Join us live each week at www.productivity.academy/live and get your questions answered by submitting them at any time right here: www.productivity.academy/questions. You can watch the video for the past episode recorded on August 16th, 2018 above, or you can review the transcript below.
In this episode we talked about:
- Issues with focusing, what can we do to get better about blocking distractions and being more focused on the task at hand?
- How do I learn to manage my time efficiently?
- How do I make my day more productive?
To find recommended tools and other great resources, check out the Productivity Academy Resource Toolkit: https://productivity.academy/resources
Welcome to the Real World Productivity Growth Live Q and A number 48. So, getting close to 50, which is awesome. So, what is it, 52 weeks in a year so we’re approaching a year. I think I’ve had a few weeks off though. Real quick though, if you’re watching for the first time, thanks for joining. If you’re live in the group, you can leave a comment, and I’ll see that below. I’ll be checking back and forth as we go through some questions here, but today what we’re going to be talking about … We’ve had a lot of questions recently with focusing in different areas. So, I’m going to talk about a couple ways to deal with that as far as whether it’s focusing on a project, focusing when you have too many tasks or how do you deal with a lot of input.
A couple areas like that. I think there’s discussion behind that, that’s important, that can help in any situation. And then if there’s questions about specifics as far as like, “Okay, on a specific project, and this type of a situation.” We kind of move into that if there’s follow up questions. Additionally, question was, “How do I learn to manage my time efficiently?” A little bit differently than focusing. I think that’s a good one. And then the last question I have for today was, “How do I make my day more productive?” And I’ve got my good answer for that.
But real quick before we get into it, I just again wanted to welcome you for watching and say, if you’re not watching this live, you can find the link below and come join us in the group. It’s free to join. Always looking for more people interested in productivity, processes, automation. You do have to answer a few questions to get into the group. I want to make sure you’re serious about joining and want to be around other people who enjoy this topic as well. And if you’re watching on YouTube and that’s your thing, then you’re watching the replay, which is awesome, and you can just click on subscribe, and you get notified of new updates. Obviously with the new live or replays of the Q and A and then app updates, reviews, things like that. So, let’s get into it.
The first questions we had. A lot of people have been talking about focusing in the group. And so, it’s talking … One of these questions was like, “What’s your biggest problem? What’s your big hold up right now in terms of frustration and productivity?” And so, some answer along the lines of staying focused when there’s a lot of things distracting me. Too much to do, product management, just having a lot of these distractions. So, I’ve talked about this before, but I think that this is kind of an overarching thing, right? We all have a lot going on. Either we’ve got our phones, you’ve got a laptop, you’ve got a computer, you’ve got dings going off in the background. You’ve got noises. There’s so much going on, and I think a lot of this just has to do with being proactive and planning.
So, I’m going to talk first about just the environmental aspect of this and again, you have to apply this to your specific situation. I can turn my phone upside or put it in the other room or turn it off. If you have to be … You know, you’re responsible for answering a phone call or something like that, then that may not work. But you can generally look around you and start to really pare down these distractions. You know, is there a TV in the background? Can you turn that off? Can you mute things? Can you wear headphones? You know, depending on where you are at work. I used to do that when I was an engineer, and I talked to my manager and said, “Hey, it’s really noisy around here at times. I’d really like to focus. I’m not goofing off. I’m listening to some music that’s helping me concentrate when I work. I want to kind of dive into these spreadsheets and this is really helpful to me.
If somebody needs me that’s fine, they can come tap me on my shoulder, and we’ll go from there. So, being proactive about this and realizing what you’re in control of and a lot of times you’re in control of more than you think you are. So, take that time to do that. So that’s the environmental side of things. On the problem with having too many tasks. I know a lot of times you get to the end of the day and you’ve still got tasks on your task list. You’ve got input coming from all over the place. You’ve got post-it notes or somebody dropping stuff off at your desk or people pinging you on Skype. A lot of these you can take the same approach. That’s why you develop the system that you do to deal with these.
Mine happens to be with doing the daily review. In fact, I kind of do it twice, but I do it differently. So, I’m going to go through this really quick because I talk about doing a daily review a lot. In the morning, I go through and I gather all that information. You know, did somebody ping me on Skype when I was working? And I’m not going to lie and say I never break my concentration and get that or answer or look at it. But a lot of times if I’m in a work block I try and I’m getting better about ignoring that because it’s not the world is burning, the business blew up or something. It’s never that. It’s always something that can be done later.
So, I’ll gather all that type of information. Maybe I scribble the note to myself, or I’ve got some stuff in my various systems. Maybe I wrote myself a quick note or snapped a picture in Evernote the other day or after work and so I get all that stuff together and I deal with it. What’s the next action on it, where’s it need to go, and deal with that in the morning. I think that a lot of people … If you start doing that and you build that habit, that that clears out a lot of these things, but you still have things coming in all the time. So, how do you deal with that? Well, you just get used to using that system. Definitely starting with one place to put your incoming data. Maybe somebody sent you an email, but I highly do not suggest working out of your email. So, how do you deal with that? Well, you could… Let’s say you’re using Todoist or a notebook. You could write, “Okay, I need to respond to the email from Tim about such and such by blah blah blah.”
For myself, since I use Gmail, I use automation to do this. If I go in and when it’s the couple times a day I’m checking my email and I’m clearing it out and I see that there’s something important that I need to do, but it’s not right now important, then I click on the little star in there and then there’s an automation that takes place using a service called If This Then That. And that goes into my Todoist so that I can deal with that appropriately at a later time. So, it’s important enough to put into my system, but it’s not like, I’ve got to act on it right now, which is 99% of the stuff. And I’ll include a link to that. I think I have an article about that. It’s handy one. It’s a great way to help you move through your email. If it works for you that’s great. I find it really useful.
And then applying this in other ways, you know if you have a lot of tabs open or you have all this information, it’s just getting used to collecting it and dealing with it. And there’s a lot of forms that that takes but you know, I realize that saying tabs open sounds weird but that’s one I hear a lot too, is you know, I’ve got a jillion tabs and I need all this information. Well, I would go through at the end of your day, and you can say, “Okay, of all the things I have open, or all the reference material I have, what do I truly need?” And you can pop that into a task, whether that’s like a folder in Todoist, maybe it’s in Evernote that you create or something like that and pair it down. Because a lot of times you don’t need all the information you think you do. Or you can safely store it somewhere and then maybe every 30 days you clear out that area. Like you have your reference file or something.
So, hopefully, that helps. Again, I highly recommend doing the daily review and then having kind of a shorter but also important end of day review where you just do a quick clean out of everything, organize those loose items, check out your calendar for the next day and kind of set yourself up for success and kind of have a shut down, where you say, “Okay, you know what, I’m actually done.” It could just take a few minutes but that way, you can walk away and you know you’re done, your brain knows your done, and you’ve gotten rid of all those loose ends that might be bothering you and seeing what’s coming up tomorrow so you’re not getting sideswiped.
Okay, so for the next one, “How do I learn to manage my time efficiently?” I think this is a good question and the first step is asking that question. How do I learn to manage my time efficiently? And I will say that the stepping off point for this is to actually start logging your time and understand how you’re using your time. This is a really tough practice, which maybe people don’t want to hear. This is for me one of the hardest things I think I’ve done in terms of productivity is to try to real track and be accurate with yourself, or honest but the payoff is huge. Because it’s immediately obvious where you can save time when you could get better results in less time, where you could automate things, so it’s great.
I will say it’s tough but just get a piece of paper, I find is the easiest, so it’s always in front of you or on you in your pocket or something, and break your day into half hours. You could do the whole 24 hours, however you want to do it. And I do recommend doing hour entire day. Try to do this for two to three days, if possible a week. If you can get through a full day and be honest with yourself that’s going to pay off a lot. It’s kind of the 80/20 rule here. Get as much data as you can but don’t kill yourself doing it because this is something you should probably do once or twice a year, I think. Go through and do that. So, just every half an hour, you can add to do it, or maybe once or twice a day. Not once a day, more often than that, but a few times throughout the day go back and fill it out.
This shouldn’t take over your day. It should just take five or ten seconds to write out, “Okay, over the past hour or two, what have I been doing?” On a 30 minute, roughly basis. And so, what you’re going to see is if you’re honest with yourself, what have you been doing? If you were working on project A, but you checked Facebook twice, put that in there. If you took a lunch and you went for a walk, put that in there. When did you do it? Scribble down notes. This isn’t … No one’s going to see this. But that’s what going to do is let you be honest with yourself and see how efficiently you are using your time. And then how you can start structuring it more effectively and this goes into a whole nother topic that I think is also important but how you then make yourself more productive and efficient but the very first step to this is understanding how you’re using your time because that’s going to open up the door to some really big possibility because I guarantee you, you’ll see, “Oh, obviously that is the very place that I can make the first change and have a really big result.” And then start optimizing from there.
Hopefully, that’s helpful. And for the last question today, “How do I make my day more productive?” Good question and I think that this goes back to what I think you should always do. You should always do a morning review. That just includes gathering all of your loose items and then having a place to put those, so aTodoist, Focuster, Evernote, whatever your tool is that you fit in. This is your framework that you want to use, is having one place that everything should go and then collecting everything and then you’re going to look at your calendar and then start planning out your day as you batch tasks together like for maybe work, different businesses, or different projects, and then prioritizing those. And saying, “Okay, what is truly the most important? How do these align with my goals?” And then start knocking them out as you go.
It’s up to you how you do that. I can certainly share some time with exactly how I do mine, but I find that once you have the general idea, you can customize it a little bit and maybe look at your calendar first and then look at certain tasks and then plan your day. However, it works best for you. But I think that having that process in place is one of the first steps to making your day more productive and then everything else kind of falls out of that. We could give tips like, don’t check your email except for at lunch and at the end of the day or something, but if you’re not doing the planning and the process stuff before that, I find that a lot of these little tips won’t help as much as having the bigger picture in mind. Planning for your day, being in control of where your information is, where it’s coming from, and then you can go through and start optimizing these other things like working with big-time blocks instead of being really fractured and splitting your time and your mental energy.
Hopefully, that was helpful. If you have any feedback or anything, of course just leave a comment and if you want to come comment or watch live you can join the group below and again, if you’re watching the replay, you hit subscribe and stay up to date with Q and As, app reviews and everything else. So, thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.