The Working With… Podcast

My Top 6 Tips For Better Productivity and Time Management

December 16, 2019

This week’s podcast is an end of year special. So sit back and let me see if I can teach you some productivity and time management wisdom. 

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6 Common Sense Time Management And Productivity Tips Anyone Can Use.

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Script

Episode 113

Hello and welcome to episode 113 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This is the final episode of this year. The Working With Podcast is taking its annual break and will be back on 6th January.

 As a treat for the final episode of 2019 this week it’s all about productivity tips and tricks. All these tips I am going to share with you work. They are tried and tested and if you adapt them for your own way of life and ways of doing things you will see significant gains to your overall time management and productivity. The important thing is you adapt them. 

They are simple and logical but are not easy to implement. But I can promise if you do implement them you will improve.... a lot. 

Now before we get to this week’s question, don't forget if you are in the UK, you have the opportunity to join Kevin Blackburn and me in Scunthorpe for a day of planning, motivation and massive massive action. 

Saturday 28th December. Perfectly positioned between Christmas and the start of the new year. Will you join us? I cannot think of a better way to start the 2020s than making a commitment in front of likeminded people. 

Tickets are limited so get yours now. Ticket details are available in the show notes and from my website - Carl Pullein.com 

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

This week’s question is from many people. They have all asked if you could share some of your favourite tips and tricks to become better organised and more productive. Thank you to Richard, Sophie, Stephan, Alex, Duncan, and many more for asking this question. 

Yes, thank you, guys. Now I am going to share with you six tips I shared in a recent blog post called - 6 Common Sense Time Management And Productivity Tips Anyone Can Use. Hopefully, some of these will resonate with you. If you want to read the article, I will put a link in the show notes for you. 

The digital revolution has caused the demand on our time to grow incredibly over the last twenty years or so. —where once if we were not in our home or place of work our friends and colleagues could not reach us, now no matter where we are in the world (or universe!) we can be reached with the simple press of a button. 

Now, with that 24/7 access and all the wonderful things we can now do for entertainment and education, we find ourselves having difficulty finding time to do the most basic of things. Having breakfast or dinner with our family, spend an hour or so reading a book or go for a Sunday afternoon walk with our partner or friends. 

Because we are expected to be more accessible than we have ever been, leaving our mobile phone at home while we go out for a run or take a walk with our loved ones would be uncomfortable. Now, this is the way we lived just twenty to thirty years ago and we had no problems or issues. I would not go as far as to say we were more relaxed back then, I would say we enjoyed more of the time we had with the people we cared about because it was just them and us. There was no mobile phone or other electronic device beeping and buzzing for our attention.

So, to help us get some out time back so we can focus on the things we want to focus on, here are six tips and tricks anyone can use that will help you to regain more of your time so you can spend it doing the things you want to with the people you want to be with. 

Use your calendar

It does surprise me how many people are not using their calendars to manage their time each day. Your calendar shows you how much time you have each day and you see where you have gaps to do the things you love doing. Exercise, spending time with the people you care about, reading a book or taking a walk in the park. All these things can be scheduled on your calendar so when you receive a demand for your time you can make a decision based on whether the new demand for your time will be more important or fulfilling than the original one. 

Seriously, use your calendar to schedule your work and play. It will help you to get a better grasp on where you are spending your time and will help you to better allocate your time resource. 

Get better at saying no

This is hard. It’s the one that most people struggle with because we are wired to please people. Saying “no” to someone feels like we are letting them down and they will think badly of us. The truth is, if you say “yes” to a time demand and then you do not give your full commitment to it, you will let that person down a lot more than if you had said “no” in the first place. 

You don’t have to be impolite when saying “no”, you can do it gently. Developing a few strategies though that make it easier for you to say no to demands will ease your time pressures and put you in more control of what you do each day. 

My trick is to not commit immediately to a time demand. I always ask for time to review my calendar. Of course, I could check my calendar from my phone, but the truth is I want to see the full week in context before I commit to anything new. Once checked, I can then accept or decline the invitation with honesty. 

Spend a few minutes at the end of the day planning the next day

This one is huge. All you need is ten minutes at the end of the day to write out a few things you want to get done the next day. My Golden Ten method is designed to put you in control of your work. It’s just ten tasks per day that you want to want to focus on. These ten tasks do not include your regular routines, but they are the ten tasks you really want to complete and doing so would move your projects and goals forward. 

Now It does not matter where you do this. You can have an elaborate to-do list manager, you could use your calendar or just a simple piece of paper. All that matters is you make a plan for the things you want to do tomorrow. 

What this does is help you to stay focused on what is important to you. It also gives your mind a chance to prepare. When you begin the day with a purpose and a plan, you are more likely to get those things done than if you just turn up at work and allow your email to tell you what needs doing next. 

Here’s a bonus tip: Before you start the day, take a look at the list you made the day before and review it. Visualise yourself completing the list. This helps you to stay focused on what you have decided is important for the day. You can make this a part of your morning routine. It’s a fantastic way to get ‘primed’ for the day. 

Stop overcommitting yourself

Okay, truth time…. You do not have to do everything all at once. One of the reasons so many people feel stressed out and overwhelmed is because they are trying to complete all their projects in one go. Stop this madness. 

Firstly, you are never going to be able to do everything all at once anyway so stop trying and secondly, when you take that kind of pressure off yourself you get a lot more work done because you can focus on a few key parts that will move your projects further faster. It’s the old saying… “less is more”. It’s true. Try doing less each day and watch your productivity grow. 

Identify the things that will have the biggest impact on your work 

Far too often we spend our time doing trivial tasks that do not have a significant impact on our work but make us feel busy. Let me give you an example of this. Checking email is incredibly inefficient. Doing email is more productive. What’s the difference? Checking email is going through your inbox looking for important emails and ignoring the less important emails. Doing email is starting at the top of your inbox and dealing with each email as you go through it. 

Checking email leaves you with email still in your inbox that you will have to look at again later anyway. Doing email leaves you with an empty inbox and a list of emails that need action that you will do when you have time later. 

With practice, you soon learn to distinguish what tasks have the biggest impact on moving projects forward. While planning is important, spending too much time planning and thinking does not move projects forward. Action does. Making the phone call you have been putting off, sitting down and writing the report or preparing the slides for the presentation you have to do next week. Those tasks get things done. Thinking about them does not. Never confuse thinking about and planning as doing. It is not. Thinking and planning does not move things forward only doing does that. 

Of course, there is a time for planning and thinking, but that should never be used as an excuse for not taking action. 

 And finally, take a break!

We are not machines. We cannot work at a consistent level all day. We will go through peaks and troughs. For most people, they can stay focused and creative longer in the morning. After lunch, it becomes harder to focus and pushing yourself through to try and finish a report is wasting time and again rather inefficient. 

Instead, learn when you are at your most focused—for most people that will be in the morning, for some, that could be in the evening—then use your calendar to schedule the work that requires the most focus and concentration at the times you are at your best. 

Make sure every ninety-minutes or so, take a ten-minute break. Get up, move around. Try to get some fresh air and a different view. Staring at a screen all day will sap your creative juices quicker than anything else. Taking a break and getting outside will rejuvenate you. If like me you work from home, you can schedule dog walking or exercise time in the middle of the day. I find that’s a great way to break up the day and helps me t get a tremendous amount done each day. 

So there you go, six common-sense tips and tricks to help you become more productive with your time so you can spend more of your time doing the things you want to do and that have the biggest impact on your work and your wellbeing. 

Thank you to all of you for listening this year and a big thank you to all of you who have sent in questions. This podcast is built on your questions so please keep them coming in. If you have a question, just email it to carl@carlpullein.com. 

Have a wonderful end of year break and happy new year. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.