How To Set Up A Productivity System And Stick With It

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Are you struggling to start any kind of system? Then this week’s podcast is for you. 

You can also listen on:

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Script

Episode 83

Hello and welcome to episode 83 of the 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 setting up your system and sticking with it. I know a lot of people want to create a productivity system—something that helps them to stay on top of their work and the things important to them—yet fail to stick with their system or find they are always changing their system and apps and never really feel they are getting better.

Before we get to this weeks question, I have something really exciting to announce. The Time And Life Mastery 3 online course is coming later this week. This course will transform your life completely and this year it has been completely re-written and re-recorded. 

This course takes you on a journey of discovery. We start with your life. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to have in your life and how to create a plan to change the way things are today so you can begin down the road towards achieving those goals. 

Once you have a plan in place you begin the time mastery part of the course where I show you how to build your plan into your daily life and make sure each day you are making progress towards hitting your milestones and your objectives. 

This is a complete life course. I have divided it up over four days—although for you big achievers it is possible to do the course in just one day—and throughout the course, you complete a number of exercises designed to help you create the vision and plan you want for you and your family. 

More details of this course can be found on the course website which is www.timeandlifemastery.com. 

Okay, onto this week’s question and that means 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 Richard. Richard asks; Hi Carl, I have tried everything to get my life more productive but I just can't get anything to stick. Do you have any tips on how to get started and stay with a system 

Oh boy, this is one of those questions I get all the time. There is so much advice out there—a lot of it great advice—but I think sometimes that’s the real problem. There’s so much great advice it can be very hard to choose which advice is best for you. 

And in that statement is the heart of my answer to you, Richard. Whatever advice you take, it has to work for you. 

Now, I understand we all work differently. That’s one of the wonderful things about being human, we are all so amazingly diverse. With that, though, comes the issue that one size definitely does not fit all. 

I like all my stuff to be organised and in its rightful place. When I get home at the end of the day, my bag goes next to my desk. My phone goes in the same place and my AirPods immediately get put back in their case. 

My wife, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Her bag goes wherever she drops it and her AirPods sometimes get out in the dining table, sometimes on her dressing tables and in the winter sometimes put in her coat’s pocket. 

So the reality is, you need to build a system that works the way you work and to do that you need to understand how you work. 

An example of this is I recommend you spend around ten minutes at the end of the day processing all the stuff you have collected that day in your inbox and planning what you will prioritise tomorrow. In most people’s cases that work very well yet, I have a number of clients who wake up early and find doing their processing and planning early in the morning. 

Now, processing and planning are important if you are going to get control of your day. Without a plan, the day will grab control of you and your time and you will feel very busy but achieve very little of importance. 

So there is a great starting point. When will you do your planning? Morning or evening? 

Pick one. Then schedule it. Schedule 20 to 30 minutes for processing. Of course, the goal is to get that down to ten minutes (hence the phrase I use “The Golden 10”) but in the early days of your journey, it will take a little longer. 

Once you have a set time each day to process and plan you are really 50% of the way to having a great system. 

Now, for the other 50%. 

This is really dominated by collecting. If you are not collecting everything that comes your way, you will have nothing to organise at the end of the day and if you have nothing to organise you will have nothing to plan for. So collecting needs to be done. 

I’ve found this is an area a lot of people skip because they erroneously believe they will remember to do something. So they collect some things and not collect others. 

The problem with not collecting everything is it only takes one drama for your brain to forget what it was you wanted to remember. For instance, you could be waiting to cross the road and remember you need to send something to your colleague in Frankfurt. As you are waiting, a friend you haven't seen for a long time taps you in the back and you then you engage in a short conversation ending with a promise to do lunch next week. 

Now you have two things to remember, but you are so excited about catching up with your friend you completely forget about sending the file to your colleague in Frankfurt. 

When you take those few seconds to collect your tasks, ideas and events you do not forget. You’ve collected them and those things can now be processed when you have time for processing later in the day. 

So how do you get started? This is possibly the hardest part. The reason is that you need to stop fire fighting and for many people fire fighting is addictive. You feel you have to always be running around putting out fires and when you are not doing so, you feel incredibly uncomfortable. 

You have to stop. 

Now depending on how much backlog you have and how much important work you have neglected this will determine how much time you need. Typically, I find most people need at least one whole day, although it is not unheard of some requiring two or even three days to get themselves sorted out. 

Often the GTD mind sweep is a great place to start, but I have found setting up a framework to collect and organise your stuff is a better place to start. After all, if you follow the concept of dumping everything on your mind into an in basket at the end of the process you have an in basket full of stuff and nowhere to organise it. 

Selecting what tools you want and what storage you want to use, I feel is a better place to start. This way if the tools you select are new to you you can be learning to use those as you collect and organise - a sort of killing two birds with one stone. Part of a great system is you know how to use your tools properly and more importantly your use of them is fast. 

Once you have the framework in place you need to gather all the stuff you have around you that needs doing. Go through your email, go through any inboxes you have for notes and go through any bits of paper you may have collected that have ideas, tasks or events on them. Get then all in the right place. 

Set up your calendar to work for you too. Your calendar is the anchor that brings everything together. Your calendar is what tells you what needs to be done and when and how much time you have available each day for the work that needs doing. This helps you to get realistic about what you can achieve each day. 

Okay, so you have taken the plunge. You put a stop to all your inputs for one day, you have a framework in place and you are ready to reopen the floodgates and allow stuff to restart. How do you get yourself to stick with your system? 

Two words... self-discipline. 

Yes, you are going to need a lot of it. You are going to have to install some new habits and to do that you will need self-discipline and, according to research, sixty-six days to install those habits. That is going to be hard. You are going to fall off the wagon and you are going to slip up on some days. But just because you fall off the wagon or you slip up occasionally, doesn't mean you don't get back up and carry on the journey. Getting back up and continuing is part of the process. We all slip up from time to time, but the important thing is you keep going. 

Really, all you need to focus on is collecting and giving yourself ten to twenty minutes at the end of the day to organise what you collected and plan your day. Collecting is just something you do. Sure, you may have to remind yourself from time to time to collect something, but it does not take long to get into that habit. And as for finding those ten to twenty minutes at the end of the day for organising, well… If you can’t find ten to twenty minutes then you have bigger problems than productivity and time management. Schedule that time on your calendar. Pick a time at the end of the day and create a recurring event with a notification that comes up to remind you. When that notification comes up, stop what you are doing and begin organising and planning. 

If you need to go back and finish off some work, that’s okay. The important thing is you have processed and you have a plan for the next day. 

You see, the plan you have for the next day gives you your purpose. It prepares your mind for the work you plan to do and you give yourself a fighting chance of actually getting those important things done. 

Now, for those of you who have not already done my FREE COD course, I highly recommend you take the course now. The course is just a basic introduction to COD (collect, organise and do) and it will give you a simple framework in which to build your own system. The forty minutes you take to do that course will save you a tonne of hours later and will help you to finally get you to a place you feel in control. 

Thank you, Richard, for your question and that you all for listening. Don’t forget if you have a question then you can email 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. 

Episode 64 | How To Manage Multiple Personal and Professional Roles

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

You can also listen on:

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Script

Hello and welcome to episode 64 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Jim, for the wonderful question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 39 | How To Become More Productive In An Unproductive World

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about how to become more productive

You can also listen on:

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Script

Hello and welcome to episode 39 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 that I feel many people want answering. That is how to become more productive in a world that seems designed to make us unproductive. It a great question and I hope to give you a few tips that will help you to get in control of your stuff. 

Last week saw the launch of the 2018 edition of Time And Life Mastery course. There’s been a lot of excitement over this course and I would hate for you to miss out. The early bird discount will be ending soon so if you haven’t got yourself enrolled in this complete course, get yourself enrolled today. This is one course you will never regret enrolling in and is a course that can change your life for the better. It would be great to see you there.

Okay, let’s get into 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 Jenna. Jenna asks: I struggle to get my work finished on time and my manager is always telling me I need to be more productive. The problem is I don’t know where to begin. Can you help? 

Thank you, Jenna. That’s a great question and one I am sure is on many people’s minds. 

There are a couple of issues I see regularly with many of my clients that have simple fixes. The first is in setting personal deadlines. Now I first came across this one when I began working in Korea. Having come from a working environment where the close of day was fixed. My working hours were the traditional 9 til 5, although for me it was 9 to 5:30. What that meant was when I arrived at work in the morning, I knew I would be finishing at 5:30pm. It was unheard of anyone working beyond their finish time. 

When I came to Korea, I noticed many of my students here had a much more flexible end time. It was normal for workers to stay an extra hour or so at the end of the day to finish their work. This is where Parkinson’s Law comes in to play. Parkinson’s Law states: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So if I begin my day knowing I only have 7½ hours to complete my tasks for the day, then it will take me 7½ hours to complete them. If I begin the day thinking I have 10 hours to complete those same tasks, it will take me 10 hours to complete them. 

Once you know this law, you can use it to your advantage. When you begin a task set a deadline. Let’s say you have a proposal for your client to do today. When you sit down to work on the proposal give yourself one hour to complete it (or 90 minutes if it requires a lot of work). So you sit down at 9:30am and before you begin you say to yourself this must be finished by 10:30am. And get started. You will find that your brain will go into the focused work zone and you will get the proposal completed by 10:30am. This is one of my favourite time hacks if you can call it that. I use this all the time to write my blog posts and even record my regular YouTube videos. YouTube videos can be incredible time sucks if you are not careful. There’s something about making videos for me that has me always wanted to re-record them. If I do not set a finish time, I can easily spend five or six hours recording three ten to fifteen-minute videos. Instead, I set a three-hour deadline. If I begin recording at 3pm I always plan to have them finished by 6pm. It really does help to focus the mind. 

Another thing you can do to really improve your productivity it to begin the day with a plan. Write down the two or three things you absolutely must get complete that day. Don’t leave them in your head. Get them written done where you can see them. Now the key here is to only write down two or three things. These are the big rocks, if you like, that must be completed that day. I know there will always be other things that need doing too, but what you really want to be doing is having the two or three big things that absolutely must be completed that day written down either digitally or on paper on your desk and have them right in front of you. Once you have finished the first thing, cross it off, take a short break and then move on to the second one. 

Difficulties occur when you have a long list of to-dos. It is natural for us to look for the easiest tasks, the quick checks. They make us feel good, but the problem, of course, is many of these quick and easy tasks are not actually that important and are easy to do. To really focus you in what is important and to get you working on the work that will contribute towards completing your work by the deadline, keep your list to two or three tasks. If you are really good and take full advantage of Parkinson’s law, you could have those two or three tasks completed by lunchtime and you can then move on to the easier, less important tasks. 

Another area I find people often struggle with is not being clear about what work is important. We all have a good mix of routine and project work to complete each day. Difficulties start when you are not clear about what work is important. Prioritising your work is a big part of becoming more productive. This is why beginning the day with a plan based on what current projects are important is vital. However, the routine work can very easily take over the day if you are not careful. There are a couple of ways you can handle the less important routine work. One way is to assign one day each week for admin work. This could be Friday afternoon for example. Friday’s are famously difficult to focus on important work because we are often thinking about our plans for the weekend. If that is the case, you could assign Friday as your admin and cleaning up day. This means you only have easy tasks to do on Friday and you don’t need a lot of focus to get them done. Another way is to allocate a time slot each day to do your admin and routine tasks. Giving yourself one hour a day to just get the routine, easy tasks complete will help you to stay focused on the important, project work for the other seven or eight hours each day. This is my preferred way of doing it. I assign one hour a day for all my routine admin work. I usually assign the end of the day to do this because I don’t need a lot of concentration to do it. But you can choose any time of the day or week to do it. 

And now for the biggie. Use you calendar to schedule your work each day. There’s something about seeing a time slot on your calendar that says something like “Prepare presentation file, for next week’s presentation” that really kicks your arse into gear. I guess we are conditioned to follow our calendars more than a to-do list. Take advantage of this. When you plan your day, look at your calendar and between all the meetings and client appointments, schedule focus time. Now only you know when that will be the best time each day. For me, it is usually between 9:30am and 11:30am and between 2pm and 3:30pm. Outside of those times I am either teaching or in meetings. This gives me around four hours every day for focused content work. 

Now I understand that in most companies meetings are often scheduled at the last minute, so it would be a little unrealistic to schedule your focused work for the whole week, but if you have established what two or three things you really want to get done for the day when you plan the day, when you get to work in the morning, you can then look at your calendar for the day and schedule those two or three things on your calendar. When you do this, you know what you need to be doing at what time each day. This is one of the best productivity tricks you can use. It really works. Remember, your calendar is sacred. What’s on your calendar gets done and although you are free to change it at any time, you should resist. Once you have scheduled your day, stick to it only allow real, genuine emergencies to change it. 

There are many other little things you can do to help. When you are given a task always write it down in a trusted place. Never trust your brain to remember it. When your boss asks you to do something always ask them when they want it by. This actually works on two levels. Firstly it gives you a deadline to work from and secondly, it prevents your boss from changing the deadline. You have an agreed, set deadline. 

Another little trick I use is when no deadline is given to me. I will always tell them when I will complete it by. This works because it sets a deadline for me and I get agreement from the other person that the deadline is okay with them. We then have an agreement and because I have committed myself to do the work by a certain time I will make sure I will do it because it was I who set the deadline. It’s almost like a matter of honour. It’s a great incentive. 

The truth is becoming better at productivity is really all about knowing what you have to get done and by when. It’s about knowing what you have to do before you start the day and making sure you have enough time scheduled to get it done. It’s simple. I know it means you need to spend ten minutes or so getting clear each day about what you need to get done, but those ten minutes will save you so much time and stress later. Think of those ten minutes as an investment in your sanity and your professionalism. 

Well, I hope that answers your question, Jenna and thank you for emailing me your question. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast, just get in touch either by email, Dming me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be very happy to answer your question. 

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

 

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

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

You can also listen on:

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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 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. 

 

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

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

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

 

Links

Time Doctor

Running Remote Conference 2018

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

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

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



Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

 


Transcript

The Working With Podcast 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here goes with tip number 1:

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

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

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

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

Tip Number 2

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

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

Tip 3

Use your calendar 

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

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

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

Tip 4

Do a weekly review.

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

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

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

And tip number 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to sum up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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



Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 11 | Managing What Goes In To What App.


In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about deciding what goes where and when.

Hello and welcome to episode 11 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. 

One of the most frequent questions I get is about managing apps used to maintain a great productivity system. I recommend you have a calendar, a to-do list manager, a notes app and a cloud storage drive. I’ve been recommending this set up for years and I do so because I know it works. But once you have those apps, managing what goes in them can cause problems, particularly if you have never had a system in place before.

This week’s question is related to this whole area and I think my answer and recommendations can help you if you also suffer with this problem. So, enough of me talking. Let me now hand you over to the recently recovered mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question. 

For this week’s question, Nicola writes from France:

How do you distinguish between what you put in Evernote and what you put in Todoist? I have a really hard time with this and find I have tasks and notes all over the place. Thanks, Nicola

Thank YOU Nicola for an excellent question.

This is a problem I find many people have. Because of the way some of these apps are trying to be a one stop solution for all our needs it can become quite confusing where we should be putting things. Evernote, for example, has the ability to create checklists and reminders and become a to-do list manager. Todoist, my other app of choice, has the ability to store notes and files. Because of this it is very easy to start dumping notes in Todoist and to-dos in Evernote. 

The problem I have found when an app tries to be all things is that in order to achieve this, the app has to make compromises. Usually, the interface becomes messy and difficult to read, or in order to get things to work properly, you need to have a doctorate in astro physics, something, most of do not have. I personally, have an allergy to complexity. My brain usually just switches off when faced with anything complex—I lose interest. 

Evernote, for example, puts your reminders at the top of your notes list. Now, on a desktop that works okay, not great, but okay. Evernote on a mobile device becomes much more difficult and finding your to-do list for the day, becomes an exercise that is just way to complex, for me. 

Todoist again, does not work great with notes. Sure you can add notes to individual tasks, and you can add notes to the project itself. But once you have checked off the task, the notes disappear with it. This means if you want to retrieve your notes at a later date you have to go hunting round in the archive. Not the best use of your time, I can assure you. 

This is why I have always maintained what I call hard edges between my apps. My to-do list manager contains the tasks I need or want to do “the whats”. My note taking app contains all the support materials, the “hows” if you like. And my cloud drive, contains the files I am working to make the project happen. This makes it so much easier for me when I come to processing stuff I have collected. If it is something that is telling me what to do, ie. “Call Jennifer about next week’s workshop”, then that goes into my to-do list manager. If I receive an itinerary for the workshop from Jennifer, then that would go into my note taking app. And if I have to prepare a presentation for the workshop, then the Keynote file would be stored in my cloud drive. 

Of course, a lot of things can be going on in the background in this scenario. When I talk to Jennifer, she may say: “I’ll email you the itinerary later today”. Okay, now I am waiting for something. I would create a task in Todoist telling me I am waiting for a file from Jennifer and put that under my waiting for label. If I am to prepare a presentation for the workshop, I would have a note in my notes app with my ideas and sketches for slide design and layout. But the thing is, each item has it’s place and each item is labeled or tagged appropriately so I can find what I need, when I need it instantly. 

And that’s the goal really. “Everything in its place and a place for everything”. 

What I have found is when someone is starting out on the road to greater productivity and organisation, they have to spend time thinking about where something should go. On a Monday morning, after a good night’s sleep making these decisions is easy. But late on a Thursday evening, after a day of back to back meetings and you are exhausted from your efforts, these decisions are not so easy. And that is when things begin to slip. 

Your To-do list manager’s inbox is full of tasks and notes. Your cloud drive has files you are working on all over the place and you haven’t touched your note taking app. This is where taking fifteen to twenty minutes out to tidy things up can be a huge help. Maybe you can come back from your lunch a little earlier and get things organised, Or you could come in to work a few minutes early and get the stuff into the right places. Either way, those fifteen to twenty minutes should be considered an investment. Because later in the day they can save you hours of searching and thinking. 

I’ve been following this philosophy for years now and the processing takes me very little time. In fact, when I look at my inbox, I just naturally start processing. This is something you will get better and faster at doing over time. But it is a habit you need to develop. At first it will take you more time than you anticipate, that’s normal. You are after all, changing the way you think. But if you stick at it, you will get faster and faster at it. 

Another tip here is to have tools for specific purposes. If I am attending a meeting, I always take my notebook with me. I prefer writing meeting notes by hand as it just feels more natural to me. After the meeting, I pull out my todos and enter those into Todoist, cross them off once they are in Todoist and then use Evernote’s scanning app and scan the notes directly into my Evernote inbox. Because the to-dos have been crossed off and entered into my to-do list, I know that what’s left is a note related to the meeting. 

Now of course, I do not always have time to pull out the to-dos immediately after the meeting, but I know the note’s not been scanned, so at the next available opportunity I can quickly scan the note for to-dos, enter them in to Todoist and cross them off from the note. This process takes around two minutes to do and I usually find I do this while I am waiting for the next meeting to start anyway. 

Part of achieving greater personal productivity is really in having the right system set up and those systems naturally fit in with your personality. This is why I know that there is no perfect system. The way my brain works and processes things is likely to be very different from the way your brain works and processes things. I like things to be in their place and if they are not I feel uncomfortable. My wife on the other hand is the complete opposite and feels very comfortable with things all over the place. Much to my frustration. 

But no matter how your brain works, having a system in place that allows you to find what you need with the least effort and time, when you need it should always be your goal. Mixing up your to-dos with you notes and files is a recipe for an unsuccessful attempt at getting yourself better organised. You will spend far too much time looking for stuff and not enough time working on stuff. But if you have a system in place that you know where everything is, you will quickly get so much better at making these decisions with little to no effort at all. It’s just something you need to stick at. 

My advice, is don’t be tempted by apps that try to sell you on their ability to be all things for all situations. Those apps, in my experience are far too compromised to work effectively and they don’t have the hard edges between the various roles they are trying to be. Choose separate apps for each part of your productivity system. Make sure those apps can be link to each other and keep your to-dos in your to-do list manager, you events on your calendar, your notes and reference materials in your notes and the files you’re working on in your cloud drive. Doing things this way will give you a much cleaner, more efficient system.

Thank you for listening and if you have a question you would like answering on this show, please get in touch either by email: carl@carpullein.com or you can DM me on Twitter or Facebook. Lists for all these places are in the show notes.

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

 

Contact Me:

carl@carlpullein.com

www.twitter.com/carl_pullein

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The Working With... Podcast | Episode 10 | Getting A Huge List Of Active Projects Under Control

Links

For more information on my Mentoring Programmes and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, click here


In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about coping with a huge list of active projects.

Hello and welcome to episode 10 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. 

I hope you are all having a great start to the new year. My year hasn’t started too well. The first week I had a stomach bug, and the second week I came down with a cold. So, I decided the third week of this month was the start of the new year and so far, touch wood, my year is now going fantastically!

Anyway, on to this week’s show. This week’s question throws up a very common difficulty for many people in personal productivity and in particular when using GTD. (that’s Getting Things Done by David Allen) This is the one where you end up with a huge list of active projects which in turn leaves you with an overwhelming list of projects that just depresses you every time you open your to-do list manager. In this week’s episode, I want to offer you some guidance on how to avoid this happening to you. 

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 Ben. Thank you, Ben.

Ben asks: You park your projects in someday maybe folder. I’ve got over 60 running parallel projects in my work folder. I am running a tombstone business. How can i handle this for a better overview, thank you. Ben

Another fantastic question. Thank you, Ben

To really answer this question we need to step back a little and look at the big picture and what we are capable of actually doing each day. 

We humans only get 24 hours each day. In that time we need to sleep, eat, shower and communicate with our friends and families. So, while in theory, we have 24 hours, we really only have a fraction of that time to do work. Even the most workaholic types among us, are not capable of doing work consistently over a period of 24 hours. If we tried, we’d be burnt out within a few days. So, let’s get realistic about what we can achieve on a daily basis. Sixty parallel running projects is not going to happen. Either you are going to miss deadlines, or the quality expected for each project is not going to be what is expected. 

From my own experience, I know that to create an online course takes around 10 to 15 hours of planning and 15 to 20 hours to record and edit. There are another 5 to 10 hours required after that for study sheet writing and uploading the videos. So in total to create an online course requires 30 to 40 hours. In theory, that means an online course could be created in one week, given the average working time is between 35 and 40 hour per week. But, what that does not take into consideration is all the additional admin, communications and meetings that are also part of an average week. Even trying to allow two weeks to do this project would be unrealistic, as I always have other projects on at any one time. So, I have learnt that to create an online course (a project) actually takes 1 month to do. 

By allowing 1 month to complete an online course project, I also allow myself time to work on other projects. But, that still means I need 10 hours a week to work on the project. If I multiply those ten hours to say fifty hours for the week, that means theoretically, I can only work on 5 projects at any one time. But, again, that does not take into consideration additional admin, communications and meetings, so realistically, you are only going to be able to work on 3 to 4 projects at any one time. 

Of course, if you own your own business, you can hire people to work on some of your projects and multiply the number of active projects accordingly, but you will always find you are limited by the one resource you cannot change, time. 

This is where the Someday | Maybe folder comes in to play. At any one time, there will be projects that are time sensitive. Projects that have a deadline sometime in the next 3 to 6 months. These projects should be your active projects. These are the ones that have deadlines coming up in the near future and so these should be in your active projects folders whether they are work or personal. All other projects, where the deadlines are over 6 months away can be placed in your someday | maybe folder and for now, left idle. I usually have a reminder task inside these projects to remind me to have a quick look at the project in case there is something I need to do, but for the most part these projects are idle until one of my other, active projects has been completed, Then the next time sensitive project gets moved up into the active project folder. 

However, another area I find people struggle with when they have all their projects lined up in their active projects folders is they date everything. So, each day they end up with over 50 tasks to do and not-surprisingly end up not completing their daily tasks. This then often leads to people quitting using a to-do list manager, complaining that it takes too much time to manage, or to-do lists don’t work for them. The truth is, they are not working their to-do list managers properly, and yes, of course, they become endless lists of work that never gets done. 

I go back to my point at the beginning of this podcast. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day, a week and a month. Biting off more than you can chew is never going to be a good strategy for anyone. 

So if you are suffering from an overwhelming active projects list, then here’s what you can do:

Often one of the first things I notice when I am mentoring people through my mentoring programme (details in the description if anyone is interested… Oops I’m plugging there) is that some people are confusing their day to day activities or areas of focus with projects. For example, marketing activities. Unless the you are creating a new marketing campaign, then any marketing activity will be part of your day to day job. This is an area of focus, not a project. For my productivity business, I promote many of my products on Twitter. These need scheduling every day. This is not a project. This is an area of focus that just needs doing every day. However, creating a launch campaign for my latest book, that’s a project. It is a one off event that lasts around two months. Once the launch window is over, any further marketing activities will become part of my everyday marketing area of focus. 

Likewise, creating my YouTube videos, could in theory be considered a project, but in reality, I do these every week and the only thing that changes is the topic. The number of videos I create each week remain pretty consistent. That makes these videos an area of focus, not a project. I have scheduled time to do the recording and editing each week. 

So, how do you define a project and an area of focus. Well, this is really up to you and your preferred way of working, for me an area of focus is anything that has to be done, but has no end date. It’s just part of my work, but does take my life further forward. A routine is different in that a routine is anything I have to do that does not take my life further forward. For example, taking the garbage out or updating my admin sheets each day. How you define taking your life further forward is another one of those things that only you can decide.

The thing is when you are clear about what your real projects are, and what your areas of focus are, you can make sure your areas of focus become just part of your daily work and you can then focus on allocating sufficient time to your real projects. Things that have a deadline. 

For those of you working with clients, I would create each job I do for a client as a project. In my mentoring programme, each mentee, I think that what you call them, have their own project. Each programme has a set curriculum if you like and I can make sure that each part of the programme is completed when it needs to be completed. I keep the number of active mentees limited to ten at any one time so that I am not overwhelmed. (Incidentally, I do have a couple of places available at the moment... oops another plug...sorry)

So there you have it. If you do find you have a large, overwhelming list of active projects, first go through them to see if any of them require nothing for six months. If so, move them to your someday | maybe folder with a task set to remind you to look at it at some point in the near future. Once you have done that, go through your active projects and see if any of those projects are really areas of focus (don’t have an end date) and move them to your Areas Of Focus folder.

I know these tips will not actually reduce the work. The work still needs to be done anyway, but these tactics will help you to reduce a long list of projects that have become overwhelming and that is really the goal. 

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

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 07 | How To Motivate Yourself To Do Side Projects


Transcript

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about motivating yourself to work on side-projects.

Hello and welcome to episode 7 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. 

Before we get into this week’s show, I would like to thank all of you who have bought Your Digital Life 2.0. The response has been tremendous and I am honoured to have such wonderful people supporting me. Thank you all. Also, for those not wishing to buy Your Digital Life 2.0, don’t worry, I have two videos on my YouTube channel that show you how to set up Todoist and Evernote in the way I recommend in the book. 

Oh, and one more thing… If you have a question you would like answering on this show, please let me know either via email carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook etc. All the links are in the show notes.

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

This week’s question is from Sophie and she asks…

How do you motivate yourself to work on side projects in the evenings and on weekends. 

Thank you for your question, Sophie

Another great question! Thank you, Sophie. 

Before we can talk about motivation, we need something to be motivated about. I am sure there are many of you listening who have things you would like to do but for some reason or other are not doing it. This could be anything like reading more books, starting a blog or a podcast or learning to ride a horse. There are so many things, and for many of you, I am sure you feel there is no time. 

One thing I have learned over the years is if something is important enough, if something is burning inside me, I will find the time. We humans always do. Usually, when I find I attach the excuse “I don’t have time” to something, it is a sure fire indicator that something is not important enough for me and I will re-evaluate that thing. This is a great test to evaluate something’s importance. If you’re finding excuses, then I can guarantee it is not important enough to you. Recording and editing my YouTube videos each week takes about six hours. Most people I know would never try and find six hours to do something every week, week after week because it isn’t important enough to them. But my YouTube videos are very important to me. So I always find those six hours every Saturday to do the recording and editing. 

So, what do you do if something is really burning inside you. You can’t stop thinking about it and you can’t wait to start? 

the best way to start this is to take a look at your calendar and find an evening when you are not usually busy. It’s no good saying you will spend 1 hour every evening learning Spanish when you do Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday nights and go to the Super League game every Friday with your friends. There are three identifiable nights where either you are going to be too tired or too late to sit down for an hour to study Spanish. You have to be realistic. 

But we can go back to do what I mentioned earlier, if something is not important enough to you, you will always find an excuse. Is this thing you really want to do more important than your Yoga or Super League game? 

Learning a language, for example, needs patience, action, consistency and time (there’s that good old PACT again) If you are not willing to study three nights a week because of something else, you probably need to go back and question your motivation for doing something in the first place. 

A huge reason people fail to achieve success at anything is that they spread themselves too thin. If you want to win an Olympic gold medal for the marathon at the next summer Olympics, you are going to need to run every day. You will have to spend hours and hours pounding the pavement. There will not be any time for friends, socialising, Yoga or rugby. It would take your complete focus and dedication to win that gold medal. But if that was important enough to you, you would find a way to make the time to do the training. 

However, imagine you want to start your own side business as a contributing writer for a major magazine. You can’t just send an email to the editor and ask if you can become a contributor. They wouldn’t even reply to you. You would need to create your own blog, you would need to be writing blog posts week after week and be able to demonstrate you are consistent. That would mean you would need to set aside some time each week to sit down and write. In my own experience, it takes around two to three hours to write a blog post and another two to three hours to edit. That’s up to six hours to produce one blog post. That would mean you spending two hours on a Monday writing the first draft, two hours on Wednesday doing the first edit and two hours on Friday to do the final edit and publish. Would you be willing to sacrifice that much time week after week for four to five years? 

If it’s important enough to you, you would. 

But let's say you just want to start a side project to see if you could turn an idea into a viable business. Perhaps in this instance you are not sure whether you will have the passion for the project or not. You just want to try something out. 

In this case, I would set aside one or two nights a week to try these things out. Again, use you calendar and set aside one or two hours to play. 

The thing about using your calendar to schedule these sessions is that you are much more likely to do it. If you do not schedule it, you will always find an excuse when you come home after a horrible day at work. Those nights, the TV becomes a temptation that cannot be resisted and before you know it you are in the middle of Elementary desperate to learn how Sherlock and Watson solve the mystery. 

One way I have found that works is if you schedule Monday nights as “side project” night. There’s usually nothing exciting on TV on a Monday night so you could schedule 8pm to 10pm as your side project night. If you treat your calendar as a sacred place, you are going to be much more likely to do what your calendar tells you to do. If Monday’s are buy for you, then by all means find another night when you are regularly free. This is your side project play night. I use late Friday night as my catch up on YouTube videos night. Throughout the week, there’s always a few YouTube videos I want to watch, but don’t usually have much time during the week. So I set aside an hour on a Friday night, around 11pm to catch up on these. It quiet, there’s nothing else for me to do and I really enjoy that time. 

The truth is though, if you are not excited about doing something, then the motivation will not last. I remember back around 2005 I got in to a video podcast called Photoshop TV. I love photography and I have always enjoyed taking photos, and I had a very old version of Photoshop in my computer. I found this podcast and began watching it right from episode one. The format of the podcast was fantastic. Three presenters each doing a quick tutorial showing you how you could create better pictures using Photoshop. The podcast came out every Tuesday evening and I used to rush home, watch the episode and then spend an hour playing around in Photoshop practising the techniques I had just learned. It became one of the highlights of my week. All told I followed Photoshop TV for about 3 years and really came to learn how to use Photoshop properly. I also got to know other teachers such as Terry White, who I still follow today to learn more about Adobe’s suite of software. 

So the sum up:

If you are not really excited about something then getting motivated to do something regularly every week, week after week is going to be really difficult. When you do find something you are excited about then the motivation to do it will last. My YouTube channel, for example, will be two years old next month and today I am more excited about planning, recording and editing the videos than I ever have been. It still excites me. That’s what you need to feel if you are going to really develop those side-projects. 

When you do find that excitement, then use your calendar to schedule one or two evenings a week to play. And I use that word carefully. If it does not feel like you are playing and you are not enjoying yourself learning about or doing your side-project, then I am afraid you will not maintain your passion or your commitment to it. 

Hopefully, that answered your question, Sophie. 

Thank you very much for listening guys. Don’t forget if you have a question, please send me an email, or DM me on the usual channels. All the links are in the show notes. 

Oh and if you have time, please check out my latest book, Your Digital Life 2.0. I am sure you will find it compelling reading over the holiday season.

There won’t be a show next week (Christmas day) but we will be back in the new year so I would like to wish you all very happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year! See you in 2018

 

Links:

Email: carl@carlpullein.com

Twitter: @carl_pullein

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

Your Digital Life 2.0

 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 06 | How To Collect And Process Efficiently

 

 

 

 

 

Links to Your Digital Life 2.0: 

Your Digitial Life can now be bought from...

Direct from my website: http://www.carlpullein.com/books

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2AJz7bE

iBooks Store: http://apple.co/2BwQcZA

 


Transcript

Podcast Episode 6

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about capturing ideas and then managing those captured ideas.

Hello and welcome to episode 6 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 how best to capture your ideas, commitments and events. But before we get in to that, I would just like to unashamedly plug my latest book which has gone on sale today. Your Digital Life 2.0 is a re-write of Your Digital Life, a book I published in 2015. In this new edition I have updated and cleaned up the system I use and recommend, I have also written four new case studies, extensively extended the goals section to include better ways of planning and achieving your goals and of course P.A.C.T (Patience, Action, Consistency and Time). Pretty much everything has been updated and improved. 

You can get your copy on Amazon, iBooks store and direct from my website. All the links are in the show notes of this episode. 

Okay, plug over, lets get in to today’s show and hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for today’s question... Over to you mystery podcast voice... 

This week’s question comes from Jerry. Jerry asks...

Do you have a system of how or what to use to capture your ideas and to do's? Such as a notebook, notepad, voice recorder, etc. I sometimes struggle with collecting my ideas or to do's in a way that is easy for me to process when I get home

That’s an excellent question, Jerry. Thank you.

This really comes down to how you have everything set up. One of the important features any productivity system should have is the ability to capture ideas, commitments and appointments quickly and efficiently. If there are too many clicks or you have to dig around in a bag looking for your notebook and pen then you are not going to be very good at capturing. You need to have your system set up so that whenever an idea strikes you or you make a commitment, you can capture it within a few clicks. 

This why having your mobile phone set up so your capture tool of choice is on the home screen ready and waiting to capture that next brilliant idea. As I am sure many of you know, I use Todoist and the Todoist app is right there on my home screen on my iPhone. I also have 3D Touch enabled so capturing a commitment can done with one long press. 

Likewise, for my notes I have Evernote right next to Todoist on my home screen ready and waiting to capture any ideas I might have. 

On all my computers—I use both a desktop and a laptop—I have keyboard shortcuts set up so I can capture my ideas and commitments and events without having to go looking for the app. 

For meetings or one to one sessions with students I will use my notebook and pen. I prefer writing notes down in meetings or in sessions with my students. If I have any to-dos or other notes I want to capture, I will either type them in to Todoist or if there are a lot of notes I will use Evernote’s excellent scanning features and scan the notes directly into Evernote. 

I went through all that first because, if you do not have your capture tools set up so they are incredibly easy to access you will resist capturing and that’s how you miss important things and ideas. 

So let’s say you have become a master at capturing, how do you make sure processing is just as easy as capturing? 

This is the main reason why using the tools for what they were designed to be used for is essential if you want to create a workable system. For example, my system has me capturing tasks in Todoist. I capture ideas in Evernote and date specific commitments and event get captured into my calendar. 

For my calendar, the date, place and time are added immediately. For that there is no processing to do. However, for tasks, these are captured, but something has to happen later for them to become meaningful. If I just left everything in my inbox, it would soon become an unmanageable list of to-dos that are either no longer relevant or are still relevant but have no context. 

The reason why making sure your app of choice syncs between all your devices is so that when you sit down to do your processing, everything is essentially in one place. All the important things I captured, the ones that need action in the very near future will have been captured in Todoist. This means at the end of the day when I sit down at my computer, I can open up Todoist and all my captured tasks are there right in front of me waiting to be processed. 

It’s a slightly different story when it comes to my notes or ideas. Usually these are not urgent and are not at this stage time sensitive. These I capture in Evernote and I process my Evernote inbox around once a week. In a typical week I will capture about ten to fifteen notes and articles. So, there’s never likely to be a huge inbox of stuff to process. 

There is one caveat here though. Ideas for my YouTube videos and blog posts are actually captured using an app called Drafts. These are sent directly to their corresponding note in Evernote and so don’t need processing. I recently did a video on Drafts which I will link to in the show notes so you can see how I do that. 

So, lets say it’s the end of the day, I’ve had my dinner, done my evening admin and email work and I am ready to begin my daily review and process. 

The first thing I do is process my Todoist inbox. That’s where anything urgent is going to be and I process those tasks first. Because my Todoist is synced across all my devices, anything I captured on my phone, laptop or iPad will be there waiting to be processed. This process only takes around 5 mins or so and then it’s on to the daily mini-review. The secret here is really to have everything synced and to try and do your processing from the same place every day. 

It doesn’t really matter where you do your processing, it could on your phone, tablet or computer. It doesn’t even matter when you do your processing. Morning or evening, whatever works for you. I prefer the evening, I know many people who prefer to do it in the morning. The basic rule is you need to be processing your inbox at least once every 48 hours. Personally, I will always try and do it every 24, but on a Friday, for example, I generally don’t process until Saturday. I might do a quick look to see if there’s anything urgent in there, but on the whole, I rarely process Friday evenings. 

My Evernote inbox gets processed as part of my weekly review. As I said, I don’t capture a huge amount of stuff in Evernote, so processing it’s inbox doesn’t take very long at all. Making it a part of my weekly review just makes sense to me. 

I do have one other collection bucket. I carry an A4 plastic wallet with me in my bag. In there I will collect receipts for my expenses, receipts for purchases that have a guarantee and the attendance paper I hand round in my university class. I empty this folder every Sunday when I do my weekly review, scan in my receipts and attendance records into their various folders. I keep an iCloud folder for my expense receipts that is connected to an app called Scanbot. Anything scanned by Scanbot is saved directly into that folder. My attendance sheets for the university class also gets sent to a specific folder in iCloud and can then be sent to the university’s admin office. Doing things this way means I can maintain an almost 100% paperless system effortlessly. 

And that’s about it. In total I have three collection points. My inboxes in Todoist and Evernote and my plastic wallet. I do maintain a physical inbox next to my desk, but these days that is very rarely used at all. That’s just a relic from my pre-paperless days and is more of an ornament than a working inbox. 

So to sum up then…

To really get your collection and processing system up and running properly, make sure the apps you choose for your to-do lists and notes are synchronisable across all your devices. This way, when you sit down to do your processing everything is in one place—your computer.

If like me you find you are not collecting very many processable notes, don’t feel under any pressure to process your notes inbox every day. This is really your call, but it can save you time during the week when really all you want to do is sit down and relax. 

If you still prefer to use a trusty pen and paper for taking notes in meetings etc. Then make sure you have a good scanning app on your phone or tablet. This can save you so much time and an app like Scanbot is not really that expensive when you consider how much time it can save you. 

Try to process your main inbox at least once every 48 hours. 24 hours is better, but I know sometimes, when you finish late, the last thing you want to do is be reminded of work you still have to do. 

And that’s about it. I hope that answers your question, Jerry. 

Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering, you can email me (carl@carlpullein.com), DM me on Twitter, facebook or Instagram or you can fill in the quick form on my website (carlpullein.com) 

Thank you all for listening and until next week, I hope you all have a very very productive week. 

 

The Working With... Podcast | Episode 05 | Managing Non-Date Specific Tasks


Transcript:

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing open-ended tasks that don’t have a specific due date.

Hello and welcome to episode 5 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. 

Before we get started, I would like to thank all you amazing people who invested in my productivity bundles over the holidays. The response was tremendous and I hope you all will get hours of good productivity advice and know-how over the coming weeks.

This weeks question comes from Alice in Italy, Thank you, Alice. Alice asks

Coming from a paper planning environment, one of the issues I have with task management apps is I don't know where to add tasks that have to be done during specific weeks or months but not on a specific day. How do you handle this kind of task? I tried to put them as all-day events in my calendar, but I don't like the way they clutter my entire week/month. 

Hmmm good question, Alice. 

With this kind of issue, it is always a good idea to go back to basic best practices. What I mean by that is how best to use the various apps we have. 

You only need three apps. A calendar, a to-do list manager and a note-taking app. Which apps you choose, of course, is entirely unto you, but you need one of each. 

Your calendar is for specific events that have a date and or a time. For example meetings, appointments with friends and family and conferences and workshops. In David Allen’s Getting Things Done book, David recommends you put things you absolutely must do on your calendar too, but for me, my to-do list manager does a better job of things I must do, so I only put specific events where I have to be somewhere or talk to someone on my calendar.

Your to-do list manager is where all the things you must do go. Now all to-do list managers I have seen, allow you to put dates on tasks and so, putting tasks onto your calendar seems to be a bit overkill to me. I use the date function on my to-do list manager for all tasks that must be done on a specific date. So for example, if I need to finish writing a report by Friday, there will be a task in my to-do list manager that tells me to “continue working on the report” with a date set for Monday. Once I have worked on the report on Monday, if it is not finished, I will change the date of the task to Tuesday and so on until it is finished. 

Finally, your notes app is where you store all notes and support materials for things you are working on or would like to keep for future reference. 

I have spoken and written about hard edges between these three areas quite a lot, and it is very important that you keep very hard edges between these. If you put things to do on your calendar and add notes to your to-do list manager, for example, very quickly your whole system will fall apart because you will never be able to find the things you need when you need them. Events and appointments go on your calendar, things you have to do go on your to-do list manager and all other support materials go into your notes app. FULL STOP.

So, going back to Alice’s question about how to handle tasks that do not have a specific deadline, but must be completed within a specific time frame, these I would put into my to-do list manager and date them with the date I want to work on them. For example, if I were developing an online course, I would have a task such as “work on presentation slides”. Now, this does not actually have a deadline date because it is a task that forms part of a larger project. The slides need creating, but there is no specific day they need creating on. So, when I do my weekly or daily review, I would see when I have time to do the slides and if and when I do have time, I would add the date. I know this sounds complicated, but it is not really. Creating an online course is a big project, there’s a lot of planning, thinking and developing. When I am preparing a course, that is the main project I am working on at that time. There would be no other big projects on at the time, so my focus is on completing that project. So, all I am doing is deciding which component I will work on today or tomorrow, for example, and that would depend on where I will be and how much time I have available. 

Project deadlines can be a grey area. I work with some very busy executives, and usually between August and October, they are in the midst of planning next year. These executives not only have their own plans to work on, they also have to oversee the planning of their various departments. Departments such as sales, marketing, HR and customer service. They have to make sure that these department’s targets fit in with the overall company’s goals. In this situation, they have a lot of deadlines to manage and I recommend they use their calendars for these deadlines. Only the deadline is in there, tasks related to the project are in their task managers and notes related to various meetings will be in their notes app. 

Getting really good at answering questions such as “what is it?” Is it an event, task or note? Is something well worth practising. It can save a lot of time when you are doing your daily reviews and help you to maintain the hard edges you need to maintain a functioning system. 

How would you handle single action tasks? Tasks such as making a dentist appointment for a checkup and scaling or something related to work such as follow up on Mr Brown in six months time. Here you have a choice. For the dentist appointment, you could add that to a tickler file in your to-do list manager. What is a “tickler file”? I hear you ask, well so as not to go into too much detail, a tickler file is basically a folder in your to-do list manager that contain things you want to be reminded of on a specific day in the future. It doesn’t really matter how far into the future you want to be reminded, but I would not add in anything beyond 12 months. All you need to do is add the task to your Tickler file with the date you want to be reminded.

Another way to approach this is to take a look at how you managed these kinds of tasks on paper. Did you maintain a master task list you looked at every day or did you forward plan tasks in a diary? Pretty much all the ways you would plan on paper can be replicated digitally. Once you know how you did things on paper, it is relatively easy to find a digital way to do it. Think of Evernote as a digital filing cabinet and you have a natural way to store all your digital files. Think of Todoist as a ring binder with various projects organised on different pages and you have a digital to-do list notebook. 

The final way to do this is to step back and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. This is one of the issues I have with Evernote when it fills up with thousands of notes. I begin to feel it is bloated and I have to step back and ask the question what am I trying to achieve. Ultimately, I use the favourites function as I would use the top front part of a filing cabinet—a place for me to quickly grabs the stuff I use every day or almost everyday. The rest of it I use for storing my digital papers pretty much in the same way I would a physical filing cabinet.

Hopefully, this has helped many of you with the transition from paper planning and task management to digital. 

So to sum up...

If you are coming from a paper-based system, then before moving everything over to a digital system take a look at how you are organising things on paper. Then, look for a digital system the replicates this as close as possible. You can modify things once you get comfortable with your new digital system. 

Always keep a hard edge between your apps. Tasks and to-dos go on your to-do list manager. Events and appointments go on your calendar and everything else, your support materials, go into your digital notebook. This will help you when you process and it will help you to find the things you need when you need them. 

Maintaining a digital organisation system is not particularly difficult if you keep it simple. I have always found that things go wrong when I try to be clever and make things complicated. Very soon, things start to fall apart and I always have to go back and simplify things again. 

Thank you very much for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question about productivity, self-development or goal planning you would like answering you can contact me either at carl@carlpullein.com, on my website carlpullein.com, through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

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