Why You Should Stop Using Due Dates.

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When you use due dates in your to-do list manager for everything your due dates become meaningless.

One of the best features of any digital to-do list is you can add a due date to any task and that task will then appear on your today list on the date you set. It means you can date and forget. However, this can lead to bigger problems. Most of these due dates are not due dates. The date you set is not the date the task is due. It is just the date you think you will be able to complete it. And that would be true if that was the only task you had to complete on that date but as you are randomly adding dates to tasks you are going to have a lot more tasks that are ‘due’ that day, but are not really ‘due’ that day.

When you have a list of tasks for the day that are not due, your daily to-do list loses its power. There’s no sense of urgency and a lot of those tasks will be rescheduled for another random date in the future and the cycle is repeated.

Now several things are happening here. The first is you do not trust your system which is why you are dating everything and secondly you are unlikely to be doing a weekly review or, if you are, you are not consistently doing a weekly review.

Below are a few ways to develop better trust in your system and help you to stop feeling you have to date everything.

The weekly review

The weekly review is where once you have reviewed all your projects and appointments for next week you are in a much better-informed state on what you can do next week. You also know which projects are close to their due dates and you can make informed choices about what you will do on a particular day based on where you will be, who you will be with and what tools you have with you.

When you are doing a full weekly review each week, your trust in your system gives you the security to know that nothing is being missed and the dates you have set for tasks are meaningful and are genuinely due on that day. You are also much more aware of what is going on on a particular day and you can make sure you are not overloading yourself with tasks on days where you have back to back meetings or perhaps doing a training course or on holiday.

The daily mini-review

Our weeks are not static. Things change. Appointments get cancelled, meetings are postponed and new commitments are made. While the weekly review gives you some perspective on what is likely to happen during the week, because things are fluid and changes are happening every day, reviewing the tasks you have assigned yourself for the next day before you close down the day helps to keep your daily to-do list relevant and meaningful.

If for example, your boss informs you a project you thought was due next month has now been moved forward and needs completing by the end of the week, that will change everything you had planned during your last weekly review. It means you can reassess what you planned out for the rest of the week and make the necessary changes.

Now if you still feel uncomfortable not dating everything there are a few more things you can do.

Create reminder tasks

These are tasks that come up every once in a while that ‘remind’ you to check a particular project. For example, if you have a slow-moving project that is due in two months, you can add a repeating task inside the project that comes up once a week that tells you to review the project. I write these tasks like this:

[REMINDER] Review Project X

The “Reminder” at the beginning of the task informs me I do not have to do it, but it alerts me to check the project if I feel I need to. I don’t use many of these, but when I do they give me the peace of mind knowing that nothing is being missed and I am always on top of my projects.

Use tags, labels, contexts

One set of tasks I see a lot of people dating are calls and emails. Now, most of these are dated just so they are not forgotten, yet they do not have to be done on that specific day. It is far better to create a tag, label or context for these and create a single daily repeating task to tell you to check these tags, labels or contexts. Doing it this way reduces your daily task list, yet still allows you to make a judgment about whether a call needs to be made or an email sent without having several of these cluttering up your daily to-do list.

Use the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique

The 2+8 Prioritisation technique restricts you to just ten tasks a day. Two of those tasks are objective tasks that must be done and the remaining eight are those tasks that need to be done today but it would not be the end of the world if they were not done.

When you restrict yourself to only allowing ten tasks per day (not including your routine tasks — those tasks that just need doing on specific days but do not drive your projects or goals forward) you are being much more realistic about what you can achieve each day and you allow yourself enough flexibility to handle any issues that arise throughout the day.

This technique forces you to be selective about what you will do each day and forms part of your daily mini-review. It’s a great way to prioritise your day and leaves you safe in the knowledge that what is on your daily list is meaningful and will have a positive impact on your day and projects.

If you want to feel less stressed, less overwhelmed and be more productive stop dating everything. Trust your system, make your weekly review a priority never to be missed and adopt the 2+8 Prioritisation technique. You will feel much more in control and the trust you have in your system will give you the peace of mind knowing you are on top of everything.

For further reading on this subject, check out Peter Akkies post on the OmniFocus blog.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hither like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

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If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why You Should Not Confuse Processing With Doing if You Want to Become More Productive.

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Becoming better organised and more productive is about collecting all the stuff that comes your way that means something to you and processing that stuff somewhere that will be easy to find when you need it.

Now the keyword there is processing. It is great that you have started to collect stuff into a digital to-do list, a notebook or even on a piece of paper, the question is what are you going to do with the stuff you have collected?

All that stuff you have collected needs to go somewhere. It needs to show up when you need it and be out of the way when you don’t need it. This is where having a few apps become incredibly valuable. If you don’t want to use apps, a simple notebook would work — and many incredibly productive people swear by their notebooks. That’s the beauty of creating your own system, you get to choose what to use.

Once you have a ‘system’ in place using your system consistently becomes the next step. And part of using your system is processing all your collected items into their rightful place and making the right decisions about what something you collected means to you and what you need to do next with it.

And that is where I see quite a lot of people having difficulties.

Process don’t do

To me, processing what I collected is very different from doing the work. Let us imagine it is 9:30 am on a Thursday morning and you work for an international trading company. When you open your email you discover you have 120 new emails in your inbox. Now for most people, those 120 emails represent hours of work. Yet it should not. Those 120 emails just need processing and processing that number of emails should only take fifteen to twenty minutes.

Processing is about making a decision about what something means to you, whether you want to, or need to, do something with it and if you do need to do something with it, what do you need to do and when? Processing is not about doing. It is when you start replying to those emails while you are processing when things take much much longer.

Let’s be honest here. Most of those emails in your inbox will not need an immediate reply. Even in the most urgent of cases, a reply could wait for an hour or two. The problem with ‘doing’ while you are processing is all that doing is putting a drag on your processing. It means that rather than taking fifteen to twenty minutes to clear an inbox of 120 emails, you are going to take at least an hour, and most likely have to stop processing before you finish to attend a Thursday morning meeting. Now you have eighty unprocessed emails plus all the new emails on top. So, you cleared forty emails, went to a meeting, came back and you now have over a hundred emails again in your inbox.

No wonder people feel overwhelmed!

Ah! But what about the two-minute rule?

Good question. The problem here is if you apply the two-minute rule to twenty of those 120 emails, that’s going to take up forty minutes and still leave you with one hundred unprocessed emails. Those unprocessed emails are going to be playing on your mind until you do something about them.

It is far better to go through the 120 emails first. Deciding what they are, deleting, delegating and moving to their rightful place and then if you have time, start going through your actionable emails applying the two-minute rule if necessary then.

This workflow trick also works with your other inboxes. I often see people with fifty to seventy items in their to-do list manager’s inbox. When items build-up to this number it is very easy to ignore the problem and stop adding things in there because of the overwhelm that list creates. Instead, decide to give yourself twenty minutes to clear the inbox and only process, not do. You will not only clear your inbox, but you will also clear your mind. Now you have made decisions about what an item means to you, deleted what you no longer want, organised tasks you need to take action on and delegated anything that could be delegated.

Now you have a clear mind and a clear inbox and you can start doing the work you identified needs your attention today.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

This method of processing first and then doing is akin to what Albert Einstein meant when he said he would spend most of his time thinking about a problem before solving it. When we mix up processing and doing, things get messy. Your processing will not be complete and in the end, you will still be back where you were when you started — a lot of unprocessed items and an overwhelming feeling that you have far too much to do.

So, today, try processing first and then doing. Do not mix these two processes. You will find you gain a lot more control over your work and your time and feel a lot less stressed and overwhelmed about unidentified work sitting in your inboxes demanding you look at them.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why You Should Not Be Spending So Much Time In Your To-Do List

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Your to-do list is there to guide you. To tell you what needs doing and when. When you use your to-do list for that purpose, it works and it works well.

When you spend too much time each day reorganising your to-do lists and playing around with the settings, that’s when your to-do list stops working for you.

I’ve seen so many elaborate setups in my time. Projects with sub-projects linked to labels and tags. Tasks cross-referenced with other tasks. Tasks organised by colour and sub-projects on top of sub-projects. All these elaborate setups do is add complexity that requires a lot of managing and ultimately too much time to find what needs to happen next.

If we stop for a moment and ask the question: what do I want my to-do list to do? The answer to how to set up your to-do list becomes clear. To tell you what tasks need to happen next. For that you do not need anything elaborate. Just a daily list of tasks. To achieve a relevant daily list of tasks, all you need is a set of tasks you have decided needs your attention on that particular day. A to-do list does not need to be any more complex than that.

When you add complexity into your to-do list you waste time. Time you could spend doing the tasks that need doing. It also means you have more decisions to make and we now know that your brain has a limited number of decisions it can make each day. Once it goes past its optimum number you experience a condition called “decision fatigue” This is where you are no longer able to make good rational decisions. This means that the simpler your to-do list is, the less decisions you need to make, the more effective your brain will be throughout the day.

When your to-do list for the day contains a limited number of clearly written out tasks not only will your list be manageable, you will also require less decision making as your to-do list is a pre-decided list of actions. Each day you start at the top of your list and work your way down.

With a simple list like this, all you need do is spend a few minutes at the end of each day reviewing what you have planned for tomorrow, compare that with your calendar to make sure you have the time to complete those tasks (and if not to reduce the list to a more manageable number) and you will be good to go.

Now, of course, you do need a place to hold your future tasks and that is why it is important to have a list of active projects. These project folders are really just holding pens of tasks yet to be completed. Whether you decide to organise these by projects or areas of focus is really up to you. That would depend on the type of work you do. If you work in a project specific job, then projects may be the best way to organise your tasks. But then you may work in a less project specific job, in which case areas of focus may work better for you. These are decisions you need to make when you are developing your system.

Beyond that, you are really adding complexity and that should be resisted at all costs. The ‘perfect’ to-do list is a list you refer to first thing in the morning to see what tasks you have to complete today and then you get on with your work. You should not need to refer to your list again until later in the day when you have completed your more important tasks. For a point of reference, I usually look at my to-do list two to three times per day. Mid morning, mid afternoon and in the evening when I review what I have completed, plan tomorrow and process my inbox.

To-do lists are there to help you know what needs doing and when. They will never be able to do the work for you and the simpler your list is, the more likely you will get your work done. When you add complexity in the hope your list of tasks to do will magically disappear, you are only fooling yourself. Your to-do list will never do that for you.

So keep things simple. Write clear tasks that tell you exactly what you need to do and focus on doing the work. When you do that, you will soon find yourself becoming better organised, more productive and a lot less stressed.

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Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How I Get My Work Done — The Tools I Use — 2019 Edition.

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Every year I write my “The Tools I Use” blog post, so this week, I thought it would be a good idea to update it so you can see what tools I am using now to get my work done and to create the videos, blog posts and podcasts I create each week. (See my 2018 version here)

Once again, little has changed. I strongly believe once you have found a device or an app that works for you, you should not change it. Instead, I find using the same tools year after year I am able to go very deep into learning the app, get faster at using and working with it without having to figure out how to do something. That is a huge time saver and allows me more time to do work that really matters.

So, what has changed?

The biggest change over the last twelve months is in my hardware. I retired my 2012 iMac last October and replaced both it and my ageing 2013 MacBook Pro with a new MacBook Pro 13 inch with Touch Bar and an LG 27 inch 4K monitor. The speed bump and quality of the screen have been worth the upgrade price alone.

Also changed is how I store my files. I no longer have a premium Dropbox account. Instead, I have downgraded Dropbox to the basic plan and use it only for backing up my Scrivener files as Scrivener only supports Dropbox for backing up at the moment.

I have now gone all in on iCloud as I am completely in the Apple ecosystem and I have 2TB of iCloud space which I share with my wife. iCloud has improved a lot over the last year or two and so it was really a no-brainer when I changed my hardware to go all in on iCloud. Apple’s smart syncing is fantastic. Although I only have a 256GB hard drive on my MacBook Pro, I have never once got a warning I am running low on storage space.

For sharing files, I now use Google Drive. iCloud can share files, but you cannot share folders which is something I occasionally have to do. Of course, that will change later this year when Apple releases its latest operating systems so this will be reviewed then.

Finally, I no longer use Newton mail. Newton was great while it lasted, but with its demise last September (2018) I moved back to Apple Mail. I had used Apple Mail since I started using email and Mac computers way back in 1997, so moving back to Apple Mail was no problem at all.

So here is what I am using right now to get all my work done every week.

Hardware

Late 2018 MacBook Pro with 256GB hard drive and Touch Bar

LG 27inch 4K Monitor

2019 iPad Pro 11 inch 64GB with Apple Pencil and keyboard

2017 iPhone X in Space Grey with 256GB memory

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Gallery Leather Large Desk Journal (lined)

I love these journals. They are the perfect size for writing out all my thoughts, objectives for the day and what I actually did. This allows me to go through my entries to see if I have been doing work that matters or work that makes me feel busy but does not move me forward on anything important.

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SF Bags (Waterfield Designs)

For the last seven years, I have bought all my work bags from SF Bags. They make bags designed specifically for the devices I use and they are solid, well made and very very robust. Recently, with my hardware changes, I bought their Bolt bag in small size. WOW! It’s perfect for my city life. Small enough to be my grab bag and large enough to carry my iPad Pro, iPhone, water bottle, wallet and AirPods.

If you are looking for a great looking bag that will last you for years, then this is the place to go.

Software

Todoist

Todoist is the core of my whole productivity system. It controls my daily tasks, it makes sure I am doing stuff that is important to my future goals and it makes sure I collect all the daily stuff that comes into my life so I can organise it later.

Evernote

Evernote is my go-to notes application. I have been using Evernote for almost ten years and I have built up a large collection of articles, ideas and reference materials over those years. I use Evernote to collect articles I find interesting or want to refer to at a later date. I also use it to collect ideas and plans for future use. I even use it for brainstorming ideas. It really is my digital brain.

Apple Calendar

Apple Calendar is my viewing calendar app of choice for all my appointments. I was using Fantastical for about three years but I always had a problem with the design. It did not fit my aesthetic tastes. I chose it because of its incredible natural language recognition abilities but found I rarely used that feature.

I run Google Calendar through my calendar. Google’s calendar has the best sharing features and these days that is a feature I am using more and more frequently.

Apple Mail

With the demise of Newton Mail last September (2018), I shifted back to Apple Mail. I have a tried and tested system and workflow in Apple Mail that has worked for me since my first Mac back in 1997, so the switch back to Apple Mail was easy.

Mailbutler

To make Apple Mail a little more functional I added Mailbutler to the mix. Mailbutler allows me to quickly send emails to Evernote or Todoist, gives me read receipts and scheduled sending. Functions I don’t use often, but when I do, saves me a lot of time.

Asana

I use Asana for a specific reason. Asana is my Kanban board for tracking the content I produce on a weekly basis. This allows me to plan and schedule my content so there are no conflicts and I can visually see the progress on each piece of content. I was inspired for this set up by Steve Dotto’s video showing how he and his team put together their content.

So those are my core apps. These apps tell me what I have to do and where I have to be while at the same time makes sure I get my work done on time.

Now for the heavy lifting apps:

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Ulysses

One of the best all-around writing apps there is today. It is simple, yet has enough features to handle almost all writers’ demands. I love writing in dark mode on my computer as this gives me a feeling of complete focus and that is how I want to be when I am writing — completely focused.

The iPhone app is just outstanding. There are times I just love to sit back on the sofa and write using my iPhone.

Apple Keynote

I really don’t think I would be a presenter today if it was not for Keynote. I began using it from the very first day it was launched and have never been tempted back to PowerPoint. All my workshops, presentations and even draft design work are done in Keynote. I love the fact I can create outlines, PDF files and so much more with this brilliant app.

Apple Pages

Pages is my go-to app for all formatted written work. I love its interface and the way you can format documents pretty much how you please. I also use the track changes features to proofread client work and then export as a Word file (as pretty much all my clients use MS Office)

Apple Numbers

Like Pages, I use Numbers for my day to day office work. I keep all student attendance lists, client payments and other similar files in iCloud so I can access these from my iPad when I am out and about.

Scrivener

For writing books I use Scrivener. Scrivener is the best app there is for long-form writing such as a book and since the app came available for the iPad and iPhone last year, this has meant I no longer need to carry my laptop with me every day as I can simply pick up where I left off on my iPad with its Dropbox syncing.

Screenflow 8

Screenflow is now in its 8th edition and I upgraded from version 7 over the last twelve months. Screenflow is my app of choice for recording my screencast videos. I love its simplicity and solidity which means I can produce my videos quickly without having to deal with feature overload.

Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro is the video editing software I use for recording all my headshot videos and for putting together the final videos. Because Premiere Pro has such a fantastic array of tools for adjusting lighting and sound, it is just the best tool to use for this kind of work. ScreenFlow can do it, but Screenflow’s lighting adjustment features just do not match Premiere Pro’s.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop has been my design tool of choice for nearly twenty years. All my blog post images, online course images, thumbnails and YouTube video thumbnails are created in Photoshop. This is another app that is pretty much open on my computer all day, every day.

Adobe InDesign

I use InDesign for designing my workbooks and other PDF learning materials for teaching. I really enjoy working in InDesign.

Now for the cloud drives, I use.

I essentially use two cloud drives. These are:

iCloud

Over the last twelve months, iCloud has become my cloud workhorse. It stores all my files, my documents and desktop folders on my computer as well as all my apps’ data. I also use iCloud for Pages, Keynote and Numbers files I am currently working on as I can access these directly from the device I am working on. I am paying for the 2-gigabyte storage option and share this with my wife.

Google Drive

As my email is run through Gmail, I get 30GB of storage and this gives me ample storage for sharing files when I am collaborating with other people.

And now for the little utility apps, I use every day to make my life that little bit easier.

1Password

I couldn’t live without this wonderful app. 1Password is where I store all my passwords so I do not have to remember any. The only password I have to remember is the master password and as I use that every day it’s not difficult to remember. With the fingerprint ID on my computer and now Face ID on my iPhone and iPad 1Password is brilliant on my IOS devices.

TextExpander

Another one of those little apps that I couldn’t live without. TextExpander stores little snippets of text I use regularly so all I have to do is type the trigger word or letters and boom! The text appears. I also use TextExpander for today’s date and to correct my most common spelling errors — such as “business” which I regularly spell as “buisiness” for some reason.

Drafts 5

Drafts is just brilliant and I could not live without it. Drafts is a clever note-taking app that allows you to send notes and captured ideas almost anywhere. I have a list of Evernote notes that Drafts can append notes to so I don’t need to go into Evernote and search for a note. I can type my idea in Drafts, and then use the actions menu to send the note to any of my pre-defined notes. Drafts is also how I collect all my to-dos before sending them off to Todoist. I also have some pre-written emails in Drafts that I use to send reminders to students. I do not need to type anything except the recipient’s email address.

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Apple Music

Love this app so much. It allows me to listen to my favourite trance artists as well as go down memory lane whenever the mood takes me. How I survived without it I have no idea.

Apple’s Podcast App

Okay, this one might surprise some people, but I have found Apple’s Podcasts is a solid app that works extremely well. I’ve tried a lot of alternatives, but none of them has been so much better than Apple’s native podcast app that I wanted to change. On my phone, where I listen to most of my podcasts, I am subscribed to Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy, Judge Jules’s Global Warm Up, and Anjunabeats’s Worldwide and Anjunadeep’s podcast. Perfect music for when you are out and about or just need a pick me up.

And finally for reading I have the following:

Reeder

I use Reeder to collect all the articles from the blogs I am interested in and scan through these every morning while I am on my way to my first client. Any article I want to read later I send to…

Instapaper

Instapaper is where I collect articles I want to read later. It’s simple, and the free version does not inundate me with ads or pop-ups. It strips out all the advertising and allows me to read the article. Note to websites here is in all my time of reading articles on websites directly I have never once been tempted to click on an ad. I’m there to read the article you want me to read, not click on ads you “think” I might like to look at.

And that is really all there is to it. I use Safari as my main browser on all my devices and from time to time I use Google Docs for collaboration projects. If I need a browser for doing work, I use Chrome as I have no social media sites saved there and so the temptation to procrastinate is removed.

What you use to get your work done is irrelevant, what really matters is the content you produce. How you produce it doesn’t matter. The only advice I would give is to choose tools you enjoy using. If you do not enjoy using them, or if you actually hate them, then it will affect the quality of your work.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below👍. It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

This Simple Trick Will Guarantee to Improve Your Productivity.

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Do you want to improve your productivity, get more work done and feel less overwhelmed and stressed? There is a simple and easy way to do it.

There are a lot of ‘systems’ and ‘techniques’ that claim to improve your time management and your productivity and work. Many of them, though, involves a lot of setting up and organising and an inordinate amount of time to maintain which means that while they look great, they don’t actually improve your productivity and your effectiveness.

However, there is one ‘system’ that is guaranteed to improve your effectiveness and your overall productivity and that is to do the work.

The single biggest problem I see when I help people with their productivity is the number of apps and ‘systems’ they are using. Too many of these and you spend all your time shuffling tasks, adding labels and or tags and trying to decide where something goes. Now that’s all fine if you want your lists to look pretty and well organised but it does nothing for your effectiveness or productivity. You are just shuffling. You are not doing.

The simple, easy technique to dramatically improve your productivity is to just do the work. Stop shuffling, stop reorganising, stop app switching. Just get on and do the work.

The COD framework promotes this. COD stands for Collect Organise and Do and what it does is puts the focus on doing. Throughout the day you are collecting all the stuff that comes your way into a trusted place. That could be a to-do list manager, sheet of paper or a notes app. It does not matter where you collect everything, all that matters is you collect everything into a trusted place. Don’t trust your brain to remember — it won’t. The rest of the time you spend doing the work you assigned yourself to do.

At the end of the day, you give yourself ten to twenty minutes to organise the stuff you collected throughout the day in its rightful place. tasks go into their project folders, notes go to your notes and events go onto your calendar. You then give yourself a few minutes to decide what ten things you will do tomorrow and then get yourself a good night’s sleep, safe in the knowledge you know exactly what you will work on tomorrow.

Once a week, you give yourself an hour or so to do a full weekly review to be sure you have not missed anything, to organise all your tasks and to create a plan for yourself the following week.

Take the FREE COD online course here

With all that done, the key is to focus all your efforts on doing the work. Doing the work is the only way I know that will guarantee you do not feel stressed and overwhelmed. It is the only way I know that gets your work done. Shuffling tasks around, making your lists look pretty and moving all your tasks into a new app has never improved my productivity and I have not found anyone else who has found it works either.

Becoming better organised and more productive is not difficult. You do not need elaborate systems or expensive apps. All you need is to focus on doing your work not shuffling your work.

When you restrict yourself to focusing on doing the work, you get better at prioritising and you are clear about what is important to you. Your to-do list manager tells you what needs doing next. Your notes app supports your projects and ideas and your calendar tells you where you need to be and when. There’s no complexity at all.

Complexity creeps in when you start adding more and more levels of stuff to your system. You only need one to-do list manager, one notes app and one calendar. It does not matter how busy or important you think you are, you still only need one. As the saying goes; the less moving parts the less there is to go wrong.

If you look at the most successful people they only use the simplest of productivity tools. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done uses Lotus Notes eProductivity and has been using that for over twenty-five years. Warren Buffett uses a $2.00 pocket diary he carries with him everywhere he goes, Sir Richard Branson and Cheryl Sandberg use simple notebooks. There’s nothing complex about any of these tools and these people have reached the top of their fields.

So, if you want to dramatically improve your productivity and time management, then reduce and simplify. Use fewer tools, keep things as simple as you possibly can and focus on doing the work you need to do instead of reorganising, shuffling and switching.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Get Control of Your Calendar And Take back Control Of Your Time.

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n our armoury of productivity tools, there is one tool that beats them all when it comes to getting control of time and life. Your calendar.

While there are a lot incredible so-called ‘next generation’ productivity tools — more intelligent to-do lists, better notes applications to collect your ideas — the humble calendar is the one tool that will tell you where you are spending your time, how much time and whether or not you are wasting your valuable time. It’s simple and in one form or another has been around hundreds of years.

Sadly, so many people allow others to schedule stuff on their calendars, they give other people access to their calendars to schedule meetings that may or may not be important to them. It’s incredible when you think about it. Time is a limited resource and if you waste it, unlike money, you are never going to get it back.

Sure, you may think to allow someone to schedule a meeting on your calendar at 9 AM on a Monday morning is not going to cause you any problems, but 9 AM Monday might actually be the best time for you to plan your week so you are focusing on what is important to you. When you allow someone else to schedule a meeting for 9 AM Monday morning, you know you are going to spend the first fifteen minutes or so talking about how your weekend was and what you did. That someone else has seized your time and now controls what you do with that time. There’s also a good chance you are going to be given more work to do that now completely destroys any plan you may have had for the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about calendar use over the last couple of days and I realise the calendar is quite different from other productivity tools in that it only allows us to schedule events for the twenty-four hours we have each day. It helps to constrain our enthusiasm for doing more stuff than we have the ability to do and it brings a sense of reality to our day. That means if we allow other people to have control over our calendar, we are delegating how we use our valuable time to other people who do not know what work we have on, do not know what is important to us and does not care anyway. Surely your time is worth more than that?

I have two calendars (plus a couple of subscriptions — Korean public holidays and my sport’s team fixtures list) I have a personal calendar and a work calendar. I don’t hide any calendars — I don’t see the point — I want to see everything I have scheduled for the day so I can be alerted to any conflicts that may cause me problems later. It’s simple and I have complete control. The classes I teach are fixed and are on my calendar, my writing time, podcast preparation and recording as well as my video recording sessions. These are fixed, non-negotiable events on my calendar. I know if they were not on my calendar they would not get done. These ‘events’ are important to me because they directly contribute to my purpose in life — to reduce the epidemic levels of workplace stress in the world by helping as many people as I can to become better organised and more productive. That is why these ‘events’ are non-negotiable.

I maintain strict control over my calendar. I do not allow anyone else to schedule anything. I use a booking service, Acuity, for clients so they can schedule call times with me at a convenient time for all of us.

There are a number of things you need to be aware of. You need to get enough sleep, you need some time each day for ‘me time’ so you have some time to develop new ideas and you need time with your family and friends each day. Again, these should be non-negotiable because they are important. When you give control of your calendar to other people they don’t care you want time with your family, or need time for yourself. They only care about their agenda.

All these important areas of life need time. And the only place you will find the time is on your calendar. Your to-do list is not going to tell you how much time you have in a visual format. All your to-do list will do is tell you what tasks you need to do. Only your calendar will give you a true picture of your day and where you are spending your day. If you give control of your calendar to other people you will lose that important control.

If you really want to take control of your time then take control of your calendar. Use it to schedule the things that are important to you and adopt a strict policy of what goes on my calendar gets done Schedule your exercise time, your family and friends time and never give control of your calendar to other people. If you do have a work calendar that allows other people to schedule meetings, then make sure you are blocking time out on your calendar for the times you want to get on with some focused work. If you know you are most creative in the morning, for example, then block an hour or two every morning for your focused work. Why would you want to give up your best times of the day to other people? That’s just madness.

It is very easy to use the excuse that you have to be available for your boss or clients or customers. But if you want time to work on what is important to you then you need to accept that you can no longer use that excuse. You have to take control of your time and the best tool to do that is your calendar. So don’t give up control of it to other people.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit the like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How To Stay Productive When You Get Thrown Out Of Your Routine.

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Over the last few days, I have been away in the UK and Ireland. Part work, part holiday and this has thrown me out of my regular routine. By following a few best practices I have developed over the years, I have managed to stay on top of the important work and I wanted to share some of these practices with you.

The first thing to get control of is your calendar. This is where scheduling your regular important tasks on your calendar can help. There are a number of things I have to do each week. Write this blog post, record the podcast and record and edit my YouTube videos. During my weekly review, I review my calendar and put in the times I will create the content. Today, Monday, I have scheduled the writing of this blog post. Tomorrow, I will prepare the script for next week’s podcast and Wednesday and Thursday I will prepare my YouTube videos. All of these will be done in the morning so I can spend the afternoon doing the kind of things you would normally do when you are on holiday.

These are my core pieces of content I produce each week and they are important to me. Because they are important they get scheduled. No excuses.

This is the same if you are on a business trip. You are out of your normal working environment and when that happens it is hard to get your regular work done. Often when you are away on a business trip you are in back to back meetings, your normal eating habits get thrown out and your exercise routines are thrown out of sync. This is why it is important to make sure you follow some kind of routine that will enable you to complete your core habits, so the important things are getting done when they need to be done.

So far in the last week, I have written a blog post on a plane, written up some client session feedback on a bus and planned out my weekly YouTube videos while sat in the waiting area of an airport. We are lucky to have tools that enable us to do our work anywhere, yet it can be very difficult to focus on getting that work done when you are travelling between airports and cities. There are a lot of new distractions as well as emails coming in and all the other usual interruptions. It’s tough, but if it’s important to you, you need to find a time to sit down and get it done.

The way to do this is to schedule one or two pieces of work each day. In effect, you use the power of the 2+8 Prioritisation method to stay focused on what needs doing. Today, I have scheduled focused work from 9 AM to 12 PM. I have just got back to Ireland from doing a workshop in the UK and there is a lot of admin work that needs catching up on. Important emails to reply to, the usual business admin and of course this blog post needs writing. Three hours this morning will get everything back up to date and the rest of the day can be spent on holiday type things.

But none of that will happen by accident. I have to schedule deliberate time to get it done. If you are away on a business trip, you can schedule an hour in the morning for your important work — wake up an hour earlier than usual and get it done. Alternatively, if you are more of a night owl, then make it a priority to spend an hour before going to bed to do your important work.

This is far better than worrying about all the work that is piling up while you are away. An hour or two, scheduled, each day for focused work will give you the time you need to stay up to date. You can make decisions about putting off some of your work until you return. Get those into your to-do list manager so that you are fully aware of them and trust you will see it when you get back to your base.

One final trick I use is to schedule a free day when I return home. For me, I will have a day of travelling to get back home. By scheduling a free day on my return means I can recover from the travelling, and have plenty of time to catch up, take stock and do a complete weekly review. The weekly review will put me firmly back in control and I will be able to begin my regular work fully refreshed, up to date and know exactly what needs doing and when.

So if you find business trips and holidays disrupt your natural working state, use your calendar to stay focused on what’s important to you. Spending an hour or two each day doing the necessary work and deciding not to make a decision on some of the things you have to do until you return to your normal environment will free up your mind to either focus on your business trip or enjoy your holiday. That’s a far better state than spending all day worrying about what you are not doing.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit that like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Why The Weekly Review is Essential.

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The one part of Getting Things Done that a lot of people struggle with is the weekly review. That’s the part when we take some time out of our crazy, busy, always on lives for some reflection, planning and thinking. Without this weekly time, no system is complete and, I would argue, no life is complete.

The world we live in today is fast. Very fast. In the past we had time to think about and compose a letter, now we receive an email and minutes later we get a phone call or text message asking if we have received the email (I hate that!) When we wanted to book our annual holiday we had to go and get brochures, sit down and look through them and then visit a travel agent to book the holiday. It took days. Now a quick browse online and within minutes your flights and hotel are booked.

The pace of life is the biggest change in terms of personal productivity in the last thirty years and it is not going to slow down. We don’t have time to stop and think about all the inputs that are coming our way and if you are not allocating just one of the 168 hours you get each week to a full and comprehensive review of all your commitments, tasks and collected stuff, things are going to slip, get missed and forgotten.

This is why more than ever the weekly review is so important. It allows you to take a step back and gather your thoughts. It allows you to evaluate the direction you are going in and it gives you the opportunity to plan what you will do and when the following week.

I like to think of my weekly review as my time off the grid. It’s when I put a stop on inputs for an hour and get everything zeroed out. My to-do list manager, notes app and email. I also go through my Twitter and Facebook messages as well as any other messaging services I use to make sure I have not missed anything — which is very easy to do given the number of inputs we have coming at us every day. Doing this allows me to start a new week with a clean sheet. It also means everything of value is in my system, processed and I know what and when something will happen with it.

The reality is if you are not doing a weekly review you are just entering stuff into your system, adding random dates so you won’t forget something, but those dates are meaningless if you have not really given any thought to what needs to happen next. When the vaguely written task comes up, you take one look at it and push it off to another random date.

When you do a weekly review you can give each project and task careful consideration and decide if you want to do anything with it next week. You can remind yourself of the outcome you want for that project and review it to make sure it is moving in the right direction. You can decide if you want to do anything with the project next week and if not you can remove the date. This means anything dated for next week has been thought through, a decision about exactly what needs to be done made and a date assigned that has meaning because it has been assigned with the knowledge of what will be happening on that day.

How long should a weekly review take?

As long as it takes. My weekly reviews take around 45 to 60 mins. I can do it faster, and I often do if my time is limited, but I never feel comfortable doing a quick review. I always feel I may be missing something and usually give myself a little extra time on a Monday evening to make sure everything is collected and a decision made on everything in my system.

Over the last few weeks, I have been focused on writing about taking your personal productivity to a higher level. The weekly review is one of the cornerstones to achieving that next level of productivity. It’s where you find that calm controlled feeling. Knowing you have everything decided upon and knowing you will get whatever is required done on time and to a high level of quality. It also means that no matter how fast your world is, you will always have time set aside each week to review, reflect and adjust course if needed. You get the opportunity to catch up, to make sure nothing important has been missed and it means you begin a fresh week with a clear mind and ready for anything that will come your way.

The key to a good weekly review is to customise it for you. Over on the Getting Things Done website, there is a great template you can use to follow in the early days, but you need to be customising it to fit your system and your way of doing things as quickly as possible. We all have slightly different system setups and we all have different projects and areas of focus. You decide which ones need reviewing and which ones do not need reviewing as frequently.

If you really want to get in control of your work, projects and life, then develop a weekly review that works for you and make sure that doing the weekly review is a task set in stone each week. It is through doing a weekly review that everything will come together, it will ensure you are making the right decisions about what to work on and it will take you to the next level of productivity.


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Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, please hit the like button below 👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

How to Find Your Productivity Enlightenment.

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What is productivity enlightenment? What do you have to do to become completely at ease with what you have to do so you feel calm, relaxed and ready for anything? That’s a question most people find themselves asking once they have a productivity system in place.

Just having a system for collecting and organising your ideas, tasks and events is only the first step. It’s a very good first step, but there are a number of levels above this state you need to move towards in order to feel completely at ease with all the stuff you have to do.

For a lot of people, these higher levels are elusive. They are elusive because although stuff is being collected and organised, the necessary decisions on what has been collected are not being made. If, after you have collected and organised your stuff, you still feel busy, overwhelmed and stressed it is likely you have a lot of stuff inside your system you have made no decisions about. These tasks and ideas are just in your system taking up space, but you do not know what you need to do next to take them to their natural conclusion.

Decisions like:

  • What is the outcome I want here?

  • What do I need to do to reach that outcome?

  • When will I do it?

If you have not made those decisions, they will still be in your head. On top of that, each day you have bosses, customers, friends and family giving you new things to do, it is no surprise you feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Not only are you undecided about much of the stuff you have already collected, you now have to make decisions on what you will do about all these new inputs as well.

Just getting it out of your head and into a system is the first step. The next step is to make decisions about the outcome, what do you need to do to reach that outcome and when will you do it?

A decision could be to not make a decision. For example, you may have an idea of creating an online course. You sketch out some ideas about the tasks you will need to do in order to create the online course, but you decide right now is not the best time to do it. That’s fine. But you do need to decide when you will come back and revisit this project. It could be in three, six or twelve months, but you do need to make a decision and make sure that decision is in your system. Adding a task that says “review online course project” and dating it for three months in the future is all you need to do to take it off your mind.

Once you have made these decisions though, you are only 75% of the way there. Why only 75%?

That’s because where you put that task or thought matters too. Write it down on a loose piece of paper and have bits of paper all over the place means you are now worried about losing the paper. To clear the final 25% you need to trust where you put the task or idea will show up when you need to see it.

It does not matter if you use a notebook or a digital to-do list manager or notes app. Whatever you use you need to trust it. Trust that it will show up on the day you need to see it or it will be in a place you know you will find it when you need it.

This is why people like David Allen, Sir Richard Branson and Cheryl Sandberg have been using the same set of tools for years. It’s because they trust them. They work and they don’t waste time trying to find anything. From my own experience, for example, app switching destroys trust in your system. I’ve been through that process of continually looking for the ‘perfect’ set of apps and discovered each time I think I have found the ‘perfect’ app it doesn’t do exactly what I want a productivity app to do and I go off looking for another one that does. It’s an endless search involving multiple compromises and a serious lack of trust in my system.

The only way to build trust in your system is to stick with one set of apps and learn everything you can about those apps. Subscribe to their blog so you know what updates have come and how those updates will impact your system. Go through every menu item and sub-menu. Look at the preferences and see what you can do. Do everything you can to learn about the apps you have chosen. With knowledge and time, you build trust and with the trust, you discover what true productivity enlightenment is.

So if you want to experience true productivity enlightenment, clear stuff from your head as soon as it arrives, make a decision about what needs to happen next and when you will do it and get it into a set of tools you trust.

That’s it. That’s the secret to a stress-free life and productivity enlightenment.


Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, please hit the like button below👍 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.

Are You Ready For Anything?

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There are many different levels of being organised. There’s not being organised — where everything is a mess and you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. Then there’s the situationally aware state where you know where everything is and are prepared for anything.

Most people are somewhere between those two extremes — usually nearer the disorganised end.

When you decide to get yourself organised and focused on the things important to you such as your relationships, your career and your goals, you begin to move towards the situationally award end of the spectrum. This is where no matter what is thrown at you you are able to deal with it in an appropriate way. You won’t panic, you won’t get stressed and you will always be in a position to allocate sufficient time to manage whatever it is.

This means, on a day when you have back to back meetings all day — meetings that are important for a project that has a deadline coming up in three days — and your ailing mother is rushed to hospital, you are in a position to be able to cancel the meetings so you can spend the day with your mother without stress or concern.

Part of being situationally aware is understanding what is truly important to you. If you take a step back, an ailing parent rushed to hospital should always be your priority. Meetings at work related to an important deadline in this situation are not important (no, they are not important at all, seriously!) Even a job interview for your dream job is not as important as being there for your mother. A quick phone call to the right person would solve the problem in less than 30 seconds.

A job is a job and there are always plenty of jobs around. You only have one mother.

When you understand what is important and what is not, making the right decisions in times of chaos and drama is easy. You make your decisions through a filter of strong values and priorities. You understand your priorities and you live your values. You can make split-second decisions based on those values and priorities.

When you have all your projects and tasks organised in a solid system. Your important information is readily accessible — on all your devices — and you know what events are coming up, you are then in a situation where you are situationally aware.

Recently, I interviewed David Allen for my podcast and during our conversation he mentioned he hated backlog. Where you have an overflowing inbox, email waiting for a reply and other stuff you haven’t dealt with or made any decisions on. When you have a backlog of stuff it’s very hard to be situationally aware. There’s just too much going on in your mind. Having a clear mind, knowing everything is collected and organised and you have a plan to do the work puts you in a state of complete calm. It means if something good or bad happens, you have the clarity and space to deal with it appropriately and return to your normal state. To me it’s the Bruce Lee analogy. “Be like water”. Water will always act appropriately no matter what you put it in. Put it in a teapot and it becomes the teapot, put it in a square container and it becomes the square container.

When your mind is full of unprocessed stuff it is almost impossible to focus on the work that needs your focus. When you are trying to comfort a friend who is going through a hard time, you are unable to give them your total concentration because half your mind is still trying to deal with all the stuff you have still not made a decision about. You are unable to create a compelling story for your next presentation because you are still thinking about the engine warning light that came on in your car that morning and you have not externalised it or arranged for your car to go into the garage for a check. Having everything externalised and a decision made about what you need to do next is being like water. It’s about being fully engaged in what you are doing because your mind is clear of clutter and unprocessed decisions.

The reality is unexpected events are going to happen. It’s just life. What we need to be is ready for them. We need to have the clarity of mind to know that whatever is thrown at us we can handle it because we have everything that needs our attention organised and under control. It means you are fully aware of your obligations to your family, friends and work and you know that no matter what happens you will always be able to make the right decisions. It means that when you need to design the new business cards you become a fully engaged designer, when you need to deal with a poorly performing employee you become a fully engaged counsellor and when you need to take care of your ailing parent you become a fully engaged caring daughter or son.

“Be like water, my friend”

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.

My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.

If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.