Why Checklists Should Form The Core Of Your Productivity

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Podcast 78

This week’s episode is a special episode and is all about making sure you achieve the things you want to achieve each day.

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Script

Hello and welcome to episode 78 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, in a slight change to the usual format I want to give you some tips on maintaining your focus on what is important to you.

I’ve recently finished reading The Checklist Manifesto by Dr Atul Gawande, a physician from the US. It’s a brilliant book and I highly recommend it. (I’ve put a link to the book in the show notes) 

In the book, Dr Gawande talks about how in almost every complex business from complex construction projects, to flying aircraft you will find a checklist. Now as those of you listening to this podcast are likely to be interested in becoming better organised and more productive as well learning how to achieve the goals you set for yourself I realised as I was reading that we can apply the ideas in this book to keep us focused on what is important to us.

As I was reading the book, I was thinking about how I could apply these ideas to my own system and I began to formulate an idea around a morning and evening checklist. Not a routine, but a checklist to make sure I was doing all the important things I needed to do to ensure I have the best day possible. After all, to achieve your goals, to be happy and to perform at your very best every day all you need to do is apply some daily actions consistently. After all, to improve your golf game requires consistent practice - you are not going to get your handicap down if you only practice or play once or twice a year. If you are serious about becoming better at golf you have to practice much more frequently. 

Now the key to a good checklist, according to the book, is it needs to be short and very clear. You’d be surprised how short a pre-flight checklist for a commercial airliner is. Just google it and you’ll see. The idea is you only need to check the vital things. The things that matter most and if you did not do them there could be a catastrophic failure. 

So as I began thinking about this I realised there are a number of things I need to do each day that would give me the best day possible. The first is my morning routine of 30 minutes of Korean study, 15 minutes planning and review and 15 minutes meditation. These three parts of my morning routine, when done, always puts me in the right frame of mind to tackle the day with positivity and energy. It sets me up for a great day. 

So for a morning checklist, I need to add “Have I done my morning rituals?”

Next up is the make sure I have all the right materials with me for the classes I am teaching in the morning. Now I operate a paperless system for my teaching materials and keep all documents in Notability. So I need to check that the right materials are in my Notability app on my iPad. So, next up on my morning checklist goes “are all teaching materials downloaded onto my iPad?” 

Another check I put on my morning checklist is “Have I planned today’s exercise?” I’ve found if I plan my exercise for the day in the morning I am much more likely to make sure it is done. If I don’t plan it in the morning I either waste valuable time thinking about what to do or I find an excuse not to do it. 

The final check on my morning checklist is “have I given Barney his medicine?” Although I rarely forget this, I know it is possible if something urgent was on my mind, so it is something I need to make sure I have done. 

And that’s really all I would need to put on my morning checklist. Just four things:

Have I done my morning rituals?

Are all teaching materials downloaded onto my iPad?

Have I planned my exercise for today?

Have I given Barney his medicine?

However, the evening checklist is quite different. This one sets up the day for a great day much more so than my morning checklist. This is about avoiding those little annoyances we all get from time to time. Things like leaving the house and your phone only has 10% charge left. Or getting halfway to your place of work and discovering you left an important document at home. Things that with a little thought, and a checklist, can be avoided.

For my evening checklist I have the following:

Is my phone fully charged?

Does my iPad need charging?

Do I need to take my laptop with me tomorrow? 

Is there anything else I will need with me tomorrow? 

Now those four are the next day set up checks. After that, I have another list to make sure I have done all the things I know I need to do to complete my day. Things like:

Have I completed all my admin for the day?

Is all feedback written up and sent?

Did I do my exercise for the day? (If not why not?) 

Have I given Barney his evening medicine?

Is there anything I need to add to the shopping list? 

Have I written my journal?

Have I done something to move closer towards achieving my goals?

And that’s it. I discovered that all I need is 15 checks for the day to be a great day. 

Now for this to work I need to make sure I am completing these checks every day. It does not take long to go through each checklist either. The morning checklist takes 35 seconds and the evening one takes just over a minute. So for less than a 2-minute daily commitment, I can set up each day to be a fantastic day. 

Of course, I know I have to do the tasks themselves. Each one takes a different amount of time. My morning rituals, for example, take an hour, exercise also takes an hour and so does my daily admin tasks. But the checklists are there to make sure I am doing the things that are important to me and to ensure that I am moving forward each day on the things I have identified I want to achieve. 

Now the next step is to date the checklist. Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, has a whole department dedicated to creating checklists for their planes and each checklist is dated before publication. The reason for the date is to ensure that old and out of date checklists are not being used. Obviously, a good reason as planes are being updated all the time. By dating your checklists you can make sure that they are always up to date. Your life will change, new priorities will come along and old priorities will fall away. Regularly reviewing your checklists to make sure they are current will stop you from going numb to them. 

You can then start adding other checklists to a checklist folder too. For example, create a checklist for your weekly review, a checklist for presentation preparation and a travel checklist. I have had a presentation checklist for years because I’ve always used a MacBook and in Korea, we live in a PC world. I need to make sure I have all the right cables and adapters with me. That checklist has saved me so many times because I have moved a cable or adapter from my bag and discovered it wasn’t where it should be when I did my check.

The final piece of this system is to create a folder or tag in your notes app to keep your checklists. I did think about keeping them in my to-do list manager, but then all these checks would just fill up my to-do list manager and it would become very messy indeed. 

Instead, I created a notebook in Evernote for all my checklists. I will be creating more over the coming weeks. 

For airlines, there are the standard pre-flight checklists they use for every flight made, there are also checklists for pre-taxi and for landing the plane. These are now digital and come up on the flight screens in the cockpit. 

However, they also have a whole book of checklists for different situations that may occur during the flight. Those are fortunately rarely used, but if they are needed they are kept in a book next to the pilot. and as with the checklists on a plane where there is a book (or iPad) full of them in an easily accessible place for the pilots to pull out when they need them, I want to have a place in Evernote where I can easily pull up the relevant checklist whenever I need them. Evernote seems to me the best place for these. 

Evernote allows me to link the checklist to a note in my To-do list, so all I need is a linked task set to repeat every day which says “Do start of day checklist” and a repeating task for the evening which says “Do end of day checklist”. As the checklists take around a minute at most to complete doing these tasks will not prove to be burdensome. 

It also means all I need to do is create a linked task for any travel projects I have for my travel checklist as well as any other checklists I create over the next few weeks. 

In our effort to stay productive, have more time to do the things we want to do and achieve the goals we set for ourselves, the humble checklist is something that could push you towards achieving all those things. They are simple, they work and have been used for years to great success. All you need to do is keep them as short as you possibly can, make sure what you write is simple and clear and most of all you use them when you need to use them. 





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

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

You can also listen on:

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Script

Hello and welcome to episode 50 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 34 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

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Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Joshua, for the question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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