The Working With… Podcast | Episode 38 | How I Prioritise my Day Using the 2+8 Prioritisation Method

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about How I prioritise my work.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script:

Hello and welcome to episode 38 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.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is how do I prioritise my work. This question has been asked by so many people that I decided in this week’s podcast to answer that question. 

Now I am revealing one of the new pieces of gold from my recently launched Time And Life Mastery Course in answering this question but this such a valuable piece of gold I think it is important to reveal it to all of you wonderful people. 

Before we get into this week’s question I would like to say if you are struggling with discovering what you want out of life and you feel overwhelmed by all the work you have to do, then please enrol in the Time And Life Mastery Course. It is a complete course, with over 3 hours of video lessons and over 20 downloadable work and tips sheets. You also get the Time And Life Mastery Workbook AND free access to my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course. There is so much value in this course and one thing I can promise you is if you complete the course and follow the guidance given in the course you will become masters of your life and your time. 

This is an investment in you and an investment in your future. Get yourself enrolled today and take advantage of the early bird discount. 

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

This week’s question is: Carl, how do you prioritise your own work?

Okay, to start with I should give you a little background. I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done book in 2009 and that was when I decided to change from my beloved Franklin Covey Time management system and go GTD. Now When I first started with GTD, I captured everything I could. I would process, organise, review and do. But what I quickly found was I was assigning dates to almost everything I captured and these then popped up on my daily to-do list in a random mess. Some days I would have 30 tasks, other days I might only have 12. There was no order, no prioritisation and although I was getting a lot done, it felt I was not getting a lot of the important stuff done. I found I was going through my daily to-do list looking for the quick, easy tasks so I could just check off another task. You know, checking off tasks makes us all feel good, doesn’t it? 

I should confess, for around two or three years that is how I operated GTD. I just began the day and tried to get as many of these daily tasks completed as soon as I could. It felt good always checking off tasks. I had things like “do student attendance” when I knew I would do that anyway because all classes began with the attendance register. I also had tasks such as “take the dog for a walk” when, again, I knew that was something I would do without having it on a to-do list. I really didn’t need reminding of those things because I just did them. I had them on my list because they were guaranteed tasks I would check off that day and it always felt good to check tasks off. 

Then one day, when I was doing a weekly review, I realised that checking tasks off like this did not make me a productive person. All it meant was I was checking tasks off a list. What I began to understand was to be a more productive person I needed to make sure the tasks I was doing each day were meaningful and did actually move me towards the things that were important to me. Like my career development, writing books and helping my students improve their lives. I saw that many of the things I had on my to-lists were not doing that, they were meaningless tasks, tasks I started to call “trophy tasks” because the only thing they contributed to was the good feeling of checking off a task. 

So I began looking again at the way I had my system set up and I soon discovered that all I needed was two objective tasks—tasks that moved me closer towards my goals each day—and eight other meaningful tasks that would move my projects towards completion each day. So, in total, all I needed was to focus on ten tasks a day. 

These ten tasks were to form the core of my daily workflow. But I also realised there were a number of tasks that, although not important, still needed to be done. These tasks I called my “routine” tasks. These were things like “take the garbage out”, “pay my credit card bill” and “write student feedback forms”. These tasks needed doing, but they did not move any of my projects towards completion and did not contribute towards achieving my goals. I realised if I put those into my eight tasks for the day, then I would not have any room to put in my important tasks. So I created a separate list called “routines”. They came up in my daily list, but I made sure they were always at the bottom of my list and never the top. 

That was the theory and it worked. There was a bit of fiddling about, I used OmniFocus at the time and I was adjusting my “perspectives” a lot to try and get the lists only showing what I wanted to see when I needed to see it. Today, I use Todoist and with the flagging system in Todoist I now have a ‘perfect’ way to remove those routine tasks from my daily lists until I need to see them, which is usually at the end of the day. 

So, the way I prioritise what is important is to use what I call my “2+8 Prioritisation” method. Two objectives for the day that are almost always related to my goals and eight other tasks that are important and are project related. Daily admin and other unimportant tasks that need doing, but do not contribute to my goals or projects, are considered routines and these will be on my daily list when they need to be, but for the most part of the day are out of sight and out of mind. 

The problem I see with most people’s to-do list is they become a dumping ground for unimportant work. We then schedule these unimportant tasks randomly so they come upon us when we should really be focused on our important work. Work that takes our lives forward. And as we all know our human condition is not perfect in any sense of the word and so we start checking those unimportant tasks off because of how they make us feel and we end up feeling busy, overwhelmed and exhausted, yet we have not done anything important. 

What I have found over the years I have been using the 2+8 Prioritisation method is you have to get really good at deciding what is important. You have to be very strict in applying the principle. When you do your daily review at the end of the day (the Golden 10) you need to look at the list you have for tomorrow and start removing tasks so you end up with just ten. Then you look at those ten tasks and select two as your objectives for the day. 

When you first start doing this it will be very hard. Your brain will rebel and tell you everything is important. You must resist. Remind yourself that your goals and your active projects are the most important things. That moving your life forward is far better than doing tasks that will not improve your life or improve you as a person. 

One more advantage of this method is that by only having ten tasks per day that you focus on, you still have enough time in the day to manage those little crises that will get thrown at you every day. You know those sudden emergencies that your boss or customers throw at you at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon. This method builds in the flexibility you need to be like water (as Bruce Lee said… “be like water my friend”) and as David Allen states: no matter what you throw into a pool of water it will react accordingly whether you throw in a small pebble or a giant rock. It will react appropriately and then return to its natural state. The 2+8 Prioritisation method will do just that. It allows you to be just like water. You have the flexibility and time space to deal with crises in an appropriate way so that you can return to your natural, relaxed, productive self quickly and effectively. 

Hopefully, this has helped you to understand why prioritising to some degree allows you greater flexibility and will move you closer to reaching your peak productive self. I know it is not easy, but having been through it myself I can assure you the effort is well worth it because of what you become from making these small, but significant changes in the way you operate your to-do list. 

Don’t forget, if you want to take complete control of your own life and your own time, then get yourself enrolled in my 2018 edition of the Time And Life Mastery course. This is a course that will prove to be a very valuable investment in you, your future and the way you want to live your life. 

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

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 37 | How To Find Your Purpose

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about How to find what it is you want to do with your life.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 37 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’s question is a rather popular question. I also find a lot of my English communication students also struggle with this. Discovering what it is you want to do in life. I know that sounds like a big philosophical question, but the truth is if you don’t know what it is you want to do with your life you are going to drift and drifting through life is never a good thing. As I wrote in my blog post last week (a link is in the show notes) drifting through life results in a life of regret and by the time you realise you have spent your whole precious life drifting it is often too late to do anything about it. 

Before we get into this week’s question, I want to give you guys a heads up to the launch of my Time And Life Mastery 2018 edition course. Time And Life Mastery is my premium online course that takes you on a journey of self-discovery and shows you how to discover exactly what it is you want to achieve in life. Once you have established what it is you want to achieve and do, the second part of the course shows you how you can take control of your time so your goals and purpose take centre stage of your daily life. 

It’s a fantastic course and last year’s edition was my most popular course by far. The course launches on the Friday 3rd August and I would love to see you there. There’s a link in the show notes to the course’s page where you will find all the information you need. 

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

This week’s question comes from Sandra, Philip and Sandeep. They ask: I know it is important to have a plan, but I really don’t know what I want to do. Do you have any tips on how to find my goals and purpose?

Thank you for the question guys. 

As I mentioned in the intro, I know this is a very difficult question for many people. In fact, if I am being very honest with you, it took me a very long time to discover what it is I want to achieve in life. I would have been around 32 years old before I discovered that teaching was what I wanted to do. Before that, I tried many jobs from hotel management and selling cars to being a lawyer. All of which left me feeling empty and not excited about the future. It was only when I took the chance to come to Korea and teach English did I finally discover that teaching was what I wanted to do and that I loved everything about teaching from the planning of lessons to the helping of students to improve an area they were really struggling with. It was my willingness to experiment and try new things that finally led me towards teaching and the discovery that teaching was the vocation I loved doing. 

So that would be my first piece of advice. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Experimenting doesn’t mean quitting your current job and trying something new, but let’s say you are curious about teaching, there are plenty of opportunities where you can volunteer to teach something you know about. That could be inside the company you work for—you could volunteer to do a presentation on your know-how. One of the companies I used to work for did a monthly training session where a different teacher each month would do a fifteen-minute training session on their own teaching know-how. It was a great way to get new insights into teaching and how to handle difficult, non-responsive students. 

Another way is to start doing whatever it is you want to try. If you want to be a writer, then start writing. Begin a blog and write something every week. You don’t need to publish anything. You just need to write. You can judge for yourself if you enjoy the process. Same goes for creating videos or making your own music. We have the technology now on almost all our devices to create and make things whether that is writing, film or music production. 

But let’s say you have absolutely no idea what it is you want to do. How do you discover the things you want to do? Well, this is a lot easier than you may think. The first thing you need to do is to take a piece of paper (or a note in your note-taking app) and write “fifty things I want to do in the next ten years” at the top. Then, underneath the title begin writing down everything you would like to do over the next ten years. Don’t filter anything. No matter how unrealistic something is if you want to do it or would like to try to over the next ten years get it written down. This is not about what is possible and what is not. This is just a list of things you would like to do over the next ten years. 

One of the things on my ten-year list is to fly to the UK and buy a brand new Aston Martin DB11 and drive it all the way to Korea from the UK. Aside from the prohibitive cost of actually buying an Aston Martin, it is also a rather unrealistic thing to do. However, it is not really about whether you will actually do something it is more about getting your thinking into a place that will allow you to discover the kind of things you truly want to do in your life. 

The problem we all share is that over the years we have developed filters in our mind about what is possible and what is not possible. Many things we have labelled as being impossible have become that way, not because they are actually impossible, but because we have allowed these filters to develop by listening to other people who have told us what are the right or wrong things to do. But remember, when someone else tells you what is right and what is wrong or what is possible and what is impossible they are only giving you their own opinion. Opinions are not necessarily correct. Often the best way to find out is to try for yourself. 

Now this list of fifty things is going to take some time. When I did my list it took a few weeks to get it to fifty. The first twenty were quite easy. After that, it became much harder. But I persisted and after a few weeks, I had a list of fifty things I wanted to achieve over the next ten years. 

The funny thing is, many of the things on my list have become true. I have begun a blog, started a YouTube channel on productivity and written a book each year. All of these things I found I really enjoy doing. Strangely, writing the blog, my YouTube channel and this podcast are all related to teaching people. Most of the things I really enjoy doing come back to that. Teaching. It is what I do and it is what I feel is my purpose. 

Once you have your list of fifty things you are going to find there are quite a few things that have a common purpose. For me, it was creating content to share with other people. Of course, there were a few material things on there too. Buying the Aston Martin for example and also buying a house on the east coast of Korea. These are material and they are things I want to do over the next ten years. The point is you write everything down. Don’t let whether something is possible or not stop you from putting it on your list. The whole point is you have a list of your desires and wants. 

Now, once you have your list of fifty things you will need to start dividing it up into when you would like to accomplish them. Some of them you may want to do in the next year. Put those on the next year list. Others may be in the next three years, or perhaps 5 years. And of course, some of the bigger, more ambitious things may require a bit more time. Put them on your ten-year list. When you divide these things up into when you want to achieve them, try to get an even a stream as you can. There’s no point in loading everything up into the next five years. This is a ten-year list. So spread them out over a realistic timeline. My Aston Martin idea would go on my ten-year list for example. There’s a lot of things I want to do over the next year and taking one or two months off to travel across the world is not going to be very practical when I want to develop my YouTube channel and blog over the next five years. 

One thing I can promise you is this exercise is fun. It allows your imagination to run wild and it breaks down the limiting self-beliefs that you have acquired over the years about what you can and cannot do. And we’ve all picked up those limiting self-beliefs. This is one of the reasons why many people struggle to find what it is they want to do with their lives. They allow these beliefs to take hold and to start believing they cannot do things. The truth is you can do these things, but you first need to allow your imagination to open up. Once your imagination opens up and you get fifty things written down, the next step is to start and work on a plan to make them become a reality. 

For me, starting the YouTube channel was a big challenge. I have never been comfortable in front of a camera, so I realised I would have overcome that fear first and then develop a theme and a plan to make it happen. Three years ago I did that. It took a few weeks, a lot of abortive attempts but I persisted, and today when I look back at my first videos I cringe at how awful they are. But then I look at what I am producing today and what I have learnt over the last three years about video production and editing and I feel happy I am progressing in the right direction. The same can be said for my blog. I read those early blog posts and laugh at how bad they were. But again, over the last three years or so, I have learnt a lot, got better and now I feel confident I can sit down and write a reasonable blog post. Now I am a contributing writer for Likehack - so I must be doing something right! 

The thing is we have all got to start somewhere. And if you really have no idea what it is you want to do with your amazing life then the best place to start is with a piece of paper and start writing out all the things you would like to do. It doesn’t matter whether some of those things are crazy, stupid, impossible or the complete opposite of what you are doing today. It does not matter how old you are. It is never too late to change direction. The point is if you discover you are moving in the wrong direction then it is better to find out now rather to never find out. 

So start the list. It will take you a few weeks to get to fifty. But the time and effort is well worth it because of what you will discover about yourself.

Good luck and remember, if you do want to go into a lot more detail and you are serious about building a life you can be proud of, then take a look at my Time And Life Mastery course. That could very well be the course that changes your life for the better and set you on your way to accomplishing the things you really want to accomplish. 

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

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 36 | What It Takes To Become A Productive Person.

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about What it takes to become productive.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script:

Hello and welcome to episode 36 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 episode, I have a wonderful question about productivity. I suppose it’s an obvious question, really, but one we very rarely ask. So in this episode not only are we going to ask the question, we are going to answer it too. 

Before we get to this week’s question though, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who enrolled in my special offer last week. Now it’s time for you to get down and do some studying and building. So good luck with that and if you have any questions about setting up your own systems, then feel free to get in touch. 

Don’t forget, if you want to discover a system that is flexible and is customisable to work for you, then get yourself enrolled in my FREE beginners guide to building your own productivity system. It’s around 45 minutes long and will give you all the tips and tricks you need to create your own, bullet-proof productivity and time management system. The link to the course is in the show notes. 

And, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, then get in touch. I’m more than happy to answer any question on productivity, goal setting or self-development so send those questions in. You can ask me via Twitter, Facebook or direct via email. 

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

This week’s question comes from Janet. Janet asks: I’ve struggled with becoming more productive for years and was wondering what you think is the skill needed to become a more productive person. 

Thank you, Janet, for the question. A very good question indeed and a question that had me thinking quite hard.

For me, the single most essential skill required to become a more productive person, if you can call it a skill, is self-discipline. 

You need the self-discipline to keep going with your system even on those days when you don’t feel in the mood. 

You see becoming a more productive person is not a case of cleaning up your desk and tidying up your files one day. Becoming a more productive person is a way of life. If you have spent most of your adult life in a disorganised state where you cannot even remember where you placed your car keys every morning, then that is nothing to do with whether or not you are a productive person, that is more a case of not having the discipline to put your keys in the same place every evening when you return home. And it takes discipline to develop the habit of putting your keys in the same place every time. 

The basics of a good productivity system is what I call COD - Collect, Organise and Do. To collect everything that comes your way into your inbox, to then organise everything you collected that day into its rightful place, and to do the work you planned to do is not a difficult concept. In fact, it is a logical, simple concept. Putting it into practice day after day doesn’t take a PhD degree either. It’s simple. What it does take though is discipline. The discipline to collect everything, to organise it and to do it when you want to get it done, rather than need to get it done. 

We all have those days when we just don’t feel in the mood. When we just want to stay in bed and do nothing but watch TV all day. We are human after all. But what I have noticed in the most productive people I’ve met is they know exactly what they want to accomplish each day and they start the day with that knowledge. It gives them a kind of energy to get themselves out of bed and start the day full of energy. It’s as if they see each new day as a new opportunity to achieve something fantastic. And that’s true. Each new day does give you a new opportunity to create something very special. 

Another trait I’ve seen with very productive people is they are in complete control of their calendars. They know what’s on their calendar because they put it there. I notice this with my own dentist. She’s an incredibly productive person. All her scary tools are placed exactly where she needs them and she carefully plans out each treatment course with each patient. Her appointments calendar is linked to her personal calendar so she only allows appointment times that will fit into her lifestyle. Even though, as a dentist, her day is made up of patient appointments, those appointment times fit around her schedule and not given at the whim of patients or anyone else. She allows enough flexibility on her calendar to deal with emergencies and I’ve never seen her overstretched or stressed. 

And that’s one of the benefits of being in control of your calendar. You can keep things flexible, and prevent anything going on there that you have no real desire to do. It also means when you do your Golden Ten at the end of the day you can trust that what is on your calendar is what you want to do and not something other people want you to do but you have not desire to do yourself. 

But it always comes back to self-discipline. You need the self-discipline to collect everything that has meaning to you, to organise that stuff into its appropriate place and to just get on with the work whether or not you are in the mood to do so. You need the self-discipline to say no to the things you do not want to do—even if that is saying no to your boss or clients. 

It’s hard, I’m certainly not suggesting otherwise. But although it is hard, it is a skill or trait worth developing. Because when you do have the discipline to do the collecting, organising and doing as well as saying no to the things you feel will not take you or your life further forward, you will find you begin to feel a lot less stressed and much happier. You will feel nothing can stop you achieving the things you want to achieve and you start to get a lot more of your important work done. 

So how do you become more disciplined with your productivity system? 

The best place to start is with your collecting. Take a weekend and have a look at how you have your collection tools set up. Are they apps on your phone, or is it a simple notebook. Ask yourself: is this the best way to collect everything? Look at your general collection system—by that I mean if you have an idea, how would you collect it right now while you are listening to this podcast. Is it easy? Is it fast? If not, find a way to make it easier and faster. Once you are happy with your collection system, try it for a week. Make sure you are not resisting. Make sure that you do it every time every day. Tweak it if necessary but make sure you are doing it every time. 

For the organising part, get that on your calendar. Choose a time at the end of the day when you know you will not likely be disturbed and block a fifteen-minute segment in your calendar. I personally block 10pm every weekday to do my organising. I don’t schedule calls and I don’t allow anything to stop me from taking ten to fifteen minutes to organise every thing I collected that day. I have actually made a routine out of the time between 9:30pm and 10:30pm. I take my dog out for a walk at 9:30pm and when we get back around 10pm I do my organising. I’m usually finished organising by 10:15pm and I then do a little reading or watch a short video before heading off to bed at 10:30pm. Creating a pre-bedtime routine is a great way to build your discipline. Once the routine becomes a habit, you no longer feel you have to push yourself to get on with it. 

Finally, on the doing part, well that is a natural progression from your Golden Ten. (that’s the ten minutes at the end of the day when you organise and plan the next day) once you have completed your Golden Ten you should have a clear view of what you want to get accomplished tomorrow and what your two objectives for the day are. Once you have those written down or onto your to-do list you can go to bed happy knowing that the day ahead is planned and you are ready.

Sure, all this does take time to build up the routines. But before they become a habit and a routine, you need the discipline to follow through and do this every day. After a week or so it starts to feel natural and after two or three months you are well on your way to making being a productive person just a part of who you are. 

Changing old habits is hard. I know. I’ve been there. But change is how we grow into better people. The discipline and effort are well worth it because of what you become. Yes, you will fall down, you will slip into old habits, but the important thing is you get back into developing your routines and habits as quickly as you can. It will feel like hard work when you start. There will be days when you think it’s just not worth it. That’s when you need to tell yourself that the effort will reward you massively in the future and tomorrow is another day with another attitude and another chance to prove to yourself you can change and you can become more productive. 

When you become more disciplined about how you organise your life, you will find there will be other areas of your life you can change too. Areas you are not happy with and with your new found discipline and productivity skills you will find your whole life will change in so many positive ways. 

Good luck, Janet and again, thank you so much for your question. 

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

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 35 | The Most Important Part Of GTD (Getting Things Done)

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 35 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 GTD and what I think is the most important part of the whole GTD philosophy. It’s a great question because all five parts are important in their own way. But there is one part that if you don’t do it, nothing else will work. 

Before I get into the answer though, I want to let you guys know that I recently updated my learning centre. I’m very excited about this because it takes me to the next stage of my online course development for all of you. To celebrate this launch, I have a HUGE sale on my bundled courses. I have taken off over 50% these courses and you can take advantage of this special offer. All you need to do is go to the special offer page—a link to which is in the show notes—and buy yourself a bundle. When you do buy a bundle you will get all future updates for free as well as any new courses I do. You are in a way, inflation proofing yourself. So go on. Pick yourself up a bundle today. The offer ends at Midnight on Monday, but for you wonderful people I have secretly extended the offer to lunch-time on Tuesday. 

If you really want to get yourself better organised and become more productive, this is a wonderful opportunity to get yourself some valuable education, an education you can take with you everywhere you go. 

Okay, onto this week’s question. So 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 Paul in Canada. Paul asks, Hi Carl. I’m a big fan of GTD (Getting Things Done) and was wondering what, in your opinion is the most important part of GTD?

Before I go… Don’t forget to get yourself enrolled in one of the bundles. This will be something you will never regret.

Good question and this is a question I have pondered over the years. I’ve switched between all parts of the GTD process, but in the end, to me, there really is only one part that is crucial. That is the collecting (or capture in GTD speak) 

The reason for this is if you are not collecting your commitments, appointments and ideas, it doesn’t matter how elaborate or beautiful or well organised your system is, if you have nothing to put in it, it is never going to work. The whole point of any productivity system is you are getting out of your mind the stuff that you are trying to remember and to get them into a trusted place where you can make decisions about them when you have more time. If you are not collecting anything, then you have no decisions to make and you will be trying to remember everything in your head. And, as we all know, that is not the best place to keep stuff you want to remember or make a decision about later. 

Part of the reason many people feel overwhelmed and overstressed is that they are trying to remember everything in their heads. Now out heads were not designed to be memory banks. Our heads were designed to recognise patterns—we walk outside and we see rain, that tells us we need to either put on raincoats or grab an umbrella. Or if we absolutely must remember to take a book to work with us, we place the book in front of the front door so that our brain will see it in the morning and say: “ that doesn’t look right. Why is the book there? Oh yes, I must take that book to work with me” Our brain is seeking out patterns and things that are out of place. That triggers a response and that response results in an action. 

The problem here is when we try and trust our brains to remember things like call that customer, reply to that email and buy milk. All these little tasks have no triggers unless they are written down in a trusted place. When you’ve had a long day at work, fighting fires and dealing with all the issues, as you go home you are thinking about all the things you need to remember for tomorrow, you are not going to remember to buy the milk. Our brains are just not that good at things like that. 

When you have a great collecting system though, you can get all those things you have to remember out of your head. When you trust the place you put them in, then you start to make progress. 

Of course, if you’re not processing or organising what you collected, then things will fall apart at that level, but if you don’t collect, then everything falls apart and you will feel overwhelmed and stressed trying to remember everything that comes your way. 

Once you understand the importance of collecting everything in a trusted place, you can then begin to develop ways of making the collecting process as fast and easy as possible. In my early days of GTD, I carried a little pocket sized notebook with me everywhere, but I soon realised that was just another thing to remember to take with me. It wasn’t the most efficient way to do it. When the iPhone finally launched in Korea in 2009, that was when I really got my collecting system working. 

Our phones are always with us. We carry them everywhere and smartphones are basically pocket-sized powerful computers. In this little device, we have access to all the information we could want. We also have the ability to collect any information we want in almost any format. That could be text, a photo, a PDF file, an email or a webpage. There’s no need to be carrying around scraps of paper, napkins or any other random materials with scribbled down numbers and don’t forgets. Everything can be collected in one place. 

That though does create it own challenges. Yes, you can now collect everything very easily in almost any format, but where do you store it? Where can you collect all this stuff so when you need to see it you know exactly where it is? Now, this is the reason I have always advocated creating as simple a system as you can. I like to think of it as my “one project” one app for one purpose. 

What I mean by this is having one app for each of the different types of things you collect. So, if I make an appointment, it goes straight into my calendar. If I have an idea, it goes straight into my notes app and if I have a commitment or task it goes into my to-do list manager. 

So, in my case: random thoughts and ideas - Evernote. Tasks and commitments - Todoist and events and appointments - calendar. Each app has a purpose, each app deals with a different purpose. 

Now, I know many of you may be thinking, couldn’t you do that with one app and sure this is possible. But I’m thinking a little more long-term than that. When I am organising, I like to compartmentalise. When I am organising my tasks and projects I want to be working in my task manager. When I am developing ideas and projects I like the free-flowing functionality Evernote gives me. And of course, when I need to know where I am going to be, I will look at my calendar. It’s just the way I like to compartmentalise. You, of course, may be different and prefer everything collected in one place. There really is no right or wrong way of doing this. The important thing is whichever way you do it, it works for you. 

So, if collecting is the most important part of any productivity system, the next question to ask is how do I optimise my collecting system?—How do I make collecting as easy and fast as possible? 

One of the things I’ve found over the years is if your collection system is not efficient and fast you will not collect everything. You will continue to trust your head to remember things. When you optimise your collecting for speed and ease, there is no reason to resist and you will soon develop the habit of getting everything into your system. 

Now I do a complete review of my system every three months. I look at all areas of my system, from collecting and organising to doing (the COD system - Collect, organise, do) But the one area I spend most time on is looking at how I collect things. I look to see if I resist collecting certain types of stuff. If I am, I work out the reasons why and what can be done to remove the barrier. Most of the time it is because I have too many steps. I apply what I call “the subway test”. This is where I ask: can I collect an idea, task or appointment while transferring trains while on the Seoul subway system? Essentially can I capture using one hand and my phone? If the answer is yes, I see if there are any ways this could be sped up. Using Siri for example, or are there any new capturing apps like BrainToss or Drafts? Are they faster than Drafts? Etc etc. 

So for me, the speed and simplicity of collecting stuff is the most important part of the GTD system. I would guess over the years I have spent hour and hours fine-tuning my system so I could make this part of the GTD system as fast and efficient as possible. 

For those of you wondering how I have things optimised at the moment, then I use Drafts. Drafts is a little note-taking app with a huge amount of power. It allows me to collect everything from a task, an appointment to an idea into just one app. Once the task, appointment or idea has been collected I can send it either direct to my Todoist inbox, my Evernote inbox or my calendar. I’ve been using Drafts for years now and hands down it is by far the best collecting tool I have come across. 

The app sits in my dock on both my iPhone and iPad and it has become a simple habit for me to simply open up the app, type or dictate my thought and send it off to the right place. 

Now for those of you interested, I have done a few videos on how I capture on my YouTube channel. Most recently, following an update to the Drafts App, I did a video on how I use it with both Evernote and Todoist. I will put a link to these videos in the show notes so you can see it all in action. 

So there you go. In my humble opinion, if you really want to optimise your productivity system, begin by looking at how you collect stuff. Ask yourself the question “what can I do to make collecting as fast and as efficient as possible “ and really get fast at it. 

It does take time to get into the habit of collecting and the habit-forming is part of the process, but once you are there, you really will have developed a process that will alleviate most of the stress and overwhelm you feel.

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering you can contact me either by email, Twitter or Facebook. All my contact details are in the show notes. 

And finally, if you really want to take your productivity to the next level and are serious about creating a life of joy, accomplishment and purpose then get yourself enrolled in one of my bundles while they on this amazing special offer. Remember, you only have 24 hours to get yourself enrolled to do it today. Get that into your collection system and get it done. 

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

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 34 | How To Handle Digital Distractions When Working From Home.

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

n this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about handling digital distractions while working from home.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 34 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.

Digital Distractions. They are everywhere! Not just your phone and computer, but on billboards, in your car and on your TV. You just cannot escape them anymore. And that poses a problem for all of us. How can we get any quality work done if we are constantly being interrupted by a beep, ring or a breaking news banner? Well, that’s the topic for this week’s question.

Before we get into the answer for this week’s question, just a quick announcement. For all of you wonderful people enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I released the fourth supplemental class last week. You can access it via your learning centre login page. If you haven’t enrolled yet, and struggle with getting all your stuff—your commitments, projects, appointments and life—organised then this course is designed to help you by giving you the skills and know-how to develop your system so that nothing can stop you. You will learn to prioritise, build your goals into your daily life and start living the life you want to live. Details of the course are in the show notes. 

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

This week’s question comes from Simon. Simon asks, "How do you deal with digital distraction when working at home"?

Ahhh distractions, and not just any distractions, digital distractions and when we are working from home. Thank you, Simon, for this question. I know this one is a real issue for many people, whether or not you work from home, and if not dealt with can lead to missed deadlines and a lot of stress.

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can follow that will help. But for these to work you are going to have to put your phone down. For some of you, I know that is going to be very difficult. But the reality is, as with any distraction, you always have a choice whether to acknowledge the distraction and let it into your life or not. 

The first, obvious thing you can do is turn off those beeps and pings. You don’t need them. You are going to be looking at your phone or computer within the next few minutes anyway—we all do these days. Why do you need some kind of sound to also tell you you have a new email, a new What’s App message and a Facebook mention? Just turn the sounds off. Instead, leave the badge app icon on. What this does is leave that little red number on the app if you have anything unread. If your most important apps are on your home screen you will see that little red circle next time you pick up your phone and let’s be honest, we all look at our phones perhaps a little too frequently.

Whether you want anything showing up in your notifications list is entirely up to you. I would suggest you do an audit of your apps, both on your desktop and mobile devices and turn off any notifications from apps that are not going to be giving you anything urgent. Facebook, Twitter etc. I like to have important messages show up in my notification screen. I have my messaging apps, my email of course and any missed calls. The problem is when you download a new app, by default most of them get added to your notifications screen. My guess is you will find most of them are not required so you can turn them off. 

I keep Facebook notifications on in my notification screen simply because my mother uses Facebook to communicate with me. But for all other social media my notifications are off. 

The next thing you can do is to get serious about your work time. Working from home gives you a lot more freedom about when you sit down and do work. With that freedom also comes the opportunity to waste time checking email, social media and the news. And we all know these can take you journeys of pure time procrastination heaven. Not good if you want to get work done. 

Use your calendar to block time out for focused work. Let’s say you block out 2 hours between 9 am and 11 am for focused work and allow yourself between 11:00 am and 11:30 am for communications. How you define communications is up to you. It could mean just email, or you could broaden it to include social media messages. Allow yourself some flexibility here. You’ve just done a period of two hours, uninterrupted work. You deserve a reward of some sort.

If you work for a company that monitors you while you are working have the discussion with your boss. See if you can have that two hours of uninterrupted time. Don’t just assume your boss will not allow it. It’s surprising how amenable to time blocking bosses are when they can see the benefits to the quality of your work it will bring. 

Another great way to minimise distractions, if you can do it, is to get up early. Last week I had an early morning meeting cancel on me. I was already awake having just completed my 5-6 am studying and found I had a full morning of uninterrupted time. So, at 6 am I got on with the writing work I needed to do that day. By 8 am all my writing was complete and I had begun doing the less important stuff. By 9:30 am I had finished all my work for the day and I received no digital distractions at all. Purely by accident, I had spent three-and-a-half hours doing work with no distractions and I got all the days work done. That goes to show just how much time you lose to distractions every single day. 

I’ve written about this story in the first edition of Your Digital Life, and it’s worth repeating. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, and my writing hero used to write when he was staying at his holiday home in Jamaica every January to March. Between 9 am and 12 pm every day. He would close the windows to his writing room and just write. his wife and guests staying with him knew not to disturb him and he just got on and wrote. Back in the 1950s, there were no mobile phones or computers connected to the interweb and he had no landline phone at his house, Goldeneye. It was famously sparse—we would call it minimalistic today. It was just him, his typewriter and his imagination. No distractions at all. Ian Fleming managed to write a full novel each year in just six weeks using this method. 

But times have changed and we live in a very different world from 1950s Jamaica. We have a lot more digital distractions, however, I believe we should sometimes try to recreate the environment from 1950s Jamaica and just turn everything off and focus on the work we want to get done. I actually do this every Monday morning. Monday’s is when I write my weekly blog post. Between 10 am and 12 pm I sit down at my desk and write. My phone is on do not disturb, and there is no one around to distract me. For me, it is two hours of pure heaven. I can fully understand why Ian Fleming managed to write a full novel in 6 weeks. Those 2 hours of undistracted time is some of the most productive hours I have each week. 

Another area you can look at is when you are at your most creative. What I mean by at your most creative is when your mind is freshest and is primed for doing work. I always thought I was a night owl. But I found that actually, I am much more creative in a morning. This means I am much less susceptible to distractions in the morning. While I can do work in the evening, I find I am much more likely to run down rabbit holes of digital procrastination and so the quality and quantity of my work suffers. Once I discovered this, I began scheduling my important work in the mornings and my less important, or less time-sensitive work in the evenings. That gave my productivity a huge boost. I was much less tempted by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and felt much more comfortable with my phone off. 

Finally, another trick I use is setting deadlines to finish work. Currently, my wife is in China and each evening we have a FaceTime call. We talk around the same time every evening so I know roughly what time I need to get my evening admin work done by. This acts not only as an incentive to get my work finished it also gives me a nice deadline each evening. Our minds are very good at getting work done by a set time if we set a finish time. Quite often, particularly when we work from home, our finish time can be quite open. We think if I don’t finish by dinner-time, I can come back after dinner and continue for another hour. The problem here is your mind doesn’t have any sense of urgency when you do this. If you begin the day by fixing the time you will finish you will find you work much faster and are less likely to allow yourself to be distracted by the non-important. There is a sense of urgency and that will work in your favour.

Well, I hope you found these tips and tricks useful. Remember, your phone or any digital device is not your master and you should never ever let them become your master. Digital devices are your servants. They are there to serve you and not the other way round. If you have important work to do then give your servants time off and focus yourself on the work that needs doing. 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode. Don’t forget to check out the Your Digital Life 2.0 online course, there is a lot of great stuff in there that could turn you into a productivity ninja with a system you create that you trust and helps you to get your most important projects and goals done. 

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

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 33 | Why I Am Waking Up At 5AM And Why You Should Too

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast, I answer my own question about waking up at 5 AM.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 33 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 a change from the usual format. This week, the question comes from myself and is about why I decided to join the 5 AM Club, made famous by Robin Sharma and what I have discovered about waking up at this un-Godly hour and why I believe you should be doing the same.

But, before we get into this week’s question I’d like to ask any of you wonderful listeners who also watch my videos on YouTube if you have anything you would like me to cover in my Todoist, Evernote or Working With Work series, please get in touch and let me know. I love answering your questions and I would like to open this up to my YouTube channel as well. All my contact details are in the show notes, but if you won’t look at those, you can simply email at carl@carlpullein.com

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

This week’s questions from… Carl. Carl asks: So, Carl why are you waking up at 5AM every morning?

Good question Carl.

Well, I guess most of you have heard people say that waking up early is a positive habit to have. It energises you, it gets you ahead of the day and it put you in front of everyone else because very few people do it. And sure, I also had heard all those things, but honestly, I was never really tempted to join those early birds. I preferred to allow myself to think I was a night owl and that mornings were just not for me. It’s a very comfortable way to think and it meant I could continue deluding myself into thinking I was simply not made to wake up early. 

But being comfortable is not really a good state to be in. When you are comfortable you are not growing. You are not developing and you are not becoming better. Over time if you allow yourself to remain comfortable you begin to stagnate and when that happens you soon find your whole life stagnates. You no longer get those promotions, your health begins to decline, you stop making new friends and seeking out amazing people and mentally you stop learning. Comfortable is a state that should scare you. 

This is why I made the decision to start waking up early. I knew I was making excuses for not waking up early by deluding myself into thinking I was not an early bird. I also needed to find time to study Korean language to fluency over the next twelve months and after many failed attempts of studying in the evening there really was only one option left. Study Korean between 5AM and 6AM every morning. That knowledge has been spinning around in my mind for a few months now. So, I decided to do something about it. I began waking up at 5AM on Monday last week to study Korean. 

Now, I’m not going to deny it, it was not easy waking up at 5AM. The first day was hard, so was the second. But I persisted. It takes a lot of self-discipline and, I believe, more importantly, a purpose. I have a clear purpose for waking up at 5AM. I want to be fluent in Korean by June next year. The benefits to me of being fluent in the language of the country I live in far outweigh the luxuries of staying in bed. The thing that has really surprised me is that after years of telling myself I cannot wake up early, I can. And it is not as difficult as I led myself to believe. Now, after two weeks of doing this—yeah, I know it’s still early days—I love waking up early. I no longer feel exhausted during the day and although I do go to bed an hour earlier than I was doing before, nothing much else has changed to the way I do my work. 

I have also found I enjoy learning Korean—something after many failed attempts before I have never done—and I feel I am progressing. There have been days where I felt I didn’t learn very much, but I have noticed even after a short period of time I can read hangul faster (the name of the Korean characters) and I feel more confident when using taxis, ordering coffee and shopping. 

So, should you join the club? Yes, I think you should. But there are a few things you do need to know before you start. 

It’s all well and good waking up at 5AM, but if you have no plan to do something constructive with the hour between 5 and 6 you are going to waste the opportunity it gives you. If all you do is check your social media, email and worry about work, then you are not making the most of this wonderful hour. I have made it a rule not to check my email or social media during this time. This one hour is for study. Once I am fluent in Korean I will find something else to learn. This is a very special time. No one is disturbing me… Well, my little dog is. He doesn’t understand why we are waking up so early. You need to make the most of this quiet time. You can use it for exercise, meditation, planning or learning or a combination of all these things. What you do need to do is have a purpose. A reason for waking up early. Without that, you are going to find it very difficult to find the motivation for lifting your head off your pillow when your alarm goes off. 

You should also be ready to adjust your evening routine a little. The first couple of days I went to bed around the same time I always had done. This was a mistake. Because I was waking up around an hour earlier than I used to do, that lost hour of sleep was really hurting my effectiveness and productivity during the day. After a couple of days, I realised I needed to go to bed earlier to compensate for the earlier start. That made a very big difference to the way I felt during the day. Now. Instead of going to bed at 11:30pm, I am am heading off to bed around 10:30pm. It does mean I have to get my work finished by 10pm so I can go through my evening routine and plan the next day, but overall all I have had to do is spend less time reading what my friends have been up to on Facebook and Instagram and that is no real sacrifice. 

You need to be committed to this. If you break the chain, so to speak, and skip one or two days, you are not going to maintain the progress. I am being flexible. I don’t wake up at 5 am on a Saturday or Sunday. I wake up at 7 am instead. I used to wake up around 8 am on a weekend, but as I am waking up an hour earlier during the week, I decided to wake up an hour earlier on a weekend. I also made sure I changed what I was studying on a weekend too. Instead of studying via notebooks and books, on a weekend I watch videos of news readers and interviews in Korean. This way I can learn the right intonation and enunciation in my target language. Whatever you decide to do with your extra hour, make sure if you do decide to maintain it on a weekend you do something a little different. It adds a little variation and variety and this will keep you fresh and prevent you from going stale. 

Whatever you decide to do with your one hour, the biggest benefit you will find is you gain an hour of ‘me-time’. In a world where so many people are complaining about not having enough time to do the things they want to, when you begin waking up at 5 am and you spend that first hour of the day only on yourself you will feel a lot less stressed. It gives you time to think, time to work on yourself and time to do the things you want to do. This is your hour to do with whatever you want to do. Spending the time on developing yourself—becoming a better you—can only be a good thing. You can start that hobby you have always wanted to start, you can read the books you have always wanted to read, you can do the exercise you have always wanted to do or you can learn the language you have always wanted to speak. All these reasons are win wins for you. This is your hour after all. 

Well, thank you very much for listening to this episode. I hope it has given you some motivation to get yourself out of your bed early in the morning and begin a new life of learning, self-improvement and growth. Remember, this is your time—time to spend on yourself—don’t waste the opportunity. Great things await you and all it takes is lifting your head off the pillow at 5 am in the morning. Good luck and please let me know how you get on and what you are doing with your special hour. 

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

The Working With Podcast | Episode 32 | How To Make Your Goals Achievable.

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

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

You can also listen on...

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 32 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’s question is all about achieving goals. Something I know a lot of people struggle with and yet, there is a method that is incredibly powerful and will change the way you think about how possible it is to achieve the goal. 

Before we get into this week’s question though, I'd like to remind all of you who have enrolled in my Ultimate Guide To Goal Planning course that I published the first supplemental class last week. You can take the class by logging in to your account and you will find the class in the supplemental classes section. 

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

This week’s question comes from Charlie. Charlie asks: Hi Carl, I really struggle with getting started to achieve my goals. I know what I want to achieve, but just don’t know where to start. Do you have any tips for getting started with my goals?

Good question, Charlie. 

I think the hardest thing about achieving goals is not really discovering what you want to achieve, but rather how to get started achieving the goals. Knowing where to start and how to start can be very difficult. 

Once you have discovered what it is you want to achieve you should write it down. Whether that is in a digital format or in a paper notebook is really up to you. My advice is to write it in a format you prefer. Personally, when I write out my goals in the first place, I usually do it on paper. There’s a very good reason for doing this. The process of writing out your goals helps to get your mind accepting your goal. In many ways, your mind is going to be your best friend and your worst enemy. Best friend because your mind will give you the methods to achieve your goals. Worst enemy because your mind will also throw up all the excuses you need for not doing anything towards achieving them. 

Once written down, I start writing out the action steps I will need to achieve those goals. At this point, it’s more of a brain dump, rather than a strategic game plan. I want to get as many ways I can think of to achieve the goals written down. Some are crazy, some a practical. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is I have a long list of ways I can achieve my goal. 

 Once I have fleshed out my goal with actionable steps I go through those actions and delete all the impractical ones or ones I feel isn’t going to work. I then transfer these practical steps to my to-do list manager. I want to be able to build those actions into my daily to-dos. 

However, before I get to even fleshing out my goals on paper there is a simple trick I use that is incredibly powerful and one that transforms a goal from a statement into a question that has my brain seeking ways to make the goal happen. It’s a simple change, but one that lights up the creative centre in your brain. 

Let’s say you have a goal to earn $1 million in the next 12 months. Now for a moment let’s forget about whether this is possible or not. What most people do is write it out like:

“I will earn $1 million in the next 12 months.” 

Now the problem with writing it this way is your brain will now start thinking of all the reasons why you cannot earn $1 million in the next twelve months. (this is your worst enemy at work) Our survival instinct in our brains is programmed to avoid failure and risk and having such an ambitious goal, your survival brain is going to recognise the potential for failure and begin the process of discouraging you from setting the goal. If that fails, it will give you all the excuses you need to not start working on achieving it. This is because many thousands of years ago when we were on the menu for large tigers and other predators, any risk we took would likely result in us being consumed by one of them. Not a good outcome. So we are naturally very adverse to risk and the possibility of failure. 

Instead of writing goals out in this way, reframe the goal as a question. By that I mean ask yourself “What do I have to do to…” and then write your goal. So in our $million example, we would write the goal out as:

What do I have to do to earn $1 million in the next 12 months? 

What happens next is something bordering on miraculous. Instead of your brain looking for excuses why you cannot achieve the goal, it will now start looking for ways to achieve it. It’s quite scary how your brain changes from being negative about a goal to becoming a creative solutions machine for finding ways you can achieve it. 

Now I tested this out the other day. I don’t really have a goal of earning $1 million in the next twelve months, but I decided to try this out. The first thing I did was ask - how much do I have to earn each day to make a million dollars in the year? That worked out at $2,740 per day. I then asked how many products would I have to sell per day to earn that, that worked out at 90. Suddenly, instead of looking at the goal of earning 1 million dollars I was asking “what do I have to do to sell 90 products per day?” This took me into all sorts of different avenues and in the end, I came up with a set of things I would have to do to change the way I am working today so that over the next twelve months I could earn 1 million dollars.

But let’s take this to a more realistic level. Imagine you want to lose some weight. And in this example, you want to lose 30 pounds in the next six months. Challenging, but not impossible. So here you might start asking what do you have cut out of your diet that would help losing weight. Perhaps you eat too many cookies or maybe you put too much sugar in your coffee. So you could write down reduce my sugar intake by half, or stop eating cookies Monday to Friday. You might decide going out for a walk at lunchtime would help or taking an evening stroll after dinner. Basically, what you are doing is writing out as many ways you can think of that would help you to achieve your goal. It’s a sort of brain dump. 

The point here is that your brain goes from searching for reasons and excuses about why you cannot achieve your goal of searching for ways you can achieve your goal. 

Once you have a list of ways to achieve your goal, you can now start sorting them out into what you could start doing straight away. You can look for action steps that you can begin doing today or tomorrow. You can delete the ones you think will not help and you can add others as they come to you. 

The deeper you go with this, the more likely you will find better ways of achieving your goal. You may find you have to adjust your timeline a little—something I often have to do with my goals.I can be a little over-optimistic at times—but if you stick with it, you will soon find action steps you can start right away that will begin your journey towards achieving your goal. 

Once you have a good list of action steps, get them into your to-do list manager. I often find people write goals down in a separate place from their to-do list manager. This could be a notes app or a journal somewhere. That is good, but if they are not also in your daily to-do list manager you are not going to do the necessary tasks to achieve your goals. The action tasks required to achieve your goals need to be in your daily to-do list and the only way to get them into your daily to-do list is to have them set up as projects in your task manager. I know duplication, generally, is not a good thing, but in this instance having your goals written down in a journal or notebook and also in your task manager where they are feeding your daily to-do list works and works extremely well. It helps to keep your goals up front and centre when you are planning your day or week. 

Finally, I use what I call my Weekly Objectives Plan. This is a sheet I use when I do my weekly review on a Sunday afternoon. This sheet helps me to focus on the things that are important to me. Now, this is not just about my goals, it is about all the things I want to achieve over the next week. There is a section dedicated to my goals and habits. This is where I can allocate a particular goal to each day of the week. Once I have completed this sheet I make sure that my daily to-do lists for the following week have action steps each day related to the goals I want to focus on. This helps me to stay accountable to my goals and ensures each day I have to do something towards achieving my goals. Of course, there will be days when events over-take you and you may find you cannot do what you wanted to do. But the idea is that by using this planning sheet you will stay focused each week on what you want to achieve as part of your goals. You can download this worksheet from my website, carl pullein.com - there’s a link in the show notes where you can download it for yourself. 

Hopefully, this answers your question, Charlie and thank you. Thank you also to all of you for listening to this episode. If you want to learn more about planning and achieving your goals I have an online course you can enrol in at my learning centre. There’s a link to the course in the show notes and it would wonderful to see you there. 

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

 

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

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

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



You can also listen on...

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud


Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent question, TJ. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

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


Also available to listen to on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Bjorn, for this wonderful question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now as for equipment and training.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working With Podcast Promo 2.jpg

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

Also available to listen to on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the system I have set up is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UGPC Teaser2.jpg

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

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

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

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, there are a few things you can do. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great question Alana and thank you for sending it in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Joshua, for the question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Sander for your wonderful question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18-01-Podcast promo Website blog.jpg

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

You can listen to this episode on:

Podbean | iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Laura for your great question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me a perfect morning routine would be something like:

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

I am nota morning person as you can probably see.

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

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

So for me my evening routine looks like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course:

More details can be found here.

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page


You can download this episode on the following services:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud


Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 


Links

Email me at carl@carlpullein.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook 

 

18-03-YDL2 Online FB HEADER.jpg

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

 


Transcript

Podcast Episode 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


Transcript

Podcast Episode 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s question comes from Anatoly who asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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