The Working With… Podcast
How Do I Stop Feeling Busy All The Time?

How Do I Stop Feeling Busy All The Time?

October 18, 2021

Podcast 203

This week, I have a question about how to stop feeling busy all the time

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

 

Download the Annual Planning Template

Evernote link for the Annual Planning Template

More about the Time And Life Mastery Course

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 203 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 203 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

How many times did you say “I’m busy” last week? How many times have you said it today? If you’re like most people probably a lot. Why is that? Why are you so busy? I wonder if you have ever stopped and asked yourself that question. 

The truth is, being busy is just a feeling. It’s not real. We feel busy, but that’s only because we have no idea what needs doing and we just feel there is a lot to do. Now I’m sure those of you listening to this podcast are doing so because you have an interest in being more productive or want to become better at managing your time, so it is likely you have a to-do list too. 

And what do to-do lists do? They show you all the things you haven’t done so that just adds to the feeling of being busy. 

Don’t feel bad. Most people claim to feel busy all the time and there are a lot of things you can do to remove that feeling and to start feeling a lot more positive about your days and to feel much more relaxed and in control. 

Now before we get to that, I want to remind you that we are now well into October and that means it’s the time of year to start thinking about what you would like to accomplish next year. Don’t worry, this is not more to do. This is the fun time of the year where you can let your imagination run wild and create a list of all the things you would like to do and accomplish next year. 

To help you with this, you can listen to last week’s podcast where I go through the four questions and three lists and you can download the Annual Planning Template or Evernote template. It’s all there to help you. 

Remember, this needs to be fun. Don’t put yourself under pressure. Have fun with it, the decision-making time comes later. Right now, you want to open up your mind, let your imagination do what it’s best at—giving you ideas. 

Okay, it's time now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Darius. Darius asks: Hi Carl, I’ve been trying to be more productive and better with my time management for years. I follow you, David Allen and Thomas Frank and you all have such great ideas. But even though I read all the books and watched the videos, I still feel so busy every day. I never have time to do anything I want because when I finish work I am so exhausted. What do you do to stop being busy every day? 

Hi Darius, thank you for your question. 

Well, the first thing to do is to stop using the phrase “I’m busy”. It’s not true because as I said, being busy is just a feeling. It’s like being angry or bored. It’s just a feeling. It’s a state of mind constructed by your brain and it is not a very helpful state. 

The problem with using a phrase like “I’m busy” is you condition your brain to start believing it to be true and then on those days when you don’t have very much to do, your brain will keep telling you you’re busy, so you start to feel busy when in reality you have nothing to do. So make a commitment to yourself to stop using “I’m busy” today. 

Instead, make a joke out of it. Laugh at all the things you think you have to do. That way you retrain your brain to put you in a better state. A state of readiness to deal with whatever needs dealing with. 

Okay, once you’ve stopped using that phrase—which after all was just a lie you told yourself right?—we can start developing some strategies that will put you in control of what you do each day. 

First up is to make sure you have a plan for the day. Now, in the perfect world, you would do that before you finish the previous day. But failing that, make sure before you start your day, write down the two to three things you must do today. These are the big things that will move things forward whether that be a project at work or one of your goals or to spend some quality time with your loved ones. 

Having a plan for the day will help keep you focused on what is important that day. The trouble is, you see, we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? No matter how well we construct our days, unexpected events and crises will always come up. A traffic accident may cause you to arrive at work late, your internet could go down or a customer calls you with a big issue. None of these can be planned for and are likely to derail your day. 

By having just two or three big things you want to complete that day, you will have the flexibility to manage any of these unexpected events. 

You see, most people’s problems start with their to-do list. Having twenty to thirty things on there without any form of prioritisation, is going to leave you feeling you have no time to deal with these inevitable events. And yet, the majority of the things you have on your to-do list will not be important. They might be nice to do, but they won’t move anything important forward. They are just the “busy-work” tasks we like to think are important, but are not really. 

Let’s imagine your role at work is in business development. Bringing in new business is part of your core work. To do that you need to make sure prospective new business or clients are sent a proposal. So, if your target is to submit five proposals each week, these will always be your priority for the week. Following up on those proposals will also form part of your core work, so you need to schedule enough time each week to write the proposals and follow up on submitted proposals. So, you could block two hours each day for proposal writing and an hour for following up on submitted proposals. That’s just three hours a day. 

For your planning, you start the day with a clear objective to write one proposal and follow up on three submitted proposals. You need to know who you will be writing the proposal for and who you will be following up before you start the day. 

Now, remember, this is your core work. It’s what you are paid to do. So this is the work that gets prioritised. Arranging your next holiday or scheduling a meeting with your team, is not a priority. These tasks can be done if and when you have time in between doing your core work. 

Now, remember, if you are doing your core work each day and it becomes almost automatic, you will immediately stop feeling busy. You will be very clear about what needs doing and you get it done. It becomes non-negotiable and when you do that, your important work is getting done every day. 

The great thing about this is that the more you do it, the more efficient you get at doing it. Which means you will need less and less time to do it. That frees up more time to do some of those less important tasks. 

Which leads me nicely to the next strategy. In any successful business its results that matter, not obedience. Now that does not mean you break laws and rules, what it means is if you need to spend an extra thirty minutes on doing work that will get the result you are employed to get, then not responding to a message from your boss or client for thirty minutes will not matter. 

If you are getting the results, no boss is ever going to be upset with you. You get results. That’s what matters. 

So, what can you do that will get you the results you want? Thinking about doing something will never get results. If you want to do a great presentation on Friday, setting aside time to prepare properly will get you the result. Finding excuses about how busy you are will not. 

The same goes for starting a blog or podcast. Thinking about doing it will never get you the result you want. You get the result by writing a blog post or recording a podcast and publishing it. Telling yourself you are too busy to spend time writing or recording is just giving yourself an excuse. The question to ask yourself is: what are you busy doing? And, is what you think you have to do more important than your future goal to be a blogger or podcaster? 

So, before you start the week, spend some time thinking about what results you want from the week. And as you start each day, ask yourself: what result do I want from today? When I started today, I wrote down the results I wanted:

I wanted to write this week’s blog post, learning note, and podcast script. I also wanted to interview a friend of my wife’s for an assignment I need to complete for a course I am taking and to exercise. 

Now there are a few other things I would like to do today, but my writing, completing the assignment, and exercise are the results I want from today and as long as I do those, I will have had a great day.

And that’s the way I see my day. Writing, interviewing, and exercise. Three things. I’ve almost completed my writing targets today, I did the assignment interview over lunch and I will be exercising once I have finished my writing. If I broke all that down into little steps, my list would be huge. It would give the illusion I was busy, but I have enough time to do everything I want to accomplish today and more. I am not busy, I am focused on getting the most important work done and that is the result I want today and I will get it.

The way to stop feeling busy is to shift your mindset from tasks to results. Do you have ten calls to make today? Then make it a part of the result you want today to do those ten calls. Don’t treat them as ten different tasks. Think of it as one task to complete ten calls. Do you want to exercise today? Then don’t think about having to leave work at a specific time, drive to your gym, get changed, do your work out, shower, and go home. Think of it as one task. Do exercise. You already know what time to leave and to get changed. Just do the exercise. 

Are you behind with your email? Then the task is to get up to date with your email. Not to reply to thirty emails. That will give you the illusion you’re busy. The result you want is to get your email up to date. So do that. One task. 

So there you go, Darius, being busy is an illusion—it’s just a feeling and we have complete control over our feelings. First, get to know what your core work is. What are you employed to do and make sure you do that work as a priority. Next, stop looking at tasks, group them together and treat them as a single task. You have twenty emails to send today, then getting your email done is one task. The real question is, how much time do you need to get the results you want?

I hope that helps and thank you for the question, Darius. 

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

 

Start Planning 2022 Now!

Start Planning 2022 Now!

October 11, 2021

Podcast 202

As we enter the final three months of the year, now’s the time to start planning next year and I have a special way of doing this, and today, I’m going to share that with you.

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

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Links:

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Download the Annual Planning Template

Evernote link for the Annual Planning Template

More about the Time And Life Mastery Course

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 202 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 202 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Now, I know a lot of people think the best time to begin planning next year is around about the middle of December, but there is a problem with that. It doesn’t give you enough time to think. 

A lot of our desires and wants are buried deep inside us—hidden underneath a lot of the battle scars of failed goals we have picked up from past experiences and daily life and we need time to let these ideas surface and develop. 

Before we dive into this, I want to let you know that I have a few free materials you can use to help you. I have an annual planning template you can download from my downloads centre on my website—carlpullein.com, and if you are an Evernote user, I have an Evernote template you can get—the link for that is in the show notes. 

I should also say, if you are enrolled in the Time And Life Mastery course, now would be a good time to redo that course to get you motivated and lit up ready for the next eight weeks. 

Why eight weeks? Well, that’s how much time you have to spend letting your mind go wild. And that’s what you want to do. Just let your mind go wild and write out as many things as you can think of that you would like to, or might like to, do next year. 

Now, don’t worry, you don’t have to do all of them—that is likely to be impossible anyway—but for the next eight weeks, you want to be building a formidable list so that when we reach December you can start the second process—filtering the list into something smaller, yet incredibly inspiring. 

Okay, so why a template? Well, there are four questions and three lists you want to be building over the next eight weeks. These are:

Ideas: This is a list you use to just throw stuff into. They can be goals you missed this year (or in previous years), things you think you might like to have a go at such as learning a foreign language, or to paint or things you’d like to start such as meditating, a minimalism project or taking up a new sport. 

Some of these items will naturally fit onto some of the other lists in this template and when that happens you can move them.

Next up comes the first question. What would I like to change about myself?

Now this question is about looking at yourself and asking if there is anything you would like to change. Have you gained a few extra pounds over the last eighteen months or so and would like to lose them? Do you have a bad habit you want to change? Or something else? 

One of the things I’ve added to my list for next year already is to have the three wisdom teeth my dentist told me need removing, out. I’ve kept putting this dental work off because I hate going to the dentist—I associate these places with a lot of physical pain—yet I know I must face up to my fears and just get the work done. 

So look at yourself, and see if there are anything areas you would like to change. 

Next question is “What would I like to change about my lifestyle?”. Here you want to be thinking about where you live—would you like to move to another place? Are you happy with your present lifestyle? If not what would you change? 

Or it could be something material such as a new car, a bike or even having a new kitchen put in. Whatever’s been on your mind about how you live, get it onto your list. Remember, you don’t have to do any of these things, but getting them out of your head is likely to lead you down many different paths.

The second question is: What would I like to change about the way I work? Are you happy with your work today? Is there anything you would like to change? 

One thing that has been on my mind this year is moving my home office out to a real office space. Commercial property rentals are very cheap where I live these days and so I’ve added to my list to look into moving into a purpose build office and studio. This would help me to improve the quality of my videos, allow me to build a place where I could do webinars and so much more. 

Another area of your work life you may consider is your current position. Would you like to try for a promotion? Change your job or your company or even start your own business? With this question, there are a lot of possibilities. 

The final question is: What can I do to challenge myself? I love this question because it is asking you to step out of your comfort zone.

It can be very easy to get stuck in a way of living our lives and lose the excitement of something challenging. My dental treatment idea would fall under this category because what’s put me off from getting the work done has been my fear of going to the dentist. Facing that fear and doing something that will bring me better health and comfort later is something worth doing.

What if you have found yourself becoming a little too attached to your sofa over the last few years and you know deep down this is damaging your long-term health? Perhaps challenge yourself to do something like the from the couch to 5k challenge. 

Having two or three things you could do next year that would challenge you would do wonders for your energy and vitality. 

Next up we have our goals list. What goals will you set for yourself next year? Again, remember this is a provisional list. You don’t have to actually do anything about these goals. All we are doing is stimulating our brains to come up with ideas. The more ideas you can come up with the easier it will be to filter the list down to something more achievable in December. 

Are there any goals laying around that have been dormant for a while that you know deep down with one big push you could accomplish? Sometimes these goals may take multiple years—which could be why you’ve done nothing about them—perhaps next year you could do something that will get you started by breaking the goals down a little. 

If you’ve ever run a full marathon, for instance, we rarely go from nothing to running 26.2 miles. The goal is achieved step by step. Perhaps running a 10k in the first year then a half-marathon in the second year and finally a full marathon in year three. 

If you are a business owner, what goals do you want to set for your business next year? What will be your revenue target? How much growth do you want? This is the place to write these down. 

Finally, are there any things on your bucket list you would like to go for next year? We all have a bucket list. For some it may be written down, for others it could be in your head, but is there anything you’ve always wanted to do that you could do next year with a little bit of focus? 

Bucket lists are only useful if you are knocking things off from the list each year. Perhaps 2022 would be a great time for you to finally do something about it.

The whole purpose of this exercise is not to come up with a definitive list for next year now. The purpose is to engage your imagination and open yourself up to what is possible. Now it is not about how or why, it’s about “what”. How and why comes in December. 

This is a great exercise and you will enjoy doing it. There’s a sense of freedom you get with this exercise because you are not committing to anything. All you are doing is creating a list—a list that will energise you. 

Now, if you did this exercise last year, there is another step. Pull out last year's planning template and go through what you wrote out last year. I find this is a great place to start because things I put on the list last year, that didn’t make the final list could be put on this year's list. It’s also a great place to go to see how much you have progressed this year. That too can add a bit of motivation. You start to see how effective this little exercise is at moving your life forward. 

All great productivity systems are built on a foundation of long-term goals. When what you do each day is contributing towards what you want out of life and is not full of low priority, mundane stuff you have to do, or other people’s emergencies you start to feel more relaxed, happy and fulfilled. You have a greater sense that your life is going where you want it to go and that is what energises you. 

You’ll also be amazed at what you accomplish—just externalising what you want and doing something about it leads to you doing a lot more than you ever thought possible.

So, go get your templates. You can download it from my website or Evernote users can get the template from the link in the show notes. And remember to have a lot of fun doing this. You’re not committing to anything just yet. All you are doing is opening up your mind to possibilities. 

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

 

Talking iOS15 & Apps with Mark Ellis [Part 2]

Talking iOS15 & Apps with Mark Ellis [Part 2]

October 4, 2021

This week’s episode is the second part of my interview with Mark Ellis of Mark Ellis Reviews. Mark is a prolific writer and YouTuber and I wanted to get him on the show to give you a taste of what it takes to start blogging and or YouTubing and to explain his workflow process. 

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

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Mark’s Website

Mark’s YouTube Channel

Mark on Twitter

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Geeking Out On Workflows and Apps With Mark Ellis

Geeking Out On Workflows and Apps With Mark Ellis

September 27, 2021

This week’s episode is part one of an interview I did with Mark Ellis of Mark Ellis Reviews. Mark is a prolific writer and YouTuber and I wanted to get him on the show to give you a taste of what it takes to start blogging and or YouTubing and to explain his workflow process. 

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

 

Mark’s Website

Mark’s YouTube Channel

Mark on Twitter

 

Sign Up For My Free weekly newsletter

Download the FREE Areas of Focus Workbook

More about the Time Sector System

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 200 | 

Hello and welcome to episode 200 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Now, this week’s episode is different, but it is the 200th episode after all, so what better way than to geek out for twenty minutes or so and learn about starting a content-creating business and how to juggle creating content with a freelance career. 

So sit back, listen and enjoy. Part of two of this conversation will be posted next week. 

 

 

So, that’s part one. Coming up next week, Mark and I talk about Apple’s iOS15 release and a few other topics related to getting your work done. 

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

 

What‘s The Best Way To Organise Documents?

What‘s The Best Way To Organise Documents?

September 20, 2021

How do you save and store your digital files? Things are changing in this area and it’s what this week’s question is all about.

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

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Links:

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Sign Up For My Free weekly newsletter

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The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

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The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 199 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 199 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

If I asked you to find a Keynote or PowerPower point file you created three years ago, how long would it take you to find it? How about a file you created six months ago? 

This is a problem many people are discovering. They cannot remember where (or if) a file is stored. 

Several years ago, we would create a folder structure on our computers loosely based around work and home. Our music and video files would be stored together and were accessible via our computer’s media players. But those Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, these were and still are difficult to categorise. 

If you were organised, you likely had these saved in sub-folders related to either the project or client, etc. 

Whichever way you organised your files, it was time-consuming and once your computer’s hard drive filled up it took at least a day to begin transferring files over to an external hard drive. 

Oh, I remember those days well. A lot of fun, but very time-consuming. 

This week’s question is all about what to do now to store and keep your files. I can’t wait to get started. So, that means it’s time for me to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Dermott. Dermot asks, Hi Carl, do you have any advice on managing files and documents on your computer? 

Hi Dermott, thank you for your question. 

Now, many of you may have noticed that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are pushing you to keep all your files and documents in the cloud and there’s a very good reason for this. 

Google began this by not developing separate computer apps for their Docs, Sheets, and slides. It’s also the reason why we don’t have a stand-alone Gmail app on computers. This is quite different from your phone or tablet where there are dedicated apps. 

These companies want you to store your documents in the cloud for a number of reasons. First and foremost is because we have multiple devices now—your phone, tablet, and computer, and if you want access to all your files on all your devices it makes sense to have them located in a central place where you will have access to the latest versions anytime anywhere. 

The second reason for this was caused by us. Yes, us. Why? Because the vast majority of us never backed up our files and if your computer died or was lost or stolen, you lost everything. There was no way to retrieve these files. I’m sure those of you who have been using computers for the last fifteen to twenty years will have experienced this at some point or another. Not a great experience. 

Now, what you will have noticed is if you are using a Word or an Apple Pages document, the default location for saving is either OneDrive or iCloud. This is because Microsoft and Apple believe they have a better way to manage your documents than you do. And to a large extent, it is true. 

If you create a Word document and find yourself rushing off to a meeting, autosave kicks in, and your file is automatically saved to OneDrive’s Word folder. What you will find is if you’re using a Surface Tablet in the meeting, all you need do is open up Word, and there it is. The file you were working on is now ready and available for you to continue with your work from your Surface. 

The same happens with your MacBook or iMac. Begin a document there in Pages, then go off somewhere with only your iPad, as soon as you open up your iPad, you’ll find that Pages document ready and waiting. 

It’s a brilliant system and has saved us from losing a lot of information. 

Now, you can save files the old-fashioned way if you wish, you can change the default save location at any time, but I’d advise against doing that for another reason. 

Often when we are working on a document, be it an Excel, Word, or Keynote file, we will be returning to it multiple times. A report or presentation file is rarely completed in one sitting. So, opening up Word or Keynote and seeing that file right there in your files list is fantastic. It’s one-click or tap and you’re right there where you left off. It couldn’t be any easier. 

Now, what about all those documents you have completed and finished with?

This one’s a difficult one to answer because we are all going to organise things differently. I run two companies, so I separate these by tags in Mac OS. As each company has different types of documents and files the folder structure I have for these is quite different. 

In my From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 Days course, I advise participants to manage their files by date. This is because often we are doing a complete reorganisation and most of your older files you will never need. For instance, a presentation file I used ten years ago, would be very out of date today. The slide design would look dated and the content would need a lot of updating. It wouldn’t be worth me doing. So, placing these old files in folders by organised by year makes sense. Or of course, you can delete them. But for me, this is a record of all the content I have created over the years and it’s a nice record of what I have done and how I have developed my skills over the years. 

Documents created more recently can still be organised by year, but you may want to organise these year folders with sub-folders for your different projects. This way, if you do ever need something from them in the future, you can quickly find them. 

Before going on, I should point out another area where your computer system has improved to help you. Search. On a Mac, you have Spotlight search which will be coming to iOS in the next week or two, and on Windows, you also have a search function. Search capabilities on your devices are now so good you really do not need to worry too much about where you put a document. Everything either in the cloud (that would be iCloud on a Mac or OneDrive on Windows) or on your computer’s hard drive is searchable. 

But, and there is a big but here. If you want this to make finding files easy, you will need to make sure your naming convention is consistent. A lot of documents we download or are sent to us are likely to have names we would not naturally search for. I’ve downloaded important PDFs with incomprehensible names and if I do not immediately rename them they will quickly get lost in the system. 

The best file naming system I have come across, and the one I’ve used for years is to name files with the date first. I date these in a computer-friendly way which means you start with the year, then the month, and then day followed by the type of document and name. This means I can search for documents by date or date range as well as type and or name. 

To give you an example of this at work, after each call I have with a coaching client, I write feedback for them. It’s a summary of what we discussed during our call. The file name is the date I created the feedback, followed by the word “feedback” and then the name of the client. 

Then next time I have a call with the client, all I need to do is search for the client’s name. I get a list of all their feedback in date order and I can click the latest one and have it up on my screen when we talk. Searching for that file takes around half a second. It’s a lot faster than going into my folders, looking for my coaching folder, finding the name of the client, and then looking for the last document. 

For you Mac users, to get Spotlight, the keyboard shortcut is Command + Space bar. I’m not sure what it is on Windows, but it is worth looking for as using the keyboard shortcut will save you a huge amount of time. 

Now for your notes, pretty much every notes application now has a very robust search. Evernote is famous for theirs, and Apple Notes is excellent too. I should point out that if you do use Apple Notes, you will find using your computer’s search it will also search your notes too. 

But for search to be useful, you do need to make sure you give your documents a clear name. That’s the key to making sure you will be able to find everything. 

The best advice I can give you is to not overcomplicate this. The more complexity you add to your file structure the harder it will be to find something later. Try not to have too many sub-folders. My limit is one sub-folder. I’ve been down the road of creating multiple sub-folders inside my folder structure and it rapidly becomes a nightmare.

Think in terms of your projects. Have a master project folder where you put your current projects. Each project has its own sub-folder. Do the same thing for your areas of focus. One partner folder is called areas of focus, and each of your areas nests inside that folder. This prevents you from having to dig too deep looking for something. 

Ultimately, when it comes to managing your files, the best way is to manage them in a way that works for you. If you are not doing so already, take advantage of the cloud services. It means your documents are saved on all your devices, are backed up, and will be completely searchable. And learn how to search for your documents through your system’s search function.

Thank you Dermott for your question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

Why Do I Hate My To-Do List?

Why Do I Hate My To-Do List?

September 13, 2021

This week’s question is on the humble to-do list and how to get the best out of using one.

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

 

Sign Up For My Free weekly newsletter

Download the FREE Areas of Focus Workbook

More about the Time Sector System

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Episode 198 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 198 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Have you noticed that your to-do list isn’t very good at helping you to get things done? It’s a great way to remind you of all the things you haven’t done and how much you have to do, but motivating you to do the tasks? No. Not very good at all. 

This week, I have a question on this very topic and I can’t wait to answer it for you. 

Now, before we get to the question, if you want to receive a time management and productivity tip every week, then sign up for my weekly newsletter. This newsletter goes out every Friday and it contains a list of all the content I produced that week, a short article on productivity, time management, or goal planning, and links to articles and videos I have found interesting that week. It’s like getting your very personal weekend newspaper digitally every week. No negative news or politics. Just straightforward helpful tips and tricks to help you on your continuous journey to self-improvement. 

Details on how to sign up for my newsletter are in the show notes. 

Okay, it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Ben. Ben asks; Hi Carl, I’ve been using a to-do list for years but have always struggled with it. I’m very good at adding tasks and stuff, the problem I have is I just ignore the list altogether on most days. I don’t want to go there and look at all the stuff I have to do. It leaves me feeling stressed and anxious. How do you make your list inspiring? 

Hi Ben, thanks for your question. 

Firstly, I should reassure you that you are doing nothing wrong. I’ve met a lot of people who have found the same problem with a to-do list. They can be very demotivating and uninspiring. 

When we make the decision to start a to-do list it can be exciting. It can also be stress-relieving to get all those tasks and to-dos out of our heads and into an external place. The trouble is that stress relief rarely lasts very long at all. Once we have everything out of our heads, all that’s happened is all those things that were swimming around causing us stress and anxiety are now staring at us from a computer screen or a piece of paper so the stress relief is short-term. 

Now, the number one problem with to-do lists is what we put on them. There is a belief that everything needs to go on the list. Well, yes and no. You see a lot of the things we put on our lists are the kind of things we are not going to forget anyway. They have their own natural triggers. For instance, taking the garbage out. The trigger here is you get to see how full your trash can is every time you walk past it. Do you really need a reminder for that? 

Email is another example. A lot of our tasks come from email and so it’s natural to feel we must send actionable emails to our to-do list. Makes sense doesn’t it? I mean, the email contains a task and tasks should go onto a to-do list. 

The problem here is all you’ve done is moved a task from one place to another place and done nothing about it. You’ve shuffled the proverbial paper, which might give you a small sense of accomplishment when in reality you’ve accomplished zero. Nothing.

With email, you can create folders So all you need to do is create a folder for all your actionable emails. I advise my clients to create a folder called “Action This Day”, and any email that needs something doing with it—a reply, reading, or adding to a project note, for instance—goes into that folder. 

Then, either once or twice a day, give yourself some time to clear that folder. I recommend you reverse the order of the mail in that folder so that the oldest email is at the top and the latest at the bottom. This helps to stop you from cherry-picking the easiest emails and forces you to deal with the oldest email first. That way you will always be up-to-date with your mail. 

You can create a task in your to-do list reminding you to clear this folder once a day if you wish, but the reality of our modern life is email and messages from places like Slack need dealing with every day, so scheduling time for this makes more sense. For me, I schedule an hour a day for dealing with my communications in my calendar. It’s got to be done every day anyway. Time for replying to email won’t magically appear. You have to make time for doing it. 

For some of you, much of your work may involve following up with clients and customers and it seems logical to add all these follow-ups into your to-do list. Again, this can create overwhelm. Now depending on your work and how many of these you have to do each day you could create a dedicated list for calls and follows up in your task manager. But, if a lot of your work does involve calls, I would create a spreadsheet that I can work from every day. This way I can add notes dates when I called when I should follow up and anything else relevant to that person. 

This again means you can replace individual tasks with a single task telling you to complete your calls for the day. It also means all your information is in one place which means if your boss asked you about a particular client or customer you can easily retrieve that information. 

A functioning to-do list acts as a central hub directing you towards the work that needs doing. A to-do list stops functioning when it becomes clogged up with a large number of low-value tasks that crowd out your important work. 

We, humans, are hard-wired to pick the low-hanging fruit. If you have three tasks two of which are simple tasks like call your colleague to check they received a file you sent a couple of days ago or look into buying a new laptop computer, and one task to work on a presentation you need to do early next week, you will pick the call and laptop research first. That gives you two checks instead of one but it doesn’t move anything important forward. That’s just the way we are. 

We have to be much stricter about what gets onto our daily to-do lists if we want them to direct us towards the important tasks. One way to do that is to separate your routine tasks—the clearing of actionable emails, following up with colleagues and clients, and doing your expenses—from our project and goal tasks. One way to do that is to create a folder for your routine tasks and set a recurring date for each one for when they need to come up. That way you won’t need to review that folder very often and these low-value tasks will come up when they need to come up in your daily list. 

You also want to make sure these tasks fall to the bottom of your daily lists by using tags or flags. Most good task managers allow you to flag tasks and these will show up at the top of your list, so make sure your high-value tasks are at the top of your list and the low-value ones are at the bottom. 

The next step is to make sure you do a daily and weekly planning session. Daily planning sessions should be done before you end the day before. The weird thing about these daily planning sessions is almost everyone knows it makes sense. It’s a good practice and it sets you up for a very meaningful and productive day. You get better sleep because you are not worrying about missing anything and you feel a lot more in control of what needs to be done. Yet, most people skip it. 

I’m too tired, I don’t want to be thinking about work in the evening or I don’t have time, are just three of the excuses I often hear. Yet, you’re too tired and you feel you don’t have time precisely because you didn’t have a plan for the day and you ended up working to everyone else’s plan. And if you think avoiding doing the daily plan will stop you from thinking about work in the evening, you’re gravely mistaken. You’ll be worrying about all the things you think you might have forgotten all evening. 

If you really want to feel less tired and not worry about what you might have missed at work, do the daily planning session. You only need ten minutes or so. Clear your inbox to make sure there are no fires developing there, check your calendar for your appointments, and review your to-dos for the next day to make sure they are still relevant—it’s surprising how many things you thought you might have to do three weeks ago no longer need doing. 

One final point for you, Ben, is to know your limitations. There are only a small number of meaningful things we can do each day. For most people that will be around ten things. Now, this doesn’t include some of the less meaningful tasks and routines such as putting fuel in your car, checking email, and doing your food shopping, these are meaningful tasks that drive your projects and goals forward. 

If you think you are going to put together a one-hour presentation, attend five meetings and write an outline for a new company training programme as well as contact ten clients, get an hour at the gym and cook a romantic meal for your partner, good luck. It isn’t going to happen. Get realistic. 

One of the strengths of the Time Sector System is it gets you to focus on what you want to accomplish in a week, not in a day. While the saying goes ‘most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade’, the same principle applies to the day and week. We do tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a week. Focus on what you want to achieve in the week. 

This means you don’t want to skip the weekly planning session either. This is around thirty minutes at the end of the week where you can get a big picture view of where you are with your goals and projects. You can then set yourself targets of achievement for the week. See what needs moving forward and look for the small wins that, over time, add up to big wins. 

If you want your to-do list to work for you, reduce what you have on there and ensure what is on your to-do list are meaningful tasks that drive goals and projects forward. Be realistic about what you can do, and do your daily and weekly planning. 

I hope this has been helpful for you, Ben. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. 

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

 

How Do I Find Balance Between Work and Home?

How Do I Find Balance Between Work and Home?

September 6, 2021

This week’s question is all about balance and how to combine a busy professional life with an active personal life. 

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

 

Download the FREE Areas of Focus Workbook

More about the Time Sector System

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 197 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 197 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Do you feel sometimes your work is taking over your life? You’re not alone. Many people are feeling this and with the sudden move towards working more from home, it likely feels almost impossible to put barriers between your professional and personal life. 

This week, I will share with you some strategies you can use to help bring a little more balance into your life. 

Before we get to the question and answer if you want to learn more about time management and productivity I have a YouTube channel that shares tips and strategies to help you get the most out of tools like Todoist and Evernote as well as many of Apple’s productivity apps. 

The link to my channel is, as usual, in the show notes.

Okay, time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Claire. Claire asks: Hi Carl, my company started a work from home policy last year because of the pandemic and have now decided to move to a hybrid policy. We should work from home three days a week and go to the office on two. The problem I have is when I am at home, I find it difficult to stop working in the evening. Do you have any tips to help me keep a more balanced day when I work from home? 

Hi Claire, thank you for your question. 

I think this has been a challenge for many people over the last eighteen months or so. We were perfectly happy living a Monday to Friday life where we commuted every day, worked in a fixed location and then came home at the end of the day. It was easy to differentiate when we were working and when we were not. Now, with us starting and ending our work in the same place it is much more difficult to do so. 

Now the first thing I would recommend is to stop thinking in terms of 9 ‘till 5 work hours. While this may seem somewhat counterintuitive, it is this area where I feel most people are struggling. The biggest problem with thinking that you must be always working between set hours each day is you soon start to feel you are under house arrest. This is not a great mindset to be working under. 

We need to enjoy our work, not hate it. If you allow yourself greater freedom to roam about you are going to find yourself feeling more at ease working from home. For instance. You may begin your day by clearing your actionable email. Well, you don’t necessarily need to do that from your computer. Those quick emails could be done on your phone, so you could pop outside on a nice day and spend the first thirty minutes of the day getting some fresh air. 

We have the technology to allow us to be moving around. We can respond to Slack messages and emails from mobile devices, and for many, your meetings may be done without video, and so you can do the call almost anywhere. Don’t feel you must be sat at your desk all day. Get up, move around and do your work in the best environment.

Another way we restrict ourselves is by feeling we must do our work during the day. This may be true. You might be in the unfortunate position of having a boss who is monitoring you all day. But for the majority of you who don’t have this, be more flexible with your working time. 

For instance, if your kids come home from school around 4pm stop for an hour and play with your kids. Then when they settle down in the evening (hopefully they do) you can go back and do an hour of work in the evening. 

Now I’ve found that breaking off in an afternoon to take a nap or do exercise helps me be more productive. I usually exercise around 4pm, but I also go back to my home office around 7:30pm for an hour to do a little more work. Sometimes, I begin the day at 10am rather than 9am and spend that first hour taking a walk with my wife and dog. 

One of the great things about this move away from working full-time in an office is managers are being forced to focus less on hours worked and more on work produced—which of course is a far better metric anyway. So hours sat in front of a screen doing nothing important can be replaced with something far more regenerative and that means when you are in front of your computer screen you are going to be more effective.

One of the difficulties many people faced when they had to work in an office all day was distractions. If it wasn’t your boss asking you questions all day or colleagues interrupting you with gossip, it was the noise and movement all around you that prevented you from being able to focus on your work. 

Working from home means you can close the door and do sessions of focused work without all that background noise and interruptions. The thing to remember is your brain is not a machine it needs breaks, so use your calendar and schedule out periods of focused work in between other jobs you may have to do.

For instance. Today, I had a call from 7:30am to 8:30am. Then I took my wife to her dance studio. I returned home around 9:00am and had two hours until my next call at 11am. Those two hours were a great opportunity to do some focused work. 

Once my calls were over around 1:00pm, I picked my wife up from her studio and we had lunch together. Returning home around 2:30, I did another 90 minutes of focused work before exercise. Finally between 5pm and 6pm I responded to my email and messages. 

If you total up the number of hours I did work today, it was seven and a half hours, yet I managed to have lunch with my wife, exercise and not be confined to a single room all day. 

I was at my desk when it mattered—for the video calls, I was able to do three and a half hours of focused work and respond to all my messages without feeling under pressure. I would say, I had a balanced day. 

To truly live a balanced life, you need to define what balance means to you. For me, balance is having time to spend with my wife and for exercise as well as doing my work. If I get those three areas into my regular working days I feel I have balance. 

If you are trying to lead a fixed schedule you are not likely to be able to achieve balance. You need to be flexible. There are too many unknowns that will come up on a day and so planning too far ahead will not work effectively. This is why you need a daily plan. When I planned my day, last night, I saw I had three calls, I knew I had to take my wife to her studio and I wanted time for exercise. I was able to review my calendar and knew when I needed to be in my office and when I did not need to be there. 

Now, as I have mentioned many times before, every plan needs to begin with your long-term goals, then areas of focus and finally your core work—the work you are paid to do. Building on this foundation ensures you have balance in your life. If you are not doing a weekly planning session, it’s easy to slip into someone else’s plan and that’s likely to be your company’s plan. There’s nothing wrong with that—all companies have a plan. But, their long-term plan should never be your long-term plan

The trouble is, if you don’t have your own plan it’s very easy to find yourself working solely on your company’s plan and that will make you feel out of balance because you are not doing anything for yourself. You are allowing your life to be dictated by the plan of your company. 

Finally, if you want to be able to stop working at a fixed time, then the best solution is to fix your dinner time. Your desire to work is not as strong as your desire to eat. I eat at 6pm. I never schedule calls at that time. That is my dinner time. If I did try and push through, it would not be long before my hunger would become too much and I would have to stop to eat. 

Now, this is easier done if you live with other people and you all eat dinner at the same time. It can be much harder if you live alone or members of your household eat at different times. But in my many years of experience, I’ve not found much that can trump hunger to get me to stop working. 

Now to prevent you from going back to work in the evening, you need a positive distraction. That could be exercise time, time with your friends and family or learning something new. But again, to make sure this happens block it in your calendar. 

The bottom line though, if you really want to bring your life into balance, you need to be intentional about it. You need to tell yourself to stop. Without an intention to do something else, you will allow yourself to work more than you intend to.

Balance is about knowing what you want from all parts of your life and doing something intentional about it. That’s why developing your eight areas of focus are important. Your family and relationships, career, finances, health and fitness, spirituality, personal development, lifestyle and experiences and your purpose. I like to spend time with my wife each day. I can do that by intentionally taking her to and from her dance studio or arranging to have lunch with her. 

I also like to study and exercise each day, so I have time for these activities blocked out on my calendar so I am not tempted to sit at my desk and respond to another email or write another article. 

Living a more balanced life is up to you. You can do this. Be intentional about how and where you spend your time. There is time for work, for a social life and for your hobbies (remember those?) but only if you are intentional about spending time in those areas. 

Thank you, Claire, for the question and again, I thank you for listening. 

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

 

Why Can’t I Complete All My Daily Tasks?

Why Can’t I Complete All My Daily Tasks?

August 30, 2021

In this week’s podcast, I answer a question about how to do everything on your to-do list every day.

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

 

Download the FREE Areas of Focus Workbook

More about the Time Sector System

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 196 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 196 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

My guess is, if you are listening to this podcast, you will be using a task manager or to-do list of some kind. And, you will likely have discovered that you have a lot more to do than time available each day. You are not alone. There is far more to do than we will ever have time for. But that does not mean it’s a lost battle. There are things we can do that will ensure the right things are being done each day so things that matter do get done. 

Now, before we get to the question and answer, I strongly recommend you download my area of focus workbook. Part of the answer to this week’s question is really understanding what is important to you. Without this knowledge, you are going to be like a rudderless ship. Just sailing round and round with no clear destination. 

The link to the download is in the show notes and don’t worry, I won’t be asking you for your email address. Just go to my downloads page, click on the Areas of Focus workbook, and boom, you get it. 

Okay, it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Lucy. Lucy asks: Hi Carl, I recently discovered you through your blog and I hope you can help me. I am trying to get more organised but no matter how hard I try, I can never get all my work done. I don’t know if it’s a problem with me or something I am doing wrong. Can I ask if you get all your work done every day? 

Hi Lucy, thank you for your question. And I can answer it in one word. No. No I don’t get all my work done every day. 

There’s too much to do. But I do start the day with a list of objectives or outcomes I want from the day and with those, I generally do get them done. 

Let me explain. 

On most days I will have around twenty to twenty-five tasks to complete. These tasks include my prioritised tasks as well as my routines. Now, the way to start with this is to understand that while we can control what we do each day we cannot control how much time we have. Time is fixed. The only variable in the equation is your activity.

Now, activity can be affected by a number of things. Our energy levels, whether we got enough sleep, outside events such as family emergencies, client and customer demands, and our bosses. We cannot control these. Our energy levels and how much sleep we get depends on many things. You might wake up with a cold which makes you feel dreadful, or one of your children wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep. There are just too many variables here. 

Yet the clock will keep ticking no matter how you feel or what emergency you come into work and face. 

So we need to get strategic and to do that we need to ask a simple question each day. What do I want to get accomplished today? 

Imagine you’ve been on a two-day training course and you have not been able to stay on top of your email and messages while you were away. You could begin the day with an objective you get your email and messages under control. That might take you two or three hours, but if you have decided that is one of your outcomes for the day, then you open your calendar and schedule it. Block out two or three hours and call it “communication time”. 

Now, let us imagine you woke up this morning with a headache, your muscles ache and you feel dreadful. Not a great condition to be in to get a lot of work done. So what do you do? Well, ask the question: based on how I feel today, what do I want to get accomplished today? 

In this situation, you may only be able to catch up on your reading or clear your email and messages. You can look at your list of things to do and decide to postpone some of the more difficult work to later in the week when, hopefully, you feel a lot better.

On a day-to-day basis, you want to have two or three must-do tasks and begin the day knowing very clearly what completing those tasks will look like. For instance, I have three things I want to get accomplished today. Write this podcast script, exercise, and do day 8 of a 10-day course I am doing. That’s just three things and to accomplish those things I will need four hours. Two hours for this script, an hour for my exercise, and an hour for the course. 

Having an estimate of how long each activity will take does help you. I’ve been writing podcast scripts for nearly four years now, so I know how long they take. I exercise for around 40 minutes each day and take a shower afterward so that means I need an hour for that. And the course I am taking will take one hour. 

For most of your tasks, because you will have probably done them before, you will have a reasonably good chance of estimating how long they will take to complete. 

So, out of the twenty-four hours I have today, I only need four of those hours for my “must do” tasks. Even if this script takes longer than usual, I have plenty of time.

As for everything else, I will do what I can to complete them but if not, I’m not going to beat myself up. I can reschedule them for another day. 

Now, here’s a little secret. A lot of what you have on your to-do list probably doesn’t need doing. 

There’s a story I heard about Napoleon. Napoleon instructed his servants not to give him his mail when it arrived but to put it to one side for three weeks and then give him it. What he discovered is that by waiting three weeks before reading a message, 70% of the problems in those letters had fixed themselves. 

I’ve found that to be true today. I often receive emails through the night from students asking me where the workbook for a course is. I then find further up my inbox is another email from the same student telling me I don’t need to reply because they found it. 

It’s surprising how often that happens. Rushing to respond to things quickly is not necessarily a more effective use of your time. By slowing down you give the other person time to find the answer themselves. A lot of ‘issues’ tend to resolve themselves without you getting involved. 

One of the many things I’ve learned from Tony Robbins is to think in terms of the desired outcome rather than how many to-dos I need to complete today. 

If we take the email example as an illustration. On a day-to-day basis I am in control of my email. But occasionally, I fall behind with it. When that happens, I will make it an outcome to get my email back under control. 

Another example would be if you have a project that has stalled or is going wrong. You could make it an outcome to get the project fixed and moving forward again. So to achieve that outcome what do you need to do today? In this scenario, it’s likely all you need do is take a look at your project notes and decide what the very next thing you could do to get it moving forward. A phone call, a message, or email? 

If there is something on your mind, what could you do to get it off your mind? It’s often something you haven’t written down or given much thought to that is taking up a lot of cognitive space in your head and the best thing to resolve this issue is to get it out of your head and decide what needs to happen next. You may not need to do that today, but the very act of getting it out of your head and making a decision about what needs to happen next will stop you from stressing about it. 

It’s really about starting the day and deciding what are your must-dos for the day are. 

Now, hopefully, you are aware of my 2+8 Prioritisation Method. This is where you select two tasks for the day that must be done. And you will not go to bed until they are done. Then you select eight other tasks that you will do what you can to get them done, but it would not be the end of the world if you don’t complete them. 

To me, my two objectives for the day are non-negotiable. They get done. The other eight I complete most days, but occasionally I do need to reschedule them. Get comfortable with that. There will be days when you cannot complete them. All you need do is give yourself a few minutes at the end of the day to look at what you did not do and reschedule them. One or two may become your must-dos tomorrow and that’s fine. 

Now how do you know what’s important and what can be skipped? Well, that comes down to again knowing what you want and your areas of focus. Anything related to your goals or areas of focus must take priority over everything. This is not easy. For instance, you may have an important presentation to prepare for and you have exercise on your list of things to do today. It might be tempting to skip your exercise so you can spend an extra hour on your presentation. 

No no no, don’t do this. Exercise will come from your area of focus of health and fitness and is a non-negotiable part of your life. By all means reduce the length of your exercise session, if you must, but don’t skip it. Sitting at a desk for four hours will not help you to build a great presentation. Giving yourself a break to exercise, when you do come back to your presentation after exercise you will have a lot more clarity and energy and will get a lot more done than if you just tried to plow on. 

Knowing what your long-term goals are, where your areas of focus fit into your life, and having a clear plan for achieving these ensures that the most important things in your life take priority. As long as the tasks associated with these areas of your life are being done when they need doing, you are going to feel more accomplished and in control of the events in your life.

For your core work—the work you are paid to do—try to create a process for doing these tasks. For instance, if part of your job is to contact ten sales prospects each day, then make sure you have sufficient time set aside each day for doing this. If part of your core work is to review the day’s activity log looking for potential issues from customers, this must be prioritised. It’s your job. If it takes thirty minutes, then block those thirty minutes on your calendar. 

Ultimately, your long-term goal activities come first. If you are consistent with this, then you will find the tasks associated with these goals will be minimal on a daily basis. Next, make sure your areas of focus tasks are done. For instance, if in your health and fitness area of focus you have a plan to exercise a minimum of three times per week, then make sure your exercise times are scheduled. Then for your core work, get those tasks scheduled too. 

Once you have these three areas scheduled and you are consistent at getting them done, you will always be moving forward on the important things. I think most people struggle because they prioritise the wrong things—the latest and loudest. Sure these may be important, and you may have to negotiate some time with yourself to deal with them, you should still return to the base of long-term goals come first, then areas of focus then your core work. 

I hope that has helped, Lucy. Thank you for your question and thank you for listening. 

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

 

Why Doesn’t My To-Do List Work?

Why Doesn’t My To-Do List Work?

August 23, 2021

Did you know that to-do lists, on their own, don’t work? In this episode, I explain why and what you need to do to ensure you get the most out of your productivity system.

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on:

Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin

Download the FREE Areas of Focus Workbook

More about the Time Sector System

The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

Carl Pullein Learning Centre

Carl’s YouTube Channel

Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Episode 195 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 195 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development, and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

I think many of you have found that just developing the habit of using a task-manager, or to-do list, doesn’t really work in the long term. Yes, they do help you to remember things you may otherwise forget, but they don’t move you forward on your goals or your projects. It can become frustrating. 

This week’s question is all about the parts that are rarely written or spoken about and hopefully, I will be able to unblock your task manager so it puts you on track to achieving your goals and completing your projects.

Now, before we get to this week’s question, if you haven’t already done so, I strongly recommend you download my FREE Areas of Focus workbook. It’s going to be a part of this week’s episode and it will enable you to start tightening up your task manager so that you are focused on the right things. 

The download link is in the show notes. 

Okay, on with the show and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice, for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Timothy. Timothy asks, Hi Carl, I’ve recently started using a to-do list and have it set up for the Time Sectors. I really love it, but I find all I am doing is reacting to what my customers and boss want me to do and I don’t have time to do anything else. Is there a way to add in my goals so I have time to do something about these as well? 

Hi Timothy, thank you for your question. 

What you describe is quite common for a lot of people who begin consistently using a to-do list for the first time. Most people have used to-do lists at some point or another for things like a packing list before going on holiday, or when redecorating a home. There’s nothing new about a to-do list. 

The problem with to-do lists is they are very focused on the here and now. Rarely do people use them to plan out what needs to happen to achieve a goal or to complete a long-term project. They become reactive instead of being used proactively. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, most people I come across tend to put tasks on their list that are demanding attention now. Quieter, more long-term tasks tend to be placed in folders such as Someday/Maybe or just get added to a list and forgotten about. It’s when this happens that our longer-term goals and projects get relegated to the bottom of the list and that means there’s no time to do anything about them.

What we need to do is to reverse the way we manage our to-do lists. This does not mean we stop doing the loud, urgent tasks—we still need to do these—but we don’t want to allow them to dominate our day. We need to become more strategic about things. 

What I mean by this is to use the power of the modern-day to-do lists to make sure each day our most important work comes up at the top of our lists. And when I say “our most important work”, I mean those tasks that move our goals and project forward. While these may not be the loudest tasks on our to-do list, they are still the most important if you want to take back control of your time.

Your to-do list allows you to create repeating, or recurring, tasks. This means, if you have a long-term project, you can set tasks related to that project as a recurring task. For example; if you have a long-term project that requires around six to twelve months to complete, you create a recurring task that comes up every two or three days telling you to work on that project. 

Now those of you using the Time Sector System will have the specifics of what needs to happen next in your project note in your notes app. Your to-do list will tell you if it’s time to do some work on that project. When you see that task, you then go to your project note and everything you need to work on that project will be there. Links to files you are working on, reference materials that need reviewing, and any important emails related to that project. 

When we get caught up in the day-to-day noisy tasks, that needs to be a trigger for us to stop and take a big picture view of what’s going on. All great productivity systems are built on the foundation of our long-term goals. The things we want to accomplish over the next five, ten, and twenty years. The sooner you start working on these, the easier they will be to achieve. 

If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in weight by the end of the year, starting in January means you need to lose less than two pounds per month. Start that project in September and now you have to lose five pounds per month. A much more difficult goal to achieve. 

Likewise, if you want to retire with $500,000 in savings, starting that goal when you are forty-five is going to be a lot harder to achieve than if you begin when you are thirty. 

The sooner you start your long-term goals the easier they will be and they will be a lot less demanding on your time. 

It’s the same with your projects. If you have a project to redecorate your house this year, planning out the project so you are doing one room a month, means you are going to need a lot less time to complete the project, than if you leave it all until the last two or three months of the year. 

With the Time Sector System, you would plan out which rooms you will redecorate each month—you can create a table for this in your notes app,— and then each weekend you would have a recurring task that tells you to continue redecorating your house. You can then plan out what needs to be done. You may need to buy paint when you are out doing the grocery shopping, or you may need to arrange to borrow a paint stripper. You would see that when you did your weekly planning session and you can make the call so you have the paint stripper ready for your next session. 

The problem is our addiction to instant gratification. Completing those busy work tasks—the tasks we have convinced ourselves are important—gives us that dopamine hit we crave. Doing a little bit of decorating every weekend doesn’t give us the same hit. Twelve months to redecorate our house is just too far away. 

This is why visualisation of a completed project or goal helps. Collecting images so you can save them into a vision board, keeps the goal alive. 

On top of those goals come your areas of focus. The things you have identified are important to you. Again, any recurring tasks related to these need to be set up in your task manager as recurring tasks. Self-development tasks such as taking a course, reading the right books, and other forms of learning need time allocated to them. Same with some form of exercise every day—whether that’s a thirty-minute walk in the evening or going to the gym every morning at 6 am. None of these things will happen unless a) you prioritise them and b) schedule the necessary time for them. 

The problem is, if you don’t allocate time for these long-term goals, projects, and areas of focus, then the void you create will be filled with less meaningful things like hours scrolling through your news and social media feeds, busy work tasks that are like those empty calories from junk food—they initially make you feel full, but soon you’re feeling empty and lacklustre. 

I know it can be hard to prioritise your personal goals and projects over your work projects. Usually, your personal goals and projects only benefit you and so you feel guilty doing so. But if you are not taking care of your health today, when you health starts to go, you quickly become a burden on the very people you care about. If you are reckless with you finances today, who’s going to have to support you when you can no longer work? 

Taking care of your personal goals and your areas of focus is never a selfish act. You become a much more pleasant person to be around, you have more energy, so the work you do do for others is done with more attention and to a higher standard. Your self-respect improves and that can only benefit other people and more importantly you become an inspiration to others. 

The goal with your task manager is to have 80% of your daily output focused on your goals and areas of focus. This may seem very high, but many of these daily activities are things you would normally do anyway such as your morning routines and daily exercise as well as your core work—the work you are paid to do. 

By restricting busy work tasks to 20% you are forced to prioritise which ones you do. By constraining yourself in this way you avoid the temptation to do things that are not important and there’s no vacuum demanding to be filled by low value, junk tasks that leave you feeling empty. 

One trick you can do that can be very effective is to group similar busy-work tasks together. Responding to low value emails, and messages during a communications hour. This is where you block an hour each day for dealing with your messages. Because you’ve got an hour, you begin with the high importance messages and once those are done, get as many of your low value messages completed. 

Often what you’ll find is Parkinson’s Law will come into play—that’s where the work you have fills the time you have available. In this case if you have twenty emails to respond to in an hour, it will take an hour. If you have fifty emails to respond to in a hour, it will take you… You guessed it, an hour. It’s strange how that rule seems to come into play so many times. 

The mot important thing to remember is your goal tasks come first, flowed by your areas of focus, then core work and finally everything else. 

The key to becoming better at managing your time and feeling more fulfilled and satisfied at the end of the day is to make sure you have your priorities right. I know how difficult this is, but if you become consciously aware of what is important and what is not, you are going to find yourself moving in the right direction. 

The strange thing about low value, busy work tasks is as fast as they arrive, the faster they disappear. They may be very important to someone at 3pm on a quiet Thursday afternoon, but by 5pm that person is stressing about something else anyway and the thing they were asking you to do at 3pm no longer needs doing. 

I hope that help, Timothy and thank you for your question. Thank you also to you for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

How To Organise Your To Read and Watch Lists

How To Organise Your To Read and Watch Lists

August 16, 2021

Do you have a lot of articles, videos and newsletters to read but find it difficult to find the time to read or watch them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone and the good news is there are a few strategies you can use that gets these lists under control.

 

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Episode 194 | Script

Hello and welcome to episode 194 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

These days, there are so many fantastic articles and videos to watch that even if we took a week off, we’d still not be able to catch up with our reading and to watch lists. So, two questions come to mind: where can I store these and how can I find time to read and watch them? And those are what I hope to answer for you this week. 

Now, before we get to the question and answer, just a quick heads up that if you like the content I share with you in these podcasts and want to learn more, I do have a YouTube channel dedicated to productivity, goal planning and time management, as well as a weekly blog. Plus if you sign up for my learning centre, you receive exclusively a weekly learning note designed to help you with your productivity and goals journey. 

All you have to do is get yourself enrolled in my FREE COD course (Collect, Organise and DO) and you will receive the weekly learning note. Full details, as usual, are in the show notes.

Okay, on with the show and that means it’s time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice, for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Barry. Barry asks, Hi Carl, I have a lot of articles to read and videos to watch and I find myself consuming these when I should be doing more important work. Are there any tips you can share that will help me to manage these better?

Hi Barry, thank you for your question.

This is certainly a problem many people struggle with. There are so many fantastic videos and articles out there that could help us improve our overall time management and productivity, yet there is precious little time available to watch or read these. 

Before we get into how to save these and when to watch or read them, let’s first look at where they are coming from.

Many people subscribe to newsletters that come to us through our email. But how many of you actually read these newsletters? If you look at the statistics on newsletters, for instance, the average open rate is less than 30% and the click rate—the number of times a link is clicked—is less than 5% of those that open the newsletter. If you are not opening a newsletter, and statically that means at least 70% of you, then you need to unsubscribe from that newsletter. 

A few years ago, I found I was subscribed to over 30 newsletters. It meant I was getting at least five newsletters per day and it was impossible to read them all. I had to do something to reduce this list. What I did was monitor over one month, which newsletters I opened and which ones I skimmed through—just looking at the headlines. 

At the end of the month, I found I only read around five of these regularly and the rest were just taking up digital space and pretty much were deleted almost the moment they came in. So, I unsubscribed from the twenty-five I was not reading. Even to this day, I only have five newsletters I subscribe to. 

There is a problem we all face and that is FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out. We feel if we are not reading these newsletters, we are going to miss something. The reality is you are not missing out on anything. You’re not reading them anyway and If something was important in your industry or company, someone would tell you and if you needed to, you could ask them to send you a copy of the relevant article or newsletter. 

So, first up, stop worrying about what you may be missing out on. If you’re not reading something consistently, then unsubscribe from or junk the email. 

A quick tip here. I’ve found unsubscribing to some newsletters results in more unsolicited mails arriving. I believe this is because when we click the unsubscribe button we confirm our email is active. I’ve found a better way to manage this is to send the email to your junk folder. Modern email apps, very quickly learn when an email is junk and will automatically junk the email for you. This way you are not confirming your email address to unscrupulous actors. 

Next up with this is to set a reading deadline. By this I mean if you haven’t read the newsletter within a specified number of days, you must delete it. Let me give you an example of this:

I subscribe to James Clear’s 3,2,1 weekly newsletter. It usually arrives in my inbox around 11pm on a Thursday and by then I am usually in the middle of my closing down routine. So, I send the email to my action this day folder. 

Anything in there needs to be dealt with in less than 24 hours, so this means I have 24 hours in which to read the newsletter. If I don’t do it, I have to delete the email. That little rule ensures I don’t leave this newsletter laying around collecting dust. From the moment I move it to my actionable folder, it must be read within 24 hours. 

The worst thing you can do is to have a “To read” folder in your email. I haven’t met anyone who has been able to control this folder for very long. Pretty quickly they become a dumping ground for emails you will never read, but think one day you might do. You won’t. So get rid of that folder. It will not work for you. Instead, if you do get something you think you will read, put it in your actionable email folder and if you haven’t read it within say, 48 hours, delete it. 

Next up, what about articles you find online that you want to read later? 

Well, if you’re using a notes app such as Evernote or OneNote, you have a web clipper that will save the article to your notes app. This is a fantastic feature full of inherent dangers similar to a “to read” folder in email. You’re going to clip a lot of articles you never read. 

The problem here is your notes app quickly becomes overwhelmed with a lot of stuff. There is also the problem with these articles disappearing under a lot of other notes you are collecting each day. Plus, there is no filter. 

What I mean by there being no “filter” is we dump these articles into our notes app, some of you may process them and save them into a “to read” folder and then never have the time to go into that folder. Soon, you will have hundreds of unread articles. The question is: when will you sit down and read them? The reality for most people is, never. We are just too busy. 

So what can you do here? 

My advice is to use a read later service such as Instapaper or Pocket. These services are designed to save articles you want to read in a simple text-based format (fewer distractions). This is great because there’s no rush to read these articles and it gives you an opportunity to filter the articles first. If you like what you read, you can then save the article into your notes app for reference later. 

I’ve been using Instapaper for years and before I shut down for the day, I usually give myself twenty to thirty minutes to read through my articles. I have it set up so the oldest article is at the top, which makes sure no article goes unread for very long. 

And this is the trick. To keep on top of these, you want to be setting aside twenty to thirty minutes each day for reading. This way, these services are never likely to become overwhelming. Perhaps you like to read in the morning, if so, make reading through these articles part of your morning routines. Or, like me, you like to end the day reading. Whichever way you do it, a small amount of time dedicated to reading through your collected articles will help you to say on top of them. 

Next up, what about videos you want to watch. 

The issue here is they can be difficult to discover. Some may be sent to you via a newsletter—one of my top newsletters is Tom Bilyeu's Impact Theory newsletter. In this newsletter, I get to see who Tom has been interviewing this week. I can then decide if that is something I would want to watch. If so, I open the video and save it in my watch later list. 

I do the same with YouTube channels I subscribe to. I review these every few days and if there is anything I want to watch, I click “add the watch later”. 

I like to end my day with around thirty minutes of learning and often I use YouTube for this. All I need do is open my watch later list and watch whatever video I feel like watching that day. Because I am doing this in my final thirty minutes before bed, I rarely watch for too long. I am tired and so thirty minutes or so helps me to unwind and relax before going to bed. 

I also have a catch-up night each week where I give myself permission to watch whatever I like for two to three hours. It's a great way to unwind and stop thinking about work—unless I want to. 

If you have a bad habit of watching videos well past your bedtime, I would suggest you set an alarm to remind you to stop and go to bed. You need not worry, the video will still be there tomorrow. 

Just remember to clear out any videos you have watched so the list doesn’t become overwhelmed. 

When should you be reading and watching all this content you have saved? 

Here I’ve found the best way to read and consume all this content is to set aside time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day. As I said about watching videos, I allow myself two to three hours of vegetating on the sofa on a Saturday to catch up with anything I want to watch. This could be a movie, a comedy show or some of my favourite YouTuber’s videos. It’s completely free. 

For reading, I like to read while I eat my breakfast. So for me, I do intermittent fasting and my first meal of the day is at 12pm. That’s when I read through any articles I’ve saved. It’s 30 minutes or so and it’s a nice break from writing or recording something. 

If you can find thirty minutes or so each day, you will stay on top of your reading list. The most important thing to remember is if you are just collecting and not doing anything with it—why are you collecting it in the first place? 

For a lot of things like exercising, reading, doing an online course etc, you are going to need time. If you’re not scheduling time for it, you are not going to do it. You need to escape from thinking that ‘one day' you’ll have time. No, you won’t. If reading articles and newsletters or watching videos is something you want to do, you need to schedule time for it. 

Reading these articles and watching these videos is, for the most part, learning and education. I know a lot of what I watch and read each week are articles around time management and productivity as well as achieving goals, so for me, this is important time. It’s part of my self-development area of focus and so, I have time set aside for it each day. I certainly don’t feel guilty about doing it. 

So there you go, Barry. I hope that has helped. The biggest thing you can do to ensure you are reading these articles and watching these videos is to set aside time for doing it. Early in the morning, lunchtime or evening are good times. But whenever you decide to do it, be intentional and consistent about it.

Thank you for your question and thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 

 

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