Productivity Academy Live Q&A – Episode 64

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You can watch the video for the past episode recorded on December 20th, 2018 above, or you can review the transcript below.

In this episode we talked about:

  • How to use time blocking?
  • How to deal with distractions?
  • How to make the most of your productive time?

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Hey, welcome to Episode 64 of the Real World Productivity Q&A. Today is the 20th of December 2018. We’re creeping towards Christmas here. So had to put on some special for this.

But real quick, I want to go over today we’re going to be going over how to use time blocking some good ideas there as well as kind of the results of that and what the next steps are, and then how to deal with distractions, starting kind of at the most important work your way down that list and a couple insights I’ve had as far as how you can get a lot more out of that also how to make the most of your productive time and I think also good part of that is finding your productive time and then how to really get the most out of that so how to be productively productive.

But anyways, we’re going to dive into that real quick if you haven’t yet and you’re joining live that’s great. You can always ask questions I’ll keep an eye out from time to time on the sidebar here and answer those as time allows if you’re watching the replay that’s great. You can come join us live for these by clicking on the link in the description below. Click on that go to answer a couple questions about productivity process all that stuff want to make sure that you’re actually interested in you’re in the right place.

And then you can of course join the free group there. Also, if you’re watching the replay on YouTube, that’s great. You can click the subscribe button obviously to get alerted about these as well as product reviews stuff again, about process business automation, all that sort of good stuff. So with that said, let’s get into it.

Alright, so the first thing was about time blocking like how to use time blocking. Okay, and without getting the details at the bottom level of what it is. It’s basically what you think it is, if you’re not familiar with it is just blocking out your time using a calendar anything that tracks time. So pen and paper, excuse me, using the best self journal or an online calendar.

Whatever it is that you want to use. However, what I recommend doing, if you’re not familiar with this from the from doing it before is to actually just get a pen and paper, you know, a decent sized piece of paper, maybe a pad and then or a spreadsheet, whatever your preferences and then start by writing down at the start of your day in 30 minute increments what it is you’re doing, okay.

And I try to set a reminder every one to two hours, just to quickly take literally one or two minutes and write down for the past hour to what it was I’ve been doing in those blocks of time. And the reason there’s a couple reasons for this one, the big overall reason is because it’s a great way to start to see patterns of what we’re doing and where our time is actually going.

Because when we look back we’re usually pretty terrible about remembering eight hours a day ago, a week ago what we were actually doing like really pretty granular early and this gives us a way to keep track of ourselves in a way that can kind of enlighten ourselves as far as what the patterns what, what am I actually spending my time on? I thought I was working on creating content. But I actually ended up spending 15 minutes on Reddit that, you know, it started out as like content research. But then it totally deviated maybe I answered a phone call in the middle of this and that sidetrack me or I went into my email.

And, you know, to look up somebody’s information to get their website for some research. And then I ended up answering three emails and then went back to whatever and it’s not all bad. It’s just recognizing the patterns because what you want to do is see in the end, how you can get more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff. All right, and then write it all down. This is just a side note. Don’t worry about this.

No one else has to see this stuff you can keep it to yourself but you know, if you’re not honest and the only person you’re you’re messing with it is yourself and the other let’s see I had some other notes about this that I wanted to go through real quick but yeah, this is obviously will give you your initial insights into where your time going and then the improvements I find that you can make tend to be pretty obvious, there’s not a lot of deep stuff needed on this, once you really write this stuff down becomes kind of evident when you go back and look through it, what’s going on and some, you know, immediate fixes you can make to that.

And then the reminder part of this, I definitely, definitely advise setting a reminder for every one to two hours to do this is because if you wait till the end of the day, there’s no way you’re going to remember the details. And again, it could be just a single line but just saying, you know, answer two emails I wrote, you know, did this, you know, talk to this person getting all that stuff down in like, even 30 minute increments, which is pretty, pretty broad is going to be really hard or next to impossible or you’ll just kind of throw up your hands say, I’m done with this and that’s coming from experience.

So just a reminder on something you know, whatever it is that works best for you and do that so yeah, a lot of these that will come up and seen frequently is obviously social media calls interruptions.

Anything to do with phone emails getting kind of into the rabbit hole there and then productively procrastinating. Which is a favorite of mine as like, Well, okay, I did something that needed to be done or you know, was not unproductive. But it wasn’t the main goal that I should have been working towards. And so starting to identify that, and then maybe you can start to build some habits around it. But that’s topic for another time.

So as far as next steps when time blocking. So the time blocking that’s more of a time tracking we just talked about but for time blocking is to start now literally doing this in your day to day ahead of time. So Google calendar is what I use. I also use the best self journal that we just talked about. And so on this side over here, we’ve got a little bit of a calendar in terms of the day and saying okay, what is my plan for this day, and I find it helpful to write it down even though I have most of the stuff my calendar and I can add little notes, maybe if there’s something I need to adjust or, you know, literally adjust the time.

And this is important for a lot of times you’re the main benefit I’ve seen from this is you get better about recognizing what what it is you need to do, then how long it will take and how much or little time you have to do everything else. So basically, this is like a feedback loop into your planning process. So this is going to loop back into your daily review your time management and then general goal setting because over time, you’re really going to you’re going to understand and feel good or bad, you’re going to see that the results of this and saying, Okay, well, I put an hour in there to write an article and it ended up taking me to or I didn’t get it done for several days.

And you know, that’s kind of an extreme example but saying, Oh, well, that’s normal that happens but okay. Now I understand that, you know, writing the article may be included research needed to get images and needed to write it, I needed to then step away from it and then come back and edit it and saying, Okay, well that one hour block is unrealistic, it needs to spend at least two days. And then these take two hours as an example. So that’s the type of benefits you get from doing this.

And that’s just one example. And I think it’s hugely beneficial because it starts helping you hit deadlines makes you more responsible both to yourselves and the other people you’ve agreed to do things with or four and then over time, you’re able to start better projecting for projects and other things like that. So really important stuff.

Alright, next question is how to best deal with distractions?

It’s a good question. You know, obviously, there’s a lot of distractions out there. Excellent to take this off. This is a good example of visual distraction, but there’s a lot out there but you can also kind of apply the 8020 rule here and minimize your distractions and I like start what I consider to be the top or the most important or the biggest distraction kind of worked my way down.

There we go. So first off and deal with visual distractions. A lot of us are working at computers, you know, are working, you know, some sort of digital format. So if you’re not actively working with your phone, all right, you know, if you’re making sales calls, that’s great. That’s, you know, a needed thing. But if you’re not generally put it out of reach, okay, I keep my phone on silent. And I try to keep it out of reach. Or it’s underneath the desk at somewhere, not in my immediate visual range, and I keep it turned upside down. Okay, so that I’m not getting notifications. I’m not seeing the screen turn on and then being like, that’s interesting. What’s going on over there?

All right, that’s a great way to deal with it. email and social media. Close it out. All right. I mean, I use Facebook. I use email for work, obviously, like everyone else does. But there’s times you can do that. And if you start setting times for yourself to use those types of things. Yeah, you’ll notice a big improvement and I don’t expect anyone to stay out of their inbox until you know 5pm. I know very few people who can do that effectively.

But if you schedule some times and and are realistic with yourself, it becomes much less of a distraction. Okay. And then on the off tan like maybe you need to go back, get an email, that’s great. Open up a tab, or open up your email program, grab it and get build that habit, you can even write yourself a reminder of, you know, once you have it, close it, okay. And then you can go back in and get back to what you were doing.

If you have to keep them open, whether it’s you know, you’re working with the team, you need to keep slack up whatever it is you can use plugins or start to build again, some habits around using these. So like if you have to use Facebook, you’re managing social media or communicating with customers on there, then you can use something like newsfeed eradicated is a good one.

And then a lot of these programs to have different ways that you can set up the notifications. And so like example for slack. Maybe there’s not exactly like a plugin you can use, but you can start to mute some of the notifications so you don’t get the Blinky light at the bottom of the screen.

And they’re most likely you don’t need to be alerted immediately about everything. But you can customize that how you need.

Another good one I find for writing or times of maybe just reading or focusing, especially on the computer is to use like a grayscale type of change to the monitor. And they just found out recently, you can do this with F dot locks or flux. And that just helps you deal with the screen changing colors, kind of adjusting the tent over time based on the day and the seasons.

But they have a feature where you can turn it on and it just turns your screen grayscale, which is great if you’re trying to write or really focus and you don’t want to do again with the shiny blinking lights that are made to be in really attractive colors that were drawn to just like icons and things like that. So that can be a great tool as well.

Okay, so those are your immediate concerns in terms of visual distractions. If we want to get into audio again, this is This to me is why it comes back.

This one’s a little bit more personal different people feel differently about this. But if I’m they using headphones is great. Even if you’re by yourself just to start blocking out the background environment noises. Maybe it’s literally even the furnace turning on or the air conditioner or people doing work outside whatever it is putting that headphones on. And either using like a note noise cancelling headset, like a Bose headset or there’s tons of different brand now and then additionally putting on to music like from

There’s several others like that or just your best like Spotify station that is without words. So just some low music in terms of volume, lower volume without words that lets you really focus in I think everyone can can use their own or they have their own preference for that but doing that and especially when you’re working in time blocks and really helping you focus and stay I guess in the flow instead of being drawn out by something has happened outside of you the noise cancelling I mentioned I think that’s great for traveling.

I definitely use those a lot more. When I’m traveling, I have a pair on the shelf off to the side there and at home, I don’t use them as much. Although sometimes I’ll do that if I’m away from the desk. And I just want to concentrate do either some reading or writing. But again, traveling is where those things really shine. If you’re in noisy areas, you know, like hotels, flights, of course, and then you know, other times you just want to be able to kind of zone out and really get into what you’re doing.

Okay. And last but not least, this one is highly variable. So it can have a really big payoff for some people for others might not be as important which is why put it last but dealing with other people as distractions. Okay, I think that you know, even though you know, obviously, you’re trying to concentrate and then your mind it’s really obvious, you know, you need to tell people okay, let people know, do you have, you know, working at home, is there a husband or wife or their kids, you know, can you tell people that hey, I’m really going to try concentrate for an hour to do not appreciate it.

If you, you know, didn’t send me an email and call me or in the case of people at home or in a coworking space, you know, Hey, could you just leave me alone? If you see me with my headphones on it means I’m like, really deep into a project. And a lot of people really respect that for a couple reasons. Because everyone like ourselves, we’re wrapped up in what we’re doing. We don’t pay attention that oh, well, of course, you know, this person’s really focusing and being told that and can you help me by, you know, leaving me alone for an hour to or maybe I probably worded a little different but that’s going to help people out and you know, who wouldn’t say like, Oh, yeah, you know, I can do that.

And that’s much better than just saying, leave me alone. Or, you know, don’t talk to me or don’t ever bugged me, you know, I think being reasonable about that and saying, Hey, I have a three hour block where I’m really productive and really try to block everything out so I can focus and then after that, you know, meeting we can do whatever. So I think that again, helping yourself by by being explicit about what you need and what would really help you and asking for that health, you know, it helps people and people want generally want to help you.

So yeah, I think that that’s a great thing to do. And then the added benefit of that is when you do that, and it works obviously you got to be flexible things are still going to intrude from time to time. But that’s better than expecting people to understand. And then you know, when you kind of freak out when you after you get annoyed and people start bugging you, you know, don’t do that, ask them ahead of time and just say, hey, if we can, you know, keep, you know, the interruptions to a minimum and dive into some stuff and I’ll be you know, ready to do to deal with other people on a couple hours find that that really helped.

Okay, so if you want to know how to make the most of your productive time I’ve got a couple good time tested ideas here and a lot of other people agree with this but one of the biggest ones is find out when your most productive Okay, a lot of people I feel generally already know this. But it also is good to test this out. So you can do this by taking one or two hour kind of time blocks throughout the week may take you a few weeks to really fit this in depending on what your schedule looks like right now but try to different periods of the time for myself, I know I’m way more productive in the morning I’ve tried different things.

And a lot of it too has to do with not only motivation, energy levels, but then the you know the amount of decision making power that I have, I can do that in the morning. And then the afternoons I’m fine to have meetings and deal with some lower level stuff, but to really focus in it’s in the morning. All right. And for some people, I know that there’s people in the afternoons or maybe in the evenings, they have kind of a second time there where they can really focus in and so testing that out and finding out where where you can be the most productive is kind of the first part of that all right, then the second step to that you got your most productive time you kind of understand where that in the day is start scheduling your top priority tasks.

So when you do your daily review and you say, Okay, this is the thing I need to get done today, if I get that done, I’ll do this that take that task. That is the one that should be done. All right, probably seems kind of obvious. But it’s one that I think we forget from time to time. And we get put in that mode of putting out fires and saying, you know, this has to be done, like, nope, step back during that productive time of yours, then you work on that top priority task. And once that’s done, you move on to the next one, the next one, etc. Okay.

And again, for most people, this is a few hours and like, if you can get three or four hours of really productive time and constantly be working on your top priorities. That’s amazing. You’ll you’ll see a huge increase in your output. Okay, and the other thing I would say about this is to get rid of distractions and as well as meeting during this time at all possible Okay, you know, again, you’ve got to be flexible. You’ve got to accommodate other people just like they accommodate you.

But try to move away from scheduling meetings during your productive time. And remove those distractions like we’ve talked about before. With visual distractions, dealing with, you know, putting your phone away, closing down programs, you don’t need, you know, wearing a headset, if that helps you would deal with environmental distractions, and then guard your time, okay, if you know when your most productive time is, take it seriously. Okay, don’t easily give that up for a meeting.

Okay, like I said, you got to be flexible, but, you know, it needs to be important in order to intrude upon this time. truly important. And the reason there is you need to take it seriously or else it’s not going to work very well. But just as importantly, if you don’t take your time seriously, nobody else will I guarantee it. Okay, so doing that has kind of a two fold effect there. Okay.

So let me check here for last minute questions.

I don’t see any. So I think that’s going to wrap it up. This is pretty good this week went through time blocking, dealing with distractions and making the most of your productive time. So really happy to get into this. Looking forward to coming back here. I believe in the last week, let me check the calendar of December. Nope, I’m going to miss it next week traveling for the holidays. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday week and a great new year and then we’ll be back for Episode 65 of the rural productivity q&a on the third of January. Alright, so thanks everybody, and we’ll see you next time.

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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