The Working With Podcast | Episode 45 | Waiting For and Next Actions Contexts

September 17, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about waiting for and next actions.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

Working With Todoist Next actions

Working With Todoist - Waiting for

Working With Todoist - My dashboard view

Hello and welcome to episode 45 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

In this week’s episode I have a GTD specific question, so for those of you not familiar with GTD, GTD stands for Getting Things Done and is a concept from a book written by David Allen. A great concept and a concept that underpins my whole productivity system. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly recommend you do. It will set you up on an amazing journey. 

Before we get started, in case you missed it, I published the 2018 version of my Email Productivity Mastery course last week. This course updates last years course with better audio quality, something that was really bothering me and I have also added a number of new lessons that include setup guides for Gmail and Outlook and a new folder called “reference” which I have included following feedback from students last year. It’s a great course and is currently on its early-bird discount. So, if you want to get your email under control and to start loving email, get yourself enrolled today. This is one course you will definitely not regret purchasing. 

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

This week’s question comes from Dimitris. Dimitris asks: “Hi Carl, how do you use the next actions and waiting for contexts or labels?” 

Great question, Dimitris. Recently I have covered these in my Working With Todoist series of videos on YouTube, but I think a deeper explanation for those of you not using Todoist may help you get a better understanding of just how powerful these two contexts can be in your productivity system. 

Let us look at the waiting for context first as I think this one is probably the easiest to understand. I use the waiting for label for anything I need reminding about in the future that is dependent on something or someone else. So for example, if I order a new pair of shoes from my favourite bookmaker in the U.K.—I’ve always wanted to say that—they will send me a confirmation email which will include my shipping number and the link to the site where I can track my delivery. That email will be saved to my waiting for folder in my email app and a copy will be forwarded to Todoist. Now, the thing is, I don’t have to send it to Todoist, I do so because in Todoist I have a daily dashboard view, which includes all the things I am waiting for. By forwarding the email to Todoist, I can include it in my daily dashboard. 

Another example here would be if I send out an email to a group of people asking them all to send me a report on their weekly sales activity. Now this email could mean I will be waiting for ten or eleven people to reply. What I do here is the exact same thing. I add the email to my waiting for folder in my email app and I also send a copy of the email to Todoist. Now in Todoist, I have the ability to add notes and in there I can add the list of people I am waiting for a reply from and when someone replies I can cross off their names from the list. 

Of course, I could use my original email and the replies to do the same thing, but for me seeing a simple list is much easier than reading through different emails looking to see who replied. 

And that’s pretty much how I use the waiting for context every day. I should point out that the additional step of sending a copy to Todoist is not completely necessary. I only do so because I have my daily dashboard filter in Todoist that tells me what I have planned to do that day and what I am waiting for. I did a video on how I have my dashboard set up and I will put a link to that video in the show notes for those of you curious about it.

You can use the waiting for context for pretty much anything—things you bought online, things you have requested from colleagues or information you are waiting for. The only thing I would say though is remember to clear it out. I clean up my folders as part of my weekly review, trying to remember to clean things up every day can become a burden I don’t need. With email, it is easy because a reply to my original email will allow me to move the email to another place if I need to and in Todoist I can just complete the task. 

Now on to the next actions context. This one seems to cause a lot of confusion for people because technically, any task that needs doing is a next action right? Well, yes and no. If the task can be completed now, then yes. But if the task is dependant on another task being completed first then no. For example, if I have two tasks inside a “repaint the living room” project, one task says “ask partner to decide on new colour” and another task says “buy paint”, then until you know what colour paint to buy you cannot go out and buy the paint. So the next action can only apply to “ask partner to decide on new colour”. In it’s simplest form that’s how the next action label works. 

However, there are numerous difficulties if you apply the next action context to all tasks you could theoretically complete right now, one of which is the size of the list. It would likely become a huge list of tasks and whenever you have a huge list of tasks you become numb to it and overwhelmed. Once that happens the list becomes useless. You won’t look at it. 

So, a better way to handle this list is to only add one task from each of your active projects as your next action. Once you complete that task you can either add the next actions label to the very next task you need to do, or you can do it when you do your weekly review. It would all depend on when the project needs completing by. 

Now, you next actions context is only useful to you if you are reviewing it regularly. I review mine every day. There are two reasons for this. The first is because I frequently get all my objective and focus tasks completed early. That’s largely because I am an early riser. I usually have an hour or two at the end of my working day to work on other things. So I open up my next actions context and begin at the top and do as many tasks as I can. Usually, it’s only two or three, but that’s two or three project tasks that I would not have thought about doing had I not looked at my next actions context. The second reason is so I can see what projects are coming due. My projects are ordered in the deadline order. So the project at the top of my project list has the nearest deadline and the project at the bottom has the farthest away deadline. This means my next actions list orders my tasks by project order so the tasks at the top have the closest deadline. This is likely to be dependant on which to-do list manager you are using. But if you can try to make sure tasks are ordered by deadline. 

When you start using your next actions context diligently, you will find you no longer need to date all your tasks. This has the benefit that only tasks that must be completed on a specific day will have a date attached to it. All other tasks, tasks you would like to complete, but it would not be a problem if you didn’t, don’t need a date. You will see them if you are reviewing your next actions list every day. 

Another benefit of the next actions context is when you do your planning at the end of the day. You have a ready prepared list from which to select tasks to do the next day. These, of course, will be based on how busy your schedule is for the day. All you need to do is add the next day’s date to the tasks you want to complete and you can be safe in the knowledge that tasks that need doing are getting done when they need to be done. 

So the final part of all this is when do you make sure the next action context is added to your tasks. Well, that really is up to you. I personally, do it on a Sunday when I do my weekly review. Because I review everything I know what projects need a lot of focus and I know what needs to be done the next week. I can, therefore, make sure I am working on the things that need to be worked on. As I complete tasks in individual projects, I can add the next actions context when I have finished working on that project for the day. For me, this has never been a problem. It takes less than 2 seconds to add the context. Seriously, that should never be a concern for you. 

If you are doing your weekly reviews, are focused on what’s important and know where you are with your projects using the waiting for and next actions context can be a real boost for you. It allows you to relax and be less stressed because you know what needs doing next and by when. Your daily to-do lists are shorter and this prevents you from feeling overwhelmed and becoming numb to your list. But… It does mean you are going to have to trust your system and that means sticking with one app, one system and trusting yourself that you will spend the necessary time each day to plan and maintain things. 

Good luck and thank you, Dimitris, for your question. I have to admit there have been a few questions similar to this recently and I hope this episode has helped you to better understand how waiting for and next actions work. 

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

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The Working With Podcast | Episode 44 | Why Apps Are Not Important To Your Productivity System.

September 10, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about why apps are not important to your productivity system.

 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

SCRIPT

Hello and welcome to episode 44 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 an excellent question about apps and why I feel apps are not important if you want to become better organised and more productive. But, before we get into this weeks question I would just like to remind you all that if you want to learn how to build your own productivity system, my FREE online course, How To Build Your Very Own Productivity System will take you there. It focuses on the basics of COD (Collect, Organise and Do) and shows you how to build a system that works for you. 

Details on how to get yourself enrolled are in the show notes. 

Okay, let’s get into this week’s question, so 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 David. David asks: Ho Carl, can you tell me how I can find the best app to help me get my stuff together and get better at time management?

Thank you, David, for your question. Now, this is a question I am asked frequently on Twitter, Facebook and in the groups, I am in and there really isn’t a simple answer. The truth is, the apps you use are less important than the system you have in place. It’s your productivity system that will help you to become better at time management, not the apps you use. Apps are just tools. But as any carpenter, stone mason or sculptor will tell you, what creates a great piece of furniture, stonework or sculpture is not the tool, but the skill of the person making it. It’s how you use the tools that matter not the tools themselves. So my advice would always be to develop your system and your skill at using your system first before you start considering the apps you would use. 

Recently, I was playing around with Airtable, a great planning app that’s is loosely based on a spreadsheet with a lot of bells and whistles. Now I know if the guys who make Airtable are listening to this they would probably tell me Airtable is so much more than an Excel sheet and I would agree. But at its core, it is just a spreadsheet. Just like at its core Todoist is a database. After playing around with Airtable for a while I realised that what I would use Airtable for could just as easily be created using a Numbers sheet on my computer. The difference for me is that Numbers is free and Airtable is $20.00 per month for the features I want. All I needed to do was create a template in Numbers and I have the planning tool I want. Same function, same information. 

I am pretty sure if you looked at any app, you could recreate its features in a simple spreadsheet or word processor. So really the tools are less important than how you use those tools. 

Let’s get down to the basics and I know I have talked about this before but it’s always worth reminding you. Whatever tools you use, you only need to be doing three things. The first is collecting all your tasks, commitments and ideas into a central place. That doesn’t matter whether that is a simple $2.00 reporters notebook (as Richard Branson and Cheryl Sandberg use) or a more complex app such as OmniFocus. All that matters is you are collecting everything in a place you know you will look at again sometime in the very near future. 

Next is you need to organise all those things you collected. Tasks go onto a task list, appointments go into your calendar and your ideas go into your notes. Now it does not matter whether you are completely digital, paper-based or a hybrid of the two. All that matters is you have a list of the tasks you must complete, a place where you can review your notes and a calendar that will tell you where you need to be and when. 

Finally, you need to do the tasks, attend your appointments and develop your ideas (after all, you don’t know which one is going to be something special unless you take the time to develop it) 

Now, how you organise your tasks, appointments and ideas is entirely up to you. And that is where it all comes down to personal taste. I like simplicity and beautiful design. Others like more complexity. It really is a personal choice. But the key is you get the collecting, organising and doing part solid first. This is why I would always recommend you begin developing your own productivity system on paper first and then try your system out on whatever apps you already have. If you have an Android phone then there’s Google Tasks, Keep and calendar. If you use Apple devices then you have Reminders, Notes and Calendar. If your system works using those freebuiltt in apps then your system will work with any kind of app. 

Whatever apps you use in the end, the goal is to make sure you apps blend into the background so you do not notice them. They just do their job. When you do your planning for the next day, you need to be able to quickly see what tasks you have and be able to decide which ones you want to focus on getting done the next day. These choices are made with the full knowledge that your calendar is telling you where you are going to be and what meetings and appointments you have. When your calendar is full of meetings then you can reduce the number of tasks you plan to get done the next day. When your calendar has a lot of free space you can add more tasks for the day because you will have more time to do them. 

Really your productivity apps, your task list manager, notes and calendar need to be boring. You don’t want to notice them or be tempted to play around with settings, colours or how you have things organised. If they are doing their job, then you are focused on what needs doing, where you need to be and developing your ideas. If an app is tempting you to play around with it’s organisation structures and lay out, then your app is not helping you it’s hindering you. 

The only caveat I would add here is what ever apps you do choose, make sure the collecting part is fast and easy. There are a lot of apps on the market that take too long to load because they want to show off their animations, colours and logos and then you have to navigate to the add function using too many clicks. A great productivity app will allow you to collect your stuff with only one or two clicks. It’s click to open and click to add. That’s all it should take. Anything more than that and it’s too many clicks and too long. The lower the barrier to add a task, event or idea the better—this why pen and paper still wins here. 

The point here is no matter how feature rich an app is, it is always going to be your responsibility to maintain your system. It’s your responsibility to collect everything, it’s your responsibility to organise what you collected and it is your responsibility to do your work. It’s never going to be the responsibility of the apps you use. The simpler, the faster and the easier it is to collect, organise and do the better you will be at being organised and the more productive you will be. The less time you spend in your productivity apps means you have more time to do your work. That should be your starting point when thinking about creating your productivity system. Fast, simple and easy to use. 

I’ve seen some amazing productivity systems with elaborate structures, tagging and project hierarchies and I’ve seen these same systems fail the person who built them because they take too long to maintain and manage. Great personal productivity systems are always build on a foundation of simplicity and ease of use. 

So, David, my advice is to look for the simplest apps you can find. Ones that have very few features and ones that allow you to collect, organise and do the right things at the right time without having to spend too much time finding that information. 

One more thing before we finish. Once you have settle on a set of apps for your system, take the time necessary to really get to know those apps. Spend time playing and learning. You want those apps to become boring, to disappear in to the background and only be front and centre when you need them to be. To do that, you need to learn whatever apps you choose inside out. That was one ‘secret’ I learnt a long time ago. Once you know the apps you use inside out, you get incredibly fast at using them and can fix any problems quickly. 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode and thank you, Davi,d for your question. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 43 | Goal Setting and Being Productive With Kevin Blackburn

September 7, 2018

In this second very special episode, I talk with Kevin Blackburn of Life Success Engineer about setting goals, productivity and the apps we use to build extraordinary lives.  

LINKS:

Life Success Engineer:

Website

YouTube Channel

Podcast

 

Thank you to Kev for doing this. 

 

 

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

00:0000:00

The Working With… Podcast | Episode 42 | Building An Extraordinary Life With Kevin Blackburn

September 3, 2018

In this very special episode, I talk with Kevin Blackburn of Life Success Engineer about making the decision to change your life, your career and starting your own business. 

LINKS:

Life Success Engineer:

Website

YouTube Channel

Podcast

 

Thank you to Kev for doing this. Listen out for part 2 where we talk about goal planning, productivity and the apps we use coming next on the Working With Podcast. 

 

 

 Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

00:0000:00

The Working With … Podcast | Episode 41 | How To Get Your Email Under Control

August 27, 2018

In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about getting your email under control.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Merlin Mann's 43 Folders Website

Merlin Mann At Google Talks

 

SCRIPT:

Hello and welcome to episode 41 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 managing email and in particular how to tame an out of control inbox. 

Before we get into the question this week, I would like to just ask if you have any questions you would like answering on this podcast to get in touch. All you have to do is email me or DM me on Facebook or Twitter and I will be happy to add your question to the list. 

Speaking of email, don’t forget you can get all of my weekly videos, blog posts and podcasts direct to your mailbox each week by subscribing to my weekly Working With... Newsletter. Straight to your inbox every Friday. Perfect for your weekend reading, viewing and listening. 

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

This week’s question comes from Jackie. Jackie asks Hi Carl. I know you have done a few videos on managing email, but I still really struggle to keep on top of my email. Do you have any tips to get in control of an out of control inbox? 

Thank you, Jackie, for the wonderful question. Now where to start? Email is a difficult one for many people. Even the most productive people seem to struggle with this one. I’ve seen so many people with perfectly organised to-do lists, files and notes, but their email organisation is a complete mess. I think this is due to people not being in control of what comes into our email inboxes whereas when we are working with our to-do list manager or notes app we control what goes into our inboxes. 

So, how do we get our email under control? The first thing to understand is leaving all your incoming email in your inbox is not a smart way to manage email. Over time your inbox becomes a huge mess of read and unread email and then it just becomes very difficult to find exactly what you are looking for. It’s a bit like just dumping all your clothes on the floor of your room at the end of the day. Eventually, you are going to have to start looking for the clothes you want to wear and it would be a nightmare just looking for them. 

Instead, we need to operate a four options system and there really are only four things you can do with an email when it comes in. Do it now, defer it to when you have time to do something with it, delete it (my favourite) or delegate it to someone else. The four “D’s” Do, defer, delete or delegate. I’d love to claim this idea as my own, but it came from the wonderful Merlin Mann who called this system “Inbox Zero”. Merlin put together a website with a ton of information about how to set up Inbox Zero and he also did a Google Talks presentation. Both of which are worth looking at. I will put a link to both these excellent resources in the show notes for you. 

So how does this work? Well, when an email comes in you ask a simple question. “What is it?” Is it an email you need to reply to? Is it an email you don’t need to reply to but do need to keep it for future reference? Is it something that’s not important to you? You need to decide. 

If it’s something you need to act upon the question then becomes what do you need to do with it? Reply? Do you have time to do it now? If not then move it to an action today folder. 

Now I should explain a little about the folders. You really only need four folders. An inbox, an “Action This Day” folder, a “waiting for” and an archive folder. I would suggest you set these up immediately. Four folders - an inbox, an action this day, a waiting for and an archive. The chances are two of those folders/categories are already set up. You just need to create the waiting for and action this day folders. 

The action this day folder is where you put emails you need to do something with, but don’t have time right now to do it. However, as the name of this folder suggests, you do need to do whatever needs doing this day. No excuses, EVER! When you stop treating this folder as your most important folder, it’s power will diminish and you may as well not bother. 

For those of you wondering, the phrase “action this day” is a Winston Churchill phrase. During the war whenever he wanted something done urgently, he would label the direction with the words “Action this day” with a red sticker. Churchill’s staff new then what to do. 

Your waiting for folder is for emails you are waiting for a reply on something. I also use this folder for items I have ordered and I am waiting for delivery. I don’t order very much, but the date stamp from the email confirmation tells me when the item was ordered so when I check my waiting for folder I have a clear view of what is outstanding. How often do I check my waiting for folder? Once a day. Usually in the evening. If something is getting close to becoming overdue, I will send out a little reminder to whoever I am waiting to hear from. 

Your inbox and archive should be self-explanatory. Anything that needs no response from you, but you may need later for reference should be put in your archive. Your archive is searchable so you don’t need to worry about losing anything. Just make sure in your email settings you have your archive folder set to not delete emails older than 30 days. Gmail has this turned on by default. I would recommend you change that to 12 months. 

So how does all this work? When you process your email—note I did not say “check” your email—checking email is probably the worst time sucks out there. Checking email means you are doing nothing just checking. What’s the point in that? Instead, process. Either start at the bottom or the top and ask the question “what is it” and “what’s the next action?” If you can reply now - do it now. If you need a little more time, time you do not have right now, then move it to your “Action this day folder". If you don’t need to reply or do anything, move it to your archive. And essentially that’s it. 

Just for your reference, I can process around 70 emails, in this way, in about ten to fifteen minutes. And when I say “process” I mean I can go through all 70 emails, move them from my inbox and be left with an empty inbox. Sure, there will be around ten to fifteen emails in my Action This Day folder, but I will batch process (or chunk) those later when I have done at least one of my big objectives for the day. 

When you start replying and dealing with actionable email consistently within 24 hours you not only feel in control of your email, you also find your colleagues and the people you interact with regularly, start to see how effective and timely you are and that is always a good thing. People will respect your time much more. 

One bit of advice I would give is to become more adept at deleting. If you dump everything into your archive over time, you are going find you have an unmanageable folder of stuff you need, might need and never need. Delete the never need stuff. You don’t need it. If you find later you wanted it to keep, then someone somewhere will have a copy of it. Don’t stress yourself about it. The delete key is much faster than swiping or dragging and dropping. It was designed that way—use it. 

The real trick with this system or method is to get really good at answering the question “what is it?” And, “what do I have to do with it?” When that becomes a deep habit, that’s when email will no longer be a place of stuff you don’t want to look at or clean up. 

One final thing on this is the declaration of email bankruptcy. If your inbox has become a pit of read and unread emails dating back to the millennium, then it’s time to declare email bankruptcy. Now there are two ways to do this. A hard or soft email bankruptcy declaration. The hard one is to select all emails currently in your inbox—yes, every single one of them, then take a moment, breathe and count down from ten ... 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 then BANG! Hit the delete key! Now what you have just done is created a true “inbox zero moment. No emails in your inbox. Get used to it. This is going to be your life every day from now on. 

Okay, so maybe your not that brave. If that’s the case you can do a soft email bankruptcy. This involves creating a folder and naming it “old inbox” and again selecting all emails in your inbox and moving them to this new folder. Again, you will have created an inbox zero moment — sit back and enjoy— this is the start of your new life! You can now process your old inbox as and when you have spare time. 

One of the funniest things about doing a soft email bankruptcy is after a few weeks you begin to realise that 99% of the emails in your inbox were not that important after all and you end up hitting the delete button anyway. Doing things this way though means you miss out on all the fun of blindly hitting the delete key and the fear of the unknown washing over you. Love that feeling. 

Well, I hope that answers your question, Jackie and I hope all of you got something out of this week. Please don’t forget if you have any questions you would like me to answer on this show, just email me with your question (or leave a message on Facebook or Twitter) and I will be very happy to answer your question for you.

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 40 | How To Manage A HUGE List of Projects

August 20, 2018

Managing a long list of projects. 

In this week’s episode, I answer a question about managing a long list of projects. 

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

SCRIPT

Hello and welcome to episode 40 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 that may not affect everyone all the time, but I think it can become a problem from time to time. That is the problem of project overwhelm. Having a very long list of active projects. How do you manage them without missing something important? 

But before we get into this week’s question I’d like to thank all of you who have enrolled in this year’s Time And Life Mastery Course. It’s so very exciting to see so many of you there and I am convinced this course is going to change your life for the better. If you haven’t enrolled, It’s not too late. Details are in the show notes. 

Okay, it’s time for this week’s question, so 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 Denrael. Denrael asks: how do you organise when you can have literally hundreds of open projects. I run a Pro Service group, and at any time, we could be engaged in, planning or bidding up to 100 different engagements.

That’s a Juicy question, Denrael. Thank you. 

Before we get into this question allow me to remind you all that we only have twenty-four hours a day. So it really doesn’t matter whether you have ten projects or 100. You will always be limited by the amount of time you have each day. This also means it doesn’t matter how many tasks you have on your daily task list, you are ultimately limited by the amount of time you have each day. So no matter how heroic you think you are, the powerful force of time will always stop you. 

However, for anyone suffering from project overwhelm here are a few tips that might help you become less overwhelmed and more in control.

The first step is to go through your projects and see if they really are projects. A lot of projects have become projects by accident and a five-minute spell focused on the project could get it completed and archived. 

As you go through your projects ask yourself a number of questions. Questions like “is this an active project?" Or "is this project really important to me?" What you are trying to do is reduce your active project list as much as you can. In a sense, you are pruning so you can give yourself space to breathe and grow. This is a place where you are going to have to be very strict with your criteria. Be very clear about what an active project is and apply that rule very very strictly. 

Another way to reduce an active project list is to use a “Someday | Maybe” folder. I find when my active project list starts to bulge it’s because I have a lot of “I wish to do” projects. The problem with “I wish to do” projects is they are often not important and were created on a whim. After the passage of a little time, your enthusiasm for the project diminishes and if that is the case either delete it, archive it or just put it into your Someday | Maybe folder. You can always come back to it again later if you wish. 

In your specific case Denrael, I see a potential problem. If you are using a task manager app to manage all your customer engagements you are probably using the wrong tool. When you have “literally hundreds of open projects” relate to different customers and clients that sounds very much like a job for a Client Relationship Management system. It is possible to manage a large number of clients in a task management app, but you are going to have to do a lot of hacking and modifying and there is going be the need for a lot of updating. That alone is going to take up time. Time you probably don’t have. 

I would suggest you look into a robust CRM system to manage all your customers, proposals and bids. That what a CRM system was designed to do and the best ones do that job very well. 

Another way to manage a long list of open projects and one of my favourites is to focus your attention on the labels or contexts. The Getting Things Done system was designed for a long list of open projects because you don’t focus on the project you focus on the tool, place or person you need in order to complete a task. In your case, you may have a list of bids to follow up on. If you create a label or context such as “follow up” you can access this list every day to check which proposals or bids you need to follow up on next. You can break it down still further by creating labels such as “Follow up by Phone” and “Follow up by email” if a simple follow up label generates a long list. 

The reality is if you are having to manage a long list of open projects you have to get very smart. Planning what needs to get done the next day instead of planning what you would like to get done is crucial. But you also need to be looking out further to the rest of the week and the whole month. What projects must be completed this week? What projects must be completed this month? These questions need to be answered every week and every month if you are going to stay on top of everything. 

You need to be very clear about what “completed” actually means too. My guess is just sending out a bid, following it up a few days later is not really completing the project. A completed project would be the bid being accepted and the service being delivered. The bidding process is just the start. The outcome you desire is the bid being accepted, a service being delivered and the money owed coming into your business. So how you structure the project may be another area where you can slim down your projects list. You can divide up a project into the different stages. For example, “the bidding stage”, “the delivery stage” and “the collection stage”. Again, if you create labels for each stage it will allow you to filter tasks down to what needs to happen next on each project. These tasks can then be assigned to the right people within your company. 

In that example, your projects would be organised by customer or client. Having a templated project you can call up, duplicate and assign to a new customer will save a lot of time and you can pre-populate the project with your process. Most to-do list managers allow you to create templates and the more advanced to-do list managers will allow you to assign dates in the form of “start plus 3 days” etc. This would then allow you to remain focused on your daily task list as that would be an accurate account of what needs to happen that day. 

For any of this to work seamlessly requires a lot of good habits. A daily review of work done and work that still needs to be done is a must. On top of that a strong weekly review that assigns some clear objectives on your projects. For example, “get bid to Client B out by Wednesday” and “follow up on Client C on Monday” these tasks need to be prioritised and dated so they come up on the right day allowing you to have enough time to do the necessary work to complete the objective. 

There are a few other, little things that can be done to save time. Automating as much of the work as possible using tools such as IFTTT or Zappier and templating forms and regularly written emails can save a lot of time and effort. But it all comes back to the one thing you cannot control. Time. 

No matter how much work anyone has, we will always be restricted by the amount of time we have each day. The key is to find ways of reducing the time it takes to complete tasks we have to perform on a regular basis. Thinking in terms of what you are trying to achieve rather than focusing on the tasks can help. This can reduce the number of steps it takes to get a project to completion. Is the goal to follow up on a bid or is the goal to get the business? If the goal is to get the business, one phone call may achieve that, rather than a ten-day follow-up process involving three emails and a phone call. 

Managing a long list of projects is always going to be a challenge and there is no one way that will take away those projects. If a project needs doing, it needs doing. Our goal is to find better and more efficient ways to get those projects completed. Never forgetting what your objective is will always help to reduce the list of tasks. A mistake so many people make is they focus on the tasks and not the outcome. Always remember what the desired outcome of the project is, be very clear about what it is you are trying to accomplish and you will go a long way to making even the longest project list manageable. 

I hope that has helped, Denrael. 

Thank you all for listening and please don’t forget if you have a question about productivity, time management, goal setting or self-development then please get in touch by email, Dming me on Facebook or Twitter and I will be very happy to answer your questions. 

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

 

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The Working With … Podcast | Episode 39 | How To Become More Productive In An Unproductive World

August 13, 2018

Podcast 39

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about how to become more productive

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

Hello and welcome to episode 39 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 that I feel many people want answering. That is how to become more productive in a world that seems designed to make us unproductive. It a great question and I hope to give you a few tips that will help you to get in control of your stuff. 

Last week saw the launch of the 2018 edition of Time And Life Mastery course. There’s been a lot of excitement over this course and I would hate for you to miss out. The early bird discount will be ending soon so if you haven’t got yourself enrolled in this complete course, get yourself enrolled today. This is one course you will never regret enrolling in and is a course that can change your life for the better. It would be great to see you there.

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

This week’s question comes from Jenna. Jenna asks: I struggle to get my work finished on time and my manager is always telling me I need to be more productive. The problem is I don’t know where to begin. Can you help? 

Thank you, Jenna. That’s a great question and one I am sure is on many people’s minds. 

There are a couple of issues I see regularly with many of my clients that have simple fixes. The first is in setting personal deadlines. Now I first came across this one when I began working in Korea. Having come from a working environment where the close of day was fixed. My working hours were the traditional 9 til 5, although for me it was 9 to 5:30. What that meant was when I arrived at work in the morning, I knew I would be finishing at 5:30pm. It was unheard of anyone working beyond their finish time. 

When I came to Korea, I noticed many of my students here had a much more flexible end time. It was normal for workers to stay an extra hour or so at the end of the day to finish their work. This is where Parkinson’s Law comes in to play. Parkinson’s Law states: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So if I begin my day knowing I only have 7½ hours to complete my tasks for the day, then it will take me 7½ hours to complete them. If I begin the day thinking I have 10 hours to complete those same tasks, it will take me 10 hours to complete them. 

Once you know this law, you can use it to your advantage. When you begin a task set a deadline. Let’s say you have a proposal for your client to do today. When you sit down to work on the proposal give yourself one hour to complete it (or 90 minutes if it requires a lot of work). So you sit down at 9:30am and before you begin you say to yourself this must be finished by 10:30am. And get started. You will find that your brain will go into the focused work zone and you will get the proposal completed by 10:30am. This is one of my favourite time hacks if you can call it that. I use this all the time to write my blog posts and even record my regular YouTube videos. YouTube videos can be incredible time sucks if you are not careful. There’s something about making videos for me that has me always wanted to re-record them. If I do not set a finish time, I can easily spend five or six hours recording three ten to fifteen-minute videos. Instead, I set a three-hour deadline. If I begin recording at 3pm I always plan to have them finished by 6pm. It really does help to focus the mind. 

Another thing you can do to really improve your productivity it to begin the day with a plan. Write down the two or three things you absolutely must get complete that day. Don’t leave them in your head. Get them written done where you can see them. Now the key here is to only write down two or three things. These are the big rocks, if you like, that must be completed that day. I know there will always be other things that need doing too, but what you really want to be doing is having the two or three big things that absolutely must be completed that day written down either digitally or on paper on your desk and have them right in front of you. Once you have finished the first thing, cross it off, take a short break and then move on to the second one. 

Difficulties occur when you have a long list of to-dos. It is natural for us to look for the easiest tasks, the quick checks. They make us feel good, but the problem, of course, is many of these quick and easy tasks are not actually that important and are easy to do. To really focus you in what is important and to get you working on the work that will contribute towards completing your work by the deadline, keep your list to two or three tasks. If you are really good and take full advantage of Parkinson’s law, you could have those two or three tasks completed by lunchtime and you can then move on to the easier, less important tasks. 

Another area I find people often struggle with is not being clear about what work is important. We all have a good mix of routine and project work to complete each day. Difficulties start when you are not clear about what work is important. Prioritising your work is a big part of becoming more productive. This is why beginning the day with a plan based on what current projects are important is vital. However, the routine work can very easily take over the day if you are not careful. There are a couple of ways you can handle the less important routine work. One way is to assign one day each week for admin work. This could be Friday afternoon for example. Friday’s are famously difficult to focus on important work because we are often thinking about our plans for the weekend. If that is the case, you could assign Friday as your admin and cleaning up day. This means you only have easy tasks to do on Friday and you don’t need a lot of focus to get them done. Another way is to allocate a time slot each day to do your admin and routine tasks. Giving yourself one hour a day to just get the routine, easy tasks complete will help you to stay focused on the important, project work for the other seven or eight hours each day. This is my preferred way of doing it. I assign one hour a day for all my routine admin work. I usually assign the end of the day to do this because I don’t need a lot of concentration to do it. But you can choose any time of the day or week to do it. 

And now for the biggie. Use you calendar to schedule your work each day. There’s something about seeing a time slot on your calendar that says something like “Prepare presentation file, for next week’s presentation” that really kicks your arse into gear. I guess we are conditioned to follow our calendars more than a to-do list. Take advantage of this. When you plan your day, look at your calendar and between all the meetings and client appointments, schedule focus time. Now only you know when that will be the best time each day. For me, it is usually between 9:30am and 11:30am and between 2pm and 3:30pm. Outside of those times I am either teaching or in meetings. This gives me around four hours every day for focused content work. 

Now I understand that in most companies meetings are often scheduled at the last minute, so it would be a little unrealistic to schedule your focused work for the whole week, but if you have established what two or three things you really want to get done for the day when you plan the day, when you get to work in the morning, you can then look at your calendar for the day and schedule those two or three things on your calendar. When you do this, you know what you need to be doing at what time each day. This is one of the best productivity tricks you can use. It really works. Remember, your calendar is sacred. What’s on your calendar gets done and although you are free to change it at any time, you should resist. Once you have scheduled your day, stick to it only allow real, genuine emergencies to change it. 

There are many other little things you can do to help. When you are given a task always write it down in a trusted place. Never trust your brain to remember it. When your boss asks you to do something always ask them when they want it by. This actually works on two levels. Firstly it gives you a deadline to work from and secondly, it prevents your boss from changing the deadline. You have an agreed, set deadline. 

Another little trick I use is when no deadline is given to me. I will always tell them when I will complete it by. This works because it sets a deadline for me and I get agreement from the other person that the deadline is okay with them. We then have an agreement and because I have committed myself to do the work by a certain time I will make sure I will do it because it was I who set the deadline. It’s almost like a matter of honour. It’s a great incentive. 

The truth is becoming better at productivity is really all about knowing what you have to get done and by when. It’s about knowing what you have to do before you start the day and making sure you have enough time scheduled to get it done. It’s simple. I know it means you need to spend ten minutes or so getting clear each day about what you need to get done, but those ten minutes will save you so much time and stress later. Think of those ten minutes as an investment in your sanity and your professionalism. 

Well, I hope that answers your question, Jenna and thank you for emailing me your question. Don’t forget if you have a question you would like answering on this podcast, just get in touch either by email, Dming me on Twitter or Facebook and I will be very happy to answer your question. 

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

 

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 38 | How I Prioritise my Day Using the 2+8 Prioritisation Method

August 6, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about How I prioritise my work.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Script:

Hello and welcome to episode 38 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.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is how do I prioritise my work. This question has been asked by so many people that I decided in this week’s podcast to answer that question. 

Now I am revealing one of the new pieces of gold from my recently launched Time And Life Mastery Course in answering this question but this such a valuable piece of gold I think it is important to reveal it to all of you wonderful people. 

Before we get into this week’s question I would like to say if you are struggling with discovering what you want out of life and you feel overwhelmed by all the work you have to do, then please enrol in the Time And Life Mastery Course. It is a complete course, with over 3 hours of video lessons and over 20 downloadable work and tips sheets. You also get the Time And Life Mastery Workbook AND free access to my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course. There is so much value in this course and one thing I can promise you is if you complete the course and follow the guidance given in the course you will become masters of your life and your time. 

This is an investment in you and an investment in your future. Get yourself enrolled today and take advantage of the early bird discount. 

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

This week’s question is: Carl, how do you prioritise your own work?

Okay, to start with I should give you a little background. I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done book in 2009 and that was when I decided to change from my beloved Franklin Covey Time management system and go GTD. Now When I first started with GTD, I captured everything I could. I would process, organise, review and do. But what I quickly found was I was assigning dates to almost everything I captured and these then popped up on my daily to-do list in a random mess. Some days I would have 30 tasks, other days I might only have 12. There was no order, no prioritisation and although I was getting a lot done, it felt I was not getting a lot of the important stuff done. I found I was going through my daily to-do list looking for the quick, easy tasks so I could just check off another task. You know, checking off tasks makes us all feel good, doesn’t it? 

I should confess, for around two or three years that is how I operated GTD. I just began the day and tried to get as many of these daily tasks completed as soon as I could. It felt good always checking off tasks. I had things like “do student attendance” when I knew I would do that anyway because all classes began with the attendance register. I also had tasks such as “take the dog for a walk” when, again, I knew that was something I would do without having it on a to-do list. I really didn’t need reminding of those things because I just did them. I had them on my list because they were guaranteed tasks I would check off that day and it always felt good to check tasks off. 

Then one day, when I was doing a weekly review, I realised that checking tasks off like this did not make me a productive person. All it meant was I was checking tasks off a list. What I began to understand was to be a more productive person I needed to make sure the tasks I was doing each day were meaningful and did actually move me towards the things that were important to me. Like my career development, writing books and helping my students improve their lives. I saw that many of the things I had on my to-lists were not doing that, they were meaningless tasks, tasks I started to call “trophy tasks” because the only thing they contributed to was the good feeling of checking off a task. 

So I began looking again at the way I had my system set up and I soon discovered that all I needed was two objective tasks—tasks that moved me closer towards my goals each day—and eight other meaningful tasks that would move my projects towards completion each day. So, in total, all I needed was to focus on ten tasks a day. 

These ten tasks were to form the core of my daily workflow. But I also realised there were a number of tasks that, although not important, still needed to be done. These tasks I called my “routine” tasks. These were things like “take the garbage out”, “pay my credit card bill” and “write student feedback forms”. These tasks needed doing, but they did not move any of my projects towards completion and did not contribute towards achieving my goals. I realised if I put those into my eight tasks for the day, then I would not have any room to put in my important tasks. So I created a separate list called “routines”. They came up in my daily list, but I made sure they were always at the bottom of my list and never the top. 

That was the theory and it worked. There was a bit of fiddling about, I used OmniFocus at the time and I was adjusting my “perspectives” a lot to try and get the lists only showing what I wanted to see when I needed to see it. Today, I use Todoist and with the flagging system in Todoist I now have a ‘perfect’ way to remove those routine tasks from my daily lists until I need to see them, which is usually at the end of the day. 

So, the way I prioritise what is important is to use what I call my “2+8 Prioritisation” method. Two objectives for the day that are almost always related to my goals and eight other tasks that are important and are project related. Daily admin and other unimportant tasks that need doing, but do not contribute to my goals or projects, are considered routines and these will be on my daily list when they need to be, but for the most part of the day are out of sight and out of mind. 

The problem I see with most people’s to-do list is they become a dumping ground for unimportant work. We then schedule these unimportant tasks randomly so they come upon us when we should really be focused on our important work. Work that takes our lives forward. And as we all know our human condition is not perfect in any sense of the word and so we start checking those unimportant tasks off because of how they make us feel and we end up feeling busy, overwhelmed and exhausted, yet we have not done anything important. 

What I have found over the years I have been using the 2+8 Prioritisation method is you have to get really good at deciding what is important. You have to be very strict in applying the principle. When you do your daily review at the end of the day (the Golden 10) you need to look at the list you have for tomorrow and start removing tasks so you end up with just ten. Then you look at those ten tasks and select two as your objectives for the day. 

When you first start doing this it will be very hard. Your brain will rebel and tell you everything is important. You must resist. Remind yourself that your goals and your active projects are the most important things. That moving your life forward is far better than doing tasks that will not improve your life or improve you as a person. 

One more advantage of this method is that by only having ten tasks per day that you focus on, you still have enough time in the day to manage those little crises that will get thrown at you every day. You know those sudden emergencies that your boss or customers throw at you at 4pm on a Thursday afternoon. This method builds in the flexibility you need to be like water (as Bruce Lee said… “be like water my friend”) and as David Allen states: no matter what you throw into a pool of water it will react accordingly whether you throw in a small pebble or a giant rock. It will react appropriately and then return to its natural state. The 2+8 Prioritisation method will do just that. It allows you to be just like water. You have the flexibility and time space to deal with crises in an appropriate way so that you can return to your natural, relaxed, productive self quickly and effectively. 

Hopefully, this has helped you to understand why prioritising to some degree allows you greater flexibility and will move you closer to reaching your peak productive self. I know it is not easy, but having been through it myself I can assure you the effort is well worth it because of what you become from making these small, but significant changes in the way you operate your to-do list. 

Don’t forget, if you want to take complete control of your own life and your own time, then get yourself enrolled in my 2018 edition of the Time And Life Mastery course. This is a course that will prove to be a very valuable investment in you, your future and the way you want to live your life. 

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

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The Working With… Podcast | Episode 37 | How To Find Your Purpose

July 30, 2018

In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about How to find what it is you want to do with your life.

Links:

Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Why Drifting Through Life With Result In A Lifetime of Regret

The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Time And Life Mastery 2018 Edition

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Hello and welcome to episode 37 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’s question is a rather popular question. I also find a lot of my English communication students also struggle with this. Discovering what it is you want to do in life. I know that sounds like a big philosophical question, but the truth is if you don’t know what it is you want to do with your life you are going to drift and drifting through life is never a good thing. As I wrote in my blog post last week (a link is in the show notes) drifting through life results in a life of regret and by the time you realise you have spent your whole precious life drifting it is often too late to do anything about it. 

Before we get into this week’s question, I want to give you guys a heads up to the launch of my Time And Life Mastery 2018 edition course. Time And Life Mastery is my premium online course that takes you on a journey of self-discovery and shows you how to discover exactly what it is you want to achieve in life. Once you have established what it is you want to achieve and do, the second part of the course shows you how you can take control of your time so your goals and purpose take centre stage of your daily life. 

It’s a fantastic course and last year’s edition was my most popular course by far. The course launches on the Friday 3rd August and I would love to see you there. There’s a link in the show notes to the course’s page where you will find all the information you need. 

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

This week’s question comes from Sandra, Philip and Sandeep. They ask: I know it is important to have a plan, but I really don’t know what I want to do. Do you have any tips on how to find my goals and purpose?

Thank you for the question guys. 

As I mentioned in the intro, I know this is a very difficult question for many people. In fact, if I am being very honest with you, it took me a very long time to discover what it is I want to achieve in life. I would have been around 32 years old before I discovered that teaching was what I wanted to do. Before that, I tried many jobs from hotel management and selling cars to being a lawyer. All of which left me feeling empty and not excited about the future. It was only when I took the chance to come to Korea and teach English did I finally discover that teaching was what I wanted to do and that I loved everything about teaching from the planning of lessons to the helping of students to improve an area they were really struggling with. It was my willingness to experiment and try new things that finally led me towards teaching and the discovery that teaching was the vocation I loved doing. 

So that would be my first piece of advice. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Experimenting doesn’t mean quitting your current job and trying something new, but let’s say you are curious about teaching, there are plenty of opportunities where you can volunteer to teach something you know about. That could be inside the company you work for—you could volunteer to do a presentation on your know-how. One of the companies I used to work for did a monthly training session where a different teacher each month would do a fifteen-minute training session on their own teaching know-how. It was a great way to get new insights into teaching and how to handle difficult, non-responsive students. 

Another way is to start doing whatever it is you want to try. If you want to be a writer, then start writing. Begin a blog and write something every week. You don’t need to publish anything. You just need to write. You can judge for yourself if you enjoy the process. Same goes for creating videos or making your own music. We have the technology now on almost all our devices to create and make things whether that is writing, film or music production. 

But let’s say you have absolutely no idea what it is you want to do. How do you discover the things you want to do? Well, this is a lot easier than you may think. The first thing you need to do is to take a piece of paper (or a note in your note-taking app) and write “fifty things I want to do in the next ten years” at the top. Then, underneath the title begin writing down everything you would like to do over the next ten years. Don’t filter anything. No matter how unrealistic something is if you want to do it or would like to try to over the next ten years get it written down. This is not about what is possible and what is not. This is just a list of things you would like to do over the next ten years. 

One of the things on my ten-year list is to fly to the UK and buy a brand new Aston Martin DB11 and drive it all the way to Korea from the UK. Aside from the prohibitive cost of actually buying an Aston Martin, it is also a rather unrealistic thing to do. However, it is not really about whether you will actually do something it is more about getting your thinking into a place that will allow you to discover the kind of things you truly want to do in your life. 

The problem we all share is that over the years we have developed filters in our mind about what is possible and what is not possible. Many things we have labelled as being impossible have become that way, not because they are actually impossible, but because we have allowed these filters to develop by listening to other people who have told us what are the right or wrong things to do. But remember, when someone else tells you what is right and what is wrong or what is possible and what is impossible they are only giving you their own opinion. Opinions are not necessarily correct. Often the best way to find out is to try for yourself. 

Now this list of fifty things is going to take some time. When I did my list it took a few weeks to get it to fifty. The first twenty were quite easy. After that, it became much harder. But I persisted and after a few weeks, I had a list of fifty things I wanted to achieve over the next ten years. 

The funny thing is, many of the things on my list have become true. I have begun a blog, started a YouTube channel on productivity and written a book each year. All of these things I found I really enjoy doing. Strangely, writing the blog, my YouTube channel and this podcast are all related to teaching people. Most of the things I really enjoy doing come back to that. Teaching. It is what I do and it is what I feel is my purpose. 

Once you have your list of fifty things you are going to find there are quite a few things that have a common purpose. For me, it was creating content to share with other people. Of course, there were a few material things on there too. Buying the Aston Martin for example and also buying a house on the east coast of Korea. These are material and they are things I want to do over the next ten years. The point is you write everything down. Don’t let whether something is possible or not stop you from putting it on your list. The whole point is you have a list of your desires and wants. 

Now, once you have your list of fifty things you will need to start dividing it up into when you would like to accomplish them. Some of them you may want to do in the next year. Put those on the next year list. Others may be in the next three years, or perhaps 5 years. And of course, some of the bigger, more ambitious things may require a bit more time. Put them on your ten-year list. When you divide these things up into when you want to achieve them, try to get an even a stream as you can. There’s no point in loading everything up into the next five years. This is a ten-year list. So spread them out over a realistic timeline. My Aston Martin idea would go on my ten-year list for example. There’s a lot of things I want to do over the next year and taking one or two months off to travel across the world is not going to be very practical when I want to develop my YouTube channel and blog over the next five years. 

One thing I can promise you is this exercise is fun. It allows your imagination to run wild and it breaks down the limiting self-beliefs that you have acquired over the years about what you can and cannot do. And we’ve all picked up those limiting self-beliefs. This is one of the reasons why many people struggle to find what it is they want to do with their lives. They allow these beliefs to take hold and to start believing they cannot do things. The truth is you can do these things, but you first need to allow your imagination to open up. Once your imagination opens up and you get fifty things written down, the next step is to start and work on a plan to make them become a reality. 

For me, starting the YouTube channel was a big challenge. I have never been comfortable in front of a camera, so I realised I would have overcome that fear first and then develop a theme and a plan to make it happen. Three years ago I did that. It took a few weeks, a lot of abortive attempts but I persisted, and today when I look back at my first videos I cringe at how awful they are. But then I look at what I am producing today and what I have learnt over the last three years about video production and editing and I feel happy I am progressing in the right direction. The same can be said for my blog. I read those early blog posts and laugh at how bad they were. But again, over the last three years or so, I have learnt a lot, got better and now I feel confident I can sit down and write a reasonable blog post. Now I am a contributing writer for Likehack - so I must be doing something right! 

The thing is we have all got to start somewhere. And if you really have no idea what it is you want to do with your amazing life then the best place to start is with a piece of paper and start writing out all the things you would like to do. It doesn’t matter whether some of those things are crazy, stupid, impossible or the complete opposite of what you are doing today. It does not matter how old you are. It is never too late to change direction. The point is if you discover you are moving in the wrong direction then it is better to find out now rather to never find out. 

So start the list. It will take you a few weeks to get to fifty. But the time and effort is well worth it because of what you will discover about yourself.

Good luck and remember, if you do want to go into a lot more detail and you are serious about building a life you can be proud of, then take a look at my Time And Life Mastery course. That could very well be the course that changes your life for the better and set you on your way to accomplishing the things you really want to accomplish. 

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

 

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

July 23, 2018

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

Links:

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The Beginners Guide To Building Your Own Productivity System

Your Digital Life 2.0 Online Course

The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page

 

Script:

Hello and welcome to episode 36 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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