The Working With… Podcast 09 - Managing Multiple Work and Personal Projects

January 15, 2018

 

 

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing multiple projects as well as multiple personal projects.

Hello and welcome to episode 9 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 many people have about managing multiple personal and work-related projects. With so many people today having side-projects in their lives, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost. So, without any further ado, let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Neil. Thank you, Neil for your question. 

In the past, I know you've said to limit the number of active projects one has to avoid overload and overwhelm. However, due to the nature of my day job, I have about 5 concurrent work projects plus a couple personal projects. I am hitting a bit of a wall with being able to make steady progress because of being pulled in the different directions of so many simultaneous projects needing attention.

Any ideas on how to proceed/prioritise them to make it more manageable?

There are a couple of things you can do. The first is a pure Getting Things Done solution. Based on the book by David Allen. 

All work can be categorised into contexts. What this means that any given task, to be completed, needs at least one of three things. A tool, a place or a person. In Getting Things Done speak this is called “a context” So, for example, if you needed to create a presentation, then you would need a computer to do the work. So, “@computer” would be the context. If you needed to talk with your spouse about your son’s next cricket match, then the context would be your spouse. By following what I call a pure GTD approach, you would work from your content lists. So, if you are in front of your computer, the only list you can work from is your @computer list. If you are at the supermarket, the only list you can work from is your @supermarket list etc. 

 If you work from your contexts, ie. Only work on the tasks that you either have the right tools for, are in the right place or are with the right person you will be able to get on with the tasks that you can only work on at that particular moment. All the other tasks, tasks you either do not have the right tools for or are in the right place or with the right person can be forgotten about for now. You cannot do anything about them. 

 This is the logical way to manage this kind of situation, and when you trust it, it does work. If you are using a to-do list manager such as Todoist, then it is easy to open it up with the right label or filter (depending on how you want to work it) Sooner or later you will find your projects are completing. Remember, you can only work on one thing at a time, and by organising your work by context, you are not wasting time trying to figure out what to do next, because your situation will determine that for you. 

In the past, whenever I have ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I have on, it has always been because I have been trying to work on projects and not contexts. Once I have readjusted things and focused on contexts, I very quickly find I am no longer overwhelmed. 

Just as an aside, I should point out to anyone new to using contexts don’t go looking for other people’s contexts. They won’t work. I’ve done that in the past and I soon realised everyone is unique and have different tools, places and people they need to talk to. For someone based in an office, having a context of “office” makes sense. For someone like me who does not work out of an office and does a lot of writing work in coffee shops, a label @Coffee shop makes more sense. You need to figure out your own contexts. The Getting Things Done basic contexts are a good place to start, but you should modify them to fit better with your own personal circumstances. 

The second way would be to theme your days. You could say Monday is for project 1, Tuesday is for project 2, Wednesday for project 3 etc. This means that each project gets an equal amount of attention each week. Of course, this depends on the time sensitivity of each project. You may find you have a deadline for one project on Friday next week, and a second one three weeks later. In that situation, you may want to spend more time each week on the more time-sensitive project. 

One thing I find very helpful is to allow about an hour or two a day to do the random stuff that gets thrown at me. Preparing for this podcast takes me around two hours and I schedule two hours to do it on my calendar. At the same time, I have videos to prepare, classes to teach and student questions to answer. However, I make sure there is at least one hour a day free to deal with the random stuff that gets thrown up. Students trying to reschedule classes, issues related to my websites or online courses etc. That way I manage to keep everything in order and my responses to clients and students done in a timely manner.

There are other things you can do such as identifying which tasks would have the biggest impact on each project’s completion. Doing this as part of your weekly review means you can find time on your calendar to schedule a time to block off to really focus on those tasks. This is akin to Cal Newport’s Deep Work system. You do need to be in control of your work time to be able to do this, but I have found most bosses and clients are sympathetic when you ask to be left alone for a few hours in a quiet place to get on with some deep work. The problem, of course, is most people are too afraid to ask or assume they won’t be allowed and again, don’t ask and so never get left alone to do some deep work.  However, doing things this way you know on a weekly basis that the big tasks are getting done. If you have five projects, then finding one task from each project and making sure you get those tasks done by the end of the day on Wednesday means that Thursday and Friday can be focused on tiding the little tasks up. 

Another thing you could do is spend ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day to identify which tasks you must complete the next day and make sure these are done before lunch-time the next day. Make sure you don’t have more than three tasks to do. By the way, this gamification of your most important tasks can add a little fun and a challenge to your workday. This then frees up the afternoons to catch up with all the other things pulling at you. The great thing about doing things this way is you have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day because you managed to get your MITs done before lunch. 

Again, I should emphasise that you can only do one thing at a time. No matter how many tasks, projects and things to do you have, you can only do one at a time. In my experience, a lot of time is wasted figuring out what to do next because the next action has not been properly identified. Being very clear about what the next action is will help you a lot. (I find most people are not) It also means you are spending less time on figuring out what you need to do next and more time on actually doing the necessary steps to take the projects to completion. 

I understand having a huge workload is difficult. But as I say, you can only work on one thing at a time and setting up your system so that you are able to get straight to work on the important things when you sit down to do you work is one step you can take to help you be more efficient and effective with the work you are doing. This way, David Allen and the whole GTD community stress the importance of the Weekly Review. I would go one step further and suggest the daily mini-review is just as important today because since the first edition of GDT was published in 2001, our work has grown exponentially with more distractions and inputs. It now more important than ever to be fully aware of what the next action is on any given project so you can get straight on to it when you start your work. 

To sum up then. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do, try focusing more on your contexts, rather than your projects. Make sure you are doing at least a weekly review so you are fully aware of the status of each project and build in a daily mini-review to identify what the next actions are on each project you are working on. This won’t reduce the work of course, but it will give you peace of mind knowing you are working on the important things and that each project you are working on is getting done. 

I hope you found this episode useful. Don’t forget it you have any questions about productivity, self-development or goal planning then email me, DM me on Facebook or Twitter or ask your question in the comments field on this podcast and I will be very happy to add your question to the list. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast 08 - Get Motivated For 2018

January 8, 2018

This first episode of 2018 is the audio from last week's Working With Work video. Because getting yourself motivated and set up for the best year you have ever had is so important, I felt it would help all you guys who prefer listening to podcasts.

Don't forget, if you have any questions you would like me to answer, just drop me a line at carl@carlpullein.com and I will be very happy to add your question to the list.

If you would like to see the video of this episode, just click here

 

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The Working With… Podcast 07 - How To Motivate Yourself To Do Side Projects

December 18, 2017

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about motivating yourself to work on side-projects.

Hello and welcome to episode 7 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. 

Before we get into this week’s show, I would like to thank all of you who have bought Your Digital Life 2.0. The response has been tremendous and I am honoured to have such wonderful people supporting me. Thank you all. Also, for those not wishing to buy Your Digital Life 2.0, don’t worry, I have two videos on my YouTube channel that show you how to set up Todoist and Evernote in the way I recommend in the book. 

Oh, and one more thing… If you have a question you would like answering on this show, please let me know either via email carl@carlpullein.com or DM me on Twitter or Facebook etc. All the links are in the show notes.

Okay, let me now hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question is from Sophie and she asks…

How do you motivate yourself to work on side projects in the evenings and on weekends. 

Thank you for your question, Sophie

Another great question! Thank you, Sophie. 

Before we can talk about motivation, we need something to be motivated about. I am sure there are many of you listening who have things you would like to do but for some reason or other are not doing it. This could be anything like reading more books, starting a blog or a podcast or learning to ride a horse. There are so many things, and for many of you, I am sure you feel there is no time. 

One thing I have learned over the years is if something is important enough, if something is burning inside me, I will find the time. We humans always do. Usually, when I find I attach the excuse “I don’t have time” to something, it is a sure fire indicator that something is not important enough for me and I will re-evaluate that thing. This is a great test to evaluate something’s importance. If you’re finding excuses, then I can guarantee it is not important enough to you. Recording and editing my YouTube videos each week takes about six hours. Most people I know would never try and find six hours to do something every week, week after week because it isn’t important enough to them. But my YouTube videos are very important to me. So I always find those six hours every Saturday to do the recording and editing. 

So, what do you do if something is really burning inside you. You can’t stop thinking about it and you can’t wait to start? 

the best way to start this is to take a look at your calendar and find an evening when you are not usually busy. It’s no good saying you will spend 1 hour every evening learning Spanish when you do Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday nights and go to the Super League game every Friday with your friends. There are three identifiable nights where either you are going to be too tired or too late to sit down for an hour to study Spanish. You have to be realistic. 

But we can go back to do what I mentioned earlier, if something is not important enough to you, you will always find an excuse. Is this thing you really want to do more important than your Yoga or Super League game? 

Learning a language, for example, needs patience, action, consistency and time (there’s that good old PACT again) If you are not willing to study three nights a week because of something else, you probably need to go back and question your motivation for doing something in the first place. 

A huge reason people fail to achieve success at anything is that they spread themselves too thin. If you want to win an Olympic gold medal for the marathon at the next summer Olympics, you are going to need to run every day. You will have to spend hours and hours pounding the pavement. There will not be any time for friends, socialising, Yoga or rugby. It would take your complete focus and dedication to win that gold medal. But if that was important enough to you, you would find a way to make the time to do the training. 

However, imagine you want to start your own side business as a contributing writer for a major magazine. You can’t just send an email to the editor and ask if you can become a contributor. They wouldn’t even reply to you. You would need to create your own blog, you would need to be writing blog posts week after week and be able to demonstrate you are consistent. That would mean you would need to set aside some time each week to sit down and write. In my own experience, it takes around two to three hours to write a blog post and another two to three hours to edit. That’s up to six hours to produce one blog post. That would mean you spending two hours on a Monday writing the first draft, two hours on Wednesday doing the first edit and two hours on Friday to do the final edit and publish. Would you be willing to sacrifice that much time week after week for four to five years? 

If it’s important enough to you, you would. 

But let's say you just want to start a side project to see if you could turn an idea into a viable business. Perhaps in this instance you are not sure whether you will have the passion for the project or not. You just want to try something out. 

In this case, I would set aside one or two nights a week to try these things out. Again, use you calendar and set aside one or two hours to play. 

The thing about using your calendar to schedule these sessions is that you are much more likely to do it. If you do not schedule it, you will always find an excuse when you come home after a horrible day at work. Those nights, the TV becomes a temptation that cannot be resisted and before you know it you are in the middle of Elementary desperate to learn how Sherlock and Watson solve the mystery. 

One way I have found that works is if you schedule Monday nights as “side project” night. There’s usually nothing exciting on TV on a Monday night so you could schedule 8pm to 10pm as your side project night. If you treat your calendar as a sacred place, you are going to be much more likely to do what your calendar tells you to do. If Monday’s are buy for you, then by all means find another night when you are regularly free. This is your side project play night. I use late Friday night as my catch up on YouTube videos night. Throughout the week, there’s always a few YouTube videos I want to watch, but don’t usually have much time during the week. So I set aside an hour on a Friday night, around 11pm to catch up on these. It quiet, there’s nothing else for me to do and I really enjoy that time. 

The truth is though, if you are not excited about doing something, then the motivation will not last. I remember back around 2005 I got in to a video podcast called Photoshop TV. I love photography and I have always enjoyed taking photos, and I had a very old version of Photoshop in my computer. I found this podcast and began watching it right from episode one. The format of the podcast was fantastic. Three presenters each doing a quick tutorial showing you how you could create better pictures using Photoshop. The podcast came out every Tuesday evening and I used to rush home, watch the episode and then spend an hour playing around in Photoshop practising the techniques I had just learned. It became one of the highlights of my week. All told I followed Photoshop TV for about 3 years and really came to learn how to use Photoshop properly. I also got to know other teachers such as Terry White, who I still follow today to learn more about Adobe’s suite of software. 

So the sum up:

If you are not really excited about something then getting motivated to do something regularly every week, week after week is going to be really difficult. When you do find something you are excited about then the motivation to do it will last. My YouTube channel, for example, will be two years old next month and today I am more excited about planning, recording and editing the videos than I ever have been. It still excites me. That’s what you need to feel if you are going to really develop those side-projects. 

When you do find that excitement, then use your calendar to schedule one or two evenings a week to play. And I use that word carefully. If it does not feel like you are playing and you are not enjoying yourself learning about or doing your side-project, then I am afraid you will not maintain your passion or your commitment to it. 

Hopefully, that answered your question, Sophie. 

Thank you very much for listening guys. Don’t forget if you have a question, please send me an email, or DM me on the usual channels. All the links are in the show notes. 

Oh and if you have time, please check out my latest book, Your Digital Life 2.0. I am sure you will find it compelling reading over the holiday season.

There won’t be a show next week (Christmas day) but we will be back in the new year so I would like to wish you all very happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year! See you in 2018

 

LINKS:

Email: carl@carlpullein.com

Twitter: @carl_pullein

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarlPulleinProductivity

Your Digital Life 2.0

 

 

 
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The Working With… Podcast 06 - How To Capture And Process Efficiently

December 11, 2017

 

Links to Your Digital Life 2.0: 

Your Digitial Life can now be bought from...

Direct from my website: http://www.carlpullein.com/books

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2AJz7bE

iBooks Store: http://apple.co/2BwQcZA

 

This week's transcript

Podcast Episode 6

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about capturing ideas and then managing those captured ideas.

Hello and welcome to episode 6 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 how best to capture your ideas, commitments and events. But before we get in to that, I would just like to unashamedly plug my latest book which has gone on sale today. Your Digital Life 2.0 is a re-write of Your Digital Life, a book I published in 2015. In this new edition I have updated and cleaned up the system I use and recommend, I have also written four new case studies, extensively extended the goals section to include better ways of planning and achieving your goals and of course P.A.C.T (Patience, Action, Consistency and Time). Pretty much everything has been updated and improved. 

You can get your copy on Amazon, iBooks store and direct from my website. All the links are in the show notes of this episode. 

Okay, plug over, lets get in to today’s show and hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for today’s question... Over to you mystery podcast voice... 

This week’s question comes from Jerry. Jerry asks...

Do you have a system of how or what to use to capture your ideas and to do's? Such as a notebook, notepad, voice recorder, etc. I sometimes struggle with collecting my ideas or to do's in a way that is easy for me to process when I get home

That’s an excellent question, Jerry. Thank you.

This really comes down to how you have everything set up. One of the important features any productivity system should have is the ability to capture ideas, commitments and appointments quickly and efficiently. If there are too many clicks or you have to dig around in a bag looking for your notebook and pen then you are not going to be very good at capturing. You need to have your system set up so that whenever an idea strikes you or you make a commitment, you can capture it within a few clicks. 

This why having your mobile phone set up so your capture tool of choice is on the home screen ready and waiting to capture that next brilliant idea. As I am sure many of you know, I use Todoist and the Todoist app is right there on my home screen on my iPhone. I also have 3D Touch enabled so capturing a commitment can done with one long press. 

Likewise, for my notes I have Evernote right next to Todoist on my home screen ready and waiting to capture any ideas I might have. 

On all my computers—I use both a desktop and a laptop—I have keyboard shortcuts set up so I can capture my ideas and commitments and events without having to go looking for the app. 

For meetings or one to one sessions with students I will use my notebook and pen. I prefer writing notes down in meetings or in sessions with my students. If I have any to-dos or other notes I want to capture, I will either type them in to Todoist or if there are a lot of notes I will use Evernote’s excellent scanning features and scan the notes directly into Evernote. 

I went through all that first because, if you do not have your capture tools set up so they are incredibly easy to access you will resist capturing and that’s how you miss important things and ideas. 

So let’s say you have become a master at capturing, how do you make sure processing is just as easy as capturing? 

This is the main reason why using the tools for what they were designed to be used for is essential if you want to create a workable system. For example, my system has me capturing tasks in Todoist. I capture ideas in Evernote and date specific commitments and event get captured into my calendar. 

For my calendar, the date, place and time are added immediately. For that there is no processing to do. However, for tasks, these are captured, but something has to happen later for them to become meaningful. If I just left everything in my inbox, it would soon become an unmanageable list of to-dos that are either no longer relevant or are still relevant but have no context. 

The reason why making sure your app of choice syncs between all your devices is so that when you sit down to do your processing, everything is essentially in one place. All the important things I captured, the ones that need action in the very near future will have been captured in Todoist. This means at the end of the day when I sit down at my computer, I can open up Todoist and all my captured tasks are there right in front of me waiting to be processed. 

It’s a slightly different story when it comes to my notes or ideas. Usually these are not urgent and are not at this stage time sensitive. These I capture in Evernote and I process my Evernote inbox around once a week. In a typical week I will capture about ten to fifteen notes and articles. So, there’s never likely to be a huge inbox of stuff to process. 

There is one caveat here though. Ideas for my YouTube videos and blog posts are actually captured using an app called Drafts. These are sent directly to their corresponding note in Evernote and so don’t need processing. I recently did a video on Drafts which I will link to in the show notes so you can see how I do that. 

So, lets say it’s the end of the day, I’ve had my dinner, done my evening admin and email work and I am ready to begin my daily review and process. 

The first thing I do is process my Todoist inbox. That’s where anything urgent is going to be and I process those tasks first. Because my Todoist is synced across all my devices, anything I captured on my phone, laptop or iPad will be there waiting to be processed. This process only takes around 5 mins or so and then it’s on to the daily mini-review. The secret here is really to have everything synced and to try and do your processing from the same place every day. 

It doesn’t really matter where you do your processing, it could on your phone, tablet or computer. It doesn’t even matter when you do your processing. Morning or evening, whatever works for you. I prefer the evening, I know many people who prefer to do it in the morning. The basic rule is you need to be processing your inbox at least once every 48 hours. Personally, I will always try and do it every 24, but on a Friday, for example, I generally don’t process until Saturday. I might do a quick look to see if there’s anything urgent in there, but on the whole, I rarely process Friday evenings. 

My Evernote inbox gets processed as part of my weekly review. As I said, I don’t capture a huge amount of stuff in Evernote, so processing it’s inbox doesn’t take very long at all. Making it a part of my weekly review just makes sense to me. 

I do have one other collection bucket. I carry an A4 plastic wallet with me in my bag. In there I will collect receipts for my expenses, receipts for purchases that have a guarantee and the attendance paper I hand round in my university class. I empty this folder every Sunday when I do my weekly review, scan in my receipts and attendance records into their various folders. I keep an iCloud folder for my expense receipts that is connected to an app called Scanbot. Anything scanned by Scanbot is saved directly into that folder. My attendance sheets for the university class also gets sent to a specific folder in iCloud and can then be sent to the university’s admin office. Doing things this way means I can maintain an almost 100% paperless system effortlessly. 

And that’s about it. In total I have three collection points. My inboxes in Todoist and Evernote and my plastic wallet. I do maintain a physical inbox next to my desk, but these days that is very rarely used at all. That’s just a relic from my pre-paperless days and is more of an ornament than a working inbox. 

So to sum up then…

To really get your collection and processing system up and running properly, make sure the apps you choose for your to-do lists and notes are synchronisable across all your devices. This way, when you sit down to do your processing everything is in one place—your computer.

If like me you find you are not collecting very many processable notes, don’t feel under any pressure to process your notes inbox every day. This is really your call, but it can save you time during the week when really all you want to do is sit down and relax. 

If you still prefer to use a trusty pen and paper for taking notes in meetings etc. Then make sure you have a good scanning app on your phone or tablet. This can save you so much time and an app like Scanbot is not really that expensive when you consider how much time it can save you. 

Try to process your main inbox at least once every 48 hours. 24 hours is better, but I know sometimes, when you finish late, the last thing you want to do is be reminded of work you still have to do. 

And that’s about it. I hope that answers your question, Jerry. 

Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering, you can email me (carl@carlpullein.com), DM me on Twitter, facebook or Instagram or you can fill in the quick form on my website (carlpullein.com) 

Thank you all for listening and until next week, I hope you all have a very very productive week. 

 

 

 
 
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Working With Podcast | Episode 5 | Managing Non-date specific tasks

December 4, 2017

 

This week's transcript:

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about managing open-ended tasks that don’t have a specific due date.

Hello and welcome to episode 5 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. 

Before we get started, I would like to thank all you amazing people who invested in my productivity bundles over the holidays. The response was tremendous and I hope you all will get hours of good productivity advice and know-how over the coming weeks.

This weeks question comes from Alice in Italy, Thank you, Alice. Alice asks

Coming from a paper planning environment, one of the issues I have with task management apps is I don't know where to add tasks that have to be done during specific weeks or months but not on a specific day. How do you handle this kind of task? I tried to put them as all-day events in my calendar, but I don't like the way they clutter my entire week/month. 

Hmmm good question, Alice. 

With this kind of issue, it is always a good idea to go back to basic best practices. What I mean by that is how best to use the various apps we have. 

You only need three apps. A calendar, a to-do list manager and a note-taking app. Which apps you choose, of course, is entirely unto you, but you need one of each. 

Your calendar is for specific events that have a date and or a time. For example meetings, appointments with friends and family and conferences and workshops. In David Allen’s Getting Things Done book, David recommends you put things you absolutely must do on your calendar too, but for me, my to-do list manager does a better job of things I must do, so I only put specific events where I have to be somewhere or talk to someone on my calendar.

Your to-do list manager is where all the things you must do go. Now all to-do list managers I have seen, allow you to put dates on tasks and so, putting tasks onto your calendar seems to be a bit overkill to me. I use the date function on my to-do list manager for all tasks that must be done on a specific date. So for example, if I need to finish writing a report by Friday, there will be a task in my to-do list manager that tells me to “continue working on the report” with a date set for Monday. Once I have worked on the report on Monday, if it is not finished, I will change the date of the task to Tuesday and so on until it is finished. 

Finally, your notes app is where you store all notes and support materials for things you are working on or would like to keep for future reference. 

I have spoken and written about hard edges between these three areas quite a lot, and it is very important that you keep very hard edges between these. If you put things to do on your calendar and add notes to your to-do list manager, for example, very quickly your whole system will fall apart because you will never be able to find the things you need when you need them. Events and appointments go on your calendar, things you have to do go on your to-do list manager and all other support materials go into your notes app. FULL STOP.

So, going back to Alice’s question about how to handle tasks that do not have a specific deadline, but must be completed within a specific time frame, these I would put into my to-do list manager and date them with the date I want to work on them. For example, if I were developing an online course, I would have a task such as “work on presentation slides”. Now, this does not actually have a deadline date because it is a task that forms part of a larger project. The slides need creating, but there is no specific day they need creating on. So, when I do my weekly or daily review, I would see when I have time to do the slides and if and when I do have time, I would add the date. I know this sounds complicated, but it is not really. Creating an online course is a big project, there’s a lot of planning, thinking and developing. When I am preparing a course, that is the main project I am working on at that time. There would be no other big projects on at the time, so my focus is on completing that project. So, all I am doing is deciding which component I will work on today or tomorrow, for example, and that would depend on where I will be and how much time I have available. 

Project deadlines can be a grey area. I work with some very busy executives, and usually between August and October, they are in the midst of planning next year. These executives not only have their own plans to work on, they also have to oversee the planning of their various departments. Departments such as sales, marketing, HR and customer service. They have to make sure that these department’s targets fit in with the overall company’s goals. In this situation, they have a lot of deadlines to manage and I recommend they use their calendars for these deadlines. Only the deadline is in there, tasks related to the project are in their task managers and notes related to various meetings will be in their notes app. 

Getting really good at answering questions such as “what is it?” Is it an event, task or note? Is something well worth practising. It can save a lot of time when you are doing your daily reviews and help you to maintain the hard edges you need to maintain a functioning system. 

How would you handle single action tasks? Tasks such as making a dentist appointment for a checkup and scaling or something related to work such as follow up on Mr Brown in six months time. Here you have a choice. For the dentist appointment, you could add that to a tickler file in your to-do list manager. What is a “tickler file”? I hear you ask, well so as not to go into too much detail, a tickler file is basically a folder in your to-do list manager that contain things you want to be reminded of on a specific day in the future. It doesn’t really matter how far into the future you want to be reminded, but I would not add in anything beyond 12 months. All you need to do is add the task to your Tickler file with the date you want to be reminded.

Another way to approach this is to take a look at how you managed these kinds of tasks on paper. Did you maintain a master task list you looked at every day or did you forward plan tasks in a diary? Pretty much all the ways you would plan on paper can be replicated digitally. Once you know how you did things on paper, it is relatively easy to find a digital way to do it. Think of Evernote as a digital filing cabinet and you have a natural way to store all your digital files. Think of Todoist as a ring binder with various projects organised on different pages and you have a digital to-do list notebook. 

The final way to do this is to step back and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. This is one of the issues I have with Evernote when it fills up with thousands of notes. I begin to feel it is bloated and I have to step back and ask the question what am I trying to achieve. Ultimately, I use the favourites function as I would use the top front part of a filing cabinet—a place for me to quickly grabs the stuff I use every day or almost everyday. The rest of it I use for storing my digital papers pretty much in the same way I would a physical filing cabinet.

Hopefully, this has helped many of you with the transition from paper planning and task management to digital. 

So to sum up...

If you are coming from a paper-based system, then before moving everything over to a digital system take a look at how you are organising things on paper. Then, look for a digital system the replicates this as close as possible. You can modify things once you get comfortable with your new digital system. 

Always keep a hard edge between your apps. Tasks and to-dos go on your to-do list manager. Events and appointments go on your calendar and everything else, your support materials, go into your digital notebook. This will help you when you process and it will help you to find the things you need when you need them. 

Maintaining a digital organisation system is not particularly difficult if you keep it simple. I have always found that things go wrong when I try to be clever and make things complicated. Very soon, things start to fall apart and I always have to go back and simplify things again. 

Thank you very much for listening. Don’t forget, if you have a question about productivity, self-development or goal planning you would like answering you can contact me either at carl@carlpullein.com, on my website carlpullein.com, through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

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

 

 
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The Working With… Podcast 04 - Managing Areas Of Focus & Projects.

November 27, 2017

Thank you for downloading this podcast. Don't forget, if you would like any question about productivity, GTD, self-development or goal planning answers, all you need to do is head over to my website carlpullein.com and fill in the very short form. 

 

My Black Friday offers end at midnight 30 November 2017. You can find out what's on offer right here. 

 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Podcast Episode 4

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about Projects, priorities and areas of focus.

Hello and welcome to episode 4 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, we have a great question about projects, priorities and areas of focus and how to manage all the tasks that populate these parts of a productivity system. Before I hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question I would just like to ask if any of you listening to this podcast have any questions about productivity, goal planning, self-development or GTD, then head over to my website (carlpullein.com) where you will find a form to ask your question. 

Okay, now let me hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Jerome from France - thank you, Jerome. Jerome asks…

In the AREAS OF FOCUS project, the tasks have no end date. As a manager at work, I have some projects that have no real end date but are priorities (for example Safety Improvement, Management Skills, Team Coaching, Costs savings). Do you think these projects should be kept in my AREAS OF FOCUS project?

Wonderful question, Jerome.

Okay, I think we need to start off by defining what a project is and what an area of focus is. 

A project is anything that needs two or more individual tasks completing before it is finished by or on a specific day. For example, buy a new washing machine or prepare the end of year report.

An area of focus is something that needs attention but does not have an end date. An example of such an area would be an exercise programme. maintaining an exercise programme does not (or at least should not) have an end date. Exercise is something that is ongoing indefinitely… I hope. 

Now at work, an area of focus could be ongoing staff training—generally, this would not end as new staff may be joining your department all the time— or it could be safety improvements— this may be made up of a list of thing that need attention or reviewing from time to time. Another area of focus could be managing individual staff members, you may want to keep ongoing issues with staff members here. 

Now a grey area occurs when within one of those areas of focus a project starts. Let’s say your director or president asks you to develop a new safety manual for your department. Now, this on its own is a project, yet it could easily fall within areas of focus under safety improvements. 

So how do you distinguish between the two? 

In this example, the new safety manual is a project. It is specific and it will have a deadline date. It is not an ongoing thing, it is a specific thing with a deadline. That makes it a project and I would put that on my projects list, separate from my safety improvements area of focus. I may reference my safety improvements area of focus for information, but that is the only point of contact that area of focus has on this safety manual project.

If we go back to the exercise area of focus, let say you decide next year you want to run a full course marathon in September. Now, in this case, there are a few factors to think about before you decide whether to call this a project or be part of your exercise areas of focus. If you regularly run marathons, then personally, I would count it as part of my areas of focus. However, if I am a fun runner, not normally running distances above 10K, then I may very well make this a personal project. Running 26.2 miles is a lot different than running a 10K and would be a big jump up from being a fun runner. Your training and preparation for the marathon would be very different from your usual exercise programme. That, to me, make this a project. 

You see the difference here is really whether or not there is an end date. If there is an end date, then it is very likely to be a project and not an area of focus. An area of focus is simply something you want to maintain indefinitely. Of course, there may be times when an area fo focus gets dropped. That’s fine. Either delete it or move it to your someday|maybe folder. 

Okay, so let’s go back to a work example. Let’s say you have an area of focus where you keep all the things you need to talk with, monitor or develop with your staff members. And, as in many companies, you have to write the annual performance reviews for your staff. Now, usually, this is done in October or November and has a deadline. For this, I would set up a project for the annual reviews themselves. I would not include this project in my areas of focus. Again, like the running a full course marathon, there is a deadline date, and it is a one-off (or a one-off in the sense it only happens once a year at a specific time). As you only do these reviews once a year and they have to be completed by a specific date. That makes it a project. 

I think we often worry too much about these kinds of things. But if you have a simple framework in place, such as end dates equal project, no end date equals an area of focus then you should find these decisions are much easier. 

I should point out to avoid any confusion, tasks within an area of focus can, of course, have due dates. That’s perfectly fine. But the area of focus itself, should not have an end date. If it does, then it is a project. 

So how would you prioritise these different projects and areas of focus? For me, prioritisation is really goal or deadline driven. In my world, I have my regular routine work, which includes my areas of focus such as my YouTube videos, blog posts and this podcast. These are not projects because they do not have an end date. I plan to keep creating content for these well into the future. To make sure the blog posts, videos and podcasts are created each week, the tasks required to create them are scheduled for specific days and times each week. Creating an online course, however, is a project. I set a deadline and I have tasks that are required to be completed before the course can go live. 

When I developed my YouTube channel or this podcast they did start out as projects. That was because to set these up, I needed to create the channel, design the headers and set up the links etc. Once everything was set up and all I had to do was create content and upload that content each week, then they were placed in my areas of focus. 

So to give you an example, the videos I put up on YouTube each week are all recorded on a Saturday afternoon. These recording sessions are scheduled in my calendar each week, so there is no task in my YouTube area of focus, I don’t need to duplicate the event. The editing of those videos is also on my calendar. Again, as the editing is on my calendar, I do not need a duplicated task on my todo list. My blog posts are all written on a Monday morning between 9 AM and 11:30 AM, and I record these podcasts on a Friday afternoon. These events/tasks are all scheduled on my calendar for specific times each week. They do not go to my task list manager. 

Because I treat my calendar as sacred territory and anything scheduled takes priority over everything else, I can confidently get on with my day to day work knowing I have time to work on the important things in the week. 

My advice would use your calendar for prioritising the important things. Schedule time to do them. The thing is, priorities need to be done, that’s why they are priorities. So schedule a time to do them. Put them on your calendar. When you use your calendar properly, and you treat it as a priority, then you will find the stress just washes away. 

Okay to sum up then.

If there is any kind of deadline or end date involved, then treat it as a project. If there is no deadline and you want to monitor or maintain something indefinitely, then that would be an area of focus. 

Use your calendar to schedule important tasks by blocking off time. Remember, if you are using your calendar correctly then anything on there has priority over everything else. If you don’t treat calendared items as a priority you are going to have all sorts of problems meeting deadlines and commitments. 

And that’s about it. Thank you, Jerome, for your question and thank you all for listening to this show. I hope you found it helpful in your own endeavours towards achieving relaxed productivity. Join me again next week where I will be answering more of your questions. 

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

 

 
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The Working With… Podcast 03 - What To Do When All Hell Break Lose

November 20, 2017

LINKS

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Podcast Episode 3 Transcript

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting back into the productivity saddle after a crisis or illness.

Hello and welcome to episode 3 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. 

Before we get into this week’s show, I want to thank you all for listening to this podcast. We have built up quite a following in just 3 weeks. So, thank you, guys. I really appreciate all the support you have shown me. Don’t forget, if you like what you hear in this podcast, please share it with as many people you know. 

Oh and one more thing… This week sees the start of the holiday season in many countries. To celebrate the holidays, I have put together a few special online course bundles at fantastic prices. If you want to learn more, head over to my website later this week and you can see what I have on offer. 

Okay, let’s get to this weeks question. 

This week’s question has been sent in by Leo and his question was:

How do you quickly get back in your "saddle" when your habits and routines fail, like when you have been sick or some urgent incident forces you to be disorganised.

Okay, great question, Leo. I think many of you out there experience this problem from time to time. When so many things happen all at once, your desk looks like it was in the middle of a hurricane with papers everywhere and you cannot see your computer’s desktop wallpaper. 

The first thing to recognise is that when these things happen, you have to deal with the issue first. That is your priority. Running around trying to keep everything clean and tidy in the middle of a crisis is the wrong thing to do. Deal with the crisis first. If you are sick, the priority is to get yourself better. You do not need to be worrying about all those unchecked tasks building up. Make sure the people relying on you know your situation and then get yourself fixed. Those are the priorities.

But once the crisis or the sickness is over, you need to take stock. You need to take some time to look at what you have accomplished, collect all the next actions into one place — you may have been scribbling things down on bits of paper or adding them to your notes app when they should be in your todo app — just collect them into your inbox. Then throw away those bit of paper and delete the notes. You want to be cleaning up, not duplicating. 

Now, what about all those tasks that you didn’t do because of the crisis. These either need deleting or rescheduling. A lot of my tasks are routine tasks that repeat at set days and times. I don’t have a problem just checking them off even if I haven’t done them. For example, updating my student attendance sheets, I can do those the next day if I haven’t had time to do them today, so for me checking the tasks off today without doing the task and doing it tomorrow instead is no problem. If you don’t like ‘cheating’ your system like that, then leave the task where it is an overdue task and do the task when you are ready. 

Once you have your existing task list up to date, now it’s time to hit your inbox. Depending on how long your sickness or crisis was, this could be big or huge. The trick here is to just begin at the top and go through the list asking “what is it”? And “what is the next action?” and process your way down the list. In a way, you are doing a weekly review, just not at your usual weekly review time. Somehow, I find this process a great way to calm down after the craziness of a full-on crisis. There’s something very soothing about it. And there’s something else about doing things this way too, you find that you don’t really have as much to catch up on as you think. Our brains are great at deceiving us into thinking we have a lot more to do than we really do. 

Doing an additional weekly review, by the way, is a great way to get back on top of your work and life if you find you’ve had a few exceptionally busy few days. When I have been doing a 2-day workshop, for example, I don’t have time to do my usual regular routine stuff. Once the workshop is over, I will sit down for a quiet hour or so and do a weekly review. It’s a great way to get back in touch with my regular life and brings a sense of calm tranquillity back after a hectic couple of days. It’s also a great time to process my overflowing inbox because I will have captured a lot of ideas for improving the workshop as well as names cards and other stuff. 

One thing I would always stress is that no matter how big or bad the crisis or illness is, if you can just maintain your habit of capturing, you will find you are 90% of the way towards maintaining your system. Capturing to me is the habit you should develop as soon as possible when you begin down the road of GTD or any other productivity system. If you’re capturing, no matter what else happens to you, you will always be able to process when things calm down. It doesn’t matter where or how you are capturing all your commitments and todos. Even if it is on the back of a napkin, as long as that napkin gets dumped into your in-basket or you take a photo of it and send it to your todo list manager — that’s all that matters. It’s captured. You can move on and deal with the next problem. 

A good idea is to carry a little notebook with you, keep it in your bag, or pocket and when you find your day turns south and situations turn into crises, then you can pull out the notebook and start writing down everything you need to capture. When the crisis is over— and all crises end sometime— you can tear off your notes and put them in your in-basket or send the photo to your todo list manager. Although I am pretty much 100% digital now, I still have a little notebook in my bag… You know… Just in case. 

I think there’s also another reason why someone may fall out of the productivity saddle too. That one is you just lose the motivation for staying on top everything, you become lazy. It happens to all of us at some time or another. This is one reason why you should keep your system as simple as possible. In the days when I was experimenting with productivity systems, I found the more complex the system I had, the more likely it was I would fall off and not maintain my system. Once I got my system as simple as it could be, then I found I rarely fell out of the saddle and when I did, it was very easy to get back in. The more complex your system is, the harder it is to maintain, and if you do fall off, it is so much harder to get back on. Let’s be honest, you are going to have days when you are just not in the mood, or something very bad happens to you or your family or friends. Maintaining your ‘perfect’ productivity system will not be a priority in these situations and that is exactly how it should be. Just focus on your priorities in these situations, try to capture everything that is important and deal with them once everything is over. 

To sum up then:

When a crisis happens, or you become sick and can’t work for a while, focus on dealing with the crisis or illness. That is and must always be your priority. 

During the crisis or illness make sure you are still capturing. It doesn’t take a lot to capture a todo, an idea or a commitment you made. Write it down somewhere that you will find later, once everything calms down and you can return to your normal routine. And crises do end. You need to be ready to get back to your normal routine once it does end. 

Once the crisis or illness is over, and everything calms down, do a complete weekly review. I know it might be difficult to find an hour or so to go through your inboxes and projects, but this part is really the key. When you do a full weekly review it will get you back into the saddle very quickly and get you back on your feet and in touch with your world. 

Finally, if you do find you regularly fall out of the saddle, you might find it is because your system is way too complicated. Review your system, find where you can simplify it. Really all you need is a place to capture everything, a place to store your to-dos, a separate place to store your notes and support materials and a calendar. Anything else on top of those is probably going to be a level of complexity you don’t need. 

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you found it useful and don’t forget if you have any questions about productivity, GTD, Self-development or planning, then you can ask me via Twitter, Facebook or my website, carlpullein.com.

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast 02 - How To Ensure a Good Weekly Review.

November 13, 2017

Podcast Episode 2

Hello and welcome to episode 2 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. 

Let’s get straight in to it, with this week’s question. And that question was… 

 

This question was sent in by, Nicolas. Thank you Nicolas. 

 

How do you ensure a good weekly review and be ready for next week.

Ah the wonderful weekly review, the glue that brings together your whole productivity system. If you're not doing a weekly review, you likely find a lot of stuff falls through the cracks and you forget things, miss deadlines and wonder why there’s all this passion around productivity systems. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Why do a weekly review? The weekly review is your chance to step back from the daily hustle and bustle and take stock of what is going on around you. It allows you to see what’s going on in your world, what you have done and what is on your list of things to do. It also allows you to check you are doing the right things and not allowing yourself to drift off into areas that have no value to you or your objectives in life. 

Basically, if you’re not doing a weekly review, you’re drifting. Drifting through life with no direction and solid plan to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. 

So how do you do a good weekly review?

To answer this question, I thought it would be a good idea to run you through how I do mine. So here goes…

The first step here is to make sure you pick a day and time each week where you can sit down for around an undisturbed hour and go through your tasks and projects. When I began doing my weekly reviews I realised the best day for me was a Sunday. On Sundays I always do my admin and class preparation in the morning—if you don’t know, I teach business professionals here in Korea English communication skills—After I finish my admin and prep, I make a nice cup of Yorkshire Tea (the best in my opinion) sit down with my todo list manager and calendar open and begin my weekly review. I put on some soothing trance or deep house music or listen to BBC Radio 1’s Pete Tong and settle down and begin reviewing.

Now, as the name implies, this is essentially a “review”, not a “preview”. What this means is you begin with what you have accomplished since your last review. As it is a “weekly” review that means what you have accomplished over the last week. Ask yourself questions like how much did I do on my goals? What projects did I move forward? What projects did I not do anything on? 

Other questions you could ask yourself are questions like where can I improve? What have I been neglecting? And rather more importantly why? If you find you’ve been neglecting something because your interest in it has fallen away somewhat, then think about moving that project into your someday|maybe list. You can always come back to it later. 

Once I have completed that part, I will begin going through my projects one by one, beginning from the top and working my way down. 

For those of you who follow my Todoist YouTube Channel, you will know I have a Routines folder that contains all my daily, weekly and monthly routines. This project folder is something I don’t usually review weekly because it rarely changes. But I do review it probably every two or three months just to make sure the tasks in there are still relevant. 

When I check a project, I check all the tasks are in the right project, some do get misallocated when I am processing in a rush, I also check to make sure that the labels (contexts) are correct and that the task is still relevant. Another good tip is to make sure each task has a good, strong action verb. Something like “write”, “call” “contact” “research” etc. These help me to make sure it is very clear what needs doing and that when I am looking for something to do, I know exactly what needs doing. 

As I go through my projects I am thinking about what needs doing next to keep this project moving forward and keeping it on track. For those of you familiar with GTD (Getting Things Done) the question is: what is the very next action? These tasks are the ones I would give a date to, based on what my calendar looks like for that particular day. I know this isn’t strictly GTD methodology, but it works for me. I am only adding a date to one task in each project, and this means throughout the week I am not going to forget about a project once the week begins and everything starts being thrown at me. 

Once I have gone through all my projects, made sure all is up to date and there at least one next action in place for each project, I would go through my calendar to make sure everything is relevant and confirmed. If something is not confirmed I would add a task to confirm it first thing Monday morning. 

There are a few other things I do with my weekly review. Some weeks for me are busier than others. For those busy weeks, I would reduce some of my tasks for the very busy days. I try to make sure there is enough room for me to deal with the unexpected. You know, all those unexpected tasks our colleagues, partners, friends and bosses will throw at us once the week begins. 

If i have a quiet week ahead, I will look for a day where I can cancel the less important things and record an online course. I have found that there is usually one week each month where I can clear a day to spend in my recording studio recording an online course. I am always in the process of planning out a course or updating an existing course, so finding a day to spend in the studio is one of my objectives when I do my weekly review. 

The final part of my weekly review is to look through my goals and make sure there is at least one task allocated each day that takes me closer towards achieving my goals. I try to have two of these tasks each day, but on days where I am teaching all day, or spending time in meetings, I will reduce it to just one. 

And that’s about it. The whole process takes me about an hour to do. But it does set me up for a wonderfully productive week, it allows for disruptions because I do not overpopulate days with too many project tasks and the feeling I am in control of what I am doing is one of the reasons I love being organised and productive. 

The thing is, you need to make your weekly review yours. It needs to fit in with your lifestyle and you need to make it a priority. No matter what, you should not be skipping it. If you have no choice to but skip it because of things outside your control, make it a priority to do it the next day, or do a quick review of your projects. That is not ideal, but it is much better than not doing anything. 

If you are starting out on the road to being better organised and more productive, then create a checklist of things to do in your weekly review. I’ve been doing a weekly review for over ten years now and don’t really need a checklist anymore. The funny thing is if I find I cannot do my weekly review I feel awful. I feel lost and disorganised and I hate that feeling. This is the reason the weekly review has become a central pillar of my life and when you start doing a regular weekly review you too will find yourself in the same position. 

The trick is to not think of your weekly review as a chore, but something to look forward to each week. Use the time to consume your favourite chocolate muffin or have a scone with jam and fresh cream to complement your cup of Yorkshire Tea hmmm. It is a time to destress and to discover that you are in control of your life and time, and that is a very nice feeling. 

So, to sum up.

Make sure you do your weekly review regularly and at a time that suits your lifestyle. Try to do it at the same time each week and make it a priority. 

When doing your weekly review, always have your calendar open and begin by reviewing what you have done and learned from the previous week. Then move on to your tasks and commitments for the following week. 

A great tip David Allen suggests is to look a month ahead to see what you have coming up. The whole purpose of your weekly review is to avoid any nasty surprises and to make sure you know what is coming up and what needs doing to prepare for it. It only takes a few seconds to look ahead at your calendar and the surprises it avoids is well worth those few seconds. 

Always allow some flexibility each day. People are going to throw all sorts of issues at you and you need the space to be able to absorb them. Don’t fill every day up with tasks and appointments, that’s just going to be a huge waste of time. You will only end up having to spend more time rescheduling tasks and appointments. 

Finally, once my weekly review is complete, I head out for my Sunday afternoon long run. The feeling you have when you’ve completed a review and you head out into nature—well sort of nature, I live in a large city— is amazing. You feel relaxed, stress-free and in complete control of your life. If you’re not into physical exercise, then may I suggest a little walk around the block. It just seals the end to a wonderful week. 

Okay, that’s it for this week. I hope you found all these little titbits useful and please don’t forget, if you do have a question about productivity, GTD, Self-development or goal planning, you can ask on me via Twitter, Facebook, my website or even smoke signals… Well maybe not. I will be more than happy to answer your questions. 

Thank you very much for listening to this show and I hope to see you in the next episode. 

It now remains for me to just wish you all a very productive week and I will see you in the next episode. 

 

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The Working With… Podcast 01 - How To Manage An Ever-growing List Of Tasks

November 6, 2017

In this first ever episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer how to manage an overwhelming inbox, project list and todos. 

 

Podcast Transcript:

Hello and welcome to this first episode of The Working With Podcast. A show dedicated to answering your productivity and self-development questions.

Hello and thank you for tuning in for this first ever episode of the Working With... Podcast. My name is Carl Pullein and in this podcast, I answer questions that you have sent me throughout the week and hopefully I will be able to help you develop a great personal productivity system as well as helping you to develop a life you want to live.

This week’s question is all about managing multiple projects, tasks and commitments. This was a very popular question when I asked for questions and it is a very difficult question to answer. But, that said there is always a way to tame an overwhelming inbox and project list so let’s get straight into it. The question was:

How should you manage an ever-growing list of tasks... some mandatory, some optional? Some in the near future, and some someday.

Okay, this question really boils down to how you organise your todo list manager. Mandatory tasks - taskthat just have to be done—usually on a specific day, should be put into a routines folder or project. These tasks can be set up with a recurring date, so when you have completed the task, it will come back the next time it is due. Tasks such as “send out weekly newsletter”, or “review customer feedback for items that need fixing” can all be kept in a routines folder and set to repeat on the appropriate day. As these are either daily, weekly or monthly repeating tasks, then you can put them away inside your routines project folder and forget about them until they come up in your daily todo list. I would recommend you review this folder occasionally, I find some routine tasks either end, or their date changes. Keeping it up to date will stop you from ignoring the tasks when they come up if they are not due.

Project mandatory tasks, tasks that must be done to keep a project moving forward should be dated and done on the days they need to be done. To be honest with you, I always have a good idea of what is important and needs doing. My daily review at the end of the day tells me what I need to be doing next. I can then schedule a day when I will do it. So, I find that adding dates to these kind of tasks is not that important, but if you feel more comfortable to see tasks like this on a daily basis, then by all means add a date.

I think the issue here is throughout the day you are going to get a lot of disruptions, That’s just life. You need to be realistic about what you can get done in a day. The cliche, don’t bite off more than you chew’ is very apt here. I usually have one big project goal each day. It could be “continue writing book”, or “continue designing the workbook”, what I don’t do is write something like "write 10 pages of my book”. That would be unrealistic. That might be something I hope to do  but is probably very unrealistic given I am likely to be interrupted a lot.

Optional tasks, tasks that you don’t have to do, but would be helpful if you do. I suppose an example of this would be say, get you haircut or find out how much it would cost to replace the office computers really depend on how loud they are shouting at you. What I mean is if your hair is uncontrollably long and every morning when you look in the mirror you say to yourself I really must get my haircut, I think needs to be moved to a mandatory list. What you can do here is just apply a date and make that appointment. It could even become a daily outcome task—a task that you must complete on a given day—Really that choice is yours.

But I go back to how you are organising your lists. Some work just must be done on a given day. Well, those are the priorities for that day. Other, non-urgent tasks, can be done as and when you have time. I find if I have a spare 30 minutes before lunch, or before I finish my work at the end of day, is a great time to do a quick look at my non-dated tasks and do whichever ones I can do right then and there.

The thing is, if you are doing more work related tasks than your own self-development or goal tasks, you are prioritising the wrong things. To me, my goals and self-development are always the priorities, There are days when work takes up the whole day, that’s okay. But if 7/7 days are all work—work I am doing for someone else—then something is wrong in my priorities and I would have to re-evaluate what I am working on.

One thing you are going to have accept. Your tasks lists, both work and personal, are never ever going to get clear. If they did, you would be dead. There is always something we have to be doing. Eating, sleeping, talking with family, shopping, servicing the car whatever. If you ever found yourself in a position where you had completed everything on your lists and you were still alive, be worried. Either you are not using your todo lists properly, for example you are not capturing everything, or you have lost everything. We are human—designed to be always be doing. And that is normal and healthy.

That said, if one of your lists is becoming enormously long, then try allocating a week where your goal is to get as much done on that list as you possibly can. This is a great trick also if you need to really get a project moving forward. When you do your weekly review—you ARE doing a weekly review aren’t you?—You can decide if you want to focus in on a particular list or project the following week to get it under control.

Another tip is you make full use of a Someday / Maybe list. This is great for all those ideas, tasks and other things that are not particularly important right now, but you would maybe like to do someday in the future. This list or project doesn’t need to be reviewed every week, and is a great place to store ideas or things you would like to do in the future.

I will finish on some basis best practices.

Remember, you cannot do everything all at once. You can only do one thing at a time. The difficulty is choosing what to do. That’s where you need to develop your skill of prioritising, and prioritising is a skill worth developing, Look for the tasks that are time sensitive, ie the ones that for one reason or another must be done today or this week. Do those first. Tasks that are less time sensitive, but do have an upcoming deadline, should be done next and all those optional tasks and projects can be given the lowest priority.

I know sudden, urgent things will come up daily and weekly, and for those you will need to decide when to do them. It is your choice.

Ending the day by doing a quick review of what is coming up tomorrow can also help to focus you on the things that need doing. Don’t try and do too many things though, just try and do two important things, things that will have the biggest positive impact on your day. When you get into the habit of doing these daily reviews, you will very quickly get better at making the right decisions about what you need to work on tomorrow. Those ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day can really help to give you enough breathing room to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

But remember, your todo list is never going to end. It will always be a fight between what you are doing and what you are adding. That’s perfectly normal and means you are alive and well. Really managing your tasks is all about making sure you are doing enough to stay afloat and that you are achieving some kind of balance.

Hopefully, this episode has given you some food for thought.

Thank you for listening and don’t forget, if you have a question you would like answering about productivity or self-development and achieving your goals, all you need to do is email me, DM me on Twitter or Facebook or just fill out the question form on my website - carlpullein.com.

It just remains for me to wish you an incredibly productive week and I hope you will tune in next week for the next episode.

 

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