Ep 69 | How To Find Time For Yourself.

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about finding time for yourself.



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 69 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 finding some time for yourself when your work (and life) seem to fill up all your waking hours. 

But before we get into this week’s question and answer, I’s just like to let you know that if you are enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I have updated it for 2019 and it now includes a downloadable workbook which gives you a file you can save to any of your devices so you always have a guide with you to help you keep on track on stay organised. All you need to do is go to your student dashboard and you will find all the new stuff, as well as your new free courses, right there. 

If you haven’t enrolled in this course yet, then take a look at the course. I believe this course is the best time management and productivity course there is and once you have completed the course, you will have everything you need to get yourself better organised and more productive.

Also this week, I updated my coaching programmes. My coaching programmes now start at $99 for a single session plus a follow-up call. I want to be able to help more people and I know coaching can be very expensive. But I realise if you complete the questionnaire you give me enough information before the call for me to help you turn where ever you are today into building a system that works for you using the tools you want to work with. So take look at how I can personally help you by visiting my coaching programme’s page. 

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

This week’s question comes from Alex. Alex asks, I work in a very busy real estate office where my bosses and clients are always asking me to do work. It’s never-ending and when I finish at the end of the day, I have to spend all my free time replying to emails and catching up with the work I did not have time to do during the day. Do you have any tips on finding time to relax?

Thank you, Alex, for your question. 

Okay, this kind of problem happens to a lot of people. It usually comes about because of working in a traditionally reactive industry such as real estate where everyone expects you to deal with their issue now and are not prepared to wait an hour or so or even a day or two to get the answer they want. 

The problem here is when you are constantly working in a reactive state, mistakes are going to happen. When mistakes happen you have to allow additional time to rectify those mistakes every day. Sometimes those mistakes are simple typos on a property’s prospectus, other times it could be a much bigger mistake that takes a lot longer to rectify. So slowing down will free up more time because by doing things in a more focused manner will reduce the number of mistakes. 

So how do you find time to relax when your work never lets up and it’s a constant stream of requests and urgencies all day?

Well, the first thing to understand is by blocking some time off every day to focus on your work you are going to be in a much better place to deal with customer and colleagues requests. To do that you need to manage expectations. 

The number one reason why we end up in a situation where we are having to drop everything to deal with our customers and colleagues issues is that we trained them to expect immediate attention. I see this all the time. When we are trying to win the business or get the sale we will do almost anything for the potential client (or impress our boss) and that sets a precedent. Once the precedent is set, your client and boss will always expect you to drop everything for them. When you try to slow things down after you have won the business, the client complains or if you don’t reply to their email immediately, pick up the phone and asks you to deal with their “urgent” problem. 

The trick is to retrain your colleagues, bosses and clients. And this is much easier than you think. With your clients, all you need to do is to tell them that you are not usually available at certain times of the day. For example, if you block 10 am to 11 am every day for doing quiet work, then tell your client that you are not available between those times to answer calls or emails. In my experience, when you tell clients, colleagues and customers that you are unavailable during certain periods of time during the day they will understand. I have never had a student, client or colleague who has ever got upset because I have taken an hour or two of my day to get on and do some focused work. 

Now, according to many studies, include one done by Harvard University, people are only actually doing work for four hours a day. The rest of the time they are refilling their water bottles, chatting with colleagues, getting coffee or having their lunch or afternoon break. So, if you block 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon for quiet, undisturbed work, you are actually doing about the same amount of work a typical worker does each day. 

Another reason for not being available 24/7 for your colleagues and customers is by making is a little more difficult to get in touch with you, you train them to find their own solutions. When you are always there for people, they begin to rely on you to solve all their problems. You make it far too easy for them to just ask you to do the work instead of doing the work for themselves. In the past, I’ve had students ask me to write their emails for them because I made if far too easy and was far too quick to reply. 

When I started intentionally delaying my response times by two hours, the number of requests reduced. I never lost a student or customer. If I am being honest, I still did the work almost immediately, I just did not send it immediately. I delayed sending it. This actually gave me peace of mind knowing if my student called or messaged me asking me where the work was, I knew I was ready to send it immediately. The thing is, I never did get a call or message asking me where the work was. Because I was sending it within two hours. 

Over time I extended my response times. Now I usually tell people I will get it to them within 24 hours. This means I rarely have anything that can disrupt my daily plan and I can add in any additional work at the end of the day after I have finished my planned work. 

A good way to manage your time for this is to dedicate an hour at the end of your day for dealing with customer and colleague requests. When you send your replies later in the day, it is unlikely you will be asked for changes the same day. Remember, you are not the only busy person. Everyone thinks they are busy. 

Another way to manage your client’s expectations is to tell people right from the beginning when you stop work for the day. Now I love doing the work I do so my cut off time is 10 pm. After that time I do not respond to new emails, messages or calls. My phone automatically goes on do not disturb at 10 pm and does not come out of do not disturb until 7 am. I have told all my students and clients if they want me to do anything for them they need to get it to me by 10pm if they want a response the same day. Again, when you put some restrictions on your available time, the people you work with respect that time. 

I know it is hard to set restrictions on your time, Alex. It was very hard for me to do it when I began doing it. But in the ten years or so I have been much more restrictive about my available time, I have never had a boss, client or student complain and I have always kept my promise about when I will deliver the work they want me to do. 

People do not get angry because you protect your time and give yourself set periods of focused time each day. People get angry when you do not deliver on your promises. If you keep telling your clients “I’ll do it right away” and you then get side-tracked by another request, you are not keeping your promises to your clients. It is that that will damage your relationships with your customers. It is far better to manage expectations by telling your customers, clients and colleagues you will get it done by tomorrow or the end of the day. You can then see where you have your next period of focused work and add that task to that period. 

The final part of this answer, Alex is again to take your calendar and find at least one hour each day you can dedicate for yourself. That can either be the morning or the evening—it depends on whether you prefer mornings or evenings. That hour is for you. It is not for catching up or finishing off client work. It is an hour dedicated to you for doing the things you want to do. That could be exercise, quiet meditation or just taking a walk. We all need that alone time each day to reflect on where our life is, where we want it to go and how to get there. Without that quiet reflection time, we end up drifting and before long we have no idea where we are or even where we want to go. Our lives become a daily cycle of customer and boss requests and we end up living our life on someone else’s agenda. That is never going to lead to a fulfilled, happy life. 

So, Alex, from today, begin dedicating an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon for focused work. Tell your clients and colleagues that you are not available at that time and instead focus on doing work that is important to you. I would also suggest you pick a time each day for yourself to do with whatever you want to do. That’s just 3 hours out of 24. It is not much, it’s just 12% of your day. 

Begin telling clients when you will deliver the work. Be less specific about how much time it will take you to do the work. So for example, if you have always told clients you will get whatever it is they want you to do back to them within the hour, tell then you will get it back to them later that day. If they complain, then say”okay, I think I can get it done by the early afternoon” - you will be very surprised by how accepting your clients will be.

The thing we all have to remember is we only have a limited time on this earth and when we give up time for other people at the expense of time for ourselves we are wasting a very scarce and valuable resource… Our time. It is far better to put restrictions on our time available for clients and customers so we can spend more time with the people we love and care about. 

Good luck, Alex and I hope this answer has helped.

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

Ep 68 | How To Manage Your Email Overload

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting overloaded email under control .

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 68 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.

I can’t believe it has taken 68 episodes to finally get to one of the biggest problems people face when it comes to productivity and time management and that is email. We all have it, and for most people, it is out of control and inboxes just get bigger and bigger every day. So, this week we are going to tackle the issue and hopefully help you to finally get email under control and, more importantly, make it so it is easily manageable and it never gets out of control again. 

But first, I am excited to tell you all that the 2019 edition of my most popular, complete productivity and time management course has just been released. Your Digital Life 2.0 Online, the 2019 edition is now available and this year I have added a brand new workbook you can download and keep so you have a ready reference guide for when things slip. Also, I have added a number of new classes around the Golden 10 and the 2+8 Prioritisation systems AND… I have updated the freebies so now you have access to two of my most recent courses for FREE!

So go on and check it out. The link to the course details is in the show notes. This course WILL give you everything you need to become super productive and much better at time management. 

Okay onto this week’s question and that means 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 Greg. Greg asks, Do you have any tips to help me get my email under control. I have over 4,000 emails in my inbox and I just do not know where to start to get this mess under control. Any help would be much appreciated. 

Thank you, Greg, for this excellent question. 

Okay, first up. Email is just another task input we have to make a decision about. Whenever a new email comes in, we need to decide what it is and what we need to do with it. Email is unique in many ways though. Unlike regular tasks, where you add it to your inbox, with email someone else is adding it to your inbox. You don’t have much control over what and how much comes in each day. Or do you? 

You see, part of the problem is we sign up for all sorts of newsletters, promotions and other services and each day those services and newsletters come in. Day after day. Because we have no control over when these newsletters and promotions come in we just let them pile up. They invade our inboxes and just sit there waiting to be dealt with. But of course these emails are not important and so we just leave them, hoping that we will have time soon to go through them and read them. Which we don’t do. 

So, here’s my first tip. Get them out of your inbox. Instead, create a webmail account. You could create a Gmail or Hotmail account for instance and only have that account available to you through the internet. Do not put this account into your email app. Only allow yourself access to it through the internet.

Other things you can use this account for is online shopping. Every time you order something use this email address. The companies you buy from will use your email address to send you offers and other promotional emails after you have ordered something, some of which you may be interested in. So having this extra email address just for your shopping and newsletters is a great way to get a lot of the email you receive each day out of your mail email accounts. 

All you need to do then is create a recurring task in your to-do list manager to remind you to check this account from time to time. 

Okay, for most of you, that will probably get rid of 50% or more of the email you receive each day. It puts you back in control of what email you see each day. 

Now, onto the management of your email. All you really need today is four folders. An inbox, an Action Today folder, a waiting for folder and an archive. That’s it. All the popular email apps today have excellent search. Gmail for Android and iOS has excellent search and so does Apple’s Mail app. This means even if you have thousands of emails in your archive, you will still be able to easily find what you are looking for whether you are searching for it by date, person or title. Learn to trust the search. It works and archiving email is not deleting email. It still going to be there if you need it. 

Right, so you now have the four folders set up, how do you manage email? Well, when an email comes in you need to make a decision about what it is and what you need to do with it. Let’s say you get an email from a customer asking you to do something for them. It could be to send a copy of a receipt or confirm when an order will arrive. So to answer the question what is it we have an email from a customer, the next question to ask is what do I have to do with it? In this case that would reply and send the copy invoice or confirm an expected delivery date. If you can do that within two minutes or so just do it now. There’s no need to have that hanging around when all it would take is two minutes of your time. 

However, if you need to find the invoice, or talk to your delivery agent first, that is going to take more than two minutes and you do not have time right now, then move the email to your Action Today folder. 

Now the thing about the Action Today folder is you need to make sure you deal with any email in there within 24 hours. If you do not have such a rule, then this folder will just end being a dumping ground for emails you have to do something about, but tell yourself you do not have time. Rules are a must here. So, apply a rule that any email in your Action Today folder must be dealt with within 24 hours. This will mean you will need to create a routine to check your Action Today folder every day. I have a recurring task in my to-do list manager that tells me to clear my Action Today folder every day and for the most part I manage to do that. 

You waiting for folder does exactly what it says. Any email you are waiting for a reply on goes in there. Now you will have to go into your sent folder and move any email you are waiting for a reply on into this folder, but that just takes a second or two so should not be too inconvenient for you. Once you receive the reply, as long as you haven’t change the title, the reply will be added to your sent email and you can then archive it straight from your inbox without having to move anything from your waiting for folder. 

Okay, so there’s some structure to your email processing system, what do you do with those 4,000 emails in your inbox? Well, here you have a choice. You can either do a hard email bankruptcy or a soft one. The choice is yours. A hard email bankruptcy means you select all the emails in your inbox and just hit the delete key. It’s the fastest way to get to inbox zero. For those of you who are a bit squeamish about this don’t worry. If an email was important, the person who sent it to you will soon send it again. If the thought of deleting all your emails scares you, you can create a new folder and call it “old inbox” and again select all your email in your inbox and move them to this new folder. Then, as and when you have time you can go through it and delete emails that mean nothing to you or move them to your archive if you want to keep them. 

Now here are a few tips to help keep your email numbers down. 

The first tip I can give you is send less email. Instead, use instant messaging or just pick up the phone. Too often we take the easy route and send an email to ask a simple question that could be done in less than a minute if you picked up the phone. When you send that kind of email inevitably you are going to get an email in reply. My rule here is only send an email if it is absolutely necessary. The less email you send, the less email you get in return. Before sending an email, just ask yourself if there is a faster way to get the outcome you want. You’d be surprised how often you find a better, faster way.

Another tip is to protect your email address like you would your telephone number. Only give it out to people you trust. One of the worst things you can do is to put your business card into one of those collection boxes you find in bars and restaurants promising you-you could win a prize. True, you might win a prize, but you are also compromising the integrity of your email system too. To me, that price is far too high to risk having my email address added to yet another mailing list. 

Finally, I see a lot of people sending actionable emails over to their to-do list manager. Don’t do this! All this is going to do is fill up your to-do list inbox and you will be going from one app to another app and back again. That is such a waste of time. Emails that need you to take action should be in your Action Today folder in your email app. All you need is a simple task telling you to clear your action today folder. As I said earlier, I have such a daily recurring task and I see that around 4 or 5pm. I will then spend thirty minutes or so dealing with those important emails. 

Well, Greg, I hope that has given you some tips you can implement. I find the tip that has the biggest impact on your email is to create that Action Today folder and make sure you clear it every day. Seeing a list of ten or so emails that need action is far easier to manage than a list of 4,000 emails you are not sure whether they need replies or not., and if they do it takes you so much time to actually find the email you want to reply to. 

Thank you for your question, Greg, and thank you for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering then email me(hahaha) at carl@carlpullein.com… Don’t worry my email is completely under control and you WILL get a reply within 24 hours… I promise. Or you can DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 

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







Ep 67 | How To Get A System To Stick

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about Getting GTD to work for you.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 67 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 we are visiting the various systems that many of us follow and how to overcome problems when we cannot get it to stick.

But before we delve into the question and answer, I’d like to point you in the direction of my YouTube channel. Recently I have posted a few videos that could really help you get clarity and focus on your work and the things you want to get done. In particular my recent videos on creating a daily workflow in Todoist. Although it is focused on Todoist, the principles of building a workflow in whatever to-do list manager you are using will still apply. And last week’s Productivity Mastery video on discovering your North Star is certainly a must watch. Without finding your purpose—your North Star—you will find yourself running round and round in circles are living your life on other people’s agendas and that is never going to result in a good outcome for you. So check them out. I know they will really help you to get better organised and more productive. 

Okay onto this week’s question and that means in now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Jane. Jane asks: Hi Carl, I’ve read all the usual productivity books from Getting Things Done to your book, Your Digital Life and I understand the ideas in all the books I’ve read. My problem is I just can’t get anything to stick and I end up either not doing what I should be doing or just writing things down on random bits of paper. Do you have any advice to help me get something to stick? 

Ooh that’s a good question Jane and thank you for sending it in. Now, I have come across this kind of problem before and it is more common than people might think. There’s a lot of great books on productivity and time management out there with some very sound advice. The difficulty people often find is getting the principles and methods in the books to stick.

The first thing to understand is that the ideas and principles in these books are a set of guiding principles that have worked for the author. In the case of Getting Things Done, for example, creating lists based on contexts (people, places and things) works for David Allen. And for a lot of people organising their to-do lists based on where they are, what tools they have with them and who they are with doesmakes sense. But for other people, myself included, they have never been able to get the context based to-do list to work effectively. 

When Getting Things Done was first written in 2001, the smartphone as we know and love it today did not exist. If you wanted to do any kind of email work you needed to be at a computer. Likewis,e if you needed to write a report or essay, you also needed to be at a computer. Today, however, I reply to a lot of my email and often start writing my weekly blog on the bus from my iPhone. I do not need to be at a computer or sat in my office. I can do all those things anywhere at any time. 

Whenever I visit a client’s office or meet up with a student of mine, I always have my bag with me and in there I have my iPad. I can create presentations, build spreadsheets and do video conference calls from that device. Again, I no longer have to be in a specific location to do any of those things. If I were to follow the context based list it would be very difficult to allocate specific tasks to specific lists and I would waste a lot of valuable time and energy trying to figure out where tasks should go. 

So contexts do not really work for me. However, the principles of collecting everything in to an inbox and processing my inboxes every 24 - 48 hours does work. Ever since I first read GTD back in 2009, that is something I have religiously stuck to and it works 100% of the time for me. In fact, it works so well, I also adopted the same principles for managing my email. My email is zeroed out every 24 hours. 

In the end, after fighting to get contexts to work for me I gave up on them. Instead, I created lists based on what I felt needed to be done on specific days. The funny thing is I still add contexts to my tasks, in the hope they will one day work, but after ten years I guess I have to accept they are not going to work for me. 

Last year I decided to begin doing Robin Sharma’s 5AM Club. What this is is waking up at 5AM every morning and following a system of three 20 minute parts. In those sessions, you begin with 20 minutes of exercise, then 20 minutes planning and to finish you do 20 minutes of self-learning. The problem I had here was I prefer doing my exercise in the afternoons and I always do my planning in the evening but I did want to do the learning part. In addition, I also wanted to have some time each day for quiet reflection and meditation. So, I created my own “hour of power” as Robin Sharma likes to call it and do 45 minutes of studying (in my case Korean) and 15 minutes of meditation. I never check email or do anything else—no matter how busy I am—that one hour between 5AM and 6AM is my special, personal time. 

All these systems and ideas by amazing people like David Allen and Robin Sharma work, but they work for them. What we need to do is to find a way to make the principles they advocate fit in to our lives. I am not David Allen or Robin Sharma. I am me. I work in a different industry, I live in a different country and I work in a different way. And when it comes to the 5AM Club, I will have different biorhythms to Robin Sharma. But that does not mean their ideas do not work at all for other people. They do work. They are build on sound principles and have been tried and tested. 

What you need to do, Jane, is find a way to implement these principles in a way that works better for you. 

Let’s take Getting Things Done. The basic principle of getting everything off your mind and into a trusted place is an absolute. If you are not doing that, then you are going to forget something and things will get lost. So creating an inbox either a digital one or a physical one or both, I use both, is a must. I have a metal inbox next to my desk for random bits of paper and regular mail. But for the most part, my Todoist inbox is my trusted place. Anything and everything that comes in to my mind that I want to do something with will begin it’s journey there. I also use my Evernote inbox for articles I want to read or reference materials I collect throughout the day. 

Next, processing. Now David Allen recommend this is done every 24 to 48 hours. I do this every evening when I do my Golden 10. I go through what I collected and make a decision about what something is and what I want to do with it. A lot of what I collect gets done straight from my inbox. They are often quick messages or sending an invoice. I do not need to put them into a project first. It will take a very small amount of time, so I just get it done (the two minute principle at work here—if it can be done in 2 minutes or less do it now) I then move in to my 2+8 Prioritisation system. This is where I plan tomorrow by selecting two tasks as my objectives for the day—the two things I will get done no matter what…well except for extreme emergencies, and the 8 other tasks I would like to focus on. 

Now, the Golden 10 and the 2+8 Prioritisation system are not part of the GTD book. They are things I created to focus me in on what I decide is important to me. 

Now throughout the day, I do not work from different contexts, like home or office or computer etc. I work from my Today’s Focus list. This is a list that contain the ten things (2+8) I want to get done that day. 

What I have done is created a system that works for me, that was built on the foundations of GTD, but modified so it fits better for the way I work. What I am doing is collecting, organising at the end of the day and the rest of the time I am doing (my COD system—collect, organise, do) and that is what you should do too, Jane. Find a system amongst all the ideas you have read about that work better for you. 

Now, some people have challenged me and said that because I am not following GTD exactly as it is written in the book, or because I do not follow the 20/20/20 principle of the 5AM Club (exercise, plan and study) then I cannot say I am a GTDer or a member of the 5AM Club. Okay, then I accept that. But what I see is I get the same benefit and the same outcome as I would if I were to follow the principles exactly as they are set out in the books, but I am doing it my way. A way the works better for me and fits better into my way of life. I still plan my day, I still exercise (actually I exercise for more than 20 minutes per day) and I still study. I also still capture everything that comes across my mind, I still process and organise those thoughts and tasks and I still do a weekly review every week. 

So, Jane, and for all of you listeners out there. Whenever you learn a new system or a new way of doing something from a book or a video or a course, remember always to adapt it for the way you live. How you do something is less important than the outcome you get. If you prefer collecting your ideas into a little pocket notebook and transferring them over to a digital system every three days or so, then great. As long as it works for you. Likewise, if you don’t like waking up at 5AM and prefer to wake up at 6AM and do your planning and self-development study then exercise in the evenings, then great. Do that. If it works for you, you are still planning, exercising and developing yourself. You still experience the same benefits in the long-term. 

I have always been inspired by Stephen Covey’s quote “begin with the end in mind” - meaning begin with the outcome you desire and work backwards. If you want to be healthier, wiser and better focused on what you want, then giving yourself enough time each day for exercise, planning and learning is what matters. Waking up at 5AM is just one way of doing it. Likewise, if you want to get yourself better organised and more productive, then collecting everything on your mind, organising what you collected regularly and spending the majority of your time doing the work is how you will get there. You don’t have have contexts attached to every item in your list. How you collect and organise your ideas, events and tasks is up to you. Find a way that works. 

I hope that answers your question, Jane and thank you.

Thank you also to you for listening and I do hope you got a lot out of this episode. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering, you can email (carl@carlpullein.com) or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 

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

Ep 66 | How Regain Control Of Your Daily To-do List

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing an overwhelming to-do list.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 66 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 regaining control of your day and the tasks you have to complete so you get your important work done and can actually have some time to yourself each day.

Before I get into this week’s question though, I’d just like to remind you to enrol in my FREE beginners guide to creating your own COD system. This course will give you the framework to develop a simple system that is easy to maintain and will boost your productivity by keeping you focused on the things that are important and will help you to eliminate the unimportant things—the things that do not take you closer to your North Star—ie, your purpose. So get yourself enrolled. It’s free and will only take you around 40 minutes to complete. 

Okay, onto this week’s question and that means handing you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Michael. Michael asks: Hi Carl, I have so many tasks every day on my to-do list that I do not know where to start. Is there anything I can do that will help me to make better decisions?

Thank you, Michael, for your question. Now I know this problem is a very common problem indeed. Often we rush to collect everything that comes across our mind whether that is an event, a task or an idea and we dump them all into our to-do list’s inbox. To be honest, that’s actually a very good place to start. Collecting everything is a good thing—after all, it is the first step of COD (collect, organise and do). Now if we are not organising those items at least every day or two, things are going to mount up, and when we look at an overflowing inbox our minds begin to dread looking there and then the whole system begins to fall apart. 

So it is important you organise the stuff you collect every day. But, when you do organise you need to be thinking strategically. If you just randomly date things just to get them out of your inbox and so you know they will pop up in your today list one day in the future you are going to have a few problems. The first problem of course is you will have a list of to-dos in your today view that don’t really need doing that day. When that happens we tend to stop prioritising our today list. The purpose of your today list is that anything on there really does need your attention that day. It could be a simple reminder task to review a project that after seeing it, you decide to put off for another week. That’s okay, the important thing is when a task appears on your today list it has to appear there because you want to see it on that specific day. If you do not need to see it that day, then it should not be on your today list. 

And that brings me to another problem I often see. That is one of trust. If you do not trust you will see a task when you need to see a task you will date everything—randomly— and that causes a long list of tasks on a today list you do not need to see. It’s a trust issue. 

Now not trusting your system can be because you have just started with a productivity system and it will take time to trust it. It could be caused by constantly switching to-do list managers so you are not sure if everything migrated across properly from your previous to-do list manager or it could be because you are not doing a full weekly review—which is the most common reason. 

Now there are two types of weekly reviews. There’s a normal, take it slowly with a nice cup of tea and some great music weekly review and then there’s the secret weekly review that people like me who coach people to become better organised and more productive don’t like to tell you about. But, because I am feeling VERY generous today, and will tell you… But only this once so listen carefully…

The secret weekly review is called the “skimmed weekly review”. The skimmed weekly review only takes around fifteen to twenty minutes, as opposed to the full forty-five to sixty minutes a normal weekly review takes, and what you do is go through all your projects and areas of focus quickly just checking that the tasks you have there are still relevant and have the correct dates on them. With a full weekly review, you go through each project and area of focus carefully and compare your tasks with your calendar to make sure your dated to-dos fall on the right days and at the right times. 

I don’t recommend you do the skimmed weekly review often, but sometimes if you are on a business trip or you are particularly busy then it can be useful just to keep yourself up to date and moving forward. 

If you do worry about not seeing your tasks when you need to see them then review how you do your weekly review. Make sure you have your calendar open when you do it and compare your daily task lists for each day against your calendar. If one day next week you have back to back meetings all day, then you need to reduce the number of tasks on your list for that day. If you have a very quiet day where you can focus on your work for a long period of time, then you can allocate a few more to-dos for that day. 

So, hopefully, if you have a good weekly review behind you, you should find that your daily tasks list for each day reflects how busy you are for each day next week. 

Next step to reducing your daily to-do list and to help make better decisions on what you should be working on is to use the 2+8 Prioritisation system. I’ve covered this many time before so I won’t go into details here. I will put a link in the show notes to a video I did on it a few months ago. 

Now basically the 2+8 Prioritisation system asks you to choose two tasks that you really must get done that day. And that barring an emergency you WILL make sure you get them done. 

Then you have 8 other tasks you have chosen the night before that would have the biggest positive impact on your work or goals if you complete them the next day. That’s it. 

This means when you start the day you already know what exactly you want to accomplish that day. And you will put all your focus and attention on those ten tasks and in particular, the two objective tasks that you have chosen MUST get done that day. 

Now the reason why you do this the night before instead of on the morning of the day itself is so when you start the day you already know exactly what it is you should be doing. There’s no chance you will waste any time thinking about what to do, or get yourself lost in a sea of tasks you might like to get done. You have ten tasks and you will do everything you can to get them completed by the end of the day. 

Of course there will be interruptions and more tasks coming in throughout the day, that’s normal day to day life. As they come in you need to assess their urgency and decide if you need to do them that day or not. But your focus for the day is the 2+8 tasks you have already chosen to complete that day. The whole point is if you get those ten tasks complete you will feel you have had a productive day. 

I should point out here that your 2+8 tasks do not include any routine housekeeping tasks you have to do every day. For example, I do not include my daily admin tasks in my 2+8 Prioritisation system. My daily routines take around 30 minutes each day and I have those 30 minutes scheduled on my calendar at 9:30 pm every day to complete. I do not need to see those tasks until 9:30 pm and so they are out of view until that time. How you do that will depend on the to-do list manager you are using, but it is worth figuring out because when your list only shows two tasks when you look at it in the morning you will feel a lot less overwhelmed and stressed. 

Another bit of advice I can give you Michael is to get into the habit of asking yourself a simple question when you sit down to organise your day. That question is one I have already alluded to and that is:

What tasks can I complete tomorrow that will have the biggest positive impact on my projects and goals?

It’s a powerful question and will lead you to make the right decisions about what you should be working on. Make sure you include your goals in there somewhere. If you are not including your goals you will not make any progress on your goals. So make sure somewhere in those ten tasks you have at least one goal task. 

Having your goals on your daily priorities list is the best way to make sure you are always heading towards your North Star. The place you want to be in ten or twenty-five years time. Of course, this will change as you travel towards it, it always does. Some things we want to achieve today become less important as time goes by, and that’s perfectly okay. The important thing is you are always travelling towards the destination you want to go, not the destinations others would like to drag you. 

The biggest problem today is not the work we have to do, with all the technology and automation available to us that can easily be dealt with. It’s the expectations we place on ourselves. Our perceived capacity for work is bigger than the time we have available each day. So we either rush to get work done and end up with a lower standard of work than we are capable of, or we spend far too much time doing work and not enough time getting the valuable rest we need to be able to perform at our best every day. This causes a super-stressed state which does not do us any good physically or mentally. You need to get more realistic about what you can do in a day. 

One way to do this is to monitor how long it takes you to do a piece of work you regularly have to do. For example, I know to write my weekly blog post takes around 90 minutes and to edit it takes roughly 30 to 40 minutes. To record my weekly YouTube videos takes about 2 hours and the editing takes about a further 2 hours. This means I can schedule blocks of time to do this work each week. Once these blocks are on my calendar, I can relax knowing I have the time available to do the work. And remember, the golden rule of calendars… What goes on your calendar gets done. 

Well, I hope that answers your question for you, Michael. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer on this show, then get in touch either by email (carl@carlpullein.com) or via Twitter or Facebook. 

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

Episode 65 | How to Find Your Focus And Concentration

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about finding focus and concentration.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 65 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 getting your life under control when everything goes crazy and the workload mounts up. A situation that can happen to any of us at any time. 

Before I do get into this week’s question though I would like to thank you all for listening and to remind you that if you have a question you would like answering on this show, then all you have to do is to either email me carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 

And for those of you who feel their ‘system’ is not working, then be sure to check out my FREE online course, The Beginners Guide to Building You Own COD system. This course could change your life because the simplicity, and easy maintenance of the COD system, when implemented has the power to dramatically boost your productivity.

Okay on with the show and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Nonica. Nonica asks: Hello Carl, really I'm struggling with lack of focus and concentration. I have many pending writing projects and I have been missing deadlines I feel extremely distracted. I would be very grateful for your advice, suggestions and guidance. 

Hi Nonica, thank you very much for your question. 

Now I know at times it can be very hard to know what to focus on when you have so many things coming at you at once. This can be particularly so when you have an ever-increasing workload and family and personal commitments to attend to. When things become overwhelming in this way, our brain becomes our worst enemy because it starts screaming at you and reminding you all the time about the work you have to get done and does so at the most inconvenient of times. It will remind you-you have to finish off writing an article just as you are drifting off to sleep at the end of the day. It will remind you of the meeting preparation you have to do as you are trying to enjoy a romantic dinner with your partner and it will remind you-you have to call someone at 3AM in the morning—the worst time to call someone.

Now when you feel completely overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start you need to take some timeout and stop. I know, when you feel you a lot to do, the very thought of stopping doing what you need to do seems a stupid idea, but if all you are doing is running around in a state of indecision and inactivity then stopping that for an hour or so is not going to have any impact on your current productivity or ability to get work done because you aren’t actually getting any work done anyway.

Okay, the first thing you need to do is to calm your brain and the best way to do that is to get everything you have on your mind out of your mind and into an external place. That could be a piece of paper or a digital list. Where you write it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you get everything out of your head. Your mind is a terrible place to hold all your commitments and work because your mind doesn’t really know when you need reminding of things and so it reminds you of everything all at once and that’s why you end up feeling overwhelmed. 

Once you have everything written down you need to start organising and prioritising. This is why it is often better to get all this into a digital to-do list. A task list manager such as Todoist (which has a free version) would be a great way to do this because you can drag and move around items in a list. What you do is list out all the things you wrote down into categories and priorities. So for example, if you have six writing projects you would group those together and then prioritise them by when they are due to be completed. If you have a list of errands that need completing you would group those errands together and again prioritise which ones are the most important ones. Keep doing this until you have everything on your list categorised and prioritised. 

If you give yourself two hours to do the brain dump and the organising you should be able to get most things into some kind of logical order in that time. 

Okay, so great you now have a long, organised, list of things to do, How does that help me get things done? I hear you ask.

Good question. Here’s the answer: open up your calendar. Now hopefully, you have all your events already on your calendar. This should include your professional and personal commitments. If you don’t, do it now. You need to see where you have blocks of time. For most people, you will have a mix of meetings (onsite and offsite) as well as your personal commitments such as spending time with your family and friends, dental and medical appointments etc. 

Now the reason you use your calendar is that your calendar is a list of the 24 hours you have each day. It is a visual representation of the time you have available each day and it never lies… Well unless you put stuff on there you never do. And you should not be doing that with your calendar. 

Before we go any further you need to implement a golden rule. That is: “what goes on your calendar gets done.” No excuses! The only reason an event on your calendar does not get done is either because the appointment was cancelled or for an absolute emergency. Your calendar, from now on, is your one productivity tool that will never ever lie. This has to be the one commitment you make to yourself that you stick to whatever happens. 

Okay, so you have your calendar open and your professional and personal commitments are on there. What do you do next? 

Right, now look at tomorrow. Where are the blank time slots? You may have a time slot between 8am and 10am where you have nothing on. Block that off right now. Choose one of the categories you have on your list of things to do and write that in that block. So in your case, Nonica, you could write in that block “Writing Time”. So now you have made a commitment to yourself to spend two hours writing tomorrow between 8AM and 10AM. And it is a commitment. Now it is on your calendar and remember, “what’s on your calendar gets done” so you are committed. 

Now, it’s a good idea to bring in the principles of the Golden 10 here—That is spending ten minutes at the end of the day to plan the next day—What you do here is look at your calendar and see you have a writing commitment between 8AM and 10AM tomorrow morning. Make a decision the night before in your ten-minute planning session on what you will write in that two hours. You do not want to be deciding that at 8AM tomorrow morning. You need to make that decision well before you sit down to write so you do not start wasting time procrastinating. 

Now let’s say you have a regularly recurring event that you know you must do or you feel obligated to do. This could be something like having to take care of elderly parents or grandparents. This again is a commitment and something you should get on your calendar. To me, family is far more important than work and so comes in at number 1 on my priorities list. As I fill out my calendar with time slots for the work I have to do, my family commitments would be put on there first. If a family member is in a hospital for example, then I would be scheduling visiting times every day. If the hospital visiting times are in the early evenings, then block that time off. Doing this means you get to see the available times you have for getting your work done. 

Now, if you do have an unusually high amount of work to do, you may want to schedule more time in the evenings for additional work time. This often happens to me when I am developing a course or editing a book. I would schedule additional work time between 9pm and 11pm for doing that work. This is only temporary and so I do not worry too much about my work-life balance in those times. The work has to be done, and once it has been done I can relax. 

Now over the next two to three weeks, you schedule your time slots to take care of all the work that is on your list. How you and what your schedule, of course, will be up to you and the deadlines you have coming up. You have to decide what gets done first. 

Okay, so that takes care of the list you created when you did your mind dump. But there is another issue here. Life does not stop just because you have emptied your head of all the things you have to do. Life has a bad habit of creating more work for us every day so you are going to be picking up more work after you have completed your list. In this case, depending on how much work you have to do right now, you may need to put a temporary stop to new work coming in. In these situations, you need to talk to your work generators (as I like to call them) and ask then to freeze new work for a couple weeks so you can catch up. In my experience, people are very reasonable and will accommodate your request. It’s only a temporary freeze and it will allow you to catch up and get everything in perspective. 

If your work generators are not willing to freeze new work, you are going to have to allow sufficient time on your calendar for the new work coming in. This means keeping an hour or so each day free for such situations. The good news here is if you do not need that time for new work you can allocate other work to that time. 

The final piece to this is to make sure you are not writing out your tasks so they feel overwhelming. If you write your task out as “write end of year report” and you know the end of year report is a 10,000 word report, you are not going to be motivated to do anything and you will feel overwhelmed. Instead, write “write 500 or 1,000 words of the end of year report” or you could write, as I do, “continue writing end of year report” That is a much more manageable chunk and you are much more likely to be motivated to get it done. By using the words “continue writing” I write as much as I can and I don’t get that mental panic of thinking I have to write the full 10,000 words. 

Other things you should be doing during your blocked out time is to switch off your distractions. That means your phone, your email and the people around you. Use headphones if you can and listen to great music. The Anjunabeats Worldwide and Above And Beyond’s Group Therapy podcasts are great to work to, and if you prefer something a little slower try the Anjunadeep podcast. I will put links to these fantastic podcasts in the show notes. 

And that’s really all you can do, Nonica. You need to first get everything on your mind off your mind and into an external place—paper or digital—then you need to categorise what those things are. Once you have that done use your calendar to block the time off you need to get them done. The only way the work will get done is if you do the work and to do the work you need to make time to do it. You calendar can be your best friend there. 

I hope that has helped and and thank you so much for your question, Nonica. 

Thank you to you also for listening. I do this for you guys and I want to help as many of you as I can to become better organised and more productive. So if you know anyone that could benefit from subscribing to this podcast please share it with them. 

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

Episode 64 | How To Manage Multiple Personal and Professional Roles

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing multiple roles in your life.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 64 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.

Well, I hope your year has started well and you are making significant progress on your goals. This week, I have a great question about managing multiple roles in your life and I know many of you out there are not just doing a job, you are also a parent, a friend, a teacher and perhaps a church or community leader. These are roles that create specific tasks and projects that you need to be managing. 

Before we get into this week’s question, if you haven’t already enrolled in my FREE Beginners Guide To Creating Your Own COD system, then now is a great time to do so. The course packed full of ideas for you to create your own productivity system around the basic principle of Collecting, Organising and Doing (See C.O.D) the foundations of any great productivity system is simplicity and you can’t get any simpler than COD. 

So, if you do struggle with productivity, then this course will only take you around forty minutes to complete and once you complete it you will have the basics to create your own system and a system that will grow and work for you whatever your roles are now and into the future. So go on, get yourself enrolled now and begin a whole new productive life. 

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

This week’s question comes from Jim. Jim asks: What are some strategies to manage a personal and professional life that is composed of many, multiple roles?

Thank you, Jim, for the wonderful question.

What Jim has done here is just a few simple words has described what most people face. That is a life with multiple roles. So the question becomes, how do I manage all those roles? 

Now, the first thing I am going to assume is that most of you listening to this podcast use some form of to-do list manager. Either that is a full Digital system such as Todoist, Trello or Omnifocus or a simple notebook and pen. When you have many roles it is important to have a place where you can manage all the tasks you need to do to maintain those roles. 

So the first thing I am going to suggest is you create an areas of focus area in your to-do list manager. This needs to be quite separate from your projects list. Now for most of you using a task management system, you are likely to have an area where you list out your various projects. These projects are deadline specific and you complete set of defined tasks that will lead you to a completed project by the deadline date. Once the project is complete you can archive the project. 

Areas of focus are quite different because they have no deadline date, or at least no fixed deadline date. An example of this would say if you run a blog. Each week there will be tasks you need to complete to write and publish a blog post, but the blog itself has no deadline date because you are writing and publishing every week. So you have an area of focus called “blog” and inside that will be your recurring writing tasks and maybe some maintenance tasks you need to perform from time to time. 

Now, the changes come when you have a specific project related to your blog. Let’s say for example you decide to redesign your blog. Now you have a project because the redesign of your blog will have a deadline—a date you want to complete the redesign by. When this happens you can create a project for the redesign in your active projects list for the redesign. 

So hopefully that gives you a basic definition of what a project is an what an area of focus is.

So let’s look at Jim’s specific question. If you have multiple roles such as a parent, a community leader you are going to have regular recurring tasks related to those roles. If you don’t that’s great, but you should still create the area of focus—I’ll explain in a moment. 

For those regular recurring tasks related to your roles, you can put them into your area of focus. For example, if you spend Saturday afternoon doing activities with your kids, then you may have a recurring task to talk with your kids about what they would like to do each week. Or if you are a community leader you may have to prepare an agenda for a monthly meeting. All these tasks can go into your area of focus related to your role. Weekly activities with your kids and preparing the monthly agenda recur, individually you could argue they have deadlines, but as they recur regularly I would not consider them as individual projects. That would just make your active projects list overly long and unnecessary. 

Other areas of focus that you can use are for things like professional development, or side projects such as a part-time business you are building. Way back in the late 1990s I had a part-time business as a mobile Djay. Most weekends I was doing a disco somewhere and each event I did was different. Sometimes it was a wedding and in the UK it is the tradition for the bride and groom to start off the dancing with their favourite song. That meant for each wedding we did I needed to find out from the bride and groom what their first dance song was to be. If I did not have it—and in those days we used CDs, not MP3s—I had to go out and buy it. Other things I needed to find out each week was what kind of event we were doing, was it a birthday? A company event or something else. I also needed to know the age group of the people attending as that affected the kind of music I played. All these questions needed answering before the event, so I used a checklist in my Franklin Planner that contained all the questions I needed to ask our agent. I would have a recurring call every Wednesday with our agent to get the answers to these questions. Today I would be using my digital to-do list and it would be much simpler as I would create a recurring task in my Djay area of focus to call my agent each week and have the questions I needed to ask in a templated checklist for each event in Evernote. 

If you have multiple professional roles such as I do, I am an English teacher and a have my productivity business. I separate these out in my areas of Focus. I have my English teaching business as an area of focus and single action tasks such as doing something for a student can be placed in there. Likewise, if I need to do something for my coaching clients, I would place that task in my productivity business’s area of focus. 

When you have multiple roles, and I think most of us have if we really sat down to think about it, having a separate place for your areas of focus can help to keep you on top of everything going on in your life. Now we have to remember there are only 24 hours in each day and we can’t change that. Mondays for me, for example, I have a lot of English classes and so on Sunday when I plan my day, I know to look exclusively in my teaching areas of focus folder because that is where my focus for the day is going to be. Likewise, on Friday afternoons I do all my video recording, so on a Thursday I look at my YouTube Channel area of focus as well as my content scheduling board to see if there is anything I need to focus on when I do my recordings. When I check my calendar I know if I have a coaching call the next day and who with, so I can review my notes and client feedback and do some preparation for the call before the call itself. 

Another great reason to use areas of focus is you can decide if you want to spend a month focused on a particular area of your life. The end of the year holiday season has just ended and for many of 'sus we may have eaten and drunk a little too much. So it's get back in to shape season. So, if you have an area of focus for your health and fitness you may decide that this month you will put a lot more focus on that area and do a lot more activities related to losing weight and getting fit. 

One more thing and I know this is specific to you, Jim, is if you want to build a professional speaking career. This again would be an area of focus. Each new speaking engagement may become an active project, but to build the career there are going to be a number of activities you will need to do each week. You will need to be developing your expertise in your chosen area, you will need to be communicating with agencies and conference organisers etc. These will be ongoing tasks and so should be an area of focus. So if you decide to send out five to ten profiles to event organisers and agencies each week you will have a task to do that either on a specific day or spread out over a few days each week. 

So, if you do have multiple roles, and I am sure you do as we all do in some form or another, I would spend some time thinking about the different roles you have and decide which ones you want to focus on. Then create an area of focus for each one. Do not worry if some have nothing in them at the moment. It could be that you decide that some of those areas you do not want to focus on right now. When you do have the list put together though make sure you review them each week when you do your weekly review. That way nothing is being forgotten and you can decide if you want to put some focus on those areas during the following week. 

Remember, an area of focus does not have a deadline date, a project does. You may have projects that come from an area of focus from time to time and you can create that project in your active projects list. As soon as the project is complete you can archive it and put the management of the project in your areas of focus if it needs managing. 

I hope that has answered your question, Jim and thank you for sending it in. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast get in touch either by email (carl@carlpullein.com) or by DMing me on Twitter or Facebook. 

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

The Working With Podcast | Episode 63 | How To Better Manage Work And Family Time

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing your work and family life to create better balance.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 63 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.

Happy New Year and welcome to the first podcast of 2019. I hope you all had a wonderful new year celebration and are ready to hit 2019 with all your energy and enthusiasm to make it the best year you’ve ever had. 

Before we get started I want to tell you about my new coaching programme. I’ve recently redesigned my coaching/mentoring programmes to better fit those of you who feel you need that little extra help. I know mentoring and coaching isn’t for everyone, but for those of you who want a more personalised approach, to get some help developing your own system and help in setting and achieving your goals, then take a look at my new programmes. There’s a programme for everyone ranging from a single session to a whole year of sessions. 

The results you can gain from having a coach—someone to guide you and help you to develop your goals, productivity system and to keep you accountable for the things you have set yourself to achieve is an investment in yourself that will give you an incredible return. So check out my programmes. It would be an honour to be able to help and guide you to your best year yet.

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

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

I don't have much time in my day-to-day, I take a subway to work and vice versa (100-120 minutes each way) working in Hi-tech (9-10 hours a day), I'm married and also a father to 2 kids so I want to invest in my family some quality time. How can I achieve my personal tasks?

A wonderful question, Netanel, and a very difficult question to answer to kick off 2019. 

This question is really about creating a balanced work and personal life. Now, I am not a great believer in what is commonly called “work/life balance”—in today’s world with us being connected pretty much 24 hours a day, it’s almost impossible to build strict barriers between our working lives and our personal lives. To me, the stress involved in trying to maintain strict barriers between our work and our personal lives is just not worth it. It’s far better to accept that sometimes our work is going to encroach into our personal time and likewise our personal lives will encroach occasionally into our work time. Have you ever had to take time away from your work to visit your dentist or have to pick your kids up from school early? I’m sure you have. 

Now in your case, Netanel, you have a number of unique challenges. The first is your travel time. You are commuting 3 to 4 hours a day! That’s a tremendous amount of time to be travelling to and from work. Tie that to working up to 10 hours a day, you are leaving yourself with very little time for your family. In fact, if you are getting six hours of sleep, then you have pretty much no time for your family. Something is going to have to give. 

There are two options here. The first and the better one of the two is to have a conversation with your boss. Ask your boss if you could work from home two days a week. 

Working in hi-tech presumably means most of your work is done by computer and therefore having to be in the office every day of the working week is unlikely. It might be a convention to be in the office every day, but if you were to be honest with yourself, do you really need to be in the office for 5 or 6 days a week? Of course, you may have to attend meetings, but you could arrange it so your meetings were only on certain days of the week. And if there was a situation where you were required for a meeting, you could always attend digitally via tele or video conference. 

Now I do understand that between countries there are different cultures at play. I live and work in South Korea and only in the last year or so has the idea of flexible working arrangements come here. But more and more of the people I work with are now enjoying more flexible working arrangements. Coming in to work a little later in the morning so parents can take care of their children. Being able to work from home a couple of days a week etc. This is, after all, the twenty-first century. 

The thing is in your situation, Netanel, if you want to spend a little more time with your family, then you are going to have to have the conversation with your boss. The great thing here is what’s the worst that could happen? Your boss saying no. So that leads me on to the second and third options for you.

Either you are going to have to move closer to your workplace or you are going to have to find another job closer to your home. 

You see the biggest problem here is your commuting time. If you could reduce your travel time by two hours a day, you would get those two extra hours a day to spend with your family. Now, finding a home closer to work may be your best option, but in today’s working environment where a job is not necessarily for life—we tend to change jobs more frequently than our parents did—that might not necessarily be a practical solution. 

Another question to ask is is there a faster way to get to and from work? In my case for many of the clients I visit each week, there are a number of ways I could get there. I could drive—often the longest way because of the traffic in Seoul, I could take a bus, not usually the fastest way really or I could take the subway. Usually, the subway is the fastest but not always. One of the clients I visit each week is just a ten-minute taxi ride away from my home, yet if I took the subway (the cheaper option) it would take me at least 45 minutes. Sure, the taxi is more expensive than the subway, but if I look at the time cost involved, then, in reality, the taxi is the cheapest option. So research your travel options. See if there is a faster way to get to your workplace and then do a time/cost analysis. How much is your desire to spend more time with your family worth to you? A good company would support the extra travel cost be giving you a travel allowance—another possibility for your boss to help you. 

Finally, you could begin the process of finding another job either closer to your home or one that will allow you more flexible working arrangements. The truth is, if I had a conversation with my boss about being able to work from home a couple of days a week and my boss gave a flat no, then that would be an indication to me to change my job for a more modern, out looking company. A company that respects family time and the need to allow employees to work in an environment that works for them. 

Like I said at the beginning, your question is unique, Natanel because it does not involve changing the way that you work, it involves changing the way your company works. Working 9 to 10 hours a day is not unreasonable—a little excessive, but not unreasonable—but travelling 3 to 4 hours a day just to get to your work each day is unreasonable. That is where I would focus my attention. Find ways to change that. 

To me, your best option is to have that conversation with your boss. That will be the least disruptive and offers the best solution all around. Being able to work from home a couple of times a week would allow you more quality time with your family. 

The next best option would be to review your travelling arrangements. Is there a faster way to get to your office? If so, how much more will it cost you? If it is a lot more, then perhaps your company would be willing to pay you an allowance to cover the extra cost. Again, you will need to have the conversation with your boss on that one. 

Finally, the two most disruptive options. Either you move closer to your work, or you change your job. Again, this is something only you can decide. 

Reducing your commuting time needs to be your priority. That is where you can save time that can be better spent with your family. Review all your options, how you travel, moving house or moving jobs. 

Jobs come and go, families do not. Prioritising your family over your company is always the right thing to do. Of course, we do have to make compromises. Part of our family arrangements is we need to provide an income, but that income should not be provided at the expense of your family, and the quality time you have to watch your children grow and quality time spent with your wife. That is why I would always advise you to put family first, not your company and if your company is not going to allow you to spend more time with your family, then it’s time to change your company.

I hope that has helped, Natanel. I know the choices you are going to have to make are not easy, but your family is worth it. Go talk to your boss, see if you can find a way to work from home a few days a week and failing that, see if you can find a faster way to get to your office. 

Best of luck. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, then please email me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter.

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







The Working With… Podcast | Episode 62 | 6 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, once again I delve into my Productivity Mastery series to bring you a special episode.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 62 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 bring you another episode from my YouTube channel’s Productivity Mastery series and give you 6 ways to supercharge your productivity.

Normal service will resume next week and please don’t forget if you have a question about productivity, time management or goal planning, then just get in touch with me by email (carl@carlpullein.com) or by DMing me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Okay, let’s take you in to the world of Productivity Mastery with this episode on supercharging your productivity. Enjoy. 


The Working With Podcast | Episode 61 | Focus On Learning One Skill And The 5 AM Club

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This week, the main podcast takes a rest and instead, I have produced a podcast from a video I did way back in June explaining why I joined the 5 AM Club and what I intended to do with the time between 5 AM and 6 AM. 

So, sit back and enjoy this slightly shorter episode. 

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher

This week, the main podcast takes a rest and instead, I have produced a podcast from a video I did way back in June explaining why I joined the 5 AM Club and what I intended to do with the time between 5 AM and 6 AM. 

So, sit back and enjoy this slightly shorter episode. 

 


The Working With… Podcast | Episode 60 | How To Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet!

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I don’t answer a question and instead I give you some tips about achieving your goals in 2019.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 60 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 there’s no question to answer, instead, I have a slightly different format for you to help you go into the new year armed with the right strategy and motivation to make 2019 your best year ever! 

Don’t forget if you are looking for more help and advise on anything related to productivity, time management and goal planning and achievement, then just head over to my website, carlpullein.com, for videos, articles, online courses and of course coaching and mentoring. Everything you need in one handy place. 

Okay, let’s get started…

The new year brings hope, it gives us an opportunity to make a fresh start, do a reset and to take stock of our lives and has us thinking about where we can improve our lives and become better at what we do. But…

Statistically, most people will fail to make any changes or achieve any of their goals. When our good intentions meet the expressway of everyday reality our good intentions are usually the first things to break down. 

However, with a little application and focus, we can make those changes and begin growing and developing a life we want without breaking our intentions. 

So how do you do that? 

Well, the first thing is to get really specific about what it is you want to change or achieve. It’s no good just saying I want to earn more money - earning more money is easy. Doing a shift in your local pub on a Friday night will earn you more money. You need to get specific. How much more money do you want to earn? 5,000? 10,000? - Be specific. 

I want to lose weight is not specific enough to be either motivating or measurable. Just go to bed without eating your dinner and you will lose weight. You need to be specific about how much weight you want to lose and more importantly, by when? 

Once you have the specific details and you have a set timeline, then you have a workable goal. 

Now another mistake I see people making is having too many goals. You have plenty of time to achieve everything. You don't have to achieve everything in the first month. This is why so many fail in the new year resolutions. They have far too many and so their focus becomes diluted. I’ve always recommended focusing on no more than five or six goals for the year. Two or three are even better and remember if you do get on a roll and start accomplishing your goals quickly, you can always modify your outcome or target or add new goals to achieve later in the year. 

In fact, doing a quarterly review of your goals allows you to add in some flexibility, see how you are progressing and maintain your momentum and motivation. It also means if you are falling behind you can devise plans to get back on track. Keeping things fluid and flexible allows you to adjust and refine as the year goes by. Sometimes when we set our goals for the year we are just a little bit too optimistic. Instead of giving up either extend your timeline or adjust the outcome. You don’t have to give up. Just refine and keep going. The hardest part of usually getting started, so once you start, don’t give up. Just adjust and keep going.

Now one of the secrets to successfully achieving goals is developing the right habits. Let’s say you have decided to do a power hour between 6am and 7am every morning. You want to create an hour for yourself - to exercise, study something or meditate - there's a habit in there to develop. That is to wake up at 6am. If you’re not used to waking up at 6am your focus will need to be more on developing the habit and discipline to get yourself out of bed at 6am every day. What you do during that hour, can be developed later. You can experiment in the first month, you will soon find a routine you like. A routine you find motivating and more importantly, enjoyable. When I began doing meditation in the mornings I didn’t really know how I wanted to do it. I researched some articles and videos and found a 15-minute meditation session I could follow. After a couple of weeks I modified it to better suit my needs and now my morning meditation is something I would never miss. I love it, it’s so relaxing and it sets me up for an outstanding day. 

You see, goals are achieved through regular, daily practice of habits. Waking up early requires you to be in the habit of getting out of bed early. Losing weight requires the habit of watching what you eat, beginning an exercise programme requires you to go out and do exercise regularly. All of these changes and goals mean you have to build habits. 

Other types of goals also need good habit development. Getting your masters degree needs the habit of regular study, being promoted at work, needs the habit of doing great work every day. Achieving goals is nothing more than developing the right habits and consistently performing those habits. 

Which nicely brings me onto the next point and that is when you have written your goals out, can you identify what habits you will need to acquire to be able to achieve your goals? That’s really the secret of achieving goals. Building the right habits that will take you a little bit closer towards achieving your goal. 

Let’s say your goal is to become a director in your company by the end of the year. Now, while we are in 2018, would be a good time to discuss with your boss or HR about what you would be required to do to achieve that goal. Once you have that advice you can then build a plan to develop your skills and your behaviours so you can demonstrate to the people that matter that you have both the skills and the ability to become a director. 

Sketch out your ideas on paper or in a notes app and then look for the habits you can develop to make sure you are doing something every day to take you towards the goal. To become a director may require you to change your behaviour at work. Maybe you hang out with the gossip crowd at lunchtimes or perhaps you stand a little too long around the water cooler chatting. These are habits you will need to change. Change them. Find different people to go and have lunch with—people who can help you to develop your leadership skills.—Buy yourself a larger water bottle so you don’t have to go to the water cooler as often—that’s great advice if you ask me—just look for things you can turn into habits. 

Changing your behaviour is difficult. It’s easy to behave differently for a day or two, but our behaviour is baked in, and if you want to or need to change yours, then you are going to have consciously change the way you behave by changing your daily habits. That is the only way you will make the lasting change you will need to make to be considered for the promotion you desire. 

Another good trick is to look for links between the goals you have set yourself. If the majority of your goals fall under the category of your professional development, or personal development, then you may find there are some goals that naturally work together. This year I had three separate goals on my list that naturally linked. I wanted to begin waking up at 5 AM, to become fluent in Korean and to begin daily meditation. When I saw these written down I saw that I could wake up at 5 AM, do 45 minutes of Korean study and then finish the hour off with 15 minutes of meditation. I linked three goals together and that meant although I was achieving three goals, I only had to organise myself to do one thing—wake up at 5 AM—Once I was out of bed, I could move naturally onto my next one. 

If you have lose weight and begin exercising on your list of things you would like to do in 2019, then these two obviously link together. All you need to do is to decide when and how often you will exercise. The simple act of exercising regularly will start the weight loss. Your daily calorific output will go up and as long as you daily calorific input doesn’t go up as well, you will lose weight. You’ve linked two goals together.

Finally, if you are attempting to achieve a goal you have previously failed at, spend a little time looking in to the reasons why you failed before. Sometimes we fail at goals because the reason for achieving that goal is not strong enough. Imagine you are a little overweight, but you feel happy with the way you are. But you still have lose weight on your list of goals for next year. Now the problem here is your motivation is weak. If you have lose weight on your list because of what someone else told you to do, then the “why” is not your “why” it is someone else’s why you will struggle to achieve that goal. 

Other reasons could be the goal is too big for one year. Earning $1 million, for example, may need five or ten years to achieve that. Instead of going after $1 million, break it down to say $250,000 next year. If you find yourself at $500,000 by July, then you can always extend the goal to $1 million then. 

So there you go, a few final tips to achieve your goals as we head into the new year. During these final days of December get yourself motivated, visualise what a great year would be like and create a plan to make it happen. You have the ability and the know-how to do it, you just have to decide how you are going to do it and make a determined effort to make it happen. Your year is in your hands. You have the power and all you need now is the right plan, the right motivation and of course to develop the right habits to make it happen. 

Good luck and thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Working with Podcast. If you found this episode inspiring, please share it will as many people you know. Sharing and helping other people to have a fantastic year is a gift only you can give, so give as much as you can. 

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

The Working With Podcast | Episode 59 | How To Manage Paper In A Digital World

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to handle a paper-based work environment when you are a digitally minded person.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 59 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 handling multiple types of inputs. Not just the usual digital inputs such as email, PDF and Word files, but also paper-based applications, memos and even letters. Again, something I think many of you will have to deal with, particularly if you work in a more conservative industry. 

Before we get into the specifics of this question, I would like to point you in the direction of a video I made last month about planning for 2019. We are now just three weeks away from 2019 and I want you all to have the best year you have ever had, not just in terms of completing your projects and goals, but to be able to be better organised and more productive so you can spend more time with the people you really care about doing the things you want to do. I’ve put a link to that video in the show notes and I will be posting a follow-up video this week on how to turn your ideas into actual achievable goals and projects. The best way to make sure you get that video is to subscribe to my channel—which is full of tips, tricks and know-hows—so you never miss a thing. 

Okay, so on to this week’s question and that means 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 Tiago. Tiago asks: I really enjoy the beginners guide to creating your own COD System, it was very useful for my productivity, but I work in an environment that I need to process paper documents from clients, colleagues and process many emails every day. I try to have some hours to process my inboxes, digital and physical, but it’s hard to lead with everything. Do you have some tips for this type of work environment?

Thank you, Tiago for your wonderful question. It’s actually a question about something I think we all forget about sometimes and that is how to deal with not just the digital stuff we receive each day, but also the physical stuff that comes across our desks every day. 

You see whether you have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and applied the principles or you have taken my COD productivity course, both of those resources focus on the digital side and less on the physical side. If you can get a copy of the original Getting Things Done book, that is more focused on the physical stuff because when the book was published in 2001, we were in the middle of the transition from a largely paper-based office environment to a more digital environment. 

Up until last year, I kept a shelve of physical folders next to my desk which contained client contracts, regular mail and my domestic bills I had paid amongst other things. It was a way for me to manage the paper I still received. From January this year, I transitioned to a 100% paperless environment and have found it much less cumbersome. How I handle that is when something physical comes in, whether it is a contract or a bill or something else, I will scan in immediately using my phone and an app called Scanbot. What Scanbot does is send anything I scan to a folder in iCloud where I will then process whatever I received into its correct digital place. Now the problem, of course, is that this creates another inbox that needs processing. As I am not scanning every day it would be very inefficient to check that ‘inbox’ on a daily basis, so after I scan the document I add a task to my to-do list manager’s inbox to tell me to process the folder. 

That worked for me, but it may not work for you. The kind and type of physical documents you receive may be quite varied in their nature so the first thing you will need to do is to review what kind of paper-based documents you receive regularly. When you do this you will find that they will fall into certain categories. For example, if you deal with client contracts, these naturally will fall under the category of contracts and will be associated with a specific client. If your accounts department insists on you providing physical receipts for your expenses report then that is another type of paper document you will need to retain. 

To do this I would recommend you keep a note of what types of paper-documents you receive over a typical week. Then at the end of the week go through your list and see what you have collected. 

Next, go out and buy yourself some folders from your local stationary store. If you really want to, you can also buy yourself a labeller machine too (that’s pure GTD for those of you who have read the book) and label (or write) the type of document you will store in each folder. So you may end up with folders labelled with “receipts”, “New client contracts”, “Invoices to pay”, “Invoices paid” “Applications” etc. The way you label these folders will be based on your review and the types of documents you receive each week. 

Of course, if you have specific client contracts you will probably have a file related to that client already, but at this stage, I am assuming you will need to process the details digitally first before the paper-based contract is moved to its final resting place in the clients or customer’s file. 

Now, in my pre-paperless days, I also had a folder I called “Inbox”. I used this for those random paper documents that did not have a specific place to go but needed some form of attention before being trashed or filed. An example of this would be invitations to an event or payslips for the various academies I worked with. 

Okay, so now what do you do with the paper that comes in. Here, the best way to deal with it is to get yourself two or three in-trays. I recently visited a stationary store and I noticed these are disappearing. A few years ago there was a whole aisle dedicated to inboxes and trays. Now there was a tiny section at the back of the store for them—A worrying development if you ask me—SO if you do not already have a set of these excellent collection tools, go out and buy yourself some. While paper-based stuff is declining, it still exists and so these trays are valuable. I have three metal based in-trays next to my desk and I use them every day. 

The top tray is my inbox. The middle tray is my ‘pending’ or “waiting for” tray—which I must confess gets little input these days as anything I am waiting for is likely to be a digital input.—And my bottom tray is where I keep my journal and notebooks when they are not open on my desk. 

Okay, so now you have everything set up, how do you use this setup on a daily basis?

Okay, so, when a paper-based document comes in you can drop it in your in-tray. Treat this as you would treat your digital inbox. Just drop the document into your tray. Now, here’s the crucial part. If you are going to process the document that day, then there’s nothing else for you to do until you process the document. However, if there is no urgency, the document just needs some action at some point in the near future, add a digital reminder into your digital to-do list. Seriously this is going to save more times than you know. As the paper comes in, stuff you put into your in-tray yesterday or the day before is going to sink to the bottom and can quite easily get missed. Your digital to-do list manager is with you everywhere you go, so you know you will have that reminder there as a trigger to do something with the document. I know some of you will argue that that is duplicating, but adding a digital to-do task has saved me so many times. 

But… As with all inboxes, whether they are digital or physical, they need to be processed regularly. I process all my task related inboxes daily, including my physical inbox, but this is really up to you. My Evernote inbox, for example, gets processed once a week, but I don’t put tasks in there, just notes. 

As an aside, I do have another use for my bottom in-tray. in addition to my journal and notebook, I also keep some cables in there. When I am doing a coaching call, I use my iPad and I keep my iPad’s charging cable in there. Often these calls will be around an hour in length and I don’t want my battery to go flat on me during the call. Before the call, I just pull out the cable and plug in my iPad. The worst thing that could happen is when I am about to start a call, I have to go looking for the charging cable. I can avoid this by having my cable in its rightful place—the bottom tray of my in-trays. 

When you think about it, handling paper-based documents should be a much easier task than handling digital documents. There are hundreds of years of practice and experience to draw on. In a way, I am very lucky to have begun my working life just as we were transitioning away from a paper-based office to a digital one. I was lucky enough to learn how to file manually using those big old-fashioned filing cabinets. A lot of how we manage our digital files these days is based on that tried and tested physical filing system. It worked then, it still works today. 

The difficulty these days is keeping on top of everything that needs doing. But sticking to basic principles of having an inbox to collect everything, spending some time at the end of the day organising everything you collected and spending the better part of your time focused on doing is the only way to manage these various inputs. Working in an environment that has to deal with paper means you need an additional inbox and that means you have an additional inbox to process at the end of the day. 

BUT… What you choose to work on can still be managed digitally. If you have a client’s contract to review and process, then you would add a task into your to-do list manager “Review and process Client A’s contract” and when that task comes due, you would pull the contract from where you filed it and begin the work. The key is to not over complicate things and certainly not have two or three to-do lists. You only need one to-do list and that will tell you what you need to work on next. 

An example is last night I had a call with a client and during that call, I took paper-based notes. After the call, as it was quite late, I tore off the notes sheet with my notes and put it in my inbox. I added a task in my to-do list manager’s inbox to process those notes and at some point today I will do that. Once those notes have been processed into Evernote, that sheet with the notes will be thrown away. I don’t need a duplicate of my notes. Once they are in Evernote they are where they need to be. Of course, I could just scan the sheet and add it to my Evernote, but I like my Evernote notes to be in a digital format so I can copy and paste text if I need to. To process those notes will take around ten to fifteen minutes, but that time is well spent as it will save a lot of time later when I need to find those notes. 

So there you go, Tiago. Hopefully, that has answered your question and given you some food for thought on how best to manage your paper-based stuff. The way to look at it is any paper-based documents that need some work doing, treat is as you would a digital-based document. Add it to your inbox and process it as you would normally do. If necessary, add a task to your to-do list manager and move on to your next piece of work. 

Thank you for the wonderful question, Tiago and thank you all for listening to this podcast. Next week, I will be dealing with how to plan out the new year so you have the best year ever, so if you haven’t created a list of all the things you would like to achieve next year, now’s the time to give some serious thought to that so you are ready to start building your plan for next year. 

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

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 58 | How To Develop Positive Habits

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to Change old habits and develop new ones.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 58 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 great question about habit development and how to use your productivity tools to create new, positive habits and stop old, negative habits. 

But, before we get into this week’s question, please allow me a few seconds to say a big thank you to all of you who participated in my Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale last week. The response was fantastic and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people supporting me so I can help more people to become better organised and more productive. We know stress is one of the world’s biggest killers these days and by becoming more productive you can reduce the amount of stress you are exposed to and that is why I want to help more people discover the benefits of a more organised and productive life. So thank you. I am looking forward to the new year and helping more and more people. Without out your support, I would not be able to do half of what I do today. 

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

This week’s question comes from Pippa. Pippa asks, do you have any tips on developing more positive habits? I have always struggled to change my habits and I was wondering if there was a way to help keep myself focused on my habits.

Thank you, Pippa, for your excellent question. 

Recently I have been asked a lot about this. How to develop and stay focused on new habits and I know from my own personal experience this can be a tough thing to do. But, over the years I have discovered a few ways that can help to keep myself focused on new habits until they become automatic and I will share those ways with you here. 

Firstly, let’s look at the problem. Changing habits is difficult because to change a habit we have to move outside of our natural comfort zones. An example of this would be if you decided to start waking up an hour earlier than usual and doing some form of exercise. Now depending on how fit you are when you start this new habit, starting an exercise programme at the best of times can be very challenging. Exercise, particularly in the beginning, can be very painful and there are no immediate noticeable benefits. It’s just a lot of pain, sweat and, the next day, very sore muscles. 

Over time, as you get fitter, it gets easier and the natural benefits of excising regularly begin to show. You feel stronger, have more energy and of course, you begin to look a lot better. But that is not what you get at the beginning. The beginning is usually characterised by pain and muscle soreness, a flushed face and difficulty getting up out of your seat after you have been sat down for a while. That’s not a very good way to keep you inspired to exercise every morning. You have to have almost super-human discipline to keep going in that situation. 

So how do you overcome this?

The biggest mistake I see is people trying to do too much at once. Take the exercise habit, for example. I often see people make the decision to start an exercise programme and on day one they rush out the house at 6AM, and run for three or four miles. Now, if you have not got out running for a long time, the next day when you wake up to repeat the process, your leg muscles are going to be screaming at you to stop. If you tie that in with cold, wet weather outside, it is understandable that your dry, warm bed is going to win that particular battle. 

Instead, it is far better to start slowly and break down the habit you are trying to develop. In the exercise example, there are actually two habits there. Waking up early and exercising. If you try to do both at the same time you are going to make things very difficult for yourself. It is far better to develop one at a time over a period of time. 

As the new year is around the corner, let’s say that from January you decide that you want to wake up early and spend the first hour of the day doing exercise. Now the better way to do this is to decide that January will be when you develop the habit of waking up early. Let’s say you wake up at 7:30am now, struggle to get out of bed and then find yourself rushing to get yourself out the door and to the bus-stop by 8:00am. So, from the 2nd of January—not the first, that’s usually a holiday for most people—you wake up at 6:30am and get yourself out of bed. Go make yourself a cup of your favourite morning drink, or drink some water, and after a few minutes do some light stretching exercises. Nothing too difficult. Spend 20 to 30 minutes doing that and then go take a shower. Do the same the next day and the next. Just focus on getting into the habit of waking up an hour earlier. 

By the end of January, you will find waking up early has become natural. You will feel disappointed if you don’t wake up early. That’s what you want. You want that emotional response when you don’t do it. 

Now, in February you introduce some more strenuous exercise. Again, the advice here is don’t go crazy. If you have been doing some gentle stretching exercises in January, then add some push-ups and non-weights squats. Do two or three sets of these. Try to find 3 exercises you can do as a set and do three sets of three. You could do planks, push-ups and squats as a set and repeat that three times. Those three exercises will exercise almost all the muscle groups in your body. 

Now if you do that Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday and Thursday you go our for a power walk, that means you will be exercising five times a week. Do that for a month and by the end of February, you will be feeling fantastic. There will be no more muscle soreness and waking up that hour earlier will just feel right. 

If you tried to do that all in the first week, the chances of you being able to maintain it would be almost zero. Staging your changed habits over a couple of months and you increase the chances of success a hundred times.

Okay, so exercise and waking up earlier is an easy example to give. What about some more subtle changes to your habits. Imagine you find yourself being negative about things and you want to become a more positive person. How would you go about changing that? 

Now, this one is a more behavioural habit and so needs a slightly different approach. Humans are not naturally negative. Being negative is a taught skill ( I say that because there are so many amazingly positive things in this world yet some people seem to have PhDs in finding the negatives in life). Changing the way you look at the world is a lot easier than you may think. 

The way to do this is to make full use of your calendar or to-do list manager. At the top of your to-do list or calendar write down two or three things you will be positive about today. I would write “Be positive” at the top of my to-do list and highlight it or bold it so it stands out. Every time I look at my to-do list I would see those two words. Likewise, if you do this on your calendar, create a new event and in bold capitalised letters write “BE POSITIVE!” What this does is remind you every time you look at your to-do list or calendar (or both) to be positive. 

This is about changing the way you see the world. If it’s raining - look at the rain and say to yourself that the air is being cleaned and nature is getting its drinking water. If it’s snowing, instead of thinking about how difficult it will be to get to work, think about all the children who are going to be so excited about the snow. Imagine how you felt about the snow when you were a child. That will soon put a positive smile on your face. 

Another quick tip about becoming more positive is don’t read the news first thing in the morning. The news is full of negativity because for some reason bad news sells. Stay well away from the news. I use a news reader app called Reeder that only shows me articles from blogs and magazines I choose. So my morning news is full of productivity tips, self-help advice and technology news. I have no idea about Brexit or the latest antics of President Trump. 

What you need to do is to remove the triggers that led to your old habit and replace them with triggers that encourage the new habit. Replace negative news with blog posts about your favourite hobby. Replace negative thoughts by challenging yourself to find the positives—there are always positives. 

Far and away the best way to develop positive habits is to start small. Don’t try and change everything at once. Create a 12-month timeline and map out the habits you want to develop over that twelve month period. Start with the easy ones as this will allow your confidence to grow. As your confidence grows, so too will your self-discipline so when you get to the harder habits, you will have a lot more confidence and a lot more self-discipline. 

One tip that always works for me is to schedule a specific time to do whatever it is you want to do. For me, I exercise between 2 and 2:45pm every day. Most days I will exercise quite hard. But some days I can feel a little soreness and so I will just do gentle stretching and non-weight bearing exercises. That time is scheduled on my calendar five times a week and as the rule goes - “What’s on my calendar gets done” I make sure it happens, no matter what mood I am in. My calendar is sacred territory. If you work a regular 9 til’ 5 office job, then schedule 6pm to 7pm to do whatever new habit you want to develop. It could be spend more time with your kids, write a journal or clean your house. Whatever it is, schedule it and make sure you do it. 

Changing old habits and developing new ones is really all about creating routines. When you turn the new habit into a routine you just do it without thinking. For me, when 2pm arrives, I stop whatever it is I am doing and begin my usual warmup routines. I also change into my exercise gear and just begin. Although I have previously planned what exercise I will do, when 2pm arrives, I just start. There’s no thinking, no opportunity to talk myself out of doing it, it’s 2pm and I start… It’s on my calendar. 

So there you go, Pippa. I hope that has given you a few ideas about starting new habits and I wish you all the best of luck with your new habits. I know it is not easy, but with time and by starting small, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. 

Thank you all for listening to this episode of the Working With Podcast. If you have a question you would like answering, please send me an email - calr@carlpullein.com or you can 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 57 | How To Stop Procrastinating.

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to stop procrastinating and get the work done.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 57 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, the question is all about procrastination and how to overcome this real productivity conundrum. It affects us all and it can do a lot of damage to our careers, relationships and goals. 

But before we get into this week’s question, I want to tell you all about my fantastic Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale. There are some fantastic offers available for you and I would love you to get yourself a bargain while you can. I have bundles of courses, including the brilliant Pathway To Productivity, AND… I am also offering 12 Months of weekly one on one coaching with me personally at half price. Those places are very limited, so if you want to get yourself in, you need to go to my website right now and book yourself a place and save yourself $600! 

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

This week’s question comes from Tim. Tim asks, Carl, I really struggle to get things done. Whenever I sit down to do some work I find myself procrastinating by flicking through Instagram or watching your videos on YouTube. Do you have any advice on stopping this? 

Thank you, Tim, Not sure I want to stop you watching my videos though! Anyway, to answer your question this is something I know many people have difficulties with. I too, from time to time, find myself procrastinating and it can really hinder the work I want to do for the day. The good news is there are a few strategies you can use to stop you from flicking through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. 

The first one is to have a plan for the day. We often find ourselves procrastinating when we have unclear plans for the day. If you turn up to work with no plan you will spend the first part of the day thinking about what to do and that is when social media and unimportant work shouts the loudest. It’s human nature to turn away from the hardest work and move towards the easier work. If you have no plan, the unimportant will be shouting at you and you will not do the important. This is one of the many reasons why I recommend you do the Golden Ten at the end of the day and not in the morning. When you wake up in the morning with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish that day you are much more likely to get it done. 

And that leads me on to the second tip. Don’t set yourself too much to do. Another reason why we get drawn to procrastination is because when we look at our to-do list for the day it is too long. It becomes overwhelming and overwhelm often leads to procrastination. I have been recommending that you do not have more than ten things on your daily to-do list each day for a long time. Now that might not seem very much, but every day you are going to have crises, demands from bosses and customers and you are going to have to deal with them. If you only have ten or fewer items on your to-do list you will have time to deal with the crises as well as get your planned work done. That creates a circle of success. The more days you complete your planned tasks, the more focused you will become on completing those tasks. It’s a case of you not wanting to break the chain and you become determined to get your work done. 

How you write out your tasks is also a way to prevent procrastination. If you write tasks out that are unclear, such as, “Shopping”, “dog food” or “Wife’s birthday”, you will procrastinate. Sometimes you will remember what it was you meant when you wrote that task, other times you will not. If the task is something like “write report” that will guarantee you will procrastinate because although it is just two words, the work involved is unclear and you will resist. Far better to write tasks such as “Buy dog food for Barney” or “research gift ideas for wife’s birthday” for the report break it down. You could create three of four tasks such as: 

  • Write introduction to report

  • Prepare charts for report

  • Ask Jane for report template 

These tasks are easy, clear and manageable. You are much more likely to get them done rather than waste time thinking about what to do next. 

Another way to help stop you from procrastinating is to make good use of labels or contexts in Getting Things Done terminology. What this means is you label each task according to the tool, place or person required to do the task. For example, if you need to be at your computer to do a task, you would label it @computer. Likewise, if you need to be with your colleague to find something out, then you would label the task @colleague’s name. Shopping tasks can be labelled @supermarket and so on. This way, when you find yourself in front of your computer you pull up the list of tasks you need your computer for and get started. Now of course if you are using my Golden Ten system you would move on to your labels AFTER you have completed your ten tasks for the day. 

Another trick I’ve used in the past that works well is to schedule breaks between the work I am doing. For example, I know in a morning I am good for around two hours. So, every two hours I will get up and walk around. Refill my water bottle or check my email. I limit these break times to ten minutes and if you are a serial procrastinator I would suggest you set yourself a ten-minute alarm. You can check your email from your phone, so you can walk around and check email via your phone. If you want to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed during these times then do so. It’s a break remember. BUT… After ten minutes get back to work. In the afternoons, I find my attention span reduces so I take breaks every hour or so. This really works, particularly if you are following your plan for the day. When you have a plan you know exactly what you will get to work on once your break is over. 

Having all your information organised is another way to avoid procrastination. When the information you need to do your work is scattered all over the place you go in search of it. This will take you down avenues you do not want to go down looking for files. I group reference materials and files in project-specific folders (or notebooks in Evernote) I also copy and paste website links into the project note for the project in Evernote so I don’t have to open up my web browser blind. All I need to do is click on a saved link and it will take me to the page I need to reference. Not only does this save a lot of time it also keeps me focused on the task at hand. 

Turn off your notifications and silence your email when you are doing your important work. This one is a biggie. If you are working on a report, presentation or design and you keep getting pop-ups telling you-you have new email, or a new Twist or Slack message you are going to be tempted to look at it. STOP! No, No No! - This is going to cause you a lot of pain AND you WILL procrastinate. Turn them off and focus on the work. You can check your messages and emails between your work sessions. Seriously, no one is ever going to get upset with you if you don’t reply for an hour. If something was very urgent, they would call you. So there’s no excuse at all not to turn off your notifications. Do it… Just do it. No excuses. 

There’s a couple of other ways to stop procrastinating. The first is to gamify your work. Give yourself a reward for focusing on your work for an hour (or ninety minutes if you prefer) Allow yourself ten minutes on Instagram if you complete a piece of work or spend two hours on focused work. Gamification is fun and you not only get to check your social media feeds you also get a lot of work done. After all, work doesn’t have to bring and serious all the time. 

Finally, if you are in the habit of checking shopping sites randomly while you are working then set up your to-do list manager to collect from a keyboard shortcut. Recently I have been redesigning my home office and I have been looking at office chairs, hard drive storage solutions and plants for my desk. Often as I am writing or planning I get an idea to check Ikea or a furniture store’s site. To avoid me going off on a shopping expedition, I will use my quick capture keyboard shortcut to Todoist to collect what it is I want to look at and carry on my work. I write and plan in full-screen mode on my computer, so I never leave the screen I am working in. It’s just SHIFT+CMD+A and I type “look up office chairs at Ikea” and hit return. Done. My thought was captured and I can carry on planning or writing. I can then look up whatever it is I wanted to look up when I take my next break. 

Well, I hope that has answered your question, Tim and I hope it will help you to overcome your procrastination. 

I know procrastination is a problem for many people, but if you adopt these strategies you will soon find yourself getting more important work done and procrastinating less. Be clear about what you want to get done, schedule regular breaks and turn off your notifications when you are doing focused work. These three strategies alone will help you. But the biggest one of all is to discipline yourself. Procrastination is really a sign you have a lack of discipline. Work on your discipline, and to do that start small, and you will go a very long way to stopping procrastination from rearing its ugly head. 

Good luck and thank you, Tim, for your excellent question. And thank you all for listening 

Don’t forget to check out my Holiday season offers, I am sure there will be something there for you all. 

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

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 56 | How To Stay Focused On The Important Things In Your Life.

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to stay focused on the important things.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 56 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 focus and how to stay focused on the important things without allowing yourself to be distracted by all the unimportant things that go on around us every day. 

Before we dive in to this week’s question, though, I just like to tell you I have been preparing a number of fantastic offers for this coming weekend’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The first of which will be an exclusive “secret sale” launching on Thursday for all of you who are enrolled in my Learning Centre. If you are not already enrolled, then get yourself enrolled in my FREE Beginners Guide to Creating Your Own COD system so you can be involved in this very special secret sale. 

Okay, on to this week’s question and that means handing you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Amanda. Amanda asks: Carl, how do you stay focused on your goals and plans on a daily basis. I really struggle with this. 

Thank you Amanda for your question. I think this is another question many of you will also be wondering about. 

Well, the first thing is you need to have identified what exactly is important to you. If you do not know what is important you will always be feeling you are not moving forward with your life. You will feel you are just going through the motions and not getting anything important done. Establishing what is important to you, and what is not, is the first step. Of course it is not an easy step. There is so much going on in our lives and there is so much going on at work that it is very hard to know what is important and what is not. One thing I can tell you is that other people’s urgencies are definitely not your important tasks. Important tasks for you need to come from you. Not your boss, your family or your friends. They must come from you. 

One way to discover what is important to you is to ask a very simple question and spend a few minutes thinking about your answer. That question is:

If I had complete control over what I will do tomorrow, what would I do?  

Now there are two different times you should ask this question. When you are at work and when you are at home. Ask this question before you finish at workplace everyday and write out what you would do, and again, ask this question on a Friday night and write down you answer. 

The answers you come up with may not necessarily be what you can work on, but somewhere in the list of things you write down you will see a theme developing. That theme is where you should be spending your time. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say on a Sunday night you sit down and ask the question. You write down things like:

  • Finish presentation for Thursday’s symposium

  • Prepare for Wednesday’s conference call

  • Ask HR about how many holiday days I have left this year

Once you have a list like this, get them into your to-do list manager and flag them. These are your priorities for tomorrow. 

Now if your list contains more than three or four things, you are going to have to slim down the list. This is where you will have to become a bit ruthless. This is quite hard to do at first, but our brains have a very bad habit of convincing us we can do more than we can in any period of twenty-four hours. And we also have to accept there is going to be some form of a crisis that will require our attention. We do not work in a bubble. 

If you want to get really good at this you should go into full ruthless mode and restrict these things to just two. When you do that, you start making sure that the two things you choose as your objectives are truly important to you. And being only two important things you are much more likely to get them done. 

Doing this process on a Friday evening also helps you to not waste your weekends too. Of course yo do not want to be writing down things related to your work because we all need a break from that. So, you want to looking at doing things with your family, your friends or perhaps some home improvements or even more important something related to your personal improvement. One thing that is always on my weekend list is to watch a TED talk or go through some Robin Sharma, Mel Robbins or Brian Tracy videos. I usually spend around an hour each weekend doing this and find in incredibly inspiring and educational and I feel no matter what I have done—or not done—that day, I have done something important. 

If you are not taking some time each day to think about what you want to do, and then writing them down and making them priorities, you are going end up doing what someone else wants you to do and that usually does not end well for you. You feel exhausted and worn out and yet you have done nothing to improve your life or make progress on your work. You will have it all to do again tomorrow. It becomes a never-ending cycle and it’s a cycle you need to get off as quickly as possible. 

Some areas you should be prioritising and focusing on every day are:

  • Your own self-development

  • Your health and fitness

  • Your own work - work you are responsible for

  • Your friends and family

  • Planning and preparation for upcoming projects

  • Completing your projects - because I know a lot of people who are fantastic at planning their projects and creating beautiful to-do lists in their productivity tools and never actually get round to doing the work that matters. 

Distractions are an inevitability, you are not going to be able to completely remove them from your life. When we are tired we find our Facebook or Instagram feed irresistible and our boss, partner or co-worker can have very loud voices. All these distractions happen to everyone. We are not always wide awake, we don’t all have wonderfully quiet co-workers and understanding partners. We have to deal with them. You need to create systems and processes so you can focus on what is important to you so that these get done every day. You have to be disciplined. And I’m afraid there is no getting around that. 

One final thing I should mention is I have what like to call my “anchor”. My anchor is a place where I can go to refocus. Now, when I say “anchor”, I don’t mean a physical place, what I mean is a place where you have your goals and priorities written down. This could be a note in your notes app, or a page in your journal. It really doesn’t matter where you have this list or note. What matters is that it is accessible to you every day. We cannot control what happens to us or around us, but we can control our response to what happens. Our days can take some very unexpected turns. A colleague does not come in to work one day and you start getting calls from their customers asking about things you have no idea about. Or your boss dumps a huge project on your desk and asks you to complete by the end of tomorrow. When these things happen you have no choice but to deal with them. 

This is where your anchor comes in to play. You can deal with the immediate crisis and then when you get a few moments you can go to your anchor, read through it and remind yourself of your priorities and your objectives. It can bring you peace and calm when everything around you is in chaos. 

My anchor is my journal. It is always on my desk and is open at today’s page. I’ve talked about my journal in a previous episode, but having my journal next to me whenever I am working is a fantastic way to give me peace of mind and to make sure I am focused on the work that matters. At anytime I feel I am being dragged off to do work I am not happy about doing, I can take a couple of minutes and review my goals, or review my objectives for the day and this can give me the necessary boost to refocus on what’s important and to decide when or even if I want to do a piece of work. 

If you are interested in learning more about my anchor, I wrote a blog post about it last week and I also talked about it in last week’s episode of the Productivity Mastery series. 

So there you go, Amanda. Hopefully that has given you some tips and ideas about what you can do you get yourself focused on what is important to you. Remember, your priorities should always be your priorities and not the priorities of someone else. Create an anchor for yourself so you can be reminded of what is important to you whenever you feel chaos is around you. 

Thank you for your question, Amanda and thank you all for listening to this episode. If you have a question you would like answering, please get in touch either by email or Dming me on Twitter or Facebook. All the details are in the show notes. 

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

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 55 | Planning 2019 With Kevin Blackburn [Pt 2]

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In this second part of my chat with Kev Blackburn of Life Success Engineer, we continue discussing goal planning and 2019.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Hello and welcome to episode 55 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 second part of my special goal planning and 2019 episode, Kev Blackburn, THE Life Success Engineer and I discuss a few goal planning tips and tricks that will help you make 2019 your best year yet. 

So, sit back, enjoy, be inspired and we continue where we left off. 

 



The Working With... Podcast | Episode 54 | Planning 2019 With Kevin Blackburn [Pt 1]

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In this week’s episode, I chat with Kev Blackburn of Life Success Engineer about goal planning and making 2019 your best year yet.


You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Hello and welcome to episode 54 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 first part of a very special goal planning and 2019 episode, Kev Blackburn, THE Life Success Engineer and I discuss how we plan the new year, what tools we use and why this time of the year is one of the most exciting times for us. 

So, sit back, enjoy, be inspired.

Part two of this talk will be posted on Friday so, listening out the that episode. 





The Working With… Podcast | Episode 53 | How I Plan The New Year

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how I plan my new year goals.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 53 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 finally answer a question I received during the summer, but I thought it would be better to answer the question now as the year draws to a close. And that is how do I plan my year. I should also point out that I will be doing another episode on this in the coming weeks with my good friend and super amazing positive guy, Kevin Blackburn, so keep your eyes (or ears) open for that episode, I know it’s going to be a very special episode.

And if you really want to learn how to set and achieve your goals I have a couple of courses on my Learning Centre that will not only show you how to create achievable goals but also take you through the steps on discovering what you really want to achieve in life. I’ve linked to both courses in the show notes and I would highly recommend you have a look at them. Those courses could really change your life. 

Okay, let’s get on with this week’s show and that means it’s time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Michael. Michael asks, Carl could you tell us how you go about setting goals. I know you’ve written a lot about it, but hearing it in your own words would be very helpful. 

Okay, Michael, you asked for it so here it is. 

I begin my planning season around the middle of October when I create a note in my Evernote with 6 headings. These headings are:

  1. Ideas - this where I dump anything that comes into my mind

  2. What would I like to change about myself? - This question allows me to think about my character, habits and interactions and see if there is anything I am not happy about. If I find anything I will add it here. 

  3. What would I like to change about my lifestyle? - This question is all about the way I live. Am I active enough? is there anything about my home I would like to change? Anything like that.

  4. What would I like to change about the way I work? This question obviously is about my work. Is there anything about my work routines I would like to change. This year, for example, I focused more on making sure I did any creative work in the mornings and did admin and editing work in the evenings. 

  5. What can I do to challenge myself? Challenging myself helps to stop me from stagnating. I like to have at least one thing each year that is going to be incredibly difficult. This always gives me a huge buzz because often the challenge seems impossible at first. 

  6. Goals - Finally, I have a place to add in the goals I want to achieve next year. These can come from anything I have written to the questions I have in the list and it’s a good way to help me build the final list of goals for the year as I am developing my ideas. 

I’ve put a link in the show notes so you can download this worksheet and use it for yourself. 

So how do I take all these answers and turn them into goals for the following year? Well, the first step is to empty my head of ideas and I have found over the years that trying to write a full list in one sitting is pretty much impossible. Instead, I treat most of October and all of November as an open planning session. By that I mean this note in Evernote is with me everywhere I go, so wherever I am I can add to the list anytime. And ideas can pop up at any time. Often I can be on the subway minding my own business and something I see or hear will spark an idea and I will immediately collect it on my phone. If I have time I will put it under the right question, if not, I just add it to the bottom of the list and move it to the right place later. 

I’ve found if I allow myself 4 to 6 weeks of this I will have a wonderfully long list of ideas. The “collection” phase of my planning stops on the 1st of December. By then I know I will have collected everything I would like to achieve. 

Now, there is one final step in this process I do. On the first of December, I will take a look at last years list—and this is one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to stick with one app for each area of your productivity system. Because I have been using Evernote for over nine years now, I know exactly where last year’s note is and can pull it up with a very simple search. Switching notes apps all the time means there’s a good chance you will lose stuff like this in the switchover—What I am looking for are the ideas I had last year that I decided at the time was not the right time to do. Often I find there are one or two items on that list that will I transfer over to this year’s list. 

Now, the 1 December is the cut off time. I will not be adding anything else to the list. What I have on the list now is everything. So, the next step is to slim the list down to two things for each question and to have five goals for the year. 

I will go through each part of the list and use Evernote’s highlighting tool to highlight three things from each question. Then every day for that two weeks I will spend a few minutes looking at the list and checking that I am still happy with my selection. I find almost every day I will change something. Often I will change the highlight to another item and then change it back a few days later. It’s all good fun, but by doing this you will have evaluated everything thoroughly and when the 15th of December comes around that is your final selection. 

Why two things and 5 goals? Well, if you try and do everything you will fail at most things. Experience has taught me that if I am focused on only a few things there is a much better chance of accomplishing those few things. It also means that the things I do choose to focus on next year will be things that are really important to me. Forcing myself to prioritise this way means my choices are important and the desire to accomplish them will be very strong. 

Why only 5 goals? Again this is so I am not trying to do too much. As the year goes, other things will come up, there could be family emergencies, your employment situation may suddenly change in a way you did not anticipate. All sorts of things could happen. So a limited number of goals allows me to stay focused on what is truly important to me. 

Okay, so now it’s the 15th December and I have my final selection, what happens next? Well, now it’s time to create the necessary action steps and timelines for these changes and goals to happen. Let me give you an example from this year:

On my lifestyle changes list, I had the goal of beginning Robin Sharma’s 5 am Club. This is where you wake up at 5 am, do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes studying. Now, I prefer to exercise in the afternoon as it breaks up my day nicely, and I do my planning in the evening before I go to bed. That works for me and I didn’t want to change it. However, I also had on my goals list to learn Korean to fluency and I saw the chance to merge the two goals together. So, I developed a plan to wake up at 5 am and study Korean for an hour. 

For timing, I decided the best time to do this was when my wife went off to China for a few months to study. This meant I did not have to worry about waking her up and with the change in my home life, it would be a good time to change my routine. So, my wife left for China on a Friday in early June and the following Monday I began my 5 am club. It was tough for the first few days, but by the end of the week I was getting into it and after a month it was easy. 

Next up on my list of things to do was begin meditation. The question here for me was at what time of the day would I do it. I decided the best time would be early morning, so in September, I added 15 minutes meditation to my 5 AM Club routine. So, now I study for 45 minutes and finish off with 15 minutes of meditation. And I should say, I really look forward to my 5 AM starts now. 

I knew at the beginning of the year I needed to first get into the routine of waking up early and studying. So I gave myself 3 months to get into that habit before starting the meditation habit. There was no rush and this slow development has meant that as I acquire a new habit I can then move on to developing that habit into what the final goal was to be. Wake up at 5 AM study and meditate for an hour. Now we are into November I can confidently say I have acquired both habits and it has become one of the highlights of my day!

So there you have it, the way I plan the year. It’s a fun way to do it, it allows you plenty of time to really evaluate what you want to accomplish and more importantly anticipate difficulties so you can develop strategies for overcoming those difficulties when they do happen. 

It may seem like a lot of work, but the whole process is done in a relaxed fun way. It should not feel like a burden you and there will be days when you don’t think of anything just like there will be days when your brain goes into overdrive and you add a tonne of stuff to your list. Just enjoy the process. The real hard work begins after the 15th December when you start developing your action steps and timelines. 

The key is to remember that 2019 is 12 months, not 12 days. So spread out your goals and tasks. Use the full year to have something new to start every two or three months. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of the experience and you will enhance your chances of succeeding at achieving your goals. 

Don’t forget to download my FREE Annual Planning worksheet so you can start this process and then spend the rest of November gathering all your ideas. Have fun, make sure you are challenged and more importantly look at 2019 as an opportunity to really achieve something special. 

Good luck and thank you so much for listening to this episode. Thank you to you, Michael for your wonderful question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 52 | How To Take Control Of Your Work Scope

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to make sure you work on the things that matter.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 52 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 we will be discussing what matters most and to make sure you are staying focused on those things and not getting caught on a conveyor belt of meaningless tasks that take you nowhere. 

But before we dive into this week’s question, I’d like to point you all to a video I did on my YouTube channel about starting your 2019 plan. In that video I take you through the annual planning process I go through each year and it always starts in October. So, now’s a great time to watch that video and to download my annual planning sheet to help you get the most out of 2019. I’ve put a link in the show notes for you. 

Okay, so let’s get to this week’s question and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Patricia. Patricia asks “I work for an import/export company and every day the workload is huge. I never have time to do work that I want to do because I always find myself having to deal with other people’s emergencies. Do you have any tips that will help me to do more of my own work and less of other people’s?

Excellent question, Patricia and another question I think many people have. How do you focus on your own work and priorities when customers, colleagues and bosses want you to work their priorities? 

And really that’s the problem here. All that work we get dumped with is often work for other people and in many ways, the simple solution is to set some boundaries to prevent it from happening. Of course, simple solutions are not always easy solutions. So let’s see what can be done.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. When we start a new job or we gain a new client we are all too eager to please, so we say yes to everything. The problem with that is once you start saying yes to doing ‘extra’ work that ‘extra’ work becomes the norm and soon your colleagues, boss and customers just expect you to do it. In essence, that extra work has now become your regular work. We can blame other people, but the reality is we accepted that work before and now it going to be much harder to say no. 

The way I have handled this in the past is to give the person asking me to do the extra work a timeline. What I mean by this is I will accept the work, but I will also tell the person asking when I will do it. So if a colleague asks me to help them prepare a presentation for them, I will enthusiastically accept with something like “sure! I’ll be happy to help. What would you like me to do?” They will then say something like, “well, you are so good at designing slides I wonder if you would improve the design of the presentation I have to do later this week?” To which you reply “okay, I can do it for you, but I’m a bit busy at the moment. Could I send it to you on Friday?”They are then going to tell you that’s too late. Now you can say “Oh, sorry I don’t think I will be able to do any sooner. I have a lot of work to get finished first”

Now your colleague is going to walk away and ask someone else to do their work for them. What you are doing here is showing you are willing to help, but at the same time making it clear your work takes priority. You colleague will get the message. 

Bosses are a bit more difficult because they have seniority. But the same strategy can be used. If a boss insists, what you can do is ask them which work can be delayed so you can work on their slides. This has two effects, it causes the boss the stop and thinks about what they are asking you to do (work outside your scope) and now if the boss insists they will have to reprioritise your work, this giving you extended deadlines on your own work. Either that or, like you colleague they will do their own work themselves. 

Handling customers is the most difficult, but here I have found that what we tell a customer at the beginning is very important. If a customer begins calling you after your working hours for example, no matter how tempting it may be to answer your phone or reply to their email late at night this is something you must not do… Ever! When you answer your phone, reply to a text message or email after your working hours you have told your customer you are willing to work extra hours for free for them and they will take full advantage of that. The best way to handle this is to call them back at 7 AM or send your reply at 6AM—I often use my email scheduling feature and reply to the email before I go to bed and then schedule it to go out at 6:10 am. This tells your customer you are diligent, but it also tells them, you will not be replying to their email late at night. 

I’ve found sending my replies very early in the morning sends a very powerful message. I can promise you they will not be expecting you to reply after hours again AND… They will not be calling you late at night because they don't want to be woken up at 7AM the next day. 

It’s really all about setting boundaries and expectations. If you make yourself available at all times, then your colleagues, boss and customers are going to expect that always. Not a good place to be in if you want to make time to prioritise your own work. 

Now how to manage an overwhelming workload. Here you are going to have again set yourself some boundaries. The first I would suggest you do is to learn when you in your peak working state. Everyone will be different here. For some of you, early morning will be when you can focus deeply on your work and get a lot done, others of you may find the afternoons are better. 

I always believed I was a night owl and so I used to do my focused work late afternoon or early evenings. But after I took some time to experiment doing my work at different times of the day I discovered I worked in a much better mental state between 6AM and 9AM. So now that is the time I turn off all my devices except for the ones I am using to do my work and I get on with my work. 

Now it is important to plan what you will work on the day before if you do not plan what you will work on you will find you spend the first 30 mins or so trying decide what to work on. That’s not a good way to start. Before you finish for the day, make a decision on what work is your priority and needs pushing forward and write that down at the top of your to-do list for the next day. That way when you start your focused work time, you can get straight into it. 

Its also important you put your phone, tablets and computers into a “do not disturb” mode for this period of time. Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen… I promise you. I’m not sure if this is possible with Android devices, but on iPhones when you turn on do not disturb, you can allow those people on your favourites list to get through. I do use this function, but the only people on my favourites list are my wife and mother. If anything bad was happening, my wife and mother would be the first to tell me. 

For me, I can do 3 hours of focused work before my brain is tired and I need a break. During that break, I will get up and move, but afterwards, I will do things like check email, basic admin tasks and other less mental tasks. 

The key to all of this is to decide the day before what it is you want to get done the next day. If you don’t do that you will get caught up in the day’s crises. But, and this is a big but, do not be tempted to schedule too much. You are always going to get distracted and some those daily crises will involve you. If you try and plan out eight hours of priority work in one day you are never going to get it all done. There’s no flexibility. You should be aiming for two to three hours of focused work and make sure you are not disturbed during the time you have allocated to do that work. 

Talking to your boss about your new focused time period will also help. When you explain to your boss you want to get more quality work done and you need two to three hours a day where you can work undisturbed, your boss will understand and be sympathetic. I’ve found that once you explain why you want this undisturbed time and you show your boss the amount of work you are getting done and the higher quality, your boss will very quickly give you more freedom to do more focused work. 

I know it’s hard to say “no” to colleagues, customers and your boss. But you are not really saying “no”. You are still doing your work, but you are doing your work on your terms and on your timeline. These boundaries are important if you want to have a better working experience and want to feel less stressed and overwhelmed. 

The bottom line is, nothing will change unless you change. And that means you need to take control of your time and your priorities. If you allow other people to control your time and your priorities you are always going to feel overwhelmed and stressed. 

So, Patricia, start be setting some boundaries and make sure you are very clear about what you want to get accomplished tomorrow. Find out when you are in your peak working state and schedule some focused time to work on YOUR priorities during that period. By just working on those things, you will very quickly find you feel less stressed and overwhelmed. 

Thank you for your question, Patricia and thank you to you all for listening to the Working With… Podcast. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer, just email me carl@carlpulein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 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 51 | How I Use And What I Write In My Journal

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about what I put in my journal.


You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 51 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 received a question about what I write in my journal. Now, my journal is something I really couldn’t live without and it is not digital! My journal is a paper-based journal and I absolutely love it because it gives me time away from a screen to write down things that are important to me. But we’ll get into that in just a moment. 

Before that, I just want to remind you all of my latest online course—From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 days!—a course created to help you to develop the skills and habits needed to become a master of productivity so you can spend more time doing the things you want to do with the people you want to spend more time with. I would love you to join me in in this course — it’s a course that will change your life and help you to be in the moment and not stressed about whatever might be going on in your work. All the details and links are in the show the notes. 

Okay, onto this week’s question so that means 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 Scott. Scott asks: In one of your videos you mentioned your journal. It looked like a handwritten notebook, and you said you write something in there every day. You also said it has become very important to you. Would you share the kind of things you write there, and why you've found it to be a benefit to you?

Scott, you are correct, I do use a handwritten journal and I do write in it every day. 

First things first, I use a Galaxy Leather large Desk Journal (I’ll put a link in the show notes for you all) which is a gorgeous leather bound lined journal that costs around $25.00. The paper works very well with my fountain pens, although it is not really designed for fountain pens. 

So, what do I write in there? 

When I finish my Golden Ten in the evening, I sit down with my journal and I set up my page for the next day. I begin at the top and write down four headings. The first is “Today’s Objectives”. Underneath that, I write the two things I want to accomplish tomorrow. Now, these could be anything from doing a minimum of 30 mins exercise, to writing my blog post. Whatever I want to accomplish, I will write it there. For those of you who follow my Todoist videos on YouTube, these are the same objectives I have there too. Yes, I know there’s duplication, but my journal stays on my desk in my home office, Todoist goes with me everywhere I go. 

Next comes “Today’s Focus” and underneath that, I write the role I want to focus on for the day. This might be teaching, or content production or health and fitness or anything like that. This is where I can write down exactly what role I want to focus on. For example, I wrote in today’s focus “I teach my students in a way that motivates and inspires, educates and entertains so that my students will improve their communication skills and improve not just their professional lives but their personal lives too.” 

Writing a short affirmation like this focuses my mind the next morning when I read through what wrote the evening before. It motivates me and sets me up for staying focused on what’s important. 

Underneath my Today’s Focus, I write one or two things I am grateful for. Again, this helps to put my mind in a positive frame when I start the day. It’s a great way to start the day and leaves me feeling energised and positive. 

Finally, underneath those, I have a title “what did I do today” and this is where I will write out the things I did as I do them. So, at the time of recording this podcast it is still quite early in the day and I have written “50 minutes Korean study” and “15 minutes meditation” — recording this podcast is the next item on my to-do list so once I have recorded this episode, I will write in “recorded next week’s podcast”. I do this because it allows me to analyse my week and see how productive I have been. 

Now, other things I keep in my journal are notes I capture while watching videos on YouTube. If I have time at the end of the day I will watch a Brian Tracy, Robin Sharma, Mel Robbins or Tony Robbins seminar on YouTube. While watching these I collect notes and quotes straight into my journal. This helps to make my journals valuable sources of information. I watch other videos too of course. TED talks, and videos on Daoism or Buddhism anything like that. From these, I collect notes and quotes too. 

As you can imagine, over time my journals are filling up with some amazing information and there’s nothing better than to read through my old journals on a lazy Sunday afternoon relearning forgotten notes and reminiscing some amazing events I have been to. 

Another thing I keep in my journal are my goals for the year. Now I go through about three or four journals a year, so that gives me an opportunity to rewrite my goals for the year three or four times. It’s a great way to remind myself and to refocus myself on what’s important for the year. I also have my life’s mission statement written in the front and again I get to rewrite that three to four times a year. It’s a fantastic way to reaffirm myself that I am on the right path and moving in the right direction. 

I should mention I also keep tickets and wristbands I have collected from the various music festivals I attend each year. A few weeks ago I went to Above And Beyond’s Group Therapy 300 concert in Hong Kong—it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life and my wristband and train tickets to the event are proudly glued into my journal on the day I attended. I know as the years go by and I look through that journal that page alone will bring back some amazing memories. 

So why do I handwrite a journal rather use a digital journal such as Day One or Evernote? The truth is last year I did experiment keeping my journal in Evernote. There are some advantages to a digital journal such as being able to put in your digital photos, auto collect weather info and as your journal is on all your devices you can capture thoughts and moments wherever you are. But for me, taking some deliberate time away from a screen and going old-school with my favourite fountain pen and a gorgeous paper-based journal is a special moment in itself. My digital journal experiment never did create special moments like that. It began to feel like a burden rather than something I looked forward to doing at the end of the day. That’s why I went back to my old-school journal. 

To answer your second question, Scott, Journaling for me is a special moment. It allows me to slow down, take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect and to think about what I want to accomplish tomorrow in a relaxed state. I can empty my mind of thoughts, and feelings in a way I have never been able to do digitally. I suppose digital devices feel cold, business-like. Handwriting thoughts, goals and mission statements feels more real, more human and for some reaso,n I find it reinforces my motivation better than a keyboard and a screen does. 

And of course, over time you are collecting something physical that can be passed down to your children and grandchildren in future years. That’s something digital journals may not be able to do as file formats could change and the humble text file today could very easily become as obsolete as the VHS video or CD ROM. And that would be a sad loss of memories and experiences. 

Journalling has become a big part of my life. My journal sits, open on my desk as I write, plan and record. It’s a constant companion full of my memories, feelings and experiences and that feels not only comforting, but also reassuring that my life is being documented and even if no one in the future is interested in my life, I will have a record of how I lived my life, the goals I achieved and failed at, and it will be an interesting read for myself as I travel further along life’s path. I would recommend it to all of you. 

Life is short and you have no idea where your life path will take you. Some of you will become hugely successful, many of you won’t. But all you will live wonderfully interesting lives and it would be a shame if you don’t capture those special moments in a way that will live on long after you have passed. So start a journal today. Go out and buy yourself as beautiful notebook as you can afford and start writing. Write your goals for the year, your life’s mission statement and the things you have done during the day. Writing down the things you are grateful for is also a great way to fuel your happiness. This is something you will never ever regret. 

Well, thank you for listening to this episode. Thank you also to you, Scott for the fabulous question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

The Working With Podcast | Episode 50 | Organise by Project or Area of Focus?

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about organising either by project or area of focus

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 50 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.

Yes indeed! We’ve reached number 50 in this podcast. I want to thank all you wonderful people for sending in your questions over the year we’ve been running and to thank you all for making this podcast such a success. So thank you very very much.

Before we get into this week’s question I’d just like to let you know that last Friday I launched a brand new course, From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days! It’s a course I have been planning for around six months now and came about because so many people have asked me about how to get themselves more productive. But more importantly, I created this course because life is not just about work, life is about having fun, experiencing amazing events, visiting fantastic places and spending quality time with the people you love and care about. Work is just one part of our lives and it should never be the dominating part of our lives. Check out the details of the course—there’s a link in the show notes—I’d love to see you in the course. 

Okay, onto this week’s question and that means it’s time to hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Daniel. Daniel asks Carl, I recently saw your Todoist YouTube episode on the difference between projects and areas of focus. Could you tell me how you distinguish between the two ways of organising your to-do list? 

Thank you, Daniel, for the question and, Yes I would be delighted to share how I organise my to-dos between projects and areas of focus.

Firstly, I should explain the difference between projects and areas of focus. Traditionally, if you are following the GTD methodology for your productivity system, you would organise your tasks into projects. Projects act as a placeholder for your tasks—you group them together by their connecting project. For example, if you are planning a weekend trip with your family, the trip would become a project and the tasks you need to complete to organise the trip would be held in that project. 

An area of focus is a way to organise your tasks by the different roles you have. For instance, you may have a role as a parent, so you would have an area of focus called “parent” and any task related to your children would be placed inside your “parent” area of focus. Likewise, if you are a manager at work, you would have an area of focus called “manager” or “Management” and any task related to your role as a manager would be placed inside that area of focus. 

Now projects are quite simple to understand. However, projects can become a problem when you have too many. The problem I have found here is actually because of how the GTD book defines a project. According to David Allen (the author of Getting Things Done,) any task that requires more than one step is a project. This means that making an appointment to have your car serviced becomes a project—you need to decide where to take your car for the service (research) then find the number to make the appointment and then take the car in. That’s at least three tasks. That’s a project. But in our normal day to day life, booking our car in for a service really only needs our attention on one task - “book car in for service” — sure you still need to find the number, but that would only take a few minutes and calling the service centre is probably just a two minute task. The whole ‘project’ could very easily be completed in less than 5 minutes, outside the 2 minute rule (any task that would take two minutes or less to complete, do it now) 

A project like that on it’s own is not really the problem. The problem is when you have fifty or sixty projects like that. That’s when your project list becomes overwhelming and you start to miss deadlines and miss doing important tasks when they are due to be done. Not a good situation for a productive person such as yourself. 

Now, if you organised your tasks by areas of focus the same task—take the car in for service—would come under your area of focus, “maintenance”. Inside that area, you would just add the task “get car serviced” or “take car in for servicing”. You have a lot less decisions to make, and you will not be tempted to break down a simple task like getting your car serviced in to too many little steps. 

Now, I will confess this year, when I have done my three monthly systems review—when I review my whole system every three months and ask the question “how can I do this better?”—I have returned to the question of whether to go all in on areas of focus or stick with my hybrid system of projects and areas. I am still using a hybrid system, but my projects list has reduced a lot this year. I have found that almost all the tasks I collect each day can fall under an area of focus. My writing assignments from Lifehack, for example, have three tasks associated with each one. Plan out article, write article and edit article. I follow the same set of three tasks for my own blog and any guest posts I write. Plan, write, edit. So, any article I write now are placed in my “writer” area of focus. All I do is write out three tasks: Plan Lifehack article, Write Lifehack article and edit Lifehack article and drop them in my writing area of focus. I don’t need to create a separate project now for these writing assignments and that saves a lot of time. 

I suspect when I do my big review at the end of the year, I will move more of my projects into areas of focus. 

There are a few exceptions to this though. Each year I write a book. For me writing a book is a big project that is going to take up much of the year. There’s research to do, there’s writing the first draft and of course, there’s the editing, cover design and publishing to take care of. There are a lot of individual tasks that would be very hard to remember and would clutter up my writing area of focus. So the book I am writing becomes a stand alone project. 

Another task I would consider as a project is buying a car. I am planning on buying a new car in the near future. Now at the moment, my wife is studying her masters degree and we don’t need a car just yet. When she finishes her masters degree we will need a car, so I created an individual project for the purchasing of the car. Like writing a book, there are a lot of tasks associated with buying a car, there’s researching the kind of car we want to buy, type of engine, colour, where to buy from, insurance arrangements and so on. This to me is a genuine project and to put all those tasks inside an area of focus would likely cause a lot of confusion. 

Let me give you a real life scenario I have used for the last two years on how I use a hybrid system of projects and areas of focus. I have an area of focus called “online courses” inside that area, I keep tasks associated with the maintenance of my learning centre (where I have all my courses) and any marketing campaign tasks. Each year I will launch a number of new courses as well as update some existing courses. The course I launched last week, From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days started life out as an idea in Evernote about eight months ago. Up until the end of August, that course remained in Evernote with a corresponding task in my online course areas of focus that said: “continue developing From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery”. 

In Evernote, I added ideas, created a lesson list and an outline. At the end of August, the course became a stand alone project in Todoist. All the tasks I needed to complete in order to get the course recorded, edited and published were kept inside that project. Slides needed creating, the course description needed writing and the marketing campaign needed organising. There are a lot of individual tasks associated with creating such an online course. In total it takes around 80 hours of writing, recording, editing and publishing. Because of the work involved and the number of tasks required, something like creating and publishing an online course will always be a project. 

Once the course is published, though, the maintenance of the course will be moved over to my online course area of focus. Publishing the course ends the project. When I hit the “publish” button and send out the emails to the people who asked for more information—that ends the project. 

So in reality it is unlikely having a system organised solely on projects or areas of focus will work. A better way to organise your system is to use a hybrid system. Big, task intensive projects, are better set up as individual projects. It helps you to stay focused on the outcome and when you do your reviews you can monitor how you are progressing. Small, low task projects, you will find are better organised by area of focus. Making an appointment to see you dentist for a check up, that can be in your “health and fitness” area of focus. Organising a weekend trip with your kids can be placed inside you “family” are of focus etc. 

So how do you create your areas of focus? Well, that really does depend on you and your lifestyle. Basic area of focus lists usually contain things like “family”, Health and Fitness”, “personal development”, “social” and “maintenance” for your domestic life. For you professional life an area of focus list may contain things like “manager”, “Professional development”, “staff issues”, “sales”, “marketing” etc. It will, of course, depend on the type of work you do. 

One way to help you decide whether something is a project or an area of focus is through the deadline date. If something has a number of tasks and has what I would describe as a hard deadline, then I would consider that to be a project. If something has a vague deadline, ie the deadline is less important or is a bit vague, then I would consider that to be an area of focus. Of course, most areas of focus never end. Our car will always need an annual service, we will always need a medical or dental checkup every six months or so etc. But really, whether something is an area of focus or not will depend entirely on your way if life and the way your brain works. 

Well, I hope that answers your question, Daniel and thank you for sending it in. 

If you have a question you would like answering on this show, please send in your question either by email or by Dming on Facebook or Twitter and I will be very happy to answer your question. All the links are in the show notes. 

Thank you very much for listening to this show. Don’t forget to check out my latest course, From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days! I am sure it will be a huge help to you and the way you live your life. 

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