Productivity Academy Live Q&A February 7th, 2018


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Hello, this is Adam with Productivity Academy. Today is the 7th of February 2018, and we are gonna get into this live Q&A in just a second. First of all, if you haven’t checked it out, link is available, you can check it out, for the guidebook. Highly suggest you check it out if you’re looking for a starting point, a good foundation upon which to build your productivity, time management skills, all of that good stuff. Go check that out. Really wanna help everyone achieve that same base level, and then build upon that with processes and systems and all that stuff you need to really kind of take things up a notch. Also, if you haven’t joined us in the real world productivity group where I’m talking right now, please do so. The link is also available. Come join us and get some questions answered about productivity, apps, time management, what-have-you, and join other people who are interested in doing the same thing.

Today we’ve got some great questions. First one is gonna be about not really having a system. You have no system for your productivity or time management problems. We’ve got a question about maximizing, being productive in school and then also in creativity, kind of free time. Getting faster just at doing things, and then, what’s my trick for being productive? With that said, I’ll also be monitoring … If you see my eyes darting over here, I’m gonna be looking for comments on the page. We’ve got some members asking some live questions, I’ll take those as well as the questions that were asked ahead of time.

Real quick too, wanted to say, reading some really interesting books right now. I don’t have one of them in front of me. One of them’s called Traction. Good book. I know it came out several years ago, somehow I missed that. It’s a good business book. It’s got a lot about process and how you go about putting this cohesive unit, which is a business, together and making it and optimizing it. That’s been good. And then I’m reading through this one right now. This is Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems. So getting into that, and if that proves to be helpful, definitely share my thoughts on that. Maybe a slight book review. Should you read it, or should I just condense it for you and let you know?

So, let’s get into the first question, which was … you know, I ask people a lot, “What’s your biggest problem in terms of productivity or time management?” And somebody said that they have no system, so I would agree, that’s definitely a problem, because even a system could be, “I sit down and look through my notes in the morning.” At least that’s the beginning of a system, right? It’s not very complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have absolutely no system, then the first place to start, is to start. What I would say is to do daily review. Set a time each day, and set up yourself a reminder. Doesn’t matter how you do it. I recommend using either Todoist or Focuster right now, as a to-do app, and you can set a reminder, or if you just wanna use your phone and set a daily alarm that maybe says, “Do daily review,” and then have it written out, either on that app, which is why it’s handy to use apps, or maybe you have a sticky note you write down, you start with and you put it wherever it is you work at your computer, at your desk, whatever it is.

And what is it you’re reviewing? In general, you wanna look through your calendar. You wanna collect any loose notes. This is especially obviously if you work at a desk, and handle anything that’s like extraneous information. I suggest not really dealing with emails, but if that’s part of your job and you have to deal with emails, do that. Who do you need to respond to? You get all of that together, and you basically batch it. What goes together? Lump it together. You’ve got project A, project B, project C. Get that stuff together and then prioritize it. Which is truly important? Not, “What’s the most urgent? What does somebody want me to do right now?” What is really important to get done? That gets put at the top, second, third, and so on.

Then I would suggest that that’s not the end. That’s very important that you do that. If you don’t have a system and you’re just now implementing this, set one more alert, alarm, reminder, whatever it is, and block it out in your calendar for one hour a week. What you’re gonna do during that hour during the week is go over what you’ve done and what you’re doing in terms of your daily review or your system, whatever it ends up being for you. What’s working? Can you add to it? Should you add to it? What’s not working? Should you take something out of it? Things like that. What are your big ones? What is it doing for you? And then, how can you create systems that work better for you? Maybe you start out and you’re using a post-it, and if that works, that’s great. Maybe you’ve found that about two times a week you lose the post-it or it gets thrown away or it gets covered up and you don’t use it. Come up with a better solution. Is it using an app? Is it using your phone? You may be checking out Evernote. Which reminds me, just had a really good interview. The podcast will be out, I believe, later this month, with Charles Bird and Evernote.

So anyways, just keep that in your mind. But that one hour, back to this process, is really, really important, and if you have to squeeze it down, you’re busy, you don’t have the time for it in terms of a schedule, then 30 minutes, but really I think putting an hour there would work. To start with, you’re gonna have to make yourself do it, which is why I suggest using reminders. Get yourself in the habit, and help yourself. Don’t just say, “I’m going to do this once a week.” Put it in your calendar. Set a reminder, and it’ll get done. I think that that’s a good starting point if you have no system, and then as a followup to that, hop back in and ask more questions. I’d be happy to go over your routine with you. What is your process? And then, how can you improve on that and go through that?

Which is, I think, really interesting to do and especially for yourself, it’s great to look over your process during that hour, and take a step back and look at it, and say, “Is there really working for me? Where can I improve it?” Most people won’t ever do that, and that pays for itself many times over. You’ll start to identify things that you can do better and then maybe use part of that time and look at other people’s systems. Ask me. Ask someone else, “How do you do it?” And you’ll find out a lot of really useful information.

Next question. “What is something you’ve learned to maximize your productivity? I want to be more productive in what I do for school, and what I do creatively for myself.” This is something that I’ve learned, I didn’t always do this, was sitting down … and when I work in a time block, which I generally try to do, so I’m not just scattered all over the place, let’s say a minimum of one hour where I’m gonna sit down and attack either a project, a subject, or anything. I write down goals. I take five minutes. Maybe if it’s a big project, it’s ongoing, I review my notes from the last time, and then I write down, what are the actual things I wanna accomplish? Being realistic. If I have an hour, it may be one or two things. If I have more time, more or less, but very specific things. What is it that I’m trying to do?

So for a project, it may be, “Write three email drafts. Add two images to a blog post.” And then something else. But that’s what I mean. Be specific, and be upfront about what it is you’re trying to do. Not only does this help get your head into that space where you’re working on that project because you probably transitioned from something else, you’re also then kind of prepping yourself for, “Okay, this is what I’m gonna do.” Instead of just being kind of like, “Well, I’m gonna go do things you’re related to this project,” you’re setting these concrete goals, and generally you’ll find yourself pushing yourself a little harder to make sure you get them done.

I think that that is the first part, and then I find that that actually works kind of creatively too and I’m just, in my life, a little bit looser with it. But I don’t just have, say, an afternoon off and I just sit around … Okay, let me rephrase that. I definitely do that when I feel like it, but if I say, “You know, I’ve been wanting to try painting again,” which I did, so I was like, “Okay, you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna two afternoons a week. I’m gonna take some time, at least 30 minutes and I’m gonna try painting watercolor and I’m gonna watch a YouTube video.” Not exactly a grueling schedule, but I still had a goal that I was going to try and do something that was fun and for me is creative and outside of the normal stuff I do, and I find that really effective, to still set something concrete as a goal, and it helped me be creative. I think it helps to have an idea of what you’re doing. Then if you wanna have times where you’re just like, “Hey, I’m gonna go on the internet and look at videos,” hey, that’s great too. Just be cognizant and be upfront with yourself about what you’re doing. Good question.

The next question today is, “How do I get faster at doing things?” I think there’s a lot of ways to do this, but the way to get faster is to create a process, especially if this is a repetitive process, which hopefully it would be, that you come up with this. I’m not gonna go into the details of, “Well, you could delegate it.” Certainly that could become much faster if you’re able to outsource it, delegate it, delete it, whatever. But if you need to do this, then coming up with that process will really help you. Could be, again, creating a blog post or something. If you’ve done this, I know I have, where you just start kind of writing. Again, it could be for anything. I’m gonna use a blog post as an example.

The work can fill the amount of time that you have available, but if you wanna get faster at it, then you templatize it or you processize it. Say, “Okay, when I write a blog post, I know I need a title. I want at least 400 words. I need two images. I need a featured image. I wanna include a video. I wanna include a reference link.” Whatever it is. You list those things out, and then you can go maybe a level deeper than that, and then say, “Okay, for this type of a blog post, here’s the content I need. Here’s a template, and I follow this and I write along these guidelines.” Things like that. Maybe a style sheet. Maybe you’re doing more design work, or you could use this for writing as well. “Here’s the tone. Here’s what we generally talk about. Here’s the words we use, the words we don’t use.”

Just for that example, that’s how you get faster at doing things. Anything repetitive, you start to notice, “What’s the recurring parts of that and what can I speed up?” Even in more creative work, with things like writing, you can certainly say, “Okay, here’s the main factors. I need to go through and understand what these are. Where do I need to think and do and then what can I just kind of knock out?” Once you get that process down, it’ll really help. And as far as bringing this back to reality, could be you have a notebook with a checklist. Could be using a tool like Trello where you create a checklist or steps or a series of cards, and you have those steps in there, and then you can go back, and each time you do this task, you have that in front of you so that you don’t have to remember it.

Another great way to do this, if you’re working with things online … I do this for myself … is to have links readily available. When you’re going in there to do this task and you know you’ve gotta open up Trello to get your task, but then you’re gonna have to get a spreadsheet and open this folder and do this and that, don’t just say, “Open that folder,” or “Open this spreadsheet.” Include the link to it. It sounds super simple, and it’s something I still work on doing and being more exact about, because it saves you so much time. Literally, if you just saved a minute or two every time you did that task, but it’s something you do a lot, you can save hours and hours a year. It’s crazy boring stuff too. It makes me sad to think I might have spent 10 hours last year looking for folders in Google Drive or Dropbox or something. That’s insane. So if that’s not motivation enough to do that, I don’t know what is.

Moving along, let me check back here for live questions, and then we’ll get to this question. What is my trick for being productive? It’s no trick. There’s no sleight of hand or magic, but it’s putting time and effort towards being productive. I answered a question earlier today about, “I have no system for being productive.” Not me personally, but somebody said, “I have no system, what should I do?” And it’s having a system. It’s working on your system. That’s the “trick” for being productive. You work on it and you invest some time into it, whether that’s 30 minutes a week and kind of doing a little bit of looking back and saying, “Hey, what’s worked for me well in the future? What should I do more of? What do I need to improve on?”

But working on your system and making it work for you, because that’s really what you’re doing. It’s driving you towards that goal, whatever that is. “I want to be able to take more time off with the family. I wanna enjoy my work and spend less time doing the things that I dislike.” Whatever the goals are that you’re working on, that’s really what it should be pushing you towards, and that’s the “trick,” really, for me being productive, is to have that system and to understand what it’s doing for me, so that I continue to work on it. Not much of a trick, but I think it does the trick for me and it really helps, and it helps a lot of other people too.

So again, I’ll reiterate. If you can, spend 30 minutes a week, I highly suggest spending an hour, on improving your own process. If you don’t spend it all on … I don’t want you to think that I’m saying, “Look at your daily review and spend an hour on it.” There’s other areas that you can improve, whether it’s an evening routine, or maybe it’s something for reconciling your books with the business, or whatever it is. Look at those processes and help yourself, and over time you’re gonna save time, you’re gonna become more efficient, and you’ll deal with a lot less stress when you know that you’ve got these things taken care of.

That is gonna do it for this week. I appreciate everyone watching, and some great questions. Like I said at the beginning, if you haven’t yet, please check out the guidebook. The link is right there. Like I said, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, grab the guidebook and help set the foundation for your productivity and time management future and then we can go from there. Looking forward to sharing that with a lot more people, and I will see you next week.

About the author

Adam Moody

I'm Adam Moody with the Productivity Academy. Get your productivity, time management, automation, and organization questions answered here. Be sure to check out the Productivity Academy YouTube Channel.

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By Adam Moody

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