Hey everybody. Welcome to the Productivity Academy Weekly Q&A. Today is the 8th of November. All right. Real quick, what we’re going to be covering today is some top productivity tools and tips, a question about that, the most effective time management techniques, and the secret to productive people working really long hours. Hint. This probably won’t come as a surprise, but it’s not what you think.
All right. Before we get into that, just wanted to say if you haven’t yet subscribed on YouTube, and you wanna stay up to date, just click the subscribe button. If you’re watching this on Facebook, feel free to check out the page. Click like. You can stay up to date, and you’ll get notifications. If that’s not your thing, I’m gonna be putting together a Facebook group, where we can all get in there, and then just share some tips, how-to’s, and spread the information. So I think that’s gonna be an interesting one. If you’re interested in that, or you have thoughts on that, let me know. I have some ways to deal with Facebook notifications, because it’s a balancing act, right? You want to have interaction, and you want to talk to people, and find out, and share your information, both myself and you, and get help on ideas about productivity or time management, or whatever your specific issue is. But then, we don’t want to get sucked into the Facebook black hole, right? So, there’s ways to go about that, and I’ll be talking about that some more.
Anyways, moving right along. So let’s get into it. The question was, “What are some of your best productivity tools and tips?” So kind of a two for one here. We’ll go into that. As far as tools, I’ll give the blanket statement that the best productivity tool is the one that works for you. Okay. I will say that I think that there’s a lot of tools that can work well for a lot of people, and specifically, I can talk to the ones that I’ve used, and then out of those, the ones that I find very effective.
With those, I like to have a couple of things that are very important. I need to have something that works offline. And that can be paper or pen. Generally, I like it to not have a battery, because if something dies, or I don’t have WiFi, then that’s a problem. I wanna have a digital one that works across all my devices. For myself, I have an Android phone. I have a Chromebook. I have a Windows PC, and I have an old Linux laptop lying around here somewhere. But things need to generally work, so it’s either Browser based, or just across the platform.
And then, that’s kind of the big area. So I’ve got my best self journal. That’s one of my tools. I’ve got a Post-It notes thing here, so when I’m at a meeting, or even sometimes during these, when I think of something real quick, I’ll scribble something down. And then I use a lot Todoist. And I also highly recommend Focuster. The only reason I’m not actively using Focuster as much is both my assistant and my wife use Todoist, and so we’re able to exchange information and share projects, and labels, and things like that much easier. And getting them to move over to Focuster would’ve been, I think, a little bit more trouble than it was worth. So if you’re starting though, I would recommend that, ’cause there’s a lot of interesting tie-ins. And you can go look at my Focuster videos, and see if that’s a tool for you.
And the reason I recommend those is for what I mentioned at the beginning, is that they’re across platform, and they do what I need them to do. The important thing about taking random notes though, is to make sure that of all of these tools, you need a system. And my system is that I then sit down once a day and go through them, and collect everything. Because there’s other things I do use, like Evernote. But that’s not my necessarily go to area. It’s just another note collection area and organizational system for notes and referencing projects, and things like that. But what I do is then take that information and make sure I go over all of it, and compare it to my calendar, and then schedule my day.
And then at the end, as long as I have enough time in the day, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t do this. But I like to take five minutes and I go through … And this was from Cal Newport. If you’ve read Deep Work, I highly recommend checking it out. I’m gonna re-read it. If you haven’t seen it, please do yourself a favor, and pick up that book. But he wrote an article on his blog about sitting down and having what he called a shutdown procedure, and just saying, okay, at the end of the day, go through, check the calendar for the next day. Do you have any loose notes. Literally, if you have some Post-Its lying around, make them into action items, whatever that is for you. If it’s in your notebook, or in your To Do list, or whatever it is, so that then, you can look and say, “Okay, I am done for the day. If anything comes up between now and whenever I start working again, I can just put it into one of my systems, and I’ll deal with that when I next sit down.”
Alright. I think that kind of includes the tips. So, as always, that daily review is very important. And then, if you can do it at the end of the day, so you’re doing it twice. But it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. It could be 10, 15 minutes at the beginning of the day, maybe more, depending on how much planning you have to do. And then at the end of the day, it’s just getting all that information, all your loose ends, closing things out, or rescheduling them, looking at your calendar for the next day, saying, “Okay, I’m good to go. There’s no loose ends that are gonna keep me up tonight.” And then mentally, just telling yourself, “I am done.” And then putting things away.
Alright. I think that’s a really good one. And then this also works well for the next question. What are the most effective and proven time management techniques? It’s a good question, and I would say that there’s really two parts to this. I think that if you have absolutely no time management, which really isn’t a thing, but if you’re worried that your time management maybe could be better, or it’s not as good as it should be, is that you start with mapping out your time. And what I mean by that is probably start with pen and paper, something you can just put on yourself, like a three by five index card. And mark it off in 30 minute segments, and line it out. Maybe have a couple cards. However this works best for you. It’s just really important that you do it in a way that you can stick with for a week. Try to keep track of your time for a week. Set some normal hours. Do it more outside of business… Sorry. Do it not only for business hours, but also a little bit of your personal time. I didn’t do this for 24 hours a day, but I wanted to see, hey, how much time am I spending when I make coffee and get some breakfast? Does that vary day to day? I don’t know. Finding out things like that about yourself can be really helpful. And then you can help start to schedule around that.
I’ll warn you that this is very difficult to do, and it sounds, it’s deceptively simple, but keeping track of your time for 30 minute time blocks for a week is really hard. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it. Try to go back. Remember what you were doing. Just don’t let yourself skip a full day, ’cause then it gets almost impossible to remember. So do that, and then that’ll really give you some real insights into what is going on in your day to day.
Then from that, you can take that into time planning. And as far as that, doing a daily review when you sit down at seven, eight, nine in the morning, get out your calendar, look at what you’ve got going on for the day. What have you got for your tasks? And then doing your best job at saying, “Okay, here’s how I can accomplish these. Here’s how much time it’s gonna take. Here’s what my day looks like.” And then what else? Do you leave some crunch time, so that, ’cause most things expand. You have unexpected meetings. Things happen. It’s just getting that process going, and finding out what’s gonna work for you, and then adjusting accordingly. Because at first, you probably won’t be that accurate. Over time, though, you can say, “Okay, I know this type of a task, I thought it was gonna take me an hour. It only takes 45 minutes.” Or, “I thought this task would only take 15 minutes. It takes an hour,” things like that.
So just investing a little bit of your time and energy into that really starts to pay off very quickly. Cool. Good question.
Okay, and then the last question for the day is, “How do successful people stay productive working long hours?” I would say that there’s two sides to this, that I want to answer. One, the people that I admire the most don’t work long hours, yet are still insanely productive. And that can take a long time, and that’s a very loose definition. But again, for myself, again, it’s not about … I use this a lot, but it’s not about just cranking out widgets, or like, “Man, I accomplished 100 tasks today. My life is good, and I’m productive.” Well, maybe. But what did you do? Did you shuffle 100 pieces of paper, and put them into the inbox, or what is it you’re actually doing? Are you being productive towards major goals, and how that kind of helps you in your life, and how you’re moving forward.
So I think having a different measuring stick is important. Again, what goals are you being productive towards? But then saying okay, there are times when you’ve just got a lot to do, and you’ve gotta get it done. Okay, so I will say that we can’t always being doing a four hour workweek type of thing. A lot of times it comes up, you’ve got a project, got a deadline. Someone else is depending on you. You said you’d get it done. Or something just happens, and occasionally you do have to put out that fire.
What I would say is again, know yourself, but for most people, you can’t work eight hours straight. You can’t sit down and do it. Hell, I can’t sit down and work three hours straight. I just lose it. So a lot of this goes into planning, and saying, “Okay,” recognizing ahead of time that you have this large amount of work or whatever that needs to be done, and then planning, and saying, “How can I break it down?” Break it into actionable tasks instead of saying, “Oh my God. I have this huge project that I have to do in 48 hours.” Okay, that’s fine. That’s the end goal. Break it down. What’s a milestone? Or the three major pieces to this that need to be done? Okay, take that one piece. What are the three actionable items inside of that, that can be done? So start listing that stuff out. That’ll help you both mentally prepare, and say, “Okay, this isn’t sone insurmountable task that I wanna avoid,” and also give you discreet checkpoints that will help you keep that momentum going, and you can see you’re making progress.
Okay, as well, I would also use some sort of Pomodoro technique and say, “I am going to work for 45 minutes, and then I am going to take a five to fifteen minute break, where I walk away. I literally walk away, go do something, get a drink of water, walk around the block, let your mind clear. Not so long that you’ve totally lost track, or you’re … Don’t fully engage in some sort of other project. But use that time effectively. Stand up. Move. Stretch. You’ll physically feel better. Get rehydrated, and clear your mind for a minute. And then come back in, and get back to work. And that can go a long way. So you don’t get burnt out as quick. You know, take breaks. Eat. That type of normal stuff.
So I think that’s one of them. And a lot of it, it is tough. So mentally, one last thing you can do is what’s this reason that you’re working such long hours? What’s the goal? Some of these people that you hear about who do work like this, some of them have some goals that really define their life. So it’s tough. Maybe back when I was in college, I couldn’t say, “Oh boy, I’m writing this paper on whatever random subject was assigned to me, and that’s my goal.” That wouldn’t keep me up all night writing a paper. But maybe I would be up all night working on it or studying, saying, “Okay, wow. This is how I’m gonna get my degree. This is what’s gonna help me achieve my current life goal,” which, at that time, was, “Hey, I wanna graduate college. It’s important to me. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it.” But that’s what I wanted. So I think keeping those types of things in mind can help you tackle that, and help you during your low points too.
Hopefully this was helpful for everybody this week. If you’ve got anymore questions, you can always let me know. Just pop them on the … Losing my mind. On the Facebook page is fine. And then, there’s also the link productivity.academy/questions. So you can ask those at any time. And then they pop into a spreadsheet, and I can answer them.
If you’re watching this on YouTube, please click subscribe if you wanna stay up to date. If you’re on Facebook, leave me a note. Let me know what you’re thinking about in terms of productivity process, anything, apps, stuff like that. And like I said, I’ll be putting together a Facebook group soon, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for that, and I’ll have some more information soon. So have a good one.