The Working With… Podcast | Episode 60 | How To Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet!

December 17, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I don’t answer a question and instead I give you some tips about achieving your goals in 2019.


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Hello and welcome to episode 60 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week there’s no question to answer, instead, I have a slightly different format for you to help you go into the new year armed with the right strategy and motivation to make 2019 your best year ever! 

Don’t forget if you are looking for more help and advise on anything related to productivity, time management and goal planning and achievement, then just head over to my website,, for videos, articles, online courses and of course coaching and mentoring. Everything you need in one handy place. 

Okay, let’s get started…

The new year brings hope, it gives us an opportunity to make a fresh start, do a reset and to take stock of our lives and has us thinking about where we can improve our lives and become better at what we do. But…

Statistically, most people will fail to make any changes or achieve any of their goals. When our good intentions meet the expressway of everyday reality our good intentions are usually the first things to break down. 

However, with a little application and focus, we can make those changes and begin growing and developing a life we want without breaking our intentions. 

So how do you do that? 

Well, the first thing is to get really specific about what it is you want to change or achieve. It’s no good just saying I want to earn more money - earning more money is easy. Doing a shift in your local pub on a Friday night will earn you more money. You need to get specific. How much more money do you want to earn? 5,000? 10,000? - Be specific. 

I want to lose weight is not specific enough to be either motivating or measurable. Just go to bed without eating your dinner and you will lose weight. You need to be specific about how much weight you want to lose and more importantly, by when? 

Once you have the specific details and you have a set timeline, then you have a workable goal. 

Now another mistake I see people making is having too many goals. You have plenty of time to achieve everything. You don't have to achieve everything in the first month. This is why so many fail in the new year resolutions. They have far too many and so their focus becomes diluted. I’ve always recommended focusing on no more than five or six goals for the year. Two or three are even better and remember if you do get on a roll and start accomplishing your goals quickly, you can always modify your outcome or target or add new goals to achieve later in the year. 

In fact, doing a quarterly review of your goals allows you to add in some flexibility, see how you are progressing and maintain your momentum and motivation. It also means if you are falling behind you can devise plans to get back on track. Keeping things fluid and flexible allows you to adjust and refine as the year goes by. Sometimes when we set our goals for the year we are just a little bit too optimistic. Instead of giving up either extend your timeline or adjust the outcome. You don’t have to give up. Just refine and keep going. The hardest part of usually getting started, so once you start, don’t give up. Just adjust and keep going.

Now one of the secrets to successfully achieving goals is developing the right habits. Let’s say you have decided to do a power hour between 6am and 7am every morning. You want to create an hour for yourself - to exercise, study something or meditate - there's a habit in there to develop. That is to wake up at 6am. If you’re not used to waking up at 6am your focus will need to be more on developing the habit and discipline to get yourself out of bed at 6am every day. What you do during that hour, can be developed later. You can experiment in the first month, you will soon find a routine you like. A routine you find motivating and more importantly, enjoyable. When I began doing meditation in the mornings I didn’t really know how I wanted to do it. I researched some articles and videos and found a 15-minute meditation session I could follow. After a couple of weeks I modified it to better suit my needs and now my morning meditation is something I would never miss. I love it, it’s so relaxing and it sets me up for an outstanding day. 

You see, goals are achieved through regular, daily practice of habits. Waking up early requires you to be in the habit of getting out of bed early. Losing weight requires the habit of watching what you eat, beginning an exercise programme requires you to go out and do exercise regularly. All of these changes and goals mean you have to build habits. 

Other types of goals also need good habit development. Getting your masters degree needs the habit of regular study, being promoted at work, needs the habit of doing great work every day. Achieving goals is nothing more than developing the right habits and consistently performing those habits. 

Which nicely brings me onto the next point and that is when you have written your goals out, can you identify what habits you will need to acquire to be able to achieve your goals? That’s really the secret of achieving goals. Building the right habits that will take you a little bit closer towards achieving your goal. 

Let’s say your goal is to become a director in your company by the end of the year. Now, while we are in 2018, would be a good time to discuss with your boss or HR about what you would be required to do to achieve that goal. Once you have that advice you can then build a plan to develop your skills and your behaviours so you can demonstrate to the people that matter that you have both the skills and the ability to become a director. 

Sketch out your ideas on paper or in a notes app and then look for the habits you can develop to make sure you are doing something every day to take you towards the goal. To become a director may require you to change your behaviour at work. Maybe you hang out with the gossip crowd at lunchtimes or perhaps you stand a little too long around the water cooler chatting. These are habits you will need to change. Change them. Find different people to go and have lunch with—people who can help you to develop your leadership skills.—Buy yourself a larger water bottle so you don’t have to go to the water cooler as often—that’s great advice if you ask me—just look for things you can turn into habits. 

Changing your behaviour is difficult. It’s easy to behave differently for a day or two, but our behaviour is baked in, and if you want to or need to change yours, then you are going to have consciously change the way you behave by changing your daily habits. That is the only way you will make the lasting change you will need to make to be considered for the promotion you desire. 

Another good trick is to look for links between the goals you have set yourself. If the majority of your goals fall under the category of your professional development, or personal development, then you may find there are some goals that naturally work together. This year I had three separate goals on my list that naturally linked. I wanted to begin waking up at 5 AM, to become fluent in Korean and to begin daily meditation. When I saw these written down I saw that I could wake up at 5 AM, do 45 minutes of Korean study and then finish the hour off with 15 minutes of meditation. I linked three goals together and that meant although I was achieving three goals, I only had to organise myself to do one thing—wake up at 5 AM—Once I was out of bed, I could move naturally onto my next one. 

If you have lose weight and begin exercising on your list of things you would like to do in 2019, then these two obviously link together. All you need to do is to decide when and how often you will exercise. The simple act of exercising regularly will start the weight loss. Your daily calorific output will go up and as long as you daily calorific input doesn’t go up as well, you will lose weight. You’ve linked two goals together.

Finally, if you are attempting to achieve a goal you have previously failed at, spend a little time looking in to the reasons why you failed before. Sometimes we fail at goals because the reason for achieving that goal is not strong enough. Imagine you are a little overweight, but you feel happy with the way you are. But you still have lose weight on your list of goals for next year. Now the problem here is your motivation is weak. If you have lose weight on your list because of what someone else told you to do, then the “why” is not your “why” it is someone else’s why you will struggle to achieve that goal. 

Other reasons could be the goal is too big for one year. Earning $1 million, for example, may need five or ten years to achieve that. Instead of going after $1 million, break it down to say $250,000 next year. If you find yourself at $500,000 by July, then you can always extend the goal to $1 million then. 

So there you go, a few final tips to achieve your goals as we head into the new year. During these final days of December get yourself motivated, visualise what a great year would be like and create a plan to make it happen. You have the ability and the know-how to do it, you just have to decide how you are going to do it and make a determined effort to make it happen. Your year is in your hands. You have the power and all you need now is the right plan, the right motivation and of course to develop the right habits to make it happen. 

Good luck and thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Working with Podcast. If you found this episode inspiring, please share it will as many people you know. Sharing and helping other people to have a fantastic year is a gift only you can give, so give as much as you can. 

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



The Working With Podcast | Episode 59 | How To Manage Paper In A Digital World

December 10, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to handle a paper-based work environment when you are a digitally minded person.


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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

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How to Plan Your Year (VIDEO)


Hello and welcome to episode 59 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a question about handling multiple types of inputs. Not just the usual digital inputs such as email, PDF and Word files, but also paper-based applications, memos and even letters. Again, something I think many of you will have to deal with, particularly if you work in a more conservative industry. 

Before we get into the specifics of this question, I would like to point you in the direction of a video I made last month about planning for 2019. We are now just three weeks away from 2019 and I want you all to have the best year you have ever had, not just in terms of completing your projects and goals, but to be able to be better organised and more productive so you can spend more time with the people you really care about doing the things you want to do. I’ve put a link to that video in the show notes and I will be posting a follow-up video this week on how to turn your ideas into actual achievable goals and projects. The best way to make sure you get that video is to subscribe to my channel—which is full of tips, tricks and know-hows—so you never miss a thing. 

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

This week’s question comes from Tiago. Tiago asks: I really enjoy the beginners guide to creating your own COD System, it was very useful for my productivity, but I work in an environment that I need to process paper documents from clients, colleagues and process many emails every day. I try to have some hours to process my inboxes, digital and physical, but it’s hard to lead with everything. Do you have some tips for this type of work environment?

Thank you, Tiago for your wonderful question. It’s actually a question about something I think we all forget about sometimes and that is how to deal with not just the digital stuff we receive each day, but also the physical stuff that comes across our desks every day. 

You see whether you have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and applied the principles or you have taken my COD productivity course, both of those resources focus on the digital side and less on the physical side. If you can get a copy of the original Getting Things Done book, that is more focused on the physical stuff because when the book was published in 2001, we were in the middle of the transition from a largely paper-based office environment to a more digital environment. 

Up until last year, I kept a shelve of physical folders next to my desk which contained client contracts, regular mail and my domestic bills I had paid amongst other things. It was a way for me to manage the paper I still received. From January this year, I transitioned to a 100% paperless environment and have found it much less cumbersome. How I handle that is when something physical comes in, whether it is a contract or a bill or something else, I will scan in immediately using my phone and an app called Scanbot. What Scanbot does is send anything I scan to a folder in iCloud where I will then process whatever I received into its correct digital place. Now the problem, of course, is that this creates another inbox that needs processing. As I am not scanning every day it would be very inefficient to check that ‘inbox’ on a daily basis, so after I scan the document I add a task to my to-do list manager’s inbox to tell me to process the folder. 

That worked for me, but it may not work for you. The kind and type of physical documents you receive may be quite varied in their nature so the first thing you will need to do is to review what kind of paper-based documents you receive regularly. When you do this you will find that they will fall into certain categories. For example, if you deal with client contracts, these naturally will fall under the category of contracts and will be associated with a specific client. If your accounts department insists on you providing physical receipts for your expenses report then that is another type of paper document you will need to retain. 

To do this I would recommend you keep a note of what types of paper-documents you receive over a typical week. Then at the end of the week go through your list and see what you have collected. 

Next, go out and buy yourself some folders from your local stationary store. If you really want to, you can also buy yourself a labeller machine too (that’s pure GTD for those of you who have read the book) and label (or write) the type of document you will store in each folder. So you may end up with folders labelled with “receipts”, “New client contracts”, “Invoices to pay”, “Invoices paid” “Applications” etc. The way you label these folders will be based on your review and the types of documents you receive each week. 

Of course, if you have specific client contracts you will probably have a file related to that client already, but at this stage, I am assuming you will need to process the details digitally first before the paper-based contract is moved to its final resting place in the clients or customer’s file. 

Now, in my pre-paperless days, I also had a folder I called “Inbox”. I used this for those random paper documents that did not have a specific place to go but needed some form of attention before being trashed or filed. An example of this would be invitations to an event or payslips for the various academies I worked with. 

Okay, so now what do you do with the paper that comes in. Here, the best way to deal with it is to get yourself two or three in-trays. I recently visited a stationary store and I noticed these are disappearing. A few years ago there was a whole aisle dedicated to inboxes and trays. Now there was a tiny section at the back of the store for them—A worrying development if you ask me—SO if you do not already have a set of these excellent collection tools, go out and buy yourself some. While paper-based stuff is declining, it still exists and so these trays are valuable. I have three metal based in-trays next to my desk and I use them every day. 

The top tray is my inbox. The middle tray is my ‘pending’ or “waiting for” tray—which I must confess gets little input these days as anything I am waiting for is likely to be a digital input.—And my bottom tray is where I keep my journal and notebooks when they are not open on my desk. 

Okay, so now you have everything set up, how do you use this setup on a daily basis?

Okay, so, when a paper-based document comes in you can drop it in your in-tray. Treat this as you would treat your digital inbox. Just drop the document into your tray. Now, here’s the crucial part. If you are going to process the document that day, then there’s nothing else for you to do until you process the document. However, if there is no urgency, the document just needs some action at some point in the near future, add a digital reminder into your digital to-do list. Seriously this is going to save more times than you know. As the paper comes in, stuff you put into your in-tray yesterday or the day before is going to sink to the bottom and can quite easily get missed. Your digital to-do list manager is with you everywhere you go, so you know you will have that reminder there as a trigger to do something with the document. I know some of you will argue that that is duplicating, but adding a digital to-do task has saved me so many times. 

But… As with all inboxes, whether they are digital or physical, they need to be processed regularly. I process all my task related inboxes daily, including my physical inbox, but this is really up to you. My Evernote inbox, for example, gets processed once a week, but I don’t put tasks in there, just notes. 

As an aside, I do have another use for my bottom in-tray. in addition to my journal and notebook, I also keep some cables in there. When I am doing a coaching call, I use my iPad and I keep my iPad’s charging cable in there. Often these calls will be around an hour in length and I don’t want my battery to go flat on me during the call. Before the call, I just pull out the cable and plug in my iPad. The worst thing that could happen is when I am about to start a call, I have to go looking for the charging cable. I can avoid this by having my cable in its rightful place—the bottom tray of my in-trays. 

When you think about it, handling paper-based documents should be a much easier task than handling digital documents. There are hundreds of years of practice and experience to draw on. In a way, I am very lucky to have begun my working life just as we were transitioning away from a paper-based office to a digital one. I was lucky enough to learn how to file manually using those big old-fashioned filing cabinets. A lot of how we manage our digital files these days is based on that tried and tested physical filing system. It worked then, it still works today. 

The difficulty these days is keeping on top of everything that needs doing. But sticking to basic principles of having an inbox to collect everything, spending some time at the end of the day organising everything you collected and spending the better part of your time focused on doing is the only way to manage these various inputs. Working in an environment that has to deal with paper means you need an additional inbox and that means you have an additional inbox to process at the end of the day. 

BUT… What you choose to work on can still be managed digitally. If you have a client’s contract to review and process, then you would add a task into your to-do list manager “Review and process Client A’s contract” and when that task comes due, you would pull the contract from where you filed it and begin the work. The key is to not over complicate things and certainly not have two or three to-do lists. You only need one to-do list and that will tell you what you need to work on next. 

An example is last night I had a call with a client and during that call, I took paper-based notes. After the call, as it was quite late, I tore off the notes sheet with my notes and put it in my inbox. I added a task in my to-do list manager’s inbox to process those notes and at some point today I will do that. Once those notes have been processed into Evernote, that sheet with the notes will be thrown away. I don’t need a duplicate of my notes. Once they are in Evernote they are where they need to be. Of course, I could just scan the sheet and add it to my Evernote, but I like my Evernote notes to be in a digital format so I can copy and paste text if I need to. To process those notes will take around ten to fifteen minutes, but that time is well spent as it will save a lot of time later when I need to find those notes. 

So there you go, Tiago. Hopefully, that has answered your question and given you some food for thought on how best to manage your paper-based stuff. The way to look at it is any paper-based documents that need some work doing, treat is as you would a digital-based document. Add it to your inbox and process it as you would normally do. If necessary, add a task to your to-do list manager and move on to your next piece of work. 

Thank you for the wonderful question, Tiago and thank you all for listening to this podcast. Next week, I will be dealing with how to plan out the new year so you have the best year ever, so if you haven’t created a list of all the things you would like to achieve next year, now’s the time to give some serious thought to that so you are ready to start building your plan for next year. 

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



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 58 | How To Develop Positive Habits

December 3, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to Change old habits and develop new ones.


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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

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Hello and welcome to episode 58 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I have a great question about habit development and how to use your productivity tools to create new, positive habits and stop old, negative habits. 

But, before we get into this week’s question, please allow me a few seconds to say a big thank you to all of you who participated in my Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale last week. The response was fantastic and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people supporting me so I can help more people to become better organised and more productive. We know stress is one of the world’s biggest killers these days and by becoming more productive you can reduce the amount of stress you are exposed to and that is why I want to help more people discover the benefits of a more organised and productive life. So thank you. I am looking forward to the new year and helping more and more people. Without out your support, I would not be able to do half of what I do today. 

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

This week’s question comes from Pippa. Pippa asks, do you have any tips on developing more positive habits? I have always struggled to change my habits and I was wondering if there was a way to help keep myself focused on my habits.

Thank you, Pippa, for your excellent question. 

Recently I have been asked a lot about this. How to develop and stay focused on new habits and I know from my own personal experience this can be a tough thing to do. But, over the years I have discovered a few ways that can help to keep myself focused on new habits until they become automatic and I will share those ways with you here. 

Firstly, let’s look at the problem. Changing habits is difficult because to change a habit we have to move outside of our natural comfort zones. An example of this would be if you decided to start waking up an hour earlier than usual and doing some form of exercise. Now depending on how fit you are when you start this new habit, starting an exercise programme at the best of times can be very challenging. Exercise, particularly in the beginning, can be very painful and there are no immediate noticeable benefits. It’s just a lot of pain, sweat and, the next day, very sore muscles. 

Over time, as you get fitter, it gets easier and the natural benefits of excising regularly begin to show. You feel stronger, have more energy and of course, you begin to look a lot better. But that is not what you get at the beginning. The beginning is usually characterised by pain and muscle soreness, a flushed face and difficulty getting up out of your seat after you have been sat down for a while. That’s not a very good way to keep you inspired to exercise every morning. You have to have almost super-human discipline to keep going in that situation. 

So how do you overcome this?

The biggest mistake I see is people trying to do too much at once. Take the exercise habit, for example. I often see people make the decision to start an exercise programme and on day one they rush out the house at 6AM, and run for three or four miles. Now, if you have not got out running for a long time, the next day when you wake up to repeat the process, your leg muscles are going to be screaming at you to stop. If you tie that in with cold, wet weather outside, it is understandable that your dry, warm bed is going to win that particular battle. 

Instead, it is far better to start slowly and break down the habit you are trying to develop. In the exercise example, there are actually two habits there. Waking up early and exercising. If you try to do both at the same time you are going to make things very difficult for yourself. It is far better to develop one at a time over a period of time. 

As the new year is around the corner, let’s say that from January you decide that you want to wake up early and spend the first hour of the day doing exercise. Now the better way to do this is to decide that January will be when you develop the habit of waking up early. Let’s say you wake up at 7:30am now, struggle to get out of bed and then find yourself rushing to get yourself out the door and to the bus-stop by 8:00am. So, from the 2nd of January—not the first, that’s usually a holiday for most people—you wake up at 6:30am and get yourself out of bed. Go make yourself a cup of your favourite morning drink, or drink some water, and after a few minutes do some light stretching exercises. Nothing too difficult. Spend 20 to 30 minutes doing that and then go take a shower. Do the same the next day and the next. Just focus on getting into the habit of waking up an hour earlier. 

By the end of January, you will find waking up early has become natural. You will feel disappointed if you don’t wake up early. That’s what you want. You want that emotional response when you don’t do it. 

Now, in February you introduce some more strenuous exercise. Again, the advice here is don’t go crazy. If you have been doing some gentle stretching exercises in January, then add some push-ups and non-weights squats. Do two or three sets of these. Try to find 3 exercises you can do as a set and do three sets of three. You could do planks, push-ups and squats as a set and repeat that three times. Those three exercises will exercise almost all the muscle groups in your body. 

Now if you do that Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday and Thursday you go our for a power walk, that means you will be exercising five times a week. Do that for a month and by the end of February, you will be feeling fantastic. There will be no more muscle soreness and waking up that hour earlier will just feel right. 

If you tried to do that all in the first week, the chances of you being able to maintain it would be almost zero. Staging your changed habits over a couple of months and you increase the chances of success a hundred times.

Okay, so exercise and waking up earlier is an easy example to give. What about some more subtle changes to your habits. Imagine you find yourself being negative about things and you want to become a more positive person. How would you go about changing that? 

Now, this one is a more behavioural habit and so needs a slightly different approach. Humans are not naturally negative. Being negative is a taught skill ( I say that because there are so many amazingly positive things in this world yet some people seem to have PhDs in finding the negatives in life). Changing the way you look at the world is a lot easier than you may think. 

The way to do this is to make full use of your calendar or to-do list manager. At the top of your to-do list or calendar write down two or three things you will be positive about today. I would write “Be positive” at the top of my to-do list and highlight it or bold it so it stands out. Every time I look at my to-do list I would see those two words. Likewise, if you do this on your calendar, create a new event and in bold capitalised letters write “BE POSITIVE!” What this does is remind you every time you look at your to-do list or calendar (or both) to be positive. 

This is about changing the way you see the world. If it’s raining - look at the rain and say to yourself that the air is being cleaned and nature is getting its drinking water. If it’s snowing, instead of thinking about how difficult it will be to get to work, think about all the children who are going to be so excited about the snow. Imagine how you felt about the snow when you were a child. That will soon put a positive smile on your face. 

Another quick tip about becoming more positive is don’t read the news first thing in the morning. The news is full of negativity because for some reason bad news sells. Stay well away from the news. I use a news reader app called Reeder that only shows me articles from blogs and magazines I choose. So my morning news is full of productivity tips, self-help advice and technology news. I have no idea about Brexit or the latest antics of President Trump. 

What you need to do is to remove the triggers that led to your old habit and replace them with triggers that encourage the new habit. Replace negative news with blog posts about your favourite hobby. Replace negative thoughts by challenging yourself to find the positives—there are always positives. 

Far and away the best way to develop positive habits is to start small. Don’t try and change everything at once. Create a 12-month timeline and map out the habits you want to develop over that twelve month period. Start with the easy ones as this will allow your confidence to grow. As your confidence grows, so too will your self-discipline so when you get to the harder habits, you will have a lot more confidence and a lot more self-discipline. 

One tip that always works for me is to schedule a specific time to do whatever it is you want to do. For me, I exercise between 2 and 2:45pm every day. Most days I will exercise quite hard. But some days I can feel a little soreness and so I will just do gentle stretching and non-weight bearing exercises. That time is scheduled on my calendar five times a week and as the rule goes - “What’s on my calendar gets done” I make sure it happens, no matter what mood I am in. My calendar is sacred territory. If you work a regular 9 til’ 5 office job, then schedule 6pm to 7pm to do whatever new habit you want to develop. It could be spend more time with your kids, write a journal or clean your house. Whatever it is, schedule it and make sure you do it. 

Changing old habits and developing new ones is really all about creating routines. When you turn the new habit into a routine you just do it without thinking. For me, when 2pm arrives, I stop whatever it is I am doing and begin my usual warmup routines. I also change into my exercise gear and just begin. Although I have previously planned what exercise I will do, when 2pm arrives, I just start. There’s no thinking, no opportunity to talk myself out of doing it, it’s 2pm and I start… It’s on my calendar. 

So there you go, Pippa. I hope that has given you a few ideas about starting new habits and I wish you all the best of luck with your new habits. I know it is not easy, but with time and by starting small, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. 

Thank you all for listening to this episode of the Working With Podcast. If you have a question you would like answering, please send me an email - or you can DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links are in the show notes. 

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


The Working With… Podcast | Episode 57 | How To Stop Procrastinating.

November 26, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to stop procrastinating and get the work done.


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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

My 2018 Black Friday / Cyber Monday offers


Hello and welcome to episode 57 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, the question is all about procrastination and how to overcome this real productivity conundrum. It affects us all and it can do a lot of damage to our careers, relationships and goals. 

But before we get into this week’s question, I want to tell you all about my fantastic Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale. There are some fantastic offers available for you and I would love you to get yourself a bargain while you can. I have bundles of courses, including the brilliant Pathway To Productivity, AND… I am also offering 12 Months of weekly one on one coaching with me personally at half price. Those places are very limited, so if you want to get yourself in, you need to go to my website right now and book yourself a place and save yourself $600! 

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

This week’s question comes from Tim. Tim asks, Carl, I really struggle to get things done. Whenever I sit down to do some work I find myself procrastinating by flicking through Instagram or watching your videos on YouTube. Do you have any advice on stopping this? 

Thank you, Tim, Not sure I want to stop you watching my videos though! Anyway, to answer your question this is something I know many people have difficulties with. I too, from time to time, find myself procrastinating and it can really hinder the work I want to do for the day. The good news is there are a few strategies you can use to stop you from flicking through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. 

The first one is to have a plan for the day. We often find ourselves procrastinating when we have unclear plans for the day. If you turn up to work with no plan you will spend the first part of the day thinking about what to do and that is when social media and unimportant work shouts the loudest. It’s human nature to turn away from the hardest work and move towards the easier work. If you have no plan, the unimportant will be shouting at you and you will not do the important. This is one of the many reasons why I recommend you do the Golden Ten at the end of the day and not in the morning. When you wake up in the morning with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish that day you are much more likely to get it done. 

And that leads me on to the second tip. Don’t set yourself too much to do. Another reason why we get drawn to procrastination is because when we look at our to-do list for the day it is too long. It becomes overwhelming and overwhelm often leads to procrastination. I have been recommending that you do not have more than ten things on your daily to-do list each day for a long time. Now that might not seem very much, but every day you are going to have crises, demands from bosses and customers and you are going to have to deal with them. If you only have ten or fewer items on your to-do list you will have time to deal with the crises as well as get your planned work done. That creates a circle of success. The more days you complete your planned tasks, the more focused you will become on completing those tasks. It’s a case of you not wanting to break the chain and you become determined to get your work done. 

How you write out your tasks is also a way to prevent procrastination. If you write tasks out that are unclear, such as, “Shopping”, “dog food” or “Wife’s birthday”, you will procrastinate. Sometimes you will remember what it was you meant when you wrote that task, other times you will not. If the task is something like “write report” that will guarantee you will procrastinate because although it is just two words, the work involved is unclear and you will resist. Far better to write tasks such as “Buy dog food for Barney” or “research gift ideas for wife’s birthday” for the report break it down. You could create three of four tasks such as: 

  • Write introduction to report
  • Prepare charts for report
  • Ask Jane for report template 

These tasks are easy, clear and manageable. You are much more likely to get them done rather than waste time thinking about what to do next. 

Another way to help stop you from procrastinating is to make good use of labels or contexts in Getting Things Done terminology. What this means is you label each task according to the tool, place or person required to do the task. For example, if you need to be at your computer to do a task, you would label it @computer. Likewise, if you need to be with your colleague to find something out, then you would label the task @colleague’s name. Shopping tasks can be labelled @supermarket and so on. This way, when you find yourself in front of your computer you pull up the list of tasks you need your computer for and get started. Now of course if you are using my Golden Ten system you would move on to your labels AFTER you have completed your ten tasks for the day. 

Another trick I’ve used in the past that works well is to schedule breaks between the work I am doing. For example, I know in a morning I am good for around two hours. So, every two hours I will get up and walk around. Refill my water bottle or check my email. I limit these break times to ten minutes and if you are a serial procrastinator I would suggest you set yourself a ten-minute alarm. You can check your email from your phone, so you can walk around and check email via your phone. If you want to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed during these times then do so. It’s a break remember. BUT… After ten minutes get back to work. In the afternoons, I find my attention span reduces so I take breaks every hour or so. This really works, particularly if you are following your plan for the day. When you have a plan you know exactly what you will get to work on once your break is over. 

Having all your information organised is another way to avoid procrastination. When the information you need to do your work is scattered all over the place you go in search of it. This will take you down avenues you do not want to go down looking for files. I group reference materials and files in project-specific folders (or notebooks in Evernote) I also copy and paste website links into the project note for the project in Evernote so I don’t have to open up my web browser blind. All I need to do is click on a saved link and it will take me to the page I need to reference. Not only does this save a lot of time it also keeps me focused on the task at hand. 

Turn off your notifications and silence your email when you are doing your important work. This one is a biggie. If you are working on a report, presentation or design and you keep getting pop-ups telling you-you have new email, or a new Twist or Slack message you are going to be tempted to look at it. STOP! No, No No! - This is going to cause you a lot of pain AND you WILL procrastinate. Turn them off and focus on the work. You can check your messages and emails between your work sessions. Seriously, no one is ever going to get upset with you if you don’t reply for an hour. If something was very urgent, they would call you. So there’s no excuse at all not to turn off your notifications. Do it… Just do it. No excuses. 

There’s a couple of other ways to stop procrastinating. The first is to gamify your work. Give yourself a reward for focusing on your work for an hour (or ninety minutes if you prefer) Allow yourself ten minutes on Instagram if you complete a piece of work or spend two hours on focused work. Gamification is fun and you not only get to check your social media feeds you also get a lot of work done. After all, work doesn’t have to bring and serious all the time. 

Finally, if you are in the habit of checking shopping sites randomly while you are working then set up your to-do list manager to collect from a keyboard shortcut. Recently I have been redesigning my home office and I have been looking at office chairs, hard drive storage solutions and plants for my desk. Often as I am writing or planning I get an idea to check Ikea or a furniture store’s site. To avoid me going off on a shopping expedition, I will use my quick capture keyboard shortcut to Todoist to collect what it is I want to look at and carry on my work. I write and plan in full-screen mode on my computer, so I never leave the screen I am working in. It’s just SHIFT+CMD+A and I type “look up office chairs at Ikea” and hit return. Done. My thought was captured and I can carry on planning or writing. I can then look up whatever it is I wanted to look up when I take my next break. 

Well, I hope that has answered your question, Tim and I hope it will help you to overcome your procrastination. 

I know procrastination is a problem for many people, but if you adopt these strategies you will soon find yourself getting more important work done and procrastinating less. Be clear about what you want to get done, schedule regular breaks and turn off your notifications when you are doing focused work. These three strategies alone will help you. But the biggest one of all is to discipline yourself. Procrastination is really a sign you have a lack of discipline. Work on your discipline, and to do that start small, and you will go a very long way to stopping procrastination from rearing its ugly head. 

Good luck and thank you, Tim, for your excellent question. And thank you all for listening 

Don’t forget to check out my Holiday season offers, I am sure there will be something there for you all. 

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



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 56 | How To Stay Focused On The Important Things In Your Life.

November 19, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to stay focused on the important things.


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Hello and welcome to episode 56 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a question about focus and how to stay focused on the important things without allowing yourself to be distracted by all the unimportant things that go on around us every day. 

Before we dive in to this week’s question, though, I just like to tell you I have been preparing a number of fantastic offers for this coming weekend’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The first of which will be an exclusive “secret sale” launching on Thursday for all of you who are enrolled in my Learning Centre. If you are not already enrolled, then get yourself enrolled in my FREE Beginners Guide to Creating Your Own COD system so you can be involved in this very special secret sale. 

Okay, on to this week’s question and that means handing you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question.

This week’s question comes from Amanda. Amanda asks: Carl, how do you stay focused on your goals and plans on a daily basis. I really struggle with this. 

Thank you Amanda for your question. I think this is another question many of you will also be wondering about. 

Well, the first thing is you need to have identified what exactly is important to you. If you do not know what is important you will always be feeling you are not moving forward with your life. You will feel you are just going through the motions and not getting anything important done. Establishing what is important to you, and what is not, is the first step. Of course it is not an easy step. There is so much going on in our lives and there is so much going on at work that it is very hard to know what is important and what is not. One thing I can tell you is that other people’s urgencies are definitely not your important tasks. Important tasks for you need to come from you. Not your boss, your family or your friends. They must come from you. 

One way to discover what is important to you is to ask a very simple question and spend a few minutes thinking about your answer. That question is:

If I had complete control over what I will do tomorrow, what would I do?  

Now there are two different times you should ask this question. When you are at work and when you are at home. Ask this question before you finish at workplace everyday and write out what you would do, and again, ask this question on a Friday night and write down you answer. 

The answers you come up with may not necessarily be what you can work on, but somewhere in the list of things you write down you will see a theme developing. That theme is where you should be spending your time. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say on a Sunday night you sit down and ask the question. You write down things like:

  • Finish presentation for Thursday’s symposium
  • Prepare for Wednesday’s conference call
  • Ask HR about how many holiday days I have left this year

Once you have a list like this, get them into your to-do list manager and flag them. These are your priorities for tomorrow. 

Now if your list contains more than three or four things, you are going to have to slim down the list. This is where you will have to become a bit ruthless. This is quite hard to do at first, but our brains have a very bad habit of convincing us we can do more than we can in any period of twenty-four hours. And we also have to accept there is going to be some form of a crisis that will require our attention. We do not work in a bubble. 

If you want to get really good at this you should go into full ruthless mode and restrict these things to just two. When you do that, you start making sure that the two things you choose as your objectives are truly important to you. And being only two important things you are much more likely to get them done. 

Doing this process on a Friday evening also helps you to not waste your weekends too. Of course yo do not want to be writing down things related to your work because we all need a break from that. So, you want to looking at doing things with your family, your friends or perhaps some home improvements or even more important something related to your personal improvement. One thing that is always on my weekend list is to watch a TED talk or go through some Robin Sharma, Mel Robbins or Brian Tracy videos. I usually spend around an hour each weekend doing this and find in incredibly inspiring and educational and I feel no matter what I have done—or not done—that day, I have done something important. 

If you are not taking some time each day to think about what you want to do, and then writing them down and making them priorities, you are going end up doing what someone else wants you to do and that usually does not end well for you. You feel exhausted and worn out and yet you have done nothing to improve your life or make progress on your work. You will have it all to do again tomorrow. It becomes a never-ending cycle and it’s a cycle you need to get off as quickly as possible. 

Some areas you should be prioritising and focusing on every day are:

  • Your own self-development
  • Your health and fitness
  • Your own work - work you are responsible for
  • Your friends and family
  • Planning and preparation for upcoming projects
  • Completing your projects - because I know a lot of people who are fantastic at planning their projects and creating beautiful to-do lists in their productivity tools and never actually get round to doing the work that matters. 

Distractions are an inevitability, you are not going to be able to completely remove them from your life. When we are tired we find our Facebook or Instagram feed irresistible and our boss, partner or co-worker can have very loud voices. All these distractions happen to everyone. We are not always wide awake, we don’t all have wonderfully quiet co-workers and understanding partners. We have to deal with them. You need to create systems and processes so you can focus on what is important to you so that these get done every day. You have to be disciplined. And I’m afraid there is no getting around that. 

One final thing I should mention is I have what like to call my “anchor”. My anchor is a place where I can go to refocus. Now, when I say “anchor”, I don’t mean a physical place, what I mean is a place where you have your goals and priorities written down. This could be a note in your notes app, or a page in your journal. It really doesn’t matter where you have this list or note. What matters is that it is accessible to you every day. We cannot control what happens to us or around us, but we can control our response to what happens. Our days can take some very unexpected turns. A colleague does not come in to work one day and you start getting calls from their customers asking about things you have no idea about. Or your boss dumps a huge project on your desk and asks you to complete by the end of tomorrow. When these things happen you have no choice but to deal with them. 

This is where your anchor comes in to play. You can deal with the immediate crisis and then when you get a few moments you can go to your anchor, read through it and remind yourself of your priorities and your objectives. It can bring you peace and calm when everything around you is in chaos. 

My anchor is my journal. It is always on my desk and is open at today’s page. I’ve talked about my journal in a previous episode, but having my journal next to me whenever I am working is a fantastic way to give me peace of mind and to make sure I am focused on the work that matters. At anytime I feel I am being dragged off to do work I am not happy about doing, I can take a couple of minutes and review my goals, or review my objectives for the day and this can give me the necessary boost to refocus on what’s important and to decide when or even if I want to do a piece of work. 

If you are interested in learning more about my anchor, I wrote a blog post about it last week and I also talked about it in last week’s episode of the Productivity Mastery series. 

So there you go, Amanda. Hopefully that has given you some tips and ideas about what you can do you get yourself focused on what is important to you. Remember, your priorities should always be your priorities and not the priorities of someone else. Create an anchor for yourself so you can be reminded of what is important to you whenever you feel chaos is around you. 

Thank you for your question, Amanda and thank you all for listening to this episode. If you have a question you would like answering, please get in touch either by email or Dming me on Twitter or Facebook. All the details are in the show notes. 

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



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 55 | Planning The New Year With Kevin Blackburn [Part 2]

November 16, 2018


In this second part of my chat with Kev Blackburn of Life Success Engineer, we continue discussing goal planning and 2019.


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Hello and welcome to episode 55 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this second part of my special goal planning and 2019 episode, Kev Blackburn, THE Life Success Engineer and I discuss a few goal planning tips and tricks that will help you make 2019 your best year yet. 

So, sit back, enjoy, be inspired and we continue where we left off. 



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 54 | Planning The New Year With Kevin Blackburn [Part 1]

November 12, 2018

In this week’s episode, I chat with Kev Blackburn of Life Success Engineer about goal planning and making 2019 your best year yet.


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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System

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The Ultimate Goal Planning Course

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The Annual Planning Worksheet can be downloaded here

Hello and welcome to episode 54 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this first part of a very special goal planning and 2019 episode, Kev Blackburn, THE Life Success Engineer and I discuss how we plan the new year, what tools we use and why this time of the year is one of the most exciting times for us. 

So, sit back, enjoy, be inspired.

Part two of this talk will be posted on Friday so, listen out for that episode. 



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 53 | How I Plan The New Year

November 5, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how I plan my new year goals.


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Hello and welcome to episode 53 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s episode, I finally answer a question I received during the summer, but I thought it would be better to answer the question now as the year draws to a close. And that is how do I plan my year. I should also point out that I will be doing another episode on this in the coming weeks with my good friend and super amazing positive guy, Kevin Blackburn, so keep your eyes (or ears) open for that episode, I know it’s going to be a very special episode.

And if you really want to learn how to set and achieve your goals I have a couple of courses on my Learning Centre that will not only show you how to create achievable goals but also take you through the steps on discovering what you really want to achieve in life. I’ve linked to both courses in the show notes and I would highly recommend you have a look at them. Those courses could really change your life. 

Okay, let’s get on with this week’s show and that means it’s time to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question:

This week’s question comes from Michael. Michael asks, Carl could you tell us how you go about setting goals. I know you’ve written a lot about it, but hearing it in your own words would be very helpful. 

Okay, Michael, you asked for it so here it is. 

I begin my planning season around the middle of October when I create a note in my Evernote with 6 headings. These headings are:

  1. Ideas - this where I dump anything that comes into my mind
  2. What would I like to change about myself? - This question allows me to think about my character, habits and interactions and see if there is anything I am not happy about. If I find anything I will add it here. 
  3. What would I like to change about my lifestyle? - This question is all about the way I live. Am I active enough? is there anything about my home I would like to change? Anything like that.
  4. What would I like to change about the way I work? This question obviously is about my work. Is there anything about my work routines I would like to change. This year, for example, I focused more on making sure I did any creative work in the mornings and did admin and editing work in the evenings. 
  5. What can I do to challenge myself? Challenging myself helps to stop me from stagnating. I like to have at least one thing each year that is going to be incredibly difficult. This always gives me a huge buzz because often the challenge seems impossible at first. 
  6. Goals - Finally, I have a place to add in the goals I want to achieve next year. These can come from anything I have written to the questions I have in the list and it’s a good way to help me build the final list of goals for the year as I am developing my ideas. 

I’ve put a link in the show notes so you can download this worksheet and use it for yourself. 

So how do I take all these answers and turn them into goals for the following year? Well, the first step is to empty my head of ideas and I have found over the years that trying to write a full list in one sitting is pretty much impossible. Instead, I treat most of October and all of November as an open planning session. By that I mean this note in Evernote is with me everywhere I go, so wherever I am I can add to the list anytime. And ideas can pop up at any time. Often I can be on the subway minding my own business and something I see or hear will spark an idea and I will immediately collect it on my phone. If I have time I will put it under the right question, if not, I just add it to the bottom of the list and move it to the right place later. 

I’ve found if I allow myself 4 to 6 weeks of this I will have a wonderfully long list of ideas. The “collection” phase of my planning stops on the 1st of December. By then I know I will have collected everything I would like to achieve. 

Now, there is one final step in this process I do. On the first of December, I will take a look at last years list—and this is one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to stick with one app for each area of your productivity system. Because I have been using Evernote for over nine years now, I know exactly where last year’s note is and can pull it up with a very simple search. Switching notes apps all the time means there’s a good chance you will lose stuff like this in the switchover—What I am looking for are the ideas I had last year that I decided at the time was not the right time to do. Often I find there are one or two items on that list that will I transfer over to this year’s list. 

Now, the 1 December is the cut off time. I will not be adding anything else to the list. What I have on the list now is everything. So, the next step is to slim the list down to two things for each question and to have five goals for the year. 

I will go through each part of the list and use Evernote’s highlighting tool to highlight three things from each question. Then every day for that two weeks I will spend a few minutes looking at the list and checking that I am still happy with my selection. I find almost every day I will change something. Often I will change the highlight to another item and then change it back a few days later. It’s all good fun, but by doing this you will have evaluated everything thoroughly and when the 15th of December comes around that is your final selection. 

Why two things and 5 goals? Well, if you try and do everything you will fail at most things. Experience has taught me that if I am focused on only a few things there is a much better chance of accomplishing those few things. It also means that the things I do choose to focus on next year will be things that are really important to me. Forcing myself to prioritise this way means my choices are important and the desire to accomplish them will be very strong. 

Why only 5 goals? Again this is so I am not trying to do too much. As the year goes, other things will come up, there could be family emergencies, your employment situation may suddenly change in a way you did not anticipate. All sorts of things could happen. So a limited number of goals allows me to stay focused on what is truly important to me. 

Okay, so now it’s the 15th December and I have my final selection, what happens next? Well, now it’s time to create the necessary action steps and timelines for these changes and goals to happen. Let me give you an example from this year:

On my lifestyle changes list, I had the goal of beginning Robin Sharma’s 5 am Club. This is where you wake up at 5 am, do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes studying. Now, I prefer to exercise in the afternoon as it breaks up my day nicely, and I do my planning in the evening before I go to bed. That works for me and I didn’t want to change it. However, I also had on my goals list to learn Korean to fluency and I saw the chance to merge the two goals together. So, I developed a plan to wake up at 5 am and study Korean for an hour. 

For timing, I decided the best time to do this was when my wife went off to China for a few months to study. This meant I did not have to worry about waking her up and with the change in my home life, it would be a good time to change my routine. So, my wife left for China on a Friday in early June and the following Monday I began my 5 am club. It was tough for the first few days, but by the end of the week I was getting into it and after a month it was easy. 

Next up on my list of things to do was begin meditation. The question here for me was at what time of the day would I do it. I decided the best time would be early morning, so in September, I added 15 minutes meditation to my 5 AM Club routine. So, now I study for 45 minutes and finish off with 15 minutes of meditation. And I should say, I really look forward to my 5 AM starts now. 

I knew at the beginning of the year I needed to first get into the routine of waking up early and studying. So I gave myself 3 months to get into that habit before starting the meditation habit. There was no rush and this slow development has meant that as I acquire a new habit I can then move on to developing that habit into what the final goal was to be. Wake up at 5 AM study and meditate for an hour. Now we are into November I can confidently say I have acquired both habits and it has become one of the highlights of my day!

So there you have it, the way I plan the year. It’s a fun way to do it, it allows you plenty of time to really evaluate what you want to accomplish and more importantly anticipate difficulties so you can develop strategies for overcoming those difficulties when they do happen. 

It may seem like a lot of work, but the whole process is done in a relaxed fun way. It should not feel like a burden you and there will be days when you don’t think of anything just like there will be days when your brain goes into overdrive and you add a tonne of stuff to your list. Just enjoy the process. The real hard work begins after the 15th December when you start developing your action steps and timelines. 

The key is to remember that 2019 is 12 months, not 12 days. So spread out your goals and tasks. Use the full year to have something new to start every two or three months. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of the experience and you will enhance your chances of succeeding at achieving your goals. 

Don’t forget to download my FREE Annual Planning worksheet so you can start this process and then spend the rest of November gathering all your ideas. Have fun, make sure you are challenged and more importantly look at 2019 as an opportunity to really achieve something special. 

Good luck and thank you so much for listening to this episode. Thank you to you, Michael for your wonderful question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 



The Working With… Podcast | Episode 52 | How To Take Control Of Your Work Scope

October 29, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about how to make sure you work on the things that matter.


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Hello and welcome to episode 52 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s episode we will be discussing what matters most and to make sure you are staying focused on those things and not getting caught on a conveyor belt of meaningless tasks that take you nowhere. 

But before we dive into this week’s question, I’d like to point you all to a video I did on my YouTube channel about starting your 2019 plan. In that video I take you through the annual planning process I go through each year and it always starts in October. So, now’s a great time to watch that video and to download my annual planning sheet to help you get the most out of 2019. I’ve put a link in the show notes for you. 

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

This week’s question comes from Patricia. Patricia asks “I work for an import/export company and every day the workload is huge. I never have time to do work that I want to do because I always find myself having to deal with other people’s emergencies. Do you have any tips that will help me to do more of my own work and less of other people’s?

Excellent question, Patricia and another question I think many people have. How do you focus on your own work and priorities when customers, colleagues and bosses want you to work their priorities? 

And really that’s the problem here. All that work we get dumped with is often work for other people and in many ways, the simple solution is to set some boundaries to prevent it from happening. Of course, simple solutions are not always easy solutions. So let’s see what can be done.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. When we start a new job or we gain a new client we are all too eager to please, so we say yes to everything. The problem with that is once you start saying yes to doing ‘extra’ work that ‘extra’ work becomes the norm and soon your colleagues, boss and customers just expect you to do it. In essence, that extra work has now become your regular work. We can blame other people, but the reality is we accepted that work before and now it going to be much harder to say no. 

The way I have handled this in the past is to give the person asking me to do the extra work a timeline. What I mean by this is I will accept the work, but I will also tell the person asking when I will do it. So if a colleague asks me to help them prepare a presentation for them, I will enthusiastically accept with something like “sure! I’ll be happy to help. What would you like me to do?” They will then say something like, “well, you are so good at designing slides I wonder if you would improve the design of the presentation I have to do later this week?” To which you reply “okay, I can do it for you, but I’m a bit busy at the moment. Could I send it to you on Friday?”They are then going to tell you that’s too late. Now you can say “Oh, sorry I don’t think I will be able to do any sooner. I have a lot of work to get finished first”

Now your colleague is going to walk away and ask someone else to do their work for them. What you are doing here is showing you are willing to help, but at the same time making it clear your work takes priority. You colleague will get the message. 

Bosses are a bit more difficult because they have seniority. But the same strategy can be used. If a boss insists, what you can do is ask them which work can be delayed so you can work on their slides. This has two effects, it causes the boss the stop and thinks about what they are asking you to do (work outside your scope) and now if the boss insists they will have to reprioritise your work, this giving you extended deadlines on your own work. Either that or, like you colleague they will do their own work themselves. 

Handling customers is the most difficult, but here I have found that what we tell a customer at the beginning is very important. If a customer begins calling you after your working hours for example, no matter how tempting it may be to answer your phone or reply to their email late at night this is something you must not do… Ever! When you answer your phone, reply to a text message or email after your working hours you have told your customer you are willing to work extra hours for free for them and they will take full advantage of that. The best way to handle this is to call them back at 7 AM or send your reply at 6AM—I often use my email scheduling feature and reply to the email before I go to bed and then schedule it to go out at 6:10 am. This tells your customer you are diligent, but it also tells them, you will not be replying to their email late at night. 

I’ve found sending my replies very early in the morning sends a very powerful message. I can promise you they will not be expecting you to reply after hours again AND… They will not be calling you late at night because they don't want to be woken up at 7AM the next day. 

It’s really all about setting boundaries and expectations. If you make yourself available at all times, then your colleagues, boss and customers are going to expect that always. Not a good place to be in if you want to make time to prioritise your own work. 

Now how to manage an overwhelming workload. Here you are going to have again set yourself some boundaries. The first I would suggest you do is to learn when you in your peak working state. Everyone will be different here. For some of you, early morning will be when you can focus deeply on your work and get a lot done, others of you may find the afternoons are better. 

I always believed I was a night owl and so I used to do my focused work late afternoon or early evenings. But after I took some time to experiment doing my work at different times of the day I discovered I worked in a much better mental state between 6AM and 9AM. So now that is the time I turn off all my devices except for the ones I am using to do my work and I get on with my work. 

Now it is important to plan what you will work on the day before if you do not plan what you will work on you will find you spend the first 30 mins or so trying decide what to work on. That’s not a good way to start. Before you finish for the day, make a decision on what work is your priority and needs pushing forward and write that down at the top of your to-do list for the next day. That way when you start your focused work time, you can get straight into it. 

Its also important you put your phone, tablets and computers into a “do not disturb” mode for this period of time. Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen… I promise you. I’m not sure if this is possible with Android devices, but on iPhones when you turn on do not disturb, you can allow those people on your favourites list to get through. I do use this function, but the only people on my favourites list are my wife and mother. If anything bad was happening, my wife and mother would be the first to tell me. 

For me, I can do 3 hours of focused work before my brain is tired and I need a break. During that break, I will get up and move, but afterwards, I will do things like check email, basic admin tasks and other less mental tasks. 

The key to all of this is to decide the day before what it is you want to get done the next day. If you don’t do that you will get caught up in the day’s crises. But, and this is a big but, do not be tempted to schedule too much. You are always going to get distracted and some those daily crises will involve you. If you try and plan out eight hours of priority work in one day you are never going to get it all done. There’s no flexibility. You should be aiming for two to three hours of focused work and make sure you are not disturbed during the time you have allocated to do that work. 

Talking to your boss about your new focused time period will also help. When you explain to your boss you want to get more quality work done and you need two to three hours a day where you can work undisturbed, your boss will understand and be sympathetic. I’ve found that once you explain why you want this undisturbed time and you show your boss the amount of work you are getting done and the higher quality, your boss will very quickly give you more freedom to do more focused work. 

I know it’s hard to say “no” to colleagues, customers and your boss. But you are not really saying “no”. You are still doing your work, but you are doing your work on your terms and on your timeline. These boundaries are important if you want to have a better working experience and want to feel less stressed and overwhelmed. 

The bottom line is, nothing will change unless you change. And that means you need to take control of your time and your priorities. If you allow other people to control your time and your priorities you are always going to feel overwhelmed and stressed. 

So, Patricia, start be setting some boundaries and make sure you are very clear about what you want to get accomplished tomorrow. Find out when you are in your peak working state and schedule some focused time to work on YOUR priorities during that period. By just working on those things, you will very quickly find you feel less stressed and overwhelmed. 

Thank you for your question, Patricia and thank you to you all for listening to the Working With… Podcast. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like me to answer, just email me or DM me on Twitter or Facebook. All the links are in the show notes. 

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



The Working With Podcast | Episode 51 | How I Use And What I Write In My Journal

October 22, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about what I put in my journal.


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Hello and welcome to episode 51 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I received a question about what I write in my journal. Now, my journal is something I really couldn’t live without and it is not digital! My journal is a paper-based journal and I absolutely love it because it gives me time away from a screen to write down things that are important to me. But we’ll get into that in just a moment. 

Before that, I just want to remind you all of my latest online course—From Disorganised to Productivity Mastery in 3 days!—a course created to help you to develop the skills and habits needed to become a master of productivity so you can spend more time doing the things you want to do with the people you want to spend more time with. I would love you to join me in in this course — it’s a course that will change your life and help you to be in the moment and not stressed about whatever might be going on in your work. All the details and links are in the show the notes. 

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

This week’s question comes from Scott. Scott asks: In one of your videos you mentioned your journal. It looked like a handwritten notebook, and you said you write something in there every day. You also said it has become very important to you. Would you share the kind of things you write there, and why you've found it to be a benefit to you?

Scott, you are correct, I do use a handwritten journal and I do write in it every day. 

First things first, I use a Galaxy Leather large Desk Journal (I’ll put a link in the show notes for you all) which is a gorgeous leather bound lined journal that costs around $25.00. The paper works very well with my fountain pens, although it is not really designed for fountain pens. 

So, what do I write in there? 

When I finish my Golden Ten in the evening, I sit down with my journal and I set up my page for the next day. I begin at the top and write down four headings. The first is “Today’s Objectives”. Underneath that, I write the two things I want to accomplish tomorrow. Now, these could be anything from doing a minimum of 30 mins exercise, to writing my blog post. Whatever I want to accomplish, I will write it there. For those of you who follow my Todoist videos on YouTube, these are the same objectives I have there too. Yes, I know there’s duplication, but my journal stays on my desk in my home office, Todoist goes with me everywhere I go. 

Next comes “Today’s Focus” and underneath that, I write the role I want to focus on for the day. This might be teaching, or content production or health and fitness or anything like that. This is where I can write down exactly what role I want to focus on. For example, I wrote in today’s focus “I teach my students in a way that motivates and inspires, educates and entertains so that my students will improve their communication skills and improve not just their professional lives but their personal lives too.” 

Writing a short affirmation like this focuses my mind the next morning when I read through what wrote the evening before. It motivates me and sets me up for staying focused on what’s important. 

Underneath my Today’s Focus, I write one or two things I am grateful for. Again, this helps to put my mind in a positive frame when I start the day. It’s a great way to start the day and leaves me feeling energised and positive. 

Finally, underneath those, I have a title “what did I do today” and this is where I will write out the things I did as I do them. So, at the time of recording this podcast it is still quite early in the day and I have written “50 minutes Korean study” and “15 minutes meditation” — recording this podcast is the next item on my to-do list so once I have recorded this episode, I will write in “recorded next week’s podcast”. I do this because it allows me to analyse my week and see how productive I have been. 

Now, other things I keep in my journal are notes I capture while watching videos on YouTube. If I have time at the end of the day I will watch a Brian Tracy, Robin Sharma, Mel Robbins or Tony Robbins seminar on YouTube. While watching these I collect notes and quotes straight into my journal. This helps to make my journals valuable sources of information. I watch other videos too of course. TED talks, and videos on Daoism or Buddhism anything like that. From these, I collect notes and quotes too. 

As you can imagine, over time my journals are filling up with some amazing information and there’s nothing better than to read through my old journals on a lazy Sunday afternoon relearning forgotten notes and reminiscing some amazing events I have been to. 

Another thing I keep in my journal are my goals for the year. Now I go through about three or four journals a year, so that gives me an opportunity to rewrite my goals for the year three or four times. It’s a great way to remind myself and to refocus myself on what’s important for the year. I also have my life’s mission statement written in the front and again I get to rewrite that three to four times a year. It’s a fantastic way to reaffirm myself that I am on the right path and moving in the right direction. 

I should mention I also keep tickets and wristbands I have collected from the various music festivals I attend each year. A few weeks ago I went to Above And Beyond’s Group Therapy 300 concert in Hong Kong—it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life and my wristband and train tickets to the event are proudly glued into my journal on the day I attended. I know as the years go by and I look through that journal that page alone will bring back some amazing memories. 

So why do I handwrite a journal rather use a digital journal such as Day One or Evernote? The truth is last year I did experiment keeping my journal in Evernote. There are some advantages to a digital journal such as being able to put in your digital photos, auto collect weather info and as your journal is on all your devices you can capture thoughts and moments wherever you are. But for me, taking some deliberate time away from a screen and going old-school with my favourite fountain pen and a gorgeous paper-based journal is a special moment in itself. My digital journal experiment never did create special moments like that. It began to feel like a burden rather than something I looked forward to doing at the end of the day. That’s why I went back to my old-school journal. 

To answer your second question, Scott, Journaling for me is a special moment. It allows me to slow down, take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect and to think about what I want to accomplish tomorrow in a relaxed state. I can empty my mind of thoughts, and feelings in a way I have never been able to do digitally. I suppose digital devices feel cold, business-like. Handwriting thoughts, goals and mission statements feels more real, more human and for some reaso,n I find it reinforces my motivation better than a keyboard and a screen does. 

And of course, over time you are collecting something physical that can be passed down to your children and grandchildren in future years. That’s something digital journals may not be able to do as file formats could change and the humble text file today could very easily become as obsolete as the VHS video or CD ROM. And that would be a sad loss of memories and experiences. 

Journalling has become a big part of my life. My journal sits, open on my desk as I write, plan and record. It’s a constant companion full of my memories, feelings and experiences and that feels not only comforting, but also reassuring that my life is being documented and even if no one in the future is interested in my life, I will have a record of how I lived my life, the goals I achieved and failed at, and it will be an interesting read for myself as I travel further along life’s path. I would recommend it to all of you. 

Life is short and you have no idea where your life path will take you. Some of you will become hugely successful, many of you won’t. But all you will live wonderfully interesting lives and it would be a shame if you don’t capture those special moments in a way that will live on long after you have passed. So start a journal today. Go out and buy yourself as beautiful notebook as you can afford and start writing. Write your goals for the year, your life’s mission statement and the things you have done during the day. Writing down the things you are grateful for is also a great way to fuel your happiness. This is something you will never ever regret. 

Well, thank you for listening to this episode. Thank you also to you, Scott for the fabulous question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.