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