How I Organise My Digital Files

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Podcast 73

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to organise all you digital files.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 73 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 from many people about how to name and manage your digital files. A dangerous topic as I know a few people have some very strong views on filing and how to organise their digital data. But, I’m not one for running away from difficult topics and so in this episode, I will share with you how I organise my own files and let you decide if my system is worth trying. 

Don’t forget, if you have enrolled in my From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 days course you now have a nice update waiting for you. I have updated a few of the existing parts but more excitingly I have added an extra day. This one is Day 4 and Beyond and it gives you a number of strategies to help you to maintain your system once you have it up and running and it comes face to face with the world. 

Just head over to your dashboard on my learning centre and you will find everything you need right there. 

Any of you haven’t enrolled yet, then you can enrol in this fantastic beginners course and get yourself an early-bird discount. All the details are in the show notes.

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

This week’s question comes from Emile, Dennis and Sally. They ask: How do you manage your files on your computer, Carl? 

Thank you all for your question. 

Now, this is apparently a controversial subject. Many people have their own filing methodology and best practices that they swear by and anything else is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

The truth is, of course, is a little more complex than that. Each of us thinks differently. We organise our things differently and our brains are wired differently. This means the only right way to organise your files and folders is the way that works for you. 

Now I organise my folders by year. I’m told this is a stupid way of organising files, but I’ve been organising by year since 1997 and I have never had a problem finding files I want even if the last time I looked at a file was 10 years ago. 

The reason I organise by year is that the older a file is, the less likely I am going to need it. As the years go by the likelihood I will need the file decreases. For example, if I did a workshop for a client 5 years ago, the materials for that workshop would now be out of date. However, if there were some parts of the workshop I would like to reuse. I would then go to my 2014 folder (which is now on an external hard drive labelled 2012 - 2015) find the clients name and retrieve the workshop folder. I can then review the materials, select the parts I want to update and reuse and copy those into my 2019 client’s folder. 

I copy the contents because by the time I have finished updating the materials they will be different. That scenario is very rare though. 

On a day to basis, I use my computer’s build in search functionality. I work in the Apple environment. My computer’s a Mac and I also use an iPhone and iPad. So rather than reinventing the wheel I simply use Apple’s search and filing options. This means I use Spotlight to find files and iCloud to store my current files. 

By “current files” I mean files I am using at the moment or have been working on for the two or three months. 

What this means is Keynote files I am working at this moment are in my iCloud Keynote folder and tagged by company or personal. I only use 3 tags on my computer. CPP which I use for files related to my online course and coaching business, FES for files related to my language business and Personal for all my personal files. And the only reason I do use my computer’s built-in tagging system is so when I do have a lot of files in my iCloud Drive, I can find what I am looking for very easily. I don’t have that many Keynote files in my Keynote iCloud folder, but I do have a lot of files in my Number’s iCloud folder. I use Numbers for my daily admin records. Things such as income and expenditure as well as student attendance records and my social media campaigns. As I use these files almost every day, I want to be able to access them quickly. 

For all other documents, they will be filed in folders related to topic. For example, I have a folder in iCloud called “Online Courses” and inside that are all my online courses organised by folder for each course. I keep all the course thumbnails, outlines (which are done in Numbers) and other related documents. As most of my online courses are updated every year, this folder stays where it is. 

I also keep a folder with all the images I create for my blog posts, campaigns and other stuff. These are organised by month so they are easy to access if I want to modify and reuse them at a later date. I keep the Jpeg and original Photoshop file in this folder.

So how do I name files? I use dates again. And follow the standard format of year, month, day then the file type and finally the name of the file. Between each part, I use a dash. Being in the Apple environment dashes are compatible so I don't use underscores. 

This naming system works perfectly for me. When I do a coaching call with a client I use Spotlight to search the client's name and in the list of results, I will get a list, in date order, of all the previous call’s feedback. I can click on the last feedback document and I have what I need in front of me. 

To speed up the process of file naming, I use TextExpander and have a simple ‘snippet’ —as TextExpander calls them— of “fdate” this then gives me the current date in my filing format plus a dash. 

Now I don't go in for all this added complexity of updated dates or created or opened date. For me, the date I use is the date I created the file. With version history on almost all operating systems now I just don't need any of that added complexity. If I need to go back to a previous version I just use version history. 

What it comes down to is to create a filing system that works for you. Although many may criticise the way I organise my files, what matters is it works for me. All the files I am working on right now are easy to find and when they are finished with they are archived by the year and month I worked on them. 

Almost all operating systems have search functions that are fast and all you need to think about is the name of the file you are looking for. 

That means what you name a file is important. If you use a last name first name structure for example, would you really search for the music of Bob Dylan using the term “Dylan, Bob” probably not? Using the “Dylan, Bob” structure might work with a school attendance record, but it is not a natural way of thinking for us. 

Funnily enough, when I tested this using Spotlight on my computer, I got almost the same results whichever way I wrote Bob Dylan. 

So when it comes to organising your files and folders I would always recommend simplicity. The search function on your computers is so good now, you only need to be clear and consistent with your file naming. Folders could easily be optional today. A simple work and personal folder would pretty much allow you to keep things well organised. That, of course, does bring with it a number of problems though.

As it is so easy to find files now, it is also easy to leave files hanging around filling up your computer’s hard drive space. This is why I have a 2 terabyte external hard drive attached to my computer and when I finish a project I move that project’s folder to the 2019 folder I have created on that hard drive. I have a 2018 MacBook Pro with a 256 GB hard drive which means hard drive space is limited. If I am not currently working on a particular project it is archived onto the external hard drive. Anything I am working on regularly is stored in iCloud for access whenever I need it. 

That is why your file naming convention is more important than the way you manage your folders. With all this cloud storage available to us at a relatively low cost, and the fantastic search functionality of these cloud drives, you could very easily just have a long list of files and as long as you know what you are looking for, you will be able to very quickly find what you are looking for. 

I would always recommend you have some form of archival system in place though. Going by year is the easiest and most logical way, but you may prefer to archive using a clients name or type of file. That choice is yours. Whichever way you choose be consistent. As I have been using the same archival system for nearly twenty years, I don’t have a lot to think about if I want to find something I create a few years ago. I only need an approximate year as my archived hard-drives run between 3 and 4 years. Once I attach the hard drive to my computer I can perform a search for what I am looking for and as I have used the same naming system for many years I can use my computer’s search to find what I am looking for. 

A lot of the problems people face when it comes to organising files is really consistency or lack of consistency. If you keep changing the way you name files then it will become very complicated. Find a naming format that works best for the way you think and stick with it. Don’t try and be too clever, keep it as simple and logical as possible and you will be fine. 

You should also get to know your computer’s search abilities. I’m relatively new to using Apple’s Spotlight before I used an app called Alfred. While Alfred is excellent, I have found Spotlight gives me better search results and has speeded up my searches tremendously. And that saves a lot of time.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you to Emile, Dennis and Sally for your questions and thank you for listening. If you have a question you would like answering, then you can email me - or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. 

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

How to manage your energy levels through the day

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Podcast 72

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to manage your energy levels through the day.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 72 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, it’s all about energy and how to maximise your energy for the day as well as managing your energy throughout the day so you stay fully energised all day.

Before we get into this week’s question and answer, I’d like to let all of you enrolled in my From Disorganised To Productivity Mastery in 3 Days course that the course has been updated for 2019. Now you have a completely new section called Day 4 And Beyond where I have added lessons to help you stay organised and productive once you have everything in place. All you have to do is go and log in to your dashboard and all the new classes are right there.

This is an excellent course for anyone who wants to get themselves better organised and more productive as it starts from the very beginning and after three days you will have everything in place to supercharge your productivity and reduce your stress, feelings of overwhelm and, more importantly, free up time so you can do the things that are truly important to you. 

If you are not enrolled yet, then check out the course. An early-bird discount is on right now. This course will change your life forever! 

Okay, 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 Sergio. Sergio asks: When I have the energy to do the important thing (let’s say in the morning), I don’t have the time to do it. When I have time (let’s say at the end of the workday) I don’t have the energy. Is there anything I can do to better manage my energy levels?

Thank you ... for your question Sergio. 

Managing your energy levels really starts with your preparation. If you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to have enough energy to get you through the day. Likewise, if you are not taking enough breaks, eating the right foods and getting enough exercise, all these things will compound and reduce your daily energy levels. 

So what can you do to maintain your energy throughout the day? 

Well, let’s start with sleep. Okay, I know a lot of experts say you need between 8 and 10 hours sleep a day, but in reality, everybody is going to be different. Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, famously got by on 4 hours a night. Yet, many people claim they need at least 8 hours. Personally, I need around 6 hours. 

When it comes to sleep you need to discover what amount you need. If you are not sure, experiment for a week or two. You will soon find the amount you need. Once you know, make sure you get that sleep each night. This is a priority you cannot neglect. 

A lack of enough quality sleep is the biggest reason you will feel a lack of energy towards the end of the day, Sergio. And I emphasise the word quality. Quality sleep is far more important than the total number of hours you sleep. Make sure you go to bed at the right time, your phone and digital devices are on silent and are not lighting up every few minutes and your room is cool and quiet. 

Another thing that would really help, but not everyone can do it is to take power naps. I take around 20 to 30 mins mid-morning and that always helps me. If I am working on a new course or an update, I will often take two or three power naps per day. It’s two or three hours of intense work, followed by a 20-minute nap. That always helps and keeps my creativity high as well as my energy. Winston Churchill swore by his naps claiming that they enabled him to do a day and a half’s worth of work every day. 

Exercise. Okay, I know a lot of people shrink from the thought of having to do exercise, but exercise does not have to be hours in a gym or pounding the streets in your running shoes. Effective exercise could be just taking a 30 minute walk at lunchtime and in the evenings. It does not have to be strenuous. Not only will regular exercise boost your energy levels it will also improve your overall health. That’s a win win in anybody’s book.

You are going to have a lot more energy if you are doing three or four sessions of hard physical activity each week. But it does not have to be that way. Just spending some time each day walking is going to lift your energy levels enough to get you through the day. 

Now during the day if you find yourself feeling tired get up from your desk and find a reasonably sized flight of stairs and walk (or run) up them a couple of times. That act, of getting your blood racing through your veins, will lift your energy levels significantly. Over the years I have been exercising regularly, I would have to say that my regular exercise habit is the one thing that allows me to stay energised all day. Now, I am lucky, I get to schedule my own day as I work from home and I schedule my exercise sessions at 2pm. Doing exercise at that time nicely breaks up my day and gives me an energy boost mid-afternoon so I can continue to work with exceptionally high levels of energy well in to the evening. 


What you eat also has an impact on your energy levels. If you eat a carbohydrate rich lunch your energy levels are going to suffer in the afternoon. When your body starts processing all that carbohydrate you will experience a sugar dump and your energy levels will drop. 

I often joke that the worst time to do a presentation is between 2 and 4 pm. This is when your audience will be dropping off into sleep. And there’s a good tip for any presenters out there. If you are doing a presentation between 2 and 4 pm make sure your put a lot of energy into your presentation. Slides packed with data and text is a guaranteed way to put your audience to sleep. Just don’t do that… EVER! Anyway.

If you want higher energy levels then you need to eat better, energy giving food. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, clean proteins such as chicken, fish and other lean meats and go very easy on the sugary snacks. I’ve found having a bag of almonds around is a great source of energy giving food if you get those hunger pangs throughout the day. Bananas are also a wonderful source of slow release energy giving foods. 

And of course, make sure you are drinking plenty of water. It’s surprising how energy sapping a lack of water is. Make sure you have a bottle of water with you at all times. Keep sipping it throughout the day and you will find those periods of low levels of energy will reduce. 

Have a purpose when you are working on a task. 

Now I don't mean a life purpose here, what I mean is when you are working on a task you have a clear purpose and end in mind. Knowing what you are doing and why helps to keep your levels of enthusiasm for doing the task up. This mental boost keeps your brain engaged in the task. For many of things we do we think of them as a drudge. We don't know why we are doing them or they are things we feel we just have to do and so we do them without any enthusiasm. That always leads to lower levels of energy. 

Instead, think of all tasks as having a purpose. Even if it is you allow yourself to finish work a little earlier if you get the job done by a certain time. 

For me, whether I am writing, recording this podcast or my YouTube videos or creating videos for my online courses, the thought of being able to help people become better organised and productive gives me huge energy. That purpose motivates me and always helps me to push through when my energy is wilting. 

Find the reason you are doing the work you are doing. Who are you going to help, or who will benefit. Imagine their faces when you produce work on time and with a high degree of quality. That’s guaranteed to pull you out of your energy slump. 

Your energy levels are directly linked to your state of mind. Tony Robbins talks a lot of about this and it is true. If you are feeling down and a bit gloomy, your energy will also be down. If you are up and excited about what you are doing your energy levels will also be up. To get your state of mind up, make sure you are taking enough breaks and when I say “breaks” I don’t mean just sitting staring at a computer screen, I mean get away from your desk and move. Move as fast as you can. You need to get your heart rate up. That will boost your energy levels. You can try this experiment at work this week. Towards the end of the day as you are about to move in to you last working hour of the day, go and do a ten minute brisk walk - outside is best, but if you cannot get outside, then find a stairwell and run up and down them for a few minutes. I can guarantee when you get back to your desk your energy will be bursting out of you. The final hour will not drag. It will fly by and you’ll soon be on your way home with the knowledge that you’ve had a fantastic day. 

Well, I hope that helps, Sergio. Thank you for your wonderful question and thank you to all of you who are listening. Remember, if you have a question you would like me to answer, just send me a quick email ( or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. All the links are in the show notes.

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

How To Overcome Procrastination and Get Your Important Work Done

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about procrastination and more importantly, how to over-come it.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 71 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.

Procrastination. We all suffer from it to some degree or another and it can be a huge drag on our overall productivity. In this week’s episode, I go into depth on what causes it and how to fix it. 

And before we get into this week’s question and answer, if you are struggling to get the important things in your life done and find you have no time for the work you have to do, then take a look at my recently updated Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course. 

This course has everything you need to learn how to get yourself better organised and more productive. It shows you how to create the best productivity system for you and will give you the know-how and framework to reduce your stress, overwhelm and put you in control of your time. All the links to the course and more details are in the show notes.

Okay, 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 Annabel. Annabel asks: 

Hi Carl, I really struggle with procrastination. Even when I have a deadline, I still do anything but what I should be doing. Do you have any ideas on how to stop myself? 

Thank you, Annabel, for your question. I think a lot of listeners will also thank you because procrastination affects us all at times. 

Before we go into how to stop procrastinating I think we should try to understand why we procrastinate in the first place. 

Procrastination is usually caused because the task or thing we should be doing is either too big or unclear. What I mean by this is most people write tasks out like “do presentation” and with a task such as creating a presentation, there are multiple parts. There are the slides to create, a story to weave into the presentation, a script—well a script is not a good idea— notes I should say. 

Of course, there’s likely to be a bit of research and quite a lot more. 

So if you have a task that says “do presentation” your mind is going to recoil and say “I’m not doing that, what can I do instead?” And that “instead” is going to be something like checking email, responding to tweets or reading the news. 

However easy you think the presentation is going to be, you need to break it down into clear, concrete steps. Now I don't mean micro breaking it down, what I mean is break it down into manageable chunks. For example, “Create introduction slides” or “Get last year’s sales figures from Simon” these tasks are manageable and could easily be completed in 20 to 30 minutes. 

Other reasons why we procrastinate is because we are not sure what we need to do. I recently was given a writing assignment on a subject I wasn't too familiar with. I found myself postponing starting the task and seeking excuses not to start doing it. As the deadline approached I knew I had to get it started and I had to step back and ask myself why I was procrastinating over it. 

Once I looked again at the title of the article I knew exactly why I wasn't sitting down and starting it—Unfamiliarity with the subject—So I asked the very next question. “What do I need to do to get familiar with the subject?” So I did a 15 minute Google search, found some good articles on the subject and was able to then formulate some ideas on how I could craft that into an article linked to my area of expertise. 

Unblocking the block—in this case, unfamiliarity with the subject—soon got me on track and I was able to write the article. 

If you do find yourself putting off what you should be doing, take a step back and ask yourself why. You will most likely find it caused by a lack of clarity about what needs doing or, as in my case, unfamiliarity with the subject matter. 

And that’s another thing you should be aware of. What are you doing when you find yourself procrastinating? Knowing you are procrastinating is a key step towards stopping yourself from procrastinating. These are the triggers that will help you to avoid them in the future. 

I find I procrastinate when I am tired. If I have a very creative morning, afternoons become an ocean of procrastination for me. Because I know between 2 and 4pm I am not going to be at my creative best, I schedule my exercise and news reading at that time. I am lucky because I can schedule my own work. I don't work in an office environment. However, even if you do work in an office, you still have some flexibility over the work you do and when. If you find you procrastinate during the afternoon slump, then work on something that does not involve a lot of mental energy. Better yet, go for a walk somewhere. 

One of my best strategies for avoiding procrastination is when I feel tired, I will take a 20-minute nap. I’ve found if I try to push through the tiredness I rarely do anything of quality anyway. Instead, by taking a 20-minute nap, when I come back to the work, my energy and focus are restored and I get a lot more quality work done. AND… It gets done faster than if I tried to push through. 

Being aware of your state when you procrastinate is the best way to reduce the amount of procrastination you do. We all procrastinate and sometimes procrastination is your brain telling you it needs some “down-time” to think through a problem or come up with a solution to something you have been thinking about. It’s your sub-conscious part of your brain asking for some extra energy to do the work it is supposed to do. 

Have you ever gone to bed with something on your mind and when you wake up in the morning the solution to whatever was on your mind is the first thing you think about when you wake up? That’s your sub-conscious brain doing it’s job. So you do not want to eradicate procrastination completely. Your sub-conscious brain needs some time to do it’s work too. What we need to do is control the procrastination so we get the work that matters done when it needs to be done without becoming stressed and worried about deadlines. 

How do we do that? 

One thing you can do is keep a note-pad and pen on your desk. Every time you feel the ‘need’ to do something you know you should not be doing, write down what it is you want to do and then return to your work. As I was writing my blog post earlier today, I had an urge to check out the prices of a new keyboard for my old iPad Pro. Instead of breaking off from my writing zone, I just wrote down “iPad Pro keyboard price” and returned to my writing. I never left the screen I was writing in. It took ten seconds to write it down and I was back on to my writing. The urge to find the price of the keyboard disappeared instantly. When I finished writing, I then went over to my web-browser and got the price. It was like a reward for not doing it in the middle of a writing session.

Funnily enough, that thought about the keyboard came to me when I was coming towards the end of the writing task. The thought came to me because my brain was getting tired and it needed a break. Our brains are amazing things, while our brain does not say directly “I need a break” it does so in a more subtle way. So if you do find your mind wandering and you get an urge to do something else instead of what you should be doing, it might just be your brain telling you to get up and take a break. Take that break. You will produce better work if you do and procrastinate less.

Another thing you can do is reduce the amount you have on your daily to-do list. Most people have way too many tasks on their daily to-do list. When you start the day with twenty to thirty tasks on your to-do list you are pushing your brain to say “urgh! I don’t want to do that” and it will go into spasms of procrastination. Realistically you are only going to get ten to fifteen tasks done per day and have more than say 25 tasks will result in you having to reschedule tasks for another day. 

So, get strategic and prioritise. Ask yourself “what ten tasks must be done today?” Then only allow those ten to be on your list for the day. Anything else you would like to do can be placed onto an “if I get time” list. When you see just ten tasks on your list for the day you are much less likely to start procrastinating. You will feel more positive and will have more energy to get started so you can finish those ten tasks as quickly as possible. It’s a simple trick that works and all you need to do is give yourself ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day to plan out what ten tasks you want to accomplish tomorrow. 

So there you go, Annabel. I hope these suggestions help you to get a little more focused on your work and reduces the amount of time you procrastinate. Thank you for your question.

If you have a question you would like answering on this show, then please email me at or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll always be very happy to answer your questions.

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

Ep 70 | How To Get Your Team On Board With Productivity Tools

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to use productivity apps for group working.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 70 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 am answering a question about how to use the productivity tools we all love with our team so that everyone knows what needs doing and when.

Before I get to the answer, I’d like to thank everyone who has enrolled in the 2019 edition of Your Digital Life. I am so honoured and blessed to be able to help so many people with their productivity and time management (and goals). I do this for you, and I want you to know I am always willing to help in whatever way I can to remove stress, overwhelm and help you all become better organised and more productive. 

If you haven’t enrolled in the course yet, now’s a great time to do so. There’s updated videos, a brand new workbook and of course you get a FREE copy of Your Digital Life 2.0, the book. More details about the course are in the show notes. So check it out, if you really want to become better at managing all your work and commitments, this is certainly the course for you.

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

This week’s question comes from Daniel. Daniel asks; I work in a small team with three core people. We share a calendar for events, Todoist for tasks and Evernote for project notes. Do you have any tips for getting better collaboration with these tools? 

Hi Daniel, thank you for your question. 

This is one of those areas of productivity I find a lot of small teams miss out on. I know most companies now use a company and department-wide calendar either through Microsoft Exchange or Google, but other tools we all love and use every day for our personal lives have built-in collaboration features too and when used with our calendar tools can help keep teams on track and also allows managers to know instantly what is happening without having to distract an employee with questions. Of course, these tools work exceptionally well when you are working with remote teams.

Let’s look at a to-do list manager first. Now I am very familiar with Todoist, and I do use Asana for my Kanban project view—both of which have excellent collaboration features. I know many other to-do list managers out there, including Trello, allow for collaboration. When set up, this feature allows you to allocate tasks to your team. This means there is some accountability within your team and you can all see a project develop. Often there is a shared inbox so team members can take ownership of a new task that comes in. 

From a managerial perspective, this has obvious benefits. At any moment in time, you can review a project to see how it is developing and be alerted to any bottlenecks or issues. This does depend on how you set it up though. One tip I give companies I work with is to create an area or sub-project within the main project called “issues”. This area is where team members can add issues that come up and if necessary assign the issue to the person who can best deal with it. We have to be realistic here, it would be a very rare project that had no issues at all. Issues and problems are just a part of life and need dealing with. Having a place within a project where everyone involved can review these issues generally leads to them be solved much quicker than if they were hanging around in someone’s head. 

Using a notes app such as Microsoft’s OneNote or Evernote is also a great way to collaborate. Both these note-taking apps have fantastic abilities to collaborate with team members and one of the best ways to use it is to keep meeting notes that can be added to by all the people involved in the project. Keeping meeting notes and planning steps in there creates a kind of Wiki area where existing and new team members can get up to speed very quickly with a project. 

One of the greatest advantages of using tools such as these is there is less need to go around disturbing people with unnecessary questions so they can get on with their work in a much more focused way. 

However, while all these tools are great to have, the difficulty is getting everyone on board with them. In my experience within teams, you have a mix of people. Some love technology and will enthusiastically adopt new technologies, particularly if they can see the benefit of using them. Others are less enthusiastic and need a bit of encouragement to get them onboard. And of course, these tools only work if team members are using them properly and updating the information regularly. So how do you do that?

The most important thing is to make sure all members of your team are fully trained to use these tools. I’ve found when working with companies that these collaboration efforts fail not because people resist using them, but because team leaders do not invest enough time to train their colleagues. When a team leader introduces a new tool to help with collaboration that they have been using for many years they are afflicted with the “curse of knowledge”. They know the tools too deeply and so when they explain how to use them to their team members they explain it in such an advanced way the team members are left confused. When that happens the tools do not get used. 

A few tips here:

Firstly, create a shared note that can be used as an onboarding tool. You can put in there all the instructions on how to use the apps and, more importantly, why you are using them. Leaders should also invest enough time with their team showing them what they expect to see and how to do it. 

The important thing is your team understand the clear benefit to them for using these tools. If you do not ‘sell’ the benefits and explain why these tools will make their lives much easier, they will resist using them. 

I should point out that if your company does not allow third-party apps on company computers you can still create the same functionality using Microsoft Office or Google Docs. You can use spreadsheets for tasks and Word or Docs for notes. It’s not ideal, but when done well, can still give the same benefits to the team as a whole. 

Another tip for team leaders is when you do adopt these collaboration tools, you must stop checking with your team if they have done their assigned tasks. I have found that when leaders do not trust the tools, that trickles down into the team. Remember, the biggest benefit to using these tools is everyone is clear about what needs doing, by when and who is responsible for each task. If leaders are still calling, emailing and interrupting their team members with requests for updates then the whole system falls apart. Success with implementing these tools starts at the top. Without the leaders fully engaging with them, then it just is not going to work. 

Other tools such as Slack and Twist can also be a big help here, but I do have a word of warning. There are a lot of collaboration tools available and if you adopt too many of them things will go wrong and miscommunication will happen. This all comes back to keeping things simple. If you are thinking about beginning a system like this then keep it as simple as possible. By that I mean to restrict the number of tools you are using for collaboration. For example, use only one tool for notes and one tool for tasks. Better yet, find an application where everything is kept in one place. While I do not recommend that for personal productivity, within a team, with many different technology abilities between members, it is far better to go with the “less is more” philosophy. 

The most important part of this is you get everyone on your team involved and committed. If just one team member is not fully committed to using these tools it will not work effectively. I’ve worked with teams where the leader hides behind their lack of technology awareness and abilities by continuing to pick up the phone and ask their team for status updates. This has to stop if the leader wants it to work. In reality, the team leader needs to be the most knowledgable about the apps. When leaders adopt these tools completely, it is not long before the whole team does and when that happens you achieve that seamless collaboration system where everyone knows what needs doing, what is being done and at a glance can see exactly where a project is. 

We are rapidly moving towards a remote working world. Where people all over the world can work together as if they were all working in the same office. Because of time differences between continents, these tools make the whole process easy and effective. A great example of this working is Doist, the company behind great apps like Todoist and Twist. They are a fully remote company with people all over the world. From Asia to Europe and North and South America, their teams work together across multiple time zones and when one team member is at work, their colleague is fast asleep in a completely different time zone. This kind of working allows managers and leaders to employ the best people in the world, no matter where they are based, and they know the work is getting done with a quick view of a project in a to-do list manager. 

So to sum up, Daniel, if you want this way of work to work effectively, you need to make sure that team leaders are fully onboard with the tools and that every team member is properly trained to use the tools you want to use. Managers and leaders need to understand that if they want an update on a project they must not fall into old habits and pick up the phone, they need to go into the project in the to-do list or notes app and get the answer to their query from there. 

When your team see that the leadership are using these tools, it does not take long for everyone to fall into line and use them too. 

Thank you, Daniel, for your question and that you to all of you who have listened. I hope this episode has given you some food for thought about how you can work better within your team. Now it’s up to you to “sell” the benefits to your leaders and see if you can become a leader in the new world of collaboration. 

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

Ep 69 | How To Find Time For Yourself.

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


Hello and welcome to episode 69 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about finding some time for yourself when your work (and life) seem to fill up all your waking hours. 

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Alex, for your question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep 68 | How To Manage Your Email Overload

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 68 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Greg, for this excellent question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep 67 | How To Get A System To Stick

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 67 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week we are visiting the various systems that many of us follow and how to overcome problems when we cannot get it to stick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 66 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week it’s all about regaining control of your day and the tasks you have to complete so you get your important work done and can actually have some time to yourself each day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 65 | How to Find Your Focus And Concentration

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 65 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week it’s all about getting your life under control when everything goes crazy and the workload mounts up. A situation that can happen to any of us at any time. 

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

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

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

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

Hi Nonica, thank you very much for your question. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 64 | How To Manage Multiple Personal and Professional Roles

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


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 ( or by DMing me on Twitter or Facebook. 

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 63 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck. 

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

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Hello and welcome to episode 62 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I bring you another episode from my YouTube channel’s Productivity Mastery series and give you 6 ways to supercharge your productivity.

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

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

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

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

So, sit back and enjoy this slightly shorter episode. 

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher

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

So, sit back and enjoy this slightly shorter episode. 


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

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

You can also listen on:

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Hello and welcome to episode 60 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

Okay, let’s get started…

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

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

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

So how do you do that? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 59 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 58 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a great question about habit development and how to use your productivity tools to create new, positive habits and stop old, negative habits. 

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

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

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

Thank you, Pippa, for your excellent question. 

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

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

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

So how do you overcome this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all for listening to this episode of the Working With Podcast. If you have a question you would like answering, please send me an email - or you can DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes. 

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

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 57 | How To Stop Procrastinating.

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 57 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Write introduction to report

  • Prepare charts for report

  • Ask Jane for report template 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher


Hello and welcome to episode 56 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a question about focus and how to stay focused on the important things without allowing yourself to be distracted by all the unimportant things that go on around us every day. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Finish presentation for Thursday’s symposium

  • Prepare for Wednesday’s conference call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Your own self-development

  • Your health and fitness

  • Your own work - work you are responsible for

  • Your friends and family

  • Planning and preparation for upcoming projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher

Hello and welcome to episode 55 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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


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

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher

Hello and welcome to episode 54 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

So, sit back, enjoy, be inspired.

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