Productivity Academy Live Q&A – Episode 39


Join us live each week at and get your questions answered by submitting them at anytime right here: You can watch the video for the past episode recorded on June 7th, 2018 above, or you can review the transcript below.

In this episode we talked about:

  • How to use an expected value calculator to get ideas out of your head, prioritize all of your projects and ideas, and then focus on only the most important once.
  • Watch the video and then grab your copy of the calculator here:

To find recommended tools and other great resources, check out the Productivity Academy Resource Toolkit:

All right, we are live. Hey everybody, welcome to episode number 39 of the Productivity Academy. We have got a question, actually, that we’re going to dive into today that has to do with the expected value calculator. All right, so stay tuned for that, I’m going to be switching over to a little bit of a screen share so bear with me here, I’ve got kind of a new set up going.

But wanted to say real quick before we get going, if you are watching us live, first of all thank you for joining the group. If you haven’t yet, you can find the link on the replay and come join the group, answer a couple questions, and you can get in. If you’re into productivity, process, organization, growing your business then this is the right place to be.

Also, if you’re watching us on YouTube later, the replay, you can also ask questions there. I highly encourage you to join the group, though. Come join us. But if you want you can just subscribe to the YouTube channel and get updates obviously when there’s new videos like this, when there’s an app review, or some new content produced there, be the first to know.

So let’s get into it and instead of taking questions today ahead of time, although I will be check in the Facebook group while I’m going through this so if you’re watching live, and you have questions go ahead and pop them in there, and I’ll answer them as I have time. I’m going to switch over, and we’re going to talk about the expected value calculator and what this basically is, is a way of getting all this stuff out of your head when you’re starting to be like, “I’ve got this project and that project”, the whiteboards are starting to look like that, or you’ve got stuff all over the place, and you just need to get it down and have a reliable way to prioritize.

I think this could be done in a lot of different ways in terms of timing. You could do this weekly, you could just do it if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or quarterly. But I suggest starting with some sort of a schedule and then adding it in as you need to. So instead of just talking about it and waving my hands, let’s go over to the other screen.

Okay so what we’ve got is the expected value calculator, and I put this together in Airtable which is pretty neat. If you haven’t seen it, it’s just kind of powerful spreadsheet program that lets you interconnect a lot of things, but you could definitely do this in Excel. Basically what I’m doing here is dividing it up by what I call the areas of responsibility. You don’t have to do this, of course, but just to give it some clarity I just put personal and business to separate them out.

I added in two examples. So let’s say I wanted to work out three days per week for 60 plus minutes. And then this is where these come in. How excited am I? One being low, five being high. And that’s just your personal gut feeling, how excited are you about this project, this task, whatever it is. And then a 12 week ROI and a 24 month ROI. Okay? And the thing about the ROI is this doesn’t have to mean, okay the literal meaning of ROI is return on investment. However, this doesn’t have to be a financial number. In this case, the working out three days per week for 60 plus minutes, I’m not sure that that’s going to translate for me directly into monetary gain. I could say, well I’m going to feel better and be able to work harder and longer, so maybe I’ll make some more money. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to figure out what the ROI is to you. And in your personal life, I think we all find that there’s other things besides money that drive us and that we get excited about.

So in my case I’ve said, well I want to do this, how excited am I? I’m very excited, I really enjoy being outside, I want to make sure I make time during the week to be outside and exercise for more than an hour. And so I’m really excited about, what’s the ROI? Well, I don’t know, it’s probably not a five because I’m probably not going to be able to do it perfectly, I may not be able to schedule it all right away, there’s a lot of things. So I’ll say, okay, a three. It’s more than half way.

Twenty-four month ROI? This is huge pay off, right? I’m going to be healthier, it’s going to make me feel better, and it’s going to positively influence the rest of my life, so I put that in there. This total value is interesting, and I’ll get into that in a minute after I show you something else here.

So let’s come up with another one, say I want to meditate for 15 minutes twice per week. I’ve heard this is good, and I’m making this up as I go, this could be a real example. Let’s say, well, I think I’m just a two, I’ve heard it’s really good, people keep telling me I should do it but maybe I’m not nearly as excited as I am just to work out. Well, let’s check the 12 week ROI. I don’t know, I’ve heard that it can make big changes really fast, so let’s say we give it a four. And then, long term, you know I don’t think it’s as good as working out, but it’s still important, so I’ll give it a three.

All right, so when we hit enter, it did something interesting. Let me see if this changes, and I got this wrong. Okay, so that was correct. So what I wanted to show, and I even have my self doubting, is how big this change is with the values. Because, now I want to go into what this total value’s actually doing.

So let’s edit the description, there we go, so it’s basically a formula. What it’s taking, and I won’t go into the details here, you can check it out for yourself. But it’s basically exponentially raising the values you put in there and then dividing just by a big number to make the result something kind of normal. Whole numbers basically that we’re seeing. But you can see how drastic this change is. So here I have a five, a three, and a five. And down here I have a two, a four, and a four. And these are really big differences, so it would be, it’s just a helpful way of saying, “Okay, this is truly the one thing I should focus on.” If I can’t do both of these, or I don’t want to, or I shouldn’t be doing both, then this is the clear winner. You can see how quickly this changes. For example, if I put a five in there becomes much, much closer. And if you have two fives that’s really powerful. Okay?

So it’s just a way to do this. I’ll share the link, so you can check this out and play around with it. Again, with new businesses or new business ideas, this is always a good idea too. Maybe you have three tasks and maybe if you don’t own your own business you could still do this. What am I doing at work? Maybe you don’t get to dictate exactly what you’re working on, but you could still do this and either share this with your boss, with your team, I think there’s a lot of great applications that you can use this for.

So, again, part of this is just getting these ideas out of your head instead of say, “Oh man, I’ve got these five things I know I should do but I think this, I think that.” Don’t think. Put it down on paper. Get it out of your head and see where it lies. And part of this is subjective, right? You’ve got to assign some numbers here that you may not know exactly what the ROI is, but you can take a pretty good stab and this lets you do a first pass and organize and say, “Okay, I see what the top three are and the bottom three.” Things like that.

Typically I’ll have way more than three. I’ve got two or three areas, maybe two or three businesses and personal stuff and maybe some vacation stuff, and this really helps me clarify and realize what the top 10% is. And then in here, too, this is really easy to prioritize. I believe I’ve already got it sorted, it’s grouped by field which is why I like this Airtable, so I can put personal, personal, business, business, and it automatically groups them. For example, if I did this other thing and I’m just going to give it some numbers real quick. I can assign it some new one, I could just say third, okay, so I just called it ‘second business’ and it goes ahead and groups it. So really handy. And you can get rid of these if you want. You can hide them if you want to focus in on one area so pretty nifty.

The other thing that I really like about this is that it lets us focus. I have my spell specifically and I know there’s many different ways to go about this but this is such a good tool, again, for getting these ideas out of your head and being able to focus. Because like I said, you’ll be able to see these, whatever it is, one, two, three, four, five, probably no more than that, ideas and projects that you have that you just really want to work on and letting you go from there.

So I think that that’s the big power and the expected value calculator. And, again, I encourage you to check out the link, make a copy. Again, you could do this in Excel, you could do this on a piece of paper if you really wanted to, but I like having that automatic calculation so that you don’t have to think about it. You just put in what it is you’re going to be working on or you’re thinking about, putting in how excited you are on a scale from one to five, a 12 week ROI, and the 24 month ROI, and then it automatically sorts all that and you can really start to see, “Oh wow!” And it’s actually surprising sometimes to yourself to see, wow, this is actually what I need to be working on or what would provide the best results.

All right, and then to go back through it and make sure that maybe you can tweak things a little bit. Don’t tweak it to make it work the way you expected it to, but go back through and like I said, it’s a good first pass. You’ve always got to go back through and say, “Okay, well, I really want to be outside six hours a day but maybe that’s not quite practical,” things like that.

If you have any feedback on this, please leave a comment or if you have another way you like doing this, there’s lots of ways that you can go through here but I really like that this wraps together several ideas of getting these ideas out of your head which is kind of like what happens with a daily review. Just getting these tasks out, getting and collecting all the loose data so that you’re not losing track of things or trying to remember all that. And then prioritizing, it’s just like batching your tasks and prioritizing in a daily review. And then from there, looking at, “Okay, I prioritized, what can I actually do, what do I need to focus on?”

Good stuff. Hopefully this helped you. Again, I’ve got the link in the description so you can check it out, play around with it, and I highly encourage you to set a weekly or maybe a monthly time to go through here and fill this out. Make your own copy and populate it. Clear it out after you’ve decided what to work on and then come back to it again and give it a shot. Hopefully this is helpful for you. I’m going to wrap it up here and that’ll be it. I’ll 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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