The Working With… Podcast | Episode 31 | How To Prioritise Your Day

June 18, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about prioritising the tasks you do each day.

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about prioritising the tasks you do each day.

Hello and welcome to episode 31 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 prioritising, and how to prioritise your daily tasks. I know this can be difficult because we often feel every task has a priority and so deciding what must be done and what you would like to do can be overwhelming sometimes. Getting good at this takes a little time and continuous practice but it is possible.

Before we get into this week’s question, could you do me a little favour? If you like this podcast or any previous episode of the Working With… Podcast and you feel what is discussed could help someone, please share it with them. This way, together we can help a million people discover the wonderful benefits of being better organised and becoming more productive. 

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

This week’s question from TJ. TJ asks: 

 How do you use the concept of "priority" in your daily tasks? Is it strictly an indicator of "importance" or does it serve some other function in your system?

Excellent question, TJ. 

For me, a task becomes a priority when it is important to me and the work that I do. Seldom does a task for someone else become a priority unless it leads directly to achieving something important. Let me give you an example. If I have a task such as write this week’s blog post and a task to review a presentation for a client. The priority for me would be write the blog post first as that directly contributes to my goals and purpose. Reviewing the presentation, while important for my client, it would only be done after I have written the blog post. It would still get done that day, but I would not drop everything else to review the presentation file for my client. For me, my higher purpose is to help as many people as I can get better at productivity and time management. The blog post would help more people. The presentation helps one person. Bear in mind, the presentation review still gets done that day, it’s just a question of priorities and in which order I would do the tasks. 

Another reason I would choose to write the blog post is that it requires a lot more creative energy. Reviewing a presentation is simply checking keywords, spelling and grammar. Writing a blog post requires creativity and thought. I know my brain’s ability to be creative is much better in a morning so that task would get done first. 

To get better at deciding what your priorities are I would always suggest that tasks that contribute to your higher purpose, your goals and the things you want to achieve should always come first. They should be your priority. The dangerous trap we often fall in to is when we want to please people. When we prioritise pleasing other people we sacrifice what is important to us for what is important to someone else. That never leads to a good outcome for us. 

Of course to get better at prioritising we need to know what is important to us. I find a lot of people have never taken any time out to think about this. That is a mistake. When you don’t know what is important to you, the things that are important to other people will always become your priorities. If the only important thing about your work is the paycheque every month, then the priorities of your boss and colleagues will become your priorities. Your own career, happiness and development will not be a priority. You will just do work set by other people, you will never volunteer to be involved in projects that develop you, you will never grow your own skill set and you will never go very far with your career. You will be, in effect, stuck in a dead-end job. A dead-end job of your own making. There’s no one else to blame… Really.

If you haven’t done so already, I would recommend you take a piece of paper and write out the fifty things you want to do in the next ten years. This is a great exercise because it forces you to think about what you want and not what someone else wants. When you do this you will find the first ten to fifteen things are easy. It’s after you have twenty things on your list when things get harder. Then you have to force yourself to go deep and think. What you will find revealing is the things you come up with after the first ten or fifteen. These are the real, subconscious things you really want to do and it will tell you a lot about what is really important to you. It might be travel, it might be a beautiful home, it could be experiences you want to experience in your life or it could be skills you want to acquire. All these are good things. 

So how do you prioritise on a daily basis? For me the best way to do this is to ask the question:

What two tasks could I complete today that would have the biggest impact on my goals/projects?

This question is powerful in that it really focuses your mind on the things that are important to you. What you are looking for are the two tasks on your daily list of tasks that you feel will take you a little closer towards achieving what you want to achieve. Something as simple as going out for a walk at lunchtime would contribute to your goal of losing some weight or spending thirty minutes on the outline of the book you want to write. Anything like these would be good tasks to prioritise as they are focused on the things that are important to you. 

Now of course, I am not suggesting you exclude everyone and everything from your priorities. That would be impractical. What I am saying is that you should never forget about what you want. If your career is important to you and you want to climb up the company towards senior management, then your boss’s priorities may very well be also a priority for you. If your family and friends are important to you, then prioritising spending time with them is also important. What is important is that you get to choose what is important to you and what is not. Not someone else!

I always recommend you only prioritise two tasks in this way. Two tasks are achievable. If you start getting greedy and try to achieve four or five such tasks per day you are going to fail to complete them every day. When that happens the power of your two objectives for the day loses its power. Two tasks are achievable and once they are completed you will feel great. 

Now for the rest of your daily tasks, I would suggest you prioritise eight more tasks. This means each day you have ten tasks that you have assigned a priority. Your two objectives and eight other tasks. The reason for this is that we all probably have more than two tasks we need to complete each day. Some are more important than others. Some must be completed that day others not necessarily. By selecting eight further tasks as would really like to get done today—but it would not be the end of the world if you don’t—it helps you to keep focused on other projects and keep things moving forward each day. 

The beauty of prioritising in this way is that you are always moving forward on your goals and projects. Nothing gets missed and you are forced to stay focused on what you want every day. The problem most people find is when things get very busy in their lives, and it will from time to time, it is far too easy to lose focus on what is important to us and end up sliding towards doing work that is not important to us. We start to feel busy and overwhelmed which leads to stress and a feeling we are running around in circles achieving very little. This method of prioritisation allows you to have two tasks every single day that you can focus on getting done. 

I mix my two objectives for the day up quite a bit. On busy days, when I have a lot of classes and meetings I would make them easy tasks to complete not requiring a lot of time to do. On less busy days I will choose tasks that may take longer. This is why when you do your Golden 10—the daily mini-planning session at the end of the day—you can see from your calendar how busy you are going to be and make wise choices. 

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to prioritise your day, but it does take commitment. Spending ten minutes at the end of the day to look at your calendar, your tasks for the next day and selecting two tasks to be your objectives for the next day are well worth the time. This ten minute period, and that’s all it takes once you get into the habit of doing it, can transform your productivity. It can focus you on what is important to you and it can keep you moving in the right direction. And that is what being productive is all about. 

I hope that helps you. Please remember, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, please drop me a line either by email or by DMing me on Facebook or Twitter and I will be delighted to answer your question.

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 30 | How to Maintain an Exercise Programme When Working a Full Time Job

June 11, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about how I have managed to maintain a running and exercise programme despite working a full-time job.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Ultimate Goal Planning Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Script

Hello and welcome to episode 30 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 week’s episode, I have a question about health and fitness. This is an important question because we all know being fit and healthy and doing some exercise regularly is vital to our long-term health. We are living longer and expecting more, yet if we don’t look after our health in our early lives, it will come back and destroy the quality of our lives when we get older. What we eat, how much alcohol we drink, whether we smoke and how frequently we exercise are all important factors if we want to maintain our health and vitality long into our lives.

Before we get to the question though, thank you to all of you who have enrolled in my Ultimate Goal Planning course. I will be updating this course regularly, as I do with my Your Digital Life 2.0 course, so keep your eyes open for additional classes coming through each month. If you haven’t enrolled yet, you can enrol in the course from the link in the show notes for this podcast. The whole purpose of the course to get you thinking about what you want, rather than spending too much time worrying about what others want from you. This is your life and you get to decide what you want to get out of it if you just take some time out to decide what it is you want. 

Okay, let’s get on with answering this weeks question. Unfortunately, the Mystery Podcast Voice has lost her voice this week, so I shall be reading out the question:

This week’s question comes from Bjorn in Norway. Bjorn asks:

H, Carl,l I have just started running and would like to know how you manage your running programme. I’d also like to know if you have any tips on equipment and training that you could pass on. Thanks.

Thank you, Bjorn, for this wonderful question.

Firstly whenever starting any exercise programme you need to decide when would be the best time to do it and how often. Usually, when someone starts out on an exercise programme they haven’t exercised for many years and so just deciding you are going go out running or to the gym everyday is not realistic. Your muscles are going to be sore, in some cases very sore, and you need to allow time for your body to adapt to this new stress you are putting on it. My advice to all newbies is to go for three times a week for the first month. Any more than that and you are likely to find it so painful you are going to want to give up in the first week. You don’t want that to happen, so go for three times a week to allow your body time to adapt.

Next up, is to decide when you are going to do it. I found asking the question am I a morning or night person? Was a great question to ask. There’s a lot of advice out there that tells you to exercise early in the morning and in general, this is good advice. But for me, I hate exercise in the morning. I never look forward to it and I feel very uncomfortable. I prefer afternoons for exercise and because of the nature of my work, the afternoons work perfectly for me. Find the best time for you and the type of person you are. We not all morning people and some of us prefer evening times. If you are one of those people, then do your exercise in the evening. 

The next thing to do is to schedule your exercise time on your calendar. Block out one hour. Even if you only exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, you will still need to shower afterwards. So block one hour. This time is sacrosanct. You must decide never to allow anything or anyone take away your exercise time. This is why it is important to schedule that one hour at a time you know will not easily be stolen by something or someone else. I schedule 2 to 3pm for my exercise days. This works for me as I have classes and meetings in the morning and I teach in the evenings. The afternoons are generally free for me, so this time works. It is on my calendar and what goes on my calendar gets done… My golden rule. 

While on the subject of blocking your exercise time on your calendar, I would also suggest you do the scheduling of your exercise sessions on a week to week basis. This means you can look at your calendar and see which days are very busy. On those days you may find you are not likely to have the time. Don’t schedule sessions for those days. Wishfully thinking you will exercise on exhausting days is a sure fire way to lose your commitment. Only schedule sessions when you know absolutely you will be able to do them. 

When scheduling your sessions, don’t just write “exercise” be more specific. For example, write “run 5km” or “Do 30 mins gym session”. The more specific you are the more motivated you will be. On my light days I usually write “do 20 mins circuit training” I find this is much more motivating than having a vague term such as “gym” or “run” on my calendar. 

Once you have committed yourself, how do you start a running programme? This is much easier than most people think. Always start with what I call a run/walk session. What this means is you run until you feel uncomfortable and then walk until you feel recovered enough and then run again until you feel uncomfortable and repeat the process. If you are new to running you will find you do not run very far. Don’t worry, that is perfectly normal. 100 to 200 metres might be all you can manage. That’s fine. Remember, it takes months and months of regular running to run a half-marathon. It takes time for your body to adapt and the right muscles to develop. So don’t expect to run 5km without the need to walk in your first few weeks. It might even take you months before you can run 5KM without stopping for a walk. It all depends on your physical condition when you start. The important thing is you keep going out on your scheduled runs. Over time you will find you can run farther and require less walking. 

A quick tip here is you can use lamp posts to measure you progress. If you can run 3 lamp-posts when you start and at the end of the month you can run 5 lamp-posts without stopping you are making progress. 

Just a quick word on muscle soreness, you are going to feel it. You are going wake up in the morning and feel very sore and stiff. That’s normal when you start any kind of exercise programme. After a few weeks that soreness and stiffness will disappear. It is just your body repairing itself and making your muscles stronger. You need to go through that process. It’s good for you. It makes you stronger and you join the same club millions of new runners and exercisers have joined. The pain of starting the journey. Enjoy it, it does not last long!

One thing I would add here is that as time goes by and as your programme develops you will find you start to feel so much healthier and more energetic. It inspires you to look at all areas of your life from your diet to the amount of time you spend sitting down each day. I found after a few weeks I enjoyed the feeling of losing weight (I lost 10 kilos that’s 22 pounds in 3 months when I started running again ten years ago) This inspired me to change my diet and make it healthier. I cut down the amount of sugar I put in my tea and coffee, I started eating salads for dinner during the week and only allowing myself things like pizza on a weekend. Over a few months, my whole lifestyle went from a slow decline in physical abilities to energising my whole lifestyle with increased strength and energy. It was an incredible transformation, not just physically, but mentally too. 

Now as for equipment and training.

For running the most important investment you make is in your running shoes. Go to a proper running store (not an online one) and get advice. I find buying running shoes that are half a size bigger than I normally wear is a good tip. Exercise socks are usually thicker than everyday socks and your feet will expand quite a lot when running. Another piece of good advice is change your running shoes every six months. The shock absorption abilities of your running shoes declines as you build up the miles you run. You need to take care of your knees and shins. So don’t be economical with your investment in running shoes. These are you most important investment. 

As far as clothing goes, just wear something that you feel comfortable in. If you are running long distances (10k or further) then the lighter the better. And on those sunny days, don’t forget the hat! 

As for training, the best advice here is don’t increase your distance (or weight in the gym) until you feel comfortable with what you are currently doing. When you push yourself to go further, faster and longer too soon you are just going to get injured. Slow down. There’s no rush. Remember, once you decide to get fit it is a lifetime commitment, not just for a few weeks. So, don’t rush things. 

One final tip for any new runners. Set yourself a goal to run a 10k race in six months time. 10k is a great distance because you will need to have a reasonable level of fitness to complete it. But don’t just set it was a goal. Enter the race. Pay your entrance fee and get it in your calendar. That way you are committed. It gives you a purpose beyond better health and fitness. It makes it feel more important every time you go out for a run. 

Running for me has been a real pleasure. It is a great form of exercise because it not only improves my overall fitness, keeps my weight down and gives me bundles of energy every day. It also allows me periods of time to be with my own thoughts, listening to my favourite music and just to be out there off the online grid and be with nature. It’s not just physically good for you, it’s also mentally good for you. 

Well, I hope that has answered your question, Bjorn, and again thank you for your wonderful question. I also hope these words have inspired you to at least start thinking about beginning an exercise programme. I can promise you the transformation you will see in yourself in just a few weeks will inspire you to make some incredibly positive changes to you life in so many other areas. 

Don’t forget, if you think this podcast will inspire others, please share it with as many people you know. Together we can be part of a movement to help one million people to learn the wonderful benefits of being better organised and becoming more productive.

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 29 | Maintaining Your Daily Plan When Receiving Other Demands.

June 4, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about maintaining your plan for the day when new demands are placed upon you.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Ultimate Goal Planning Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Hello and welcome to episode 29 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.

Before we get started, I would like to thank everyone who has supported my Project 1 Million. There has been so much support and I feel deeply grateful to all of you who have helped spread the word about the benefits of getting better organised and becoming more productive. Don’t forget, if you like what you hear in this podcast, please share it with as many people you know. The more people we can help discover better productivity the more people we can help change their lives for the better.

This week I answer a question about the problems we all face every day when despite our best efforts to plan the day and do the work we want to do, something comes up that changes the plan. I don’t think anyone can escape this and I know it can be very frustrating. So in this week’s episode, I thought I could answer the question by sharing my strategies for staying on plan with you.

So, now it is time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This weeks question comes from Biraj and Simon who ask: No matter how well planned we are for the day ahead when the day starts a new demand is made that has to be done that day and all our plans have to be changed. Is there anything we can do to stay on plan?

Thanks, guys for your question and I am sure so many of you listeners also have this problem. So, here’s how I deal with this:

The first thing is I never schedule too many tasks for the day. Basically, I set myself two objectives for the day and these can be anything from exercise or preparing this podcast. In fact, as I look at my objectives for today, that is exactly what my two objectives are. To do a minimum of 30 minutes exercise and to get this podcast prepared. Now, as far as my objectives are concerned, I will not go to bed until those two objectives are completed. That is the rule. Of course, if there was an emergency that required all my attention for the day, I am flexible enough to change my objectives, but it would have to be a pretty big emergency for me to change my objectives and I cannot remember when an emergency took me away from completing my objectives.

Today is a busy teaching day for me, so the preparation and notes for this podcast are being prepared either at my desk, while sat on a bus or standing in the subway. The prep notes for this podcast is my objective and I use an app called Ulysses for preparing all my written articles and podcast scripts. Ulysses allows me to write either on my iPad, iPhone or desktop. Basically, I’ve given myself no excuses for not writing. The app is on all my devices and it syncs in real-time through iCloud so as I started writing this on my desktop, when I get to the subway, it will be available on my iPhone to continue writing. 

Exercise is a little different. I need to make full use of my calendar with my exercise schedule. So today my original plan was to do a scaled back exercise session at 11AM and head out to teach at 12pm. This meant I could realistically do 30 minutes exercise, have a quick shower, a bite to eat and off to my next teaching appointment. However, I had a cancellation this afternoon, so I rescheduled my exercise session to be done at 4:30pm. I have more time then and can do a longer session without the rush. 

The thing is because when I woke this morning, I only had two objectives to complete and I knew no matter what the day threw at me, I would be able to find the time to do those tasks. As usual, my original plan had to be modified, but I only had to modify two objectives, not a long list of to-dos that I hoped to be able to do. 

And that is where I think most people have problems. They over commit to tasks. The truth is if you looked at your long list of to-dos you would find only a very few actually must be completed that day. Most of the to-dos on my to-do list are “I hope to do today” tasks and if I am being completely honest with myself, as long as those tasks get done this week I will be fine. I know that Friday afternoon this week is looking quiet for me, and if I need time to catch up with my tasks I could block out Friday afternoon to catch up. 

The second list of tasks I have on my to-do list are what I call my “Today’s focus” tasks. These tasks are the priority tasks I have for the day. As a general rule I keep this list to ten tasks or less. I manage this list when I do my Golden 10 in the evening. I look to see what I have planned for tomorrow and if I have more than ten tasks on my Today’s focus list I will remove whatever I have to so there are no more than ten. I also compare this list to my calendar. If I have a day like today, where I will only have a couple of spare hours, I will reduce this list down to around five tasks. I am being realistic here. Just because a task is on your list doesn’t mean you will have time to do it. And I think that is key. You really need to be realistic and try wherever possible to keep the “hope to complete” tasks off your day list. If you have time you can always go to the wish to do lists. 

And that brings me to my third list. This list is my next actions list which are all the very next tasks on my projects. Every week, when I do my weekly review, I add the label to the very next action in each of my active projects. This means one task in each of my active projects has a label of next actions. So, each day, if I have completed my objectives and my today’s focus lists, I move into my next actions list and start doing those tasks. The truth is on a week to week basis I really only get to that list maybe twice. It doesn’t really matter too much. If a task is important and needs doing this week, then it will be on my today’s focus list anyway, so nothing is missed. 

So the system I have set up is:

First thing in the morning I review my “today’s Objectives” list. This will have the two tasks I must complete that day no matter what. Once I have reviewed that I will usually start on one of them. So this morning, I began writing the script and notes for this podcast at 6:30am while I was on the bus. 

The next list I work from is my Today’s Focus list. This list has no more than ten tasks that have a priority and should be done today. It would not be the end of the world if I cannot complete them today, but on the whole, even given a lot of detractions I will get them done before 6pm. I should point out that my two objectives for that day are also on this list. So, my today’s focus list really only has 8 tasks on it. 

Finally, if I do have time I will move into my “next actions” list and begin doing as many of the tasks as I can. 

This system has allowed me to keep the most important tasks front and centre of my day and also gives me enough flexibility each day to handle any distractions and additional work that must be done that day. 

The biggest reason why most people really struggle with this is that they are placing far too many tasks on their daily to-do lists. What you need to do is reduce those daily to-dos down to the essentials. This means you need to get good at deciding which tasks are a priority. I understand this takes practice and time, but it is well worth developing. When you do your Golden ten, the ten minutes at the end of the day when you plan the next day, make sure the tasks you have for tomorrow are important. If they are not, remove them from your daily list. Try to get your daily list down to around ten tasks in total and have a backup list for those days when you complete those ten tasks early. Assign two of those ten tasks as daily objectives and make sure that whatever else happens that day, those two tasks are completed. 

Another way to make this work for you is to stop thinking in terms of days, but rather weeks. Instead of seeing a task as having to be completed on a particular day, think of it as a task that needs to be completed this week. I have found this works brilliantly because it allows greater flexibility each day. I often find if I have a meeting or a class cancellation, I can bring forward a task or two from another day that week. It helps lighten my load later in the week. I like to gamify this a little by trying to complete as many tasks as I can early in the week so I can spend Friday afternoon in the park with my little dog. He loves it and I feel fantastic because all the tasks I wanted to complete that week are done and I really enjoy that time the little one and I spend together. 

I recently did a video explaining my system and I will put a link to that in the show notes. It shows how I have this set up in my to-do list manager of choice, Todoist and how I use the new pinned favourites feature to really make this workflow work for me. 

Before we finish, Just want to let you all know I have a new goal planning course out, The Ultimate Goal Planning Course, and it is a course created to help you to discover what it is you want to achieve and show you, step by step how to make those goals happen. This course has an early-bird discount offer if just $14.99 which will end on Thursday 7th June, so get yourself enrolled before then to take advance of this wonderful offer.

Thank you to Biraj and Simon for the question and thank you all for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering on this show, please email me, or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be delighted to answer your question. All the links are in the show notes.

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 28 | Coping With Crises And Remaining Productive

May 28, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about dealing with major and minor crises disrupting your plans for the day.

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about dealing with major and minor crises disrupting your plans for the day.

Hello and welcome to episode 28 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 what to do when no matter how well you plan the day, crises of one form or another regularly interrupt your best plans and leave you feeling busy but not really knowing what you have accomplished for the day. 

Before we get into this week’s question I’d just like to remind you if you have a question you’d like answering in this show, please get in touch via email, Twitter or Facebook (or LinkedIn for that matter) and I will be happy to answer your question. Also, if you haven’t enrolled in my FREE online course; The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System, then please do so and don’t forget to share the course with as many people you know so together we can help a million people to discover the benefits of an organised and productive life. 

Okay, into this week’s question, so 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 Keith in Ireland. Keith asks: I work in a highly reactive environment where dealing with crises every day is the norm. This means I often do not have time to collect the tasks and just have to get them done leaving me feeling frustrated because I do not know what I have done and I am not able to get the work I want done. Do you have any tips for handling this kind of environment?

Thank you, Keith, for your question. I have noticed a lot of questions about this kind of situation regularly come up on my YouTube channel or in comments on my Medium blog and I understand it can be an incredibly frustrating situation when you want to get yourself better organised and become more productive. 

Okay, there are a few things you can do. 

The first is to not schedule too many tasks on your to-do list in the first place. Now, I know it is much easier to say this than do, but if your days are regularly disrupted by crises, then there really is no point in trying to schedule twenty tasks on your to-do list. The reality is you will never get them done anyway, so not only are you feeling frustrated at not getting the work you want done, you are also wasting a lot of time scheduling those tasks in the first place. It is far better to organise your to-do lists by contexts and work from your lists based on where you are, what tools you have with you and who is with you. In a sense, you follow the GTD principles of only scheduling tasks that absolutely must be done on a specific day and at a specific time. 

For example, if you must call your colleague in Galway before lunch-time because she is flying to Geneva at 12pm, you would schedule that call in your calendar or put a date an time on the task in your to-do list manager. At some point you will have to call her before 11:30pm—never call her at 12pm, she has to leave at 12. Calling her then will not make you her most popular person—That gives you 2½ hours between 9:00am and 11:30am to make that call. 

Now in my experience of crises, they often need some form of action immediately, but there are always a few minutes between events unfolding where you have time to make a call. That would be the time you make that call to your colleague. 

Many years ago, I worked in the hotel industry and that is one of the most reactive industries to be in. Guests and customers have a bad habit of asking for things at the most inconvenient of times. And, while to the guest their request may be simple, the reality is I would have to go from one side of the hotel to the other, talk to the chef, and anyone who has experience of the hotel trade in the 1990s with know that most chefs in the 1990s hated everyone who was not a chef and they always had a big knife in their hands. Ask very gently for what I needed and then get back to the other side of the hotel as quickly as possible, Any delay and the guest would be calling reception asking what had happened and then reception would ‘bleep me’ which meant I had to run to reception to find out what they wanted, only to find they wanted to know about something I was already dealing with. And this went on ALL day. 

It left little to no time for doing the work I was employed to do. Back then, GTD had not been invented and I was already writing down on paper (no smartphones back then) the things that had to be done that day and carrying that little notebook with me everywhere I went. 

Every day when I came on shift, I would have a hand-over meeting with my co-worker and he would tell me what he had managed to do that morning or night and what was left to be done. I had to learn very quickly how to prioritise. A meeting scheduled to start at 8:30am in one of our meeting rooms always took priority. Fresh iced water had to placed in the room at exactly the right time. 

What I learned was that as long as I had a list of the things that needed doing that day, I could manage the requests and crises when they came up. I dealt with them, did want needed to be done and carried on getting my work done. Sometimes, a meeting organiser would ask for the tea and coffee to be served an hour earlier. There was often no time for this to be written down on the function sheet, but I made sure I wrote it down in my little notebook. Between all these little jobs, crises and requests I would be referring to my notebook— what needed to be done next? 

The important thing is that the work or task gets done. There is always time at the end of the day to take a breath and reflect on what you had done and what still needed doing. Whenever I finished my shift I had a handover with my colleague and I would go through what was done, what was almost done and what still needed doing. It was a wonderful cycle and I also learnt the importance of working as a team. 

Sometimes there is no time to write down the task. You just have to do the task. Call the right person, email the documents or just go talk to the customer. There is always time afterwards to reflect on what it was and decide whether you need to record what you did somewhere. 

Because of my experiences in the hotel trade, a wonderful trade to be in, by the way, I learnt that long lists of to-dos rarely get done and this leads to frustration and more often than not giving up on trying to be organised. Maintaining as a shorter list of planned to-dos as possible always gave me the best chance of getting what I wanted done and it also meant I learnt the importance of being patience. Small steps each day soon build up to big achievements. 

And this shorter list of planned to-dos also means on those rare quiet days, once you have completed the to-dos you want to do, you can look at your contextual lists and decide what you can do next. There will always be something you can do from what you have planned tomorrow, today and that does keep you moving forward. 

One more thing I learnt in the hotel trade was the ability to anticipate problems. I learnt early on that no matter how well planned you are for something, once that plan meets reality everything changes. It’s like the famous quote “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Or as Mike Tyson put it more eloquently, “we all have a plan until we get punched in the face”. This is the reality of life. As I learnt more about my industry I found it was actually quite easy to anticipate what might go wrong and so I developed methods—templates if you like—for dealing with those issues. I still use that today. Whenever I am scheduled to do a talk I know there are likely to be problems with the IT department not knowing how to connect a Mac to their projector or the power disappears in the middle of my presentation. I make sure I have a PowerPoint copy of my presentation on a USB drive and a PDF print out of my slides in case I have to go without the use of a projector. I haven’t used any of these backups for a very long time, but I know one day it will happen so I prepare myself. Always prepare yourself for the worst happening.

So, the best advice I can give you,Keith, and anyone else who works in a highly reactive industry is carry a little notebook with you where ever you go. If you prefer you can use your phone, but in reactive situations, I have always found the trusty pen and paper is the best way to capture what needs doing and crossing them off when they are done. Expect things to go wrong and keep your scheduled tasks to barest minimum. Work from contexts— the people, place or tools required to do the task— and develop strategies for dealing with the common crises that occur. 

Finally, even if you are not handing over to a colleague at the end of a shift, it is always a good strategy to do a five or ten minute reflection at the end of your working day. Reflect on the things that happened, how you dealt with them and ask yourself if there is anything you can do in the future to either anticipate that kind of crisis or prepare for the crisis happening again so next time you are prepared and can put in place a trusted action plan. 

I hope that helps, Keith and I hope that helps anyone else who works in a very reactive industry. 

Don’t forget to keep your questions coming in. I want to help a million people between now and 2020 to get better organised and become more productive and I can only do that with your help. Please spread the word, share this podcast, share my blog posts, YouTube videos and share my online courses with anyone you feel will benefit from learning more about the wonderful benefits of being productive. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 27 | Finding Time To Work On Your Goals

May 21, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about finding time to achieve your goals.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

Script

Hello and welcome to episode 27 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 week’s show, I answer a wonderful question about finding the time to work on your goals when you have a full-time job and little spare time in the evenings and at weekends. 

Don’t forget, if you have a question you would like me to answer then all you need do is email me at carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes.

Oh and I would just like to thank all of you who have enrolled in my recently published new FREE online course; The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System. I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have enrolled and I feel so thankful to be able to help so many people. So a BIG thank you to all you who have enrolled. It really does mean a lot to me. 

Ok, let’s get into this weeks question, so 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 Alana. Alana asks, Carl, I have a lot of goals and plans, but never seem to have time to do anything about them. Is there anything I can do that will help me focus on my goals every day?

Great question Alana and thank you for sending it in.

I think this is a problem many people face when they really want to change their lives, but have work and social commitments that always seem to take up much of their available time each day. I know I have struggled with this in the past. 

The thing is if your goals are important enough to you, then you will always find a way. If what you want, and your reasons for wanting it is strong enough, finding the time usually comes naturally. Whenever I am working with a client and I see they always have an excuse for not doing anything towards achieving their goals, I always ask them about the reason they want to achieve that particular goal— what we call “their why”— most of the time I find their reason for wanting to achieve the goal is not personal enough. 

What I mean by that is if the reason you want to achieve something is to impress your boss or impress your family and friends, then the reason for doing it is not for you. Sure, if you do achieve the goal, people might go “WOW!” for a few minutes, but then your achievement will be quickly forgotten. If, however, your reason for achieving the goal is deeply personal, then when you do achieve the goal, the feeling of accomplishment and achievement lasts much longer and always inspires you to set yourself another, more ambitious goal. It becomes a beautiful cycle of achievement. 

Let’s take an example. Let’s say you have always wanted to build your very own application. You want to create a note taking app that you believe will be the best in the market. That’s a good starting point, but the next question you need to answer is “why? Why do you want to build this app? Now, there could be a number of reasons. Reasons such as you have never been able to find a note taking app that works for you and you want to build one, it could be because you love building things or it could be because you really want to start your own business. All of these are good, valid reasons. Get these reasons written down underneath your goal. 

Your reasons are your motivation. Almost everyone I know would love to be a millionaire. I’m sure you would too. The reason most people will never become a millionaire is that their “why” is not strong enough and not personal enough. Building your own app, losing weight, becoming a millionaire is easy, but the process of building, losing or becoming any of these things is hard. Often very hard. Losing weight is a great example. Most people make a decision to lose weight just after they have eaten a very large Sunday dinner and finished that off with a ginormous helping of chocolate fudge cake Hmmmm. As they sit down after eating, they look down at their stomach and see this bloated beachball of a stomach and say “I must lose some weight”.

Well, when you are full it IS easy to decide to lose some weight. But what about the next day. You eat a banana for breakfast and you have a salad for lunch. How do you feel at 4pm? You’re very hungry. Now, how easy is it to maintain a diet? Not so easy. Past experience has taught me ignoring hunger pangs is incredibly difficult and if someone comes round to your table with a packet of biscuits (cookies to my American friends) how easy is it to say “no” now? This is why your “why” has to be strong and has to be personal. 

I say “personal” because often we think we have a strong “why”, but the “why is someone else’s why. A great example of this is when we visit our doctor for a checkup and the doctors tell you you need to lose a little weight. Sure, losing weight might be good for your long-term health, but what if you are happy with your weight and you don’t see it as a problem? Here we have a situation where the goal is clear - lose some weight, but the motivation to lose weight is not strong. You are not going to lose weight. The why is some else’s why. 

When you have a clear goal, and a strong, personal why, finding the time to do something with the goal is much easier. But before you can go about achieving the goal you need tasks that will help you to achieve it. Let’s take the note-taking app goal. To create an app of any kind involves a lot of steps. It is not just about writing the code. You need to think about the design, the colours the features and interface. You also need to start building the code. If you have no idea how to code, then you need to start learning how to code. There are many steps. This is great because there will be a mixture of big and small tasks. Tasks that will take many hours and tasks that will only take a few minutes. Get these all written down somewhere. In a task management app, a notes app or a notebook and paper. Just get them all written down. 

Okay, I know this is a very long way round to answering your question Alana, but the truth is, unless your goals are set properly, they are crystal clear, have a strong why and have a precise deadline, you will never find the time to do anything about them because there will always be something else that seems more important than your goals. Once you have your goals set up strongly, then you will find it much easier to motivate yourself to find the time. 

I have found in the past if I am trying to achieve a personal goal when I am working it can be very difficult to motivate myself to spend time working on the personal goal once I finish work. A few years ago when I decided to take part in the ChunCheon Marathon here in Korea, I found it incredibly difficult to find the time to do the running to prepare for the marathon. What really helped was my desire to prove to myself that although it had been ten years since I had run a marathon, I could still do it even though I was now in my forties. So when I came home after a long day of teaching and it was pouring with rain outside, all I had to do was remind myself of my reason for running the marathon and I soon found I was dressed in my running gear and heading out the door for a run. It really does come down to your reasons why you want to achieve the goal. 

Another way to keep yourself moving forward with your goals is to schedule time each day to work on the goals. Don’t go mad here, just allocate time between say, 9:00pm and 9:30pm to work on your goal. It could be doing some research if you are very tired or it could be writing code, running, doing yoga or any number of things. All you need to do is refer to your list of tasks the night before, choose one task that you will complete the next day and write it down on your to-do list or calendar. The very act of choosing the task, writing it down and having a set time for you to work on the goal will be enough to motivate yourself to get it done. I have a set time each day between 10:30pm and 11pm to study something. It could be anything, a TED talk, a motivational video on YouTube or some reading research. All that matters is I do some learning each day as that is a goal for me. To learn something each day that improves my life and my skills. I have been doing this for over four months now and it is surprisingly easy to sit down at 10:30pm and get started. 

Of course, there are the elements of PACT. Patience, Action, Consistency and Time. When you throw these into the mix you really are setting yourself up for success. To build an app, lose weight run a marathon, they all require patience. You need patience because none of these will happen overnight. Likewise, if you are not taking any action, consistently over a period of time you are never going to reach the finish line of any of your goals. You have got to make a “PACT” with yourself and make it happen. 

The truth is we all think we are busy. But busy is just a state of mind. Sure you might have a lot of things to do each day, but we also have the same time each day—24 hours— and what we do with most of those hours is entirely up to us. Prioritising the things that are important to us, should always be at the top of our lists and pre-planning what we will do, the night before when you do the Golden 10 minutes, and committing yourself to doing those tasks is the only way you are going to make it happen. There are no substitutes or quick fixes. You just have to do whatever it takes to make it happen and we all have that ability. Whether we choose to use that ability really does come down to us and our motivation for doing whatever it is we want to do.  Which is why having the right “why” for doing achieving your goals is so vital. 

I hope that answers your question, Alana and thank you for sending in your question. Thank you all for listening to this show, please subscribe to the show so you can have each episode delivered automatically to whatever app you are using to listen to podcasts. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 26 | To Treat Work & Personal Tasks Differently?

May 14, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about work and personal tasks.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Hello and welcome to episode 26 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 fantastic question about dealing with work and personal tasks and whether or not these should be treated differently. It’s a question I am frequently asked on my YouTube channel about the Your Digital Life 2.0 system and so I thought this podcast would be a great place to answer the question. 

Before we get into this weeks question, I want to let you guys know I have just launched a brand new FREE beginners guide. This online course is a little under 1 hour long and is an update to my other FREE beginners guide to getting your self better organised and more productive. This new course gives you the building blocks for building your very own productivity system. It is just an outline but is packed full of useful tips and tricks. So, if you are new to productivity and time management and want to build your very own system, then this course should really help you to start off with the right tools and mindset. The link to the course is in the show notes for you. 

And one more thing. This new course is the start of a new project. PROJECT 1 MILLION. This is all about me helping one million people by 2020 to find the benefits of becoming better at time management and more productive so they can enjoy their lives stress-free with better health and better relationships with the people that matter to them. More details of this project will be coming out over the next few weeks, but if you like what I do, then please share my podcast, blog posts, videos and all the other content I produce with as many people as you can so together we can help the people in our lives discover the amazing benefits of getting organised. 

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

This week’s question comes from Joshua and Joshua asks: Do you separate your work tasks from your personal tasks or do you treat all tasks the same? 

Thank you, Joshua, for the question. 

This question is often asked of me and I can answer it simply. I treat all tasks the same. To me, a task is a task and just needs doing. It does not matter whether it is a work task or a personal task. 

Many years ago, I did try and separate the different tasks. And a few years ago it was actually quite easy to separate work and personal tasks because I worked in an office with set hours and my mobile phone had no email. But then came along the iPhone and other smart phones and now email is with me 24 hours a day and my clients and students don’t think twice about messaging me late in the evening to let me know about a meeting reschedule or asking me to check something. 

This meant that it became very impractical to try and separate the two types of tasks so I just decided to treat all tasks the same. If a task needs doing and I have the right device or tool with me, then I just get it done. This has meant that I have fewer decisions to make over all. The only decision I need to make now is “what can I do next based on where I am, who I am with or what tools I have with me?” I no longer need to think whether I am in work mode or personal mode. All modes are the same. 

An example of this was last week. Usually, I take Friday nights off and just relax in front of the TV. But I was going away on a trip last weekend, so around 10 pm I sat down at my computer and did a couple of hours work. Because I no longer distinguish between work and personal time, I had the freedom to just get on with some work. It meant I was not stressed at all on Friday. I was not rushing to get my work finished before 6pm, I just had a normal day and decided I would do some of my work tasks after I had had dinner and watched a little TV. 

And that’s the problem with drawing hard lines between your work life and personal life. It just causes unnecessary stress. Of course, you do need to maintain some balance, but when you try and only do your work tasks Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm and only do personal tasks in the evenings and at weekends, something is going to break. You have no flexibility. And when you have no flexibility your stress levels will increase and you will start missing deadline on important work or you will not achieve the quality you want to achieve. Work related issues will be on your mind on a Sunday evening but because of your strict lines, you will not allow yourself to do anything about it. That to me is avoidable stress. If something’s on your mind and you have the time and are in the right place with the right tool, then just get it done. Don’t worry yourself about when you are doing it. Just get it done. It’s a lot less stressful to think like that rather than trying to erect un-natural barriers. 

If you have a free Sunday evening and there’s nothing else to do, why not start doing some of those work related tasks? Same works for Friday afternoon in the office. If you have all your work done and there are a few things you want to buy online, then just go ahead and place those orders. These are tasks on your to-do list anyway and it really shouldn’t matter when you get them done. The only thing that matters is you get them done. 

Sometimes we over complicate things when we put up unnecessary barriers. I know it always sounds great when people tell us they don’t do anything related to their work after 6 pm or at weekends. The thing is the effort required to not think about or do anything related to our work at home or not do anything related to our personal lives at work, just doesn’t seem worth it to me. 

There are times when I will just shut off the work tasks of course. For example when going away on holiday. I remove the dates from my work tasks in my to-do list manager so they do not show up in my daily lists. But as I run my own business, I do need to keep an eye on my email in case there are any emergencies brewing or I need to reply to a client. But on the whole, I do not separate anything in my daily lists. Personal and business routines are all in the same project folder called “routines” and my Areas of Focus projects are a mix of personal and business. These are just placeholders anyway as the tasks I want to complete on certain days will come up in my daily lists as and when they are due to be done. 

If you really think about it though, tasks naturally fall into place. Your work tasks are generally tasks that can only be done during the so called ‘office hours’ or in the office and your personal tasks can only be done when you are at home or in the evening. This means there really is nothing to be too worried about where you place your routine tasks. As long as you are dating things appropriately and getting tasks done when they should be done—that’s all that matters. You are getting the work done. 

A lot of time when I am asked this question it is in relation to my routines folder in my to-do list manager. In my Your Digital Life 2.0, I advocate that you take all those routines tasks that just have to be done, but do not take your life further forward or help in any way towards achieving your goals—things like take out the garbage or update the weekly sales report—and put them in a folder called “routines” and inside that folder create three sub-projects called “daily”, “weekly” and “monthly” and put all those routines in their relevant folder. This way you can remove these tasks from your daily lists when you are focused on your work and only see them when you need to see them. 

The reason for doing this is because when you look at most people’s to-do lists they are a mix of work and personal tasks, important and not important tasks and as most people tend to pick and choose what tasks to complete based on their mood they end up doing tasks that are not taking their lives further forward or doing anything to achieve their goals. It is far better to see a list of tasks that need doing and are going to take your life further forward and focus you in on the work that matters. Once you have the important tasks done for the day, then you can go into your routines and work on doing the routines that need doing today. 

So there you have it. That’s why I do not keep my work and personal tasks separate. If a task needs doing it needs doing and I do not discriminate between work and personal. All tasks are created equal in my mind. 

Than you again for your question, Joshua. I hope this answers your question. 

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

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 25 | Managing Your Student Life

May 7, 2018

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about managing university life.

Hello and welcome to episode 25 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s show, I answer a question about managing time pressures when you are at university. This comes from a question I asked on Twitter and YouTube a couple of months ago about what difficulties university students face while at university. It’s a great question that touches on quite a lot of time management practices. 

Don’t forget if you have a question you can DM me on Facebook or Twitter or you can do it the old-fashioned way and email me at carl@carlpullein.com

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

This week’s question comes from Antonin, a university student from France

Hi Carl. I’m personally struggling with three points: Living on my own for the first time, I now have to do my own laundry, cooking, cleaning etc which can be very time-consuming. Managing my social life, there are so many people who want to permanently hang out and having to constantly study new topics, prepare for tests and exams and write papers. Do you have any advice on handling all this? 

Thank you, Antonin for such a great question, and a question I think many of my listeners will find similarities with their own life particularly those at university.

Okay, let's get started with priorities. One thing I strongly believe in is people should not have to sacrifice their social life because of their studies or work. We are human beings living in the twenty-first century. We should not be spending all our time working, studying and doing chores. Life is not about those things alone. We need time to socialise, spend time with our friends and university particularly is a time when we build friendships that will last a lifetime. So, time spent socialising needs to built into our schedules. 

But, the main purpose of being at university is to get out with a degree. So this needs to be addressed first. 

Your most powerful weapon with all of this is going to be your calendar. You will also need to practice “what’s on my calendar gets done” This is vital if you are going to manage all your commitments, obligations and get your coursework and test and exam preparation done on time and to a high degree of quality. Your calendar is non-negotiable and must be done when you assign the time to do it. Of course, you can build flexibility into it, after all, you are in control of your calendar… I hope! 

My advice here is at the start of the semester take your class schedule, exam periods and assignment due dates and get them into your calendar first. You should be doing this before you do anything else. These ‘events’ need to be built into your calendar because your lectures, meetings with professors, exam dates and assignment due dates are non-negotiable. The good thing about being at university is that these events are usually on a subscribable calendar you can subscribe to so, adding these dates to your calendar should be as easy as simply subscribing to your course’s calendar. If you cannot subscribe, then you will have to manually enter them. The advantage of manually entering the dates is you have control over them. When you subscribe to a calendar you have no control. So the choice is yours.

Once you have these events on your calendar, look for assignment due dates and the exam period. Now depending on how much time you want to prepare for these events, block off time leading up to them for revision and writing. When I was at university I began my revision for exams six weeks before the exam week. So for me it would be simply blocking time off for revising six weeks out from the exam period and reducing my social life for that period. 

For assignments and tests, you again can decide how long you want to prepare for these and block off the appropriate time. What you are doing is making sure before you put anything else on to your calendar you are taking care of your university work first. That, of course, is the main priority. 

Now, when I was at university our first semester began at the beginning of October and ended the end of January. There were no exams in that period, but we did have three written assignments to complete by the end of the first week of January. This essentially gave me plenty of time to enjoy freshers week and spend time socialising before beginning my written assignments from the middle of November. My aim was to get the first drafts written by 20 December, where I could take a week off, enjoy time with my family over the Christmas holidays and then get back to finalising my assignments from the 27th December. This gave me around 10 days to do nothing but finalise my assignments before their due dates. It also allowed me time to enjoy the new year festivities and still have plenty of time to get the final drafts completed.

This was all possible because I used my calendar to schedule the time required to get these important assignments completed. 

I followed the same routine when it came to preparing for my exams. I would go into lockdown during the week. But, and this was important. Every Friday and Saturday night I made sure I went out with my friends. Friday night was rugby night where we went to watch Leeds Rhinos when they played at home and then out for a few beers afterwards. Saturday was “Top Banana Night” at the Town & Country nightclub in Leeds. This was where they played nothing but eighties classics and was a fantastic night out. Seriously, the eighties had some awesome dance music! I should point out I was at university in the late 1990s, so going to club that only played eighties music was out of this world. 

After finishing at the club my friends and I would stop off at the Rajput Indian restaurant for a curry before heading home… Usually in a not too good a state. However, Sunday afternoon was back to studying… Often with a banging headache. 

The thing is, if I were to lock myself away seven days a week to study, I would have gone mad and the quality of my studying would have suffered. Our brains need a rest and Friday and Saturday nights were a great way to get out, let my hair down (what I had left of it) and just enjoy myself. It always helped me to get back to my studies refreshed and ready to start again. These nights were scheduled in my calendar.

As for doing the household chores here, you need to be a bit strategic. If you assign a cleaning up day once or twice a week you are going to spend too much time cleaning and tidying up. It is far better to do a little often. I usually did my cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping in between my studying. I would study for a couple hours, and then spend twenty minutes or so cleaning something up. Doing the dishes, doing the laundry or vacuuming my house. That physical work would give my brain a break and household chores are not brain taxing, so they were a great way to give myself a rest and keep myself on top of my cleaning. The funny thing is, I still do that now. It worked so well when I was at university, I carried the practice on once I entered the workforce. 

Now for managing the work you need to do for your individual classes, here I would use a good to-do list manager. What you can do is create projects for the different courses you are taking and put the work related to those courses on your to-do list. The thing here is you have a list of all the work that needs doing. You can see what needs doing and you can collect all the work your professors give you straight into your to-do list manager. I would recommend Todoist for this as it is very easy to use and the free version would do the trick perfectly. If you want to upgrade to the premium version of Todoist it is not too expensive at $28.99 per year. But, the upgrade is not essential for your university life. Just being able to organise your to-dos into projects would be enough to keep you on track with the various assignments, essays and test prep you have. You can also add a project for your domestic routines, the cleaning, the laundry etc. 

What your to-do list manager does is maintain the micro level tasks for you. Your calendar works on the macro level. So your calendar will say “work on Biology assignment” and your to-do list will tell you exactly what needs doing such as “edit intro” or “add-in results excel file”. This really does work well and prevents you having to waste time trying to decide what you need to do next. 

If you want to learn more about getting the most out of your to-do list manager and calendar, I have a FREE online course called, The Beginners Guide To Getting Organised you can take. This is a 45-minute intro to getting yourself better organised and will help you to understand the basics better. If you are ready to go to the next level of productivity, I do have my latest course, Your Digital Life 2.0 Online available which will really take you to the next level of productivity and time management. 

Hopefully, that has helped, Antonin. I also hope this has helped all of you who are struggling to manage their daily work or student life as well as their family and friends commitments. Remember, no matter how busy you are, you should not be sacrificing your social life completely. Sure, you may need to reduce it a little from time to time for busy periods, but you should not be sacrificing it completely. No matter how busy you are, you do need to take some time off. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Contact me at any time if you have any questions and I will answer them as soon as I can so we can help as many people as possible get control of their time and their life. 

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

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 24 | Finding Time To Rest And Relax

April 30, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about rest and relaxation.

Links:

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The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Hello and welcome to episode 24 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, it’s time to take a rest, well okay maybe not for me, but this week’s question is all about the importance of being well rested so you can get the important work done. 

Before we get into the question, if you have a question about productivity, time management, goal planning and getting the important things done, then please get in touch either by email or by DMing on Twitter or Facebook. I will be more than happy to answer your questions. 

And one more thing, for those of you enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I have now released the second supplemental class which you can watch right now. In this class, I take you through how I do my Golden 10 every evening. 

Okay, let's get it to the question, so it is now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question…

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

Hi Carl, I have a real problem with taking rest at the right times. I am a graduate student and when I am under pressure writing my assignments and other university work, I find I always sit down to write when I am tired. Do you have any tips on getting the right amount of rest and doing work when I am not tired?

Thank you, Sander, for your wonderful question. 

One of the most important things you can do is to analyse when you at your most effective. On this everybody is different. Some people do their best work in the mornings, others find the afternoons or evenings are best for them. There really is no standard here. What you need to do is to analyse yourself for a few days and see when you feel most alert.

The funny thing here is even if you believe you are a night person, you may find you do your best work in the morning. I found that out. I have always been a bit of a night owl and so I naturally thought I would do my best, creative work in the evenings. This was not true. I discovered that the best times of the day for me to write or create something was between 8:30am and 12:00pm. After lunch, I find it is very difficult to remain focused on a single piece of work. I find the evenings are the best time for me to study something or read a book. The afternoons are disaster zones for me. So, I schedule my exercise for the afternoons and after dinner, I do my basic admin tasks and learn something.

I started a new routine this year to study something every evening between 10:30 and 11pm. This studying can be anything I am in the mood for. So for example, after reading about Elon Musk’s passion for going to Mars, I spent a whole week watching videos and reading about Mars. Likewise a few weeks ago I went through many of Robin Sharma’s Mastery series of videos. Originally I was going to do this Sunday to Thursday and give myself Friday and Saturday nights off. However, I am enjoying it so much, I now do it 7 days week and the notes I write as I learn go straight in to my journal. My journal is filling up with so much valuable learning. It’s great fun and incredibly educational. 

What you can learn from this is that once you have found when you do you best work you can then schedule the work around it. You can do this even if you work a traditional nine til five office job. If you find you do your most creative work in the mornings, then schedule creative work for mornings. Resist any meetings if you can and just focus on the work. If, like me, you find afternoons are difficult to focus, then you can do basic admin tasks, return phone calls and reply to emails in the afternoons. The non-creative tasks that just need doing. 

There is something else I have learned over the years. Take a nap in the afternoon. I learnt this from Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill was famous for taking naps every afternoon. He would retire to his bedroom around 3PM and sleep until 5PM. Now, I know not many of us could get away with sleeping for ninety minutes every afternoon, but just twenty minutes can do the trick. Winston Churchill said that by taking a nap every afternoon he could get a day and a half’s worth of work done every day, and Winston Churchill was a prodigious producer of work. He wrote around 33 books in 51 volumes, he was always writing articles and he was the Prime Minister of the Britain for a total of ten years. He had time to write, paint, be a politician and have two hour lunches and 3 hour dinners. And we complain about not having enough time to socialise! He socialised for 5 hours every day, had time to nap for 90 minutes and still got a huge amount of work done without the aid of a single computer. 

There is definitely something in taking a nap every day. I try to have a nap for 30 minutes every afternoon. I know I am lucky, I have complete control of my schedule, but you should try it if you can. It certainly boosts your creative energies and helps you get through the day. 

The funny thing about taking naps every day is I found out that Ian Fleming, the creator and author of the James Bond novels, also used to take naps in the afternoon. Fleming would write between 8am and 12pm every day for six to eight weeks as he wrote a book. He would then have lunch and afterwards, take a nap. He would return to writing around 4pm and work until 6pm when he would stop for dinner and socialising. There seems to be a connection between taking naps and socialising every day and pushing out a huge volume of work. If you can you should try it. 

The thing is, if you are serious about getting your important work done then you need to find out when you are at your most creative. Experiment with different times of the day and once you know when you are at your most energetic and can easily move into your focus zone start using your calendar to schedule you most difficult, creative work at those times in your calendar. If necessary, talk to your boss about this. I have found if you have a good boss and they are understanding they will help you. Your boss wants you to be doing your best work every day, so they are going to want to help you. I find most people never talk to their bosses about this because they don’t think their boss will understand and end up blaming them for not being able to get their work done. If it’s an issue, talk to your boss! 

Your calendar is really the most powerful tool you have for getting you motivated to do the right work at the right time. I schedule all my writing tasks in my calendar because that’s when I need to be at my most focused. I also schedule my workouts and other important work in my calendar because I have a very important rule: If it’s on my calendar, it gets done.  That rule enables me to treat my calendar as my time manager. It only allows me to schedule work over a period of 24 hours. This prevents me from over-scheduling and helps me to make sure I am getting enough rest between heavy workload sessions. By that I mean if I have scheduled a big writing session between 8am and 12pm, I know not to schedule more writing for the afternoon. If I did, I would not get much quality writing done and it would be a waste of time. I would be much better scheduling some physical work instead, such as a workout or house work. Then early evening, I could do some more writing work. My brain would be well rested and ready to attack another session of writing. 

Over the years I have learnt that by doing a weekly review on a Sunday I can see the big picture of the work I want to get done for the following week. This allows me to schedule sessions of work throughout the week based on my appointments and where I need to be on specific days. So, if I were trying to finish the preparation for an online course, I would look at my calendar for the following week and find the time where I will be able to sit down in a morning and do the outline and preparation. I would also be looking at my calendar for times when I could do the recording of the course and all the other parts involved in developing a big project like this. It’s my calendar that helps me to know when a project like this can be completed by. My to-do list manager only tells me what needs doing next. It does not tell me how much time each piece of work will take, or how much time I have to complete a piece of work. My advice is use your calendar strategically. It can really help you to make sure you are getting the important work done. 

Hopefully, that has given you a few ideas to work with Sander. Remember, the best thing you could do right now is to figure out when you are at your most creative. Once you know that, you can utilise the power of your calendar to make sure you are doing your important work at those times every day. Even thirty minutes are better than no minutes. 

Thank you very much for listening to this show. If you liked what you heard, please share it with as many people as you can. I want to help as many people as I can to become super-productive and get their best work done. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 23 | Choosing The Right Productivity Apps For You.

April 23, 2018

Podcast 23

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

SCRIPT

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about choosing the right productivity app for you.

Hello and welcome to episode 23 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s show I answer a question on the thorny issue of apps and which app is best for becoming more productive. I am being very brave here as this is something that can generate a lot of emotions and loyal support for one app over another. But, I am brave and if nothing else, at least I can give my view on this topic.

Before we get into the question, though, let me remind you, you can ask me anything about productivity, time management, goal planning or self development. All you have to do is send me a DM on Twitter or Facebook or email me at carl@carlpullein.com. All the links are in the show notes. 

Okay, now 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 Sergey. Sergey asks: Carl, I’ve been following you for a while now and I was wondering if you have any recommendations for the best apps I can use to get myself more productive. 

Thank you Sergey for your question and for putting me in the deep end. 

The advice I always give to people who are starting out of the journey of getting themselves more productive and better at time management is to use the built in apps on the device you have. That means if you are using an iPhone, then I would always recommend you use Apple’s Reminders, Calendar and Notes apps. These apps are built in and are free. They are all supported by iCloud, which you also get for free (to start with) and it allows you time to find out what works best for you. Likewise, if you are in the Android or Windows ecosystem, both Google and Microsoft provide to-do lists, calendars and notes apps for free with their services. 

What you need to focus on is finding out what works for you. Not necessarily the apps, but the framework and system you build. The truth is, being more productive and better at time management is not really about the apps. Getting better at productivity and time management is about the framework you put in place. A great framework or system would work even if you were using s simple pen and paper. That to me has always been the goal. If I lost all my technology tomorrow, could I reproduce my system using a simple spiral-bound notebook and a pen? If the answer is no, then it means my system is too complex. And that really should be where you begin. With pen and paper. 

I put together a free online course designed to help you get started with becoming more productive, and that course will give you the basic framework. If you want to take your productivity and time management to the next level there is also my latest course—Your Digital Life 2.0. A course designed to give the complete framework to a fantastic digital system. Even though I am a huge fan of Todoist, in both those courses I do not recommend any specific app because apps are always a personal choice. Each one of us are looking for something different. I want something that is simple and easy to collect stuff when it occurs to me, I know other people who like apps that are feature rich and offers a lot of options. In this field the choice is yours. 

There are of course a few things you should always be aware of when you are ready to go into the third party productivity apps world. A lot of apps appear, look great and promise a lot of things, but after a few years they go out of business or get bought out by one of the big tech companies (I’m thinking Wunderlist and Sunrise here). When that happens your whole system can be destroyed overnight or just stops working. That really is the danger of seeking out only free apps. Apps that are free are often looking to be bought by a big tech company (what we call their exit strategy) while there is nothing wrong with this business model, it can leave users high and dry if either they do not attract a big tech company or the big tech company absorbs their technology into their own. This is why I have no problem investing money in the best productivity apps because I know I am investing in something that gives me a huge return on that investment. Todoist costs me around $30.00 per year and I know that the fantastic people at Doist, the company that develops Todoist, uses my $30.00 to make sure I have an app that works, is not going to disappear over night and serves me brilliantly. The same goes for Evernote. I pay for the premium version of Evernote which is about $50.00 per year. The cost of that is nothing compared to the value I get out of Evernote every single day. 

Of course, it could be argued that Microsoft’s OneNote and Apple’s Notes are better value because they are free and it is very unlikely they will disappear overnight. I would agree. But I’ve been using Evernote for close to ten years now and I know it intimately and it has never let me down. I should point out that both OneNote and Notes are fantastic apps and if I were starting out from fresh again, I might have chosen one of those apps. 

Another thing you should be very careful of are apps that try and do everything. Apps that have a calendar, notes and to-do list built in for example. I have tried many of these apps over the years and have found they end up compromising features and it can become extremely frustrating. Another thing you should watch out for are feature rich apps. I know they are very tempting because it allows you to play around with settings, colours and layouts and so much more. The problem here is that temptation to play around with the settings means you are not actually doing any work that matters. I recently tried out Notion 2 and it was a joy. There were so many things I could do. I accidentally ended up playing around with it for a whole afternoon. That evening I deleted the app simply because I knew if I used Notion 2 I would NEVER get any work done because there would always been another way to show me what I needed to do and review and that temptation to play would be irresistible. Fortunately, painful past experience has taught me to stay away from apps that have too many features and view options. I play and the temptation to play always beats me. You, of course, may be different. 

In my experience though, the simpler the app, the more likely it is going to work for you. I’ve tried many of the more complicated apps and none of them have helped me get the important work done. One app I loved was Omnifocus. The issue I had with Omnifocus was with the perspectives. This gave me far too much freedom to play around and try and find the ‘perfect’ views. The truth is, there are no ‘perfect’ views. The only view you need to see in your to-do list manager is the view that tells you what you need to work on right now given the place you are in, the tools you have with you and the people or person you are with and any app, with the ability to show you lists based on your context (the place, tool or person you need to complete the task) will do that. 

And that really is the point here. No app is going to be perfect for everyone. What you need to look for, Sergey, is an app that focuses your attention on getting the important work done and disappears into the background when you are doing the focused work. A good to-do list manager does make it easy to collect stuff, but apart from that it needs to be in the background waiting for you to decide you want to do the next piece of work. And this is why so many people still use the trusty pen and paper. Pen and paper does just that. You can move it away when you are doing the important work and you can move it back when you are ready to see what needs doing next. 

Remember, the amount of work you do and the quality of that work is not affected by the to-do list, calendar or notes app you use. Your work and the quality of that work is affected by you, your mood, your energy level and the amount of focus you put in to that work. So my advice is focus more on your system, and when you feel your system works seamlessly, then, and only then, begin your search for apps that will support that system. Your framework and your system comes first, apps are secondary. 

I hope that answers your question Sergey, apologies if I didn’t recommend any specific app. Every one is different and the best apps for me, are not necessarily going to be the best apps for you. 

Thank you very much for listening to this podcast. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer, get in touch and you too could have your question answered on this show. 

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

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 22 | Morning And Evening Routines.

April 16, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about creating a morning and evening routine. 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Script

In this week’s episode of the Working With… Podcast, I answer a question about creating a morning and evening routine. 

Hello and welcome to episode 22 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a question about morning and evening routines. To me, these two things you do every day are the foundations of building a fantastic day. And when you string together fantastic individual days you very soon start building a fantastic life.

Before we get to the answer, don’t forget you can ask me anything about productivity, time management and goal planning, all you have to do is send your question either by email or by Dming me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes. And don’t forget, if you are serious about getting yourself better organised and more productive, then take a look at my latest online course, Your Digital Life 2.0 Online. A course that will give you the know-how and framework to build your very own, bullet proof productivity system. So go on and invest in yourself and get yourself enrolled.

Ok, now 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 Laura. Laura asks: I really want to get myself organised and I think the best way would be to give myself a morning and evening routine. What do you suggest would be the best way to go about this? 

Thank you Laura for your great question. 

I would agree with you that setting up a couple of daily routines will help you to get yourself organised because it is the routines and the habits we do every day that takes us towards achieving the goals and plans we have set for ourselves. Most people drift through their lives and never really achieve anything. By having a plan in place and a set routine that takes you closer each day towards achieving those goals, you will start seeing some huge improvements in your life. 

The best way to get this mini-project started is to make a list of all the things you would like to do each day. Don’t worry at this stage when you will do them, just concentrate on listing out the things you would like to do each day. I would go for list of say ten to twelve things. This way you can divide the list up into what you would like to do in the morning and what you would like to do in the evening. One thing that should be on your list is “plan tomorrow” this is one thing that does need to go on your evening routine. Planning your day the night before allows you to have a better nights sleep because you know exactly what you will be focussing your energies on the next day. It also allows you to make sure you are getting the important things done each day. You do not want to be wasting your freshest hours of the day making plans and deciding what you want to do. 

Once you have made your list of ten to twelve things and have added “plan tomorrow” to your evening list, go through your list and add the different things to either the morning list of evening list. Try to keep things even. Have 5 or 6 things on your morning list and 5 or 6 things on your evening list. 

Let’s start with the morning routine. Now this depends on what kind of person you are. If you are naturally a morning person and enjoy the early mornings then you can start your routine off by making yourself a cup of your favourite tea of coffee. One of the things I have learnt over the years is if you start your day with a cup of your favourite drink, it lifts your mood immediately. I personally love Starbucks’s Breakfast blend coffee and I make that in a Braun coffee machine. It’s a simple coffee machine, but it brews a gorgeous cup of coffee. That starts my day off wonderfully. 

Now the next step depends on what you want to do. You could start off by meditating for ten minutes, or you could start by writing in your journal. Other things you can do is review your calendar for the day. Reviewing your calendar for the day is different from planning your day. Reviewing is essentially a quick check to see where you need to be and with whom and with what. It is not planning. 

Of course there is always the option to exercise in the morning if you want to build that in to your daily routine. The beauty of building your own morning routine is you can focus on the things you want to focus on before the stresses and strains of the day hit you. I like the Robin Sharma’s 5AM club routine. That is the 20/20/20 twenty minutes exercise, 20 minutes planning and 20 minutes learning. I would adapt the “planning” part to writing in my journal what my hopes and expectations for the day are, but you could also use it to review your goals and internalise your dreams. 

There’s a lot of advice about not checking your email first thing in the morning. I ignore that advice. I never get any ‘bad news’ or demanding emails in the morning, I usually only get news and questions from my students, which I love receiving. So for me, my morning emails are a source of good news and inspiration. But if you do get a lot of work emails in overnight then I would suggest not checking your email as part of your morning routine. 

For me a perfect morning routine would be something like:

  • Make coffee
  • Read through over night emails
  • Review calendar for today
  • Write my hopes and expectations for the day in my journal
  • 15 minutes reading

I am nota morning person as you can probably see.

Now on to the evening routine. This one for me is the most important one. This is where I do my Golden 10 and catch up with messages and admin. I am more of a night person, so sitting down at my desk for an hour to catch up on the day, plan the next day and get everything tidied up is one of my favourite times of the day. But this could easily be the other way round for you if you were a morning person. The key here is that whatever you do as part of your evening routine it makes you feel relaxed and contented. You do not want to be finishing the day feeling stressed. Try to make sure you evening routine leaves you feeling relaxed and ready for the next day. 

This year I began a 30 minutes study period between 10:30pm and 11:00pm Every evening between those times I study something. Usually it is a TED talk, or it could be something inspiring like a Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins talk. Either way I want to feel inspired and learn something new. This has become one of my favourite times of the day. That process of learning and writing what I have learnt into my journal just makes me feel so lucky that we live in such a resourceful world today. 

So for me my evening routine looks like:

  • do today’s admin
  • Reply to all messages
  • write up my thoughts for the day in my journal
  • Do my Golden 10
  • 30 minutes study.

This routine leaves me feeling relaxed and ready for the next day and, for me, is the perfect way to end the day. 

You, of course will be different and you need to build a routine around what you enjoy doing. Both your morning routine and evening routine needs to be something you look forward to. If you do don’t enjoy doing them you will not stick with it. After a few weeks these routines begin to stick and after three months they have become a habit. Once they have become a habit, you will feel very uncomfortable when you do not do them. That is a great sign. 

The thing about morning and evening routines is they have to be what you want to do. You will never get much success if you just copy other peoples. If you don’t journal, that’s okay. Don’t try and start unless you really want to start. Journalling is not for everyone. Likewise if you are not in to exercise, then don’t force yourself to exercise. This is your life, your choices and your goals. They are not anyone elses and you should be proud of what you do. Just build a set of routines that involve you doing what you want to do. 

The only thing I would add to this is that when you do get your morning and evening routines set up and working for you, you start to feel a lot happier. You start to make progress on your goals, if you make sure you do something related to your goals every day, and you start of many more good days than you had before. These routines set you up for a great life and this probably why almost all the successful people in the world have some form of daily routine they follow. Tim Cook wakes up around 3:30am and goes to the gym. Satiya Nadella goes for a run every morning and Tony Robbins has an elaborate breathing and meditation ritual he does every morning. 

So there you go, Laura. Go for it. Create you daily routines and make them a fundamental part of your life. You will never regret it and you will soon find yourself moving a lot closer to achieving the things you want to achieve. 

Thank you very much for listing to this podcast. I hope you got a lot out of it. It just remain for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

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