How To Finally Get Control Of Your Time

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“I don’t have time”, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”, “I’m busy”. Do you use these phrases regularly? If so, then this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast is for you.

You can also listen on:

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Script

Episode 98

Hello and welcome to episode 98 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 we are returning to the question of time, and how to manage your time on a daily basis. I know so many people really struggle with this, yet there are a few things you can do to reduce your feelings of stress, overwhelm and that feeling of busyness. 

But before we get to this week’s question, for those of you in the UK—or anywhere really—the Life and Time Mastery workshop is returning to Scunthorpe on the 28th December. 

This workshop is going to be very special. We are calling it “Life and Time Mastery - the 2020 Edition - Start Fast. Start Strong” and its single purpose is to help you to set yourself up for the best decade you have ever had. 

So if you are in the UK and want the opportunity to visit the wonderful Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe, spend a day with some incredibly energised, positive and amazing people plus Kevin Blackburn—a regular guest on this podcast—and myself, get yourself registered soon. Places are limited and they are selling out very fast. 

It would be fantastic to meet you in Scunthorpe in December. AND… There might even be a possibility to meet this show’s mystery podcast voice. Now there’s a fantastic reason to join us. 

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

This week’s question comes from Jake. Jake asks: Carl, I know you talk a lot about the 2+8 Prioritisation system and I do understand it, but I have so much to do each day, I really can’t cope. There’s no time for me to block time off for focused work and even thinking about working on my goals is a joke. Is here anything you can suggest that will help? 

Thank you for your question, Jake. 

Okay, let’s start with time. Everybody gets the same amount of time each day. Twenty-four hours. Some people can get an amazing amount done in that time, while others struggle and seem to be always telling everyone who will listen how busy they are. 

So if we start with the premise that we all have the same amount of time, the only variable is what we are doing in those twenty-four hours. 

Let me tell you a little secret. The way to get the most out of the time you have available is to get realistic about what you can achieve. 

If you have a complex 100 plus slide presentation to create, you are never going to do that in one day. Not if you accept that throughout the day you will get interrupted and distracted. It just isn't going to happen. Take a typical Apple keynote presentation, for example, we know, from the books that came out following the death of Steve Jobs, that one of those presentations took around six months to prepare. And in the two weeks leading up to the keynote, a team of people were spending all the time they had available putting the finishing touches to it. 

So, if you have a project as big as an important two-hour presentation, you are going to need more than a week to prepare it. If you are the kind of person who leaves those kinds of tasks until the last minute then sure you are going to feel busy and overwhelmed, yet those feelings are entirely of your own making. 

What you have to understand is that a lot of the work you have to do, if you want to do the work properly, will need more than a day to do so you need to spread out your work. Short sprints over a longer period of time will result in better performance and a lot less stress.

Here’s a trick I do. At the end of every day, I look at my calendar not just at tomorrow but for the rest of the week. I am looking for days that have filled up with appointments and comparing that with my task list for the rest of the week. I spend around ten minutes each day, just getting a big picture view of my week and making sure no day is overloaded with too many appointments and tasks. 

If I do find I have a day with too many appointments and tasks, I will re-schedule some of those tasks to quieter days. Or remove the non-urgent tasks altogether from that week. I’ve even been known to re-schedule less important appointments. If I have a couple of quiet days and three busy days, I will do as much as I can of my bigger project work on those quieter days. Just getting those big tasks started is often all that is needed to keep the overwhelm and stress at bay.

In a way, you need to develop the mindset of protecting your time. 

Let me ask you a question... do you have the courage to schedule rest time? I ask that because I’ve seen people try and work through an enormous amount of work and meetings only to find their effectiveness becomes so bad they end up having to redo a lot of the work they did when they were exhausted because of all the mistakes in there. 

When I ask them about rest periods, they tell me their client, customer or boss “needs” it tomorrow morning. When pushed, they usually confess that they could ask their client, boss or whoever if they could send it later that day and almost always they would be allowed to. The reason they don’t is that they are afraid that they may be told no. Part of getting in control of your available time is asking for and setting realistic deadlines. If you don’t have the courage to ask, then you only have yourself to blame.

If you think you can do a week’s worth of twenty-hours a day and get yourself on top of your work you are deluding yourself. You won't. You would get far more work done if you just did five or six hours of concentrated focused work each day. 

Never be afraid to schedule some rest time. An extra hour of sleep will do far more for your effectiveness than trying to work an eighteen hour day. 

So, what else can you do? 

One of the most powerful ways of getting in control of your time is to begin the day knowing what it is you want to get accomplished. And when I say knowing what you want to get accomplished I mean in a realistic sense. 

One of the most common reasons for feeling overwhelmed and stressed is setting unrealistic expectations. When you fill your day with appointments and tasks something will break, usually, that will be you. Your discipline will fail, you’ll look at your list of things to do and no matter how determined you are to get everything done, either you will run out of time or your resolve will break at some point in the day. 

The truth is there is a limited amount you can effectively do each day. We are living human beings. We are not machines. You will get tired as the day goes by and your ability to focus will reduce. This is something you really need to understand if you want to become more effective and productive. And no matter how super-human you think you are, you are still a human being and you are not as super-human as you think you are.

One thing we can all do is to find where our optimum is. What I mean by this is where the point at which our effectiveness begins to reduce. 

In my case, I know I am good for around 2,000 written words each day or roughly four hours of concentrated work. If I try and do more than that, while I can do it, my effectiveness diminishes and I end up having to rewrite those extra words the next day or redo a lot of the work I did. Not very efficient. 

A recent similar example of this occurred with my exercise schedule. Over the last six months, I have been exercising very intensely. Each week I have pushed myself harder. Last weekend I ran 5 miles - no big deal, except I haven't done much running over the last few months. Instead, I have focused more on circuit training—that’s the old fashioned name for CrossFit—so naturally, as I was unwisely pushing myself through the last mile, I felt a pain in my Achilles' tendon. Then the following day as I was pushing myself towards the end of a bench press session, I felt a sharp pain in my neck. The following two or three days I was walking around with a limp and a stiff neck. Why? I pushed myself too hard and did not take enough rest. I was not able to exercise at all for three days. How effective was my exercise? Had I reduced the intensity a little, got enough rest, I would have been able to exercise those three days instead of feeling frustrated.

Remember you are human. There’s a limit you can do each day and when you go beyond that limit something will break and that is more likely to be you. You are not indestructible. 

Your most effective tool at managing your workload is your calendar. Your calendar does not lie. It has those twenty-four hours on it each day. You can add your meetings and appointments and you can schedule blocks of time to get your work done. If you adopt a policy of ‘what goes on my calendar, gets done’ then this will work incredibly effectively. If you start to ignore what's on your calendar then you will soon find yourself stressed, over-worked and overwhelmed. 

Here’s a trick I use with my calendar. If someone asks for a meeting I always reply “I’ll check my calendar and let you know later.” I could very easily look at my calendar on my phone right there and then and give an answer, but I want to see the big picture of my work before I commit to a meeting. I want to see where I am before and after the suggested meeting time and I want to know how much work I have on at that time. I cannot do that if I am forced to make a decision there and then. 

Don’t be so quick to confirm an appointment. Be more deliberate with your scheduling and you’ll find you will soon become much less stressed and overwhelmed. 

SO there you go, Jake, I hope some of these tips have helped you. Remember, you are a human being and there is a limit on what you can do each day. Be deliberate with the work you choose to do, make sure it has the biggest impact on your projects and try to schedule enough time each day for rest. You will get far more done if you are rested and not fatigued. 

Thank you for your question and again, I thank you all for listening. If you have a burning question you would like answering on this show, then please email it to me at carl@carlpullein.com and I will be happy to answer it for you.

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

Managing Projects v Managing Tasks Which is More Important?

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Are you finding your projects list overwhelming? Then this week’s podcast is just for you. 

You can also listen on:

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Script

Episode 96

Hello and welcome to episode 96 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’s question is all about managing an overwhelming projects list. A projects list that keeps moving, changing and growing. The problem here is not actually with your projects list but rather the way you are thinking about your whole system. 

But before we get to this week’s question, I’d just like to remind you about my current coaching offer’s imminent end. It’s true, my coaching programme’s summer offer will be ending this week. Right now you can sign up for the programme for just $99 and if you wish to continue you can save yourself up to $300 on any of my longer programmes. 

I know from my own personal experience how a coach can change your outcomes. As a teenager, I was a pretty useful middle-distance runner. But before I discovered that, a teacher at my school saw me running in a cross country race and recommended I get a coach. He saw something in me I did not see, I guess, but I decided to do just that. I got a coach. 

Very quickly my running got better, my speed endurance improved and my race tactics became sharper and more focused. That was because there was now someone guiding me, encouraging me and making small incremental changes to the way I trained and the way I ran races.

I learned that if you want to perform at your best, you cannot do it alone. To get the best out of yourself you need a coach. Someone on the outside who can help you improve your technique. To hold you accountable when you try to take shortcuts and to keep you focused on the goal. 

So as we head towards the end of this decade and the start of a new decade, now would be the right time to get yourself a coach. Someone to look at your current system and give you guidance, strategies and methods to improve your overall set up so you can start the new decade Sharpe, focused and motivated to make it the best decade of your life. 

All the details of what you get in the programme 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 Dinh Hai. Dinh Hai asks: Hi Carl. I have lots of projects running at the same time. I am having trouble keeping track of all of them. I use Todoist and Evernote quite regularly. Do you have any ideas on managing multiple projects at the same time? 

Thank you, Dinh Hai, for the question. 

Okay, I think we need to go back to basics here. Whether you are using a pure GTD set up that is operating through contexts (people, place or tool) or you have your own setup, a project folder is just a list of tasks related to a single outcome. Unless you decided to work on a single project all day to the exclusion of everything else, then you are never likely to be working from your project folders. So the number of projects you have going on at any one time is not relevant. 

Ultimately, what you do each day is controlled not by the number of projects you have but by the time you have available to do the tasks associated with those projects. You only have 24 hours—the same as everyone else. 

We normally work from a daily list of tasks we have decided we want to do today or we are working from a list of tasks that we can only do given where we are, who we are with or what tools we have available. 

If we did not have these project placeholders, our inboxes would become a very long list of unrelated tasks and ultimately become overwhelming. That’s why we need a way to categorise and organise our tasks. Whether you do that by project or context doesn't really matter. 

So, the only decision you have to make is what will you do today? That is really the only thing you can decide. 

Let’s say you have eight hours to do your work today. So the time available is already decided. The decision you need to make is what will you do during those eight hours? If you receive an email that you know will require two or three hours of work, you need to decide whether you will use two to three of your eight hours today to do that task or spend one hour today and one hour tomorrow. That’s the only decision you can make on that work. Of course, you may have the option to delegate or even not do it at all, but it really does not matter where you put that task. What matters is when will you do it? 

I think sometimes we overthink our productivity systems and make them far more complicated than they need to be. What it comes down to is how much time do you have to complete your tasks and what tasks will you do in that time? 

Now, of course, those decisions will likely be based on time sensitivity—when something is due—and perhaps who gave you the work to do. But those are entirely different decisions to make. The daily decisions you are making are based on what work you will do today given the amount of time you have available. 

This is why your calendar should be a big part of your overall productivity system. Your calendar is going to tell you where you are meant to be, what meetings and appointments you have and how much available time you have to do your tasks. 

Let me give you an example. 

Wednesdays are currently busy teaching days for me. I have five hours of teaching from 8 AM to 6:30 PM. If my working day is between 8 AM and 7 PM that gives me eleven hours of work time. In that time, I will need to find the five hours for teaching—which is fixed, time to eat lunch, exercise, respond to emails and messages and get my daily admin done. I will also need to be aware of the travel time to get to the classes I will teach, which will involve another two to three hours. This means every Tuesday evening when I do my daily planning, I can see there is going to be little or to time for specific project work. 

What I will do is see that I have two to three hours of travel time. That essentially is dead time. I travel by public transport to these classes so the question is what work can I do on my phone while I am travelling? For me, that means responding to emails and messages and writing. That’s it. I cannot design a presentation, record a video or podcast. All I can do is do work related to communication and writing. 

So, as I am planning my day, I can go into my “writing” and “communication” labels in Todoist and look for work that can be done while I am travelling, assign tomorrow’s date to the task and I am good to go. 

This means when I begin my day, the only tasks on my task list for the day are tasks I can do based on where I will be and the available time I have. 

This is why spending ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day looking at your calendar and to-do list planning what you will work on tomorrow is important if you truly want to become more productive. The weekly review is where you make decisions on what you want to accomplish next week and gives you an opportunity to get your projects and other lists cleaned up and current, but it is the daily planning and review where you plan out what you will do the next day. 

Now, I know a lot of people feel everything is important, everything needs to be done right now and they are so much busier than anyone else. The reality though is quite different. Everyone has the same amount of time each day and unless you are working on an assembly line cranking out identical widgets all day, you have some degree of flexibility to decide what you will work on next. 

It does not matter how many projects you have or how many tasks are in those projects, you are constrained by the amount of time available and what type of work you can do based on where you are, what you have with you and who you are with. I would add another factor too—how much energy you have. If you are sick, suffering from a lack of sleep or just exhausted, your effectiveness at doing your work is not going to be great. 

Now you cannot change the laws of physics or the laws of time. You are never going to be able to turn 24 hours into 30 hours. So stop trying to do that. That is just a waste of energy. Instead, work on the things you can affect. That means looking at your calendar, seeing where the gaps are between meetings, training courses, appointments, eating and sleeping and deciding what you will work on from your projects list in that available time. 

Get better at prioritising and planning. Learn to say “no” to new commitments that do not excite you and get enough rest. And remember, none of these tips will be of use to you if you are exhausted and have no energy to do the work you want to do. 

As I keep saying, becoming better organised and more productive is simple. Doing it is a lot harder, but it’s not impossible. The choice you have to make is between trying to do everything at once and accomplishing very little, or being more strategic and planning out the day ahead with a clear mind and intention in a well-rested state. With those, you can accomplish a lot more in a lot less time.

Well, I hope that has helped you Dinh Hai, I know it is hard to prioritise and get everything you have to do in perspective, but remember we cannot change the laws of time and we can only do what we can do in the time we have available each day. 

Thank you for your question and thank you to all of you for listening. I am so grateful to all of you because we have, or will have, reached 100,000 downloads of this podcast. I am humbled to be able to help so many people to become better organised and more productive. Thank you all so so much. I want you to know I do this for you and I have no plans to stop doing what I do.

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

How To Simplify Your Productivity System When it Becomes Too Complex.

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Has your system has become overly complex and unwieldy over the years? This week’s podcast is all about getting back to basics.

You can also listen on:

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Script

Episode 95

Hello and welcome to episode 95 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.

Over the years you have probably read all the productivity books, read countless blog posts and watched hundreds of productivity and time management videos. The result? You have created a monster. An overly complex hierarchy of projects, tags and apps that requires so much daily attention there is little time left to actually do the work you want to do. 

If that describes you, and you may have to get really honest with yourself to answer that question, then this week’s question is for you. 

Now don’t worry this happens to us all and it is quite simple to fix it, but it may involve letting go of some of your shiny toys and that can hurt. But, as they say, “no pain, no gain” and that is what this week’s answer is all about - showing you how to gain more time to focus on what really matters to you. 

Now, before we get in to this week’s question, if you have tried over and over again to create a system that works for you, but still feel you have too much stuff to do and don’t know where to start, or you want to start your own business, podcast, blog or YouTube channel and just want some advice on where to start and how to build a successful side business, then take a look at my coaching programmes.

These programmes are designed to give you guidance, help and advice to get moving in the right direction. My programmes have helped hundreds of people find a system that works for them, have built side-businesses, blogs and podcasts that are growing. 

Programmes start at $99 and the 3, 6 and 12-month programmes are on special offer right now. To find out more, I have put a link into the show notes.

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

This week’s question comes from Terry. Hi Carl, I’ve been a productivity nerd for over twenty years now and have read every book I have found on time management and productivity. The problem is I have taken tips and tricks from so many places and downloaded loads of apps, I find I spend so much time updating my to-do list and notes app. I don’t have time to finish all the work I want to finish each day. Do you have any advice to help me get more work done

Hi Terry, thank you for your question. I think this is a problem many people have. 

It’s very easy, over the years, to collect new ways and apps for doing things. We read an article about mind mapping and get ourselves an app like MindNode to do mind mapping. We watch a video on creating a Kanban type board of all our projects and start using Asana or Trello and then we get sucked into the hype surround apps like Notion that promise to be all things. We read about a new way of organising our notes or to-dos and we add that to our system. 

Of course, the problem now is we have a lot of apps doing similar things and a hybrid system of multiple systems that just becomes a confusing mess. 

So how do we sort this out? 

Well, the first step is to stop adding and to start subtracting. Subtracting apps and sections of your productivity system will clear things up pretty quickly. To do that though, you do need to step back first and decide what exactly you want. 

Now, for me, a great productivity system is based on two things. Simplicity and speed. When something is simple to use, you are much more likely to use it and if it is fast you are going to be getting back to the work that matters much faster and you will be less likely to resist collecting what needs collecting. 

So if we start from the premise that your system needs to be fast and simple we can start with COD. Now COD (collect, Organise and Do) is just a simplified version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. So it is a good place to start. 

How are you collecting? What’s your “ubiquitous capture tool” or “UCT”? For most people, that’s their mobile phone. Your phone is with you everywhere you go so if you have a thought, or you need to add a task, it is easy to pick up your phone and collect it there. Now, if we go back to the principle that your system needs to be simple and fast the question becomes “How are you collecting stuff”? Are your to-do list and notes apps on the home screen of your phone? How many clicks do you need to make to start typing what you want to collect? 

A good guideline here would be two clicks and type. That’s open the app, click a plus button and type. If you have to click more than twice to start typing, you need to review how you collect. You could use an app like Drafts (if you are an iOS user) that’s one click and type. 

Next up is Organise. How are you organising everything you collected? Now there are two parts to this. There’s processing—that’s the getting what you collected into its rightful place, a folder, a project list etc and deciding what the next action is and when are you going to do it—and there’s the overall organisation of your folders and projects. 

Processing needs to be fast. The way to make processing fast is to organise your projects and files in a simple way as possible. For example, only have active projects in your projects list. Anything else should be in a someday maybe list—for me that would mean anything that is not due to start for six months or more would not be in my active projects list. These projects would be held in my Someday | Maybe folder and would only move up to my active projects list when they are due within the next six months. 

When you are fully aware of your projects and what is going on in your world, processing becomes much faster. There’s little to no hesitation about where something should go because you have clearly defined projects. 

This means the way you organise your folders also needs to be simple and as accessible as possible. I have an active folders list in iCloud. Anything I am working on will have a folder in my active folders list. That includes this podcast, my YouTube channel, my blog posts as well as my current active projects. I can access any of these folders simply by opening up iCloud. Processing and organising at the end of the day rarely takes me longer than fifteen minutes. 

If it takes you longer than fifteen minutes to clean up your files and process your to-do list inbox at the end of the day, that’s an indication things are a little too complex. Go back and look at how your folders and projects are organised. Do you really need to have so many sub-projects? Are all your folders clearly defined? If not then start simplifying. 

Now on to the tools. 

This is often where most problems start. The latest cool app might sound and look good, but when you start adding all these apps to do different things you will find you start duplicating. When you start duplicating that will cause a drag on your system and slow you down. For example, Notion is the hottest kid on the block now. Notion can essentially be everything for you. If can be a wiki of information, a goal planning tool, a notes app even a to-do list. 

Now the problem here is what if you already have a to-do list manager and a notes app? Let’s say you use Microsoft OneNote and have done for years. You know OneNote inside out and when you use it, you do not have to think about creating a new note, a checklist or clip an article from a blog you liked. Every year for the last five years you have developed your goals in OneNote and you have a wonderful archive of project notes, goals and other stuff in there. 

If you add Notion to your tool kit what will you use Notion for? While Notion may present the information more beautifully than OneNote, no matter what you use Notion for, you are now going to have two places where something could be. It’s another app that needs managing and it’s another app that needs to be learnt. That will slow you down and add complexity.

In this situation, to stay effective and efficient, you are going to have to choose between OneNote and Notion. If you feel Notion is so much better than OneNote then fine, start migrating all your notes to Notion and from now on only use Notion. There will be a learning curve, but after a little time, you will learn to use Notion effectively. 

The thing is, there’s going to be a time cost involved in switching over. So you will have to decide whether that time cost can be repaid once you are up and running with Notion. Remember, great productivity systems are built on simplicity and speed. Will Notion make you that much faster? 

The way to simplify and get faster so you can spend more time getting the work done is to review all the tools you use and decide if they really are the best tools for the job. For writing I use Ulysses. I know it inside out and all my written work is organised cleanly and simply in there. Once something has been written, edited and published, the written piece gets placed into an archive. It’s a simple process and takes just a few seconds to organise. 

I use Apple’s Pages and Numbers for specific work. For formatted written work, I use Pages. I don’t have to think about whether to use Pages, Word or Google Docs. If a written piece of work needs formatting and exporting as a PDF, then it’s Pages. Likewise for my admin work. If I need to monitor and measure some information, it will be created in Numbers. Again, I don’t have to think about what tool to use. 

Al this keeps my whole system simple. Specific tools for specific jobs and no duplication. 

So there you go Terry. To get things back to a more manageable system, do a complete review. It may take you a whole day to do this, but in this case, the time/cost-benefit will be worth it. Purge apps you don’t use or create duplication. Choose one tool for each type of work you do. 

Review how you are organising your projects and folders. Ask yourself if this is the best and fastest way to organise this stuff. If it is not, review it and find a more simple and faster way to organise them. 

And remember, all great productivity systems are built on the foundations of quick and easy to collect, organise so you can spend more time doing the work itself. When you free up more time to do the work and spend less time in your productivity systems you have more free time at the end of the day and that’s always a good thing. 

I hope that has helped, Terry, and thank you for your question. Thank you also to all of you for listening. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, all you have to do is email me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be happy to answer your question. 

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


How To Get control of Your Distractions and Interruptions

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This week I have a fantastic question about managing interruptions and distractions throughout the day.

You can also listen on:

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Script

Episode 92

Hello and welcome to episode 93 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.

Okay, so we all get them, they are a part of life and they can cause us so much stress and pull us away from the work that is important to us. What am I talking about? I’m talking about all those interruptions from colleagues, customers and clients and yes, friends and family. What can we do to, not eliminate them—after all that’s not going to be possible—but at least reduce the impact they have on our day? That’s the topic for this week’s podcast.

Now, before I get into this week’s question, for all you newbie Todoist users, don’t forget I have just launched my new, FREE, Getting Started With Todoist online course. It’s around one hour in length and will take you through everything you need to know to set up Todoist, understand how tasks and dates work and build a fully functioning system. The course is available on my learning centre as well as on Skillshare. To enrol in the course you can find all the links in the show notes. 

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 Neil. Neil asks: Hi Carl, could you share your thoughts or system that will help me to resume my work after getting interrupted. I am not distracted by social media much, but I am facing these kinds of issues and it's slowing down my productivity. 

Great question, Neil. 

Being interrupted while at work is just a part of life. It would be very rare for us to ever be in a situation where we could go all day without any interruptions. Things like other people’s emergencies, customers urgently needing the answer to a simple question and our boss wanting something done yesterday. 

Now I feel I am quite lucky here because in the distant past I spent four happy years working in hotel management and in the hotel industry, the guests always come first. This meant that no matter what I was doing if a guest asked for something everything had to be dropped and whatever the guest wanted, if it was possible, we attended to it right away. That could be something as simple as an ironing board or something more complex such as finding a suitable meeting room. Whatever it was it had to be done immediately. 

And the worst thing of all, these interruptions came in the form of a beeper. A little black box that you attached to your belt via a clip and whenever you were needed, you would be ‘bleeped’. It was horrible. I still have nightmares of that beeping sound almost twenty-five years later!!! When it did bleep you either picked up the nearest phone and dialled 1 or you ran up to reception and asked what they wanted. 

I have to say, though, it was a great way to stay fit and healthy. Eight and a half hours of running around. Nothing beats that for keeping the weight off!! 

To manage all these interruptions, and if you were the duty manager that day you had to deal with them yourself, I always carried a little notebook with me with a list of all the things I needed to do during my shift. When we started a shift we did a handover with the manager who was on duty before, so you knew about any issues and you also knew what needed to be prepared for while you were on shift. That could be a meeting, a special dinner or a VIP guest arriving. 

I would write down all the things that needed to be done while I was on shift on one page of that notebook. Then as I went through my shift I crossed off what I had done while I was doing them. 

This meant that as the bleeps came, and they always did, I could stop what I was in the middle of, deal with the interruption and once I had dealt with the guest or problem I would check my notebook and return to where I was before I was interrupted. 

It was a simple, easy way of making sure I did not end up with a lot of half-finished jobs by the time I finished my shift, 

Now, of course, we have smartphones which beep and buzz all day and a lot of those beeps and buzzes are not important at all. We have to exercise a little judgment. For the most part, I have notifications turned off. The only notifications I have turned on are for text messages as any text message that comes in is likely to be reasonably urgent. It could be a student telling they need to cancel their class or it could be my wife asking me something—and whatever that is, it is ALWAYS urgent and has to be done NOW.

However, I do still follow the same ‘system’ I developed while I worked in the hotel industry all those years ago. Instead of carrying a little notebook with me though, I have my phone and I have a list of all the things I need to do today in my to-do list manager. 

These days, it is a little easier, the work I do now and the work I guess most of you do today is not as diverse as the kind of work you have to do in hotel management. Right now, for example, I am recording this podcast, my phone is on do not disturb and so is my computer. For the next thirty minutes, I cannot be disturbed as I record this. 

However, let’s say as I am recording this, there’s a knock at the door and my dog barks—he has his job to do - to protect me from the postman. That would destroy any recording I have done and I need to attend to whoever is at the door. So I stop recording, thank the dog for protecting me and ruining the recording, and see who is at the door. Once that is done, I can return to my recording. 

Now I have a decision to make. Do I pick up where I left off and edit out the bark, or do I start recording from the start again? But that’s all I need to do. 

And that’s really the key here. Having clearly defined tasks.

Okay, so recording a podcast is an easy thing to get back to. What about if you were working on a complex Excel file? Now this one is a bit more difficult. If you are interrupted while in the middle of that kind of work, it could take a long time to get back to where you needed to be. For that kind of work, you really have to go ‘dark’ as I like to call it. Going ‘dark’ means you need to come off the grid and remove any possibility of interruptions. 

That means your phone needs to be off, you need to ‘disappear’ and that means finding a place to work where you will not be disturbed. 

Now, what I’ve found is if you tell people—your colleagues, boss and clients that there will be times when you are not contactable but you will always return calls and emails as soon as you are finished, people understand. They often say they envy your discipline (ah, there’s that word again) It’s simply not true to say “my customers do not understand”. Your customers are humans too. They would understand if you set the boundaries. Most people do not set boundaries. 

And that takes me to the next point. Managing expectations. If you are serious about getting your important work done, you have to do this. You have to manage the expectations of those around you. If you were to tell everyone that between 10 am and 12 pm you would not be available because that is when you get on with doing your work, everyone would respect that. In almost twenty years of working in law and teaching, I have never once had anyone get upset because for two hours each day I was not available, Never. In fact, what I have found is I have received a lot more respect from clients and students and other faculty members than my colleagues who are always available have. 

I do this with email too. I tell everyone I will always reply within twenty-four hours. And I stick to that rule. This is why my “action Today” folder in email is so effective. I set the sorting to first in at the top and the last email in at the bottom. That way, the oldest email is at the top and I can quickly see when it came in and when I need to reply by. If I cannot answer the email because I am waiting for more information, I will still reply within 24 hours and explain I am still waiting for information. 

For most of us, we need to be available to our clients, customers, colleagues and bosses for most of the day. But that does not mean you have to be available for the full eight to tens hours of your working day. Tell the key people in your work life that you need to go dark at some point in the day to get on with your work. I have a client who is a doctor who goes dark between 5 pm and 6 pm every day to do his processing and daily mini-review and deal with the email in his “Action Today” folder. It helps him to stay on top any backlog and his patients all know he cannot be contacted between those times. He never has any problems and no one has got upset because they cannot contact him during that time. 

When you have a realistic list of the work you have to do each day on your daily to-do list, you use your calendar to block time off each day for focused work you will always know what you need to do. If you do get disturbed while you are in the middle of something just make a note of where you are and deal with the interruption. 

If you need your full concentration for a piece of work, then put all your devices on do not disturb and get on with the work. I promise you, no one will be upset if you are unavailable for an hour or two. 

I hope that has helped you in some way, Neil. I know it is not easy to set boundaries and to go ‘dark’, but try it for a week. You will be surprised at what happens. People do understand and you will find people will respect your time a lot more than if you made yourself available all the time. Set some boundaries, manage expectations and you will see a huge boost in your productivity.

Thank you for your question and thank you to all of you too for listening. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast all you have to do is email me or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be very happy to answer your question. 

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




How To Process Your Inboxes Effectively

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This week I have a fantastic question about the difference between processing and doing and when to apply the two-minute rule.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Episode 92

Hello and welcome to episode 92 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 fantastic question about processing items in your inboxes. This question perfectly describes a problem I see many people have when it comes to using GTD—or COD—for that matter and that is the speed you process the items you collect throughout the day. The problem though does not end with the items you have collected that day, it also affects how you process your email and collected notes. 

Now before we get to this week’s question, I would like to tell you about my new FREE, beginners guide to Todoist course. This course is a simple, onboarding course to help you get started with Todoist. It covers all the basics and allows you to develop a system that will work for you. The course is ideal for anyone you would like to introduce to Todoist and also if you are new to Todoist, then this will get you set up and running in next to no time at all. 

Of course, for all you advanced users out there, I have over 200 videos on Todoist over on my YouTube channel, so if this course does not cover what you are looking for, I am sure you will find it on my YouTube channel. 

Oh, and don’t forget my summer sale on my coaching programmes. You can save yourself up to $200 by getting yourself into the programme now. Details of what you will receive from the programme are all in the show notes to this podcast. 

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 Justin. Justin asks: Hi Carl, I’ve watched many of your videos and you often talk about processing your inbox as only taking around 10 to 20 minutes. For me, it takes more than 30 minutes - often an hour - is there anything I am doing wrong? 

Hi Justin, thank you very much for your question.

Let’s start with a recap on what processing is. Processing, or organising, is where you sort out everything you have collected into your inboxes and make decisions on them based on what a collected item is, what needs doing with it and where to put it. In theory, this should be relatively quite a simple task, yet I know it causes people so many problems that in the end they resist doing it and things start to build up in inboxes. When that happens you soon stop collecting and that’s a sign your system has failed and you need to reassess your structure and overall system. 

Now, there are two inboxes that will need your attention every day - or at least every forty-eight hours. Your to-do list manager’s inbox and your email inbox.

Let's deal with what you collect in your todo list manager’s inbox first. 

Here we have some control over what’s in there. When you are collecting notes and to-dos you get to choose where they go—tasks go into your to-do list, ideas and plans to your notes app. Now in the rush to collect something, we may not have defined whether something is a task or a note. That’s okay, but you will need to make that decision at some point. If you have time when you collect the item, make that decision then. That will save you time later. 

With email, you have little control over what comes in. That said, I do think you have more control than you probably think. For example, do you really need to subscribe to all those newsletters? Do you really need all your LinkedIn and social media notifications coming to your inbox every day? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. That a choice you can make. 

You can also set up rules in most email apps that will filter emails as they come in. You can arrange it so that all newsletters get automatically sent to a specified newsletter folder for example or have emails that have you as a cc’d recipient send to a specific folder—when you are a cc’d recipient it generally means the email is for your reference only. The only thing you will need to with these folders is to make sure you are reading and reviewing them once a week or so. I would set up a recurring task in my to-do list to remind me to do this. 

Next up, do not confuse processing with doing. What I see is people going through their inboxes and trying to do the tasks instead of making decisions about them. Now, of course, you may say what about the two-minute rule? I’d say what about it? You see you need to apply the two-minute strategically. If you have an inbox of 100 items and you apply the two-minute rule to just ten of those items, that’s twenty-minutes gone. In those twenty minutes, you could easily have cleared your inbox. 

And that the thing here. What are you trying to achieve? Clear the inbox or do the work? The two parts are very different. 

The problem I have seen if you combine doing the work and processing you don't do a very good job at either. You don't get as much work done as you would hope and you still have unprocessed items left in your inbox. 

It is far better to focus on processing only. Decide what something is and what needs to happen—if anything— next. Once those decisions have been made you can put the item where it needs to go. Using keyboard shortcuts and drag and drop I’ve found to be the fastest way to do this. 

Processing is all about speed. The faster you can do it, the sooner you can get down to doing your work. If you spend too much time deciding what something is and what to do about it, then your processing will take far too long. This is why the way you structure your to-do list manager, email and note app is important. If your projects, folders and notebooks are too vague or are very similar in nature you will find you hesitate before making a decision. It will drag down the speed at which you process. When you have clear, well-defined projects and notebooks then you will make your decisions about where something should go much faster. 

Of course, if you have plenty of time to do your processing and you do not have many items to process, then you can apply the two-minute rule. I often do this when I process my to-do list inbox at the end of the day. If I have less than ten items in there I will do those tasks that will take less than two minutes. Yesterday, I collected a task to save Fast and Furious 6 to my watch list on Netflix for example. A less than two minute task. I just went over to Netflix, found the film and saved it to my watch list and cleared the task—I’m catching up on the Fast and Furious franchise of films at the moment.

However, if there are a lot of items in my inbox, then the focus is on processing those items. I will just process everything first. I will leave tasks that can be done in two minutes or less in the inbox if I intend to do them in that session of work, but if not, they get processed and organised in their rightful folder. Remember organising and doing are two entirely different things. 

Now you may find your notes app inbox does not get that many items in it on a day to day basis. I don’t collect items into Evernote every day, so I don’t process that every day. Anything going into Evernote will not be urgent or time-sensitive for me. They are often things I want to read later, ideas that I want to develop at some time in the future or an article I think will be useful for a book or blog post I am writing. As I don’t send too many items there, I only process it once a week. Usually, I have around twenty to thirty items to process, so I can get those processed and organised in less than twenty minutes. 

If you use an app like Drafts, you can collect a lot of your stuff, such as items to a checklist or ideas list directly, and bypass the inbox. That’s a real time saver. 

Also, with apps like Evernote you get a unique email address you can use to send items directly to your inbox, you can use this email address for subscribing to newsletters. This then brings the newsletter direct to your Evernote inbox and I can process it from there instead of my email. Again it’s really all about saving time and speeding up the processing time.

Before we finish this episode let me share with you an area of processing I do every morning. It might help to give you an idea of how long your processing should take. 

Because I live over in the Far East, while I am asleep, North and South America and Europe are awake. So, when I wake up in the morning I will often have over a hundred emails in my inbox. Now, before I take a shower I boil my egg and to get the water boiling and the egg cooked to my favourite level, it takes 12 minutes. That gives me twelve minutes to process just over one hundred emails. Often I can actually do that in under ten minutes, but on average, because I only allow my egg boiling time to process those emails, I will get it done. 

For me, it’s simply just about making a decision about what something is, whether I want to take action on it or read it later. Because those folders are at the top of my email folder list, I just drag and drop them as I go through my inbox. Once finished, I have an empty inbox, a list of actionable emails I have twenty-four hours to respond to—my personal rule: respond to all emails within twenty-four hours—and I’m ready to step into the shower and really start my day. 

And that’s the goal to have, process as fast as you can and then get on do the work that matters most to you. 

I hope that’s given you some ideas, Justin. Thank you for your excellent question. And thank you to you too for listening. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, just send me an email or DM me on Facebook or Twitter and I will be happy to answer your question if I can.

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

How To Use COD In A Paper Environment

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So you work in a paper based office or work hybridly? Then this week’s episode of The Working With Podcast is just for you. 

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Episode 82

Hello and welcome to episode 82 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've received a lot of questions about how to implement the COD system in a paper environment. Is it possible? Well, the answer is yes it is possible and today I will explain how to do it. 

But before we get into the question if you are struggling with time management and productivity and don't have a system at all, then take forty minutes and do my FREE COD course. 

It will give you the framework in which to create a system that works for you. COD is very flexible and as you will see today is not just designed for the digital world. You can use it in an analogue world too. 

Details of how to enrol in the course are in the show notes. 

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 Jerri and Janet. They ask: Hi Carl, we work in a largely paper-based work environment. How would you go about organising your work when you have to deal with paper and paper files?

Thank you, Jerri and Janet, for your questions. 

At its very core COD is simple and incredibly flexible. It’s intentionally so because one size does not fit all and we all have different ways of organising and working. Many of us love to develop ideas with pen and paper, others prefer to collect everything into a digital system. And the truth is there are no right or wrong ways to do this. The only right way to do it is the way that works for you. 

So, to implement COD in a paper-based way you first need to get yourself a notebook. Now you want to get a notebook that is robust and one you can carry with you wherever you go. This will become your to-do list manager. 

Now just as an aside here, back in the days when I used a hybrid system, I carried a little pocket notebook with me. One with easy to tear off sheets. This I carried in my pocket whenever I couldn't carry my main notebook. I used it for those ‘just in case moments’. Times like when I was having lunch or dinner. This way I still had a way to collect everything no matter where I was or what I was doing. 

Okay, so you have your notebook to manage all your to-dos, now where do you put all the incoming paper? Well, you will also need an in-basket. Now, your in-basket should be at your main workstation. If you work from an office and home, it might be a good idea to have two in-baskets. However, I never felt the need for two. Because I was collecting into a notebook I carried with me everywhere I went I just tore off the notes and put them into my in-basket at my home office when I was next there. 

Now the notebook you are using for your to-do list manager is where you put your lists. All you really need is a master list and a daily list. Put everything on your master list and when you do the 2+8 prioritisation at the end of the day you can put tasks from master list to your daily list. 

But again, how you organise your daily to-do list is entirely up to you - it has to work for you. But even wit paper, you can still operate the 2+8 Prioritisation system. Every evening, before you go to bed you open up your notebook, with the next day’s date at the top and start with your two objectives. Then leave a line space and write you eight focus tasks for the day—the eight tasks you really want to complete. 

You can use the right-hand page for your notes for the day, observations and little reminders if you wish. 

Okay, now for all your paper files. 

For this, you will need a way to store all your project materials. The best way is to get yourself a filing cabinet, but that might be hard to do these days. Now when I was transitioning to a digital system I used a shelf on my bookcase next to my desk. I could see the names of the files clearly on the folders I used so it was always easy to access papers I needed. 

The key with this system is to make sure once a project is completed or you no longer need the documents you were keeping you remove them. Either throw them away or archive them in a box somewhere. You do not want to get in that awful position of having a mix of completed and active projects all in the same place. You would just go numb to all the files you have in there. 

Now your notes, use your notebook. 

Again, you want to have your current notes with you at all times. Here all you need to do is start at the back of your notebook. Keep your daily lists at the front and your notes at the back. You can use post-it notes to separate projects and give you easy access to your notes. The thing here is not to have too many notebooks. I know a lot of people have different notebooks for different projects and that’s okay if it works for you. Personally, I never liked that idea, and so kept meeting notes and projects ideas at the back of my one current notebook. 

One area I would not move to a digital system is my calendar. These days, airlines and other places you may make bookings will send you a calendar link that adds all the right information you need to your calendar. Likewise, when you use a digital calendar you can share calendars with family and friends. All you need to do is print off your calendar for the week after you have done your weekly review and fold it into your notebook. You can then add and delete events by hand. 

One of my friends here in Korea, a very successful businessman and teacher, does this every week. Every Monday morning his assistant prints off his calendar for the week and he folds it into his little pocketbook. He can reference that paper anytime he wants to see where he needs to be and when. He is one person I’ve met who has never missed an appointment, so it must work. 

Now speaking of printing things out, if you want to maintain some digital system and make things a little easier for your processing and storing, then remember almost all to-do list managers do give you the option to print out your daily list. Todoist, for example, can send you an email every morning with your daily list. It is organised beautifully and you can print that out. You can add new tasks, cross of tasks when you have done them or add a new date and update your system when you get back to your computer. This would actually be a great way for those of you who like using pen and paper. It allows you the ability to organise digitally but still maintain your daily task management in an analogue way. 

In many ways, if you do print out your daily to-do list and carry that with you all day, crossing off completed tasks and adding new tasks to that one sheet of paper, it will give you a great way to review your day and plan the next. All you would need to do is give yourself the ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day to sit down with your computer and update everything add and plan out your next day. Sounds almost idyllic to me. 

Now, remember, while paper-based working still exists, the digital way is a lot more efficient and means you can have access to all your notes and files through the cloud. If you have a smartphone then you still have access to your Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud. So it is worth thinking about still maintaining your files in the cloud. Of course, there may still be documents that you need to retain hard copies of and for that you can create physical files. What you do need to do though is to make sure you are maintaining those files and keeping them current. 

COD is very flexible. It is designed to be a framework that allows you to collect your tasks, ideas and events into a single place, give you time at the end of the day to organise those things you collected and focuses you on doing the work. How you collect and organise is up to you. All you need to do is find the best method for you. That can take a bit of experimenting, but it is worth it because once you do have a strong framework in place your effectiveness and efficiency improve and you become a lot less stressed and overwhelmed. 

So there you go Jerri and Janet. I hope that has answered your question and given you some ideas about how to use COD with your paper-based working. 

Thank you for your wonderful question and thank you to all of you for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer, please email me at carl@carlpullein.com or you can DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 

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

How to Use Your Calendar Properly

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Podcast 80

Your calendar, probably the most powerful productivity tool you have in your toolbox. On this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to get the most out it.

You can also listen on:

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Script

Hello and welcome to episode 80 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’s episode is all about the humble calendar. They’ve been around for a very long time is one form or another and because of their simplicity have helped millions of people through the ages to schedule their work and to create amazing things. 

Before I get in to this week’s question, though, I wanted to give you a heads up to a couple of very special offers I have on at the moment, not only do I have my Complete Guide To Creating A Successful Life course at 50% off, I also have a Spring Special on where you can get two courses for the price of one. Yes, you can get From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days for FREE when you buy Your Digital Life 2.0 Online. That’s a value of over $240 for just $65.00. 

That 2 for 1 offer is on for a limited time only so hurry. Remember, with all my courses once you are enrolled you are enrolled for life and will get all future updates for free. All the details are in this week’s 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 Sanjid. Sanjid asks: Carl, I really struggle to know how to use my calendar. I use a to-do list manager and I don’t know what I should be putting on my calendar and what to put on my to-do list. Can you help clarify things for me? 

Hi Sanjid, thank you for your question. It’s a very valid question and what to put on a calendar and what to put on a to-do list can cause quite a lot of confusion at times. 

Before we go into the specifics lets take a step back and look at how not just your calendar and to-do list should work but also your notes as well.

We have three basic tools in our productivity armoury these days. The calendar, to-do list manager and your notes app. All three have a specific job to do. In a very basic way, your calendar tells you where you need to be and with who on what day and time. Your to-do list tells you what tasks you need to perform on a specific day or within a specific project and your notes is where you keep all your ideas, meeting notes and other similar reference materials. 

Now a good productivity habit is to keep a hard edge between these three tools. What that means is you do not duplicate. When you keep a clean edge between these tools you don’t need to have tasks in your calendar or events in your to-do list. 

What should happen is you look at your calendar and see what meetings and appointments you have and where you need to be, and then look at your to-do list manager to see what tasks you can complete in between those meetings and appointments or if there is anything you need to do at a particular location. 

For example, Let’s say you start the day and look at your calendar. Your calendar tells you you have a meeting with your boss at 9:30am at your office. You can then go to your to-do list manager and pull up your tag or label for your boss and see what actions you have that relate to your boss. During the meeting, you would take notes into your notes app, and after the meeting transfer any tasks to your to-do list manager—and that should not take you more than a few minutes. 

That’s essentially how everything should work. 

The whole point of keeping these tools separate is to avoid overwhelm and a confusing mess. I’ve seen people try and keep their tasks and appointments in a calendar or trying to keep everything in a hybrid calendar, task list and notes manager and in almost every case it has ended in tears. You end up with things all over the place and in today’s world of massive distractions, it becomes incredibly easy to miss something important. When that happens you lose trust in your whole system and then things become worse because you no longer collect everything.

Your calendar is also your best planning tool. When you use your calendar properly—for events—you can see what your future days look like. You will know when you have a forthcoming business trip or workshop and on those days you can remove all but the essential tasks from your task list. You know you will not have much time to do tasks on those days because you need to be fully engaged in your workshop or you will be involved in back to back meetings. On those days you switch into what I like to call “collection mode”. This is where you are not completing tasks, instead, you are just collecting. 

It also means you can plan ahead. Let’s say you have an offsite two-day workshop on Wednesday and Thursday next week and you have an important project update to present on the following Friday morning. When you have the workshop and the presentation scheduled in your calendar, you will see that and know immediately that you need to get the presentation completed by Tuesday at the latest leaving you only needing to practice your presentation on Thursday evening or early Friday morning. Alternatively, you may see the workshop and presentation and decide to request a postponement of the presentation to the following week. Without that kind of alert, you are going to be worrying about preparing the presentation while you are doing the workshop which means you will not be able able to fully engage with the workshop and so not get the full benefit of what you are learning. 

In my experience workshops and business trips are often planned quite far into the future. I know, for example, I have a workshop in Singapore in September, which is four months away. At the moment, I do not need to do anything about it, but as it is a four-day workshop I will need to arrange hotel accommodation and, of course, my flights to and from Singapore. The event is scheduled in my calendar as an all-day event which prevents me from double booking myself, and I have a project for the workshop in my to-do list manager that will tell me to organise my flights and hotel accommodation on the 1st July—two months before the event. 

And that is a good example of a to-do list and a calendar working together. My calendar is telling where I will be, and my to-do list manager tells me what I need to do. 

Of course, there will be other tasks associated with the workshop. I will need to arrange to cancel any classes I have on the days I am in Singapore and I will need to block the dates on my client scheduling system so I do not double book myself. All these are tasks and are in my to-do list manager. They are tasks, not events.

And that is the clear blue water between your calendar and your to-do list manager. Tasks go on your to-do list, events go on your calendar. 

What you want to develop is a calendar that allows you to quickly see what you have on, and where you will be on a particular day so you can make granular decisions about what tasks you will do on those days. 

When you put everything on your calendar—tasks and events—it becomes incredibly difficult to see at a glance what you need to do. When something looks full and busy you will resist looking at it and when you do look at it you will feel overwhelmed and things will get missed. 

Now there is another area where your calendar can help you and that is with doing focused work. I’ve found, psychologically, that when I schedule a period of writing time on my calendar I am much less likely to resist doing it. I have a recurring task on my calendar every Monday morning for writing. Now, generally I will write my weekly blog post at that time, but occasionally, I have something else that needs writing that is important. Because I use the general term “writing time” on my calendar, I get to choose what I write. Likewise, I have time blocked out on a Friday afternoon for recording my YouTube videos. My calendar does not have anything specific, just “video recording time”. That way I know I will have a three-hour block to record videos. If I need to record anything specific it will be in my to-do list manager and that task will come up on Friday so I know I have something specific to record. 

This all means that when I look at my calendar either the night before or when I am doing a weekly review I get to see the blocks of times I have allocated for the work I have to do and I get to see where I have gaps for doing errands or other unscheduled work that comes up such as phone calls, sorting out student issues or just to take some time out and get some fresh air. 

Finally, a tip for those of you struggling to fit in your hobbies, side projects or exercise to your week. Schedule the time in your calendar. Every Sunday afternoon when I do my weekly review I schedule out my exercise for the week. I like to exercise five times a week and exercise is an important part of my life. So it gets scheduled. I can look at my calendar and see what I have on and where I need to be and then fit in my exercise time. Again, once it is on my calendar it becomes much more difficult to find an excuse not to exercise. It also helps me to prepare mentally for it and to decide—based on how I feel on the day—what kind of exercise I will do. 

So there you go, Sanjit. I hope that has helped you and given you some ideas on how best to use your calendar. Thank you for your question and thank you to all of you for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer on this podcast, all you have to do is get in touch either by email or by DMing 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. 

How To Stop Feeling You Have To Do More.

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Do you have this nagging feeling you are not doing enough and feel you need to do more? That’s the topic I am answering this week in the Working With Podcast

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 79 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.

In this week’s episode, it’s all about that annoying feeling we all get from time to time where no matter how much we do each day we still feel we haven’t done enough and our brain is telling us we should be doing more. Today, I’ll explain how you can quieten down this voice. 

But, before we get into this week’s question I have some very exciting news for you all. My Complete Guide To Building a Successful Life course is 50% lower this month. This course was inspired by my journey from training to be a lawyer and discovering I had made a mistake and what I did to change my life and my career and end up doing something I love doing every single day. 

So, if you feel unhappy with where you are today and want to make some big changes in your life then this course is definitely for you. I don’t often promote this course so this is a great opportunity for you to get yourself enrolled now and starting learning how to turn around your life so you can start doing what you love doing. Full details are in the show notes together with a video about my story and why I passionately believe anyone can turn things around whatever your current situation. 

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 Tony. Tony asks, Hi Carl could you do a podcast on the feeling of needing to do more - I eat the big frogs, do a bunch of other stuff and still feel I need to do, do, do even if the tasks aren’t critical or important must do that day tasks.

Great question, Tony. First off, I should confess. I used to have this problem too. It was most noticeable when I began getting up earlier and doing all my writing and creative tasks before 9AM. Although I was still doing ten hours or so of work each day, because I was getting my work done by two or three PM in the afternoon I felt I had not done enough and felt I should do more. It was an unpleasant feeling. It left me feeling guilty. 

In the end I came up with a simple solution. I knew I was doing a lot of work, yet my feeling was I wasn’t. So I began writing in my journal exactly what I had done that day. So, for example, if I wrote my blog post, as soon as it was written I would take twenty seconds and write that in my journal. That went for anything I did that was not immediately noticeable. Of course, teaching a class or attending a meeting was in my calendar, but a lot of my work is done on a computer and so it is not immediately obvious what I had done. By writing a list of what I had done I could see as the day progressed the list getting bigger and bigger and if I ever felt I had not done enough all I had to do was take a look at my journal and see a long list of things I had done. 

That solved the problem for me and it is still something I do today. 

However, I think this goes a little deeper. One of the reasons I started doing the 2+8 Prioritisation system was because I wanted to make sure the important things were getting done each day. One of the reasons we feel we are not doing enough is because it is true. We’re NOT doing enough. Enough of the important things that is. It is very easy to lose control of the day and end up running around reacting to other people’s priorities and issues leaving the work that is important to us undone. When we get to the end of the day and we think about what we have done for the day we feel we have done nothing. And that’s because we haven’t moved anything forward that important to us. 

The 2+8 Prioritisation technique solves this because it gives you a total of ten tasks that you identify are important to you. Two of which are critical MUST DO objective tasks. This then gives you a focus for the day and still allows you enough flexibility to manage other people’s issues as they arise. 

What happens when you practice the 2+8 Prioritisation technique is you get to choose what you work on each day. The night before, you sit down with your list of work that needs doing and identify what tasks would have the biggest impact on your projects and goals. Pick ten of those and make it a priority to complete them all. No excuses. When you do complete them you know you’ve had a productive day and you have done enough. Of course, if you have time and you still have enough energy, then you can go into your next actions list and start completing some of those tasks. But, the important thing is you are doing the ten tasks you decided were important to complete that day and you do whatever it takes to complete them. 

Sometimes I think we are a little hard on ourselves. We are not machines. We are human beings. There are days we get plenty of sleep, wake up the next day and feel fantastic! And there are days we don’t get enough sleep or we wake up with a bad cold or in a bad mood and our energy is very low. That’s natural and is just something we have to deal with on a day to day basis. A lot of the time it is really just about doing whatever you can based on your feeling and mood that day. Hopefully, you have more good days that bad. 

This is really why it is important that you take care of your health. Eat healthily, get enough sleep and exercise. If you really want to be performing at your best every day and getting all the things that are important to you done, then these are important things that should be put on your calendar. There’s a reason why super successful people like Tim Cook, Sir Richard Branson and Jack Dorsey exercise every day. They understand that to perform at their very best they have to take care of their health and well-being. You get a lot more done, you feel good and it gives you a routine every day that encourages great work and more consistent moods and energy levels. 

With all that said, the biggest change you could make, Tony, is you make sure every day you have a plan. Plan out what you want to accomplish for the day and when done making the plan tell yourself if you complete all those ten tasks (not including your regular routine tasks) you will have had a very productive day. 

Now don’t be greedy and give yourself too many tasks. I spent years figuring out that all you need is ten important tasks per day to move all the right things forward. When you start being greedy and plan fifteen to twenty tasks a day you are going to find yourself rescheduling a lot of tasks and that will make you feel you are not doing enough. Be realistic and stick to ten tasks. You ARE going to be interrupted and you ARE going to be dragged off into other people’s crises. That’s just a part of life. 

One of the things I remind myself of regularly is that Rome was not built in a dayand that all great work takes time. Doing a little every day soon builds up and that’s how you complete big projects, it how skyscrapers are built, it’s how books are written and how, in my case, online courses are made. They are not made in a day and you need to understand that doing a little every day will take you towards the finish line on almost every thing you decide to do—eventually. 

One final tip is to make sure you focus on one thing at a time. I know I have just said doing a little each day soon creates a finished project, another reason you may be feeling you are not doing enough is because you are doing too much on too many things at once. This is something I used to do. I used to have multiple projects ongoing at one time and this meant the time I spent on each was very small. This left me feeling I wasn’t doing enough. To change that I realised I needed to focus on less each month. These days I practice a system where I am working on one big project every six weeks. I know most big projects will take no more than six weeks to complete and so I only have one big project ongoing at any one time. This means I can focus all my energies on that project. 

That doesn’t mean I am not doing anything else, I am still doing all my regular content, but it also means in between doing that work, I am working on that one project. It helps me stay focused on the important things and I know that something special will be finished every six weeks. 

Now for this to work you do need to plan ahead a little. I planned out my whole year with a particular focus in the first two or three projects at the beginning of the year. I left the second half of the year flexible because I know things and situations change over time. But I do still have a list of projects I want to complete this year and each quarter I review my list and decide which two projects I will work on in the next quarter. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to having a realistic plan for the day and making sure you have enough flexibility built in to handle other stuff that WILL come up. Then giving yourself credit and knowing that if you do complete your plan for the day you will have had a productive day. 

So, Tony, don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure you complete your 2+8 Priority tasks each day and know that as long as you complete these you will have had a VERY productive day. 

Thank you for your question and thank you all for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer on this podcast, all you have to do is get in touch either by email or by DMing 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. 





How To Breathe Life Into a Tired Uninspiring To-do List

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Podcast 74

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting your to-do list under control and making it more inspiring.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 74 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 wonderful question about cleaning up an out-of-control to-do list and how to make it more inspiring—something I don’t think we think very much about when we create our to-do lists. 

Before we dive into the answer, I’d just like to let you all know—in case you missed it—My learning centre is currently having a huge March Madness Sale. In this sale, you can get yourself a 35% discount on ALL my courses AND coaching programmes. 

As we are rapidly approaching the end of the first quarter on 2019, if you are finding yourself a little out of motivation or need a big boost to kick start your year, this would be a great time to get yourself a great deal on a course or a coaching programme. Details of the sale are available in the show notes. 

Oh and if you are in the UK on the 20th April and have some free time, I will be doing a workshop in Scunthorpe with Kevin Blackburn—The Life Success Engineer— called Life and Time Mastery. This is a FREE workshop and we’d love to see you there. Our goal is to help you to create your life’s goals and then show you how you can turn those goals into action steps you can take every day to make them happen. A link to the registration page is in the show notes. 

Okay, let’s get into the question 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 Helena. Helena asks; Hi Carl, my to-do list is a mess and I don't find it inspiring at all. I hate going in there. Is there anything I can do to get it under control and make it more inspiring? 

That’s a fantastic question, Helena! And I know a lot of people struggle with this one. In our excitement of getting ourselves more organised and productive we throw everything into our shiny new to-do lists and create a lot of projects—and I mean a lot. On top of that, the way we write out tasks can often be confusing. This means we end up with a to-do list manager that may have felt nice for a few days but now leaves us feeling confused and uninspired to do anything about. 

One of the things I find is, as time goes by we learn the best way to write tasks but in the initial stages of playing around with our new to-do list manager we are less focused on how we write our tasks and more focused on what our to-do list app can do. This is often the reason why we end up with a very complicated hierarchy of projects and sub-projects. We create sub-projects because we can rather than because we need to. 

But the biggest problem we experience is when we go out into the world and begin our new lives as organised and productive people. When we set up our to-do list manager we imagine walking into work, opening up our today list and start doing the tasks from the top. Completing our tasks by the end of our work day and coming home in a relaxed, happy state, ready to do it all again the next day. 

Sadly, the real world introduces email, instant messages, phone calls, bosses and colleagues who think nothing of interrupting you to give you more work. If we are sharp we collect that stuff and add it to our inboxes, if not, we slip back in to old habits and leave it in our heads hoping we will remember to do it later—which we often don't. Pretty soon we are back where we started—a disorganised mess. 

So, what can we do to keep things organised, inspiring and moving forward?

Well, first take a look at your to-do list manager. How many projects do you have in there? Are they really projects or just stuff you hope to get round to one day? How are those projects written? Do you feel excited when you look at those projects? Writing out your summer holiday project as simply “summer holiday” is not exciting. Writing it out as “ Our summer holiday to Prague” is much more likely to initiate a more positive feeling. A feeling that you would like to do something about it. 

The same applies to how you write your tasks. I know this might sound a bit simplistic but if you write something like “buy dog food” that task does not really have any emotional value. Now, if you own a dog, You really care about him or her, I know I do. So if I have to buy anything for my dog, I would always write the task out as “buy Barney some more snacks”. Now when I see that task on my list I also see my little boy in my mind. Much more emotional and it is less likely I will postpone the task to another day. 

Little things like this might seem simplistic and silly, but they can have a very big impact on the way you feel about your tasks when you see them on a list. “Prepare curriculum outline for Jenny” sounds much better than just “prepare curriculum outline” or “pick up prescription for Steve” is better than “pick up prescription” 

When you use a person’s name in the task it gives it more meaning. It’s more human, more intimate than a cold uninspiring task written like “get sales reports”. 

While on the subject of tasks, writing tasks out so they are more clear is important. For example, I often see people writing tasks out like “call Sarah”. Now the problem with writing tasks like this is that “call Sarah” might make sense when you write the task initially, but five days later when the task comes up on your today list “call Sarah” probably won’t mean anything and you have to waste valuable time thinking about why you need to call Sarah. It is far better to write “call Sarah about SWX Conference next year” Now you have the purpose of the call written within the task and you will know immediately why you need to call Sarah.

Moving on to your projects. It’s a good idea to go through all your projects periodically to ask the question “why am I doing this project?” Often I find I created a project and three months later the project is still there with the exact same tasks I had when I first created that project. The project is stuck. It hasn’t moved anywhere. Now after three months if a project has not moved there is something wrong. That’s the time to ask the question “Why am I doing this project”. If it hasn’t moved for three months it’s obviously not important. If the project was meaningful in some way it would have moved somewhere in three months. To me, a project that hasn’t moved for three months needs to be removed. Either I will archive it (knowing, if it is meaningful, I can always re-create it) or I will move the project to my someday | maybe list until I am ready to make it active again. 

Seriously, be honest with yourself. If a project has not moved in three months, will it ever move or is it there just in case you decide to do something with it later?

You can also do this with your work projects. I frequently find a boss will tell her team about a new project they are going to be involved with, and as good organised and productive people we create the project in our work project list and then we wait. And we wait and we wait. Six months later that project is still in our projects list but nothing has happened. Guys… Let me tell you something…. It is never going to move. Your boss has already forgotten about it and it’s off the radar. Remove it. If by some miracle your boss suddenly remembers it, you can always recreate the project later. 

Now if you are in the areas of focus world—that is organising your projects by areas of focus rather than individual projects—you should go through each area asking are they really areas you want to put your focus on? You may have thought a few months ago that you’d like to focus on maintaining a clean working environment, but several months later your enthusiasm for keeping your workspace clean, tidy and organised has wained a little and you are no longer doing anything about it. Either keeping a clean workspace is important to you or it isn’t. If it is, put some life back into that area of focus or if it isn’t, delete the area. Again, you can always recreate it later if you decide you would like to focus on it after all. 

To maintain a functioning to-do list manager, you need to keep it maintained and functioning. Filling up your to-do list manager with “hope to” or “wish to” projects is never going to work well. It will become overwhelming and uninspiring because you will have a lot of dormant projects and tasks in there. Purge and purge again. Never be afraid to purge. You can always recreate your projects anytime if they become active in the future.

Your to-do list manager needs to be a power-plant of activity. Tasks coming in and tasks getting completed. When there’s a lot of activity going on in there it will be naturally inspiring. When there’s little to no activity, and your projects list rarely changes it becomes boring and uninspiring. That’s when you get that feeling you are just going round and round in circles. 

Finally, stop overcomplicating your lists. This really is an inspiration killer. Sure it might be cool to be able to create six levels of child hierarchy, but having a deep level of child projects just makes things complicated. When your brain sees complexity it will resist. Try to keep things as simple as you can and have some hard edges between the different types of inputs you get. A task goes into your task list manager, a note goes into your notes app and an event goes on your calendar. Almost all modern apps will allow you to cross-link these different inputs. For example, you can add a link to a note to a task in your task list manager which will then allow you to click the link and be immediately taken to the relevant note. Or you can add the note link to the calendar event so you can quickly access the note when you see the event on your calendar. 

So there you go, Helena. I hope that has helped to breath new life into your to-do list manager. You are going to need to spend a little time doing some to-do list manager CPR over the next few days, but it will be worth it. Be very clear about why you are doing a project and if you really don’t want to do it just delete it. If a project has been dormant for more than three months either delete it or move it to a someday | maybe file. Don’t leave it hanging around taking up space. And make your tasks more human. Use people’s names and be very clear about what it is you want to do when you do that task. Don’t rely on your memory to remember… It won’t.

Thank you for the question and thank you to you all for listening to this show. If you have a question you would like answering on this show, then please email me at carl@carlpullein.com or 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. 

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



Script

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 carl@carlpullein.com 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 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.



Script

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 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



Script

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 (carl@carlpullein.com) or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a 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:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

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 (carl@carlpullein.com) 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 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



Script

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



Script

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 50 | Organise by Project or Area of Focus?

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

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Working With Podcast | Episode 46 | How To Keep Things Simple

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In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about keeping your system simple.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script

Hello and welcome to episode 46 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 simplicity and simplifying overwhelming and complex productivity systems. This is something that can happen and when it does it becomes a huge drain on your whole productivity. 

Before we get into this week’s question, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you whole got involved in last week’s coupon sale. It was a shame to let all those coupons go without finding a good home. It’s so nice to know that so many of you are determined to become better organised and more productive. So a big thank you and always remember I will be here to give you support whenever you need it. 

Okay, on to this week’s question, so 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 Darius. Darius asks: I know you write and talk a lot about keeping your system simple, so could you give us some tips on how to do so? 

Thank you Darius for your question. Okay, let's start at the beginning. If you are new and are developing your own productivity system remember all you need is COD—that’s Collect, Organise and Do—as the base for your system. That means whatever system you develop it needs to be developed around quick and easy collection, simple organisation and a simple view of what you need to do. Think of that as your base. From there you can start building. 

So what do I mean “quick and easy collection”? What I mean is that whenever you have an idea, make a commitment or have an event, you need to be able to collect it into a place you trust quickly and easily. Today, that would probably be on your phone. Our phone is the one device we are likely to be carrying with us everywhere we go so it makes sense for this to be your primary collection tool. Now whether you choose a separate app for your to-dos, notes and appointments or an all in one collection app is up to you. I personally use an app called Drafts that allows me to collect anything in one place and then I can distribute those items to my to-do list, notes app or calendar when I have time to distribute them. What this does is simplify my collection process to just one app. And Drafts is simple—open the app and start typing. I’ve found nothing comes close to the speed and ease for collecting that Drafts gives me. 

Collecting could also be a simple pocket notebook you carry with you. Just write down everything you want to collect and organise it later. That’s actually the way I started building my productivity system years ago. Everything was collected into a little notebook and when I got back to my desk I used to tear off the notes I had collected and put them in my physical in-tray. It worked extremely well. But now with cloud-based computing and apps that sync between all my devices, I find collecting on my phone to be the easiest and most efficient way to collect. 

Okay, so once you have everything collected, how do you organise all that stuff. That’s where you need to be focused on simplicity. I’ve seen people with hundreds of clients create project folders for each client. Now that can work, but if most of those clients need little to no work doing on them, then they are just cluttering up your projects list. That kind of situation would probably mean you need to use a dedicated CRM system. A to-do list manager is not going to do that job very well. A proper CRM system would manage your clients much better and allow you to monitor marketing and call activities better. Now there are many ways you can organise your projects, notes and events. But what you need to do is find a way that works for you. What I mean by that is when you need to find a note you know exactly where to look, or what search term to use. A simple structure I use is to have an active projects list—which usually has no more than six to ten projects—and an areas of focus list that I organise by my different roles. That could be “Family”, Teacher”, “Online course creator”, “Social Media Manager” etc. 

What I find is that pretty much all the tasks I collect each day can be filed into one of those projects or areas of focus. 

For my notes, I use a simple folder or notebook structure between work and personal and tag things pretty much in the same way an old-fashioned filing cabinet worked. That is alphabetically. Be careful with this. When you do set up your notes filing system you need to be thinking about how you will retrieve notes when you need them. I find a good way to think about this is watch how you naturally go to find something. For example, if I want to find a quote I saved from Jim Rohn, all I need to do is type “Jim Rohn Quotes” into my notes app and all the quotes I have collected from Jim Rohn will come up in the search. (I have a lot of quotes from Jim Rohn) Or I could be thinking about buying a new sweater and I remember seeing a sweater Daniel Craig wore in Spectre. All I need to do is type in my notes app search field “Spectre sweaters” and I will find the sweaters I am looking for and the company that made it. (N Peal of London for those of you interested—great company) 

Now, I know that means I have to do a little extra work when I process my notes, but that little extra effort saves me time in the long run because I know how my brain works and I understand how I search for things. That’s why it is important to know how YOU search for things and not try and copy someone else’s way of searching. They will inevitably think differently from you.

Now the doing part needs to be as simple as possible. If you date everything you are going to end up with huge lists of uncompleted tasks each day. No matter how much you would like to get something done you are just not going to have the time to do twenty or thirty tasks. if everything is dated you are going to do the easy stuff first. It’s just human nature. It takes a lot of discipline to force yourself to do the unpleasant tasks first. A better way is to utilise the Golden Ten daily planning method—spend ten minutes at the end of the day and with your calendar open schedule no more than ten tasks to do the next day. Two of which should be what I call “Objective tasks” two tasks that if you do not do anything else that day, those two tasks will get done. These two tasks should be important, project or goal tasks, NOT regular routine tasks. You want to be moving forward each day on either your projects or your goals. Now I will be honest here, I have two daily lists. The first is my ten tasks, the second is my daily routine tasks. Things like updating my subscriber lists, take the garbage out etc. I don’t need to really think too much about these types of tasks, but I like to have a daily reminder of what routines I should be getting done that day—just simple maintenance tasks if you like. That list is a list I go to at the end of the day to make sure my routines for the day have been done. 

And that’s really about it. All you really need to do is focus on the three parts of your productivity system. The collecting, make that as quick and easy as possible. Make sure how you organise your to-dos, documents and events make it easy to find what you need when you need it and spend the rest of your time doing the work. 

Other tips I would give include not constantly switching apps. That’s going to do nothing for your productivity. Switching means you have to learn a new way of doing things which will only slow you down, and having to export all your to-dos, notes and events to another app is never easy, no matter what the developer claims. Things never transfer over neatly. 

Regularly removing old, no longer needed stuff is another way to keep things simple. Emails particularly have a bad habit of hanging around If you no longer need it delete it. What you want to achieve is a fast, clean easily maintained system. Having old legacy files cluttering up your system is only going to slow things down and you will be ploughing through lists irrelevant, out of date stuff. Another area where time is wasted. 

To keep things simple mean’s you should focus on what it is you want to achieve. Getting caught up in breaking things down into tiny little steps might seem like good advice, but what that does is cause you to lose focus on the outcome. Often you can achieve the outcome you desire by just getting yourself focused on doing the work in a distraction-free environment with the minimal of tools and apps. One of my most productive environments is a coffee shop, two hours, my iPad and Ulysses. The amount of work I get done in this environment is enormous. Simple tools, simple apps. And that’s really the secret of keeping things simple. 

One final piece of advice though. Stop trying to hack apps to do things they were not designed to do. A good notes app is not a good to-do list manager and a good to-do list manager is not a good notes app. Sure, you might like the idea of having everything in one place, but whenever you get an app that tries to be all things, you end up with compromises that ultimately means things will break. Just don’t go there. 

I hope that answers your question, Darius. Thank you for sending it in. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering, just get in touch via email (carl@carlpullein.con) or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. All the details are in the show notes. 

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





The Working With … Podcast | Episode 36 | What It Takes To Become A Productive Person.

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about What it takes to become productive.

You can also listen on:

Podbean | iTunes | Stitcher



Script:

Hello and welcome to episode 36 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 episode, I have a wonderful question about productivity. I suppose it’s an obvious question, really, but one we very rarely ask. So in this episode not only are we going to ask the question, we are going to answer it too. 

Before we get to this week’s question though, I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who enrolled in my special offer last week. Now it’s time for you to get down and do some studying and building. So good luck with that and if you have any questions about setting up your own systems, then feel free to get in touch. 

Don’t forget, if you want to discover a system that is flexible and is customisable to work for you, then get yourself enrolled in my FREE beginners guide to building your own productivity system. It’s around 45 minutes long and will give you all the tips and tricks you need to create your own, bullet-proof productivity and time management system. The link to the course is in the show notes. 

And, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, then get in touch. I’m more than happy to answer any question on productivity, goal setting or self-development so send those questions in. You can ask me via Twitter, Facebook or direct via email. 

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

This week’s question comes from Janet. Janet asks: I’ve struggled with becoming more productive for years and was wondering what you think is the skill needed to become a more productive person. 

Thank you, Janet, for the question. A very good question indeed and a question that had me thinking quite hard.

For me, the single most essential skill required to become a more productive person, if you can call it a skill, is self-discipline. 

You need the self-discipline to keep going with your system even on those days when you don’t feel in the mood. 

You see becoming a more productive person is not a case of cleaning up your desk and tidying up your files one day. Becoming a more productive person is a way of life. If you have spent most of your adult life in a disorganised state where you cannot even remember where you placed your car keys every morning, then that is nothing to do with whether or not you are a productive person, that is more a case of not having the discipline to put your keys in the same place every evening when you return home. And it takes discipline to develop the habit of putting your keys in the same place every time. 

The basics of a good productivity system is what I call COD - Collect, Organise and Do. To collect everything that comes your way into your inbox, to then organise everything you collected that day into its rightful place, and to do the work you planned to do is not a difficult concept. In fact, it is a logical, simple concept. Putting it into practice day after day doesn’t take a PhD degree either. It’s simple. What it does take though is discipline. The discipline to collect everything, to organise it and to do it when you want to get it done, rather than need to get it done. 

We all have those days when we just don’t feel in the mood. When we just want to stay in bed and do nothing but watch TV all day. We are human after all. But what I have noticed in the most productive people I’ve met is they know exactly what they want to accomplish each day and they start the day with that knowledge. It gives them a kind of energy to get themselves out of bed and start the day full of energy. It’s as if they see each new day as a new opportunity to achieve something fantastic. And that’s true. Each new day does give you a new opportunity to create something very special. 

Another trait I’ve seen with very productive people is they are in complete control of their calendars. They know what’s on their calendar because they put it there. I notice this with my own dentist. She’s an incredibly productive person. All her scary tools are placed exactly where she needs them and she carefully plans out each treatment course with each patient. Her appointments calendar is linked to her personal calendar so she only allows appointment times that will fit into her lifestyle. Even though, as a dentist, her day is made up of patient appointments, those appointment times fit around her schedule and not given at the whim of patients or anyone else. She allows enough flexibility on her calendar to deal with emergencies and I’ve never seen her overstretched or stressed. 

And that’s one of the benefits of being in control of your calendar. You can keep things flexible, and prevent anything going on there that you have no real desire to do. It also means when you do your Golden Ten at the end of the day you can trust that what is on your calendar is what you want to do and not something other people want you to do but you have not desire to do yourself. 

But it always comes back to self-discipline. You need the self-discipline to collect everything that has meaning to you, to organise that stuff into its appropriate place and to just get on with the work whether or not you are in the mood to do so. You need the self-discipline to say no to the things you do not want to do—even if that is saying no to your boss or clients. 

It’s hard, I’m certainly not suggesting otherwise. But although it is hard, it is a skill or trait worth developing. Because when you do have the discipline to do the collecting, organising and doing as well as saying no to the things you feel will not take you or your life further forward, you will find you begin to feel a lot less stressed and much happier. You will feel nothing can stop you achieving the things you want to achieve and you start to get a lot more of your important work done. 

So how do you become more disciplined with your productivity system? 

The best place to start is with your collecting. Take a weekend and have a look at how you have your collection tools set up. Are they apps on your phone, or is it a simple notebook. Ask yourself: is this the best way to collect everything? Look at your general collection system—by that I mean if you have an idea, how would you collect it right now while you are listening to this podcast. Is it easy? Is it fast? If not, find a way to make it easier and faster. Once you are happy with your collection system, try it for a week. Make sure you are not resisting. Make sure that you do it every time every day. Tweak it if necessary but make sure you are doing it every time. 

For the organising part, get that on your calendar. Choose a time at the end of the day when you know you will not likely be disturbed and block a fifteen-minute segment in your calendar. I personally block 10pm every weekday to do my organising. I don’t schedule calls and I don’t allow anything to stop me from taking ten to fifteen minutes to organise every thing I collected that day. I have actually made a routine out of the time between 9:30pm and 10:30pm. I take my dog out for a walk at 9:30pm and when we get back around 10pm I do my organising. I’m usually finished organising by 10:15pm and I then do a little reading or watch a short video before heading off to bed at 10:30pm. Creating a pre-bedtime routine is a great way to build your discipline. Once the routine becomes a habit, you no longer feel you have to push yourself to get on with it. 

Finally, on the doing part, well that is a natural progression from your Golden Ten. (that’s the ten minutes at the end of the day when you organise and plan the next day) once you have completed your Golden Ten you should have a clear view of what you want to get accomplished tomorrow and what your two objectives for the day are. Once you have those written down or onto your to-do list you can go to bed happy knowing that the day ahead is planned and you are ready.

Sure, all this does take time to build up the routines. But before they become a habit and a routine, you need the discipline to follow through and do this every day. After a week or so it starts to feel natural and after two or three months you are well on your way to making being a productive person just a part of who you are. 

Changing old habits is hard. I know. I’ve been there. But change is how we grow into better people. The discipline and effort are well worth it because of what you become. Yes, you will fall down, you will slip into old habits, but the important thing is you get back into developing your routines and habits as quickly as you can. It will feel like hard work when you start. There will be days when you think it’s just not worth it. That’s when you need to tell yourself that the effort will reward you massively in the future and tomorrow is another day with another attitude and another chance to prove to yourself you can change and you can become more productive. 

When you become more disciplined about how you organise your life, you will find there will be other areas of your life you can change too. Areas you are not happy with and with your new found discipline and productivity skills you will find your whole life will change in so many positive ways. 

Good luck, Janet and again, thank you so much for your question. 

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