your system works seamlessly, then, and only then, begin your search for apps that will support that system. Your framework and your system comes first, apps are secondary. 

I hope that answers your question Sergey, apologies if I didn’t recommend any specific app. Every one is different and the best apps for me, are not necessarily going to be the best apps for you. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer, get in touch and you too could have your question answered on this show. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 22 | Morning And Evening Routines.

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In this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about creating a morning and evening routine. 

You can listen to this episode on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

In this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about creating a morning and evening routine. 

Hello and welcome to episode 22 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about morning and evening routines. To me, these two things you do every day are the foundations of building a fantastic day. And when you string together fantastic individual days you very soon start building a fantastic life.

Before we get to the answer, don’t forget you can ask me anything about productivity, time management and goal planning, all you have to do is send your question either by email or by Dming me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes. And don’t forget, if you are serious about getting yourself better organised and more productive, then take a look at my latest online course, Your Digital Life 2.0 Online. A course that will give you the know-how and framework to build your very own, bullet proof productivity system. So go on and invest in yourself and get yourself enrolled.

Ok, now it’s time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Laura. Laura asks: I really want to get myself organised and I think the best way would be to give myself a morning and evening routine. What do you suggest would be the best way to go about this? 

Thank you Laura for your great question. 

I would agree with you that setting up a couple of daily routines will help you to get yourself organised because it is the routines and the habits we do every day that takes us towards achieving the goals and plans we have set for ourselves. Most people drift through their lives and never really achieve anything. By having a plan in place and a set routine that takes you closer each day towards achieving those goals, you will start seeing some huge improvements in your life. 

The best way to get this mini-project started is to make a list of all the things you would like to do each day. Don’t worry at this stage when you will do them, just concentrate on listing out the things you would like to do each day. I would go for list of say ten to twelve things. This way you can divide the list up into what you would like to do in the morning and what you would like to do in the evening. One thing that should be on your list is “plan tomorrow” this is one thing that does need to go on your evening routine. Planning your day the night before allows you to have a better nights sleep because you know exactly what you will be focussing your energies on the next day. It also allows you to make sure you are getting the important things done each day. You do not want to be wasting your freshest hours of the day making plans and deciding what you want to do. 

Once you have made your list of ten to twelve things and have added “plan tomorrow” to your evening list, go through your list and add the different things to either the morning list of evening list. Try to keep things even. Have 5 or 6 things on your morning list and 5 or 6 things on your evening list. 

Let’s start with the morning routine. Now this depends on what kind of person you are. If you are naturally a morning person and enjoy the early mornings then you can start your routine off by making yourself a cup of your favourite tea of coffee. One of the things I have learnt over the years is if you start your day with a cup of your favourite drink, it lifts your mood immediately. I personally love Starbucks’s Breakfast blend coffee and I make that in a Braun coffee machine. It’s a simple coffee machine, but it brews a gorgeous cup of coffee. That starts my day off wonderfully. 

Now the next step depends on what you want to do. You could start off by meditating for ten minutes, or you could start by writing in your journal. Other things you can do is review your calendar for the day. Reviewing your calendar for the day is different from planning your day. Reviewing is essentially a quick check to see where you need to be and with whom and with what. It is not planning. 

Of course there is always the option to exercise in the morning if you want to build that in to your daily routine. The beauty of building your own morning routine is you can focus on the things you want to focus on before the stresses and strains of the day hit you. I like the Robin Sharma’s 5AM club routine. That is the 20/20/20 twenty minutes exercise, 20 minutes planning and 20 minutes learning. I would adapt the “planning” part to writing in my journal what my hopes and expectations for the day are, but you could also use it to review your goals and internalise your dreams. 

There’s a lot of advice about not checking your email first thing in the morning. I ignore that advice. I never get any ‘bad news’ or demanding emails in the morning, I usually only get news and questions from my students, which I love receiving. So for me, my morning emails are a source of good news and inspiration. But if you do get a lot of work emails in overnight then I would suggest not checking your email as part of your morning routine. 

For me a perfect morning routine would be something like:

  • Make coffee
  • Read through over night emails
  • Review calendar for today
  • Write my hopes and expectations for the day in my journal
  • 15 minutes reading

I am nota morning person as you can probably see.

Now on to the evening routine. This one for me is the most important one. This is where I do my Golden 10 and catch up with messages and admin. I am more of a night person, so sitting down at my desk for an hour to catch up on the day, plan the next day and get everything tidied up is one of my favourite times of the day. But this could easily be the other way round for you if you were a morning person. The key here is that whatever you do as part of your evening routine it makes you feel relaxed and contented. You do not want to be finishing the day feeling stressed. Try to make sure you evening routine leaves you feeling relaxed and ready for the next day. 

This year I began a 30 minutes study period between 10:30pm and 11:00pm Every evening between those times I study something. Usually it is a TED talk, or it could be something inspiring like a Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins talk. Either way I want to feel inspired and learn something new. This has become one of my favourite times of the day. That process of learning and writing what I have learnt into my journal just makes me feel so lucky that we live in such a resourceful world today. 

So for me my evening routine looks like:

  • do today’s admin
  • Reply to all messages
  • write up my thoughts for the day in my journal
  • Do my Golden 10
  • 30 minutes study.

This routine leaves me feeling relaxed and ready for the next day and, for me, is the perfect way to end the day. 

You, of course will be different and you need to build a routine around what you enjoy doing. Both your morning routine and evening routine needs to be something you look forward to. If you do don’t enjoy doing them you will not stick with it. After a few weeks these routines begin to stick and after three months they have become a habit. Once they have become a habit, you will feel very uncomfortable when you do not do them. That is a great sign. 

The thing about morning and evening routines is they have to be what you want to do. You will never get much success if you just copy other peoples. If you don’t journal, that’s okay. Don’t try and start unless you really want to start. Journalling is not for everyone. Likewise if you are not in to exercise, then don’t force yourself to exercise. This is your life, your choices and your goals. They are not anyone elses and you should be proud of what you do. Just build a set of routines that involve you doing what you want to do. 

The only thing I would add to this is that when you do get your morning and evening routines set up and working for you, you start to feel a lot happier. You start to make progress on your goals, if you make sure you do something related to your goals every day, and you start of many more good days than you had before. These routines set you up for a great life and this probably why almost all the successful people in the world have some form of daily routine they follow. Tim Cook wakes up around 3:30am and goes to the gym. Satiya Nadella goes for a run every morning and Tony Robbins has an elaborate breathing and meditation ritual he does every morning. 

So there you go, Laura. Go for it. Create you daily routines and make them a fundamental part of your life. You will never regret it and you will soon find yourself moving a lot closer to achieving the things you want to achieve. 

Thank you very much for listing to this podcast. I hope you got a lot out of it. It just remain for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 21 | How To Make Sure You Are Doing The Important Work

In this week’s episode of the Working With... Podcast, I answer a question about getting the important work done. 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course:

More details can be found here.

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page


You can download this episode on the following services:

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Script

In this week’s episode of the Working With... Podcast, I answer a question about getting the important work done. 

Hello and welcome to episode 21 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a great question about managing the different types of work that gets thrown at us each day and how to make sure the important work is getting done.

Before we get in to this week’s question though, if you don’t already know, I launched a new online course last week—Your Digital Life 2.0 Online. It’s a course designed to help you to build your very own productivity system and one that works for you. If you want to learn more about this course there is a link to the course details in the show notes. 

Okay, without further ado, let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Alan. Alan asks, every day I feel I am swamped with work and I feel I get a lot done. The trouble is when I look and see what I have done for the day, none of it is really important. Is there anything I can do that will help me to get more important work done? 

Hi Alan, thank you for your wonderful question. The situation you describe is very common. I too find the same thing happening from time to time and it can be very disheartening to get to the end of the day, feel exhausted and yet realise that you haven’t done anything important all day. You’ve spent the day fighting fires and have had no time to do any of that important fire preventing work. 

So what can you do to make sure you are doing the important work each day? Well the first thing to understand is you will always have to take care of the fires. The unimportant, but urgent work that gets thrown at us everyday. That’s just part of life and is never going to change. A couple of years ago I analysed the work I was doing in details and discovered that no matter how hard I tried, there was no way I could avoid the busy work. It’s there, it comes at us through email, meetings and other people’s requests. It just has to be done. What I discovered is that around 70% of my work was busy work. It still is. So for me I realised I needed to be very clear on how I would spend the other 30% of my work time. It’s the 30% for me that really matters each day.

These numbers are very close to the 80/20 principle. For work that means 20% of your work will bring 80% of your positive results. The other 80% of you work will have no real impact on your work. I would guess this is pretty much the same for everyone. So the big question is, what are you going to do with the 20%? 

The thing is, we do not have to spend all our working time doing the unimportant, but urgent work. If we take some time at the end of everyday and look at what we should be working on, the work that really matters and the work that will take us forward and grow us as individuals and select one or two tasks that will move us forward on those projects or goals each day, then each day you will have a focus. These tasks or goals do not have to be big, they can be little twenty minute tasks. Exercise is a good example. If you decided that no matter what, you were going to do at least twenty minutes exercise tomorrow, when you wake up in the morning, you will actively seek out those twenty minutes to make sure it happens. Likewise, if you know you need to work on the important report or essay, you can make sure you spend one or two hours on writing the report or essay. 

I’ve just launched a new online course and each morning, when I wake up, there are a lot of admin tasks that came in overnight associated with that course. Student questions, enrolment issues etc. Although I don’t consider these to be busy work tasks, answering student questions is a very important part of my work, they are tasks that were not on my to-to list for the day. Yet, no matter what, the two objectives I set for myself the evening before do not get changed. I might change other, less important tasks so I have time to deal with the course work, there is no way I will allow anything to get in the way of doing the two important tasks I set myself for the day. 

Setting those two important tasks is part of my Golden 10 evening schedule. This is where I take ten minutes at the end of the day to process my inboxes, review my calendar for the next day and set my objectives and focus for the next day. It only takes ten minutes, but it is one of the most important parts of the day for me. Without those ten minutes, I know my life would drift and I would be spending all my time doing the busy work tasks that come in on a day to day basis. 

Why just ten minutes? Well, I have found if I limit the time I have to make a decision about what I want to focus on tomorrow I choose the focus that means the most to me at that moment. Likewise with my two objectives. If I spend too long thinking about what I want to accomplish tomorrow I end up choosing things that sound nice, but do not have a very big impact on my life. When I restrict the time for thinking, the things that are most important to me right now come immediately to mind and I put them down on my list. And of course, everyone can find ten minutes at the end of the day to plan the next day. 

In order to get control of what you are working on, you do need to know what the important things are and what the unimportant is. For me, the important things are related to creating content. It is content that keeps me moving forward and it is content that I enjoy doing the most. I have never liked admin, but I know it does need doing. Like almost everyone else, I also get a lot of email each day, some of it I enjoy dealing with—student questions for example—other stuff I don’t enjoy dealing with—paying bills, sending attendance records and having to reschedule my English students’ classes. But this work still has to be done. For the stuff I do not enjoy doing, I have tried to automate as much as possible. Keeping track of student attendance records for example is done in the most automated way I can do it using my phone, calendar and Apple’s Numbers. 

I also restrict the time I spend on admin tasks. I allocate thirty minutes after my dinner to sit down at my computer and update all the day’s admin. If I left it all until it was required—usually the end of the month—it would take me hours of work. I can manage thirty minutes each day. I even clock watch it. I note the time I start and I calculate when I need to stop. That way my brain knows it’s on a deadline and the work always seems to get done in the time frame. 

The thing about all this unimportant, but necessary work is we will never be able to escape it. Whether you are a student, an office worker, doctor or construction worker, you will still get it. And, it is likely to take up the majority of the time you spend working. The key is to develop methods to deal with it, without you letting it interfere with the work that is important. 

One final part to making sure you are focused on the important work is to do a weekly review. This is where you sit down, usually on a weekend when there is little being thrown at you, and review all your open projects and make sure you are moving forward on your goals. When you do a weekly review it helps you to focus on what you want to work on, what you want to get completed the following week and make sure you are on track with your goals. A weekly review takes anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes to complete. I sit down at my desk, put on some relaxing music, have a nice cup of tea and go though my calendar, to-do list and make sure I have collected everything from my various inboxes and notebooks. It allows me quiet time to make sure I am doing the work that matters and that the busy work hasn’t overtaken my life. 

So there you go. That’s how you can make sure you are doing the important work and not getting tied up in unimportant busy work. Set yourself two objectives for the day the night before, make sure you have a focus for the day and accept that busy, unimportant work still needs to be done and just get it done. There will be days where you spend all day on busy work, that just the nature of things, but the important thing to do is to make sure that those days do not become the majority of days. 

Thank you very much for listen to this podcast. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on productivity, time management, GTD or goal planning, then please get in touch. All the various way to contact me are in the show notes.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 20 | How To Develop The Productivity Habit

This week, I answer a question about how to develop the habit of better productivity and time management

 


Links

Email me at carl@carlpullein.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook 

 

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More details on the Your Digitial Life 2.0 Online course can be found here:

 


Transcript

Podcast Episode 20

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting into the habit of using a productivity system.

Hello and welcome to episode 20 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a great question about getting into the habit of using a productivity system. I think this is a problem many people face when they make that initial decision to get themselves better organised and more productive. 

Before I get into the question, I want to let you all know that my Your Digital Life 2.0 online course has just launched. This course has taken four months to design and create and compliments the book I published late last year. If you have already bought the book you can enrol in this course for just $19.99. For everyone else, the course is at a super low price of $39.99. I’ve set the course at a low price because I want to help as many people as I can discover the benefits of building a time management and productivity system that works and can get set you up for a fantastic life. I’ll put a link to the course in the show notes. This is something that can really help you get super productive. 

Okay, now it time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Rebecca. Rebecca asks, Carl, I’ve watched most of your Todoist videos on YouTube and I’ve set up my Todoist like yours. The problem I have sticking to using it. I can go few days, but then work and other commitments get in the way and I end up not looking at Todoist for a few days. Is there anything I can do to get better at using Todoist?

Thank you, Rebecca, for this wonderful question. This really a question about developing habits. And when it comes to developing habits what you must do is to focus your attention on what it is you want to achieve. This is one of the reasons new years resolutions don’t work. People set too many resolutions and then have great difficulty focusing on the various habits or behaviours they want to change. Now sometimes it can work. Losing weight and exercising compliment each other for example. When you start a programme of exercise, the new healthy routine you set for yourself also focuses your attention on the food you are eating each day. But losing weight and spending more time with your friends do not compliment each other. What you would be best doing it focusing on one of those resolutions in the first quarter of the year and then in the second quarter (when spring comes for many of us) focusing on the other resolution. 

Now when it comes to developing a productivity system, there are quite a lot of parts to it. There is the habit of collecting everything, then organising what you collected into its rightful place and then, of course, there’s the doing. Doing the work that matters. My advice would be to focus your attention on the collecting first. If you’re not collecting then you are not getting the right stuff into your system and that results in you not having the right stuff to organise. So focus your attention on collecting. As you develop the habit of collecting all your stuff, you will be pushing yourself to organise all that collected stuff anyway. 

Focusing on collecting also enables you to learn the fastest ways to collect. You can experiment, you can try different apps. I use an app called Drafts to collect a lot of my stuff because it is so fast. I also have the IFTTT Note extension on my phone so I can also collect stuff quickly into Todoist from wherever I am on my phone or iPad. On Android phones, you have widgets, which can really speed up the process of collecting and on iOS you have the share sheet. All of these little pieces, when playing around with will teach you the fastest way to collect stuff into your system. To me, this is the fun part of creating your own system. 

Once you are in the habit of collecting, then you want to be developing the habit of the Golden 10. This is where you spend ten minutes at the end of the day organising everything you collected. At first, this is likely to take more than ten minutes because you will be slow. Again, what you are looking to do is to get faster at organising. Making sure that when you see something in your inbox you immediately ask the question: “What is it?” then moving it into its rightful place or dealing with it there and then if you have time. Now if you can focus your attention on collecting and organising at the same time, the doing part will obviously take care of itself. 

One great tip is to use your calendar. Many of us are programmed to only put appointments and events on our calendar and to leave to-dos and tasks on a to-do list. If you adopt a policy of ‘what’s on my calendar gets done’, then the first thing you look at in the morning is your calendar. What you can do is put the Golden 10 on your calendar as a set, recurring time every day. It is only ten-minutes and everybody should be able to find ten-minutes every day to do some reflecting and planning. 

I schedule all sorts of things on my calendar. Preparing this podcast is scheduled for every Tuesday morning. My blog post writing is scheduled for Monday mornings and recording and editing my YouTube videos are scheduled every Saturday afternoon. What’s on my calendar gets done and is non-negotiable no matter what I feel like doing at that time. Your calendar is a great way to develop positive habits. You can put things like your morning routine on there. If you are a part of Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club, you can schedule the 20/20/20 for 5 AM every morning. This is a great way to motivate yourself and is also a wonderful way to keep a record of what you have done. Exercise is another great addition to your calendar too. If it’s on your calendar, it gets done. There are no mind-negotiations about it. It’s on your calendar, you do it. 

That leads me to another key part of this. That is self-discipline. It is very easy to go to bed at night saying to yourself you will start tomorrow. The trouble is of course when tomorrow arrives, you might wake up late, rush into the shower, grab your coffee and rush to catch your bus. The twenty minutes you planned to review your calendar for the day is already forgotten about and the moment you walk into the office you are inundated with emails, meetings and other people’s urgent tasks. This is why you need self-discipline. You need to make sure that when those little urges, we all get them, to not write something down, or skip the Golden ten in the evening you can stop yourself and make sure you do collect the ideas, tasks and commitments and that you do get yourself up off the sofa to sit down with your Todoist and calendar open and organise everything you collected that day. 

And okay, if you do wake up late and miss your twenty-minutes planning and reflection time (if that is something you choose to do) cut your lunch-hour by twenty-minutes and use that time to do your planning and reflection. In my experience, if you miss a time like that, all is not lost you can always find the time later in the day. 

But the best way to get into the habit of using your productivity tools consistently is to start small and focus on developing the habits one step at a time. Start by getting into the habit of collecting first, then add the Golden Ten. Once you have those two parts tied down, you will soon find everything else falls into place. The doing should be happening naturally anyway. The key part is to make sure you are doing the work that matters and not wasting time on those little routines that don’t improve your life or take you closer to achieving your goals. That’s why the Golden Ten is there. To keep you focused on the important things in your life. 

So, if you are really struggling to get into the habit of being more productive, take advantage of the power of your calendar. Make it a strict policy that any that goes on your calendar gets done and make sure that your calendar is easily accessible on all your devices. As I prepare this podcast episode, the only thing open on my computer is my writing app. I don’t need anything else to prepare this podcast. My calendar told me that right now I should be preparing next week’s podcast and that is exactly what I am doing. My calendar also told that in twenty-minutes time I should be going outside for a run—yes I put my exercise schedule on my calendar too—and at 9:30pm I am scheduled to do my Golden Ten. What goes on my calendar, gets done. 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode of the Working With… Podcast. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, please get in touch either by email, or by DMing me on Twitter or Facebook. 

It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 19 | Tricks to Overcome Procrastination

This week, I answer a question about procrastination and offer some tips on beating it.


Transcript

Podcast Episode 19

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about overcoming the bad habit of procrastination.

Hello and welcome to episode 19 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about procrastination and how to stop yourself from procrastinating when there are important things that need doing. I think this is a problem many people face and I too, from time to time, fall into the procrastination trap. 

Before we get into the answer, I want to let you all know that my special offer for March will be ending soon. In fact, it ends on Sunday, so you have about one week left to take advantage of this incredible offer on one of my most popular online courses. My Complete Guide To Creating a Successful life currently has 50% off the normal price. Instead of being $95.00 you can get yourself enrolled for just $47.50. 

The complete Guide To Creating A Successful Life has been created to help you discover what you really want out of your life, what you want to achieve, what you want for you and your family and how you want to live your life. As the course title suggests, it is a complete guide and is 3 hours of videos, over 15 downloadable PDF Worksheets and help guides. This course will set you on the road to achieving what you want out of life.

Okay, now it is time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Anatoly who asks:

I have a bad habit of putting important things off and instead watching videos on YouTube or just watching TV for hours even though I know I have to finish some important work. Do you have any suggestions on how I can stop myself from doing this? 

Thank you do much for your question, Anatoly. This is a question I am sure many people would ask. How to stop procrastination from interfering with getting the important stuff done in your life. 

I believe not all procrastination is bad. We need procrastination to allow our creativity to flow and develop ideas, so we should not be trying to cut out procrastination completely. Often it is when we are lost in some form of procrastination that we come up with some amazing ideas or brilliant solutions to problems we are facing. What we need to be able to do is to prevent procrastination from stopping us from getting important work done when that work needs doing. How do we do that?

Well, as with all bad habits we first need to identify when we are doing it. What are we doing and where are we when we slip in to the bad form of procrastination. For example, do you find yourself procrastinating when you are trying to do work in your local coffee shop? What is happening here is your environment is telling your brain that this place is a good place to procrastinate. If that is the case, what you should do is find another coffee shop and only do important work in that coffee shop. Your local coffee shop can be used for browsing YouTube, chatting with friends online and reading magazines. The second coffee shop is for work only and you only ever go there to do focussed work. This is a trick I use all the time. I move around Seoul pretty much every day and I have a number of select coffee shops I use for only doing focussed work. I also have a few coffee shops around the city for what I call “creative play” I use these when I am brainstorming ideas or just want to do some non-essential research or reply to messages. 

The coffee shops I use for doing focussed work are places that the moment I walk in I go into a focussed state and I can lose myself completely in the work I have to do. My phone is on do not disturb and all I have on the table is the work I am working on. It’s a simple, yet very effective way of preventing negative procrastination from creeping in. 

Another trick, and somewhat related to the previous one, is your normal work environment. I do a lot of my work from home and my desk is where I write and plan out my videos and courses. My desk is incredibly minimal. I do not have anything on my desk except for things that are essential. Computer, lamp, water bottle and my journal. There is nothing else. This means there is nothing around to distract me and cause me to procrastinate. Once again, I do not have notifications turned on, so there are no popup windows distracting me. It means I can just sit down and focus on my work. The same can apply at your office, if you find you procrastinate when sat at your desk, then look around you environment. If there are a lot of distractions, files, books, phones, tablets and so on, remove them from your desk. Only have the essential items on there. Don’t allow anything to come between you and your work. 

Still on your working environment, I find music is a good way to stop me from procrastinating. If I am at play, or doing something that is not important I listen to 80s/90s pop music or uplifting dance tunes from the music festivals I have been to. This music brings back wonderful memories for me and it’s just great fun to listen to. 

However, when I want to do some focused work, I change the music. I listen to music from Cafe Del Mar or the Anjunadeep podcast which is all slow, deep, electronic music. This music is incredibly relaxing and does wonders for my focus. (a link to a Cafe Del Mar Apple Music playlist and the Anjunadeep podcast is in the show notes)

The scientific side to this music idea is when your brain recognises a type of music it knows you want to focus. Of course, this is not going to happen overnight. You need to train your brain to understand that slow, deep electronic music means focused deep work. You can also do this with the lighting. Change the lighting in your workspace when you want to do focused work. For example, if you want to get some focused work done, turn on your lamp. This way you are subconsciously telling your brain it’s time to focus. All other times, when you are watching videos on YouTube or in Facebook, turn it off. 

Other ways to beat procrastination are to use your calendar to assign times to do focused work. Lets say between 10 and 11:30am you rarely have any meetings or lectures. Then schedule focussed work for these times. What you need to do is be specific about the work you want to do. For example, if you have an important presentation to prepare, you write in your calendar “Work on next week’s presentation” for 10 to 11:30am on the specific day. Then on that day, when you see you calendar you see “work on next week’s presentation” and you subconsciously tell your brain it’s time to do focused work. This might seem a bit simple, but it really does work.

Part of the reason we procrastinate is because we are not being specific about what we want to do. If you are not specific, you are giving your brain an excuse to procrastinate. You need to be very specific about what it is you want to accomplish. If you write something on your to-do list or calendar like “do some work” I can guarantee you will procrastinate. “Do some work” is not specific. What work? That’s the question your brain asks and then it goes off into all sorts of different places and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour. Be specific. 

Last week, I did a video on the Golden Ten minutes, a practice you should follow every evening before you finish. I’ll put a link to this video in the show notes. What the Golden Ten minutes does is prepares you for the next day so you can get the important work done. It keeps you in control of your projects and deadlines and allows you to plan what you will do for the day. This means you are being very specific about what you want to accomplish and does not give your brain any chance to procrastinate. It’s very powerful and it only takes ten minutes. If you really struggle with procrastination, then I strongly suggest you start making the Golden ten minutes a part of your everyday routine. 

Bad procrastination is caused because you are being unclear about what you intend to do. To overcome procrastination all you need to do is to become more specific about what your intention is. So if you have a piece of work that needs completing by Friday, then schedule the time to sit down in a place that focuses your brain on work and make sure you are specific about the outcome you want for that period of time. Repeat this process and you will soon be training your brain to focus on the work that needs doing and not cute puppies on YouTube or your Facebook newsfeed. There are times for YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, but when you have important work that needs doing, then that’s not the time. 

And don’t forget to create a specific work environment. This simple trick does work and is very easy to implement. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. If you have a question you would like answering about productivity, time management or goal planning, then please email me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 18 | Remote Working With Liam Martin

In this weeks episode, I enlist the help of Liam Martin of Time Doctor, a business devoted to helping companies expand their remote working structures. 

This week, Liam answers a question from Michelle in the UK who asks a question about managing her work/life balance while working with clients and colleagues on two different sides of the world. 

 

Links

Time Doctor

Running Remote Conference 2018

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 17 | How To Build Your Self-Discipline

This week, I answer a question about self-discipline and how to build better and stronger self-discipline so you can get the important things done. 

 

 Links:

You Can Contact me via

Email - carl@carlpullein.com

Facebook

Twitter

Website

 


Transcript

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about becoming more self-disciplined.

Hello and welcome to episode 17 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I am answering a question about self-discipline, or rather how to become more self-disciplined, something that is surprisingly easy to do as long as you begin with small steps. 

But before we get in to that, I just wanted to let you know that this month’s online course special offer is my Complete Guide To Creating a Successful Life. This is one of my most comprehensive courses and is designed to take you on a voyage of self-discovery and evaluation. By the end of the course you will have a complete, easy to follow plan to create a life you want that focuses on your happiness, goals and learning. Don’t miss this chance to get 50% off this fantastic course. The links are in the show notes, so go on and get yourself enrolled. 

Okay, time for this week’s question. So let me now hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Jessica in Canada. Jessica asks:

I really struggle sticking to my plan for the day. I spend time at the end of a day planning what I want to do the next day and go to bed with all the best intentions. But when I wake up, I don’t have the motivation. Is there anything I can do to improve my self-discipline? 

Okay, thank you so much for this question, Jessica. I know so many people really struggle with self-discipline and I myself also struggle with it from time to time. 

Let me begin by telling you a true story that happened to me last year. Last year I decided it was going to be the most productive year I have ever had. I wanted to get two books and six online courses published. I also wanted to put out a minimum of three YouTube videos each week. It was a big ask, but I was determined to get it done. And I did do it. 

Unfortunately, one of my core values suffered. I love keeping fit and exercising. I hate it when I gain a few kilograms. But as I was always doing something to create content, I let my exercise regime slide and I gained around 5 kilos. (that’s around 11 pounds for you non-metric people). So I ended the year having achieved one goal, but in achieving that goal, I let one of my core values slip and so the celebration of hitting a goal was diminished by the excess weight I had gained. 

When I started 2018, I made it a goal to lose those 5 kilos and get myself fit again. Well, things did not start off very well. I found myself making excuses. First there was jet-lag, so I would start exercising properly again next week. Then I caught a cold, so I delayed starting my exercise programme until the following week. Then I had a busy week and so on and so on. You get the picture. There was always an excuse. And I always told myself I would restart next week. 

Well, as I am sure many of you know, “next week” never actually happens. It wasn’t until the middle of February that I realised what I was doing— I knew what I was doing before really, but I always had an excuse—and said to myself I have got to stop making excuses and get my exercise regime started. 

So, I made a plan. Every day, I would do 4 sets of planks and press-ups—no excuses— and 5 days a week I would do a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise each day. The planks and press-ups would not take longer than 10-15 minutes and I knew I could always find that time each day. And by exercising for minimum of 20 minutes five days a week, would allow enough flexibility to have busy days. 

Well, almost three weeks in, and I have now lost 3 kilos, and have stuck to the plan. 

To make this happen has taken a lot of self-discipline. It was my lack of self-discipline at the beginning of the year that allowed me to make excuses for six weeks. It was when I saw what I was doing, and I have to admit it was my journal that was telling me, that I was making excuses, that I stopped myself. 

But the thing is I did not go crazy. Self-discipline is like a muscle. If you try and do too much too soon you will fail. You will give up and your pride and self-worth gets a battering. Instead I made sure that the programme I developed was easily achievable. All I had to do was make sure I did something for at least ten to fifteen minutes per day and that would soon create a chain reaction. And that is what has happened. Every morning now, when I wake up, I make sure that I have fitted in my exercise for the day so I know when I need to start. 

To build self-discipline, you need to start small. Let’s say you want to lose 5 kilos, as I did. Then you first need to decide how you will do that. Are you going to diet, exercise or a combination of both? Once you have decided how you are going to do it, you need to start small. For example, you could decide that you will cut the number of teaspoons of sugar you put in your tea and coffee from 2 to a ½. That could be what you do in the first week. Then for the next week, you can do twenty minutes exercise every day. Now that could be walking for twenty minutes, or doing 20 minutes of Yoga in the evening. The important thing is you do not try and do too much and overwhelm yourself. Start small and train your self-discipline muscle. 

As your self-discipline develops, you will find it harder and harder not to do what you are trying to become more disciplined at. 

Take for example Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club. This is something that Robin Sharma, the leadership coach teaches. That is to wake up at 5 AM every morning and do the 20/20/20—that’s 20 minutes exercise, twenty minutes planning and twenty minutes studying. 

Now for most of us not accustomed to waking up at such an unearthly hour of the day, starting something like this is going to be a huge shift in our daily lives. My guess is if we tried it, most of us would fall off the wagon before we get to Wednesday. I would further guess, a lot of us probably wouldn’t be able to do it on the first day! 

However, let’s say we built up to it. Instead of waking up at 5 AM in the first week, we focused on doing the 20/20/20 rule first. So if we normally wake up at 7:30AM and need to leave the house at 8:30AM. Then why not start off by waking up at 7AM and doing the 20/20/20. We would still have time to have a shower and something to eat before 8:30AM. 

Once we have developed the habit of doing the 20/20/20 system, and we feel uncomfortable NOT doing it, then we can start getting up a little earlier each week. If you woke up 30 minutes earlier each week, you would soon find yourself waking up at 5 AM. 

During the period of transition, you would be training your self-discipline and you would be becoming stronger and stronger. 

The thing about self-discipline is it grows your confidence. When you start becoming more self-disciplined in one area of your life, you can apply it to other areas of your life. It becomes easier and easier. 

Self-discipline is really the ability to form habits. And positive habits at that. A habit is something you just do without thinking. If at the moment you are a bit of a couch potato, then the thought of getting up off the couch and going for a walk for an hour be unthinkable. But, if you were in the habit of going out for a walk every evening for a walk, the thought of spending the evening sat on the couch, would be unthinkable. The great thing about habits, is we get to chose our own and we can change old habits. 

The first step, is always to just start doing what you want to do. Take each day as it comes and make a conscious effort make it happen. Don’t try and change too much. Focus on one thing at a time. We all have far more time than we think, and if it takes three to four months to develop the habit, then focus on that one change you want to make for those three to four months. Only after you begin doing your new, more positive habit, without thinking should you move on to developing the next thing you want to develop. 

Waking up in the morning with your plan in place means waking up, focussed on the one thing you want to get done that day. Once you have done that, move on to the next thing on your list. The key is to do these in small steps, develop the habit, and then move on to the next thing. Slowly, but surely your self-discipline will develop and pretty soon you will be able to achieve things you never dreamt possible.

I will end this episode with one of my favourite Jim Rohn quotes:

“Success is a few small disciplines practiced everyday. Failure, is a few errors in judgement repeated every day.” 

The meaning, is do the things that will improve your life with discipline everyday. And don’t repeat the mistake of not doing them. 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode. If you have a question you would like answering, please get in touch either by email (carl@carlpullein.com) or message me via Twitter or Facebook.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 16 | What To Do When Your Company Won't Allow You To Use 3rd Party Apps

This week, I answer a question many people have concerning what to do when your company does not allow you to use your own productivity apps. 

Don't forget, if you have a question, you can contact me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook 



Transcript

In this week’s episode of the working with podcast, I answer a question about integrating a personal productivity system in to a work environment that restricts app usage. 

Hello and welcome to episode 16 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week’s question is on a topic I know many people encounter in their working lives where their company’s IT policy restricts the usage of personal apps in the working environment. I know this can cause a lot of frustration for us productive, organised types. 

Before I get in to answering the question, I would just like to say if anyone is interested in learning more about productivity, time management and goal planning, Skillshare, the online course provider, has given me a unique link that allows anyone using it to sign up for their premium membership for FREE for 2 months. All you have to do is click on the link in the show notes and follow the instructions. Most of my productivity and time management courses are there as well as my latest English Email Mastery course which I launched a couple of weeks ago. So, go ahead and sign up, it’s completely FREE for 2 months and the education you could get in two months would be priceless. 

Okay, let me now hand you over the the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Adam. Adam asks: how do you integrate a productivity system into work environments that limit certain apps. 

This is one of the more frustrating parts of living in a modern tech orientated society. I know a lot of companies are fearful of being hacked or have their product secrets stolen, so their IT departments impose very strict rules on what can and cannot be used in the office. Personally, I think as time goes by, this will become less of an issue as more and more companies adopt more flexibly working practices. 

But how do with handle this today? Well the first thing to understand is you cannot change the rules, well, I guess most of you can’t, so we have to work within the rules. Now I know all companies have different rules, but the basics would apply whichever type of company you are working for. 

Let’s assume your company operates on a Microsoft Office platform, so the only apps allowed to get work done are the Microsoft suite of apps. This however, does allow us access to some fantastic apps. Two of which are particularly excellent, OneNote and OneDrive. If you have a personal Microsoft account, and a work account, although you may not be able to merge the two together you are at least able to use two of the best productivity apps out there. 

Now, most of the companies do allow you access to their files through their own signing in protocols and VPN (that’s Virtual Private Network internet access) so, at least you can have access to your work when you are off site. What I would suggest in these situations is you use your company’s computer for your work related files and notes and if you need access to your personal files, access those through the online versions. Evernote, OneNote, Todoist and many other productivity apps have web versions of their apps, so this should not be problem. 

However, I do know that some companies restrict the websites you can access too. In these situations, the only thing you can do is use your personal phone or tablet computer to access your personal files. 

The thing is, if you are using an app like Todoist, Asana, Trello or Things 3, you do still have access to these on your personal devices. If you are not allowed to access their websites, then you can still add tasks via your personal devices. This is not that much different from the way I work, When I am with a student or client and I have a list of things to do for that student or client after the meeting, I will transfer those tasks from my notebook (yes, I do still use a paper-based notebook when I am with clients) into my Todoist’s inbox. I would then process those tasks later in the day. 

There is another thing you can do that works beautifully, and that is to print out your tasks list the night before. When you have your task list printed out on a piece of paper, you can cross off the tasks as you do them, and you can add tasks that need adding to your to-list manager with a pen. Then, when you get home you can transfer those tasks into your to-do list manager when you do your daily mini-review. One of the professors I work with, prints out his calendar every week, and as he goes through the week he adds tasks and appointments by pen to the piece of paper. He’s been doing this for years and he’s one of the most productive guys I ever met. 

Your work calendar can be used to block time out for focused work, and you can see an overview of what meetings and appointments you have from that calendar. I would assume your work calendar can be shared to your main calendar as there is little or no secret information stored in there. If there is and you cannot share your work calendar with your personal calendar, then just block work time out on your personal calendar. 

In these situations, I would also recommend you do a daily mini-review while you are at work. That way you have access to both your work related tasks and your personal tasks. This means when you finish work for the day, you have everything planned for the next day while you had access to all the information you may need. 

Reference notes for your work projects can be stored in your company’s OneDrive folder or whatever system they use. Quite often when I am collaborating with a client who uses Google Docs, for example, I keep notes related to that collaboration project on Google Docs. That way when I am working on that project, I can access my notes directly from Chrome. Likewise if I have a client who is in the Microsoft ecosystem, I would keep my notes related to that project in my OneNote. If I have no such restrictions I still prefer to keep everything in Evernote, but from time to time that is not always possible. 

The thing is, personal productivity is all about the framework you have in place. It is not about the apps. The apps are irrelevant really. A good productivity system can be utilised on any platform with any device. Your to-dos are on your to-do list, which could very easily be a simple piece of paper, your events and appointments are on your calendar, your notes are kept in a notes app, or if that is not possible, a simple Word or Google document would work. In fact, when I think about it, Microsoft Excel could be turned into a fantastic to-do list manager if you really thought about it. 

What you need to make sure of is that when you need a file, or need to know what to work on next you can quickly access that information when you need it. Having a to-do list manager that is not permitted on your work computer is fine, you can use your mobile devices and you personal computer (if you have one) to do your processing and reviews. Notes can be a little more difficult, but most Operating systems now come with a built in notes app. On a Mac you get Notes, on Windows you get OneNote for example. For work related reference materials you can always use these build in apps. 

I run two companies, my productivity business and my language consultancy. Both companies have their own email domain which run through Google Business. With that package I get the full Google suit of office apps. I keep my language consultancy business’s work in it’s Google Drive. Because I know any document relating to that business will only ever be in Google Drive, it is very easy for me to locate the file I need, when I need it. For my productivity business, I use iCloud. So I am using two different platforms, but have no problems because there are clear, hard edges between the two businesses. The same goes for companies where their IT policy does not allow you to use third party apps. You just have to use whatever you are permitted to use and make sure YOUR filing system is followed. 

I as I say, these difficulties will disappear soon. Companies will have to change if they are going to become more flexible with their employees. And even if the companies don’t change, employees will demand it. Having a good, strong framework as your productivity system, allows you to be able to operate in any kind of environment. My Todoist has plenty of tasks like “continue developing online course”. As soon as I see that task, I know I need to open up Numbers on my Mac and continue planning. I know where the file is because it is related to my productivity business. If I had a task that said “continue developing communication lecture for AB Company” then I know the Keynote file is in my communications company’s Google Drive in the folder “AB Company Lecture”. And that’s what you need to create when your company is very restrictive with what you use. 

Hopefully, that has helped those of you listening that have to deal with strict company IT policies. 

Thank you very much for listening, don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast, please drop me a line at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. Or you could write your question on a postcard and mail it to… Hahaha I’ve always wanted to say that. 

It just remains for me to wish you all a very very, productive week.

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 15 | My Top 5 Time Management & Productivity Tips

In this week's episode, I share with you my top 5 tips on becoming better at time management and productivity. 

 

Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

 


Transcript

The Working With Podcast 15

In this week’s episode of the working with podcast, I share with you my top five tips on becoming better at time management and productivity. 

Hello and welcome to episode 15 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, rather than answering a question, I want to share with you my top five tips on better time management and greater productivity. 

I decided to do this because on a recent trawl through Twitter I discovered there are a lot of people who are struggling with managing their time and feel incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do. 

Before we do get started though, I would like to ask if you have any questions about time management, productivity, goal planning or self-development, please drop me a line either via email, carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Okay, time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question...

Okay, Carl, so you say you know a lot about time management and productivity, what are your top 5 tips for better time management and productivity?

Okay, so none of these tips involves a deep knowledge or understanding of the science or reasoning behind them. They are just common sense tricks that have been proven to work time and time again no matter what personality type you are. 

So here goes with tip number 1:

Spend 10 mins planning your big three tasks for the day evening before. 

Now there is a lot written about this and I’ve seen a lot of debates about whether this is best done in the morning or evening. I have tried both methods and have found that doing a 10 minute planning session the night before helps me to get a better night’s sleep and I can start the morning by getting straight in to my work. 

The thing about planning what three things you WILL do today is no matter how much work you have to do, every day you are moving forward on the important things. With no plan, we often do the things that have the least resistance—you know the easiest task to do. But if we make a definite plan, either written down or as part of a list on your phone or computer, you are much more likely to do it. If that list is small, or it does not have more than 3 things on it, you are always likely to focus on it and get it done. 

I call these “today’s Objectives” and they are the only things on my “today’s Objectives” list. It’s the first list I open in a morning when I sit down to work and I try to keep the list to only two things. Sometimes, I will have three, but I never let it have more than three things. I’ve found through experience, that three things is the maximum I can do without feeling overwhelmed. 

Tip Number 2

Schedule a minimum of 2 x 90 mins sessions of focused work each day.It’s impossible to stay focused on your work for more than 2 hours. Your brain cannot focus for that length of time. The amount of time one an focus is an individual thing, I can focus on one thing for around 50 minutes, I know other people who can focus for longer or less. What I have found is if you allow yourself two 90 minute segments in your day split by taking some time off, you can get 3 hours of focused work done each day. 3 hours in long enough to make an impact on any project. If you do this 5 days a week, you are doing 15 hours of focused work each week. You can achieve a lot in that time. 

Doing things this way also allows you to do other, non-work related things without feeling guilty about what you have not done. I find this allows me to get my project work done and allow time to exercise and take my dog for a long walk and still get a lot of work done. 

Tip 3

Use your calendar 

Schedule your social time and your work time on your calendar. If you use the 2 ninety minute segments I mentioned, then depending on whether you are a morning person or a night person, you could schedule 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. That frees up your evenings and lunch times to do other stuff. Check your social media, go for a beer or three with your friends or just spend some time with your family. 

I’ve found if you schedule time on your calendar you are much more likely to do whatever is on there. Now this does not mean you should fill every time slot on your calendar with something. What it means is you put on your calendar only the things you intend to do that day. If you are a college student, that means you schedule your classes and study time in your calendar, and if you plan to meet up with your friends on Thursday evening, then, of course, you put that into your calendar. 

My rule is if it has to be done on a specific day it goes on my calendar. If it’s something I would like to do that day, it stays on my to-do list manager. 

Tip 4

Do a weekly review.

Now this doesn’t have to be deep, a deep weekly review is advisable, but if you are just starting out on getting better at time management then just review what needs to be done next week and what you have done this week. All you need to know is what needs doing next week and schedule these on your calendar for next week. If you have a project deadline coming up next week or you have an important seminar you are attending, then make sure anything you need to do for those events are scheduled either in your to-do list manager or calendar. 

A lot of stress is caused because people are vaguely aware something needs doing, but they not aware of exactly how much needs doing. Usually, if you review the week ahead and see what needs doing you realise not as much work needs doing as you think. This can be a huge stress relief. The stress is caused by not knowing what needs doing. 

A review means you take some time, maybe twenty to thirty minutes on a Friday afternoon, or better yet, a Sunday afternoon to go through all the projects, tasks and things you have to do, and deciding which ones you will do next week so you can end the week knowing you are on top of everything. When you get in to the habit of the weekly review, the amount of important work you get done is huge!

And tip number 5

Keep one notebook or a digital tool for collecting your commitments, ideas and notes. 

Carry it with you everywhere you go. I learnt this from David Allen and his legendary note-taker wallet. I once had lunch with David, and during our lunch, he never once pulled out his phone, but he did pull out his note-taker wallet and wrote down the name of the wine we had— it was a very nice red. 

The problem we have is our brain is not good at remembering ideas. Our brains are great at recognising patterns but terrible at remembering dates, ideas, and names. We can instantly recognise where we are based on the shapes, smells and sounds around us. If we wake up from a long sleep in the middle of the forest, our brains will instantly recognise from the patterns of smells, colours, shapes and sounds we are in the middle of the forest. But try and remember the name of the president’s PA we met briefly last week, and we will struggle. 

When you carry around a notebook, either a digital one in your phone or a small paper one you keep in your bag, you can write down all your ideas, commitments and important information. 

I used to have a bad habit of not writing down when a student told me they were unable to meet the following week because of a business trip or some such thing. I then forgot to remove the class from my calendar and when the following week came round I would send out the reminder and be told by the student they had already informed me they were not able to meet that week. Now I make sure I write it down. 

And that’s it. My top five ways to get yourself better at time management. Really it comes down to being aware of what needs doing and when things are due. Time management is about using your twenty-four hours in the right place so you achieve the right results. After all, we all have the same amount of time each day. It’s what we do with those hours that really defines whether we will be successful or stressed out not achieving very much. 

So to sum up:

Spend 10 minutes each evening planning what you want to get done the next day and write it down. Do not have more than 3 things on that list.

Schedule two 90 minute intervals on your calendar each day and make sure you do focused, undistracted work in that time. (okay, maybe you don’t need to do this on weekends)

Use your calendar for the things that absolutely much be done on a specific day. Schedule time to make sure they happen and do it. Your calendar is sacred.

Do a weekly review each week. Look to see what is coming up over the next few weeks and what deadlines you have the following week and make sure you schedule time on your calendar to do it. 

And finally, carry a little notebook or digital notebook with you everywhere you go to capture your ideas, commitments and events. Remember, your brain is terrible at remembering these things and when you do your weekly review, make sure you look through your notebook for anything you may have missed. 

Good luck, and if you want to learn more about what I can do to help you either through my mentoring programme, online courses or just through my blog or YouTube channel, then you can find all the details on my website, carlpullein.com.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 14 | The Difference Between a Next Action and a Single Action


Transcript

In this week’s episode of The Working With Podcast, I answer a question about the difference between single actions and next actions in my organisation system.

Hello and welcome to episode 14 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. 

This week I have a question about the difference between single actions and next actions in my productivity system. A very good question indeed and one that can cause people starting out on the Getting Things Done journey a lot of confusion. 

Before we get into the answer to that question, I would like to ask anyone listening that if they have any particular problems with their productivity/time management system if they could contact me. I want to put together a series, either on YouTube or in an online course that will address the most common problems of getting yourself more organised and better with time management. You can email me, carl@carlpullein.com, DM me on Twitter or Facebook. All the details are in the show notes.

Okay, let's get into this week’s question, so it is now time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question is from Maurice. Maurice asks:

Carl, I purchased your book on Todoist — thank you so much for a wealth of information — Could you tell me why you use the single actions and next actions. Thank you.

Another great question, Maurice. Thank you.

Okay, let’s start with the easiest one of the two. The next actions. Next actions are the very next steps you need to take on an individual project. For example, if you are planning your summer holiday, then the very next action could be to decide when you will take your summer holiday, or where you want to go. These decisions may involve your spouse, partner or friends, so the next action would be to discuss with your spouse, partner or friends about where you want to go. This task will be held in your “Summer Holiday” project in your projects list. Once you have decided where you want to go, the next action would probably be something like “decide when to take summer holiday” 

So, next actions are the steps or tasks you need to take to complete a project. 

Single actions, on the other hand, are quite different. Single actions are for tasks that have no project. This could be something as simple as “send copy of interesting article to Beth” This task is a simple, one-off task that does not belong to a project but is something that you don’t have time to do right now. The “interesting article” you want to send to Beth may be an article you need to find first, which may take you longer than two minutes. 

Now, that sort of brings me on to the two-minute rule. The two-minute rule is a rule that says if a task will take you less than two minutes to do, then do it now. The idea is it will take you more time to process it, than to do it, so you may as well do it right now. Now, the two-minute rule is very flexible. If you have plenty of time, then you may extend the time to any task that requires five minutes or less, or alternatively, if you are pushed for time, you may try and complete tasks that require only one minute to do. 

In my own experience, adopting the two-minute rule when I process helps to keep my single actions lists short. These lists can very easily end up becoming an overwhelming list of things you need to do because the list becomes a dumping ground for tasks you are not quite sure how to complete. When I have seen some of these lists from my clients, I often find that a lot of these single actions are actually projects disguised as single actions. Before making the decision about whether a task is a single action or not, make sure it is not a project. 

For example, “Call Jim and Jenny about mother’s birthday”, may actually be a project of “Organise birthday party For mother”. Or “set up meeting with Sarah and Steve” may really be a project called “this month’s marketing meeting”. My advice has always been to think through these tasks to make sure they are not part of a bigger project before you assign them to your single actions list. 

Going back to the next actions, these tasks do relate to a specific project and can be handled in a few different ways. Sometimes, when I want to spend a whole morning or afternoon working on a single project, I will have my to-do list manager open at that project’s view. This helps me to focus on what needs doing. For example, I could be creating a presentation for a client and so, rather than looking at my “today list”, I work directly from the project’s list. Other times, I just make sure that there is a task from the project coming up every day in my regular daily task list. 

In Getting Things Done, David Allen emphasises that it is important to have identified the very next action in all your open projects. Now, these do not have to have a date attached to them, all that needs doing is that a next action or task is inside each project and that it has the correct context, or label, attached to it. Obviously, if a project does not have any next actions, then essentially the project is dead or complete because there is nothing to do with it. 

Going back to the birthday party for your mother. Organising that is a project. So anything related to that project is a next action. The question is, what is the VERY next action. For example, if you have a list of tasks such as:

  • Call Jim and Jenny about venue for mother’s party
  • Find a caterer for mother’s party
  • Decide on venue for mother’s party
  • Write a list of people to invite
  • Decide on the date for party

The question you have to answer is what is the very next action? It could be, decide on date for mother’s party. But, when you sit down to think about that, you may realise that you need to talk to Jim and Jenny about that first. Now you have another task, another next action. If the project cannot move forward without talking to Jim and Jenny, then the very next action for that project, would be “talk to Jim and Jenny about date for party” As you have an action about talking to Jim and Jenny about the venue for the party, you may put the task of talk to Jim and Jenny about venue as the next action after the date and so on. 

So, as you can see, there is quite a big difference between next actions and single actions. 

How you organise your system is really up to you. Your system has to work for you. But fundamentals like next actions and single actions are something that you need to be aware of at any one time. This is why the weekly review is so important to have a workable GTD system. If you are not reviewing your projects weekly, things are going to slip and you are going to miss important deadlines and stress will start pouring into your life. Your weekly review is where you can sit down and get a much bigger idea of what is going on in your life and what you need to do next to make sure you are meeting your project deadlines and hitting your goals. 

I always see my weekly review as a time each week where I can jump off life’s merry-go-round and get a good view of where my life is going, what commitments I have and what I need to do next to make sure I am hitting my goals. My weekly review is also where I can make sure that every project I have has at least one next action and that any of my single actions are not projects in disguise. 

Hopefully, Maurice, that has answered your question. The thing to remember is a next action is project specific. Next actions are the very next steps you need to take to move a project forward towards completion. 

A single action is something that does not require multiple steps—rather a single step— to complete a commitment. Single actions are not projects. They are what they say they are. Single step projects if you like. All you need is to do one thing and the project is complete. Something like “pick up dog food on the way home”.

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, just send me an email or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be very happy to answer it for you. All my contact details will be in the show notes.

It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week.

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 13 | Explaining Getting Things Done



Transcript

In this week’s episode of The Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing a pure Getting Things Done system.

Hello and welcome to episode 13 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. 

In this week’s episode, I answer a question about managing a pure GTD system (that’s Getting Things Done by David Allen) when you don’t use dates as reminders to do your tasks.

Now, I should tell you the truth, when I first began using the GTD system, this was one of the hardest things for me to get my head around. I, like most people, had grown up using due dates to remind me to do things. The GTD methodology takes that away and focuses on contexts to tell you what work to get done. 

Anyway, before I answer the question, let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from YouTube user Gilco. Gilco asks: 

Without any scheduled dates how can one get things really done and don't lose the overview of all the things that have to be done? In the end, I have a great bunch of lists with many many points to go through and schedule. 

How can I then be reassured that I will not forget any point that has a specific due date...?

Okay, let's start with the basic idea behind GTD. GTD works on the idea that in order for you to complete a task, you are going to need a tool—a phone, a computer or a machine, a place— your office your home or the local hardware store, or a person—your boss, partner or a friend etc. No matter how urgent or how much you must complete that task today, if you do not have the right tool, are in the right place or with the right person you cannot do the task. 

A good example is if you need to reply to an email today, but you are on a 14-hour flight to Asia, and there is no internet available on the plane, no matter how urgent your reply is, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You could, of course, write the email and save it in your outbox ready for when you next have an internet connection, but the bottom line is for the next 14 hours, there is nothing you can do about sending the mail. You are not in the right place (a place with internet access) 

With GTD, when you sit down to do some work, you open the lists that you can complete tasks from. For example, I have a list in Todoist I call my “office list” that shows all the things I need to do on my computer or phone. That is because when I am in my home office I have my phone and my computer right in front of me. Those are the tasks I can do right now, so that is the only list that matters. My list of things I need to talk to my wife about is not relevant. She is not there, so I cannot talk to her. 

Of course, if my wife comes home, I can quickly check that list to see if there is anything I need to talk to her about that needs talking about today. 

the same way if I take a call from my colleague. I can bring up the list for my colleague and check to see if there is anything I need to talk to her about. Once I have talked to her about everything that needs talking about I can check those tasks off. 

Now imagine if I go out in the car and I pass the hardware store. I can pull over and check to see what is on my hardware store list. If there is anything I need, I can go into the store and purchase it. While I am sat in my office doing work, there is no point in looking at my hardware store list because I am not there. If I know I will be going past the store later that day, then, of course, I can take a look to see if I need to call in when I pass. 

Okay, so hopefully that explains the basic idea behind GTD. 

Now, what about things that absolutely must be done today. These would be put on your calendar. Your calendar is your radar that tells you what needs to happen on specific days. Most of us are already using our calendar for date specific appointments, well for GTD users, also included on our calendars are all the tasks that must be done on a specific day. For example, if you need to send that email today, and you are flying out to Asia in the afternoon, you would put “send email to Sarah before flying to Asia” on your calendar. You do not necessarily have to allocate it a time, but as it MUST go today before you fly, then it would be on your calendar. 

If you need to finish a poster design for approval by Friday afternoon, then you would use your calendar to allocate a day when you would finish the design. Again, the choice is yours whether you allocate a time to do this or not. The important thing is that it is on your calendar on the day you need to do it. 

For example, I need to write my weekly blog post on Monday morning. This allows me time to write, and edit the post before it gets published on Wednesday. I actually allocate Monday morning 8:30am to 10:30am to write the post. If I am on fire and get the draft written by 9:30am, then I would open my calendar and see what else needs doing that day. If there is nothing else allocated, I would then open my @office list and begin working my way down that list until I have to leave to teach my class at lunchtime. 

So the morning workflow would be - open calendar check what needs doing today, once those tasks are completed, I then move over to my @office list and begin working my way down that list. 

If my context changes, from @office to @coffee shop, for example, which it sometimes does in the afternoons, then I open my @mobile list and continue working my way down that list. My @mobile list includes all the tasks I can complete using my phone or iPad. 

Over the years my workflow has changed a little. I find I prepare better if I check my calendar the night before. This way I am ready to get started on whatever work needs doing the moment I have my coffee made. When you check your calendar doesn’t really matter. Just go with whatever way works best for you. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, when you move from being date orientated to being context orientated productivity it can be difficult at first. But the beauty of the GTD system is in its simplicity and it’s logical workflow. 

Now, what about knowing what needs to be done and when. Well, this where the weekly review pulls it all together. When you do the weekly review you go through all your current projects task by task and make sure they are still relevant. Anything that needs to be done on a specific day, is moved on to your calendar and the rest stays on your to-do list— making sure you have the right context assigned to it. 

During particularly busy periods, you may find you have to do a weekly review more often, I have done mini-weekly reviews two or three times in a week in the past because I knew I had a lot of deadlines coming up all at once. 

When you go all in with GTD you soon find that the weekly review is essential if you want your system to work seamlessly. 

Is GTD all that it is cracked up to be? I would say an emphatic YES! After switching and enduring the growing pains related to moving from being date orientated to context orientated my productivity sky-rocketed. I very rarely miss any deadlines and often find I have completed a project well within the time frame given to me. My stress levels reduced dramatically because I was always getting the important things done first and then making a dent on all the other work that needed doing. I never had to think about what to do next, because just looking at the right list told me. Those decisions were made when I did my weekly review. 

The feeling of control and freedom GTD gave me, meant I could take more time off to sit back simply enjoy life again. Something I found difficult to do when I was date orientated. 

As I got better at GTD I did modify the system a little. I like to separate out my routine tasks from my project tasks. to me, routines just have to be done and do not take my life any further forward. It is project tasks that improve my life and improve me as a person. So I want to be more focused on these. That little modification really got me focused on the important things in my life and boosted my productivity even further. 

So there you have it. That’s how GTD works and how it can really transform your productivity. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you read the book. The book will give you everything you need to set up your own GTD system. I will put a link to the English version in the show notes for this episode. 

For you Todoist users, I also have a mini-series of videos showing you how to set up a GTD system in Todoist and I also have a video showing an alternative way to set up GTD that I recently discovered when the Getting Things Done company released a setup guide for Todoist. All the links to these are in the show notes. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, you can email me—carl@carlpullein.com, DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be happy to add your question to the list. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 12 | What I Put In Evernote.

This week's episode answer a question from many people about what exactly do I put into my Evernote. 

Links

My Drafts Review Video

https://youtu.be/yEhU8wxvDo4

Don't forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer about productivity, goal planning or creating a successful life, then email me carl@carlpullein.com  or DM me on:

www.twitter.com/carl_pullein

https://www.facebook.com/CarlPulleinProductivity/

Subscribe to my newsletter to get all my content conveniently in your inbox every Friday:

http://eepurl.com/cOAmvz


 

Transcript:

In this week’s episode of The Working With Podcast, I answer a question about Evernote I am frequently asked.

Hello and welcome to episode 12 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. 

Since starting this podcast last November the one question I am asked most often is how and what I use Evernote for. This question is easy to understand, because Evernote can be used for so many things. It can be used for collecting your ideas, your memories, your kids’ drawings and paintings as well as more businessy stuff such as expense receipts, meeting notes and performance tracking. 

So, in this week’s episode I decided to go through the kind of stuff I keep in Evernote and hopefully it will give you some ideas of what you too can use Evernote for. 

So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question… 

This week’s question comes from many people: Jill, David, Penny and Tony to name a few. The question is: Hi Carl, what do you put into your Evernote?

Okay, before we get in to the details of this question, I should say I have been using Evernote since September 2009. So I am nearing my 9th year anniversary. 

Quite simply Evernote changed everything for me. Before Evernote, i had notes and files all over the place. Now, because I am a naturally organised person, these notes and files did have a place, usually kept in folders in my bookshelf next to my desk. Notes, were often kept in notebooks and all my important paper documents were kept in their appropriate files. It was organised, but it still took time to find what I was looking for when I needed it. 

Then along came Evernote. Even back then it was easy to take a picture of something and send it to Evernote. And this is what I started doing. First in was important receipts that I needed to keep for the guarantee. Then it was my utility bills and soon pretty much all important paper documents I needed to keep were scanned into my Evernote. In the early days I needed to scan many of these documents in using my computer’s printer/scanner, but as time went by and technology in our digital devices improved, I was able to scan documents simply by using my iPhone. 

My organised mind, created a number of Notebooks and tags for these documents and very soon it just became natural to scan in documents to Evernote. I think, if I am being honest, I never actually made the decision to go paperless, it just evolved over a few years. 

I’ve always used Evernote to capture my ideas and notes. That was what I used Evernote for when I first started using it. Scanning documents came later. 

Over the years, what I keep in Evernote has grown, and as the stuff I keep there has grown, so my organisation of Evernote has evolved. Now, for example, I use less notebooks and more tags. That was a big change in the way I use Evernote a couple of years ago. (thank you, Enrico Nahler) 

The one thing that has always kept me with Evernote by the way is Evernote’s search function. I have tried other note taking apps over the years, but the one thing Evernote does better than all its rivals is in it’s search. It is fast (very important) and you can search for almost anything within a note. Just hitting COMMAND J on a Mac (sorry I don’t know what the function is on Windows) will search for notebooks, tags or keywords. It takes no time at all and it is so easy to find exactly what you are looking for. If, for example, I am planning a trip to Singapore and will have a few days free, I can go in to Evernote, type “Singapore” in the box and I will get all my notes related to Singapore and I can choose the places I want to visit. 

So there you have one use of Evernote I use. I keep a note for each city or country I would like visit and list out all the places I would like to see while I am there. I also keep important information such as visa requirements and other such information. 

I also keep all my utility bills in there now. As soon as a bill arrives I will use my phone and scan the bill in and send it to my inbox. Then when I process my inbox I will tag it appropriately and send it off the the right notebook. 

I also have a special tag I call Incubator. My incubator is used for ideas I am developing. I get ideas at all times of the day. It is so easy to open up Evernote using 3D Touch on my phone and capture the idea. Then as I develop the idea over time, I store it in my Incubator tag which is kept in my favourites bar. This way it is really easy to get the note back and add other ideas I have to the note as they come up.

My journal is now in Evernote. The reason I switched over to Evernote was simply because Evernote is with me everywhere I go. If I have a few minutes while in a taxi, on a bus or train and I want to write in my journal I can do so. Then, at the end of the year, I print out that year’s journal entries and create a book from it and I store those in a storage box. In the future it will fantastic to be able to go in and read what I wrote in years gone by. 

One area of interest I have is with classic British clothing. I love the history and culture behind items of clothing. For example, the business suit we all know and sometimes wear today has military origins going back centuries. Overcoats and pea coats also originated from military clothing. It’s a fascinating story where the different styles we all love to wear come from. I have a tag for articles related to clothing I like and can reference these when I am deciding if I want to buy a new coat or suit. 

Likewise I have a tag for clothing and shoe suppliers. I have my favourite brands, I think we all do, and as I live in South Korea some suppliers can’t or won’t ship to Korea. Over the years I have found suppliers who do ship here, so I keep their details in Evernote and if I decide I want to buy a new sweater, I can go in to Evernote search for “sweaters” and up comes my favourite sweater manufacturer, N Peal in London (they do ship to Korea by the way) Same for my shoes. My favourite show maker is a company called Crockett and Jones. Now some department stores do sell Crockett and Jones here in Korea, but they are prohibitively expensive here. It is actually cheaper to buy direct from the UK. I know my sizes at Crockett and Jones so I can simply pull up my Crockett and Jones note and I have the order details right there. 

I also keep details on my favourite fashion icons. I have tags for people like Cary Grant and Steve MacQueen and in there I keep pictures of them and details of the clothes they wore. Steve MacQueen’s sunglasses in the movie Thomas Crown Affair were made by Percel. I have a pair which came from an article I found while surfing around the internet one day years ago, found this article on the sunglasses worn in the movie, clipped the note and a few months later I ordered a pair. 

Other more businessy things I keep in Evernote are things like my student lists. I keep a note for each student and client I teach whether that is my communication students or my productivity mentoring students. These notes contain all the things we are working on and what we have worked on. That way, when I am with the student I have a list of all the things we have worked on and I can see what needs working on without me having to carry that information around in my head. Again, I tag each note with the student’s name. That way it is very easy to call up the note when I need it. 

 I have a tag called “content” in that tag, I keep notes for each of my YouTube series, such as Todoist, Evernote and work. I can then add ideas to the list for future episode when they come to me. I also use a fantastic app called Drafts which allows me to add ideas for these directly to the note without having to open Evernote. I did a YouTube video on Drafts a few months ago, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes for those of you interested in it. 

My weekly social media content is also planned out in Evernote. I keep a template for this and copy the template every Sunday when I plan out next week’s social media content. During the week, when I am busy doing my usual weekly work stuff, it makes life so easy to just open up that note and do that day’s social media work. 

And of course, meeting notes. Depending on the situation, I either type notes directly into Evernote, or use my paper notebook and after the meeting just scan the notes in. Once again, this makes finding meeting notes months later, so easy. It’s almost unfair on anyone not using Evernote. It really does work as my external brain. 

And there you go, pretty anything I want to keep gets put into Evernote. All my interests and hobbies like, my unhealthy fascination on all things related to James Bond and my love of Photoshop. I keep a tag for these. Tutorials for Photoshop, interesting facts about Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond and my writing hero. Anything like that gets sent to Evernote. As you can imagine, over the last 9 years I have collected an incredible source of information that is tailor-made for my interests and needs. 

And that’s something I should stress. Make Evernote yours. Keep whatever you like in there. Create a notebook and tagging system that works for the way you think and just sit back and enjoy everything you keep there. As time goes by you’ll love going in to your Evernote for all the memories it serves up for you. 

Thank you for listening to this episode. I do hope you enjoyed it as much as I did making it. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer, all you have to do is email me - carl@carlpullein.com, DM my on Facebook or Twitter or fill out the question sheet on my website carlpullein.com.

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.