16 minutes | Mar 20, 2023
How To Complete Your Personal Projects.
How confident are you setting up a project and delivering it on time every time? If you struggle in this areas, then this podcast is for you. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 268 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 268 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. Completing our personal projects is something we all frequently find difficult. This is largely because there’s usually nobody holding us accountable and we don’r have access to the same resources our companies will have. However, it does not have to be difficult if we follow a simple formula. I’ve spent many years studying how NASA went from a seemingly impossible challenge to successfully landing Neil Armstrong on the Moon in 1969. When that project was first floated by President Kennedy in May 1961, NASA lacked the knowledge of whether humans could survive in space, they were struggling to get a rocket off the ground, and the nobody had left the confines of Earth’s orbit. Yet, eight years later, Neil Armstrong spoke those infamous words: “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind”. Now it’s true that NASA did not have to worry about resources, Congress gave them the money to make this happen. But it was not all about the money. Sure, that helped, but the technology still needed to be invented, scientists had to work out how to get a spaceship out of Earths orbit and into the Moon’s orbit and they needed to know if humans could survive in space and if so, how. I’ve always been a believer in finding the success stories and then breaking them down to their component parts to understand how the success happened. It’s why I know there is no such things as an overnight success, there’s much more to completing a project than being in the right place at the right time. And with the Moon landings, everything is there to show you the roadmap towards completing a project—or a goal for that matter—all we need to do is break it down. And that is what we will do in this episode. So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jonathan. Jonathan asks, Hi Carl, one thing I really struggle with is working on my personal projects. I have some home improvement projects that I’ve had on my list for years and I just never seem to get around to doing them. Do you have any tips on getting these projects done? Hi Jonathan, thank you for your question. Firstly I must start by saying this is something very common and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over this, Jonathan. The good news this is an opportunity to develop skills. Now, let’s begin with what I talked about a moment ago with the clarifying sentence. I used to talk about this as the clarifying statement, but somehow the word “statement” invited people to write line after line of words defining what the project was. No. That’s not what you are trying to achieve here. What you are looking for is a simple sentence that gives clarity on what you want to accomplish with the project. Going back to the John F Kennedy sentence setting the parameters of the Moon landing project when he stood before Congress and announced that the US; "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Twenty-six words that set NASA on a course that captivated the world. Those words were clear, contained a deadline and left no-one in doubt about what was to be achieved. Now, Kennedy was no scientist. He was a student of government and international affairs. Certainly nothing that gave him a deep knowledge of the science and engineering feats required to land and walk on the moon. But that didn’t matter, Kennedy was the leader, not the implementer. There was a reservoir of talented, motivated scientists and engineers ready to take up the “challenge” and turn Kennedy’s project outcome into a reality. Now, depending on the size of the project you are attempting to do, Jonathan, you may need to reach out for the skills you do not process. For instance, one of your home improvement projects could be to build a conservatory onto the side of your house. Now, unless you are a builder, you are not going to have the know-how or skills to build the conservatory—you are going to need to hire outside help. A builder and an electrician are likely to be your first requirements. Plus, you may need to hire an architect to draw up the plans for you. So, this means you will need to “secure the funding” for the project. Now, Kennedy assigned this part of the project to his Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, who pushed Congress for the necessary funding. Now, if I were to undertake building an extension to the side of our house, I would need to “Secure” the funding somehow. That could come from my savings or I may need to talk to the bank for a loan. Either way, because I would need to hire experts to do the work, I would need funds, so before anything started on the project I would need to get some estimates on how much the project would likely cost. One area where I find people waste time with project planning is to sit down and plan out the whole project step by step. In my experience, I find there’s always time to plan the next steps, but planning can and often does become the source of procrastination. There’s too many unknowns and if you really want to get the project off the ground take the first logical step. To write a book, start writing the first draft. Don’t worry about publishers, writing applications, chapter headings or book cover designs. Until you have a first draft you are not going to have anything to work with anyway. Similarly with your home improvement projects, you will need a budget, so get the quotes and estimates together. That will give you the right information to proceed to the next step. With the Moon landings, NASA broke the project down into three parts. There was Mercury, where they wanted to learn what was required in order to get humans into space. Then came Gemini, where they learned all about rendezvousing with other spacecraft and doing space walks, and finally Apollo, which was the part of the project that took humans to the Moon. Each part of the lunar landing project had its own set of objectives. Whatever project you are working on, will be the same. The first part could be to secure the funding. The second part may involve hiring the right people to do the work, and finally the construction part. Each part will have its own outcome, but ultimately, the overall project sentence will guide you. For example, if you want to have the conservatory built by the summer, and you have three months until the summer begins, each part of your project will need to be broken down to meet that deadline. If, when you get the estimates, you are told the builders will require eight weeks to complete the work, then that leaves you with four weeks for the other parts of the project. When we moved to the East Coast of Korea, my wife and I first sat down to decide how we were would do it. Our initial plan was to spend three months living in a guest house in the area we wanted to move to. These three months confirmed we definitely wanted to proceed with the project and we extended our stay in the guest house until the end of the year. During that time, we began looking at properties and working on our budget. We decided on our new home in October and as it was still being built, we were given a moving in date on the 20th December. That gave us almost three months to put into action the second phase of our project—which was the interior design and furniture. And then the final part of the project was to move in. Looking back at my original notes for that project, very little went according to that initial plan. But one thing did not change. The deadline (by the end of the year) and the move itself. The initial action was to move to the area we wanted to live in for three months and we did that within two weeks of making the decision to proceed. After that plans changed, but the outcome did not. There’s always going to be delays, issues to resolve and changing plans. That’s to be expected. However, if you have been clear with your project sentence, and you stick to your overall deadline for the project, you will push yourself to get things moving. And problems and issues will always arise. That’s part of life. With the moon landing project, tragedy struck on the 27th January 1967 when during a test on the new Apollo programme (the third phase) a fire broke out in the astronauts cockpit instantly killing the three astronauts. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffy were killed in the tragic accident and all manned flights were stopped, just three years before the project deadline while a full investigation took place. NASA, continued developing the programme, as information from the tragedy came through, changes were implemented and by the time the final investigation report came through, almost all its recommendations had been implemented. Hopefully, nothing as tragic will happen with your projects, but problems and issues will inevitably arise. While you are dealing with those issues, what could you be doing to make sure they the issue does not delay you from your final deadline? For instance, there could be a materials shortage and there may be a two week delay to receiving some of the materials needed to build your conservatory. What could you do so that when the material
41 minutes | Mar 13, 2023
Mindset, Goal Setting and Project Planning With Former UK Special Forces Soldier, Simon Jeffries
This week, I have a very special guest. Former UK Special Forces soldier Simon Jeffries. Simon talks about mindset, self, discipline, goal setting and project planning. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Links to Simon’s Websites: The Natural Edge (Sign up for his newsletter here) Simon’s Instagram Simon’s LinkedIn Page The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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
15 minutes | Mar 6, 2023
Get realistic about what you can do in a day.
This week, are you being realistic about what you can get done each day? Most people are not. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 266 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 266 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. Most people'ss problems with time management and productivity are not actually problems with time management and productivity. The problem lies with being over-ambitious about what you can get done each day. I’m reminded of common phrases such as “biting off more than you can chew”, and my favourite “your eyes being bigger than your stomach”. It seems to be almost human nature to think we can do a lot more than we really can. Let’s get realistic here.You are not going to be able to attend seven hours of meetings, respond to 120 emails and complete fifty tasks from your task manager today. If that’s what your calendar, task manager and email is telling you, you’ve just deluded yourself and it means your system is broken—even before you’ve started the day. It’s time to get real about what you are capable of doing each day. We can do a surprising amount of work in a day, but we need to be strategic and, more importantly, aware of our human qualities. Work to our strengths, rather trying to slog it out. So, without any further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Kirsten. Kirsten asks, Hi Carl, than you for all that you do. It has been a huge help in my life. I was wondering how you cope with all the work you have to do each day. I don’t just mean work work, but all the personal tasks that need to be done as well. I find I never have enough time to finish everything I’m supposed to do. How do you keep your workload manageable? Hi Kirsten, than you for your question. This is an issue I’ve spent many years struggling with. I used to believe I’d wake up each morning feeling refreshed, energetic and focused on what needed to be done. I’d get straight onto my tasks, be ready for my appointments and end the day with plenty of energy to attack my personal tasks. The reality is very different. There are days I wake up feeling refreshed and energetic, there are also days when I wake up feeling tired. And focused?—hahaha, that’s a very rare occurrence. It’s that old belief we have where we say, I don’t feel great today so I’ll skip exercise today and do it tomorrow instead. Sure, it gives you an adequate excuse for today, but tomorrow comes and you’re desperately searching for another excuse not to exercise. We generally have very unrealistic ideas about how tomorrow will be different. It won’t be, unless you get real about what is required to get the things done that you want to get done. And this is where we need to know what our limitations are. How much can you do each day, realistically? To give you an example from my own experience. I know I can do three fifty-minute coaching calls in one session. I learned that the hard way. In the beginning I would schedule four or five calls one after another (with a ten minute gap between calls). After the third call, my voice was beginning to go and I was getting mentally and physically tired. I could do four, but the fourth one was a struggle. Now, I limit my call sessions to no more than three calls. That leaves me with sufficient energy to make sure my notes on each call are correct, and I am still capable of doing the other work I need to do that day. I would love to be able to do four or five calls straight, but realistically, doing so would leave me exhausted and unable to do the rest of the work that needed to be done that day. Often we don’t have much control over the meetings we are expected to attend each day, yet I strongly advise that you find a way to be less available. You can do this by scheduling meetings with yourself on your calendar. Other people cannot see what you have scheduled, all they see is you are not available at that time. This means you can schedule focused work sessions if you wish, or just block the time out so you can get away from your desk for twenty minutes or so and get some movement in. That movement will give your brain a rest and leave you feeling ready for the next session. And that’s another tip I would give you. Break your day down into sessions of work. While it might seem counter-intuitive to step away from doing work for twenty minutes or so between sessions, but it recharges your brain ready for the the next session. It’s as if you close down one session, get a break and then start the next session. For example, set aside two hours or so in the morning for doing your most important work for the day. You are much more focused in a morning—even if you are a night owl. Your brain has its most energy in a morning. That energy is gradually depleted throughout the day. After two hours, step away from your desk and move. Get some sunlight, a drink of water or tea or coffee and then begin your next session of work. Make that session an hour. Then break for lunch. After lunch try to schedule your meetings. Human interaction helps to avoid that ‘afternoon slump’, and gives you a different environment to work in. The way I break down my day is early morning calls—no more than two hours. Then I take a fifteen minute break, and then I settle down to a two hour creative work session. That’s followed by breakfast (I do intermittent fasting so my eating window is between 11am and 7pm) Then it’s back to my desk for around ninety minutes to do my smaller tasks for the day. The afternoon, for me, is all about activity. I’ll take my dog for a walk, do my personal errands and exercise, before coming back to my desk around 5pm for an hour of communications—dealing with email and other messages. 6pm is dinner and from 7:30pm until 9pm I do my admin. 9:00pm to 11:00pm is call time. And then I close down my day and, all being well, be in bed for 11:30pm. That structure has evolved over the years. It works for me. I need to work in the mornings and evenings because of the time zone I live in. Being in the far east, I am 8 hours ahead of Europe, 14 hours ahead of eastern US and 17 hours ahead of the west coast of America. So, my afternoons, both Europe and the US are asleep. I’m never likely to have any meetings or “urgent” messages coming in at that time. I’ve tried all sorts of different structures, but trial and error has helped me to develop this structure. However, that means, I have five and a half hours each day to do non-meeting related work. That’s more than enough time if… And the if is important here. If you plan out the day. You see if you are not planning the day, your brain will plan it for you and your brain has no concept of time. Remember, the clock—hours and minutes—was developed by human beings. It’s not nature. Nature works a much simpler day. Daylight and night. Your internal clock recognises only day and night. This is why we will over-estimate or under-estimate how long something will take to do. It’s why so many people think a quick follow up call with take less than two minutes, when in reality you are often still on the phone fifteen minutes later. And why you think that presentation for tomorrow’s meeting will only take an hour, and four hours later you’re still struggling to finish it. I have a little analogue clock on my desk, and when I begin my session of work, I will look at the clock and tell myself when I will stop. For instance, when I began preparing this script, I looked at the clock and told myself I would finish at 1:30pm. Now, aside from my little dog telling me it’s walkie time, I also have my little clock telling me how long I have left. That clock adds a little pressure and prevents me from being distracted by something else. I am here, sat at my desk and my focus needs to be on this script. Now when it comes to planning your day, it’s all about knowing where you have time for sessions of work. If today were a Thursday, when I have three calls in the morning and three calls in the evening—I call Thursday my calls day—I would not have scheduled many tasks. In fact, I try not to have any tasks except for my routines and small catch up tasks on a Thursday. I know I will be tired from those calls and it would be pointless trying to get any creative work done. The problem with over-scheduling your day is when are you going to do those tasks you could not do? If tomorrow is already busy, when will you find the time to do them? You’re only adding to your backlog. Now, this means we have to be very protective of our time. I know it’s much easier to say “yes” than “no”, but if your default position is yes, you are going to be overwhelmed. In the past, senior executives had secretaries—some still do but they are now called “assistants”. These secretaries were not just there to type letters and documents. Their primary role was to act as gatekeepers. To prevent their boss from being interrupted. The best secretaries were exceptional at this part of their work. They made it incredibly difficult to make appointments with their boss. They protected their diaries so their boss had time to do their work and think. Today, most of these secretarial skills have gone with the secretaries, they are very rare today. This means we need to act as our own gatekeepers. To make it difficult to make appointments with you. This does not mean you have to “disappear” or be rude. It means you need to k
14 minutes | Feb 27, 2023
How To Plan Your Week In Less Time.
Podcast 265 This week, why not consistently doing a weekly planning session is destroying your productivity. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 265 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 265 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. This episode is for the 95% or so of you who are using a task manager and a calendar and not doing a weekly planning session. The truth is, if you’re collecting all this stuff and then not planning out when you will do anything about it, you’re heading for a catastrophic failure. It’s why so many people are constantly switching apps—it forces you to actually do some planning and organising, but it also stops you from doing any work. All this stuff we are collecting is information. Information we want to be reminded of, perhaps do something with or delegate it. Yet, if you are not doing any kind of planning, most of this information will get lost inside your task manager or notes app and you’ve just created a horrendous list of stuff you’ve made no decisions about. They often say information is power. This is not strictly true. Information is only powerful if you act on it. We all know how to lose weight, and we also know it is dangerous to be overweight for your long-term health. Yet statistics show that 60% of the US adult population is dangerously overweight. So there’s clearly a large number of people not acting on the information they have. However, once you do become consistent with your weekly planning (and daily planning to an extent), you will see some incredible results. The first thing you will notice is how relaxed you’ve become. Knowing you have the week planned, that nothing has fallen through the cracks and you’re ready to get started leaves you without any worries or anxieties. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without it. Anyway, enough of me going on about weekly planning, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Amy. Amy asks, Hi Carl, I’ve taken your Time Sector course and it’s completely changed my life. I feel so much more in control of what I am doing each day. The one area I really struggle with, though, is the reviews. I try so hard to sit down at the weekend for an hour to go through everything but keep avoiding it. Do you have any tips or tricks to help me become better at these? Hi Ally, thank you for your question. I suspect a lot of the difficulties with motivating ourselves to do the weekly planning sessions is because we’ve come to think it’s going to take at least an hour. The truth is, if you are consistently doing these sessions, you will soon find it takes you less than thirty minutes. Mine, for instance, takes around twenty minutes for the most part, although I do often do a longer one on the last Saturday of the month. Let’s first look at the timing of your weekly planning session. I did quite a bit of experimenting with the best time to do this. Turned out, Sunday nights was the worst time to do it. You spent all weekend worrying about all the things you think you needed to do next week and it felt like Sunday night was the beginning of your working week. Plus, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to get up and go to a quiet room to do some planning when you are fully relaxed. Friday afternoons looked promising, but I found I was tired and just wanted to get home. I found the best time to do the weekly planning session was actually Saturday morning. The reason for this was I had no excuses. It’s the first thing you do on Saturday morning and generally, you can wake up a little later and you feel well rested. Plus, the week is still fresh in your mind so it’s less likely you will forget anything. The biggest benefit, though, is once you’ve done it, you can relax and enjoy your weekend. Your brain isn’t going to throw up anything that you may have forgotten and you feel a lot less stressed and in control. So the first tip I would suggest is do your weekly planning first thing Saturday morning. Next what do you include in your weekly planning? Well, the first thing to do is to clear your inboxes. Hopefully, your email inbox is relatively clear already, but here I mean your task manager’s and notes’ inbox. What you are doing is organising everything you’ve collected and deciding when you are going to do the tasks. Once your inboxes are clear, you look at your This Week folder to see what’s left over and decide a) if you still need to do it and b) if you do, decide when you will reschedule it to. Then move to your Next Week folder and move any tasks in there that need pulling forward to This Week. Once you have done that, open your calendar, and add dates to those tasks for the days you have the time to do them. Your calendar will guide you towards the best days to do the longer tasks. The goal here is not about what you get done on an individual day, it’s more about what you get done in the week. So if you don’t complete all your tasks on Monday, all you need do is move any unfinished tasks to later in the week. Another quick tip here, always keep in mind new tasks will be coming in that need to be done that week. This is why you do not want to be filling your days up. It’s okay to have one or two days where you may stack the tasks up, but do keep a few days relatively easy for those additional tasks you will inevitably collect. Now, this week, I introduced a new concept for helping people be more consistent with their weekly planning. I call it the Weekly Planning Matrix and it’s made of of four squares. These are: Core work, Projects/issues, Personal/ areas of focus and the radar. This matrix should be used t get you started once your inboxes are clear. The first box, your core work, will be fixed. It will be the same each week. These are the tasks that get your primary work done. Your core work is the work you are paid to do, not the ancillary work we’ve added. For instance, if you are a salesperson, your job is to sell. It is not to sit in meetings with your colleagues and boss talking about sales. Your core work happens when you are in front of your customers making sales. Admin is not core work unless you are an administrator. It might be necessary, but it is not core work. When you set up your weekly planning matrix, you write out your core work and there is remains until your job changes. The reason it’s in the matrix is you need to know you must find time for doing this work each week. Next up in the top right, is your projects and issues area. This is where you list out the projects you want to, or need to, work on that week. It also includes any issues that need resolving related to your work. Just getting these off your mind will ease the anxiety. Be careful here, you do not want to overloading this area. Remember you will only have around forty hours available for all your work. Overloading this area and either you will have to steal time from your personal life—which should only ever be used in extreme circumstances—or you will find important things will be sacrificed for the loud less important things. Next, in the bottom left of your matrix is the personal and areas of focus area. This is where you will list out the important personal things you need to get done that week. It’s also where you would highlight any areas of focus that may have been neglected over recent weeks or months. What can you do to get them back on track. Finally, there is my favourite area. The radar. This is in the bottom right of your matrix and it’s for all those things you want to keep an eye on. It’s quite hard to explain what the radar is in word, but imagine you are sat in front of a radar screen with everything going on in your life represented as little dots on the radar screen. You cannot focus on all of them at once, you have to decide which ones to look at. It’s these you will list down in this box. I use this for things I might be waiting for, issues or projects that, while don’t need my personal input, maybe something I want to keep an eye on. I also use it for projects or appointments that are coming up that I want to be thinking about that week. And that’s it. Once I’ve written things out in this matrix, I can transfer tasks to my task manager if they are not already there, schedule time on my calendar to work on things if I need blocks of time for them and to make sure that what I am asking of myself that week is realistic and balanced. If you keep your matrix in your notes app, you have a reference point to start from the following week and you see how you did again your plan. You also have a working document you can use each evening for when you plan the next day. Oh… Did I not mention the daily planning? Well, this is a simple task you should perform each evening before you finish the day. All you are doing is confirming that you upcoming day is realistic—that you haven’t overloaded it with things you know you will not have time to do. It’s also a good time to look at your task manager’s inbox to make sure there are no fires in there and to clear it if you have time. You should also look at your calendar to make sure you know when your appointments are and look for gaps in between commitments where you can decide when you will do your tasks. It’s amazing how often you will find you have say six or seven hours of meetings and twenty plus tasks scheduled for the same day. I mean, who are you kidding? You’re not going to get all that done. You need to go into your ta
11 minutes | Feb 20, 2023
The Analogue Time Sector System
Podcast 264 This week, The question is all about implementing the Time Sector System using a paper-based method. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 264 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 264 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. There’s something special about pen and paper. The feel of the pen moving on paper and the simplicity of collecting notes, ideas and even marking off tasks feels better than tapping your mouse or trackpad on a task. Sadly, technology has made task and appointment management extremely convenient. It’s fast and easy to add and check off tasks and it’s far easier to carry a phone than to always having to make sure you carry a notebook with you. While I love technology and the convenience it brings with it, I do miss being able to slow things down and handwrite notes, ideas and lists of things I want to do and it seems many other people also prefer the more naturalness of using pen and paper to manage their lives. So, wit that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Max. Max asks; Hi Carl, The problem for me lies in the tools. Before coming across your work, I used a paper notebook and generally followed the Bullet Journal methodology. I have found that I do not enjoy using digital tools for organising, note-taking and general brainstorming. Something about moving a pen across paper just works for me. How would you implement your Time Sector system with a paper notebook and a pen? Hi Max, thank you for your question. One of the benefits of using a digital system is that all your repeatable routines and areas of focus tasks automatically show up in your list of tasks to do today. These will need to be manually transferred to your today list when you do your planning with a paper based system. The good news here is, if you do a daily planning session, you can pull your recurring tasks from your routines and areas of focus lists and add them to your list of tasks for tomorrow. This gives you the opportunity to decide whether you can do those tasks for tomorrow. This would likely mean you will be copying five or six tasks each day from a master list to your daily list. Personally, I like this as it forces you to deliberately consider what you will do today. However, to make this more concrete, so you don’t miss anything, I would create a page divided into seven boxes. Each box represents a day of the week, and you can add your recurring tasks in there. For monthly and yearly recurring tasks, I would put them on your calendar. As you are only doing this with your monthly and yearly recurring tasks, it won’t overwhelm your calendar. Okay, aside from that, the Time Sector System works very well through a paper based system. In all task management systems whether they are digital or not, the most important list is your today list. The key with this list is it is curated, relevant and up to date will all the excess removed. This is one of the disadvantages of the digital system. Because it is so easy to add a date to a task and then “forget” about it—the date and forget problem—we add random dates to tasks and then our daily lists become swamped before we even start the day. The paper based system avoids this because for you to create a daily list you manually need to add tasks to it. So, what about the folders? Well here I would create a This Week list every eight pages in your notebook. (Or 14 pages if you have two pages representing a day) You can then add tasks you want to do that week to those pages. These lists would take care of your Next Week lists so you would not need to create a Next Week list. For the This Month list, That I would add to the beginning of each month. These are tasks you know need to be done sometime this month, but are not entirely sure when you will do them. This is a list you can review each week and bring forward any tasks to the appropriate list. Long-term and on hold lists would be kept either at the beginning of your notebook or at the end. You can decide where that list is best kept in your notebook. One of the downsides to running an analogue system is you need to set up each notebook you use. This is the same with a bullet journal as well as a non-digital GTD system—something I did when I first began using the GTD method years ago. You will need to set up the pages each time you start a new notebook. The good news here, is this process does get faster with each new notebook and each new notebook gives you an opportunity to refine your system. The focus with the Time Sector System is on “when” you will do the task, rather than “what” the task is. This means the most important page in your notebook is today. Nothing else matters today when you are doing your work and relaxing in the evening. Tomorrow comes in to play when you do the ten minutes planning the evening before. That’s the set up, what about collecting stuff? Where would you put the inbox? When I ran an analogue system, my inbox was the daily page. I would add new tasks and reminders to the bottom right hand corner of the page for processing later in the day. Once I had transferred the new tasks to their relevant week, I would cross them out. This way, when I did the weekly planning, I could do a quick check to make sure I had caught everything and I wasn’t looking all over the page for tasks I may have missed. Your project notes want to be kept at the back of your notebook. When you transfer to a new notebook, you want to only put in your current, active projects. If you have projects not due to start over the next three months, you can add these to a master projects list on a separate page. However, here comes another issue with analogue systems. Email and digital documents such as Google Docs and shared Office files. You will need a digital system to run along side your notebook. Managing your actionable email would be fairly easy as you can put a single recurring task reminding you to clear your actionable emails. Adding links to documents in the cloud will obviously be difficult. For this you will need some form of digital system to run alongside your paper-based system. However, there is another way you can do this which is more of a hybrid system. You notebook can be used as your collection, and planning tool. It can also contain your list of tasks for today. You can also use your notebook for all your meeting notes. However, you maintain a master list in a digital format. For instance, keep all your recurring routines and areas of focus in a digital app. You can also transfer all your collected tasks into your task manager and move things around your time sectors there. Then each evening, when you do your daily planning you can transfer you daily list for tomorrow to your notebook. This method has the advantage of overcoming any issues with the digital world. While we may want to maintain everything manually, the world doesn’t operate like that and we do need access to shared documents, emails and text messages. It will also save you a lot of time when you fill a notebook. You won’t have to set up a new notebook as the backend information will always be maintained digitally and all you are doing is transferring information to your notebook on a daily basis—a great way to force you do to a daily planning session. I’ve experimented a lot over the last few years with different methods, and my love of fountain pens and quality notebooks has had me try a paper-based system. Sadly, I’ve struggled to run a 100% analogue system because the people I work with operate digitally. That said, many people I know still take notes in meetings with pen and paper and keep that notebook on their desks while they are working and takes notes directly into it through the day. So, it is possible to run the Time Sector System via notebook. It’s a bit fiddly, but certainly doable. Analogue systems do assist the planning sessions, because if you are not planning regularly your notebook will rapidly be out of date. However, the best approach would be to run a hybrid system where all your project details, regular recurring tasks and areas of focus are kept digitally and on a daily basis when you do your daily planning you can transfer everything over. And planning out goals and projects will always be better on paper. AS you said in your email, “there’s something about moving a pen across paper just works for me.” And if it works for you, then don’t change it. I hope that helps, Max. Than 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.
15 minutes | Feb 13, 2023
How To Get Back To Basics With Your Task manager.
Podcast 263. This week, we are looking at the humble task manager and at how to get the most out of it by getting back to basics. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 263 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 263 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. Since even before the Ivy Lee Method was first used in 1918, listing out your tasks for the day has been a common way to manage all the things you have to do. Externalising what needs to be done, is a tried and tested method for managing what we do each day. When you combine a well managed task manager with a calendar, you have a very powerful way to get your work done and to have time for rest each day. Now, as usual we humans are incredibly destructive. For some weird reason we seem to hate simplicity and love to over complicate things until they are destroyed. A classic apocryphal story that illustrates this is during the space race, both NASA and the Russians were having difficulty finding a writing implement that worked in a zero gravity environment. The traditional pen needs gravity to work and when you take gravity out, the pen will no longer work. NASA spent millions of dollars researching this. Yet the Russians spent nothing and solved the problem. The Russian space agency gave their astronauts pencils. Pencils don’t need gravity. This week’s question touches on this problem of over-complexity and I will give you some ways to get things back to a more simple footing so you can focus more on doing your work and spend less time organising your work. 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 Thomas. Thomas asks; Hi Carl, I’ve recently been watching a lot of YouTube videos on using task managers. I like the idea of keeping all my tasks in one place, but it’s so confusing. There’s so many different ways to use a to-do list I just cannot figure out which is the best one. Do you have any recommendations? Hi Thomas, thank you for your question and yes, you are right; it is very confusing. The problem here is everyone will have a different way to manage their work. This is in part because we are all different (which is a good thing), and we all do different types of work. While you might have a generic job title such as a doctor or dentist within those generic titles there are a multitude of different disciplines. Another problem is we now have many more options than using a piece of paper and a pen to write out what needs to be done today. Now the task manager has been digitalised, developers can add features to differentiate themselves from other developers building task managers. It a combination of these two factor that has inevitably led to things becoming overly complicated. But let’s just push back the complexity and look at what a task manager needs to do. A task manager needs three areas: An area to collect things, an area to store things and an area that tells you what needs to be done today. Anything else that adds to that is just adding complexity. Now task manager developers can easily create something with those three areas that works well. Unfortunately, for us, that would be boring and so we now have flags, tags and filters (and a whole lot more in many cases) Now these can be useful, but they are definitely not essential. So, how can you make a task manager work effectively? Well, understanding the three areas would be a good start. Let’s look at these individually. First you need to be collecting all your commitments, tasks and anything else you need to do in your inbox. It’s no good collecting some and leaving others in your head. This is not something you can do half-heartedly. Either you go all in or don’t bother at all. Your head is the worst place to remember what needs to be done. It’s not designed to store information. It’s designed to recognise patterns. We use all our senses to do that. Sight, taste, smell, touch and sound are our primary pattern recognition senses and the ones used every day. We would immediately think something is wrong if we go outside when there’s a blue sky and the sun is shining, but when we do step outside we get wet. There’s an interrupt in the pattern and our brain alerts us to something not being right and our fight or flight reaction will engage. That’s where our brains work incredibly well. If someone gives us a random series of numbers that do not fit a pattern (such as giving us a telephone number) we will struggle to remember them. Give us a series of numbers such as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and we will remember—we recognise the pattern. So the first thing to do if you want a task manager to work is to collect everything and not trust your brain to remember to do the task. The second area of a task manager is the storage area. I like to think of this as a holding pen for tasks I have not yet decided when I will do them or are not due today. If we were not organising tasks into holding pens, our inbox—the place you collect your tasks—would soon be swamped. Once that happens you stop looking at it and it becomes a waste of time. This means every 24 hours or so, you want to be clearing out your inbox, making decisions about when you will do a task and storing them in appropriate holding pens. Now, there’s a lot of variability in how you organise your tasks. For instance, I organise my collected tasks into time sectors—ie when I am going to do the task. For me, all I want know is whether I will do the task this week, next week, this month, next month or sometime in the distant future. Other ways to organise your tasks would be by context. This is more commonly known as the GTD method (Getting Things Done) Here you would organise tasks by what you need to do the task—such as a computer, or where you would do the task—in your office or at home, or person, such as your boss, partner or colleague. The truth is you can organise your tasks in whatever way you want. The important thing is; the way you organise your holding pens needs to work for you. The thing about these holding pens is you do not work directly from them. They are simply storage areas. They are for planning purposes only. In my coaching programme, I can quickly tell if a client does any planning by where they choose their next task. If they are in and out of their holding pens looking for tasks to do, that’s a clear indicator that no planning is being done. Essentially, you are planning every time you complete a task and move on to the next one. This means instead of spending thirty minutes or so on at the end of the week doing a weekly plan, you are doing micro planning between tasks and that adds up to a lot more time than thirty minutes over the course of a week. It’s a very inefficient way of managing your tasks. It’s a little like working in a shop. If you do your planning, the stock you need is right there in the shop on a shelf where the customer can pick it up, bring it to the counter and pay for it. It’s a seamless, efficient way to conduct your business. If you don’t do your stock planning, a customer would come in, ask you for a particular product and you would need to walk into the warehouse, find the box the product is in and bring it to the counter. It’s incredibly inefficient and will leave you exhausted. And yet, according to statistics, 93% of people are doing no weekly planning. No wonder there are so many exhausted people. The final part of your task manager is your today list. It’s this list that needs to be kept clean and tight. It must show you only the tasks that need to be completed today and not anything you might like to do. This is what I like to refer to as the business end of your task manager. If you do have extra time at the end of of your list, by all means go into your holding pens and look for a few tasks you can clear before the next day—or better still, take some well deserved rest. If you are collecting everything and doing your weekly and daily planning, when you start your day and open your today list, you can be confident that the tasks on this list are the only ones that need concern you today. When you have your task manager working in this manner, where you collect everything, process what you collected into their appropriate holding pens, (or delete the things that are no longer relevant) and you work primarily from your today list, you will find getting through the day Is easy. You won’t feel as mentally exhausted because you are not doing mini-planning sessions between tasks,—which is a real drain on your mental resources—and you find you flow from one task to another. There are other strategies for managing your today list. For example, group similar tasks together so you are not switching your focus. This means if you have five or six calls to make, block an hour or so out and sit down and do them all together. Respond to your actionable emails all at once—as late in the day as you can as that prevents email ping-pong. Now the problem we all face today is in the competitive world of productivity apps the only way for developers to distinguish themselves from their competition is to keep adding features. We now have flags, which to be honest is quite useful, tags and labels, filters and multiple different views. While all these extra features may seem nice, none of them actually help you to do your work. We cannot do multiple tasks at the same time. I cannot make two phone calls at the same time nor can
15 minutes | Feb 6, 2023
Why You Must Become Boring To Succeed.
This week’s question is all about building success into your life and why to do it, you need to become boring. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 262 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 262 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. It’s strange how themes crop up and then suddenly I see the theme everywhere. This week, that theme has been all about how to turn something into a success and why so many people fail. It’s sad that the media only show the fruits of success—showcasing expensive houses, exotic holidays and flashy cars. That may be the results of living a successful life, but it is not how you become successful. The way success is trailed would make anyone feel that only a lucky few can ever be successful, yet that is simply not true at all. Success has nothing to do with where you were born, what school or university you went to, whether you have wealthy parents or were lucky enough to win the lottery. Success has nothing to do with genetics or background. Whether you succeed or not depends entirely on the choices you make and how you define success. When I see so called instagram influencers living it up on expensive looking yachts or standing at the steps of a private jet, I turn off. I do not see that as success—that’s showing off. Success should be measured by you and what you achieve and ultimately what you contribute to this amazing world. So, before we get to this week’s question, just pause for a minute an ask yourself what you would have to achieve in order for you to consider yourself a success? That could be to complete a full course marathon, to raise your children to be respectful of others or it could be to solve a global problem. However you define success, that needs to be your starting point. If you don’t know what that is, you will have no information on which to build a strategy. Okay, enough of my rambling introduction, let me know hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Roger. Roger asks: Hi Carl, I recently took your PACT course, and was curious to know if you still follow those ideas and whether you would add anything to the cours e today. Hi Roger, than you for your question. Okay, before we start, I should explain to those who don’t know, I have a free course in my Learning Centre called PACT. PACT stands for; Patience, Action, Consistency and Time. It’s a course that gives you a framework to achieving success at anything. In the course, I used building a blog, podcast or YouTube channel as examples, but you could apply to principles to anything and you will be successful. I’m willing to guarantee that. However, one thing I know is 95% of the people who set out to succeed at something will fail. Why is that? It’s because to become successful at anything you need to become boring. You will also likely have to ditch quite a few of your friends and stop seeing some of your family members as well. It’s this sacrifice that most people are unwilling to make. Now, if you have read Napoleon Hill’s brilliant book Think And Grow Rich, you will know about “Burning Desire”. It’s this burning desire that Napoleon Hill discovered was the common denominator among the thousands of highly successful people he interviewed for the book. They knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and set about single-mindedly to achieve it. The excluded everything from their lives that distracted them from achieving that success. One example, Napoleon Hill gave was Edwin Barns’ single-minded determination to work with (not for) Thomas Edison. Edwin Barns’ gave up everything he had, boarded a freight train and traveled to see Thomas Edison. He started out cleaning Edison’s offices. Never complained and just worked his way up. Never forgetting his desire to work with Thomas Edison. After five years of hard work, he got his chance and took it. Barns promised Edison he could sell the Edison Dictating Machine, a machine Edison was having difficulty in selling. Barns never lost that burning desire and became a fabled rags to riches story. Barns’ story epitomises how to become successful at whatever you want to be successful at. The problem, for most people, is you need to make sacrifices and sadly, most people are not willing to do that today and instead will reach for all the excuses they can find—the excuses that successful people abandoned years ago. In many ways, becoming successful is all about shifting your mindset from one that will happily accept any excuse to one where you no longer accept them. A trick I use is if ever I catch myself saying words like “I can’t” or “I don’t have time” I stop myself and ask “why?” Interestingly, almost always the answer is: I don’t have a desire to do it. To me that’s not an excuse. That’s being honest with myself. I’m fascinated with NASA’s 1950s and 1960s space programme. I will read articles and books and watch documentaries on the amazing things those pioneers at NASA achieved. Yet, I have no desire to go to the moon. To me PACT is all about becoming successful. You need patience because success in not going to come overnight. No matter what the media tells you. You have to start somewhere, and more often than not that start will be at the bottom. You don’t walk out of university and become the CEO of Google, Apple or Coke a Cola on your first day. You have to start at the bottom and work you way up. But more than just having patience you need to take action. You need a plan or a strategy from which you will take action that will lead you towards becoming successful. It’s likely you will need to change your plan—adjust course from time to time—but the overall objective is never lost. It’s here where goal planning comes into the mix. The overall desire to achieve something is going to be far off into the distant future. The college graduate with the desire to become the CEO is likely to have a twenty to twenty-five year apprenticeship. This means the long-term desire needs to be broken down into bite sized chunks. Chunks you can focus on each year. From being a fresh recruit, you might set the goal to become a supervisor in two years, a manager after a further two years etc. This helps you to stay focused. And then you need consistency. The quality of your work needs to be consistent, your approach to your work needs to be consistent and your daily actions needs to be consistent. It’s this consistently doing the right things day after day where you develop mastery. I mentioned in a previous episode one of my favourite TV shows, BBC’s The Repair Shop, those skilled craftspeople have repeated their skills day after day. Susie Fletcher, the leather specialist, sews leather every day. She began her passion for leather crafting when she was thirteen years old. Forty years later, she’s still passionate about working with leather and repairing leather goods. Consistently using the skills she learned many years ago day in day out. And it’s being consistent with the simple things. I’m still shocked at the number of people who do not consistently do a weekly planning session. How will you ever be successful at what you do if you are always reacting instead of giving yourself thirty-minutes each week to step back look at what you are doing and to plan out the week ahead. It’s that weekly planning that will keep you on the right path. It will stop you from being distracted by the unimportant and keep you focused on what’s really important to you. And finally, you need to take your time. To be successful at anything you need time. Time to develop your skills and knowledge and time to build experience. You cannot short circuit this. Sure, you can go out and buy subscribers on YouTube or Instagram, but you will know they are fake and these subscribers will not be engaging in your community. It doesn’t take long for others to see through your charade anyway. I’ve noticed that for a blog, podcast or YouTube channel to really start to grow it will take on average four years. Four years of consistently taking action every week. It’s the same with most businesses. You will not likely be earning a consistently good income for the first four years. It will be hard, difficult and often painful. But if you apply the PACT principles, you will more than likely get there. Your journey to success is a personal journey. The sacrifices you will need to make will be different from other peoples sacrifices. Some of you will achieve the success you want quickly, others will take a lot longer. That’s absolutely fine because ultimately, it’s not really about whether you become successful or not. It all about becoming a better person each day. It’s that sense of continuous improvement that leaves you feeling fulfilled and feeling a lot less stressed and worried. It’s as if you know you are on a mission and some days won’t be great, but others will be and as long as there are more great days than bad, you will be making progress. So to answer your question more directly, Roger, no I wouldn’t change anything about the course. PACT still works. Its formula has helped many people, including myself, to build a business, blog, YouTube channel or podcast. Or all of them. I recently wrote a blog post on three keys to success. These three keys are research, experiment and practice. They fit into the PACT model in a way. The first step is to decide what you want to accomplish, but after that you need to do research. Find the people who have already achieved
15 minutes | Jan 30, 2023
How To Manage Your Calendar.
This week’s question is all about getting the most out of your calendar. The most powerful tool in your productivity toolbox, yet surprisingly the least spoken about. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Ultimate Productivity Workshop Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 261 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 261 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. The humble calendar has been around for a very long time. And there are many iterations too. There are seasonal calendars still used by many farmers to the little electronic calendars on our phones. It always strikes me as odd that when you do a search for productivity apps, all you get are task managers and notes apps. Yet, if you don’t take control of your calendar, you will always be running out of time, missing meetings and chasing the elusive goal of being “finished”. It’s your calendar that will never lie to you. It gives you the twenty-four hours you have each day and you get to design how you use those twenty-four hours. In my opinion, your calendar beats all other productivity tools and apps because it’s the only tool you have that will tell you where you need to be, when and with whom. Now, just before I hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice, I just want to give you a heads up that there are still a few places left for February’s Ultimate Productivity Workshop. Beginning on Friday 3rd February, and for the following three Fridays, I will be doing a ninety minute workshop that takes you through the process of building your very own productivity system—a system that works for you. We will start with the calendar, then go on your task manager and managing your communications—email and messages and end by bringing everything together. This is a wonderful opportunity to join a group of likeminded people who together will help you to overcome any obstacles you may have and to bring in some solid practices that will serve you over the years to come. The focus of this workshop is on you. I want you to bring your productivity and time management issues so we get real life experiences and to develop methods and processes to ease these issues so they no longer create a bottleneck or obstacle to taking control of your time and you life. I hope you can join me. I’m so excited to being able to help you and others build their Ultimate Productivity System. Full details for this event are in the show notes. Okay, now it’s time for me to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Lisa. Lisa asks, Hi Carl, I’ve see a few of your videos on how you use your calendar, and was wondering if you have any tips for someone who works in a typical office and struggles to find time to get on and do my regular work in between a lot of meetings and interruptions. Hi Lisa, than you for your question. I think we need to address the elephant in the room first. Allowing your calendar to show you are more available than you really are. For many of you working in an office environment where your boss and colleagues can see your calendar—or at least when you have availability—it can be hell trying to organise your day. When your boss or colleague is attempting to set up a meeting, they are not concerned with how much work you have to do, they just want to schedule a meeting and ultimately the day and time will be set according to when everyone is available. This means if your calendar is showing you free at 9:30 am or 1:30pm (a common free time for most people) that’s when meetings are likely to be arranged. Now the problem here is 9:30am is the best time to get down to some focused work. You’re much more likely to be fresh and alert at that time and less susceptible to distractions. My advice to anyone who wants to get better at their time management is to block 9:00am to 11:00am for their most important work of the day. Equally, if you get outside at lunchtime for twenty to thirty minutes, you are going be fresh again when you return—well perhaps not if you’ve had a high carbohydrate lunch—but for most people, the early afternoon can result in another good focused session. These times should be protected at all costs. Of course, you may not always have control here—some departmental meetings are set for early Monday morning and later Friday afternoons, but you can still block time out on a Tuesday to Thursday for focused work. Just giving yourself a few hours each week for focused work time will often give you enough time each week to get the bulk of your work done. It doesn’t have to be every day. And all you need to do is block the time on your calendar. I call these session by what I will do in them. For instance, I have a two hour writing time block on a Monday morning I also have a three hour audio/visual time block on a Friday morning where I record and edit my videos. Now, If you are a boss, I beg you to implement a no meeting day each week. It might not be convenient, but the amount of work your team gets done on the no meetings days will astound you. There’s something about knowing you are not going to be disturbed that will allow your team to plan what work needs doing and they will be a lot more focused. Another tip on calendars is to have a master calendar. By this I mean have at least one calendar that shows everything going on in your life; both personal and professional. Now, in an ideal world you will be able to subscribe to your work calendar on your phone or personal computer (not work computer) and you can then add this to your personal calendar. This way you will see everything going on in your life. This is important because your dental, doctor and physical therapy appointments, for example, are not going to happen before or after work. You need to see these with your work calendar. Equally, you may need to pick up your kids earlier some days or there might be an event in the evening you need to leave work a little earlier for. If you separate your work and personal calendars, you are inevitably going to miss these when you do your daily and weekly planning. Now, I subscribe to the belief that we live one life and our work is just a part of that one life. And if you think about it, we work on average 40 hours a week. Well, that’s only 24% of your total week. When you separate your work and personal calendars—ie you have them on different devices, because your work calendar is the most dynamic—the one that changes the most—it will be this one that dominates your life and that isn’t good. Balance is created when you see you life as a whole. Where you can see, on one screen, your work and personal commitments. This is how you avoid overwhelming yourself and being constantly late for meetings and appointments. You can see quite clearly how much discretionary time you have and how much of your day you have committed to meetings, appointments and other commitments. Now this might be a good time to remind you of the time -v- activity equation. Of the two sides to this equation, only one is flexible. Time, is fixed. You cannot change that. Now within those twenty-four hours, you need to eat and sleep—that’s going to eat up more of your 24 hours that your work. You will likely need around ten hours for sleeping and eating. Throw in showering, brushing your teeth and you are looking at 11 hours of you day taken up already. It’s up to you to decide what activities you will do each day. That’s the only part of the equation you can control. Delegating that control to other people is going to leave you miserable and you will feel your life is out of control. It’s not a pleasant feeling and is often a cause of all sorts of mental health issues. Now how do you take control? Well, the first thing to do is to create a new calendar and call it your “perfect week”. This is your ideal week. You want to go into as much detail as possible here. Don’t just block out your work hours, for instance. Instead, block out focus time blocks, commuting time (you’re idea commuting time) and other work related items you would like to do each week such as project days, catch up days and prospecting time or creative time. Whatever time you need for doing your work. You also want to scheduling in your exercise, family and relationship time as well as time for working on your hobbies, reading and anything else you would like time for in your personal life. When you do this exercise, you will be surprised how much time you actually have. You have a lot more time than you think. It’s this exercise—putting everything together as you would like it on one calendar that you get to see this. Now, it’s unlikely you will be able to start living this perfect week immediately, that’s not really the point of the exercise. The goal is to merge you real life calendar with this calendar over time. To give you a benchmark, it took me nearly two years to merge my real life calendar with my perfect week calendar. It was a fantastic exercise (and project, in a way). It was also fantastic to initiate a change and see how my life changed and how much more balance I was able to bring into my life. For me, I started with my morning routines. I put them into my calendar. Seven days a week and scheduled that in. It’s 45 minutes every morning and one of my favourite times of the day. I then fixed in my exercise times and then rearranged my appointment availably that around the things I wanted to or needed to do . I should point out your “p
12 minutes | Jan 16, 2023
How To Keep Your Daily List of Tasks Manageable
This week’s question is on how to reduce the number of tasks in your task manager. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 259 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 259 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. We’ve all face this problem. Getting tasks into our task manager, adding dates and then discovering that we have far too many tasks to complete on a given day. It’s problematic because we feel once a date is added, it must be done on that day. The truth is, most of the tasks on your list for today do not need to be done today. They could be done tomorrow or the day after, and nothing would go disastrously wrong. Yet, the task being on your list today leaves you feeling it has to be done today. In many ways, this is a symptom of becoming better organised and more productive. It’s not the disaster many feel it is, just a growing pain and one that, with a little strategic thinking, can be overcome. So, today, that’s what I will do. I will share with you a number of tips and methods that will help you to overcome this feeling of overwhelm and the need to do everything on your list each day. And that means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Philip. Philip asks; Hi Carl, I’m having a big problem with my daily tasks. No matter how hard I try, I never complete my tasks for the day, and it causes me to feel deflated and disillusioned. I keep trying different task managers, and that does help for a week or two, but after that, I find myself in the same problem. How do you stay on top of your tasks every day? Hi Philip, thank you for your great question. And don’t worry. You are definitely not alone with this problem. The first thing to understand is if you are following the Time Sector System, the focus is not necessarily on what you do each day; the focus is on what you get accomplished in the week. This is why the most important folder you have in the Time Sector System is the This Week folder. This is where you put all the tasks you want to complete this week. All the other folders are just holding pens for tasks you have not yet decided when you will do. And that’s okay. When you stop focusing on daily task numbers and instead focus on what you will accomplish in the week, if you get to the end of Monday and you still have several tasks to complete, you can relax and simply reschedule the remaining tasks for another day in the week. Now, there will inevitably be tasks that need to be done on a given day. For those tasks, you use the 2+8 prioritisation method—where two of your ten most important tasks must be completed that day. (Even if you have to pull an all-nighter to do it—which hopefully doesn’t ever happen, but that’s the mindset you want to have) You can utilise the power of time blocking and block out sufficient time to make sure you get those two tasks completed for the day. For instance, this week, on Tuesday, I had a two-hour block of time for writing. On my task list, I had this podcast script to write as a priority task. Hence, I wrote this script in that two-hour block of time. When I did my planning for the day on Monday evening, I saw the task, and I saw I had a writing time block. I made writing the script a priority task and went to bed knowing I had sufficient time to write the script. Linked to this, there are a couple of things you can do that will help to reduce your daily task list numbers. The first is to theme your days. This is an idea from Mike Vardy of the Producivityist podcast. Mike calls it Time Crafting, and essentially, you theme each day. For example, you may have Monday and Tuesday for client and customer work. Wednesday for follow-ups and chases, Thursdays for project work and Friday for admin. Knowing what your core work is will help you design this effectively. If you don’t know what your core work is, you will fall into the trap of firefighting—where you are always reacting to what is thrown at you rather than being more proactive and focusing your time and attention on what you are employed to do. Once you set your theme for the day, when you do your weekly planning session, you can move tasks that relate to each theme to its day. For instance, all your admin tasks can be scheduled for your admin day, your client matters can be scheduled for your client work days, and any project tasks can be done on project days. The key to making this work, though, is to fix the days. When you find yourself knowing that Mondays are for working with your clients and customers and Fridays are your admin days, life becomes that little bit easier. Now, there will inevitably be emergencies that need your time and attention on days when you planned to do something else. That’s just life, and that’s where you need to build some flexibility into your approach. One of my favourite TV shows is BBC’s Repair Shop. If you don’t know this show, it’s about a group of skilled craftspeople who restores and repairs people’s things. These things can range from old alarm clocks that a grandparent owned and passed down to an old corner shop sign that has seen better days. The skills on the show are amazing. But one thing that stands out to me when I watch this show is before any work is done, the craftsperson looks at the object as a whole and looks to see what work needs to be done. Invariably, the first step is to clean the object so they can get a better view of what needs to be repaired. Often when we get a task, we don’t stop to look at the task as a whole and see what needs to be done. Our brains are terrible at estimating what needs to be done and how long it will take. It’s far better, when you process what you have collected in your inbox, to give yourself a few extra seconds to stop and think about what needs to be done before you move it to one of your time sectors. In my experience, most of your collected tasks don’t take as long as you first imagine. Often a task is similar in nature to other tasks you have to do and can be added to the same day you plan to do those similar tasks. Which leads me to one of my favourite tricks to reducing my task list for the day, and that is to use spreadsheets. The great thing about a spreadsheet is you can design it to contain whatever information you like. You can then manipulate that information in ways that give you a list you can work from. So, if you work in sales and you need to follow up with prospects each day, rather than have all these follow-ups in your task manager, you put them into a spreadsheet. You then only need a single task in your task manager that tells you to do your follow-ups for the day. The great thing about this is rather than having ten to twenty individual tasks randomly thrown into your task manager; you can “chunk” your follow-ups together because when you open your spreadsheet, the only decision you need to make is how long you spend on that task. This also helps you better manage your time. You can dedicate however much time you like to doing your follow ups each day, and rather than looking for the tasks and the time you waste doing that, they are all contained in a single place with all the information you need from when you last spoke to the customer, to their contact details and any other information you want to keep. This also avoids the problem that is inherent with a task manager. Once you check off a task it disappears. You no longer have any information you may have collected. You can try and search for your completed tasks and I know most task managers do allow you to do this, but it’s cumbersome and is a huge time waste. Plus, if you are using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel online, you can get the URL for the sheet and paste that into the recurring task so all you need do is click the link and you’re straight into the sheet you need with all the information you need right in front of you. The final part to this conundrum is to be strict about what gets into your system. This comes back to the time v activity equation. Time is fixed. We only get 24 hours a day and we cannot change that. The only part of the equation we do have any control over is the activity part—what we do each day. I’ve been reminded of this since I returned to Korea from Europe. Travelling east gives you jet lag and I am terrible with it. This means for the first week or two, on my return, I am very tired in the afternoons, become wide awake in the evening and wake up around 4 AM. I have in the past fought this and stayed in bed wide awake getting more and more frustrated. Instead, these days I get up at 4 AM and get as much work done as possible before the inevitable slump later in the day. Gradually, my sleep returns to normal, but I find the 4AM starts are great for my productivity. I know. I cannot change the time I have each day, but I can get as much work done in the time of day I am awake and rest when I am feeling extremely tired. So, there you go, Philip. I hope that has given you a few tips and tricks that will calm your overactive task manager and bring you some peace. Thank you for your question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.
12 minutes | Jan 9, 2023
How Get Started With A Solid Morning Routine
This week, it’s all about building a morning routine that leaves you focused and energised. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 258 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 258 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. Something I have noticed about productive and successful people is they all have a morning routine that helps them to focus and energise themselves for the day ahead. Whether these people are sport stars, business executives or a stay at home parent, each days begins the same way—with time spent on themselves. And that is the key to an empowering morning routine—it’s the time spent working on yourself in a way that leaves you feeling focused and ready for the day ahead. This week’s question is all about morning routines: what to include and more importantly, how to be consistent with them. 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 Jules. Jules asks, Hi Carl, I like to idea of having a morning routine, but I’ve never been able to make anything stick. Do you have any tips or tricks for being consistent with things like morning routines? Hi Jules, thank you for your question. The one thing I have learned about morning routines (and end of day routines) is to make them stick you need to ensure that the activities you do are activities you enjoy doing. For many people it would be nice to start the day with exercise, but if you live in a country where the weather is somewhat unpredictable, waking up and heading out for a walk in torrential rain, is not necessarily the best start to the day. Another mistake I see is to copy someone else’s routines. For example, Robin Sharma, advocates waking up at 5 AM and spending the first 20 minutes of your day with exercise, then 20 minutes planning and finally 20 minutes of study. That works for Robin and indeed works for many others who follow the 5 AM Club (as it is called), but for others—such as myself—waking up at 5 AM is impractical as I often work late and need seven hours sleep. Indra Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO wakes up at 4AM to read books and her email. For me, if I were to wake up at 4 AM to read books I’d find myself falling back to sleep very quickly. Other people’s morning routines are not going to work for you. You need to find your own way. But the question is how do you do that? Well, the first step is to decide how much time you want to spend on your morning routines. Too much time, for instance, will either mean you have to awake up too early, or delay the start of your day leaving you with too much pressure to get things done. The ideal amount of time is no more than sixty minutes. Sixty minutes is enough time to do most things and means you are not going to interfere significantly with your sleep. For the record, my morning routine takes around 45 minutes. The next step is to decide what you want to do in your morning routines. Now, the thing here is whatever you do it must be something you really enjoy doing. You are not going to be consistent with these if you do not wake up and look forward to starting your routine. So, what would you enjoy doing in a morning? Some things you may want to consider are: Meditating Some light exercise Writing a journal Reading Going for a morning walk (preferably with a dog—that’ll put a smile on your face) Taking an ice bath (not my cup of tea) Choose activities that leave you feeling happy and energised. You may want to experiment here for a few weeks. I’ve found some things look exciting on paper, but in a morning when you try doing them they just don’t fit right. For instance, a few years ago I tried meditation for fifteen minutes. I really didn’t enjoy it, so I ditched meditating. Once you have a few activities the next step is to find your trigger. This comes from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. The idea is you use a trigger activity that is easy to begin your routines. For example, my trigger is putting the kettle on. This has been the first thing I have done each morning for years. The turning on of the kettle to make my morning coffee starts my morning routine. While I wait for the kettle to boil, I begin my stretching routine. These are a series of stretching exercises I picked up from Brian Bradley of the Egoscue Method. Once the kettle has boiled I brew my morning coffee and while that is brewing, I drink a glass of lemon water. The great thing about having a trigger activity is that once you start, it becomes natural to move on to the next activity and you do not need to think about what to do next. This is again something from James Clear’s Atomic Habits and it’s called habit stacking. The trigger begins the stack. Now on to timing. Once you know what activities you want to do in your morning routine, the question is how long do you need? As I mentioned earlier, anything up to 60 minutes is great. My work day usually begins at 8:00 am, and I need forty-five minutes for my morning routines. This means I wake up at 7:00 am. This gives me plenty of time to complete my morning routines and leaves me around fifteen minutes to prepare for my first work activity whether that is a coaching call or writing. Now, if I need to wake up earlier—which sometimes does happen—for example, let’s say I have a call at 7:00am, then my wake up time is 6:00am. If you have young children, being consistent with your start time can be difficult, however, as your children grow up, they will go through phases. Some phases could be they wake up early, and you may need to work with them—perhaps give them an activity to do while you do your routines, other times you’ll struggle to get them out of bed and perhaps waking your kids up could become a part of your morning routines. The thing is, don’t let outside influences destroy your morning routines. My recent holiday travels meant I wasn’t able to complete my morning routines consistently and that was okay. As soon as I landed and got to my hotel, had a good sleep, I started the next day with my morning routine. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day or two because of travel or kids waking up at unexpected times. Now, one thing I would advise you don’t do is to add your whole morning routine to your task manager. Most people have five to ten items on their morning routine list and adding these to your task manager will clutter things up. If you want to track your routines, use your notes app. Most notes apps allow you to create a checklist so all you need do is create a checklist and duplicate this list each morning, if you want to track your progress. Alternatively, if you do want to track your routines, I would advise going old-school analogue and printing out a calendar. Stick that on your refrigerator or the door of your bedroom and crossing off the days you complete your morning routines. There’s something about seeing your progress across the month on paper that encourages you to keep going. While all our digital technology is great and allows us to get a lot of things done, it can also hide inside our devices and be forgotten. Having a piece of paper stuck on your door cannot be hidden. You see it every time you go to bed and every time you wake up. It’s there to remind you of your commitment. One thing I would recommend you do as a way to close your morning routines is to end them by reviewing what your objectives for the day are. This helps you by focusing you on the results you want from the day. For instance, if you have a proposal to finish, make that an objective. You may also decide that getting out and doing some form of exercise is important that day. These can then form your objectives for the day and when you review these, you can decide when you will do them. It’s reviewing my objectives for the day that has been a revelation for me. This has been the single most important thing that has helped my focus. All I am looking at are the two most important things I have decided on doing that day. Before I end my morning routines, I decide when I am going to do them and that’s it. I’m ready for the day ahead. So, Jules, to help you stick to your morning routines, keep things simple. Make sure you only allow thing you love doing onto your morning routines list and most importantly of all, find your trigger. The one thing you do each morning without fail. I should have mentioned that brushing your teeth is one of the best triggers because it’s something you do each morning. Thank you for your question, Jules and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
14 minutes | Dec 19, 2022
Building Productivity Into Your Team.
In our final episode of the year, we’re looking at how to improve the productivity of a team. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 258 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 258 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. Over the last year or so, I’ve received a number of questions related to helping a team improve their overall productivity. Now, this is a difficult question to answer because each individual team member will be motivated by different things and each person will have a unique approach to getting their work done. Motivation is a key part to individual productivity. If you are not motivated by your work and you see it only as a way to pay the bills, more fulfilling motives such as ownership of a project or task, developing your skills and helping people solve problems don’t feature in an individual’s mindset. That said, it is possible to build a highly productive team that has clear outcomes each day and week and at the same time builds ownership, camaraderie and a strong team work ethic. And that is what we will be looking at today. So, with all that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Tony. Tony asks, Hi Carl, I manage a team of eight people and we are responsible to sales and the initial after sales programme following delivery of out product. The problem I am having is keeping my team focused on what we are trying to accomplish. They often get distracted by low value tasks that means we often fall behind on our plan. Do you have any advice on helping teams be more focused? Hi Tony, thank you for your question. As I mentioned in the introduction, working with a team of people has its own challenges when it comes to productivity but there are a few things you can do that will enhance you teams overall productivity. The first is clear communication. Often what happens within a team is there is poor communication on the results that the team is expected to accomplish. At the beginning of a year or a quarter, team leaders are usually reluctant to talk about what the team’s targets are. Managers are quite happy to discuss individual targets with employees, but rarely talk about the group target. The problem here is you encourage team members to focus on their individual targets and the team’s. What you want to be doing is ensuring that the team as a whole knows the target so that they can work together to achieve that team goal. I remember when I was selling cars in the early 1990s, there were three of us in the new car sales team, plus a sales manager. Claire, Bob and myself. Claire was an outstanding sales person. She was focused, aggressive (in a positive way) and could pull sales out of nowhere. Bob on the other hand was slower. He was patient and gentler, yet he had an enormous amount of experience and consistently brought ink the sales. Me? I was somewhere in the middle. Each month out team’s target was to sell 35 cars. Now, traditionally, that number would be divided between the three of us equally, but while Claire rarely missed her targets, Bob and myself struggled to hit the target. Yet, our sales manager, David, realised that the important target was the 35 cars. Not that his three sales people sold twelve cars each per month. If we had focused on the individual numbers, Claire would have slowed down in the forth week of the month, while Bob and I would be slow at the beginning of the month. On the white board in David’s office, there was only two numbers. The target (35) and the number of cars we had sold that month. This way, we were encouraged to work as a team. It also meant that if Claire’s more aggressive approach was not working with a particular customer, David would ask Bob or myself to step in and close the sale. Equally, if a slow burn approach appeared not to be working, we would ask Claire to step in and close the sale. We had a regular morning meeting at 8:30am and in that meeting we discussed what we had on as potential sales, and we set objectives for the day. The communication was clear and we set about our day with clear objectives to accomplish that day. That team was the best team I ever worked in in terms of productivity. As far as I recall we never missed our targets, and we won a lot of awards for the best new car sales team within the group. The success of that team was down to simple communication and a shared objective. The next important factor for improving your team’s productivity is to trust your team to get on and do their work. This is about allowing your individual team members to own the task or objective. If, as a manager, you are micromanaging your team and always monitoring what they are doing, you are destroying the team’s trust. You, as a leader, need to trust your team to get on do what they do best—their job. As a leader of a team, your job is to ensure your team is moving in the right direction and to remove any barriers your team may face in the execution of their work—more on that later. What this means, is once you have given your team members their instructions, so to speak, you need to leave them to get on and do it. Hence the importance of clear communication. If you are constantly calling, messaging and emailing them for updates, you are preventing them from doing their work. Your team need space to do their work. Now in my experience, if a manager or team leader is always requesting updates, it’s a sign they do not trust their team. That is not a productivity issue, but a recruiting one. It means you are recruiting, or you feel you are recruiting, so called “B players”. That needs to stop. If you are employing the right people—the A Players—you can then step back and let them do what they do best. Now, I know as a leader you need to report to your manager or leader. And that goes back to how you are communicating with your team. If you need to regularly report numbers to your manager, you should set up a simple reporting system that your team updates at the end of each day or week. That way, you will have access to the numbers you need to report to your boss without interrupting your team. So, make sure you have clear reporting processes put in place for your team. Do not over complicate this. Updating the reporting system should not take your team more than ten minutes each day to do. Now, back to your role as a barrier remover. The best managers I’ve ever worked with saw their job as helping me and my colleagues to do their job with as little friction as possible. If there were procedural problems within the company, my manager would step in to sort out these problems. If I ever had a difficult customer, or student, my manager would step in and clear whatever problems I was having. I remember one occasion where we had a particularly difficult student in our language institute. She was never happy with the teacher she was given and would inevitably complain if the teacher diverged from the textbook. Whenever she turned up in one the teacher’s classes, they would freeze up and their classes became very boring, which meant they lost students. Our institute manager and I (as I was the native English teacher’s manager at that time) sat down and worked out a strategy to help this student achieve what she wanted to achieve. We even had a meeting with her to explain our teaching philosophy. In the end it was decided I would teach her next class and before the class started I sat down and explained my teaching methodology to her and got her to agree to following my method for a month. What we did was take a difficult student away from the other teachers so they could get on and do their job and allowed the most experienced teacher (at the that time, me) to solve the problem. We did. And, I got an invite to that student’s wedding six months later. The one thing you do not want to be doing as a manager is imposing your productivity system on your team. What works for you is not likely to work for them. Instead, you want to be focusing on is giving clear instructions to your team and letting them get on do what they are best at doing. The final piece of this puzzle is how you communicate with your team. If you allow your team to communicate in anyway they like, you are going to find you are swamped with emails, Teams or Slack messages and a backlog of phone calls. Set a standard. If you are not already using something like Microsoft Teams or Slack, then look into adding a channel like this as your team’s communication channel. This allows you to centralise all messages and gives your team a resource for solving problems that individual team members have solved. It can become a team Wiki page. You also need to avoid placing response time expectations on your team too. If they feel they need to reply to your messages within minutes of receiving them. They are not going to be productive. Your team need the space to do their work, not worrying about replying to your messages as soon as they come in. However, if you put in place a workable reporting system, you should not need to be asking your team for updates—that information will be available in the reporting system. One final part to this is the question about whether you need a task or project manager to manage the tasks within your team. These can help if your team are working on joint projects. These can also help you as a manager to see what’s happening, what sti
13 minutes | Dec 12, 2022
The End Of Year Clean Up
This week, what could you change about your system to get it ready for 2023? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 257 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 257 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. There’s something about an end of year that turns our minds towards cleaning things up, making changes and planning. Yet when you think about it, these things can be done at any time in the year. Cleaning your task manager of tasks that have been sitting around for over a year, reviewing how we manage our tasks and making plans can all be done anytime. All we need to do is make that decision. That said, the end of year often does give us some extra time to do these things. Emails reduce a little, and most people’s attention turn towards the upcoming year. And certainly if you live in the west, Christmas week does take us away from our work and spending time with family and friends. I find this presents opportunities to clean up my notes for the year, delete tasks I’ve added, not done and are just sitting around in my task manager cluttering things up. This week’s question is on this very subject. What can we do to change things, reenergise tired processes and fix things that haven’t worked well throughout the year. So, without further discourse, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jan. Jan asks: Hi Carl, I’ve seen you mention your end of year clean up in your blog posts in the past but I’ve never seen or heard you describe what you do. Could you explain your process for cleaning things up? Hi Jan, thank you for your question. My end of year clean up has become a bit of a ritual for me now. It’s something I enjoy doing because I am not working in the sense of creating content, instead I am doing a lot of sitting around and TV watching, not something I do at anything other time of the year. It’s relaxing and my mind isn’t “on” in the sense of thinking what to create next. So, where do I start? The first step for me is to do a review of all the apps I am using. The goal here is to eliminate apps I am not using. That means evaluating the usefulness of the apps I have on my computer, phone and iPad. Through the year I will test a few apps to see what everyone is talking about. In the past, I’ve had apps like Notion, Obsidian, Things 3 and OneNote on my computer and as they didn’t make the cut, so to speak, I deleted them. This year, I will be happily removing all the COVID apps I installed, I noticed these were still hanging around on a “just in case” basis. But as Korea is no longer doing test and trace and we can travel without the need for a PCR test, I can remove these. I should point out if you do this exercise, once you’ve cleared all these apps, your computer, phone and tablets feel faster. I’m sure there’s no difference, but it does feel faster. Next is to go into my workhorse apps and clean them up. I usually start with Todoist because this is the easiest one to clean up. With the Time Sector System, the folder you want to be paying attention to is your Long-term and on-hold folder. This folder can easily become a dumping ground and the end of the year is a good time to go in there and delete tasks you know you’re not going to be doing. For tasks that have been sitting in there for a while but you feel you will still likely want to do them, you can move them out of your task manager and create a project note or add them to a list of tasks you want to do in the future but require further planning out, again in your notes. Then it’s time to go into my notes. Now for me, this year is going to be a difficult one. This is the year I will be making a decision on whether to relegate Evernote to being a storage app and go all in on Apple Notes. Now, the reason for this change of approach with Evernote is because Evernote is going in a direction that will not support how I use notes. That’s not a criticism of Evernote, I feel Evernote is doing brilliantly. However for me, I want my notes app to be simple with as few features as possible. When an app has too many features, the temptation to play around with formatting, colours and setups is too much for me. I spend more time playing than doing and that does nothing for my productivity. Apple Notes, on the other hand, is simple, has great search features and works across all my devices. The test size is readable (while Evernote on my phone and iPad is too small for me to read comfortably), and it does the job I want a notes app to do with little fuss. Throughout the year, if you are using a notes app properly, you will have collected a lot of notes that you no longer need. These need to be deleted (or archived). I love this purge. It almost acts as a review of my year. I go through my folders, clearing our old notes and making sure the titles and any tags I am using for the notes I keep are relevant and searchable. This step is important. The search features on our computers are very powerful these days, and saves us a lot of time when looking for a note. If you haven’t learned how to use the system search on your devices, that’s something I highly recommend you do. It will save to a lot of time. It during this clean up process when you will also see ways where you can improve your structure. If you’ve read Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain book this year, a book I would highly recommend, you may want to implement some of the principles in that book at this stage. Now while you cleaning up your task manager and notes app, you want to be asking yourself: “how can I do it better?”. We want to be building seamless and effective systems, and there’s always room for improvement. If you remember the principles of COD—Collect, Organise, Do—you want to be asking yourself how you can improve your collecting process and how you can reduce the time it takes you to organise what you collect so you can spend more time doing the work. The more time you spend in your task managers and notes apps, the less time you spend doing the work. So ask yourself, where can you speed up the process? The final step to the end-of-year clean up is to go into the folders where you store your documents. Now, this is often the hardest part of the process because, over the year, we will have accumulated a lot of documents that either we no longer need or can be archived. I use an external hard drive to move files and documents I no longer need. This helps to keep my computer’s drive clean and also reduces the need for more space in my cloud storage services. I would also recommend you go into your Documents folder on your computer. We often download PDFs and other documents here and then forget about them. Clean that out. Once you’ve cleared everything up, now it’s time for the fun part. Asking yourself how you can improve your system. Again, what we are looking for here is speed. How can we get faster at finding our stuff? Researching your device’s search tips and tricks is a great way to do this. I’ve learned so much by watching YouTube videos on learning how to get the most out of Apple’s Spotlight (and optimising it to work better for me). The point of this exercise is to get your systems ready for the new year. You don’t want to be going into the new year with slow, unwieldy systems. Starting the new year with a clean set-up not only speeds everything up, but it also sets you up for a fantastic year. The final part of this process is to look for bumps in the road where your system isn’t working too well. I find these bumps are usually in your task managers. Your task manager needs to tell you what you should be working on today. Everything else in there is simply holding pens for tasks you don’t need to do today, or you have not yet decided when you will do them. How can you best set this up so when you go into your task manager to see what needs to happen today, you can see instantly what your objective tasks are—the tasks that must be done today? And now for the bonus. In recent years, I have taken to using the end-of-year break to go through my calendar to see how I can better optimise my week, so I get to spend more time doing the things I love doing. From spending more quality time with my family to being more consistent with exercise. For 2023, the area I want to improve is my sleep. I am a terrible sleeper, and I need to be more consistent with this. So, one of my objectives is to redesign my week, so I have a cut-off time each day—a time I need to switch off my computer and a time I need to be in bed. If you have followed my tip to design your perfect week, you can turn on this calendar and see how you can merge this with your actual week. To give you an example, I want to better use the mornings for creative work. I am at my most creative in the morning and a lot less so in the afternoons. I can block time out on my calendar for writing and recording and push off all my meetings to the afternoon or later in the morning. I understand not all of you have complete control over your calendar. But you likely have more control than you think. Blocking time out now means other people cannot schedule meetings when you could be getting on with your focused work. Try it. It might just work. If it doesn’t, then you can go back to the drawing board and rethink your strategy here. So, there you go, Jan. I hope that has helped and I also hope you get some time over the Christmas break to play with this. The key is t
14 minutes | Dec 5, 2022
Why You Need To Take Projects Out Of Your Task Manager
Podcast 256 This week, we’re looking at the overwhelming number of so-called “projects” people create and why it’s these that contribute to overwhelm and a lot of wasted time. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 256 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 256 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 read David Allen’s seminal book, Getting Things Done, around fifteen years ago, and it helped me to transform away from a manual Franklin Planner that had served me well for the previous 17 years to a fully digital productivity system. In Getting Things Done, David Allen defines a project as anything requiring two or more steps to complete. He also mentioned that most people have between thirty and a hundred projects at any one time. Now, if you are following a correct interpretation of GTD (as Getting Things Done is called), that would not pose a problem because projects are kept in file folders in a filing cabinet near your desk and your task manager is organised by context—meaning your lists are based around a place such as your workplace, home or hardware store, a tool such as your computer or phone or a person, such as your partner, boss or colleagues. Unfortunately, when apps began to appear, many app developers misread or misinterpreted the GTD concept and built their apps around project lists instead of contexts. It could also have been a concern for intellectual property rights. But either way, this has led to people organising their task list managers by project and not context. And it is this that has caused so much to go wrong for so many people. This week’s question is on this very subject and why managing your task manager by your projects is overwhelming and very ineffective. 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 Lara. Lara asks, hi Carl, Last year I read the Getting Things Done book and have really struggled to get it to work for me. I have nearly 80 projects in my task manager, and I feel I am spending too much time keeping everything organised. I never seem to be able to decide what to work on, and everything feels important. Do you have any suggestions on spending less time managing work and more time doing the work? Hi Lara, thank you for your question. So, as I mentioned in the opening, the problem here is you are managing your projects in the wrong place. Task managers are there to manage your tasks, not your projects. If you want to manage projects with software, you would be better off purchasing dedicated project management software. However, those apps can be very expensive and have been designed for corporations and large teams working on a single project. Apps like Monday.com and Wrike are examples of accessible project managers. However, apps like these are designed for teams of people working together on a single project and will not solve your problem of being able to spend more time doing your work and less time organising it. Now, you did not mention if you wanted to continue using the GTD model or not, but if you want to get things better organised, the first step would be to remove your projects from your task manager and replace your lists with something you can better manage. Now, I use the Time Sector System to manage my tasks. This means my task manager is organised by when I will do the task. There are five time sectors: This week, next week, this month, next month and long-term and on hold. This means when a task comes into my task manager, the only thing I need to decide is when I will do the task. If it needs doing this week, it will be added to my This Week folder; if it does need doing this week, I will distribute it accordingly. In the GTD world, you need to set up your task manager by your different contexts. These can be anything, but they do need to work for you. While in the GTD book, David Allen gives us examples of @office, @computer, @phone and @home etc, these are a bit out of date today. We can do email from a computer, tablet or phone, and many of us work in a hybrid way in that we do a lot of work working from home. Now, I’ve seen some people organise their work by energy level: for instance, high energy would be for big tasks that require quite a bit of time, low energy would be for easy tasks that can be done at any time. The great thing about GTD is you can choose your own contexts that better fit your lifestyle. However, a better way to manage all this is to treat the folders in your task manager as holding pens for tasks yet to be done. The only thing that really matters is what you have to do today. Allowing yourself to be distracted by what can be done tomorrow or next week will slow you down and bring with it a sense of overwhelm. But, before we get there, let’s look at how you are defining a project. In GTD a project is defined as anything requiring two or more steps. This is where I think GTD breaks down. For example, arranging for my car to go in for a service will require more than one step. I need to confer with my wife for a suitable day that we both will be available, I need to call the dealership to book the car in and I need to add the date to my calendar because the dealership is sixty miles away from where we live. Yet, the only task I have in my task manager is an annual, recurring task that comes up on the 1st September reminding me to book my car in for a service. When that task appears, I know to ask my wife when she will be available. I don’t need three tasks all written out in a separate project. Equally, much of the work we do is routine. For example, every week, I need to write a blog post, two essays, prepare and record this podcast and create two to three YouTube videos. Technically, in the GTD world, each of those tasks are projects. There are more than one step involved in each of those pieces of content. But I do not treat them as individual projects. They are tasks I just do. I know I need around five hours a week for writing, so I block out five hours each week for writing on my calendar. I need three hours to prepare this podcast and another three hours for recording and editing my YouTube videos. As I know the amount of time I need for each of my pieces of work, I block the time out in my calendar. Now, in your case Lara, what is the work you have to do each week? Before you do anything else, block out sufficient time for getting that work done on your calendar now. Let’s say for example; you are in sales and each day you want to contact ten prospects. How long does that take you? If that takes you an hour each day, then you need to block an hour out on your calendar to do that work. There’s no point in ‘hoping’ you will find the time. You won’t. If it is something you must do or want to do, you need to allocate sufficient time for doing it. On your calendar, you would write “Sales Calls”. In your notes, or a spreadsheet, you would have a list of people to contact. In this example, it’s unlikely you need a task for this because your calendar is dictating what you will do and the list of people to contact are in a dedicated CRM, spreadsheet or notes app. You don’t need to duplicate things. Let’s look at a different kind of project. Let’s say you are moving house. That’s a big project. How would we manage that? My advice is open your notes app. Project like this that are going involve checklists, emails, images, designs, things to buy, copies of contracts and so much more would never work well in a task manager. You are also likely to need a file folder on your computer to keep all these documents. On your calendar, you will have your moving date and perhaps a few extra days for organising your new home. What would go on your task manager? Very little. You may have tasks such as send signed contracts to landlord or your lawyers, or to call the electricity company to notify them of your moving in date, but you would be managing a project like this from your notes app, not a task manager. Most of our difficulties with task managers is we are putting too much in there. There’s a limit to what we can do each day. We are constrained by the time available. It’s that part of the equation we cannot change. Time is fixed. The only thing we have any control over is what we do in the time we have available. And it’s there where we need to get realistic. If you begin the day and there are 60+ tasks in your task manager for today, you have failed. You will never complete all those tasks. You’ve got to get realistic about what you can achieve each day. For me, if my task manager has more than twenty tasks to do, I know I am not going to complete them all. I will go into my task manager and reschedule some of those tasks. It’s no good telling myself these tasks have to be done, because I already know I will not have enough time to do them all. You need to get strict about what must be done and what can be rescheduled for another day. So, Lara, my advice is move your projects out of your task manager and into your notes. Whether you use Apple Notes, Evernote, Notion or OneNote (or something else), it’s your notes app that will better manage your projects. You can keep copies of relevant emails, links to documents and so much more in your notes. You can also create checklists. I will be travelling to Europe in a couple weeks. It’s a ten day trip and I’ve create a note for the trip in my notes app. That note contains
13 minutes | Nov 28, 2022
How To PlanThe New Year.
This week, we’re looking at new year goals and what we can do to improve our chances of success. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 255 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 255 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 few weeks ago, I published a video on planning 2023 on my YouTube channel. In that video, I encouraged viewers to create a note in their notes app and to begin a two-month brainstorming period where they looked at a few areas of their lives and thought about what they would like to change. These areas were around what they would like to change about themselves, their work and their lifestyles. Plus a couple of questions about goals and bucket lists. The idea here is to open you up so you can go deeper than your usual new year's resolutions and to give you time to think about the person you want to become. Well, that two month brainstorming period is coming to an end and it’s time to start looking at what you can do in 2023 that will move things forward on the areas you would like to make changes and in this week’s podcast, a break from the normal format, I will take you through the process of building a plan for 2023 that will be achievable, fun and more importantly will be the catalyst for the changes you will need to turn these ideas into reality. So, this week, the Mystery Podcast Voice will be having a break, and we’ll get straight into the answer. So, if you did the annual planning exercise, you will hopefully have quite a lot of ideas written down on your planning sheet. Now, don’t worry if you haven’t done the annual planning exercise; there’s still a little time left for you to do it. So, the four main questions on the planning sheet are: What would I like to change about myself? What would I like to change about my lifestyle? What would I like to change about the way I work? What can I do to challenge myself? Each of these questions is designed to get you to explore a different part of your life, from you as an individual to the way you work. The final question on challenging yourself is there to help prevent you from stagnating and getting stuck inside the dangerous comfort zone. If you have completed this exercise over the last six to eight weeks, you will, by now, have quite a list. The problem is you will not be able to complete all of these ideas in twelve months. The trick now is to look at your list as a whole and look for a pattern. Often you will find in the part about making changes to yourself that there will be some areas you have not been happy with for a while. Your time management might be bad, or you may not be happy with the state of your health. To give you an example, last year, I wanted to improve the quantity and quality of my sleep—which was not healthy. This led me to look at my day as a whole and to see why I was not getting sufficient sleep. I had too many early starts and late finishes. I could see from my calendar that this was not sustainable, so I created a few rules. Now, I must be finished at my computer by 11pm and be in bed by 11:30pm. I also changed my morning start from 6:00am to 7:30am. I also made a point to read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, which is a fantastic book and learned a lot more about ensuring I had a better quality of sleep each night. I have not been perfectly consistent with this, but I have made a lot of progress and will continue to refine this going into 2023. And this is something you will discover. It’s unlikely you will be able to change something perfectly—most things we are working towards will always be works in progress—but the act of starting and building in new routines and habits will lead you towards where you want to be. When it comes to the lifestyle question, what we are looking at here is the way we are living our lives. Three years ago, at the end of 2019, I realised I had got stuck in a rut in where we were living. A few years earlier, my wife and I had decided we wanted to move to the east coast and away from the noisy and poor air quality of the big city, but we were doing nothing about it. I saw that our reliance on the public transport system was great if we wanted to stay living in the big city, but was the reason we were ‘trapped’ there. We decided that the best way to break this would be to get a car. And that became our goal in 2020. This meant I needed to get serious about saving money, and that is what I did from the start of 2020. Now, I was helped by the pandemic. That reduced our expenditure significantly because for a large part of 2020, we were unable to go out. In September of that year, we bought our car, and that changed everything for us. We travelled around the country once a week, discovering new places, and in December, we found a guest house on the east coast that we could rent monthly, and we took the plunge. We signed up for an initial three-month stay in January, and that led to us staying the whole of 2021. At the end of it, we had let our apartment in the city go and moved to a new home on the east coast. None of these changes would have taken place if I had not identified areas we were not entirely happy with. It was taking the time to look at things as a whole and seeing where we could make changes that would lead us to where we really wanted to be. Now, what about the way you work? Here you have greater control over things than you may imagine. The pandemic has brought more flexible ways to work, and that’s a great thing. Research suggests that if you are more of an extrovert, you thrive in an environment surrounded by people. Conversely, if you are more of an introvert, you will find working from home incredibly satisfying and productive. So, perhaps one of the first things you want to investigate is what kind of person you are. Where do you do your best work? Alone, in a quiet place or when surrounded by people and noise. But there are other things you can look at with your work. For one, identify what your core work is. This is the work you are paid to do. Look at your job description. For instance, a departmental manager is employed to manage a department. What are the core tasks involved in managing a department? Where do you think you could improve in these areas? For instance, if you want to improve productivity within your team, the best thing you can do is improve your communication. If your way of communicating is not simple, direct, and to the point when assigning projects, that will profoundly affect the outcome of the project. The method is to tell your team in clear terms what the outcome you want is, and to trust that your team will use their skills and knowhow to deliver the results on time. Interfering, calling too many meetings, and micro-managing will result in a team that performs poorly and is demotivated. Learn to tell them what you want to and let them get on with it. Develop simple reporting systems that require little time from your employees so they can stay focused on the objective. If you are a salesperson, what could you change next year that would improve your overall performance? Where do you feel you are weak and what could learn, change or develop that will improve that area? And that brings us to the final question: what can you do to challenge yourself? One of the biggest dangers in our lives is our comfort zone. Our ancestors had to deal with war, revolution, disease and predators. Today, for the majority of people on earth, our lives are incredibly easy by comparison. We have an abundance of food, safe houses and access to clean water. This has made our lives far too easy, and we no longer put ourselves in challenging situations. Without challenging ourselves, we stop growing and when that happens our lives atrophy and we fall behind. You cannot let that happen. It’s devastating on your mental health and leaves you feeling left behind. Set yourself a challenge in 2023. That could be to climb the tallest mountain in your country, or to do the from couch to 5k running race. Alternatively you could sign up for a challenging course such as a masters degree or to design a 30 day challenge for each month of the year. Something that would really challenge you. The great thing about setting yourself something challenging is you will reintroduce yourself to the concept of failure. Failure is the best way to learn and to grow. It’s through failure we learn what works and what does not work. From my own personal experience I’ve learned that failure is the greatest teacher there is. It teaches you to analyse where things went wrong, where they went well and and helps you to reframe problems and difficulties so you find a way around them. The important thing to remember is you do not have to change everything all at once. Changing slowly over a number of years is likely to give you better results than trying to change everything in one year. One of my favourite Tony Robbins’ quotes is “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade” So, think long-term. Having an approach of CANI—Constant And Never-ending Improvement will help you to achieve the things you want to achieve and bring you a lot more fulfilment that trying to change too much too fast and giving up. That destroys your confidence and leaves you feeling terrible about yourself. Thank you for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
16 minutes | Nov 21, 2022
The 3 Unsexy Productivity Essentials.
This week, we’re looking at the unsexy part of becoming more productive and better with our time management. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 254 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 254 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. Now, most people in the time management and productivity field, such as myself, will generally talk about systems, routines and applications. And while these do have an important place in the helping us be more productive, there are three other parts to the productivity equation rarely talked about and often overlooked. What are those? They are Sleep, exercise and diet. For many people, these three elements are elephants in their otherwise well-ordered life. You know, deep down, if you are not getting sufficient sleep, not getting outside and moving, and eating highly processed and unnatural foods, you are destroying your ability to focus, concentrate and ultimately that effects your overall output. (Not to mention what these will do to your long-term health) And I am not just talking about work output. If you are constantly tired and unable to concentrate, that’s going to have negative effects on your family life. You will be too tired for quality time with your kids and partner, and that poor diet and lack of sleep will adversely affect your mood when you do have time for your family life. We have a lot to look at here so, 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 so busy at work this year that when I get home all I want to do is crash on the sofa and do nothing. I end up watching TV or watching YouTube videos until very late and then not getting enough sleep. I know I should spend some time planning my day and doing some exercise, but I just don’t have the energy. How do you fit in time for exercise and planning? Hi Ryan, thank you for your question. This is a problem I know many people face. Planning the day at the end of the day when you're tired and just want to do nothing because you are exhausted. It’s not going to be something high on your list of priorities. Let’s be honest, we can all operate a reasonably productive day without doing daily planning. For most people, this is how they have operated for years without any immediate adverse effects. However, a question I would ask is without following a few simple daily practices, how are things turning out? If you are stressed out, anxious and exhausted at the end of your working day, is that a good thing? Is that how you want to feel at the end the of the day? So, what can we do? Well, this is what I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. While new systems and apps are exciting, and the sexy part of productivity and time management, these things will only go so far. No new app or system will change the work you still have to do. Just because a task is in Things 3 instead of Todoist, won’t change the fact that the task still needs doing. No app is going to plan the day for you—even with machine learning or artificial intelligence. Only you, as an individual knows what’s important to you. I find it interesting that Outlook Calendar’s AI will fill your blank times with work, never tell you to call your partner, or go for a walk. Now, I’ve been studying productivity and time management long enough to know that it’s never the case of not having time. You have time. You have more than enough time to fit everything in. The real reason you “feel” you don’t have time is you have not prioritised what’s important to you. But, let’s step back a little and look at the three absolute basics of being more productive. Let’s start with sleep. When you get sufficient amount sleep, you are more awake, more creative and focused. Those three on their own will give you a far more productive day than being half asleep, and distracted. I did a little experiment earlier this year. I spent a week surviving on four and half hours sleep each day. That week was a complete disaster for my overall productivity. Work that I was normally able to easily get done in a week, was a struggle. In fact, I had to give up trying to do some of the work I wanted to do. By the end of that week, I had a backlog. I NEVER have backlogs. I was too tired to clear my actionable email each day. I became irritable towards the end of the week, and I started craving sugary snacks after only two days. By the end of the week, I was exhausted. My exercise was terrible. Even taking my dog for a work became a chore—something I normally love doing. Now, I’ve never been a good sleeper. But The lessons I learned from that little experiment got me serious about my sleep. I will cancel meetings and appointments now if I need to, to ensure I get my minimum number of hours (six and half). So, Ryan, my first tip is sort your sleep out. If you don’t know how much sleep you need, do an experiment over the end of year break and sleep with no alarm for seven days. Make a note of how many hours sleep you get each night and average it out. That will tell you how much sleep you naturally need. We are all different here. From my experiment during my last break, I discovered I actually need an average of 7 hours 20 minutes. I’m not there yet. As I say, I have a minimum of 6 ½ hours, but next year I will work towards moving that to the seven hours twenty minutes. I would strongly recommend to all of you that you read Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep. That will change your whole thinking about sleep. Just getting enough sleep each day will radically improve your overall productivity as well as your mood, so you are a lot more attentive to the people you care about. Now, what about exercise? Now here’s the problem with exercise. A lot of people hate exercise. Possibly because how they were introduced to exercise at school has left a scar that still lives with them today. Yet exercise is essential for productivity. However, to get the benefit of exercise, you do not need to go to a gym or out running. Really, what is meant by “exercise” is movement. We need to move. It’s interesting that when Apple were developing the Apple Watch, the two key parts to their exercise app were number of “active” minutes and the number of times you stood up per day. They even put a target on these: Thirty minutes of activity and standing twelve times per day. The standing metric was measured by making sure you stood at least once for sixty seconds or more every hour or so. So, what is involved in movement or activity. Well, a thirty minute intentional walk would do. But you can go further. Stop using lifts (or elevators as they are called in North America) and escalators. Reintroduce yourself to stairs. The stairs are a great source for getting the blood flowing and improving your focus and productivity. Even if you have a disability and are unable to walk unaided, any kind of activity you can do that will raise your heart rate counts as exercise. A non-motorised wheel chair gives you wonderful opportunities to move with your upper body for example. One tip I learned from a preventative medicine doctor (Dr Mark Hyman) is to get yourself outside and walk for twenty minutes after a meal. That movement will prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal and help you to avoid the ‘afternoon slump’ that affects so many people. Seventy years ago, it would have been very hard to find a gym. Lifting weights was an exclusive and minority sport and unless you were into body building—a sport most people had never heard of back then—your only introduction to a gymnasium was at school and most people treated those as a wicket form of torture netted out my evil PE teachers. Why were gyms so rare back then? Well, that’s because we moved a lot more and never needed them. There wasn’t the convenience we have today. Escalators were rare, very few people had TVs in their home (and those that did had to keep getting up to change channel) and if someone called you, you again had to get up, go to the hall and answer the phone. There was no home delivery pizza or other convenience foods, so we had to cook. Our whole lives were based around movement. Today, it’s perfectly normal for many people to get home, sit down on the sofa and not move again until they head off to bed four or five hours later. They left their home, walked the three metres to their car, drove to the office, parked in the car park, walked the five metres to the lifts, got to their desks, and spend the next eight or nine hours sat down. Then repeated the homeward journey, to spend the evening sat on a sofa. Is it any wonder in the developed world over 60% of people are dangerously overweight and suffering from some form of preventable cardiovascular disease? And that leads me to the final piece in the mix. Diet. Yes, convenience food is often delicious. It’s also quick and can fill a hole instantly. You would think if all I have to do is order something through an app, have it delivered to my door within thirty minutes that would allow me more time to get more stuff done. Well, no. The majority of food we eat today is highly processed, full of sugar and is not satiating. It leaves you craving more which has disastrous effects on your blood sugars. This then leads to spikes in your insulin levels and if repeated over a long period of time will result in you becoming pre-diabetic or full blown diabetic. And diabetes is not a
13 minutes | Nov 14, 2022
How to Bring Real Balance Into Your Life.
This week, we’re looking at building balance into our lives, and I explain why we look at the whole idea of balance the wrong way. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 253 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 253 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. We frequently hear about balancing our lives. Terms like “work/life balance” are bandied around as if it’s something we can achieve. The trouble is, building balanced days and weeks is an elusive goal. There’s simply too much we want to build into our days: Seven to eight hours sleep, quality time with our family, exercise, eight to nine hours of work and time for eating, resting, TV and hobbies. Add all that up and it’s more than twenty-four hours. This week’s question is about how we can build a more balanced life and there is a way, but first we need to dispose of the traditional thinking about what a balanced life is and embrace a different approach. So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question from from Annie. Annie asks, hi Carl, I work a full time job, have two young kids, a husband and a lot of hobbies I want to pursue. The trouble I have is I cannot fit everything I want to do into my schedule. I’ve tried your perfect week idea, but I find I run out of time. Are there any other ways I can try to have a more balanced, less stressful life? Hi Annie, thank you for your question. I was very much in the same boat as you a few years ago. I was trying to build a business, work a full time job, exercise every day and spend quality time with my family and it was impossible. Whenever there was a public holiday, I wanted to work on my own business, but there were family responsibilities that could not be ignored and my regular work days were lengthening. I found myself working well past midnight, and having to wake up at 6 AM to get to my first classes. It was around then I realised that there will always be periods of time when we need to get our heads down and do our work. But these intense periods of work do not last. Take starting a business as an example. If you decide to start your own business, the first thing to get thrown out of the window is the idea of working nine til’ five. That’s a corporate office life concept that does not work when you start your own business. Starting your own business requires a 24/7 commitment. If you’re not working on your business, your brain will be solving problems and coming up with fresh ideas. It’s constant and doesn’t stop. However, that’s when you are in the startup phase. Once you have your business up and running, things slow somewhat. You develop processes for doing your work and you soon start to get your time back. When I first began my YouTube channel, it took me pretty much all day on a Friday to record and edit my videos. Today, I can do the recording and editing in less than three hours. I developed processes. I learned how to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro video editing software and I have systems in place to ensure everything is uploaded quickly and efficiently. What we need to do is to look at time and balance over a longer period. You are not going to balance individual days, everyday. You may be able to balance occasional days, but to do that you would have to almost micro-manage your day, and there are so many things that could torpedo your plans, trying to do this too often will just result in stress and anxiety. For example, Annie, if you are trying to juggle your work, your family, hobbies and other things in your life, you could look at your whole week. Accepting on, say, Tuesday and Thursday you will be focused on work, but you could also make Wednesday and Friday family nights and Mondays could be used for your hobbies. For this to work, you would need to be doing a weekly planning session. It would be during this planning time where you block activities on your calendar for the following week. Having a plan like this then allows you to plan at a deeper level at what you will do. For instance, one of your children may have a swimming lesson on Wednesday evenings. You could block out Wednesday evenings to go to the swimming pool and perhaps add going out for dinner with your kids afterwards. That’s spending quality time with your kids. If you know, you will have time on a Thursday for catching up on work, you would be much more relaxed and present with your kids on a Wednesday. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that there will be periods of time when we need to be completely focused on a project. A project that requires a lot of time and attention over a month or more. In these situations, if you are worried about trying to balance your time, you are introducing a lot of unnecessary stress into your life. Important projects that need lot of focus need time. You cannot rush these things. Introducing stress into the mix is going to harm that focus and will be very unhealthy for you. However, if we look at a period of say three months, and see how balanced those three months were, you are likely to find that you have been pretty balanced. When I analyse my last three months, I’ve worked on two big projects, spent a few days with my family, exercised almost every day and managed a few easy days of rest and relaxation. Those big projects consumed me for around ten days each. They involved a few sixteen hour days and a lot of focus and thinking. But a three month period has around ninety days, so twenty days out of ninety is pretty balanced. In those ninety days, there have been twelve days off (I try to take one day off a week) for you, Annie, you may two days off a week, so that twenty-four days. Most people’s problem with balance is they are looking at things in a too shorter time frame. If you extend the time frame over three or more months, you have a far greater chance of balancing your life. If you look at author, John Grisham’s work and life balance, he will spend around three to six months of the year in intense writing mode. Each day for those three to six months he’s completely consumed with the book he is writing. Once finished and the manuscript is sent to his publishers, he disappears on holiday. For the next few weeks it’s all about rest and relaxation. The great thing about seeking balance over a longer period of time is you feel a lot less stressed and anxious. You know you can allow certain parts of your life to consume you for periods of time. Whether that is work or family related. It also means you can be much more present in the moment, without worrying about what you are not doing. Another concept I’ve looked at in the past is the eight week work cycle. This is where for six weeks you focus all your efforts and attention on working on a specific project and once that has been concluded, you rest for two weeks. During those two weeks you attend to all the things you haven’t put much attention on. Around two years ago, I adopted a quarterly week off. This is where I take the last week of each quarter off. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss. He actually takes two weeks off and travels to a different country or city for the duration of the break. He’s a little stricter than I am in that he comes off the grid entirely. No phone, no internet, just him his thoughts and a notebook. What I’ve noticed is people who have adopted a longer time frame to create balance in their lives get a lot more done and are a lot happier and less stressed. They know there will be time for spending with their family and friends, and when they are with their family and friends they really are with them. Not being physically present but mentally being elsewhere—thinking about work, or a project that is not getting done. In a recent weekly newsletter, I wrote about the time pendulum. In this the needle swings to the left occasionally when you have a lot of work related stuff on your plate. It’s all consuming and needs you attention beyond your regular work hours. However, the pendulum will always swing back towards the right where you get time to rest recuperate. Fighting to keep the pendulum in the middle is a stress you do not need. Acceptance of the intense period of work, knowing that the pendulum will swing back to the right is a welcome way to maintain a reasonably balanced life. There are always going to be periods when your time and attention will be dominated by a single project or event. That’s life. There’s no point in fighting it, you cannot win that battle. However, acceptance, though, relieves you of that stress and you no longer feel like you are in a fight. Instead, you can put all your focus and attention on the task in hand, knowing you will soon have time to rest, recuperate and focus your attention on other areas of your life you feel may be out of balance. Hence the reason why it’s so important to know what your areas of focus are. If you haven’t taken the time to build out your areas of focus, that would be the first thing I would recommend you do. I’ve put a link in the show notes for you to download the areas of focus workbook. I would recommend you give yourself a few days to go through that and build out those eight areas that important to us all. Thank you Annie 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.
13 minutes | Nov 7, 2022
How To Stop Overthinking and Overcomplicating.
This week, we’re looking at how to stop overthinking and over-complicating our lives. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 252 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 252 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. One of the biggest drains on our productivity is over-thinking things. It’s this overthinking that usually leads to overcomplicating our task managers, notes apps and work in general. However, there are a few things we can do that will eliminate the need to think too much about things. One of those, I’ve written and spoken about a lot, and that is in the way we write our tasks. If you write tasks in a haphazard way, you will end with tasks such as a website address with no idea what you need to do, or a single name with no indication what you need to do with that name. Whenever you write a task, you need to have an actionable verb telling you precisely what needs to be done. For instance: “look at this website for design ideas” or “call Jenny about next week’s meeting”. It’s a simple trick that adds, perhaps, a few seconds to writing out the task, but it will save to a lot more than a few seconds when it comes to deciding when you will do the task. It’s surprising how much time we lose when we need to think about what to do and how to do it. It’s when we do that that we discover multiple different ways to do something, and if we are not motivated enough to get whatever needs doing done, we use the excuse to “think about it” as a way to delay doing the task. So, before we get into the depth of this, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Leon. Leon asks, Hi Carl, I’ve been following you for a long time now, and I understand how to set up my system. The problem I have is I feel I waste so much time trying to decide what to do and how to do it. I collect everything in my inbox but then never do most of the things I put there. How do you manage all your tasks? Hi Leon, thank you for your question. When you say, “I waste so much time trying to decide what do and how to do it” I presume that this will be a symptom of how your write your tasks and not being clear on where your priorities are. If we leave writing your tasks out for the moment and look at the decision part, this should be almost automatic. When you know where your priorities are, there will always be a natural hierarchy for the tasks that you do. For instance, if you were a salesperson when at work, your priorities would always be those tasks that risk you gaining a sale. Everything else, no matter how loud the task is—colleagues or bosses screaming at you for an activity report, for example—are not priorities. I know it’s hard to ignore your boss. But if you needed to call your boss about your activity report or a customer asking for further information, your customer is the priority and there shouldn’t even be a debate about it. Remember, you’re a salesperson. Your job is to sell. So, of the two calls; calling your boss or calling the customer, which one is likely to result in a sale? A doctor would never leave a seriously ill patient to answer a question from a manager. Doctors are trained to identify where their priorities are. You need to train yourself to know instinctively where your priorities are. And therein lies the secret to simplifying your work. When you know what your objective is, all you need work out is the fastest way to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Now, it would be very rare for you arrive at a project or task you haven’t done before, or done something similar. A manager having to hire or fire someone will have done that before. The difference is the role you are recruiting for or the person you are firing. However, there will already be a process to achieve these results. Over time you want to be fine-tuning your processes. I understand when you do something for the first time it’s likely to take longer, but as you are doing it you are learning how to do it, and you can fine-tune your process as you go along. The key is the keep focused on your outcome. What are you trying to achieve? Imagine you need to hire a new designer for your design team. Your company will likely already have a recruiting process, and if not, someone within your organisation will have hired someone at some time. Find out how they did it. Open your notes app, and write out a checklist of all the steps you anticipate you will need to do. Once you have your checklist, go through it and look for the shortcuts. When we brainstorm these ideas, we overcompensate. We think of all the little things that likely don’t need doing. Once we have brainstormed what we think needs to be done to achieve our outcome, we should go through the list and eliminate the unnecessary (and obvious tasks). Now, I’ve covered daily and weekly planning numerous times on this podcast, and it is a vital part of making decisions about what to work on. What I’ve noticed is those people who get the importance of daily planning and do it consistently, are the ones who are not overwhelmed or struggling to get their work done. It’s this step back at the end of the day to look at what needs to be done and deciding what you must get done the next day that makes all the difference. It eliminates procrastination at a key part of the day—the start. You know, from the moment you wake up what you will do first. For instance, last night, as I was doing my planning, I identified my next YouTube video needed to be uploaded and scheduled and this podcast script had to be finished before 11:00am. If you look at that sentence, two important words: “needed” and “had” to. There’s no debate. Once my morning routines were finished, I completed the YouTube video and uploaded it, and now I am writing this script. The current time is 9:40am. There’s no question in my mind about whether I will get these two tasks complete before 11 AM. They will be done. This means, right now, my email is off—anything coming in in the next sixty minutes can wait and my phone is on do not disturb. I am focused on the job in hand and anything else can wait until this script is finished. Now, if you have never allowed yourself to be in an environment where you cannot be disturbed by all the digital noise in our lives, you will find working in this focused way very uncomfortable. But the discomfort is temporary. When you know what’s on your calendar, and you know what needs to be done before your first commitment of the day, you will be relaxed and focused on the job in hand. The worst thing you can do is to look at your task list first thing in the morning and try to decide what to work on. This will inevitably lead to procrastination and you waste so much time trying to decide, that very little of your important work will get done before you have to attend to your first appointment or the noise coming in from your phone or email. Now here’s a quick tip for you. Do this planning on a weekend as well. On a weekend we do not need to be as meticulous, but it’s a very powerful way to make sure that the things you want to do in your personal life get done. For example, if you decide on Friday night that tomorrow you will wash the car, there is a greater chance you will do it without hesitation. Equally, you may decide that Sunday morning, you will take your kids out for a bike ride or a walk in the park. Make those decision before you end the day. When you wake up, you will be focused on getting your kids ready and won’t be looking for excuses not to do it. Finally, how are you writing your tasks, Leon? David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says: when you write a task in your task manager write it for your dumb self. What he means is, if you write out a task such as: “mum birthday”, that tells you nothing about what you need to do. All it tells you us your mum has a birthday. Instead, what do you need to do about your mum’s birthday? Do you need to organise a family dinner? Buy her a present? Or something else? Make sure when you write a task like this you include what you need to do. For instance, “Call my brother and sister to organise a family dinner for mum’s birthday”. Sure, it will take a few extra seconds to write a full task, but doing so will save you so much time later when you come to doing the task. You won’t be wasting time trying to remember what you need to do. When you next do your weekly planning session, go through your tasks and make sure they are written out in a way that makes immediate sense to you. If you are like most people there will be a lot of tasks that have been in your task manager for a long time. If they are not written out in a way you would immediate know what to do, either rewrite the task or delete it altogether. That one trick will turn your task manager from a hodge podge of random tasks into a set of meaningful activities you can do something with without trying to remember what needs doing. A way to remember this to make sure you have an active verb in your task. If there’s no active verb, it does not belong in your task manager. I hope that has helped, Leon. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all very very productive week.
13 minutes | Oct 31, 2022
How To Manage Your Digital Files
How best to organise all your files, documents and articles? That’s what we’re looking at this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 251 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 251 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. Over the years, we have seen a lot of wonderful ways to organise our stuff. Elaborate notebook and tag structures in Evernote, Complex folders on our computers organising every facet of our lives. And all that’s great. It’s a fantastic way to get things organised and gives us the motivation to clear out our stuff—which is no bad thing. We do collect too much stuff anyway. However, are all these wonderful organisation methods the best use of our time? You see, getting all our stuff organised is a great idea, but that’s a one-time task that may take a few days or even weeks, but long-term we have to maintain this new structure and therein lies two problems. The first is it will take time for you to develop the natural muscle memory to move stuff to their rightful place, and in my experience, most people have enough on their plates as it is. And secondly, the deeper the organisation structure you build the longer it will take to move the stuff you collect in the future—which will mean you won’t do it. After all, you likely don’t have a great deal of free time as it is, so adding a new process that takes time is not going to solve any problems. So what can we do? Well there are a few things you can do and that is what we will look at this week. However, before we do that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Janine. Janine asks: Hi Carl, I am a professor at a large hospital and I not only have patients to see, I also teach. On top of that, I need to stay up to date with the latest research. This means I have a lot of papers to read, review and study. I really struggle to keep all these things organised and wondered if you have any tips and tricks that might help. Hi Janine, thank you for your question. This is the dilemma that has been creeping up on us over the last ten to fifteen years. More and more digital stuff has been replacing what typically would have been paper. I remember in the late 1990s, I had a filing cabinet in my study that held all the important papers and documents I needed to keep. My car and house insurance, a file folder for gas, electric and water bills as well as bank and credit card statements oh, and a place to keep my running magazines and Law Society Gazette. And because if I didn’t file these papers away almost immediately, they would be left sitting on the dining table, there was a constant reminder that these papers and documents needed to be filed. Today, most of these documents are now online or in digital format. I don’t get bank or credit card statements through the post anymore. They are all digital. I no longer have a filing cabinet in my office. I am now largely paperless—save for documents such as my passport, residency permit papers and such like. I can keep all these important documents in a single drawer in my office. However, the problem isn’t really just about these important documents. The problem now is we receive so much more digital clutter than we ever received paper. Largely because it is so much cheaper and easier to send out a digital document than a paper one, we get exponentially more digital stuff. So, how do we manage all this stuff. First I would recommend you establish some basic rules. Don’t put files and documents in your notes app. Over time, this will slow down your notes app. It’s far better to put receipts, documents—such as your medical and teaching documents—into dedicated folders in the cloud. Now it doesn’t matter whether you use Google Drive, Microsoft OneNote, Dropbox or iCloud. What matters is how you structure your folders. My structure is based around the work I do. For instance, I have a folder for my Online courses, YouTube, and Company documentation, which includes my receipts. Inside those folders the relevant parts are added as sub-folders. For example, inside my company folder, I have all the company registration documents, invoices I need to keep for my accountant, salaries and other such administrative documents. These are inside appropriately titled folders. For you, Janine, you would structure your folders as Medical and Teaching and then inside of those folders you would have the different areas. For instance, you would keep documents related to the different subject matters you teach inside your teaching folder under their relevant topic. Now one piece of advice I would give you here is to try where possible to use your computer system’s drive. For example, if you are using a Windows computer, use OneDrive or if you are using Apple’s OS, use iCloud. The reason for this anything on OneDrive will be searchable through your computer. Similarly, anything in iCloud will be searchable through Apple’s Spotlight search tool. I know that is not always possible, but where it is. Stick with your computer’s system cloud storage system. It will just make your life a little bit easier. Now, before we go any further, what about all your articles that need to be read (or you want to read). Use a read later service such as Instapaper or Pocket. One of the downsides to being able to save articles we see on the web is we save articles into our notes apps and then never read them. Often I see people saving these articles into a “read later” folder in their notes and then never go in there to read those articles. Soon they have hundreds of articles saved that never get read and just clutter up your notes app. Use Instapaper or Pocket to filter out articles you will never read. My system is simple. Any article I want to read, I will send to Instapaper and then, only after reading it, if Want to keep it for future reference, I will then send it to my notes app. One thing that has happened over the last five years is Microsoft, Apple and Google have realised we are terrible at organising our stuff. For years these companies left it to us to organise our stuff how we want to and we failed. I know some people have created good, clean organisation, but most people haven’t. Just look around your colleagues’ desktops. They are full of documents, PDFs, Presentation files and so on. Unfortunately, what happens then is we waste time searching for something we need. So, Apple, Microsoft and Google have started to take that responsibility away from us and have developed excellent search tools. Apple’s Spotlight for instance, will search iCloud for any document I have with a keyword, date range or type of document. It doesn’t mater whether I am on my phone, MacBook or iPad. It will find those documents. This means, once you get comfortable with how the system search works on your device, the only responsibility you have is to make sure the title of your document is something you will find. For that I would suggest you create a format you use for all your documents. To give you an example, I use the same file naming convention for all my documents. This is The date to document was created or downloaded, the type of document. That could be invoice, receipt, or company I am creating a presentation for. And then the title. What this does is helps me to quickly find what I am looking for directly from Spotlight. For instance, if I need to find a presentation file for a presentation I did for a company last year, All I need do is type the company name into Spotlight and I will see from the list of results what I am looking for. I can see the date, so I know I am choosing the right document and I know it is a presentation. Another thing that Google, Apple and Microsoft have done in recent years is to keep like documents together. This means if you have an Excel file, you can keep it inside Excel. Now the document itself is kept in OneDrive, but when you open Excel, you will see all your documents in one place. Google does this with its Docs, Sheets and Slides and Apple does this with Pages, Keynote and Numbers. At first I resisted this sticking to my old-fashioned ways of moving these documents to separate folders. However, over the years I’ve trusted Apple to organise these for me and it’s so much easier. If I am looking for a Keynote file, all I need do is open Keynote and I can quickly find the file from the start menu. Google is even better at this, if someone shares a Google Doc with me and I open it, it automatically gets stored in my Google Docs folder. What I’ve learned over the last few years is don’t fight the system. All these companies are making it easier for us to find out stuff. If we stubbornly stick to our old ways we are making it harder for us to do our work productively. If we allow our computers to worry about how we organise things, we are saving ourselves a lot of time. We don’t need elaborate organisation systems anymore. All you need is a loose folder structure that covers the different areas of our lives. This will help to keep things neat and tidy. Apart from that, let your devices worry about the organisation and start trusting your computer’s system to find what you need. Incidentally, this also applies to email. In the past I’ve had a lot of complex folder structures. Now, all I have is four folders: An inbox, an Action This Day folder for emails that need some form of action from me, an Archive for stuff I may need later and the trash. Tha
14 minutes | Oct 24, 2022
How To Fit Goals Into An Already Busy Schedule
This week’s podcast answers the question: where do goals fit into a task manager? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 250 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 250 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. We are told that setting goals for yourself is important, and, yes, I would agree with that. But the question is, once you have set yourself some goals, where do the activities you need to perform come in? If you are already close to your limit in terms of what you can do each day, how will you find time to add more stuff? Now I think of goals as milestones on the road of a much longer journey. The destination of that journey is the same for all of us: death. Sorry to be so melodramatic, but that is true. Nobody gets out of life alive. It’s a very predictable end. The good news here is that we all have a degree of flexibility and freedom to choose what road we take. The difficulty we face is there is so much choice. So many paths we could take and trying to decide which path to follow is scary. Which is why it is all too easy to make no choice and just follow the ebbs and flows that life throws at us—which unless you are extremely lucky is not going to lead to a fulfilled and happy life. So, this week, I will share with you ways you can build your goals into your daily life so they become less of a task to be completed each day and more of just something you do, because that is who you are and what you do. So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Adrian. Adrian asks; Hi Carl, I recently saw that you opened a new course on goal setting. I would love to have some goals, but I just don’t have the time to fit them in. I’m sure I’m not alone with this dilemma. Do you have any tips on fitting goals into an already busy life? Hi Adrian, thank you for your question. You are right to be concerned about adding more stuff you an already busy day, but there is a difference with tasks or activities related to our goals. Goals are not something you do, and once complete or accomplished; you stop doing. A goal’s purpose is the create change. Once that change has happened, you don’t want to be returning to where you were before you started the goal. That would not be a clever move. I remember in my twenties, many of my friends (and myself, I have to admit) would hit the gym in the spring and try to lose our ‘winter weight’ ready for the summer holidays so we could strut confidently up and down the beach. Once the summer was over, we’d pile the weight back on. Looking back now, I can see how ridiculous this form of yoyo dieting and exercise was. Now I am older (and allegedly wiser), getting into shape should not be something you do for a particular time of the year; it should be an ongoing thing. Keeping your weight down and exercising regularly is a necessity if you want to enjoy a robust, healthy life. So, today, I am careful about what I eat—no refined carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I also exercise pretty much every day, whether that is a session in the gym, a run or a gentle walk with my dog. It no longer feels like a task. Spending an hour on exercise is an investment in my future. It’s built into my daily schedule, and I use it as a break from sitting at my desk all day doing work. I see exercise as something that assists my productivity rather than as something that needs to be done. The same applies to financial goals. If you’ve read Dave Ramsey’s book; Total Money Makeover, he gives you five strategies to build a safe and healthy financial plan for you and your family. None of those strategies involves a lot of work. For instance, paying down your debts is a single action each month. Once you get paid, you use a percentage of your salary to pay down one of your debts. Equally, a second strategy is to build an emergency fund that would cover your expenses for a given amount of time if you were to lose your job. For something like this, it’s simply putting a little money aside each month into a savings account. That would be around five minutes a month (or less if you were to automate the payment) The goal here, for example, maybe to clear all your debts over the next three years. That’s a simple task. You send money to the debt each month until it is clear. You have a timeline (three years), and you have an action (send money somewhere). However, the bigger goal here is to change your behaviour from one of spending to one of saving. Once that becomes a behaviour, it is not something you ever need to think about again. You just do it as part of who you are. When you set a goal, whatever that goal may be, there is an initial stage where you need to be consciously taking an action. That stage will usually last around a month or two. Once you have been consistently taking action on your goal for that time, you find it becomes something you automatically do. For instance, today, I know I will be going to the gym at 2:30pm. This means when I planned today, I knew I had around three hours of focused work plus a couple of meetings before I needed to go to the gym. That gym time has given me structure to my day. I know when my calls are, and I know what focused work needs to be done before I go to the gym. I have a purpose from the moment I wake up. The way to look at a goal is to treat it as a waypoint. It tells you that you are moving in the right direction. I use fitness goals to make sure I don’t go stale. The habit of exercise is built into who I am. I am a person who exercises every day. However, like most people, I can quite easily become bored with doing the same thing over and over again, so I set fitness goals every three months. These could be to run a certain distance or to run a half marathon in under two hours. Alternatively, I might decide to focus on strength for three months and set a target weight to bench press or squat. I mix it up depending on the season. I use the goals to give me focus and direction. If you were to set a goal to complete a master's degree, what would be the behaviour or habit you need to develop? It would be to spend some time each day studying. The habit of working on your own self-development (an area of focus) should already be something you are doing. Whether that is spending thirty to sixty minutes a day learning something new or being more focused and setting yourself some study days each week doesn’t matter. Developing yourself by learning means you are growing mentally. Something important if you want to feel fulfilled and accomplished. So the goal to complete a master's degree becomes the waypoint—the signpost—to give you something to focus on and to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You see, the real reason why we need to set goals is to prevent us from stagnating. Whether we like it or not, the world is constantly changing. It’s changing around us and we either change or we will get left behind. During my time teaching English, I worked with many middle management people who refused to learn the new technologies that emerged from the smartphone revolution. Within five years, they were trapped in middle management no-mans land. They were passed over for promotion, and rather than staying where they were, their jobs were downgraded or removed altogether. They had become too comfortable with the way things were and resisted the changes that were happening around them. The onus is on us to make sure we have time to learn new things. To stay ahead and to keep pushing our boundaries, so we continue to grow. The good news is the world changes at a slow pace. We can change at a faster pace, and that’s where goals help us. They pull us towards changing ourselves for the better. Now one tip I would give you here is to not set too many goals all at once. The way to use goals is to step back and look at your life as a whole. Where do you feel you need to improve? Are your skills giving you an advantage in the workplace? How is your health? Are you moving towards the vision you have for yourself in the next ten to twenty years? What do you need to change in order to feel more fulfilled in life and work? To set strong, motivating goals, you need to do quite a lot of self-reflection. You need to find people who are already doing what you want to do and research them—a kind of healthy cyberstalking. Find out what they did to get where they are and see what changes you can make to follow a similar pathway. We are building a life, and a big part of the pleasure we get is the journey to achieving that life. The goals you set form part of that journey; they ensure you are moving along the right path and tell you when you need to adjust your direction. The old phrase: “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again” is very apt when goal setting. There will be a lot of failures. A lot of adjusting, and with that you learn so much more about you. I remember a few years ago I decided to do Robin Sharma’s 5AM club. I loved the idea of waking up early and having a series of activities that were dedicated to me and no one else. And for eighteen months I was pretty consistent with it. However, as my coaching practice developed I found myself working alter and later into the evening and it came to a point where waking up at 5AM was no longer practical. For a few weeks I fought on, but in the end I “failed” to maintain the consistency. I reviewed the goal and realised that
13 minutes | Oct 17, 2022
To Multi-Task or Not To Multi-Task?
This week, it’s all about multiple projects and tasks—all in one day. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course 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 249 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 249 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 do you manage running a new business, or even running your own department with multiple things happening each day and projects that need to be got off the ground, or maintained. It a real challenge and leave you feeling exhausted, and more importantly, stressed out about what you may or may not have done. This is one of the many reasons why getting yourself organised and being consistent with your daily and weekly planning is so important. It’s this planning that gives you an edge. It elevates you above the fray and keeps you focused on the bigger picture. Without a plan for the week, you will inevitably get sucked into the daily churn of low and high important tasks. It will feel endless and it doesn’t lead to a great outcome. Sure, you may have a reasonably successful business or department, but you, as an individual, will be exhausted, tired and stressed out and that leads to poor decision making and mistakes. Now, before we get into the question, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I have just launched my latest mini-course. The Goal Setting course will give you a blueprint to build the life you want to live by developing the vision of what you want, and then using goals to make sure you are moving along the right pathway. It’s an exciting course that will inspire you to grow, develop and start making the changes you need to make to become the person you want to be. Full details of this mini-course will be in the show notes. Now, on with this show and that means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Cara. Cara asks: Hi Carl, I run a growing start up business and have found managing multiple tasks and projects each day is a real pain point. How would you suggest we manage multi-tasking to keep the business running and developing new projects? Hi Cara, thank you for your question. Now, we better first deal with the concept of “multi-tasking”. Straight up, don’t ever do it. Or rather try to do it. It’s impossible, never works and only leads to mistakes which will need correcting later. Slow down. There is more than enough time each day to work on the important things. You don’t have to do everything in one day. I know our minds are telling us it has to be done today, but really? Does it? When you step back, take a breath and look at what you have on your list of things to do, you will see that many of those tasks don’t really need to be done today. It might be nice to be able to do them, but it would not be the end of your business if you rescheduled the less important tasks to later in the week. Now, there’s a good reason for rescheduling less important things to later in the week and that is most of these will not need doing anyway. They are what I call “reactive” tasks. Tasks that seem important right now, but with a little time resolve themselves and can be discarded. I’m reminded of a story about former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who would put aside his letters and memos for ten days before reading them. What he found was 90% of the issues resolved themselves and the remaining 10% was where he needed to put his attention. Now, in today’s world things move a lot faster than they did in the 1980s, but the principle still remains, most of what comes into our inboxes will resolve themselves, there is no need to rush. You can put aside most issues for twenty-four to forty-eight hours without any problems. When you do come to them, it’s likely many of them will have resolved themselves. I’m always surprised at how many emails I get asking a question, only to find an hour later the same person writes to tell me they’ve resolved the issue. That taught me to slow down and not rush into a response. Of course, there are some issues that do need dealing with straight away. But most don’t. Learn to slow down. You will thank yourself for that later. Now, I mentioned in the opening about the importance of planning. Planning is the key to staying on top of everything being thrown at you. You need some time each day and week to step back and evaluate what is important. What needs to get done about all else. For instance, last week, my priority was to launch my Goal Setting course. I still had my core work to do—content and coaching client feedback—but aside from that work, my priority last week was launching the course. Now, this was not the first course I have launched, so I have a process for launching courses. However, that process still requires a lot of time. This meant, each day last week, I made sure my core work was done early. For instance, on Monday, when I wrote the blog post, I started my day by getting that written. Once that was written, I blocked out two hours to work on the course. For those of you who don’t know, your core work is your most important work—the work you are employed to do. If you are a salesperson, your core work is any activity that results in a sale. If you are an analyst, your core work is any activity that involves analysing. Everything else (email replies, meetings and admin work) is secondary to that. When I finished each day, I gave myself ten minutes to go through my task list to see what I had on for the next day and prioritised two things: my core work and the course. I then looked at my calendar to see where I could fit those tasks in. This month I have two courses to work on. That’s unusual, not only do I need to launch my Goal Setting mini-course, but I also need to work on the update to my Apple Productivity course. It would be easy to stress myself about the Apple Productivity course, but what’s the point? I can only work on one course at a time, so the only question is which one do I work on tomorrow? Now that the goals setting course is launched, I can turn my attention to updating my Apple Productivity course. My work is much more manageable and realistic. If I had tried to do both at the same time, I would be stressed out and inevitably make a lot of mistakes that will need to be resolved later. The key is to focus on one project at a time. Of course, you may have multiple projects going on at the same time, but given that you cannot work effectively on two or more projects at the same time, you need to decide, at a weekly level, which projects you will focus on that week. One thing that has worked for me, is to allocate time each week for certain activities. I also know a lot of business founders have also found this method effective. That is to block time out each day of the week for certain activities. For instance, email and communications. These come in every day and it’s unlikely you will be able to stop them. This means, you need time each day for managing your communications. For me, I need around forty minutes a day to stay on top of my communications. So, I have a one hour block each day between 7 and 8pm for responding to my actionable messages. Find an appropriate time in the day and block it out on your calendar for managing your email. Other activities you need to do regularly, for example, prospecting, accounting, admin and your personal life need time allocating to them. You could dedicate Mondays to prospecting, Tuesdays to admin and Fridays to accounting. Wednesday and Thursday could be dedicated to project work. Knowing you have time allocated to prospecting, admin and accounting leaves you feeling less stressed and it makes it easier to decide when you will do something. I would add, that it helps to keep one day each week as free as possible for catching up when you have fallen behind with something.This is one of those inevitable things in life that our carefully laid out plans will get disrupted by an emergency. Knowing you have a reasonably free day later in the week for catching up helps to keep ion track with the things we need to do. Finally, as a start-up business everything will be new and so you won’t have any settled processes in place. It’s important to be looking for the process for doing your work. I have a number of admin tasks to do each day. When I first began collecting the information, it would take me around ninety minutes each day. I focused on building the process and now, three or four years later, I still have the same admin tasks to do, but it takes me around twenty minutes to do. Because I have settled processes, I know how to start, where to look for the information and can do the work in a lot less time. If your projects are similar in nature—in my case creating or updating courses—you can develop checklists and processes there too. This makes doing project work a lot easier. You know where to start, have a reasonably good idea how long each part will take and you can build that time into your calendar. Essentially, it all boils down to giving yourself time each day and each week to look at what needs to be done and planning out when you will do the work. If you are not planning out when the work will get done, your brain will convince you that you don’t have sufficient time—when you do—and that’s where stress and anxiety will come from. Make sure you are planning the week. Identifying which project, or projects, you will work on each week. On a daily level, give yourself ten to fifteen minutes