How To Turn Your Ideas Into Achievable Projects

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Podcast 81

Do you have difficulty completing projects? Then this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast is just for you.

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Hello and welcome to episode 81 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about a problem several years ago I had. That is being excellent at starting projects and having ideas, but terrible at seeing those projects through to completion. It took a lot of self-analysis and introspection to understand why I did that and to change my behaviours so I would start completing projects. 

 But, before we get into that, I'd just like to remind you all that I currently have a Spring Sale on where you can get my Your Digital Life 2.0 online course for just $65.00 and if you buy that course this week, I am throwing in From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days completely free. 

When you add in the free access you get to my Email Mastery and Ultimate Goal Planning Course you get with Your Digital life 2.0 you are getting a package worth $240 for just $65.00. 

I must be mad! So go on, get yourself enrolled today as this offer will end very very soon… Well, this week actually.

Okay onto this week’s question and 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 Daniel. Daniel asks: Hi Carl, thank you for all the content you put out. Could you help me? I have hundreds of ideas and I collect all these into Evernote. But when I look at my list of ideas I realise that I am just not completing any of them. I think it is because I don't know where to start. Do you have any tips that might help?

Hi Daniel, thank you for your question. 

I should congratulate you on actually collecting your ideas. Far too many people don't collect their ideas and just leave them in their heads only to see them disappear as soon as their attention is diverted and never surface again. 

So what we need to do is see collecting and developing your ideas as part of a process. You need to give each idea some time to develop. 

So, you collect an idea and while you are still buzzing about it you should take five or ten minutes to develop it. A one-line title in your notes app is not going to inspire you very much in a few days time. So take five minutes now and note down some thoughts to give your idea some context. 

Let's say I have an idea for a new course. I will collect that idea in Evernote and then take a few minutes to jot down the purpose of the course and what I would expect students to learn from it. I would also probably write out a few lesson titles. I know saying that now sounds like quite a lot, but in reality, it is only a few lines. 

Once I have a few lines expanding my idea I can leave it. 

Often I will leave the idea for a few days. For me, if I cannot stop thinking about an idea and I keep adding to the note then I know it will become a project and I need to spend some time to really develop it. 

For this purpose, I use a tag in Evernote called “Incubator”. 

Now I should explain about my incubator. This is a tag in Evernote that has no more than ten notes in it. If I have additional ideas I can still collect them, but they can only go in my incubator if I move another note out. 

This keeps my open, active, in development ideas to a maximum of ten. It also ensures that whatever is in there is still relevant. 

Now the thing about ideas is they are only moving forward when you are working on them. It can be easy to collect your next billion-dollar idea in your notes but over time, if you don’t do anything with it, it soon disappears under all the other notes and stuff you collect. So you need to keep them utmost and foremost in your mind. 

To do this you should make it a habit to review your ideas—those in your incubator—regularly. I look through my ideas every Wednesday and Sunday (when I do my weekly review) I choose Wednesday because by Wednesday I have usually finished creating the content I want to put out that week and I have time and mental space to think of new ideas. 

Here, what you do is a quick scan. Does anything jump out at you? If it does, open up the note and set yourself 15 minutes or so and really dive deep thrashing out some concepts and ideas. Get them all written down add them to your idea. 

Now, for most of you, there will be one idea that is consuming you more than others. Often when I have a new online course idea this will be constantly on my thoughts. Because the idea was collected into my Evernote inbox it is very easy to open up Evernote and see the note at the top of my notes list. I can then add additional ideas to the note as they come to me. Often by the time I reach my weekly review, the note has developed into a long list and that is a sure sign that this is a project worth taking to the next stage. 

The opposite can happen too. Around this time last year, I had an idea to do a build your own Google productivity system. For a couple of days, I was really excited about it. I collected a lot of notes and decided to take it to the next stage and build a project out of it. 

Now to build a project out of an idea what I do is allocate an hour of development time. Usually in the early morning when my brain is fresh and at it’s most creative. I go through my collected ideas and pull out all the next actions and list them at the bottom of the note. Once the obvious next action tasks are out, I will copy and paste them into Todoist as a project and allocate time on my calendar for doing those action steps. 

As I was developing this project, I realised I didn't have enough knowledge of the Google productivity apps and when I investigated further I decided that I would need to learn a lot more than I had time to learn. So I abandoned the project. You see projects can be abandoned at any time. It best, of course, to abandon projects in their early stages, but for your personal projects that do not involve other people, you are free to abandon them at any time. 

You see, you do need to be realistic, Daniel. There are a lot of considerations to take into account. For one do you have the actual time to do this project? How many other projects do you have going on at the moment? I’ve found if I have more than three active projects going on at any one time I am having to compromise on time to be able to allocate enough time to each one. That’s never a good thing.

One way to overcome this—If you can do it—is to allocate one project to focus on each week. Right now, I have all my focus on Time and Life Mastery 3, my biggest online course. I have not just allocated this week to this project, but I have given over the whole month. This means outside my regular work, producing this podcast, recording my YouTube videos and writing my blog posts, all other work time is being spent on that one project. I know that for me to get it planned out, recorded and edited so it can be ready for publishing next month, I have to focus completely on this project. 

And that leads nicely to my next tip. That is set yourself a deadline. Of course, with your regular work projects, you may have a deadline imposed on you. But for your own personal projects, you get to control when you complete these. I often see people creating amazing projects and then calling them a “hobby project” which is just a get out clause so you don’t have to finish them. If you are serious about the project and it is something you really want to do, then set a deadline. The truth is without a deadline, you will never finish the project. 

Okay, so there’s quite a lot in this week’s answer so let me summarise what you can do. The first step is to make sure you are collecting your ideas. Remember, if you decide later to abandon the idea, that’s fine. That’s far better than not collecting the idea in the first place. 

Once you have collected the idea, the next stage is what I call the discovery stage. This is where you develop your idea, throw links and other support materials into the mix and be aware of your own limitations in knowledge and time. How long this takes is really up to you. Take as long as you need to really develop the idea. 

Then leave it for a few days. Let your subconscious mind absorb everything and think about it. Then when you come back to it, you will either decide it’s not for you, or you will decide to move on with it. Moving on with it means going through the notes you have collected and pulling out all the next actions and moving them over to your to-do list manager as a project. 

Then be realistic about your available time and choose the right time to begin working on your project. 

The key is to really restrict what you work on at any one time. Keep an incubator file for no more than ten ideas at any one time. Less if you can. I used to keep 20 ideas in my incubator but soon found a lot of those ideas were not getting touched. That’s why I reduced it to ten. I sometimes think ten is too many, but for now, it works for me. 

Finally, I would advise you have a someday / maybe folder somewhere. This could be in your to-do list manager or your notes app. Inside your someday/maybe folder you keep all your project ideas and other things you have ideas about and review this folder once every month or so looking for something you would like to work on next. This prevents you from losing your ideas and will always give you a feed of new projects to work on whenever you want to work on them. 

I hope that answers your question, Daniel. Thank you for sending in your question and thank you to all of you for listening. Don’t forget you too can have any of your productivity, time management or goal planning questions answered by emailing me— or DMing me on Facebook or Twitter.

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

How To Start Achieving Your Goals

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In this week’s episode of the working with Podcast I answer a question about getting clear about your goals.

You can also listen on:

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Hello and welcome to episode 77 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a wonderful question about really getting clear about your goals so the next steps become obvious.

Before we get into this week’s question, I would like to let you know I have taken 25% off my Email Mastery online course. I know many of you really struggle to get your email under control and even when you do finally achieve the fabled inbox zero, within a few minutes your inbox is filling up again. 

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Okay 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 Stephen. Stephen asks Carl I am really struggling to get started with my goals. I know what I want to do, but I am finding it really hard to get started. Do you have any tips that might help?

Thank you, Stephen, for your question. 

Now, goals are a very interesting thing to me. I was very fortunate when I was a teenager to be a track and field runner. I was lucky because I had some great coaches and at the end of every season I would sit down with my coach and discuss the season just finished. Look at my best times for the year and make a decision about what times I wanted to achieve next season and what races I wanted to do well in. 

I remember well the end of the 1984 season when I finished with personal records of 2 minutes and 6 seconds for the 800 metres and 4 minutes 16 seconds for the 1,500 metres. My coach and I decided that 1985 would be the season I would break 2 minutes for the 800 and 4 minutes for the 1,500. 

We then put together a winter training programme that would build my strength and head in to the spring training season where we would work on speed endurance training to get my fitness and strength up to the level so I could break those barriers. 

That focus on a specific outcome—breaking 2 minutes and 4 minutes—was simple. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and it had a time line—by the end of September 1985—this meant that throughout the winter of 1984/85 I was focused on one goal - achieving what I called “the double sub”. 

And that’s how you need to be to achieve your goals too. What’s the outcome and what do I need to do to achieve that outcome in a specific period of time. 

Too often goals are too vague. Goals such as to loose weight, to run a faster 10k time or to get a promotion. These goals are not specific enough. How much weight do you want to lose and by when? What time do you want to run the 10K? Under 1 hour? What position do you want to be promoted to? It’s this kind of specific you need to get to. 

Let’s take the promotion goal. I get this one quite a lot with my language students. I will ask a student what do you want to improve your English? And the reply is usually “So I can get a promotion”. Okay, so I’ve established that improving English is not the real goal here. Improving English is just a part of a bigger goal. When I ask the student what position do you want to be promoted to, they often don’t know. They are just thinking in terms of the next step up.

You see this does not work. The next step up is not ambitious enough for you to get truly motivated. Basically, if you do a reasonable job at your current level and don’t make too many mistakes, you will eventually get that promotion. And deep down you know that. 

What you need to be doing is thinking much farther ahead. Where do you really want to end up? What position do you want to be in in 10 years time? Let’s say you are a junior finance administrator at your company today, but in ten years you want to be CFO. Great now that’s a fantastic goal to go for. 

Okay, so what do you need to become the CFO of your company? If you don’t already have it, perhaps a degree in accountancy, Your CPA qualifications, maybe an MBA. And that’s just the academic qualifications. What about the skills you will need. Leadership, strategic planning, management etc. There’s a lot to figure out. 

So let’s look again at Stephen’s question. How do you get started once you know what you want to achieve. 

The first thing to do is to create a time line to success. Create a simple line across a piece of paper and on the right hand side write 2019. At the other end of the line write 2029. So now you have a line that represents ten years. 

Now on that timeline write out what you have to do to achieve the position of CFO by 2029. Mark years off along the way. For example, by the end of 2020, you will have completed your degree in accountancy. Great. What do you need to do next? Perhaps get your CPA qualifications. Okay, get that on your timeline. Keep going until you have completed everything you decided needed to be done to achieve the CFO position. 

Now, as we are currently in 2019, you need to expand on whatever needs to be achieved this year. If you really are just starting out, you may need to find a university to study your accountancy degree. You will need to apply to that university. You may need to decide whether to study full or part-time. A lot of decisions to make. These need to be made into a project and added to your to-do list manager. 

There are no shortcuts. There’s a lot of decisions to be made and a big goal like becoming your company’s CFO in ten years time will need breaking down into it’s component parts. Beginning the year by asking yourself what do I have to accomplish this year that will take me a step closer to becoming the CFO? That’s where you start. Apply to universities to get enrolled into an accountancy course. Commit sufficient time each day / week to your studies and focus on completing that step. Once you have your degree, move on to the next step and keep going. Review, evaluate where to go next and get moving. 

To achieve your big goals needs a lot of patience, action, consistency and time. (PACT) but before you get to building on these cornerstones you need to have a plan in place on a timeline. You need to know the steps to get there. Once you know the steps, you can then take the first step, break it down in to actionable tasks to perform so you have a place to start. 

Back to my running story, because I had a very simple goal, that I gave a nickname to “The Double Sub” all that winter I trained very hard. I came in to the spring stronger, leaner and determined to hit my goal. By the end of June, I had run 1 minute 54 for the 800 and 4 minutes 3 seconds for the 1500. I was so close, and that gave me the determination to give it one more push. I worked so hard in July to improve my speed endurance so I could get under that elusive 4 minutes and at the end of July, I ran 3.58.9. By the end of the season, my times stood at 1.54.2 for the 800 and 3.54.8 for the 1500. 

For me, the lesson I learnt in 1984 and 1985 has stayed with me ever since. All goals are achievable if you make them simple, clear and are determined enough to achieve them. As long as you stay focused on them, are will to do the work necessary to achieve them and are prepared to push that extra mile to get there you will get there. 

But it always starts with that first step. You will achieve nothing unless you are willing to take that first step. Cemeteries are full of people with unrealised dreams and goals because they never took that first step. They never established what the first task was and they never went that extra mile to make it happen. Don’t let that happen to you. Do the planning, create the time line and take the necessary action to make it happen. 

This is where your to-do list comes in. Once you have done your planning, you need to take the first part of your goal and make it a project in your to-do list manager. Then create recurring tasks that will take you closer towards achieving the goal for the year. If you want to break 1 hour for a 10k make sure you have your daily training in your to-do list manager. If you want to finish your degree in accountancy, make sure you have your reading and studying tasks in your to-do list manager. Break everything down into daily tasks and make sure they are coming up on your daily to-do list every day. Only by taking action consistency over a period of time will you get to where you want to go. 

I hope that has answered your question, Stephen. I know so many people really struggle with setting and achieving goals, but as I say, when you use a simple piece of paper and draw out a timeline, then turn you goals into small, daily activities, you will amaze yourself about what you can achieve. 

Good luck and thank you.

Thank you also to all of you for listening and don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, then get in touch either by email or by DMing on Facebook or Twitter. 

It just remains for 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.