This week, I am sharing a few ideas you can use to get some time back for the things you want time for.
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Episode 289 | Script
Hello, and welcome to episode 289 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show.
Do you ever wish you had more time each day? Not necessarily time for more work, but just time to do what you want.
Many years ago, this is how I felt. I wished there was more time for doing the things I wanted. I looked at my heroes from the past—being able to come home from a hard day in the factory physically exhausting themselves, to spend the evenings in a garden shed inventing the future. People like Frank Whittle (inventor of the jet engine) and James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner.
I often wondered how they were able to do it. It then dawned on me that we are not able to make more time; that is fixed. People like Frank Whittle, James Dyson, Marie Curie and others had the same amount of time you and I do. However, what these people did was decide what they would and would not do with their time so they could maximise what they had doing the things they loved doing.
Is that not possible for you? Could you decide what you will and will not do with your time? Are you currently doing some things that may not be conducive to what you really want to do?
Well, this week’s question had me thinking more about this, and the results of that thinking are all in this podcast. So, to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Patrick. Patricks asks, Hi Carl, I’ve often wondered if you have any tips on making better use of your time. Is there anything you do that saves you time each day or week?
Hi Patrick, thank you for your question.
I must confess that your question was the inspiration behind the video I posted on YouTube last week on how I can save around 16 hours each week following a few simple practices.
Now, I should point out that some of what I will talk about here may not work for you, how they work for me, but that does not mean they definitely won’t work for you. You can modify them so that do work. All I ask is you keep an open mind and see how you could adopt them into your life.
First up. Always have a plan for the day. I know; I have spoken about this a lot. But it just saves you so much time. It stops you from being dragged off doing unimportant things and keeps you focused on what needs to be done.
Now, I am not suggesting you plan out every minute of the day; that would be impractical and never works. Instead, what I am suggesting you plan out what must be done. The things that need to be done and tasks that will prevent bigger problems in the future. When you start the day, know what you will do and when you will do it.
For example, today, I had a few calls this morning, so I kept my morning free for calls. This afternoon, this script was to be written. Now, it did not matter when precisely I would write this script; all I decided was I would write this script before taking my dog out for his walk.
Beyond that, the only thing that was planned was an hour for responding to my emails and messages and more calls this evening.
The problem you will have when you don’t have a plan is your day will be hijacked by fake urgencies and emergencies from other people. Fake because you will grab onto anything to avoid having nothing to do. Having a plan focuses you and ensures that what you do is relevant to your goals, projects and areas of focus.
All this saves you time because what you do each day is moving the right things forward so they get done on time and without a lot of fuss. And you are not wasting time trying to decide what to do.
The next tip is to reduce the number of channels you are contactable through. I found it amusing a few years ago when everyone was getting excited about apps like WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Messenger.
At the time, I could not understand what all the fuss was about because we already had email, and text messaging was great. You could see what would happen when groups in these new apps were created. Instead of a conversation with one person, there were going to be conversations with numerous people, which meant a message thread would be constantly updating; to catch up with what was going on, you had to scroll back and read through everything.
WOW! The time wasting that happens now because of these so-called marvellous inventions. The best tip I can give you is to avoid these groups as much as possible. I am proud to say I am not a part of any group—well, there is one. I still teach an English class, and the four students in that group and I have a group chat where we can communicate our absences. But that’s it.
Sadly, companies have now jumped on this bandwagon and forced employees to be a part of a Teams or Slack group. Now bosses can constantly check in with you, asking for updates and requesting you do things. And, of course, because our boss expects us to be reading these messages instantly, we have to drop everything to confirm we have received the message and are working on it.
If you want to be productive, being a part of all these channels of communication will destroy any chance. Aside from the attention switching cost, which can be high, it means you are losing as much as three to four hours a day just checking, confirming and replying to these messages.
You need to find a way to remove yourself from these groups or have a set time each day for dealing with them. For instance, if you are part of a work group chat, perhaps you could check and deal with messages twice a day. Mid to late morning and mid to late afternoon.
Don’t worry, your team and boss soon learn your patterns, and once they are used to it, they are unlikely to bother you.
This is one of those that you may be saying to yourself that would be impossible for me. Perhaps, but have you tried? Have you considered a different way from the way things are working right now? Or are you happy losing as much as three to four hours a day? I will leave that one with you.
Here’s one I began using around ten years ago that has saved me hours and hours. Eat the same thing every day. Now, I know with this one, most of you will immediately say, “NO WAY!” But I am going to say it and let you decide if it could work for you.
Eat the same things every day.
Okay, I better explain. First, I am not a foodie. Food doesn’t excite me, and I see it only as fuel. If you are a foodie and love trying new and exciting things, this tip will not work for you, and I would not suggest you change. However, here’s how it saves time.
As I have been eating pretty much the same thing every day for the last ten years or so, I have learned the fastest and most efficient way to cook my meals. It is also easy to ensure I have all the ingredients in stock at home, and I know how long it takes to cook, eat and wash up afterwards.
This means I can use meal times as stakes in the ground for my day. I do intermittent fasting, so my meal times are 11:00 AM for breakfast and 6:00 PM for dinner. So, I have a two-hour session of work in the morning before breakfast, and at 4:30 PM, I stop whatever I am working on for an hour to deal with my communications. After dinner, I have another ninety minutes of work before my evening calls begin.
The biggest time saving here, though, is I do not need to waste time each day trying to decide what to eat or negotiating with my wife about what she wants. She’s more of a foodie and likes to prepare her own meals, and she eats at different times than me. She also does intermittent fasting, but because her mornings are always busy, her eating window is from 2 pm to 10 pm.
We do eat together on Saturdays, though, and I will eat whatever we decide to eat that day. That’s my cheat day.
Next up, use a scheduling service.
This will save you so much time and put you in control of when you are available for meetings. Now, I know not all of you will be able to do this because your work calendar is controlled by other people. But, if you work with clients, this will be a huge time-saving for you.
Scheduling services allow you to allocate slots of time when you are available for meetings, and your clients and colleagues can schedule times with you that are convenient for them as well as you.
Using a scheduling service means you are not going back and forth trying to find a mutually convenient time; instead, the other person can choose a time, and it will be automatically booked on your calendar.
And no, people do not find it rude. Everyone I work with finds it much more convenient because they get to choose and schedule a meeting with you when they are ready rather than wasting time either calling, messaging or emailing you.
Now what about finding time for those side hobbies, the things you want time for? How do you find time for that? If you study people like Frank Whittle, Marie Currie or James Dyson, you will discover they made time for their hobbies. Now, for Marie Currie, there was no TV, and TV was a rare thing during Frank Whittle’s early life. In those days, people found their own entertainment.
There are times in the day when you have complete control over what you do. I remember when I was watching a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk’s YouTube videos, and he preached you should use 11 PM to 1 AM as your development time—when you worked on your “side hustle”.
Today, the word “side hustle” has gone out of fashion somewhat and in many ways, that’s probably a good thing. But as usual, when something goes out of fashion, we throw everything away when there may be some grains of value in it.
For example, I use the late evening for studying. Sometimes I will read; other times, I will watch educational videos on YouTube. It depends on what I feel like learning. But for me, that study time is precious. It helps me to wind down at the end of the day, and while I am not doing this too late, usually around 10:30 pm to midnight, it still gives me some quiet time for things I am interested in.
However, I like to watch some TV shows, and I reserve them for Saturday nights. This way, I have something to look forward to and can relax.
So these are just a few of the less common ways you can save yourself time. There are a few more in my latest YouTube video; I’ll link to that in the show notes for you. But to give you a flavour, there are chunking similar tasks together, getting outside to do your thinking and decision making and finding the process, not the project.
Hope these help, Patrick and thank you for sending in your question. Thank you to you, too, for listening, and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
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Surviving the End Of Year Overwhelm Storm: Your Resilience Toolkit
há 3 dias
12:58This week, what to do when your day, or week, turns sour and you’re left feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 302 \ Script Hello, and welcome to episode 302 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 of this show. In my weekly newsletter last week, I wrote about how, for some reason, the end of the year seems to throw up a lot of stuff that suddenly needs to be finished before the end of year. While deadlines are always around us, it seems December is the month that projects and tasks, that were slowly moving along just fine, become urgent and must be complete in the next two weeks or so. This leaves you feeling stressed out and under pressure at a time of year you want to be slowing down and relaxing. This week’s question talks directly to this phenomenon and I want to give you a number of strategies that will help you to stay on top of things and get through to the end of year break feeling in control and ready to enjoy Christmas and the New Year celebrations. So, to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Brett. Brett asks, hi Carl, I want to know if you ever feel under pressure or overwhelmed at the end of the year. And if not, what do you do to stay in control when everyone around you is demanding their projects are completed before the Christmas holidays? Hi Brett, thank you for your question. You’re right, for some reason before any long holiday there does seem to be a big rush to get things finished. Whether it is Christmas, Eid, Yom Kippur or the end of the calendar year bosses and colleagues suddenly wake up and realise they are behind on a number of projects and so the panic sets in and everything needs to be completed yesterday. The truth is, it shouldn’t matter where you are in the year, if you have planned things out and developed a timeline for getting things done, there should never be a rush to complete things at the last minute. Now, when I say planned things out and developed a timeline, I don’t mean micro-managed plans, but a rough set of milestones for each project that needs to be completed in the year. One trick I use is to divide my year up into quarters and to limit the number of projects I allow to no more than four each quarter. That still means I get between ten and twelve big projects complete each year but I do it in a way that ensures I am not overly stressing my system and I have sufficient breathing room between each one that allows for small over-runs and delays. Sure, I could set about trying to complete ten or more projects each quarter, but then most of them won’t be finished and all I am doing is letting people down by constantly missing deadlines. That’s not something I will allow myself to do. Now, when I talk about projects here I am talking about projects that will take four to ten weeks to complete. A lot of what I do each week are things I do every week. Preparing this podcast is not a project, it’s part of my core work and is a process. Likewise my blog posts and YouTube videos are all a part of my core work and I have processes for getting these done each week. For me, a project is something like developing a new course, or redesigning my website or even writing a book—which I confess took up three quarters this year. And on that subject, the book is now being edited and the cover design is close to completion. We are still looking at publication early next year. And even if I say so myself, this is a fantastic book. I’ve loved writing it AND reading through it. Anyway, back to staying in control as we approach the end of year. So the first tip is, where possible make sure you retain control over the number of projects you are committed to each quarter. There is a limit and you need to ensure the people you report to know where you are in terms of the workload you have and what time availability to you have. If you are in the habit of automatically saying yes to everything you are asked to do, then you are not in control. Instead, it means other people are controlling you. It’s your responsibility to communicate with your pears and bosses so they know what you have on, and what space you have for new tasks and projects. If you re not willing to, or are afraid to do that, you will never find the answers in YouTube videos or podcasts like this. This is one area where you need to do the difficult thing and speak up. Explain your workload and ensure the people you work with know your limits. Next up is to understand there are only twenty-four hours in the day. Obvious yes? Well, it seems not. I see a lot of people’s to-do lists and it clear to me most people believe they can do a lot more than time will permit. No, you are not going to be able to attend five one hour meetings, deal with 200 emails and write the proposal your boss is screaming for. Something has to give. This means you need to know what is and is not important. Is completing the proposal more important than one or two of those five meetings you have planned? Could you excuse yourself from the meeting rather than using it as an excuse for not doing your work? Again, it comes back to you taking on the responsibility for your time and not hoping time will miraculously expand so you can do everything in one day. Remember whether you are the CEO or an intern, you can always negotiate deadlines. The worst that can happen is the person you are negotiating with is a better negotiator than you and you have to do whatever you are being asked to do. But at least your voice is heard and the chances are you will be allowed extra time to complete the work. I’ve found when things are chaotic, the most important thing you can do is to double down on your daily and weekly planning. This is about getting clear on what needs to be completed that day or week. When chaos surrounds you, the worst thing you can do is not be clear about what the day’s objective is. Sure, you may spend the day dodging bullets, but at least you stay focused on your objective and that’s how you get the important things done. Today, I have what appears to be 101 tiny things to do, but I am focused on the two most important objectives. Ge this script written and edit and send out a video to a conference organiser. My focus is on this script right now and prior to writing this, I completed the video edits and sent them out. Those 101 tiny things that appear to need doing, I will do as many of them as I can today, but not worry too much about the ones I did not do. I can decide later when I do my planning for tomorrow which ones must be done then. Be very clear about what your objectives are for the day. If you stay focused on those one or two things, you will find they get done and most of the other, less important things will find their own solutions. When are you at your most focused? Are you a morning person or more of a night owl? Take advantage of the time of day you are at your most focused. For most of us that will be between 9:00 and 11:00 am. Do whatever you can to protect that time. Block it out where possible in your calendar so no one can schedule meetings for you. It’s important that once you have that time blocked out, you intentionally decide what you will use it for before you start the day. Too often I find people waste the first thirty minutes scrolling through their to-do list looking for something to do. No. Don’t do that. Decide beforehand what you will use it for. This way, when you sit down to do your work, you know what you will do and you can get started immediately. Most of our time management problems are not because of the volume of work. With the right processes in place and strict control over your calendar, you can maintain control of your inbox, routine tasks and core work and have sufficient space to deal with the unknowns. It’s much easier to blame the volume of work, than to address the real problem which is we are allowing other people to control what we do each day. I know many of us need to be available for clients and colleagues, but if you are available eight hours a day, you will never get on top of your work—you will always be doing the work of others and that results in you developing huge backlogs that requires you to work beyond your regular working hours and at weekends. Probably not something you want to do. Look at it this way; if you were to reserve two hours each day for doing the work you are employed to do—your core work—you would still have six hours for dealing with everything else. If you were to tag an extra hour for dealing with your communications, you still have five hours each day for everyone else. That’s twenty-five hours a week dedicated to serving others. Surely that’s enough time? Based on what I’ve learned over the years, the cure for overwhelm and overload are the planning sessions. It’s when you skip those that things begin to back up and become urgent. When you give yourself thirty minutes or so on a weekend to plan the following week from a big picture perspective and to allow ten minutes or so at the end of each day for reviewing your plan and making any necessary adjustments you stay in control. It also means you know where you are at any point in the week and can adjust, reschedule and renegotiate where necessary. Above all, though, never be afraid to renegotiate your commitments either with yourself or with others. There’s nothing wrong with doing that and rather than being a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. You’re a human, not a machine. Accept that and work with it. It’s far better to have one or two bad days each week than pushing yourself towards illness that requires you to take a long break. I hope that helps, Brett and thank you for your question. Thank you to you too for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
The Art of Prioritisation: Cutting Through the Clutter
12:21This week, how do you decide what to work on or put another way, how do you prioritise all the stuff you need to do? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Podcast 301 \ Script Hello, and welcome to episode 301 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 of this show. This week’s question is on a subject I am sure you come across from time to time. That is how do you decide what to work on when you have an overwhelming list of tasks to choose from. In my role as a productivity and time management coach, I get to see how many tasks clients have in their today view and I am often shocked to see upwards of 30 tasks. Let’s be honest here, you are not going to complete 30+ tasks in a day. If you begin the day with this many tasks, your day is already destroyed. you see the problem is when you begin the day you will likely find it quite easy to choose which of those tasks to do. However, as the day proceeds and your decision-making abilities decline—something that happens to all of us; it’s called “Decision fatigue” and is a recognised condition that affects us all. This means as you head into the afternoon and still have 20+ tasks left you find increasingly difficult to decide what to do. this slows you down alarmingly and you find yourself reaching the end of the day with fifteen to twenty tasks still to do. Now, a lot of people will blame their task manager at this point. “My task manager cannot be working because I keep getting to the end of the day with tasks still to do.” Well, no. It’s not the task manager. It’s you. You allowed yourself to start the day with all those tasks. You added the dates. What did you expect to happen? So, with that little warning out of the way, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Lionel. Lionel asks, hi Carl, I’ve followed you for some time now and have always wanted to ask you how best to prioritise my tasks so I stand a chance of completing them all. This is my biggest challenge, and I just cannot find a way to make my list more manageable. Hi Lionel, thank you for your question. The first step here is to do a little bit of analysis. While you may be starting the day with say 20 tasks, how many on average are you getting done? You can go into your completed area of your task manager and collect this data. if you use Todoist, you can go into your productivity areas (The Karma points section) and it will give you the total number of tasks you have completed over the last four weeks. Take those numbers and divide it by 28. That will give you your average number of tasks you complete each day. This number is your optimum number. So to give you a benchmark, my average over the last four weeks is 79 tasks which means I average around 11 tasks per day over seven days. Now I cannot argue with that, that’s the historical data. I might like to think I can complete 20 or more tasks per day, but the evidence tells me I complete around 11 tasks per day. I should say I do not add things like drink five cups of water or take my vitamins in Todoist. The tasks I have in Todoist are work or home related. Tasks such as write this script, record my YouTube video or write my coaching client feedback. The average duration of a task for me is going to be at least forty minutes. I also don’t add individual emails or telephone calls. I have these in my notes or email app. Todoist triggers me to go to email or my notes and do the work. So, the first thing to establish is how many tasks per day are you really doing. Once you have that number, you can now plan your days. If, for instance, you find your optimum number is fifteen tasks, then at the end of the day when you plan the next, you see you have twenty-five tasks, you know you need to go in and reduce that number down. And that means you need to prioritise your list. How do you do that? Well, first go through the list and ask yourself if all these tasks really do need to be done tomorrow. You’ll likely find that 40 to 60% of them don’t. You’ll also discover that a few of them no longer need doing and you can remove these immediately. The chances are, this first step will get your list down to a more realistic number on it’s own. However, if you still have five or six tasks over your optimum number, the next step is to look through what you have on your list against your core work. Your core work is the work you are employed to do, not the work you volunteered to do. For instance, salespeople sell which means any activity involving selling is your core work. Writing up activity reports and doing your expenses while may need doing, are not your core work. Your core work takes priority over non-core work. I know sometimes your accounts department may be hassling you for your expenses, but if you have promised a customer you will send them a pro-forma invoice, the invoice get’s done first. The next line of prioritisation is your areas of focus. these can be difficult to justify because if they were on the Eisenhower Matrix, they would be in quadrant 2–the important, not urgent quadrant. However, what I’ve noticed is the most productive people I’ve ever met or read about never neglect these and ensure they are prioritised each day. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson will never miss an exercise session. Exercise is a non-negotiable part of their identity and areas of focus. They will say no to other things before even considering missing a session. Robbin Sharma, will never skip his self-development time and Warren Buffett will never skip his reading time. These areas of focus are non-negotiable. It’s hard, I know, if you’ve come from a background of dropping everything to please other people to justify these changes in the way you manage your time. But, unless you do make these changes, you cannot expect to ever put an end to the tyranny of task overwhelm. there’s an unlimited number of people hoping you will do things for them. The trouble is, you only have a limited amount of time to do everything you want to or need to do. Now, let’s look at your calendar. The calendar is the core to you having the time to complete your work each day. if you only rely on your task manager to tell you what need doing, you will always be overwhelmed. Task managers do not understand time. they can only tell you what you think you have to do. you calendar shows you how much time you actually have after taking into account your sleep, eating and collecting your kids from school. I’ve always recommended you use your calendar to block out categories of work. For instance, if you group all your communications together—email, messages and phone calls and do them all in a dedicated block of time, you will find you get a lot more done. You will be less distracted and you are focused on one thing—communication. Similarly, for deeper work, work that requires you to focus and concentrate, block a couple of hours out in the morning. I find 9:30 to 11:30am is my best time for deep work. So four days out of seven I have those two hours blocked out for creative work. You need to find time on your calendar where you don’t have regular meetings and block them out. Be ruthless here and protect that time. It’s surprising how much you can get done in two hours when you know you will not be interrupted. Remember, if someone asks you if you can meet tomorrow at 10am you can always say: “not 10am but I’m free after 11:30am”. You’ll find 90% of the time they will say great! See you at 11:30. And on those rare occasions where the only time you can meet is 10am, then okay, it’s just one day. it’s not going to break the week. You can reschedule your time block to another time in the week. The trick with the calendar is to pre-block sufficient time to cover your core work and areas of focus. You can do this when you do your weekly planning sessions. Make sure these critical tasks have enough time allocated for them before you allow the week to run away with you (and it will if you have no plan). That way you know before the week begins if you respect your calendar, you will have sufficient time to get all your critical work done and have sufficient time left over for the things that will inevitably pop up once the week begins. I’ve often said, if you want to become more productive, the key is to do the backend work. Establish what is important to you bother professionally and personally and ensure you have enough time set aside in your calendar for getting the associated tasks completed when they need to be completed. This means working out what your areas of focus and core work are. then putting the associated events such as as exercise time in your calendar and tasks like sending money to your savings account each month in your task manager. But above all, work out what your optimum number of tasks per day is. We all have that number. Find it and use it to plan out your day so you are completing everything that needs to be done and eliminating everything else. I hope that helps, Lionel and thank you for your question. and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
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It’s the 300th Episode!!! WOW!
12:37It’s the official 300th birthday of this podcast! And to celebrate, I’ve been digging into the archive to put together a comprehensive guide to getting better at managing your time and mastering productivity. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 300 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 300 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 of this show. Over the last six years—yes, that’s how long this podcast has been around—I’ve answered around 300 questions sent in by you, and I’ve noticed there are a few common themes where a lot of people struggle. So, in this special episode, I thought it would be a good way to celebrate to give you some tips and tricks you can use every day to solve many of these common issues. So, let’s get started. The first issue many people face is the one of overwhelm. I would guess around 70% of the questions that have come in relate in some way to this problem. Now, overwhelming lists are created by us. We make these lists. Sure, other people may have given us all these tasks in the first place, but we accepted the tasks and added them to our lists. So, ultimately, the responsibility for these overwhelming lists rests with us. We could have explained we were already “fully committed”, so to speak, but we didn’t. We said yes, and that has led to a situation where we now have too many tasks and too little time to deal with them. The solution here is to learn to say no, but that is too simple, right? So what else can we do to eliminate this problem? Well, first is to group all similar tasks together. For example, all your admin tasks can be grouped, equally, and your communications, errands, and deeper-focused work can all be grouped together. You can use tags or labels in your task manager to do this. Next is to create time blocks on your calendar for these critical sessions of work. I’ve found admin and communications need to be allocated time each day, but project work and other unique types of work can be spread out throughout the week. For example, I have one project work session each week because I don’t have many projects to work on. I do have a lot of processes to get my work done each week, but unique project work is quite low. You may be different and have multiple projects going on at one time. If that’s the case, ask yourself how much time each week you need to stay on top of your project commitments. Grouping similar tasks together and working on them at specific times each day has a number of advantages. Primary of these is you reduce the number of times you are attention shifting, which is a huge drain on your mental energy. It also means at specific times of the day, you know what you should be doing and that reduces the number of decisions you need to make. Another advantage is you are working on these every day, and while you may not be able to clear everything each day, you will at least be keeping things under control, and nothing will get missed—which creates issues later. I would also add that you want to stop trying to complete everything in a day. Most things do not need to be completed in a day. A lot of overwhelm is created by our false belief that everything must be finished today. While some things may need to be done today, a lot of what you have on your plate doesn’t. Doing a little spread out over a few days will result in less stress and overwhelm and give you better results than rushing to complete something in a day. However, that means you will need to be doing a weekly planning session to ensure you know when the deadlines are. And that leads me nicely to the importance of a weekly planning session. Now, if I am being honest, most of your plans for the week will be torpedoed by Wednesday. And that is perfectly okay. Weekly planning is not about creating a plan you rigidly stick to. That would be impossible—there are far too many unknown emergencies and unexpected deadlines. The purpose of the weekly planning session is to give you a clear view of what needs your attention that week. I see it as setting out a number of objectives that enable me to stay on top of my work and my projects and goals. In essence, the weekly plan is where you get to decide what needs to be done and allocate sufficient time for those tasks and activities to be done. It goes you a direction and, more importantly, if something new comes in, you can judge whether you have sufficient time or not to complete them. With that knowledge, you can confidently explain to someone that you will be unable to do something this week but can do it the following week. (Or whenever) This is a polite way of saying “no”. When you don’t do a weekly planning session, you will be less likely to know what’s on your plate and will accept new work and rushed deadlines, which will result in you not doing your more important work, which will lead to more and more backlog. I know it’s hard to say no—particularly to your boss or an important client, but if you do not learn to do this, you will never be able to reduce your lists and will always be overwhelmed. The art of saying no is really all about learning to negotiate. You’re not really saying no you won’t do whatever you are being asked to do; what you are doing is negotiating the deadline. If you have six hours of meetings today and 200 emails to deal with, you are not going to be able to put together a “quick presentation” for your boss. But you may be able to do it tomorrow afternoon when you don’t have any meetings. And always remember, the worst that can happen is your boss insists you do it today. And given that you have no choice, you can then review your plan for the day and decide what you won’t do in order to accommodate your boss. Another area where you can quickly become overwhelmed is to create long lists of follow-up and waiting for items. There can be a lot going on here. If you have a long list of tasks you are following up with your team, you have a trust issue, not a follow-up issue. If you ask a team member to do something and you feel the need to add that to a list of follow-up items, that means you do not trust your team member to do their work. Perhaps it’s easier to follow up with them than to address the trust issue, but if you want to reduce your follow-up lists, that is something you will need to do. But there is something else here. Waiting for and follow-up items are an indication of an incomplete task. For instance, if I ask my colleague Jenny for a copy of a document, the task is to get a copy of the document. Until I have that document, the task is not complete. The task was not to ask Jenny for the document. Until I have the document, I cannot complete the task; therefore after asking Jenny for it, I simply reschedule the task a day or two in the future. I may add a note in the comments section to say I asked Jenny for the document, but until the document is in my hands, the task is not complete. How many waiting-for and follow-up tasks do you have like that? You could radically reduce that list if you remove them. The next one causes me a dilemma. As a teacher, I know how important it is to help people develop the habit of collecting everything into their inboxes for processing later. This is a critical first step in developing a good productivity system. Collect everything, then allow yourself a little time at the end of the day to process what you collected. However, the more you collect, the more time you need to spend processing and processing is not doing the work. Part of the solution here is to use your inbox as a filter. Rather than treating everything in there as something that needs to get into your system, you want to view this as a place where you get to decide whether something needs doing or not. I generally delete 40% of what I collect because, on further reflection, I realise the task does not need doing. Always remember, a task that does not need doing and is deleted is one less thing for you to do. And, if, at some later date, the task does need doing, there will be a trigger, and you can re-add it. Once you learn to get comfortable with deleting, you soon find very few things come back onto your list of things to do. The goal is to keep your task list as clean and tight as possible. Only allow things that genuinely need to be done to get into your system. While I encourage you to collect everything, that does not mean everything has to be processed into your system. Look for the things that don’t need to be done and remove those. Now, back to the planning. I mentioned earlier the weekly planning sessions; well, equally important are the daily planning sessions. Now, don’t worry; the daily planning sessions are easy. All that’s involved is looking at your calendar for tomorrow and making sure what’s scheduled is realistic and you have not forgotten anything important. Your daily planning can be done in less than five minutes at a push, although it’s a good idea to take a look at your inbox to make sure there are no fires burning in there, and if you have time, clear that inbox. However, cleaning the inbox is less important than knowing what you have planned tomorrow and knowing it’s realistic. And that’s how you avoid overwhelm. Matching categories of work with time blocks on your calendar, being consistent with your weekly planning. Learning to say no politely and making sure when you finish the day, tomorrow is set up and realistic. Simple things to do; the only question is, will you do it? I can promise you it’s worth it. No more overwhelm and backlogs. Just easily controlled days where whatever is thrown at you, you can handle. Thank you for following this podcast. It’s been a wonderful journey, and it’s not stopping. You can email me anytime with your questions. Just put Podcast in the title, and I will be sure to answer your questions. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
Small Steps, Big Results: Overcoming Overwhelm Gradually
12:29This week, it’s all about preventing yourself from becoming overwhelmed and learning to build more realistic days. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 299 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 299 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 of this show. How much “stuff” do you have to do today? Do you think you will complete it all? Does it even have to be all done today? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself that will help you to see whether you are running close to being overwhelmed or are already overwhelmed. There are a number of reasons why you may find yourself consistently overwhelmed. One of which is not having any prioritisation techniques in place. If you cannot, or do not, prioritise the stuff coming at you, you will treat everything as being important and given you cannot do everything all at once, your brain will slide into panic mode, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin. Another reason is because you believe you can do a lot more than you realistically can. You cannot do fifty tasks, attend six, forty-five-minute meetings and deal with over 200 emails in a day. Nobody can. Even if you went without sleep, didn’t eat or bathe, you would still not get through all those meetings, tasks and emails. So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Paolo. Paolo asks, hi Carl, I’ve learned a lot from you over the last two or three years, and I am very grateful to you. My question is, I still feel overwhelmed by everything I have to do and was wondering if you have any tips or tricks that will help me to stop feeling overwhelmed. Hi Paolo, thank you for your question. This is one area I have thought a lot about over the years—why is it, with all the technology we have today, do we feel more overworked and overwhelmed than ever before? I mean, technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not more stressful, yet life isn’t easier or less stressful. Part of the problem is with the technology. It’s more convenient than ever to collect stuff. If you wanted to learn more about Yoga, you would have had to find a few hours to go to your local library to research the subject. Today, you can read thousands of websites without leaving your sofa. Email is easier to send than a letter. A text or Team message is easier to compose than making a phone call, and adding another to-do to a task list is much easier than pulling out a notebook, finding our pen and writing it down. When something is easy, we will do more of it than if it were difficult. The other problem with technology and apps, in particular, is these are designed to keep you hooked. This means we are encouraged to pour more and more stuff into them and spend time organising and moving stuff around so we can tell everyone how wonderful a particular app is. Just look at how Notion hooks people. It has a ton of features; you can create beautifully designed templates and share them with the world, and this encourages you to join more and more groups looking for more and more templates to download and try out. Just remember, with all this “playing” and organising, you are not doing any work. So, while you have great-looking and fantastically organised tools, you have an ever-growing list of things that are not getting done. When we realise we have to do some of the work we are organising, it’s a huge disappointment and the fun stops. This is one of the reasons why I often say our apps need to be boring. If they are boring, we spend as little time as possible in them, which is great because if we are not organising and fiddling, we have no choice but to do the work. Which, in turn, reduces the overwhelming lists that are accumulating. But let’s return to the prioritisation point. The starting point here is to know what your core work is. What are you employed to do, and what does that look like at a task level? It’s no good saying I am employed to sell, or teach or design. That tells you nothing at a task level. What does selling involve? How many calls do you need to make each day? How many appointments per day will enable you to reach your sales target each month? It’s making those calls and setting up those appointments that are the tasks you need to be doing each day before anything else. That is your priority. Beyond your work, knowing what your areas of focus are, what they mean to you and what you must do each day or week to keep them in balance is critical if you want to ensure that what you do each day serves you and moves you towards building the life you want to live. One of the first books on Time Management I read was a book by Hyrum Smith. Hyrum Smith was the creator of the Franklin Planner, and his book, the 10 Natural Laws of Time And Life Management, was the book that launched Franklin Planner. By the way, you can still buy that book on Amazon. (You can also still buy the Franklin Planner too) Smith spends around a quarter of the book discussing the importance of governing values. These are the values you hold dear, and by observing them, you have a natural prioritisation workflow. For example, if you place your family above your work, if your boss asks you to stay behind to do some extra work when it’s your daughter or son’s birthday, you would not hesitate to say no to your boss. There is a hierarchy of values, and there is a hierarchy of areas of focus. At different times in your life, your areas of focus hierarchy will change. When you are in school, self-development will be near the top; as you get older, finances and health and fitness will likely rise. Perhaps in your thirties, your career or business will be close to the top. It’s in this area where we are all different. The key is knowing what your areas of focus are and what’s most important right now and ensuring you are prioritising anything that will help you accomplish what you want to accomplish there. Now, that’s all the background stuff. Spending a little time there and working out what is most important to you right now will help you make decisions faster. Now, what about strategy? The simplest way to get on top of everything is to group similar tasks together and do them in one single session. For example, email and communications. Rather than reacting every time an email comes in and responding to it, move the main to an action folder for later. Then, at the allocated time, open up that folder and begin with the oldest one and work your way down. Do as many as you can in the time you have allowed for this activity. If you consistently do this every day, you will soon find yourself on top of your mail. Let’s be honest: if you have 400 hundred actionable emails, you won’t be able to do them all in one day. So don’t try. Focus on spending an hour each day on it and watch what happens. Do the same for admin. Schedule an hour a day for your admin. We all have admin to do. That could be activity reports, expenses, banking or attendance records. Don’t let it become a backlog. Allocate time each day for doing it. This consistency will soon have you back on top of everything. The great thing about having a consistent time for doing things like communications and admin, it very quickly becomes a habit. I cannot imagine going to dinner without clearing my actionable email. Similarly, once dinner is over, I love sitting down with a cup of tea and doing my admin. Sure, admin is boring, but a great cup of tea and a bit of music can do wonders for monotonous tasks like admin. Now for more meaningful work—work that requires an hour or more; if you know this to be the case, you will need to find the time for it. There’s no point in hoping you will find the time; you won’t. Time does not like a vacuum, so you will always be doing something. Sleeping, watching TV, reading, playing computer games or whatever. So the key is to be intentional with your time. Sure, rest time should be included. If you feel tired, make the decision to stop and take a break. Equally, if you know you have an important piece of work to do, and it will take you longer than an hour or so, schedule the time. Be intentional. It won’t happen by accident. A strategy I use is to block out two hours each day on my calendar for focused work. Every morning between 9:30 and 11:30 am, I do something meaningful. That could be writing, working on a project or doing client work. My calendar tells me what type of work I will be doing, and my task manager gives me a list of tasks associated with that activity. It’s simple; it allows me to get focused work done each day. It’s having this structure and consistency built into your days that ensure you get your work done. You don’t have to do everything in one day; you just need to know what you will do in your two hours. I knew before I began today I would be writing this script today in my two hours. I know tomorrow I will be finishing off this week’s newsletter and sending it out. If you work a typical eight-hour day, you still have four hours free for other things (allowing for your one hour for communications and an hour for admin). That’s more than enough for emergencies, sudden requests from clients and customers and other unknowns. I hope that helps, Paolo and thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
Quick Fixes for Busy Professionals: Managing Your Time When You Have None.
13:00How do you find a solution to your time management and productivity problems if you have no time to stop and find those solutions? That’s what we are exploring this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | Episode 298 Hello, and welcome to episode 297 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 of this show. Have you ever stopped and given some thought to why you are struggling with managing time and productivity? I mean, asked yourself why you have over a thousand emails in your inbox, a desktop full of files, images and PDFs, and are unable to find anything you need to get your work done. One of the first steps to becoming better organised, getting in control of your time and completing your work on time is to establish what the problem is. Knowing that will help you to find the solution to getting everything back in control. Too often, people look for a solution to a problem that has not been fully explored. Or worse, shut down the possibility of a solution because they feel their situation is unique. It isn’t. Millions of people have been in the same position and have found a working solution. It may mean having to make some difficult decisions and perhaps upset a few people who have been exploiting your good nature, but I can promise you there is a solution. This is what this week’s question is all about. Finding solutions to the issues that are causing you to lose control of your time and feel out of control. So, let me take this opportunity to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Julie. Julie asks, hi Carl, I am struggling to keep my head above water with my work. I was recently promoted to managing a team of eight people, and now I am getting hundreds of emails, need to attend double the number of meetings I used to attend and have to work an extra three or four hours a day just to stay on top. Is there any advice you could give me? Hi Julie, thank you for your question. Starting a new position is always challenging. Your core work changes, and that means the routines and processes you had in place before your promotion will need to change. It can be disorientating and, worse, very time-consuming as you adapt and develop new routines and processes. You will need to give it a little time to get these in place. However, there are a few other factors to take into consideration, and that is things like a sudden doubling in the number of meetings you need to attend. Let’s say you had five one-hour meetings a week before your promotion, and now you have ten hours. This means you have effectively lost five hours of your work week or one hour a day. If you were busy before, you are now busy and having to cram everything in with five hours a week less. The problem with meetings is more often than not; you will come away from each one with more tasks to do. So, five hours lost and more tasks to do. Not a great situation to find yourself in. A question I would ask is, do you really need to attend all those meetings? You have a team of eight people. Would it be possible to delegate attendance at some of these meetings to your team? They can take notes and fill you in if there is anything important for you to know. There must be hundreds of meetings going on at Microsoft every day, but I am sure Satya Nadella does not attend all of them. He has to be very selective about which meetings he attends. Part of moving into a leadership role is learning to delegate, and to do that, you need to learn to trust your team. The great thing about delegation is you learn very quickly the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. This will help you become a better leader. And you can decide which of your team needs extra training. Now, that’s the leadership side of things. What about your personal work? Well, here, as I alluded to at the start you need to stop and take a step back and see where you are struggling. Without that, you will be running around in circles, not being able to find a solution. One area I find people struggle with today is the volume of messages coming at them. We’re receiving fewer phone calls—which is a good thing—but a lot more instant messages and messages. However, the good news here is this is something we can control. For example, a lot of issues with messages is we have too many channels. If you’re using WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, instant messages and many more, the problem has a simple solution. Reduce the number of channels you are available on. I’m sure you’ve heard of Dolly Parton, the legendary country and western singer; she has a fantastic solution to too many messages. She only communicates via fax. Now, you could laugh at that, but in reality, it’s genius. How many companies and people want to reach out to Dolly? Thousands. For anyone to reach out to her, they would genuinely want to. The inconvenience they would have to go through to communicate with her is tremendous. This means the only messages she gets are genuine ones. No spam, no CC’d emails, nothing. Just genuine messages. Now, I am not suggesting you need to move to communicating via fax, but the principle is fantastic. Force people to communicate with you on your terms. You see, the reason why we are inundated with messages today is because of the ease it is to send a message. With it being so easy, people don’t think if what they are sending is helpful or a distraction. Most CC’d messages, for instance, are not helpful. I work with many top executives, and to them, all these CC’d messages are not only a distraction, they are annoying, which knocks off their focus and places them in a terrible mood. When it’s a little more difficult to contact you, if someone really does need to contact you, they will find a way. I heard today that Sadique Khan, the Mayor of London, refused to join WhatsApp during the COVID pandemic so central government ministers could join him in group chats. The ministers in the central government had to send him emails instead. Theoretically, the Mayor of London is junior to the Health Minister in Westminster, yet he had no problem saying no to joining WhatsApp. And in the end, he got a lot less rubbish, and what he did receive was meaningful and helpful. (It also prevented him from being criticised in the UK Government’s COVID enquiry.) Always remember that you chose to join these messaging services, so it’s nobody else’s fault if you become inundated with messages. This is also the same with email. If you freely give out your name card and give your email address to any company that asks for it, then you need to find a way to deal with the consequences of those choices. It may be your company’s policy to communicate through Teams or Slack, and if that is the case, then you will need to work with it. One thing I would suggest is to turn on your do not disturb at some times throughout the day. If you can develop the habit of doing some undisturbed focus work, say between 9:30 and 11:30 am, turn on Do Not Disturb. If anyone complains, explain that is the time you do your work. You will only need to explain that once. Clients, bosses and colleagues quickly learn your habits and respect them. If you don’t believe me, try it for a week. If you do get called in by your boss, talk to them. Explain the situation. Bosses are not evil, you know? They will probably adopt your practice and give you a bonus for having such a brilliant idea. I recently watched a talk by Jim Donovan, vice chairman of global client coverage at Goldman Sachs, who was talking about “Optimal Client Service”. Of the points he spoke about, all of them made sense until he began talking about always being available for your clients. He argued that you should always be instantly available for your clients at any time of the day. For me, this is a big no-no. You see, the problem with this is not the idea. It’s a good idea if you are in client services. The problem is this approach is not sustainable 100% of the time. While many flights do have WIFI these days, it’s not reliable, and I know from experience when flying between Asia and Europe, I am not going to be able to respond to messages or emails for the 15-hour flight. Equally, you should never be expected to be instantly available for your clients when not working, or are sick or even when visiting the bathroom. There needs to be some barriers. If something is not 100% sustainable, then you are setting too high an expectation and breaking that expectation just once will damage both your and your company’s reputation. It’s far better to be upfront with your clients and explain the best way to contact you and a reasonable time in which to respond. Sure, it’s hard to do that when you are trying to win the client over, but your future self will thank you for doing that hard thing now. The final piece of advice is to write out what your priorities are each week. This does not need to take up hours and hours of your time, twenty minutes max. But when you move towards a leadership role, you do not have time for dealing with trivial things. You need to keep your eye on the majors. Again, you will need to trust your team. Give them space to do their work and delegate so you can remain focused on the priorities. Where do you find your priorities? What are your team’s objectives? Are you meeting them? What are your responsibilities? Are you adhering to your responsibilities? Staying focused on these each week will reduce the work you have to do and allow you to spread the load a little with your team. I hope that has helped, Julie. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
From Chaos to Control: How Your Calendar Can Help You.
13:24How do you use your calendar? Is it just a place for your appointments or a powerful way to manage your daily activities? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 297 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 297 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 of this show. For centuries, the great and the good (and not so good) have all used a simple time management system. It’s a system that has largely been unaffected by digital technology and one that has enabled such great things as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting, Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species, and the Apollo Space program’s moon landing. Without this method and tool, none of these amazing iconic events would have happened. What system am I talking about? The calendar. Or rather your diary. I was reminded of this recently while helping a high school student prepare for a particularly intensive period of exams and assignments. We began talking about where he was keeping his course notes and how he was managing his time. We considered using a task manager, which he rejected as being just another thing to manage (good point, I thought), and it was when we began talking about using his calendar that I could see instantly that here was the key to helping him through this busy time. So, just how can a calendar help you with your time management and productivity, and what should you be putting on there? Well, that’s for this week’s question to ask. So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Alan. Alan asks; hi Carl, I’ve heard you talk a lot about your calendar and was wondering if you have any advice on using it better. At the moment, I only use my calendar for my meetings and public holidays. Hi Alan, Thank you for your question. I consider myself very lucky today because my introduction to the world of time management systems was a simple A4 desk diary. When opened, that diary showed my full week, and I had space at the bottom of each day for my tasks. At a glance, I could instantly see how busy I was on a given day, and it was that diary and then a Franklin Planner, from around 1993, that managed my life until 2009, when I went all in digitally. This meant that my core beliefs about how I managed my time and did my work were centred around my calendar and what I had time for. Now, the way I use my calendar is for three critical things. The first, unsurprisingly, is for my appointments. All my appointments, whether manually added by myself or ones that come from my coaching programme’s scheduling service, are automatically added to my calendar. Now, a quick word about my scheduling service. I have complete control over what is scheduled here. I set the times I am available, and only people who have the link can schedule appointments. This has been a big time saver for me because most of my clients are based in the US or Europe. That means there is a significant time difference between where I am and where they are. Instead of going back and forth negotiating a suitable time, my clients can pick and choose based on what’s convenient for them without having to waste time sending countless emails. Once they have selected a time, I get a notification, and the time is blocked out in my calendar. However, the advantage of using a scheduling service is you give yourself greater control over your day. For example, if you want to protect your mornings for focused work, you can set your available times for between 1 pm and 4 pm each day. Doing that would mean over a five-day period, you would be available for fifteen hours. For most of you, I am sure that would be enough time for all your meetings and appointments. The great thing about scheduling services is your boss, clients, and colleagues enjoy the flexibility and not only do you save time for yourself, but you also save time for everyone else. All they need do is go to your scheduling service, select a time that suits them, and the appointment will then be pushed to your calendar. Job done with no input from you at all. The two services I know are Acuity, the one I use because it’s built into my website and Calendly. I believe Calendly has a free option if you want to test it out first. The second item that goes onto my calendar is date-specific events. These are things like bills to pay, public holidays or if my wife is going to be away. Now, a lot of my bill payments are set up as automatic payments, but I still add the payment date to my calendar because I want to make sure there are sufficient funds in my account to cover the payment. If you are viewing your calendar as a week to view rather than a month or day to view, when you do your weekly plan, you will instantly see anything that is date-specific that you need to be aware of and can plan accordingly. Another type of date-specific event you can put here is your project deadlines or if you need to call someone on a given day, and they can be called at any time. (If you need to call them at a specific time, you add the call to that time slot on the appropriate day.) Another type of date-specific information you can put here would be travel notices. For example, if your town or city or a city you will be visiting that day has a major road closure, you need to be aware of. For example, a couple of weeks ago, the town we live in had the main coastal road closed for five hours while they ran the annual marathon. While I do not often use that road, it is something useful to know in case we decided to go out for lunch or do an errand. Rail strikes in the UK are usually pre-notified. If you use the rail service and you know there will be a strike coming up, you can add that to your calendar. All these date-specific events and information should be placed at the top of your calendar as all-day events. That way, they don’t interfere with your timed schedule but act as notices you need to know about. And finally, your time blocks for focused work. If you have followed this podcast for a while, you will have heard me talking about core work—the work you are employed to do. To get this work done on time every time, you need to make sure you have enough time blocked out for doing it. If, for example, you block your mornings for doing focused work, that would give you a further fifteen hours a week for undisturbed, focused work. Imagine that. Knowing, confidently, you have fifteen hours each week to get on—undisturbed—with work that must be done each week. How productive would you be in that situation? I don’t block every morning for focused work, though. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are blocked. I keep Thursdays open for calls (my clients on the West Coast of North America are currently sixteen hours behind me). I work Saturdays as well, and I keep Saturdays open, so I have the flexibility to catch up with anything I have not had time to do or am a little behind. Now, if you pause a moment and look at what you could have here. Imagine you work a regular forty-hour week. You have fifteen hours available for meetings and collaboration and fifteen hours for focused work, which leaves you with ten hours for flexible work—the unexpected and urgent. Would that be enough for you? Now, none of this should ever be set in concrete. There needs to be some flexibility. If you consistently do a daily planning session, then you can move things around to better suit the week you are in and what needs to be done that week. For example, once a month, I will have one or two days blocked out completely for project days. This gives me the time I need to dedicate a full day to a bigger project. There is one more item I would suggest you block out. That is an hour a day for dealing with your communications. Let’s be honest; we all get too many emails and messages that need to be dealt with. If you do not set aside time for dealing with them, when will you do it? You cannot ignore most of these messages and emails (although I am sure you wish you could do so sometimes). If you know you have an hour dedicated to responding to your email each day, you will find you are less reactive about it and much more proactive. You don’t panic when a message or email comes in because you know you have an hour set aside later in the day to focus on your responses. There are a lot of ways to get the most out of your calendar, and I would strongly advise you to find ways you can use it to bring a sense of calm and focus to your day. There are little things you can do. For example, I only allow people to schedule either thirty or fifty-minute appointments. That then gives me time to prepare for the next call if I have back-to-back meetings. You are now likely wondering about where the task manager fits into this system. Well, like the calendar, the to-do list has been around for a long time. However, the to-do list was and should still be considered a subsidiary of the calendar. If something must be done on a given day, it goes into the calendar; if it can be done at any time, it goes into your task manager. With the Time Sector System, you group your tasks by when you would like to get them done. You can date these tasks for specific days, and if you see you have several calls or follow-ups to do, you can block out an hour or so for follow-ups or communications to take care of these. Your time sectors are holding pens that help you to structure your day. You structure your day in your calendar, and your task manager acts as a feeder for all the little things you need to do in the time you have available. For example, in my task manager today, I have three writing tasks, which I have done in the three hours I set aside for writing today. I also have a number of admin tasks to complete, which I will do in the admin hour I have scheduled later today. My calendar tells me what I should type of work I should be doing, and my task manager takes care of the tasks I should perform at that time. When you use your calendar as your primary productivity tool and your task manager as the feeder, you quickly see what you have time for each day and can then reschedule or renegotiate commitments to ensure you are not overstretching yourself. So there you go, Alan. I hope that has helped, and thank you for your question. Thank you to you, too, for listening, and it just remains for me now to wish you a very, very productive week.
One Thing You Could Change That Will Elevate Your Productivity.
12:42Have you ever wondered what one thing you could change that would have a significant impact on your productivity and time management? In this episode, I’m going to share with you that one thing. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 296 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching and studying time management and productivity strategies and practices. And while a lot of what I’ve read rarely works in the real world, there are many that do and most of these are time tested and have been around for a long time. For example, use a calendar. People have carried around calendars for decades—well before the digital age. It’s logical when you think about it. Have a single source that tells you where you need to be and when and make sure you carry that with you everywhere you go. Of course, being humans and having a natural instinct to over-complicate things, digital calendars are now trying to do everything for us and as a result they have become less helpful. Cramming your day full of appointments and tasks you don’t really need to do, has made the calendar a place few people enjoy going to anymore. What’s worse is delegating responsibility for your time to other people by allowing them to schedule appointments for you. Gee why did it go so wrong? There is one time management and productivity practice that technology has so far been unable to influence. It’s the one skill that the most productive people have mastered above everything else and if you are not skilled and confident enough to do it, you will never be productive and worse, ever be successful in your work. However, before we get to that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Greg. Greg asks, Hi Carl, I’ve always wanted to ask you what you consider to be the critical skill needed to be good at managing time and being productive? Hi Greg, thank you for your question. That’s something I’ve spent years trying to figure out, and there is one skill I have noticed in all incredibly productive people that very few people seem to possess. That’s the ability to make decisions quickly. You see, if you want to be more productive and less overwhelmed by what you have to do, quickly (and confidently) deciding what to work on right now is the only thing you can do. Naturally, executing on that decision is the next important thing, but you first need to make a decision about what you will do right now. Writing this script at this moment was a decision I made twenty minutes ago, and writing it was the execution of that decision. There are a multiple other things I could be doing right now—walking my dog, going to the gym, taking a nap, responding to my email etc. But I made the decision to sit down and write this script. It’s got to be done sometime, right? Why not now? (Although asking for an excuse why you should not be doing something is probably the wrong question to ask) The time it took me to make that decision and begin writing was perhaps three seconds. And that is how productive people become productive. They make a decision and execute immediately. What will hold you back and prevent you from being productive is being unable to make a decision about what to do now. So, if you asked what skill you could develop that would radically improve your time management and productivity skills, I would say become better at making decisions. But it is a bit more than that. You see, making decisions is something you will already be able to do. Even the most indecisive people make decisions. What time you rolled out of bed this morning was a decision, what you ate for breakfast was a decision. We are making decisions all the time. However, the skill you need to develop is the skill of confidently making decisions. Writing this script was a confident decision. I have around twenty actionable emails sitting in my Action This Day folder, I have four unread messages in my messaging app and fifteen tasks to do in my task manager. But I am writing this right now. That’s because I am confident that writing this is the best use of my time, currently. Everything else I have to do today can wait. Most of it will get done, some of it won’t and I am comfortable with that. That’s the state you want to be training yourself to be in. And I use the work “training” intentionally. Your brain has a natural tendency to overthink things. It has no sense of past, present or future. So as far as your brain is concerned, everything must be done right now. That’s why it’s important to get everything on your mind out of your mind and into an external place. A task manager or notes app or a piece of paper. It’s there where you can make the right choices about what to work on next. But how do you make the right choices? That begins with your Areas of Focus and core work. Knowing what these mean to you is a brilliant way to pre-decide what to work on next. Your areas of focus shows you your priorities based on the eight areas of life we all have in common. Things like your finances, family and relationships, career and purpose. When you know what these areas mean to you, decisions based on what to do next become obvious. For instance, if a client wants to have a dinner meeting with you on Wednesday and that’s your wedding anniversary and you’ve promised to take your partner out for dinner what do you do? If you prioritise your career above your family and relationships, then you will have dinner with your client. You may not want to admit that, but if you make that choice, that’s effectively what has happened. Your career is more important than your family and relationships. However, if your family and relationships are more important than your career, you ask your client if you can have dinner on an alternative night, or if they are only in town for one day, perhaps you can have lunch or a coffee in the afternoon. Knowing your core work works in the same way. Your core work is the work you are employed to do. That does not mean extra meetings, chatting with your colleague about next week’s off site event or reorganising your documents and emails. Core work requires time and that’s why it’s important that before the week begins you have the time blocked out for doing your core work. No excuses. get that time protected. Once it’s protected, you now have less decisions to make. If you should be finishing off a client proposal and you are asked to join meeting about next quarter’s targets, you don’t go to the meeting, you write the client proposal. The proposal writing is your core work, the meeting is not. You can always ask a colleague to give you a copy of their notes. If you observe the most productive people, you will notice they know what is important and are obsessively focused on getting the important stuff done. They don’t become distracted by trivialities such as email and Teams or Slack messages when they are working on their important tasks for that day. Those decisions are made before the day begins. Which is why planning the day becomes a critical part of your end of day routine. Plan the day before you finish the previous day and you will sleep better (always good for being productive) will be a lot less stressed and much more focused. So, the way to become better at managing your time and being more productive is to know what is important and what is not. What can wait and what needs dealing with immediately. And the easiest way to determine that is to know what your areas of focus and core work are. That means you do need to allow some time to work on your areas of focus and core work. This is what I call the backend work. Spend a couple of weekends determining these areas of your life and the time investment you make will reward you massively later. The issue I find is the people who most need to do this, are the ones who make the excuse they are too busy to do it. It seems like a luxury they cannot afford to do because they have too much to do already. But why do you have too much to do? That’s because you don’t know what is important and what is not which means everything’s important. and when everything’s important, nothing is. And now you’re stuck in a vicious cycle that can only be broken if you stop, step back and work on your areas of focus and core work. Now, the good news is that we have entered the annual planning season. The three months before the start of a new year. If you want to go into 2024 with a focus, a lot less stress and a determination to move your goals and projects forward, use the remaining days of 2023 to build out your areas of focus and core work. Work out what tasks you need to do to keep these areas in balance, get them into your task manager and set them to repeat as often as they need to be repeated. This will give you consistency and when you get consistent with something you can refine and develop processes for getting this work done without much effort at all. Ultimately, it will come down to how effective your processes are. With a process you can improve and refine them so you become faster at doing them. I have a process for doing my daily admin. Six years ago when I began doing my daily admin, it took me around an hour and half to do the tasks. Today, I can do the same tasks in the same order in less than twenty minutes. That has only happened because I have consistently done the work and refined the process for doing the work. So there you go, Greg. Those are the critical skills. The most important one of all, though is making decisions quickly and confidently and anyone can learn to do that. All it takes is a little bit of practice. I hope that has helped. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
How To Be More Efficiently Productive.
12:51This week, what’s holding you back from becoming better at managing your time and ultimately being more productive? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 295 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. A lot of getting better with your time management and being more productive is finding ways to do your work more effectively and quicker. I was reminded of that last weekend when the McLaren Formula One team broke the world record for a pit stop. They managed to change four tired in 1.8 seconds. Think about that for a moment. In the time it takes you to pick up your coffee cup, take a sip and put it back on the table, the McLaren pitstop crew will have taken four tires off and put four new ones on. How did they do that? Well, it’s more than just practising. Of course, practising will play a large part in it, but it will start with someone breaking down the process and looking for better and faster ways to do each part. Now, how much of the work you do is similar in nature? My guess is it will be 80 to 90%. You may not think so, but if you are a salesperson, there is a process to selling. If you are a doctor, there is a process for diagnosing a patient, and if you are a designer, there will be a process you follow to create your designs. Now, each customer, patient and design will be different, but how you begin and do your work will be the same steps. It’s here where you will discover ways to do your work more efficiently, and that leads to you having more time for other things and giving you a wealth of information you can use to make your processes better and faster. That’s how McLaren broke the world pitstop record, and it’s how you can save yourself a lot more time. Now, before I get into the details, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Ryan. Ryan asks, hi Carl, I’ve been following you for a long time now, and I’ve always wanted to ask you, how do you become more efficient at getting your work done? Hi Ryan, Thank you for your question. One of the things I’ve always found fascinating is observing how skilled, productive people get their work done. That could be an author, a bricklayer or a Formula One Mechanic. There’s an art to doing our work; it’s how we become better and how we master the skills we have. I feel so fortunate that I have been able to work for large and small companies. To watch brilliant people do their work. I remember working in a very fancy restaurant many years ago as the bar manager, and each day, I got to see one of the UK’s top chefs do his work. The food he created was exquisite, and how he created it was simply brilliant. I got to see how he chose ingredients, how he experimented with ideas and how he designed the food he served to customers. It was an obsessive attention to detail, breaking down the ingredients, creating the recipes and workflows to cooking the food and ensuring the standards were always maintained. Three or four times a year, he would change the menus, and the process (there’s that word again) of changing the menus was followed each time. He learned the process from his mentor, and he passed it on to the chefs he was mentoring. One thing I noticed was none of them ever considered it as a project. It was simply a process. When the season began to change, there was a week when the kitchen team disappeared in the afternoons and tested, experimented and appeared to have a lot of fun. It was hard work; these chefs were starting early and finishing late, but at the end of the week, there was a finished new menu. Today, I will consume as many videos and articles as I can find on how successful people do their work. These people are successful because of what they do, and I want to know how they do it. How did they learn their skills, and more importantly, what do they do each day to master their skills? So, Ryan, a lot of my ideas have come from other people. One thing that stands out about highly efficient people is they are incredibly strict about how they use their time. They say “no” far more than “yes”, and rather than accept a meeting request, will challenge the host to justify their presence (even if it’s their boss) Most people will not do that. They are afraid to challenge and question. There seems to be a preference to complain rather than take action. This is about knowing the value of your time. This was probably the hardest thing to learn. Once you know the value of your time and that one day, you will no longer have any time left, you start to realise all those yeses need to mean something important. The most productive people I have learned about, both historical and contemporary, have something in common. They value their solitude. They will lock themselves away for several hours a day to do their work without distractions. I found it interesting that Jeffrey Archer, the author, will not have a phone or computer in his writing room. He writes by hand. Similarly, John Grisham’s writing room has no internet or telephone. The thinking is writing time is sacred, and nothing should be allowed to interrupt that. How could you better protect your time? You don’t have to be extreme. You only need to find an hour or two each day. Could you do that? However, one other way I can improve the way I work is not to be afraid to experiment. It’s through experimentation that I learn what works and what does not. My email process was developed ten years ago. I was getting thirty to fifty emails a day, and it was becoming overwhelming. I needed a better way to manage it all. So, I did some research, tested a few different approaches, and eventually, Inbox Zero 2.0 was born. It’s simple, fast and has meant email is never overwhelming. Today, I get around 120 to 150 emails a day, and it’s never a problem. But that did not happen overnight. It took many months of practice, evolution and adjustments. It also meant I had to stick to a single email app. The only way this would work is the tools I used needed to be consistent. Think about it for a moment: would McLaren have been able to break the world record for pitstops if they were constantly changing the equipment? No chance. The wheel gun operator knows their wheel gun intimately. They’ve used it thousands of times, and they have a feel for it. They know how to micro-adjust it so it hits the mark perfectly. This is the same thing with your tools. You need to get a “feel” for them. To understand them inside out so when things go wrong, and they will go wrong, you can fix the problem in minutes instead of wasting a whole day searching around on YouTube or Google trying to figure out how to fix the problem. Ultimately, it all comes back to processes. As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of what you day at work will be a process, not a project. The key is to find that process, externalise it by writing out the steps and then looking at each one to see where you can do it better. One key part of this is timing. For me, I am at my most creative in the mornings. I’ve tried doing creative work in the afternoons and struggled. I also find I am creative in the evenings too. Armed with this information, has meant I can structure my day to optimise my effectiveness. It turns out most people are at their most creative in the mornings; it’s when your brain is at its freshest. So, spending all morning dealing with email and sitting in meetings is such a waste of your creative energy. Far better to push meetings and email writing until the afternoons when that little extra stimulation from other people can help you push through the afternoon slump. And then there are the three unsung heroes of productivity—sleep, diet and movement. If you think you are going to be productive on two and a half hours of sleep, you’re fooling yourself. You will not be. Likewise, if your lunches are a feat of carbohydrates, you’ve just destroyed your afternoon. You’ll spend all afternoon struggling to keep your eyes open. And if you rarely move from your seat, all your blood will drain to your feet, and you’ll run out of creative energy. (Not really, but it will feel like that). You need enough sleep, a low-carbohydrate diet and movement. Even walking up the stairs once or twice between sessions of work will do wonders for your productivity. You don’t need to go to the gym or out for a run. You just need to move. And that’s really about it, Ryan. A willingness to experiment, defaulting to finding the process rather than thinking everything is a project. Figuring out where I can make those processes more efficient and making sure I know the tools I use inside out. Everything productive people do is doable by you. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Avoiding distractions, protecting your time and getting very good at saying “no”. Plus, understanding your own biorhythms. When are you at your most productive, and when not? Then, structure your day around your most focused times. Make it easy for yourself rather than fighting between wanting to check Instagram and doing the focused work you know you need to do. And trust me, if you take a stand on your time and challenge people to justify “stealing” your time, they will fall into line—even your boss! I hope that helps, Ryan and thank you for your question. Thank you to you, too, for listening; it just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
How To Manage The Unknowns.
12:20This week’s question is all about managing the unknown “urgencies” that will come up each day. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 294 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. How often are your planned days destroyed by something you never even considered when you began your day? It’s likely to be frequent. That’s just the nature of life. It’s always been that way, and it always will be that way. It’s something we need to work with, though, and to develop ways to overcome the worst effects of these unknowns. That’s one of the reasons why the Time Sector System can be so powerful. If you set things up—knowing what your areas of focus and core work are, then you have a built-in prioritisation method that will help you to sort the important urgencies from the less important ones. I have to be honest. I have never worked in a job where everything was predictable. There has never been a day where nothing unexpected happened. Take today as an example. When I began the day, I had four hours of meetings booked in the morning and three hours in the evening. By the time I had completed my morning routines, half of those morning meetings had been cancelled. So, with all that explained, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Alex. Alex asks, Hi Carl, I like the idea of the Time Sector System, but the bit I am not sure about is how you deal with all the unknown tasks that need to be done in a given week. What do you do with those tasks? Hi Alex, thank you for your question. This has always been an issue for people since the first humans evolved many hundreds of thousands of years ago. After a night’s rest, we would wake up with the plan to find food. If, during the night, you were surrounded by some hungry predators, your focus at that moment was no longer on finding food but on finding safety. Your survival instincts kicked in and overrode your hunger instincts. Today, while things are no longer as black and white, we are still facing similar dilemmas. Now, instead of a choice between food and safety, we are faced with a choice between writing the report that needs to be finished tomorrow or dealing with our boss’s demand for an update on a project you are working on. Or, as in the case of a client of mine attending a meeting or dealing with a flat tire she just discovered. It’s very rare for your day to go according to plan, yet I would still recommend you make a plan. Making a plan is less about what you intend to do and more about setting the direction for the day. For example, one of my tasks today is to write this podcast script. It would be fantastic if I were able to finish it in a single day, but the chances of that happening are slim. However, if I can make a start on it and get, say, 30 or 40% of it written before the day’s end, that would be good enough. I would be happy with the outcome. The Time Sector system is about setting yourself realistic expectations about what can be accomplished in the week. It’s about identifying what is really important and being able to recognise when something that appears important is not really important at all. Once you know what is important, you very quickly learn what is not and can either ignore it or delegate it. Let’s imagine you have decided that anything your boss asks you to do on top of the work you are employed to do is urgent and important; then what you have decided is to allow yourself to be overwhelmed and stressed. There’s a limit to what you can do each day and week. If you prioritise the unknown over the known, you’ve just set yourself up for a very stressful life. The Time Sector System teaches you to quickly identify what is important so that when something does come across your desk (or through Teams or email), you can identify whether it needs your attention right now or can wait until another day. I saw that someone had written on a discussion board that the Time Sector System doesn’t work because it does not allow for sudden tasks coming in. That’s not an accurate assessment of what the Time Sector System is. What is an accurate description is you prioritise the important so that when something new does come in, you can make a qualified decision based on what you have identified as being important that week. Right now, my accountant is drawing up my annual accounts. Each day, she sends me requests for further information, which I need to action that same day. I have no idea what she will ask me for; all I know is there will be something requested. There’s no point in me scheduling time each day for this, as sometimes it may only require ten minutes; other times, it could require an hour to find the information. However, when a request comes in, I measure its importance against what else I have planned for the day and can decide whether I need to reschedule something or work a little longer that day. The important thing is I know what I want to and need to do that day before I begin the day. If I have sudden urgent requests to deal with, then great, I can decide that is where I will apply my time that day. Whether you use the Time Sector System or not, you will still need to deal with a lot of unknowns. These are a part of life and always will be. Having a method or a strategy for handling these is a critical step to becoming more productive. It’s also important to ensure you have a solid collecting system. Many things will come at you today while you are working on something important or are with a customer. You are not going to be able to stop and deal with that immediately, so you should be collecting it somewhere where you can assess its importance when you finish what you are doing. However, before you can accurately assess what is important, you need to know what important looks like. This is why there are two critical preliminary parts to creating a solid productivity system. That is to identify and define what your areas of focus are—while we all share the same eight areas, how we define these will be different for all of us. Equally, the action steps we need to take to keep these in balance will also be different. The second part is to define what your core work is—the work you are employed to do. If you want to learn how to define and develop your areas of focus, you can download the FREE Areas Of Focus Workbook from my website’s downloads page. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes If you skip working on these two parts, everything that comes at you will be considered important. You have no frame of reference to determine what is critical and what is not. This means a demand from a boss or client will be very loud, and you’ll panic and rush to get whatever you are being asked to do done instead of pausing and assessing whether it is important or not. Now, if you have decided dealing with any request from your boss or customers is part of your core work, then fine. You made that decision, and when a demand comes in, you deal with it. However, for the most part, requests from customers and bosses are not always going to be “urgent”; they can wait until you have finished whatever it is you are doing or what is the most important thing that needs doing right now. Another reason why you should be pausing and not rushing to deal with demands as they come in is you miss the opportunity to chunk similar tasks together. Chunking (or grouping) similar tasks is one of the most effective and efficient ways to deal with your work. It prevents context switching—which is very draining on your mental energy—and because you are working on similar tasks at the same time, you will be more focused. A good example of this is managing messages. It’s accepted that going in and out of your email and Teams inbox all day is not a very effective strategy if you want to get important work done. It’s why one of the best new features in the last ten years or so has been the ability to turn on Do Not Disturb so you can focus on the work in front of you instead of being inundated with notifications and distracted. How often do you use this feature? Managing email and messages should be broken down into two parts. The processing—where you decide what something is and what needs to be done with it—and the doing, where you deal with all your actionable messages. Processing can be done anytime, although I recommend you do this in between sessions of work. For example, when in a meeting, you turn on Do Not Disturb so you can focus on the meeting. Once the meeting ends, you can open up your mail and messages and move anything actionable into an Action this Day folder. Then, later in the day—as late in the day as you feel comfortable with, you set aside time to focus on dealing with those messages. I’ve found that those who do this are more focused and less stressed. Those that don’t are not. At it’s very basic, Alex; you collect throughout the day, then before you finish, you go through what you collected and decide what needs to be done and when you will do it. If it needs to be done this week, then you can decide when you will do it based on the other work you have and what your calendar tells you about how much time you have available. If you are squeezed and have little time, you always have the option to “negotiate” with the other person about when you will do it—and that means your bosses and clients. You’ll be surprised how accommodating people are—after all, they are likely to be just as busy as you. I hope that has helped, Alex. Thank you for your question, and thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all. Very, very productive week.
Time Management Strategies: From Chaos to Control.
14:36This week, I’m answering a question about the fundamentals and why it’s important to master the basics before worrying about everything else. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 293 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. Last week, in my newsletter, I wrote about the lessons I learned from rushing about looking for quick fixes and hacks to improve my productivity. In many ways, I was lucky I was doing this in the 1990s before the plethora of digital tools were available, yet the mistakes I made back then are the same mistakes I see so many people making today. There’s a lot to say about the advantages of hindsight and experience. It does help you to avoid mistakes made in the past and gives you a level of knowledge that helps you to assess new ideas through a framework of experience. What works and what does not work. For example, I’ve learned the more complexity and levels a task management system has the less likely you will use it effectively in the future. It’s exciting a fun to play with in the beginning, but once it comes face to face with a busy day or week, it breaks down, you stop using it and you then lose trust in it. Anyway, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jono. Jono asks, hi Carl, I see you often talk about keeping things simple, and I was wondering what you consider to be a simple system. I try to keep mine simple, but it is so hard to do so with so many new tools coming out each month. A little help here would be appreciated. Hi Jono, thank you for your question. To answer your question for me a simple system is one that works in the background so you can focus on your work without feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or swamped. The trouble is to get to that level, you will need to go through a few gates and that means initially things will not feel simple. Take the first stage of getting something into your system, the collecting stage. If you’ve never used a task manager before, one of the most difficult habits to build is to collect everything that comes across your desk into an inbox. If you’ve spent a large part of your life trying to remember to do something and never writing it down, doing the opposite will feel unnatural. I remember when I turned to a completely digital system and pulling out my phone every time I remembered to do something felt very unnatural. Having a laptop or later an iPad in a meeting felt uncomfortable. Today, almost everyone is in a meeting with a laptop or iPad, but twelve years ago, it was not common at all. There was a fear that people felt you were doing your email or responding to Facebook massages while in the meeting. It was uncomfortable. And that is where one of the initial problems lie. Changing an old behaviour. However, the good news is it only take a few weeks for it to become natural. It’s funny today, when my wife asks me to do something and I don’t immediately pull out my phone, my wife will stop and say: are you going to write it down? Not only has my behaviour changed, so has hers. She knows if I put it into my phone I will not forget. If I don’t, I will forget. However, that means the way you collect stuff needs to be fast and easy. Back in the days when I travelled around the city visiting clients, I used the subway and bus system. I carried a bag (I hate backpacks, they destroy the cut of your suit—which weirdly I no longer wear) This meant I needed to be able to collect ideas and tasks while moving from one train to another or walking through a subway station. I developed a test I called the changing train test. The test was could I collect a task into my task manager while I was changing trains? If I needed to stop walking, it failed the test. This was one of the many reasons why Todoist became my task manager of choice. It was simple and fast to get stuff into it. The introduction of Siri in 2014 really helped. I was able dictate my tasks to my phone and later, when Siri developed, I was able to set it up with Apple’s Shortcuts to make collecting even faster. So the first test for me is to ensure collecting is optimised to be fast and require as few button taps or pushes to get get something into my system. Today, it’s all about getting things into my system using my laptop computer as that is where I am mostly when doing my work. I no longer visit clients. The principles, though, have not changed. Speed and simplicity. Using keyboard shortcuts to get things into my system is critical to me today. Again, simple, and fast. The philosophy I follow is the less time I spend in my productivity tools, the more time I have for doing the work. The more time I spend doing the work, the more time I have at the end of the day for other things like hobbies, interests and family. This means that the next step, the organising also needs to be simple. I’ve travelled down the road of building complex organisation structures in my notes and files. I remember around seven years ago the trend of developing a complex tagging structure in Evernote. That all began from a blog post Michael Hyatt posted in 2016 where he explained how he used Evernote notebooks and tags. Oh how we all jumped on that ship. It was so much fun creating hierarchical tags structures. The problems was, it took hours each week just to maintain it. When You collected a new note you had to go through your tagging structure to ensure you attached the right tags to the note or the system would fail. Fortunately, Evernote helped to wean us off that method by significantly improving their search. Today, I have a very loose notebook structure and use search to find what I need. It’s much faster and simpler and means I have very little organising to do. Similarly with Todoist, removing all the old project folders and focusing on when I will do a task and slimming down the number of labels I use (I use eight and no more) processing my inbox takes a fraction of the time it used to. Everything is geared towards simplicity and speed so I spend more time doing the work and less time “playing” with the tools that organise my work. Over the last few months, I’ve been creating content encouraging people to discover the processes for doing their work. That simplifies how you do your work and when that is simplified you are on the way to speeding it up. However, the great thing about having processes is you can take a single part of you process and find ways to make it better. This, I realise is what I do with my whole productivity system. I have broken it down in to three parts: collecting, organising and doing. If I feel organising my work is too slow, I can look at how I am organising my work and find a better faster way. I will do that every three months or so. I look at the whole system, and ask the question, how can I do this better. As the tools I use are being updated regularly, I find every three months enables me to review the updates to see if anything that has been changed helps me to make the system faster. For example, Evernote have recently introduced AI. This has given us faster search results AND, you can use their AI to organise an individual note into a cleaner order. This means I can take scattered meeting notes and let Evernote organise those notes into a cleaner, more logical order. It puts the highlights at the top of the note which makes for faster scanning for the important points. This means less time organising and more time doing. Always a win. However, all this comes back to keeping things as simple as possible. We know the less moving parts a motor has, the less likely it will go wrong. That true for motors, it’s also true for your productivity system. The less you have, the less there is to go wrong. This is why I ditched add ons and plugins a long time ago. I used to use IFTTT to connect different apps together. Unfortunately, these often stoped working or lost the connection and that broke my system. Removing these from the critical tools (task manager, notes and calendar) and allowing them toward independently of each other meant no more stoppages or issues. Instead, I bought a 32 inch monitor and when I do my planning I have the screen real-estate to have my calendar and task manager open side by side. Remove as many moving parts as possible and there is less to go wrong. And finally, all the new tools coming out. Yes, it’s exciting and very tempting to keep trying all these new tools. However, what is your objective here. To get your work done as quickly as possible to the highest standards or to play with new tools. None of these new productivity tools will do the work for you—never forget that. I have asked myself in the past does Notion do what Evernote does for me significantly faster and better? The answer was and is no. Does Tick Tick organise my tasks significantly better and faster than Todoist? No. So there’s not need for me to change. Changing tools slows you down. There’s the transfer cost, the learning cost and the unfamiliarity cost. All of which dramatically slows things down and I do not want to be spending more time doing work when I could be with my family enjoying an evening stroll by the beach or cooking a surprise dinner for them. So there you, Jono. I hope that has helped a little. Thank you for your question. And just a heads up, over the last two years or so, I have been asked for some kind of membership programme in my learning centre. It’s taken me a while to find the right programme for such a membership. But now I am happy to announce that you can join a membership programme. The purpose of the programme is to give you access to all my courses and workshops when and how you want to access them. But, the biggest part of the programme is the coaching element. My goal is to keep you accountable for your goals and productivity aspirations. The membership runs for one year. During that year, you will get a monthly coaching call with me, where we discuss how you performed that month. And find simple changes you can make to improve things where they need improving. Because of the individual coaching, I have limited the membership to twenty people initially. There are a few places left if you want to join., and I urge you to act quickly. These places will and are running out fast. Oh, and you also can join my exclusive community where you can ask me anything, chat with other members and get the occasional unique content. It’s a brilliant programme, and I hope you will consider joining and allowing me to help you become better organised and more productive. You can get full details at my website carlpullein.com or in the show notes. Thank you for listening and it remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.