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The Working With... Podcast

English, Education, 1 season, 257 episodes, 2 days, 10 hours, 52 minutes
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Answering all your questions about productivity and self-development.
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How To Write A Book (Or Do Any Big Project)

Three years ago, I began a journey that came to an end last Saturday. Today, I want to share that journey with you, what I learned and how my journey can help you become better at managing your time and ultimately be more productive.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   Get Your Copy Of Your Time, Your Way: Time Well Managed, Life Well Lived   Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 327 Hello, and welcome to episode 327 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. My book, Your Time, Your Way, Time Well Managed! Life Well Lived!, was published last Saturday. It is the end result of a three-year journey that began with the idea of putting everything I have learned about better managing time together so you have enough time to spend with your loved ones, enjoy the hobbies you have always wanted to participate in, and so much more without feeling drained, overwhelmed, and rushed.  The book is a manual for taking control of your time and making the things you want to do happen without stress or overwhelm. It gives you a complete roadmap for making time work for you instead of working against you. But more on the contents later. From a productivity perspective, when you begin a project like writing a book, there is one critical starting point: getting started. What often happens, and is the reason so few people do any of their personal projects or achieve goals, is that too much time is wasted in the thinking and planning stage.  There’s a comfort in dreaming and thinking about landscaping your garden (backyard). That dreaming can be very seductive. It allows you to believe you are doing something about your project—‘I’m doing the planning’—yet nothing is happening. Your garden is not getting landscaped.  This book was two years in the planning stage (I am not immune to being seduced by the dream). I was even telling people, “I’m currently writing a book.” That was a lie. I wasn’t “writing” anything. I was dreaming of writing a book. I was stuck in the planning stage.  To get yourself out of that delusion—as that is what too much planning is, a delusion—you need to start doing something. Every project has a beginning. That could be visiting the local hardware store to purchase the tools you will need or, in my case, when writing a book, to write the introduction (this gives me a mini-outline of what I want to write about). Do that first step.  The next critical part of any project, whether professional or personal, is to decide how much time you are willing to give it each week. You are unlikely to be able to estimate how long a big project will take accurately. There are too many unknowns, and if you involve other people, there will inevitably be delays.  The only thing you have control over is your time. You don’t control other people’s time—even if you are a boss. So, how much time are you willing to or are able to give to the project each week? Once you know how much time you are giving the project each week, schedule it.  Personal projects can be worked on in the evening and at weekends, while professional ones can be done during work hours.  One thing you will eventually learn about time management is hoping you will find the time to do something is not a good strategy. It never works. If you want time to work on something, anything, you need to protect the time. Whether that is going out for a family walk in the evenings, washing your car or writing a letter to your aunt in New Zealand.  Time management works when you are intentional about it. In other words, you must protect time for the things you want to do.  When the early version of Your Time, Your Way went out to a select group of readers, many commented that it took over fifty pages to get to talking about time. That was intentional.  Too often, books on productivity and time management are about showing you how to squeeze in more and more. That is not the purpose of this book. Not only is that approach unsustainable, it’s also unhealthy. Instead, my approach is to encourage you to start by thinking about your life as a whole. What do you want out of your life? What is important to you? While we share eight areas—family and relationships, career/business, finances, health and fitness, self-development, lifestyle and life experiences, spirituality, and life’s purpose—how we define these are different for each of us. That means what we want out of these areas will also be different.  The order of priority is also different. As we go through life, the priority of these will change. When you are young, career/business and perhaps lifestyle and life experiences will be high on your list. As you age, health and finances may creep up towards the top. Again, we will all be different here.  Knowing what is important to you is the foundation of a well-lived life. It also shows you how to best use your limited resource of time so you spend more of it doing the things you want to do.  It was very tempting to begin the book with lists of tips and tricks for managing time, but I knew that would not help you in the long term. It’s a quick-fix approach that quickly leads to slipping back into old habits.  When you begin by identifying what is important to you, you give yourself a self-generating motive for getting out of bed with enthusiasm, and it naturally gives you a purpose each day. You are spending a large portion of your day on the things you know are important to you. But more than that, knowing your areas of focus and what they mean to you gives you clarity that helps you make decisions. If you have identified your family and friends as being important to you and you work in a company that expects you to work late and at weekends, you may wish to consider looking for an alternative job. That could mean you need to change companies or perhaps your career.  Not identifying what is important to you will likely leave you stuck in a job or career that leaves you feeling deflated, unhappy and trapped. Showing you how to do more in less time is not going to help you in that situation. All it will do is leave you feeling more unhappy, trapped and lost.  Your Time, Your Way takes you through the key time management techniques of COD (Collect, Organise and Do) and the Time Sector System. It explains how to choose the right UCT (Universal Collection Tool) for you and how to plan your week and day using the Planning Matrix.  Yet, more than that, it also shows you how to develop a morning routine that will set you up for the day and give you some time for yourself—something often lost when we begin a career and a family and are trying to juggle getting kids ready for school, with ensuring you have saved the presentation file you need today to your OneDrive account.  I’ve also included a chapter on managing your email. I know so many people struggle to stay on top of emails and other messages. It can be a never-ending struggle. Yet, the process I teach you in the book will give you a framework you can adopt that will ensure you are never behind with your communications, and you will begin to enjoy communicating through email and other messaging services (no, really you will, I promise)  One of the chapters many of the pre-readers say they enjoyed most was the chapter on common pitfalls. This chapter lists the most common issues you will face as you develop your own system and shows you how you can avoid them or, if they are already embedded, how to get out of them so you unblock any problems quickly and effectively.  This chapter draws on my experience working with people from all walks of life and multiple different jobs, from senior executives to stay-at-home parents, all of whom face different challenges as well as some common ones.  Ultimately, though, no matter how much you have to do, you still only have twenty-four hours each day. Understanding that and knowing what you want time for will give you a huge advantage over your peers—well, the ones who don’t read this book.  It gives you a framework on which to create a structure that safeguards time for the things you want time for—not just in your personal life—which often gets sacrificed by our work life—but also for the critical things in your professional life, such as career development, having enough time each day to deal with communications, and your all-important core work—the work you were employed to do.  While writing this book, I quickly learned that many productivity best practices are not just best practices but laws. To write a book, you need to write. Wasting time trying out different writing tools does write a book. The only way to write a book is to write. That’s the same for anything you want to do. To landscape your garden, you need to get outside and dig, build and plant.  To do that, you will need to protect time. That means blocking out time on your calendar that is dedicated to doing the work.  And, the best law of all—it will always take you longer to do than you imagine. I expected this book to take around twelve to eighteen months. It took nearly forty. I laugh at myself now for being so optimistic. But now the book is available, I can honestly say that the journey has been incredible. Frustrating at times, yes, but that was always going to be part of the journey.  Whatever you want to do, please enjoy the journey. Find the time, protect it and just start. You will discover things about yourself you never knew. You’ll learn patience, how to deal with setbacks and frustration and, more importantly, how to overcome those setbacks. Each project, whether it is writing a book, landscaping your backyard or building a career, will teach you things that you can take with you into your next endeavour and give you skills and know-how for the next time you embark on a journey.  All that remains for me to do now is to ask you to buy Your Time Your Way: Time Well Managed! Life Well Lived! Get control of your time so you can live the life you want to live. The link to purchase the book is in the show notes. Thank you for listening, and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
6/17/202412 minutes, 33 seconds
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Managing Competing Demands and Other Deadlines.

This week’s question is all about unpredictability and the struggle to find some kind of structure in your day.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 326 Hello, and welcome to episode 326 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. In an ideal world, we would be able to set our calendar for the week and allow it to flow from one event to another while getting all our work done in a timely and relaxed way.  Sadly, that ideal world does not exist and never will. Life is unpredictable, and for the most part, we are dealing with other people who likely do not share our priorities or long-term vision and, in some cases, expect you to drop everything to deal with their crisis or problem.  This week’s question goes to the heart of these issues: how do you cope when your carefully laid plans are destroyed by events and the urgencies of the people around you?  So, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Max. Hi Carl, I work in a job with competing demands. I can plan most things ahead but occasionally get asked, often at the last minute, to complete tasks that require an immediate or 24-hour turnaround. How do I fit these into my planning schedule so my other work plans are not thrown into chaos? Hi Max, thank you for your question.  When asked what was most likely to blow governments off course, former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan replied, "Events, dear boy, events."  Well, the truth is, it’s not just governments that can be blown off course; we as individuals can also be blown off course by events, too.  Around three years ago, I carefully planned a day to record the update to my Apple Productivity course. I had set up the studio the night before, checked my notes, and went to bed comfortably with the knowledge that nothing could stop me from getting the recording done the next day.  Around 7:00 am, I woke up and noticed our beloved Yorkshire Terrier was looking very sick. He had thrown up his food and was unable to get up off the floor.  He was old and suffered from a heart condition, and I knew something was terribly wrong. My wife was 50 miles up the coast staying with a friend, so I called her immediately, put Barney into the car and set off to pick my wife up before going to the vet.  Barney passed away that day, and for the next two days, I was certainly not in the mood to record anything. The whole day was a nightmare.  Later that day, I looked at my appointments for the next day and cancelled them all. No one objected; everyone understood, and I was able to mourn the passing of my best friend (anyone who has a dog will understand that one) for a couple of days without the worry of work. Whenever you are thrown off course by events, and your plans for the week get destroyed, it’s easy to think everything’s destroyed. Yet, is it? You see, we always have the power to renegotiate deadlines, put off a few things for a day or two, stop and review what has happened and reschedule a few of the lower-value things.  However, probably the most powerful thing you can do is to build some structure into your day. I learnt this from possibly the most productive and relaxed person I have ever worked with.  Andrew was one of the first bosses I ever had, and he would arrive at work at 8:30 am each day, walk into his office and close the door for 15 minutes. That was his sacred time, and everything could wait until he was finished.  What Andrew was doing was going through his mail (it was paper back then—no email in those days), reviewing his calendar (a beautiful A4 leather folio with a week to view) and writing down the five most important things that needed to be done that day.  He would then open his door, and he was available again.  Andrew would block time out on his calendar each day for doing those five or six tasks. Some would be lengthy, requiring an hour or two; others may be a simple follow-up call with one of his leadership team members.  On the occasions I saw Andrew’s diary, I saw that he always had at least thirty minutes between meetings and blocked time. The time blocks were written in pencil, and the meetings were in blue ink. As he completed his tasks, he would cross them out.  Those gaps in his diary were to deal with the unknowns that inevitably came up each day. The chairman may have called and demanded a change to the marketing plan for that week, or there may have been an accident in the workshop that needed dealing with. None of these were predictable and my guess is you also have a few unpredictable tasks and events occurring each day.  The best thing you can do is plan for them.  While you may not know the precise nature of these unknowns, what you do know is that there will always be a few each day. You will likely not know what the crisis will be, but if you work on the principle that there will be a crisis each day, you can at least leave sufficient time to deal with it.  What about the constants in your day? We all have communications to deal with—email, Teams or Slack messages—and admin.  These are what I call my constants, and as such, I know I will need some time each day to deal with them.  As I’m sure you’ve discovered already, skip responding to your messages for one day, and you have double the amount to do the next day—which means you need double the amount of time as well. If you are already squeezed, how will you find double the amount of time tomorrow? You won’t. And that leads to backlogs building up.  If, in an ideal world, you would like an hour a day for managing your communications, but owing to interruptions and emergencies, you only have thirty minutes one day, take it. Thirty minutes is better than nothing. Doing a little each day will keep the mountain from becoming impossible.  The key is consistency. Be consistent with your constants.  In my world, there’s always content to create. Blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, and newsletters don’t create themselves. Content creation is a daily constant, so I set aside two hours each day for it. For the most part, my content creation time is 9:30 to 11:30 am each weekday morning. However, owing to some unknown, there will always be one or two days when that will not be possible. Okay, so All I need do is look for another suitable time that day, and if that’s not possible, I will have to look for another day.  Every productive person I have met or learned about does this, and every unproductive, disorganised person I have met or learned about doesn’t.  The artist Picasso was available for anyone and everyone until after lunch. Once lunch was over, he’d disappear into his studio and paint for four or more hours without allowing anyone to disturb him. Maya Angelou hid herself away in a local motel bedroom from 7 am until 2 pm. It was only after she emerged from that room that she was available to other people.  You do not have to be that extreme, but the point is if you have work to do, Max, you need to protect time to do it. No one can escape that. Hoping time will miraculously appear is not a great strategy.  The only strategy that works is protecting time and respecting that time.  What I have discovered is that when someone asks you to do something by a certain time, the deadline they give you is based on their estimation of how long the task would take them to complete, given their current workload. It is not based on your current workload or ability to complete the task.  Recently, I was asked to record a two-minute video for a partner. The person asking me had never recorded and edited a video like this before and asked if I could send it over by the end of the week. Given that I was asked to do the task on Thursday evening, I instantly knew it would be a tall order to complete the task. Recording the video would take fifteen to twenty minutes, and the editing would likely take three or four hours.  I accepted the task but asked if I could send the edited video over the next week. The response was, “Great! Thank you so much for doing this for us.” That was an easy negotiation. Yet, unless you try, you will never know.  I could have panicked, removed some of my planned work, and completed the video by the end of the week, but, as so often is the case, the deadline was not really a deadline; it was a guess and an attempt to make me treat the task as urgent.  You owe it to yourself to explore the potential for negotiation on deadlines.  Every one of us will be different. We do different jobs, and we have multiple responsibilities related to family, friends and our work. Just because I think you can do something by tomorrow doesn’t mean you can. Only you know if something is possible.  And always remember, if you are given 24 to 48 hours’ notice of a deadline, the problem is not yours. It’s the person who left it so late to ask you for help. You are always in a stronger negotiating position in these circumstances.  Now this is entirely different to being reminded of an impending deadline that you have known about for several weeks. That’s on you and is your mistake.  In these circumstances, that would be an indication that your weekly planning is failing and needs looking at.  Ultimately, Max, if the work you do involves frequent last-minute deadlines when you plan the week, these need to be taken into account. I have a flexible day on a Thursday to catch up. I don’t plan any content work on Thursdays. I try to schedule meetings and leave enough free space to catch up on anything that may be behind schedule for the week.  This week, I used that time to send my accountant the VAT receipts she’d asked for and finish this script. Next week? Who knows what I will need the time for?  I hope that has helped, Max. Thank you for your question, and thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
6/10/202412 minutes, 39 seconds
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The Subtle Art Of Slowing Down

This week, it’s time to slow down.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 325 Hello, and welcome to episode 325 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. How often have you rushed to complete a task only to find you did it wrong or misunderstood what was required and wasted several hours doing something that wasn’t required? It happens to all of us, yet it can be one of the biggest drags on your overall productivity. But here’s the reassuring part: it has an easy fix. A simple change in approach can make a significant difference in your productivity and time management.  One of the advantages of the Time Sector System is it helps you to slow down by asking when you will do something rather than saying “yes” to everything and finding you have no time to do it. This then causes you to rush to complete urgent tasks (which may not be important tasks), leaving behind the important tasks.  Speed kills productivity, which may sound ironic, given that we think of productivity as doing things quickly and efficiently. And that is true, but speed ignores the “efficiency” part. Targeted speed is what you want, but to get fast at something takes practice and following a process. Without that practice and a process to follow, you leave yourself wide open to time-destroying mistakes that will need more time to rectify.  And this is what this week’s question is all about.  So, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from John. John asks, Hi Carl, I have so many tasks, and whenever I try to get them done, I end up having to redo them because I rushed and misunderstood the task or the request was unclear. How do you overcome these kinds of problems?  Hi John, thank you for your question.  This is a speed issue. Now, this might be part of your work culture, or it could be the expectations of your customers and bosses. The demands of others can create a sense that everything is urgent, and this leads to trying to do something that requires a little thought too fast. The result being mistakes are made or the wrong thing getting done.  One of the most important parts of becoming more productive and better at managing time is slowing down. I know that might sound contrary to what you think improving productivity is all about, but you will only improve your productivity if what you do each day is the right thing and at the highest quality you are capable of.  If Toyota wanted to increase the speed at which they produced a car, they could easily do it. Instead of screwing on the front bumper with twenty turns of the screw, they could reduce that to ten. On one car, that might save one or two seconds, yet over hundreds of thousands of cars, that adds up to hours saved.  Yet, it would be a false economy. Within a few weeks, many of those cars would be returning to their dealerships with hanging-off front bumpers. The impact on their dealership’s time and costs would be huge. Plus, it would destroy their reputation for quality. It would be disastrous for them in terms of costs, productivity and reputation.  Yet, so many people fall into this trap every day. They think if they rush and take shortcuts to get more things done, their productivity will improve. It won’t. What it will do is create a lot of unnecessary work fixing the mistakes that were made in haste.  So what can you do? The first step is to look at the work you regularly do. Where are the processes? We all get email, Slack and Teams messages. What’s your process for handling these?  There are two approaches to your communications. You can react instantly each time a message comes in. We often think this looks good. It shows we are on the ball, quick and efficient. Yet are you? Sure, some messages may require a quick yes or no, but what about those messages asking for your thoughts on something? Do you ever stop and think about your response? And then what happens to your other work? The work that is likely to be much more important? All this stopping to respond to a message and then starting again is slowing you down considerably. Of course, at the moment, you don’t notice that slow down. After all, you’re rushing from one thing to the next. You’re busy, and you’re moving fast.  But what’s happening to the important work in front of you? It’s not moving forward. You stop, respond to a message, then you come back to the work, and you have to refresh yourself—where were you, what were you writing, where are the reference materials? It’s so easy to lose an hour or two just getting back to where you were before you allowed yourself to be interrupted.  That is not being productive. It’s the reverse.  The biggest gain in productivity in car manufacturing plants was the introduction of robots. Robots don’t get interrupted. They do their job without the need to respond to emails, messages and questions from colleagues. They don’t need to attend meetings. As soon as you turn on the robot, it does its assigned job at the correct speed and in the correct order.  If you were to disrupt the assembly line by misaligning a chassis or not placing a wheel in the right place, that mistake would be catastrophic. Everything would come to a halt until the mistake was corrected.  For some reason, we rarely see that in ourselves. Stopping in the middle of doing focused work to respond to an email or message is disrupting your flow in the same way. It takes a disproportionate amount of time to recover and get back online.  The alternative approach is to develop a process for managing your communications. One way, for example, is to start your day by clearing your inboxes. Filter out the messages and emails you don’t need to respond to, delete the junk, and move your actionable messages to an Action This Day folder.  Then, assign thirty minutes to an hour later in the day to respond to those actionable messages. Fixing that time each day helps your reputation, as your colleagues and clients quickly learn your patterns. That may not always be possible, but each day, having an amount of time for managing your communications takes the pressure off having to respond instantly, and it improves your productivity because you can focus on doing your work to the level of quality expected of you.  This also has the advantage of giving you time to think. Because when you are responding to your actionable emails and messages, you’ve had time to think and respond in a clear, considered way. That improved communication means you receive fewer messages asking for clarification.  For the most part, our work does not need speed. Whether you reply to an email now or in a couple of hours is not going to create an issue (seriously, it’s not!) or responding to your boss’s Teams message this second or in twenty minutes.  We may have conditioned ourselves to believe these things need a speedy response, but they don’t. You will not lose a client because it took you two hours to respond to their email, and your boss will not fire you because it took you twenty minutes to reply to their message.  One thing that will happen if you slow down, though, is you won’t make as many mistakes, and the quality of your work will improve. On top of that, when you remove the sense of urgency, you instantly calm down and feel a lot less stressed.  One thing I urge all my coaching clients to do is set aside an hour or two each day for undisturbed focus work. If you work a typical eight—or nine-hour day, protecting two of those hours still leaves you with six to seven hours when you are available for everyone else. Surely that is more than enough time? Knowing that you have two hours each day without being disturbed relieves a lot of pressure. However, this only works if you take control of your calendar. It means you plan your week—finding two hours a day and protecting them—and then decide what you will do with that time on a daily basis.  And that is a process: weekly planning to ensure you have sufficient time to complete your important work and daily planning to assign work based on the changing priorities that happen to all of us. If you can fix that to the same time each week and day, you will go a long way towards radically improving your productivity.  It doesn’t matter if you are an accountant in a busy accountancy firm, a lawyer or a salesperson. Everything you do on a regular basis can be turned into a process. I have CEOs in my coaching programme who begin preparing for their board meetings fourteen days before the meeting. The preparation time is blocked out in their calendar, and it’s given an appropriate priority. The steps they take to collect all the information and the document they set it out in are the same each time. They follow a process.  Processes reduce the thinking time required to do a task. This naturally speeds up your work performance without compromising quality. Because you follow the same steps each time, you know where you are with the work. It also helps you to identify areas where improvements can be made.  Whenever I watch Formula 1 racing, I’m amazed at the speed at which the pit crews can change four tyres. Two years ago, the McLaren team broke the record with a time of 1.82 seconds. In the last race in Monaco, almost every team was changing the tyres in under two seconds. That wasn’t an accident. That was a process.  The pit crews will have analysed in the minutest of detail how McLaren was able to do 1.82 seconds and changed their processes ever so minutely. That analysis has saved them, on average, three-tenths of a second. A tiny amount, yes, but in Formula 1, every tenth of a second counts.  If you watch the pit crews at work in a race, they are not panicking. Each person knows exactly what to do and in what order. It’s fast because it’s so smooth, and it’s repeated over and over again.  You are not going to be able to turn everything into a process. Many projects you work on are unique. However, if you look at your work as a whole, there will be multiple individual pieces of work you repeat each day. It’s that work you should be looking at for the potential to create a process.  In my work, I’ve turned writing books, blog posts, newsletters and client feedback into processes. I’ve eliminated unnecessary actions and slimmed everything down so that when I sit down to work on something, I can begin instantly without the need to waste time looking for tools and ideas.  That’s the approach you want to be taking, too, John. Begin with your communications—that’s something we all have to do. Where can you build a process?  I hope that helps. Thank you, John, for your question and thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
6/3/202414 minutes, 10 seconds
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How To Easily Build Your Own Productivity System

So, you’ve decided to get yourself better organised. What would be the best way to start? That’s the question I am answering this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 324 Hello, and welcome to episode 324 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Whenever I begin working with a new coaching client, one of the first places we often need to start is unpicking the old system that is not working and transitioning into a system that does work.  Everyone is different. We have different times when we can focus, and we do different kinds of jobs. I recently watched an interview with J P Morgan Chase bank’s CEO Jamie Dimon, who wakes up at 4:30 to 5:00 am each morning so he can read the financial news, exercise and have breakfast before the day begins, which inevitably involves back-to-back meetings.  Waking up at 5:00 am may not work for you. You may prefer working late and waking up around 8:00 am.  But wherever you are in your productivity journey, if you want to develop a system that works for you, it will inevitably mean tweaking your old system at least somewhat. That being the case, where would you start?  And that means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Frank. Frank asks, Hi Carl, I’ve decided to get myself organised. I’ve tried everything over the years, and I have bits of all sorts of systems everywhere. If you were to start all over, what would you do first? Hi Frank, thank you for your question.  I approach this by looking at the hierarchy of productivity tools first. There are three tools we can use to help us become more productive: your calendar, task manager, and notes. Of those three, your calendar is the top one. That’s the one tool that is never going to deceive you.  It shows you the twenty-four hours you have each day and tells you what you can realistically do given that time.  Your task manager is the most deceptive tool you have. You can load it up with hundreds of tasks, yet it never tells you if you have the time available to do those tasks. It doesn’t even tell you which tasks would be the right ones to do at any given time. Perhaps AI will help us in the future there, but I doubt it. I doubt it because while AI could see everything and may know what deadlines you have and where your appointments are, it will not know how you feel. You may be coming down with a cold, might not have slept well, or had a fight with your significant other. Any one of those could derail your effectiveness, and they are things you cannot plan for.  So, when starting out, get your calendar fixed first.  What does that mean?  It means first letting go of all your double-booked times. You cannot be in two places at once, and if you do see a scheduling conflict on your calendar, these need fixing first. This may mean you need to renegotiate a meeting or move something to the all-day section. I’ve seen people putting their daughter’s driving lesson on their calendars. This often leads to seeing an appointment with a client at the same time as the daughter’s lesson. If you need to know your daughter has a driving lesson at 3:00 pm, put it in your all-day section of your calendar with the time in brackets—preferably in a different colour. You will find this cleans up your calendar significantly.  The next thing I suggest you do, Frank, is to look at all the tasks you have to do and categorise them. It’s likely you will have tasks related to communications—emails, messages and follow-ups, admin, and chores. Beyond that, it will depend on the kind of work you do. A journalist will spend a lot of time writing, a designer will spend time designing, and a lawyer will likely spend a lot of time writing contracts or court documents.  Whether you’re writing, designing, or doing something else, you want to group similar tasks together.  In a task manager such as Todoist and Things 3, you can assign labels or tags to a task. You would use these labels or tags to assign a category to your tasks. This way, you can easily group all similar tasks together.  The next step is to look at your calendar and assign blocks of time for these categories. Some may not need specific time blocks, but I encourage people to allocate blocks of time for communications and admin. These will always need doing. The problem is that if you do not have time assigned for them, the next day, instead of requiring forty minutes or so, you will need double that time just to catch up. This is not a good time management strategy.  One question I often get is about dating tasks. I do recommend that you date tasks, but only for tasks you know need to be done this week.  There’s a lot that can change between this week and next, and what you may think needs to be done the following Thursday could quite easily change to either need to be on Monday or not at all. If a task does not need to be done this week, place it in your next-week folder and forget about it. You can come back to it when you do your weekly plan.  While we are on the subject of dating tasks, beware of the things that are not tasks that can end up in your task manager. Your bill payment dates, your son’s graduation and your next dental appointment are not tasks. These are events and should be on your calendar.  You may need to know day-specific information on a given day. This information should always be on your calendar. I have my wife’s exam week dates, when my parents-in-law are staying, and public holidays on my calendar. None of these would qualify as a task unless I needed to do something on them.  Most of these are simple tweaks anyone can make to their system without the need for a complete overhaul.  The biggest challenge I find people struggle with is stepping away from firefighting addiction. This is where a person is hooked on running around panicking about everything they have to do. This just does not work. It leads to only doing easy, so-called urgent tasks and never getting anything meaningful done.  The next thing to look out for is the dilemma of being able to do anything, just not all at the same time. There’s something inherently faulty with our brains. We believe we can do a lot more than we actually can. No, you cannot complete fifty tasks and attend seven hours of meetings in a day. Not only is it unrealistic, but it’s also a guaranteed way to burn out.  Part of the problem is we like to see twenty, thirty or more tasks on our daily to-do list. It makes us feel important and useful. Yet it’s a delusion. You cannot do that number of tasks with a high level of competency.  I find it interesting that people feel ashamed when all they have on their to-do list are three or four tasks. Yet, that is what you want to be trying to get to.  You can accomplish this by moving towards a time-based system and away from a task-based one. This means instead of counting the number of tasks you have to do, you instead allocate blocks of time to specific categories of tasks.  This then allows you to dedicate an hour to responding to your messages, for instance. Then, instead of having a lot of email tasks in your task manager, you have a single task telling you to clear your actionable email folder. Similarly, you can do this with projects. Rather than having fifteen or more tasks related to multiple different projects each day, you have a single task telling you which projects to work on that day.  You will finish more projects faster if you focus on one or two projects each day instead of diluting your effectiveness by trying to work five or six projects each day.  You can then use the third tool in your toolbox, your notes. This is by far the best place to manage your projects. You can keep project and meeting notes, links to documents and emails and checklists of things that may need doing. You then only need to link the project note to the relevant task in your task manager for a single click and in experience.  The advantage here is you avoid the possibility of being distracted by something else. You see a task telling you to work on the next board meeting presentation, and click the link that will take you straight to your project notes, where you will find links to the presentation file, your research and other relevant information.  The alternative is to be clicking around, looking at a long list of tasks which will only demotivate you and waste a considerable amount of time looking for something to do instead of being directed towards the exact task that needs doing next.  Now, what about all your old stuff?  The first thing to know is that the way everything is right now may not be as bad as it first looks. I strongly suggest you consolidate your tools into three—a calendar, task manager, and notes app. If you have multiple different apps, choose one for each and combine everything into one. You do not want to be wasting time trying to remember where everything is.  Then, go through your tasks in your task manager, deleting old tasks that are no longer relevant and cleaning up your calendar.  Your notes are less important. These can be kept as you don’t know which ones may be a source of inspiration in the future. You can move old notes to an archive. There, they will be out of the way but still searchable if you ever need them. I hope that has helped, Frank. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/20/202411 minutes, 56 seconds
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How To Stay Motivated When You're Not in The Mood.

How do you create and maintain your motivation once you have your new productivity system in place? That’s what I’m answering this week.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 323 Hello, and welcome to episode 323 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. One of the positive things about creating your productivity system is the excitement you get once you have your new tools and systems set up. We often cannot wait to get started using these tools and systems.  Then, after a few weeks or months, the “newness” wears off, and we are back where we were before—looking for new tools and systems and convincing ourselves that the tools and systems we currently use no longer work.  And if your tools and systems do work, it can be hard to stay motivated once the monotony of doing the same things at the same time each day beds in.  This week’s question goes to the heart of that—staying motivated to do the work we know we should do but just don’t want to do.  So, with that little introduction complete, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Keith. Keith asks, HI Carl, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. When it comes to the time of actually doing work allocated on my calendar, I often feel not bothered and I just simply reschedule it for the next time, I find myself doing that a lot, with both routine and areas of focus tasks and I find it strange that I am able to reschedule it all so easily… do you have any tips on what to do here?  Hi Keith, thank you for your question.  There are two distinct parts here. Your areas of focus should be self-motivating. These are tasks you have identified as important to you and for the life you want to live.  The second, routines, are less important—these are the tasks that just need to be done to maintain life. Things like taking the garbage out, washing the car, doing the laundry or, mowing the lawn, etc.  The more concerning part here is a lack of motivation in your areas of focus. Doing these tasks should be the things you look forward to doing the most. Well, mostly. I know it can be hard to head out for a 10-mile run when it’s pouring down outside and blowing a gale. (Although the way you feel when you get back is fantastic!)  Let’s step back a little first.  When you find yourself rescheduling calendar blocks, that’s not necessarily a bad sign. That’s just life. Emergencies happen, plans are changed, and occasionally, we get sick.  That said, having structure does help you to be consistent. For instance, I recommend you protect time each day for dealing with your actionable emails and messages. Rather than going in and out of your email every few minutes—which is disastrous for your cognitive ability to focus—having time set aside for dealing with these gives you the time and space to get on with your important work.  Similarly, you will likely find that if you can set aside an hour for admin and chores each day, the only thing you then need to decide is what admin tasks and chores you do in that time. Becoming consistent with this results in you rarely needing the full hour.  You may find that if you move these blocks around every day, consistency will be difficult to achieve. The goal of setting aside a little time each day for focused work, communications, and admin is to get them fixed in your calendar.  This is a using a little neuroscience to get your brain working for you. You are using neuroscience when you go to bed at the same time each day. It’s why you begin to feel sleepy at the same time each day. This is the same for meal times. Consistent meal times informs your brain when to tell you that you are hungry.  As an aside, if you take up intermittent fasting, you will find skipping breakfast early in the morning difficult at first. Yet if your eating window is between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., after a few weeks, your brain learns when to tell you to eat. You will no longer be hungry in the morning.  Let’s examine the motivational aspect of this, beginning with your areas of focus.  These activities should be self-motivating. Your areas of focus are the things that are important to you. If you lack motivation here, it’s likely that the way you have defined what each one means to you is not quite right and needs a little refining.  Health and fitness can often be difficult if you find any form of exercise unpleasant. What may be happening if you skip exercise is you are trying to do too much. I have found if you set a minimum—a level you can do very easily will keep you motivated here. For example, you could set a minimum of 5,000 steps per day or 10 push-ups and 10 air squats. Doing that set would count as an exercise session.  Once you’ve completed your 5000 steps, you are likely to do a few more to exceed your minimum. Likewise, with pushups and squats, you are likely to do more than ten just to exceed your minimum.  You will probably have found that starting is the hardest part. Once you have started, you end up doing more, which is where another trick can be deployed. I mentioned setting aside time each day for communications is a good habit to have. If you know at 4:00pm, you will spend an hour dealing with your actionable messages but are really not in the mood to do it, you can tell yourself I will just respond to the five oldest messages today.  In most cases, once you’ve done those five, you are going to continue for the full hour. And if you don’t continue, you’ve done five. Five is better than none. After all, one is always greater than zero.  Going back to the principle of blocking time out. Try not to be too specific here. Your time blocks should be for specific types of work. For instance, if you are a lawyer who is required to write contracts frequently, you could block two or three hours each week for “Writing”. This then gives you greater freedom on what you will write in that time. Perhaps one day, you need to write a will or an affidavit. By keeping the time block general, you have greater freedom about what you will work on.  This helps with motivation, as you have a greater choice of what to work on. If there is time pressure on a particular part of your work, you can choose to do the most time-sensitive part—which is usually the best motivator. Or, if there is no time pressure, you can choose something you feel like doing.  Another area to look at is timing. For most people, the late afternoon is not a great time to do focused work. You’re likely to get tired and possibly feel frazzled by all the stuff being thrown at you all day. That’s not a motivation issue; that’s just being tired—tired of looking at a screen all day, tired of dealing with other people’s problems, and tired of making decisions. It all adds up.  What I’ve discovered is that doing deeper, focused work in the morning is much easier than trying to do it in the afternoon. You’re fresher and will find it easier to focus. This does not work for everyone. Some people focus better in the afternoons. But as Daniel Pink found when writing his bestselling book When, the number of people who can focus better in the afternoons is less than 2%. The majority of us are either morning or night people.  If it’s possible, try to do your more meaningful work in your natural biorhythm rather than fighting it. Nobody wins the fight against nature.  Finally, look at your processes. Processes are a human form of automation. This is why when you begin your day with a consistent “you” focused morning routine, no matter what is thrown at you, on the whole, you get through the day without too much trouble.  If you wake up late, skip your morning routines, and run out the door to get to work on time, everything seems to go wrong.  Processes ensure that once you begin a piece of work, it’s almost automatic. My favourite routine is email management. You clear your inbox in the morning. This part of the process is all about speed—clearing it as fast as you can. You can add a little incentive here and time yourself to see how fast you can clear fifty or a hundred emails. The second part of the process is about slowing down and clearing your action this day folder.  Because the second part of the process is about slowing down and thinking about your responses, you can begin the process by making yourself a nice cup of tea, putting on some relaxing music and begin.  Rather than focusing on numbers, set yourself a time limit. For instance, if you give yourself forty-five minutes, start with the oldest email in your action this day folder and start. Because you are not focused on how many emails you respond to, you can see the “end of the tunnel” it’s forty-five minutes later.  Again, if you are consistent with this, you won’t lack motivation, particularly with email management. If you skip just one day, you’ve doubled the amount of time you will need tomorrow. Now, that would be demotivating.  I hope that helps, Keith. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
5/13/202411 minutes, 54 seconds
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Task-Based -Vs- Time-Based Productivity

What is “Time-Based Productivity”, and how can you apply it to your daily work? That’s the question I am answering this week.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 322 Hello, and welcome to episode 322 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. One of the huge benefits of the Time Sector System is that it removes the tyranny of task-based productivity and replaces it with something more concrete: time.  You see, tasks will never stop coming at you. Your kids’ toys need to be picked up, the laundry needs to be done, your bed needs to be made, and you’d better check the refrigerator to see what you need to pick up from the supermarket. And that’s before you start your work day.  If you base your productivity system on the tasks you need to do, you will wear yourself out. It’s impossible because it’s never-ending. There are no barriers, and you will see this rather quickly if you use a task manager. Task managers fill up, and everything is screaming at you to be done.  But then you’re faced with the question: where am I going to find the time to do all these tasks?  It always comes back to time.  This week’s question asks how you can transition away from this tyranny of task-based productivity and bring a sense of control and calm into your world.  So, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jens. Jens asks, hi Carl, I am always overwhelmed with tasks and never able to get all my work done. I am also constantly interrupted by messages and emails and never seem to be able to get a quiet moment. How would you handle this situation?  Hi Jens, thank you for your question. You describe a real problem today. Over the last fifteen years or so, technology has broken down the barrier between our work and personal lives. Long gone are the days where when we finished work for the day we really did finish work. If we needed to respond to a work email, it had to be done from our office computer. Once we had gone home, that was it. No more work email. Sure, there were other issues—people staying late in the office for one, but at least when you left your place of work for the day, that was it. You left work at work. (Or it certainly felt like it.) So, what can you do today to establish some barriers so you do not always feel pressure to do more?  A few years ago, I discovered that if you base your system on task management, you will lose. Tasks are never-ending, and there will always be more to do than time available to do them.  It was that phrase—“always more to do than time available” that gave me a clue towards the solution. If tasks were unlimited, then perhaps I could work on the one area that was limited—time.  Working with time gave me natural limits or constraints. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and during that time, I need to eat and sleep at the very least. That then gave me a new number to work with. Given that I personally need around seven hours of sleep and, let’s say, ninety minutes for eating, then all I had left was fifteen and a half hours for everything else.  Once you work out how much time you need for sleep and eating, plus time for personal hygiene, you likely will have around fourteen hours a day to work with.  So the temptation is often how much work can you fit into fourteen hours, yet that’s probably not the best place to work from.  Work is just one part of your life. It’s an important part, but so is time spent with your family, getting a little exercise and perhaps some relaxation activities such as watching TV, reading a book or watching your favourite sports team.  When you add up all the time you need for these activities, your work day will likely be around eight to ten hours.  So, what can you do in, say, nine hours? Well, let’s break things down a little further. Email and Slack or Teams messages will probably be a big part of your work—particularly if you are a knowledge worker—i.e. you are employed for your brain rather than your physical strength. That being the case, how much time do you need to be able to stay on top of all these messages and emails?  In my case, I need about an hour a day to respond to my actionable emails. You will likely be around the same figure. Think of it this way: if you had one uninterrupted hour each day for responding to your actionable emails, would you be able to stay on top of it?  If that’s the case, then you need to protect an hour a day for managing your communications. If you accept you need an hour yet do not protect that hour, what’s likely to happen?  At the very least, you’ll need two hours the next day, three the day after that and so on. Where will you ever find two or three hours in a day for nothing but email and messages?  Not protecting time for these activities is not sustainable. That’s how backlogs build up, and that just drains you.  One of the first things I advise my coaching clients to do is protect some time each day for communications. This one positive action can bring huge benefits.  The first is that you stop worrying about what’s lurking in your inbox. You know you have time protected to deal with it. This means you are going to be much more focused on the work you want to get done. The second is that it starts to reduce the “addiction” of going in and out of your inbox “checking” to see if anything important has come in.  All that checking is creating havoc in your cognitive abilities to focus on what needs to be done. It’s hugely inefficient and drains your mental energies.  Try to think of it in terms of the gears in your car. If you are constantly changing gears, you are going to run out of fuel much faster than if you get into top gear and stay there. You may not be accelerating as fast, but you are running at a much more efficient rate, which conserves energy.  Constantly switching your attention to check email or messages does the same thing to your brain as if you were going up and down the gears. It’s highly inefficient and drains you of energy.  But we keep checking because we don’t feel confident that we have sufficient time at the end of the day to clear any actionable email.  The key to time-based productivity is to identify the types of work you are expected to do. For example, if you are a designer, how much time do you want to spend on design work each day?  Imagine you protected four hours each day for doing focused design work; this means you could focus all your efforts on doing the work you were employed to do. From 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, you would block that time on your calendar as focused design work.  Now, all you need is a list in your task manager called “design work”, and you can pick which you will work on that day.  Now, I know many of you will immediately tell me that’s impossible. Okay, it might be in your situation. But rather than dismiss this idea, perhaps you could play with it.  Perhaps instead of blocking the first four hours of your day for focused work, you could break it down into two-hour segments. You could do two hours of focused work and one hour of miscellaneous work, such as communicating with your clients and colleagues. Then do another two hours in the afternoon.  That would still leave you with four hours for meetings, returning calls and messages, and handling emails.  I promise you that one change will radically improve your productivity and leave you a lot less exhausted at the end of the day.  If this is so effective, why do so few people do it? Fear.  It’s the fear of saying no to someone who wants to interrupt your protected time. And that’s hard. There’s an element of FOMO—the fear of missing out, but also a deeper human instinct to be alert for danger. That danger today, is not some predatorial mammal but angry bosses, upset clients and people thinking you’re being lazy because you’ve disappeared.  However, when it comes to your evaluation as an employee, no one remembers whether you answered an email in thirty minutes or less. You will always be assessed on your results.  People will always remember when you failed to meet a deadline or didn’t deliver an order on time. Saying, “But I replied to your emails and messages within a few minutes,” isn’t going to wash.  The only way to get results is to do your work. If you’re wasting precious time allowing yourself to be interrupted and distracted, something is going to have to change.  So, yes, if you base your productivity on the number of tasks you have to do, you will feel overwhelmed and stressed out. There’s only one end result—burnout, and that’s not very pleasant.  Instead, make a list of your core work activities—the work you are employed to do and a list of the things you want to spend time doing—your non-work related activities.  Then, open up your calendar and find time for those activities.  With your core work, I recommend you fix it as repeating blocks on your calendar where possible. Find a time in the day when you are least likely to have meetings and block it out now.  You may find that a fixed time is not possible because of the dynamic nature of your work; in that case, block sufficient time out on a week-to-week basis for you to get your work done. It’s an extra planning task, but it’s worth it.  For the tasks you want to complete, place them in your task manager in folders designated by when you will do them: this week, next week, etc. Then, label or tag the task by the category of work it relates to.  Is the task related to communication or administration? Does it relate to your core work as a designer, salesperson, or manager? On your calendar, create blocks of time for each of these categories. When the time comes, the only list you need to look at is the list of tasks for that particular category. Then, do as many of them as you have time.  If you remain consistent with this process and don’t cherry-pick the easy tasks, your output will soon shift upwards. I know; I’ve seen it time and time again. It works, and very few people ever complain you are no longer as available. And the few that do, once you explain you need quiet time to get on and do your work effectively, they soon stop complaining.  Switching away from unsustainable task-based productivity is easier than you may think. It does take a positive effort, though. To start, decide how much time you need each day to fulfil your work commitments and go from there. Once you see it working, you will be encouraged to add more focused time blocks.  Thank you Jens, for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me know to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/6/202413 minutes, 52 seconds
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How To Get Your Notes Organised Once and For All.

If your notes are a disorganised mess, this episode is the one for you.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Mastering Your Digital Notes Organisation Course. Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 321 Hello, and welcome to episode 321 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. This week, I have a special episode for you. No question; instead, I want to share a way to think about your productivity tools, particularly how your notes app fits into the whole scheme of things.  There is a trinity of productivity tools—your calendar, task manager, and notes app—that when connected, will enhance your overall effectiveness by reducing the friction between organising and doing work.  Today, I want to focus on the notes app because this is the tool that is most often neglected. Within this Trinity of tools, your calendar is number 1. Everything flows from your calendar because that is the tool that will prevent you from being overly ambitious and give you the reality of the day. There are twenty-four boxes in your calendar, each representing an hour, and that’s all you get each day.  You cannot change that, for time is the fixed part of your productivity system.  Your task manager tells you what tasks you have committed to and when you will do those tasks. Its relationship with your calendar is critical because if you have seven hours of meetings, you’re committed to picking your kids up from school, and you have a hundred tasks to do; you will know instantly you have an impossible day. You can then either reschedule some meetings or reduce your task number. So, where do your notes come into this trinity?  Your notes support your tasks. It’s here where you will manage your projects, interests, goals and areas of focus. It’s also where you can keep your archive, which, if used well, will become a rich resource of inspiration, ideas and creativity. But more on that later.  Of all the productivity tools you use, your notes app is the one where you can be a little relaxed. Your notes do not need to be perfectly curated and organised. Most notes apps today have powerful search built in, and I would argue that the ability to search within your notes is a critical part of your choice when choosing a notes app.  I suspect Evernote’s popularity over the years (despite its recent changes) is due to two factors: its search, which is arguably still the best in the field, and its brilliant web clipper.  The ability to search your notes means that as long as you give any note a sufficiently descriptive title, you will be able to find it quickly and effortlessly.  As a side note, I highly recommend that you learn all the different ways your notes app can search for your notes. Just Google your notes app of choice’s search functions. For instance, you can search “OneNote search” or “Notion search”. Learning this will save you a lot of time in the future.  Evernote has a keyboard shortcut on the Mac operating system that I’ve been using for years. However, for a brief period in 2019, this feature stopped working while Evernote was transitioning from the old “legacy” version to the new Evernote 10, which was very frustrating.  During that six-month period, I realised how important it was to be able to search your notes quickly in terms of overall productivity.  Your notes do not just support your projects. They can also support multiple parts of your life, from tracking your goals to keeping your eight areas of focus front and centre of your life.  Moreover, you can keep track of your hobbies, wish lists, book notes (if you read Kindle books), self-development topics, and interests. And all this information can be taken with you wherever you are through your mobile phone.  All this is great, but what if you have a notes app up and running, but it has become neglected and lacking in a little TLC (tender loving care)? Well, fear not. As you do not need to be as strict about how tidy your notes are, getting things back on track can be a little project you do over a few weeks or months.  Here’s how to get things started. First, create five folders. What these are called in your own notes app will depend on the app you are using. If your preference is OneNote, this would be your notebooks, Evernote would be stacks and Apple Notes would be folders. To help you, this is the highest level you have in your notes app.  These five folders should be named as follows: Goals, Areas of Focus, Projects, Resources, and finally, your Archive. Again, depending on what app you are using, you will also need an Inbox for collecting your notes.  To give you a quick summary of what goes in each folder, for your goals, this is where you put the goals you are currently working on. Really, this is a place where you keep track of your goals. For example, if you are saving money, you can track how much you are saving each month. Similarly, if you are losing weight, you can track your weight each week and add the numbers here.  Your areas of focus is where your eight areas go. If you are unaware of these, you can download my free areas of focus workbook from carlpullein.com. What you do with this folder is create a subfolder for each area and have a note in each defining what each area means to you and what you need to do to keep it in balance. Next up, your projects folder. For each project you are currently working on, you would have a subfolder. There, you can keep notes on any meetings you attend, checklists, links to any files you need, copies of relevant emails and contact details for collaborators.  You can also keep a master projects list here, which will give you quick access to any of the projects you are working on.  Then, there is your resources folder. This is for your interests, hobbies, further education, and anything else you want to keep. Think of this as your commonplace notebook area. If you are not sure what a commonplace book is, here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Commonplace books are a way to compile knowledge, usually in notebooks. They have been kept from antiquity and were kept particularly during the Renaissance and in the nineteenth century. Such books are similar to scrapbooks filled with items of many kinds: notes, proverbs, aphorisms, maxims, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, prayers, legal formulas, and recipes.” Your resources folder is unique to you, and you don’t want to overthink it. I love all things related to James Bond, and I have a subfolder of articles, links, and videos related to all things James Bond. There’s stuff in there about the films and locations, clothing and props, and products the James Bond from the books used.  It’s a gold mine of information related to something I have a deep interest in and it’s unique to me.  And your archive. Contrary to popular belief, this is not one step away from the trash. Your archive is a rich resource of discarded ideas, old projects, and stuff you were once interested in. It’s here where you can potentially make connections only you could make. Your life experiences, knowledge, and way of thinking make you who you are, and many of the ideas and things you were once interested in may be the spark to something very special.  When Steve Jobs was at university, he took a calligraphy class. At that time, it was a passing interest, yet several years later, when they were designing the Mac User interface, many of the things he learned in that class came back to him. Today, whether you use a Mac or Windows machine, you can thank Steve Jobs that you have hundreds of fonts to choose from.  Nobody had made the connection that multiple fonts to choose from would allow people to use their computers to be creative. Perhaps nobody would have done had Steve Jobs not taken that calligraphy class.  That’s the power of your archive. Yes, I know Steve Jobs didn’t have the benefit of Apple Notes in the early 1980s, but that passing interest sparked an idea we all benefit from today.  It’s the randomness of your archive, built up over many years, that will become a place for you to, at the very least, reminisce. This is where you have the freedom to dump stuff. You never know when or if any of what you put in there will become useful again.  Once you have your folder structure set up, you can go through all your old notes and move them into your new structure. Now, I want to stress that you do not need to do this in one go. Take your time, enjoy the process and reminisce as you go through your old notes. This should never be a chore; it should be treated as a fun project.  Remember, because of the powerful search your notes app has, all your notes, new and old, are searchable. So there is no rush to do this. You could decide to do this while watching TV in the evening or perhaps while commuting to work if you use a bus or train. Maybe you have a long flight coming up; you could use some of that time to go through your notes.  One tip I can give you here is that as you go through your old notes, you should ensure that the titles of your notes mean something to you. If you come across notes with an image, for example, you may find that the title is something IMG6654. You want to change that title as it won’t be searchable in that format.  You can also add tags if you wish to. Be careful not to tag something with the same name as the name of your folder or subfolder. To give you an example from my James Bond subfolder, I use tags to denote whether something is related to a book, film prop or location. I use a coded tagging system. So, anything related to a location would be tagged JB Location. Anything related to a film would be tagged JB Films.  Likewise, I have a subfolder in my resources called Places to Visit. The tags I use here are the place names. So, I have tags for Paris, London, Seoul, Tokyo etc.  Your tags are there to aid search, so if you decide to use tags, make sure you use names that mean something to you. You do not want to be too clever here. A good adage to go by is, “When tagging, tag as if you were being your dumb self.” Now, if you want to learn more and go into more detail, I have just published a brand new course called Mastering Digital Notes Organisation. In this course, I go into detail on setting up your notes, how to process new notes, and the importance of the three underlying foundations of provenance, categories, and series.  This course will also show you how to build a rich resource of information that you will want to revisit repeatedly. Details on how to join the course are in the show notes, or you can go directly to my website, and the links and everything you need to know will be right there.  Thank you for listening, and I wish you all a very, very productive week.   
4/29/202413 minutes, 47 seconds
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Overcoming The Fear Of Saying "No"

Setting up a structured day makes sense. It reduces decision-making and helps you prioritise your work. But how strict should you be with this structure? That’s the question I answer this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 320 Hello, and welcome to episode 320 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. The change that has given me the biggest productivity benefit over the years was giving my calendar priority over every other productivity tool. This means that if my calendar tells me it’s time to buckle down and do some focused work, I will do that. If a customer or boss asks for a meeting when I have scheduled time to work on a project, I will always suggest an alternative time.  This single change has meant I get all my work done (with time to spare), I can plan my days and weeks with a reasonable amount of confidence, and I rarely, if ever, get backlogs.  However, when you adopt this method, the temptation is to adhere to it rigidly. And that is where things begin to go wrong.  This week’s question is on this very question. How strict should you be with the plan you have for the week? So, with that said, literally, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Lucas. Lucas asks, hi Carl, I love your idea of blocking time out for your core work each week. The problem I have is I feel guilty now whenever I ignore a message or refuse to meet someone when I have a time block. What do you do to overcome this feeling of guilt?  Hi Lucas, thank you for your question.  Having structure in your day (and week) lets you know with a strong degree of confidence that you have sufficient time each day to do your work.  Let me give you an example. Pretty much all of us get email each day. It’s just one of those inevitable parts of life. Now, if you are a typical knowledge worker, you will be getting upwards of 80 emails each day. Let’s say, of those 80 emails, half of them are non-actionable, 10 of them are for reference, and the remaining emails (thirty) require a response of some sort from you.  How long will it take for you to respond to thirty emails? An hour? An hour-and-a-half? However, how long it will take you is rather less important. What matters is that at some point in the day, you will need to deal with those emails. If you don’t allocate some time, you will require double the amount of time tomorrow because you will have to deal with all the emails you didn’t deal with today.  That’s how backlogs build: by being unrealistic about the amount of time you need to protect to stay on top of things like email and your admin.  It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you to find an hour a day and dedicate it to responding to your emails. In theory, this sounds great. In practice, life will get in the way. It always does.  And even if life doesn’t get in the way, you may be exhausted, or something could be worrying you. All of which will conspire to slow you down and make you less efficient.  Instead of strictly sticking to a plan, you will find it better to work on the principle that one is greater than zero. In other words, while you may like to have an hour to manage your emails, on those days that you don’t, give yourself twenty or thirty minutes instead. The goal is not necessarily to clear your actionable email each day. The goal is to stay on top of it. This means that if you are unable to clear all your actionable emails today when you come to deal with your email tomorrow, you begin with the oldest and work from there.  This way, no one will ever wait longer than twenty-four hours for a reply.  This approach gives you the flexibility to deal with requests as and when they come in—and they will come in. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of waking up with a clear plan of action for the day, only to begin your work day and be told some catastrophic mistake has happened and all hands are required to get things back under control.  That’s life for you. As the saying goes. “No plan survives the first shot being fired.” Getting comfortable with this reality means you retain some degree of flexibility to deal with colleagues’ and friends’ requests in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilty.  But let’s look at this a little deeper.  Attending meetings and answering messages and emails is what Call Newport describes as the administrative tax you pay for agreeing to do a project. Unless you are working on your own project, there will always be some form of communication that, while important, will stop you from doing actual work on the project.  Your colleagues may be very happy to see you in the meeting or to receive your message responses in a timely manner, but how will they feel if you are unable to meet your deadlines?  Nobody will remember you skipped a meeting or two or were a little late responding to a message. But I can assure you they will remember if you cannot meet your deadlines. That will leave them feeling disappointed and tarnish your reputation as a productive and effective employee.  Time blocking does not mean you block out every day for specific types of work. Allocating two hours for focused work and an hour each for communications and admin would only take four hours out of a typical eight-hour working day.  That would ensure you are consistently on top of your work and still allow you four hours for meetings, responding to quick requests and answering your phone.  The only area where someone may feel put out is if they want to hold a meeting at 10:00 am and you tell them you cannot do so but will be happy to meet at 11:30 am instead. Yet, with that said, I’ve never come across anyone who got offended because I suggested an alternative time.  And remember, if they pull rank on you, so to speak—i.e. your boss tells you that you must attend the meeting at 10:00 am, okay, you have no choice so attend the meeting and readjust your focus time. Either you can reduce the time that day, or you reschedule it for another time in the day.  When you plan your core work for the week, you do so knowing that your plan will likely need to change. That does not mean you don’t plan the week.  Planning out when you will do your core work for the week means you know you begin the week with enough time to get that important work done. If, or rather, when something comes up that requires you to adjust your schedule, that’s fine. Look at your calendar and see where you can move a focused time block. If you cannot, look at reducing the time block.  If none of that is possible, delete the time block altogether. It’s one day, and you may create a small backlog for a day or two. But if you are consistent and you stay with your plan where possible, you will soon find yourself clearing any backlog.  It’s interesting that you assume there’s a feeling of “guilt”. I must admit I did feel uncomfortable when I began implementing these practices. I went from being always available for anyone to being selectively available. But I don’t remember ever feeling guilty.  The people demanding my time wanted me to do some work for them. The thing is, talking about work is not doing work. Sitting in a meeting delayed the work. It was easy to overcome any risk of guilt by telling myself that by making it difficult for me to be in a meeting with them, I was able to do what they wanted me to do better and faster.  Life is always going to be full of difficult choices. Do I take my dog for a walk now or later? When do I go to the supermarket? Do I work on this project or that one? It’s never-ending.  Yet, a plan for the week reassures you you have the time set aside. And once that plan is in place, you do whatever you can to protect it.  That does not mean you stubbornly stick to it. There will always be a need for flexibility. But, if you give yourself ten minutes or so before the end of the day, you can look at what you didn’t do and reschedule what you can.  The best special forces teams always begin a mission with a clear plan of action. Yet they know that once the mission begins, that plan will change. Part of their training is to learn how to adapt to the changing nature of the battlefield quickly. Intelligence may have been incorrect, a weapon may malfunction, or a team member may take a hit and be rendered out of action. The skill is in quickly evaluating the changing nature of the plan and adapting your actions to adapt to the new set of circumstances you face.  You will not be able to do that in a week or a month. It’s something you will always be working on. But with practice and focus, you will soon find yourself becoming more adaptable. Better at making decisions about where to apply your time and feeling less guilty about being less available than you used to be.  Good luck, Lucas and thank you for your question.  Thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
4/22/202411 minutes, 49 seconds
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What Are Your Categories Of Work?

So, your calendar and task manager are organised, and you have enough time to complete your important work. But how do you define what your individual tasks are? That’s what I’m answering this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 319 Hello, and welcome to episode 319 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. One of the most powerful ways to improve your effectiveness is to ensure you have sufficient time each day protected for your important work. Some of these tasks will be obvious. If you’re a salesperson and one of your customers asks you to send them a quote for a new product you are selling, that will come under the general category of “customers”. As this is an important part of your work as a salesperson, your “customer” category will have time protected each day. Well, I hope it does.  Then there will be your general communications and admin to deal with. We all have these categories of tasks to do each day. There’s no point in sticking your head in the sand, as it were, and hoping they will go away. Emails demanding a reply do not disappear. Ignore these for one day, and you’ll have double the amount to do tomorrow. This means you will need double the amount of time, too—time you likely do not have.  What this all means is that if your task manager supports tags or labels (and most do), you can use these for your categories.  This week’s question is about how you choose which category for your tasks.  So, with that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from José. José asks, Hi Carl, I am struggling to define which tasks are admin, consulting, or sales-related. How do you go about choosing categories for your tasks? Hi José, thank you for your question.  Let me first explain the different categories of work you may have.  The concept here is that every task you have will come under a particular category. Those categories could be communications or admin, but they could also be sales activity, writing, designing, or marketing. Your categories will depend on the kind of work you do. Once you have established your categories, you protect time each day (or week) to work on those categories. For example, I have a category for “projects.” I block Wednesday mornings for project work. This means that when I plan for the week, the majority of my project tasks will be scheduled for Wednesday.  The important thing is you do not add too many categories. The less, the better. To give you a benchmark, I have eight categories. Mine are: Writing Audio/visual Clients Projects Communications Admin Planning Chores It can be difficult to establish your categories at first, and the temptation will be to add more categories than you need. This is a mistake because very soon, you will have too many categories, which slows down your processing.  If you’re familiar with COD (and if you are not, you can take the free course—the link is in the show notes), the purpose of Organising is to get everything in the right place as quickly as possible. If you have too many categories, it will slow you down and involve far too many choices. You may experience the paradox of choice, where too much choice paralyses your thinking.  So, what are your categories? Well, you will likely have communications and admin. We all have to communicate, and email and Teams/Slack are pernicious and never-ending. Having some time protected each day to deal with your communications will keep you on top of these and prevent you from being overwhelmed.  And there will always be bits of admin to deal with. Requests from HR, banking, filing, and expenses to process etc. You may not need a great deal of time for admin each day, but it’s worth protecting thirty minutes or so to stay on top of this.  However, aside from your communications and admin, what other categories do you need? This depends on your core work.  For instance, if you are a journalist, two categories spring to mind: research and writing. This is the core of your employed work and is what you are paid for. If you spend six hours out of an eight-hour working day in Teams or Zoom meetings, that leaves you with just two hours to manage your communications and admin AND do some writing.  No chance. It’s not going to happen. Something will have to change if you want to spend more time doing what you are employed to do.  One way to do that is to ensure before the week begins, you have enough time to meet your core work objectives. That comes first. After that, you will see how much time you have left for meetings.  Simple, yes. To put into practice, perhaps a lot more difficult. But it’s one of those important adjustments worth working on.  This means, if you were a journalist, you would have your writing and research categories blocked in your calendar before the week begins.  Now, in your case, José, you mentioned how to determine what type a task is. I would see any task that comes from a customer or client as something more than admin unless it was updating a customer relationship manager or a spreadsheet—which would be admin.  If a client requests a copy of an invoice or receipt, I would categorise that as client work. It’s important because it’s a request from a client. It might be small to you, but your client may need that invoice or receipt urgently. (Remember, not everyone is as efficient as you are.)  It’s also a quick win for you, as a task like this would be a quick task.  Consulting is an interesting category. That perhaps is something you do as part of your client work. For example, I don’t consider my coaching work a separate category. Coaching is relatively straightforward as I am with the client. It’s an appointment on my calendar. The resulting feedback I write for the client comes under the category “Writing” - As I have four or five coaching appointments per day, this means I have four or five feedback reports to write each day. Hence, I have a writing block on my calendar most days.  Similarly, with sales, is that a category of task, or is it an appointment with clients? Sales activity may be prospecting, writing proposals or following up with clients (although that could be under the category of communications)  Now, this leads me to an important aspect of this. You do not need to be absolute here. What matters is that the work gets done. Whether something is categorised as communications or sales activity doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the task gets done when you intend it to happen.  There inevitably will be some grey areas. You could say that writing feedback for my coaching clients is a communication task—after all, it involves writing to the client. However, I chose to categorise the task as a writing task.  And that’s important. I chose to categorise it that way, and I am consistent with it.  Perhaps in your consultancy work, José, you prepare reports for your clients. How would you categorise writing those reports? Is it writing, or is it client work? How you categorise it doesn’t really matter as long as you are consistent with your categorising.  Why go to the trouble of categorising your work in the first place? Well, doing so helps you to prioritise your work more effectively. For instance, as a consultant, your top priority each day could be your client’s work. When you begin the day, and you see three tasks related to client work, you know, without any further planning, that those three tasks will be your priority for the day.  Likewise, chores could be low-priority tasks for you, in which case you can decide whether you will call the bank at lunchtime or leave it until later in the week.  Categorising your work is another way to automate the decision-making process. Having to decide what to do based on a long list of potential things to do overwhelms you and leaves you exhausted at the end of the day. By pre-determining what your core work is—the work that is important as opposed to work that feels important but, in reality, is disguised low-value busy work. At the heart of this method is pre-determining what is important and what is not. Only experience will tell you this to any accurate degree, and there will always be some grey areas. Fortunately, with experience, these instances of grey areas will reduce.  If you are moving away from trying to decide what to do from a long list of tasks each day, moving to a categorised list will be uncomfortable at first. You will make mistakes and miscategorise tasks. That’s fine. It’s certainly nothing to worry about. It’s by making mistakes you will learn for the next time.  And, I should mention, you will never be perfect. There are too many different types of tasks coming at us each day that may defy a category. The important thing is not to worry too much about these. They will be rare, but will happen.  So, if you are new to the idea of categorising your tasks, the way to set this up is to create tags or labels in your task manager for the types of tasks you generally get. Try to avoid being too specific. Your tasks are specific—for instance, “call Jenny about next week’s board meeting” would come under your category communications. Likewise, your follow-ups would be communications too.  It’s also a good idea to keep these labels or tags to a minimum. The more you have, the slower you will be.  Once you have your tags set up, you then create time blocks in your calendar for working on those types of tasks. So, in my case, I have an hour each day set aside for communications. This means when my communication time comes up, I only need to see my list of communications for that day. Nothing else matters for the next hour. I know if I stick with this each day, I will never have a backlog or be overwhelmed, even if, on some days, I am unable to clear them all.  All this ultimately comes back to defining your role at work. Most of us are pretty clear about our roles in our personal lives (e.g., mother/father, son/daughter, community member, etc.). It’s our work roles that we struggle with.  Giving yourself some time to think about your roles will help you to develop the right categories for your work, and that, in turn, will help you to organise your task list so it works for you rather than be a source of stress and overwhelm.  I hope that has helped, José. Thank you for sending in your question.  And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
4/15/202413 minutes, 52 seconds
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How To Impliment COD Into Your System

This week, it’s COD week. In a special episode, I’ll walk you through the fundamentals of what all solid productivity and time management systems have.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Take The NEW COD Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 318 Hello, and welcome to episode 318 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Now, some of you may be wondering what COD means. Well, it’s not a type of fish. COD stands for Collect, Organise, and Do, and these three parts of a productivity system are the critical foundations you need to develop if you want your system to work effortlessly. COD came about several years ago following a research project I did. In it, I went back to 1960 (not literally) and looked at all the time management and productivity systems I could find to see if there were any common denominators.  There were multiple systems and approaches, from Hyrum Smith’s Franklin Planner system to Stephen Covey’s First Things First and Jim Rohn’s notebook and planning method. And, of course, I didn’t neglect to look at GTD (Getting Things Done) and the multiple variations that came from that.  There were four standout features of all these systems. The first was to collect everything into a trusted place. The second was to organise or process what you collected. The third was to plan the day, and finally, there was doing the work.  When I developed COD, I wanted to give you a simple framework on which to build your own system. A system based on how you prefer to do your work. Many of you will like routine, others perhaps like flexibility. What COD does is give you a three-step process you can customise to work in the way you want to work.  Let me begin with collecting.  Nothing will work if you don’t collect whatever comes your way in a trusted place. Here, there are two key parts. Collect everything and put it somewhere you trust you will see later in the day.  Scribbling tasks and ideas onto PostIt notes can work, but I have observed that they often get stuck on computer monitors, whiteboards, and many other places, which means you don’t trust that you will see them later in the day. What works best is having a central place for all these tasks, appointments, and ideas. That could be a task manager on your phone and computer or a pocket notebook you carry with you everywhere you go.  What matters is you use it consistently, and you trust it. This may mean you need to practice to develop the right habits. But this practice is well worth it.  The second thing about your collecting tool (or UCT, as I call it, Universal Collecting Tool) is that it should be fast. If there are too many buttons to press or you keep a notebook in your bag and you have to retrieve your bag to get your notebook, you will resist and start to believe you will remember whatever you were going to collect in your head. And that will never serve you. It will forget to remind you to add it to your inbox.  The second part of the process is organising what you collected. Here, you want to choose something that works for you. I recommend using the Time Sector System, but you may find organising things by project works better for you.  What matters when it comes to organising is that you can quickly organise what you collected that day into their appropriate places. For instance, a task would go into your task manager, an event would go to your calendar, and an idea would go into your notes app. Where you put them will depend on how you have each of these tools set up.  With your task manager, what matters is the things you need to do show up on the days they need to be done. Nothing else really matters.  A side issue is that if you are going in and out of your task manager looking for things to do in individual projects or lists, you will be less effective. When you are tired, you will just scroll through your lists of tasks, causing you to feel depressed about how much you have to do and how little time you have to do them.  This is why being clear about when something needs to be done prevents that scroll. You trust that what you have on your list of things to do today is the right thing to do today.  That’s why I recommend the Time Sector System as your organisational system. It focuses on when you will do something, not how much you have to do.  There are only twenty-four in a day, and you’re not going to be able to get everything done in a day. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in a day.  And then there’s the doing.  And this is what it’s all about. You’ve collected all this stuff, and it’s organised, so you know where everything is, what appointments you have, and what tasks need to be done today. If you have ensured the first two parts—the collecting and organising—have been done, the doing part will largely take care of itself.  But what is important about doing? That’s doing the things that matter, and remaining focused on what you have decided is important.  When you don’t have any kind of system for collecting and organising, you will find you get pulled into doing things for other people at the expense of what you are meant to be doing. It can be easy to spend four or five hours helping someone else to get their work done, only to find yourself with precious little time left to do the work you are expected to do.  This is where you will find yourself building mountains of backlogs and with no time to get them under control.  It doesn’t mean that you cut yourself off from other people. What it means is you begin the day with a clear idea of what needs to be done.  If you do have everything organised and you are spending five or ten minutes each day planning the next, you will find that out of a typical eight-hour day, you will likely need three or four hours for your own work. That still leaves you with four or five hours where you are available for other people. If you are structured and disciplined, you will find managing your own work and the requests of others easily manageable.  Yet all this begins with the collecting and organising.  That is the most powerful part of COD. It’s essentially a process you follow that ensures the right work is getting done at the right time.  And that is the way to think about it—a process. Throughout the day, you collect. Then, at the end of the day, you spend ten minutes or so organising what you collected, and for the rest of the time, you do the work.  There are other parts to building a productivity system. Ensuring you have enough time protected each day for doing your important work, which means blocking time on your calendar. I find it interesting that with the advancement of technology, we have focused on doing more rather than using technology to protect our time for the important things in life.  I remember years ago envying bosses who had secretaries. Secretaries protected their bosses’ calendars by making it difficult for people to make demands on their time. Technology can do this for you today. Services like Calendarly allow you to specify when you are available for meetings with other people, and they can choose a suitable time from a list of available times.  There are Do Not Disturb features on your phone and in internal messaging services that tell people you are busy. Technology can do all the things the best secretaries did twenty to thirty years ago. Use them. They will make your life a lot less stressful.  The final part of doing is the art of prioritisation. In the COD course, I have a section on the 2+8 Prioritisation Method. This is a simple method for choosing what to work on each day. The principle is that each day, you dedicate ten tasks to be done. These tasks do not include your routine tasks—the low-value maintenance tasks. These are bigger projects or goal-moving tasks.  Two of those tasks will be nominated as your must-do tasks for the day. These are the tasks you absolutely must do that day, and you will not stop until they are done. For instance, today, my two must-do tasks are recording this podcast and continuing my research into the profession of archiving.  When I did my planning last night, I highlighted these two tasks in my task manager and blocked time out on my calendar for getting them done.  There are other things I need to do today, but those two tasks are the must-dos.  This is how COD helps you. It gives you a framework and a process for doing your work and living your life.  If you adopt COD, you will find you have a system for managing your workload. However, beyond COD, there are a few other things you need to develop.  The first is how you will manage your tasks. As I mentioned before, I recommend the Time Sector System, which emphasises what needs to be done this week and pushes everything else off your list until it becomes relevant. This act alone significantly reduces that sense of overwhelm and encourages you to be realistic about what can be completed in a week.  Then there are the higher-level objectives in your life—your long-term vision and goals for getting to where you want to be.  However, without the basics in place, you do not have steps to get there. After all, a goal without a set of steps to achieve it is a delusion.  If you are struggling to get things working for you, I encourage you to take the COD course. Even if you already have a system, the course will give you ideas and methods that will help you make your system even better.  It’s a free course and will take less than an hour to complete. Plus, you get free downloadable guidance sheets and so much more.  The link to the course is in the show notes, and you can get further information from my website, carlpullein.com  Thank you for listening, and it just remains for me to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
4/8/202412 minutes, 45 seconds
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How To Organise Your Notes.

Do you feel your digital notes are not giving you what you want? And, is there a right and wrong way to manage all these notes? That’s what we are looking at today.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 317 Hello, and welcome to episode 317 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of discussion around how we manage our digital notes. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of new notes apps promising to do wonderful things for us and there have been numerous ways to organise all these notes from Tiago Forte’s PARA and the Second Brain to the Zettelkasten system.  The question is do any of these apps and systems work?  I feel qualified to answer this question as I have been down every rabbit hole possible when it comes to digital notes. I’ve tried Michael Hyatt’s Evernote tagging system, Tiago’s PARA and I even developed my own system, GAPRA. But, ultimately do any of these work ?  And asking that question; do any of these systems give you what you need? Perhaps is the right place to start. What do you want from a notes app? What do you want to see and how?  Before we get to the answers here, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Susan. Susan asks, Hi Carl, I’m having difficulties trying to understand how best to use Evernote. I just do not know how to organise my notes. I have thousands of notes in there going back at least five years and it’s a mess. Do you have any suggestions on how best to clean all these notes up?  Hi Susan, thank you for your question.  I don’t think you are alone. The popularity of books like Building A Second Brain and the number of YouTube videos on this subject suggests many people are struggling to know how best to organise their digital notes. But, I wonder if what we are doing is over-complicating something that should be very simple.  I’ve recently been reading Walter Isaacson’s brilliant biography of Leonardo Da Vinci and on the chapter about his notebooks Isaacson points out that Leonardo Da Vinci instilled the habit of carrying around a notebook into all is students and apprentices. It was something Leonardo did himself and everything he collected, wrote and sketched was random in order. We are very fortunate that many of these notebooks survive today and what we get to see is the complete randomness of what he collected. In these notebooks there are designs, sketches, thoughts and to-do lists all on the same page. It was this randomness that led to Leonardo discovering new ways to connect ideas to solve difficult problems and to paint in a way no one else had ever done.  And, I think, this is where we have gone wrong with our digital notes. It’s the randomness of your notes that will lead you to discover new ways of doing things. It will help you to be more creative and help you develop your ideas. If you try and strictly organise your notes—something a digital notes app will do—you lose those random connections. Everything will be organised by topic, thought or idea.  That does not mean that you want complete randomness. There will be projects, goals and areas of interest that you will want to keep together. A large project works best when all related notes, emails and thoughts are kept together. After all, they are connected by a common desired outcome. This is where your digital notes will excel—everything together in one place.  This is why having a project notebook or folder is a good idea. You can keep all these materials together and it gives you a central place to review your ongoing projects.  Then, there are what I would describe as critical information materials—things like your clothing and shoe sizes for the various places you buy things from. You may collect your receipts in organised months, and if you trust your digital notes, you may want to keep information such as your ID numbers, driving licence details, and health insurance certificates.  Again, digital notes are great for storing this kind of information as they make it easily retrievable whenever you need it.  What about everything else? The random thoughts and ideas you have. Well, if you want these to be useful to you at some future date, you will want to keep them random. Why is that? Your brain works at a very high level of illogicality. This is the opposite of what a computer does. A computer operates on very strict logical lines. Even AI works logically. AI will look at data and information and give you answers that are already in existence. This often seems amazing because we had not thought of those ideas before, but someone did. That’s how AI found the answers.  And of course, as we recently discovered with Google’s AI models, there are the biases of the people programming the software—all based on existing thoughts and ideas.  It’s these notes that if you want to develop new, creative ideas that link uniquely together, they want to be maintained in a random way.  Paper notebooks make this easy. Each new thought or idea is added to a page in your notebook chronologically, and over time, your ideas will fill that notebook in the order you have them. There may be blocks of similar thoughts and ideas you collected around the same time, but on the whole, they will be completely random. Perhaps on one page, you have some ideas about how you will redesign your back garden and on another page, you have drafted out some ideas about where you and your family will go on their next holiday.  This becomes a little more difficult with digital notes because your computer and the apps you use will want to organise them logically. However, you can create randomness here, too, if you use an archive folder. Many people think of their archive as being one step short of the trash. It’s where things you are not sure what to do with go. But stop a moment. Where would historians be without your country’s national archive? What are museums? Essentially, museums are archives of interesting things people may want to see. And there is the archive at the Vatican that holds so many treasures and documents.  An archive is not a glorified trash can. It’s a treasure trove of history. And if you create an archive notebook or folder in your digital notes you will be creating your own digital archive.  Now, because places like the National Archives in the US or UK or the archives at the Vatican City are always adding new stuff, it would be impossible to organise all these documents by theme. They may be tagged by theme, but they are organised by the date they entered the archive. If I wanted to find documents related to the Titanic, I would begin my search around April 1912. If I wanted to get a snapshot of life in 1964, I would just go to the section that housed documents from 1964.  You can do the same with your own archives. Once you have created a notebook or folder called archive, you can create sub-folders or sub-notebooks by year. Then, as you archive notes, you just add them to the year they were created.  This approach will give you the all-important randomness, yet you still have some organisation.  You can tag these notes if you wish; I do. But, and this is an important but, don’t try and be too clever here.  Imagine you were researching the Vietnam War and wanted to know how and why the war escalated in 1965. If you were at the US National Archives, you might begin your research in 1965, then Vietnam. So, the tag would be Vietnam. If you wanted to narrow down your research, you might look at the documents related to President Johnson’s decision-making, so perhaps there would be a tag for presidential papers. Beyond that, you would be trying to fine-tune things too much. You would likely see from the results you get which documents relate to meetings.  In your archive, you may have taken a trip to Paris in 2018, and while there, you came across a fantastic restaurant. Perhaps you took at picture of the menu and saved that into your notes. Now, you have two ways of retrieving that information today. If you remember the year you were in Paris, you could go straight to your 2018 archive, and as your notes will be in date order, you could scroll down to the date you were in Paris.  The alternative is if you tagged the note “Paris”, you could do a search for “Paris”. And within seconds you will have retrieved the information you wanted.  That’s how you want your notes to work. Keep them simple, so that if you want to retrieve information at a later date, you would be able to find things quickly.  What I’ve noticed is when we try and be too strict about how we organise our notes we are always fiddling and changing things. While this can be fun, at first, it becomes a drag on your productivity because the more time you spend organising, the less time you spend doing the work you need to do.  You could create separate notebooks for places and topics, but unless these are lifetime interests, keeping everything in their separate notebooks will not make retrieval any faster, and you lose that all-important randomness.  Another area where randomness really helps is with your ideas and thoughts. I’m sure you’ve had an idea about classes you may want to take or a business idea you want to investigate. You may have had ideas about starting a blog or podcast or writing a book. Many of these ideas will be passing ideas and you soon move on to the next idea. If you were intent on doing something about the idea you would begin. If you don’t begin, it’s likely a passing idea.  These passing ideas are the gold you do not want to delete. They could contain the seeds of something very special. However, on their own, they may seem redundant after a few weeks or months. It’s these notes you want to keep in your archive.  In a year or two, you may feel compelled to skim through one of your archive years, and you begin to see connections between all these ideas. Leonardo Da Vinci, sketched the mouth he eventually gave the Mona Lisa twelve years before he began painting the Mona Lisa.  Individually, these notes may mean nothing. But together, they could be your next great idea.  So, Susan, look at what you want to collect and save. Keep your projects together, these you will be working on frequently. And all those random notes you collect, store them in archives by year. As these build, you will be creating a gold mine of ideas and thoughts you will never regret keeping.  I hope that has helped and thank you for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
3/25/202413 minutes, 54 seconds
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Is There A "Perfect" Productivity System?

This week, I’m answering a question about the basics of building your very own time management and productivity system.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 316 Hello, and welcome to episode 316 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Do you ever feel there is too much conflicting advice on productivity and time management? There are those who tell you never to look at your email first thing in the morning and others who do (me included). Then there are those who advocate time blocking and many who don’t. And there are the proponents of the Getting Things Done system or, as I discovered recently, people who swear by their Franklin Planners.  It’s a confusing landscape, yet if you look at almost any way of doing things, there will always be conflicting advice. That’s because humans have different ways of doing things and varied tastes. There are those who say a stick-shift car is better than an automatic; others will give you different advice on how to raise your children.  So, how do you navigate all the advice on time management and productivity? That’s what we’re looking at this week.  This week’s question comes from Meg. Meg asks, Hi Carl, I’m a recent convert to your YouTube channel, and I wanted to ask if you have any recommendations for time management systems. There’s a lot of different advice, and I just want something I can use and stick to.  Hi Meg, thank you for your question.  I’ve always felt when it comes to time management and, by extension, productivity, the best place to start is with what you want to know and when.  By this, I mean, what do you want to see on your calendar, and when do you want to see it? You can set up notifications on your calendar to alert you to upcoming events, and you can choose when those notifications appear. For instance, if you work from home, perhaps you may only need a fifteen-minute alert before a meeting. If you work in an office or travel to meet clients, you may prefer to see when your next appointment is thirty minutes or an hour before.  Getting fundamentals like this right for you would be a great place to begin.  Next would be how you manage your calendars. You will likely have a work and personal calendar. I know many people also have shared calendars with their families. The question here is how you want to be able to see all these calendars.  Separating them by keeping your work calendar only on your work devices and your personal calendars on your personal devices can give you a nice clean edge between your work and personal life but can also create conflicts.  If you were sent on a one-day training course, you may need to leave home a little early to arrive at the training site. If you were also committed to taking your kids to school on that day without seeing them all on the same calendar, it would be easy to double-book yourself.  Think of it this way: you live one life, not multiple. Yes, you may have different roles in your life—a parent, a brother or sister, a son or daughter and an employee, for instance, but all those roles are just a part of your one life. When thought of that way, would it not make sense to keep that one life on one calendar? You could separate your roles by creating different calendars within your calendar app. Each role could be allocated a different colour on a single calendar. This way, you would see everything on one calendar and easily manage conflicts, such as attending a training course and taking your kids to school.  If you work with a company that is very strict about sharing company data, you may not be able to have all your different roles in one calendar. If that is you, you could block your work times out on your personal calendar so you can identify when you have work commitments. Your calendar only needs to show you where you are meant to be. You can always refer to your work device for the details.  This will mean a little extra work when you do your weekly planning, but checking your work calendar for any unusual start or finish times shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.  How best to manage your notes can be confusing. There is a lot of conflicting advice in this area. There are thousands of different note apps and multiple ways to organise your notes.  But let’s step back a little and think about how YOU want to use your notes.  Some of you may want to store important project information in a single place, and many of you may want to keep your ideas centrally so you can access them when you need new ones. There’s something about seeing all your random ideas together that can create connections between them you never thought of.  Many parents like to keep their kids’ drawings in a digital archive, and a notes app is great for doing that. Imagine all those pictures collected over the years and being able to see them wherever you are, whenever you want. In years to come, you may use them to tease your kids.  The thing is, how do you organise all this stuff?  It’s likely you will be collecting work-related information as well as information you want to use personally. Do you keep these separate or in one place? Again, this will depend on what your employer allows you to access outside of your work devices. You will likely find having everything in one place is the most convenient. This avoids having to remember where you put something and will make finding what you are looking for seamless.  If you have no choice, keeping your work-related notes only on your work devices should not be a big inconvenience. As with having separate calendars, it does mean you will need to review multiple places to ensure you haven’t missed anything important.  Organising your notes can be a bit of a minefield. This is where there are still a lot of ideas and methods.  One way to look at this is how people organised their notes before the digital world. After all, the digital age is relatively new and we are still experimenting with methods. People used old grey filing cabinets for hundreds of years—they must have learned a thing or two about filing effectively. With filing cabinets the most common way to organise was alphabetically. In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen also recommends organising files alphabetically. Perhaps a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach would work best for you here.  You can keep your folders or notebooks flexible; for example, you may wish to have a folder called “Insurance”, where you keep all documents related to your insurance policies. Remember, unlike filing cabinets, you can find the right document from a simple search using your keyboard so you do not need to create sub-folders for each type of insurance policy.  While there are frameworks such as Tiago Forte’s PARA (PARA stands for Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archive) and my GAPRA (GAPRA stands for Goals, Areas, Projects, Resources, and Archive), I’m coming around to believing these more complex structures are unnecessarily complex.  Today’s notes apps have excellent search features. You can add a note, and as long as you remember a title, keyword, or date range, you will be able to find it in seconds.  The biggest difference between the digital and analogue worlds is how the digital world connects. You can have your calendar, to-do list, and all your notes on a single device in your pocket, and anything you collect will be synchronised to all your digital devices. I still marvel at how I can save a blog post or news article for reading later from my phone and move it to my iPad, and the article I just saved is there waiting for me to read.  If I go back to what you want to see and when, you may want to see your calendar in the morning while you are drinking your morning brew. This means having your today’s calendar on your phone makes sense. A quick tap on your calendar app and today’s appointments are there.  What about the things you need to do today? When would you want to see those? Perhaps the first time you need to look at these is when you sit down to begin your work day. Seeing that on your computer before you begin makes sense. A bigger screen will make a list seem less overwhelming, and you can decide when these to-dos will best be done.  The most important thing, Meg, is not to overcomplicate things. When we complicate things, systems and frameworks break. You don’t need overly complex structures for your notes. All you need is a simple alphanumeric filing system that makes sense to you. Your to-do list only needs to show you what needs to be done today. Tomorrow, next week and next month’s to-dos are not relevant today.  The goal should be to begin the day knowing where you need to be and what needs to be done. Anything that supports that will always work. Anything that leaves you having to make too many decisions or think too much about what to do does not.  I hope that has helped, Meg and thank you for your question.  Thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
3/18/202411 minutes, 56 seconds
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The Tools I Use To Be Productive.

This week’s question is all about how I use the technology I have to be more productive and better manage my time.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 315 Hello, and welcome to episode 315 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. There’s a lot of technology today that helps us be more productive. Our computers make producing work easy compared to twenty-five years ago. It’s also made producing some kinds of work a lot cheaper. Imagine the cost of studio time if you wanted to record an album in 1999. Today, all you need is a laptop and a microphone, and you are good to go.  However, with all that wonderful technology, it’s likely we have a lot of devices lying around gathering dust. I have a camera with four or five lenses sitting in a gorgeous canvas camera bag I haven’t used in over five years. Now, all I take with me when we go on a trip is my phone. I’m not a professional photographer; I don’t need all that equipment.  And don’t get me started on all the apps I find I need to purge every once in a while because I don’t use them anymore. Then, there are all the subscriptions you may be paying for that you are not using.  As an example, I recently discovered I had a Fantastical subscription. I used to use Fantastical. It was a cool calendar app that allowed me to have all my Todoist tasks and events in one place. Shortly after seeing what that did to my calendar, I stopped that integration (it was horrible. It made it look like I had no time at all for anything but work and meetings). Why was I paying for a service I was not using? I don’t know, but it did cause me to go through all my app subscriptions to see if there were any more. (I found four more services I was paying for I was no longer using). This week’s question addresses the heart of this technology overwhelm, so let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice. This week’s question comes from Mark. Mark asks, hi Carl, I was wondering what digital tools you use to get your work done. You seem to be using a lot of tools, and I thought it must be very confusing to decide what to use.  Hi Mark, thank you for your question. I remember hearing an interview with Craig Federighi in which he explained Apple’s thinking on its products. He talked about how sometimes you work on your laptop, and other times, you may find the environment more suitable for an iPad. A good example of this would be when working at your desk, you may prefer the laptop, and if you attended a meeting, the form factor and mobility of an iPad might work better. It certainly did for me when I was teaching. I would create all my teaching materials from my computer, but when I went to the classroom I took only my iPad. That was all I needed to teach with.  Today, I no longer teach in classrooms; I work from home. However, I do like to step away from my desk and work somewhere else occasionally, and when I do that, I will only take my iPad with me. It’s great for writing and fits nicely into a small shoulder bag I carry when I go out.  But let’s look at how I use each individual device, and I will explain why. My phone is always with me, which means it’s the perfect UCT (Universal Collection Tool). I have my phone set up so I can quickly collect tasks, ideas and articles I would like to read later.  I use Drafts, an amazing little app that connects with Todoist and Evernote. With Evernote, I have it set up so that if I have a blog post or YouTube video idea, I can send it directly to my content ideas note without having to open Evernote. Drafts also allow me to dictate my ideas, which is essential as I have most of my ideas when I am walking my dog, Louis. I can then collect my ideas and keep an eye on Louis at the same time.  When I am out and about, I process emails from my phone, but I rarely respond from there. There are better tools for responding to actionable emails. I have a process for email management which involves clearing my inbox between sessions of work and then setting aside an hour later in the day for responding. I will respond usually from my computer, but if I am away from my office, I will use my iPad.  And, of course, I use my phone for instant messages and occasionally scrolling social media when waiting for my wife (A daily activity haha). I also have an old iPad Mini. I love that iPad. It’s my content consumption device, and on there, I will read blogs and articles I have collected through Readwise (an app for collecting articles you want to read later) and books through the Kindle app.  This iPad mini is not connected to any messaging service (Except Apple Messages) or email. It’s purely for consumption.  I should say I am not into gaming—never have been, so I have no gaming devices or apps. My guilty pleasure is reading and watching historical documentaries—which YouTube provides me in abundance. I will watch these on the big TV at home late at night when I am winding down for the day.  My iPad Pro (I think the 3rd edition) has the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil connected, and as I mentioned, I use that as my main mobile device. The keyboard is wonderful to type on, and the Pencil is great for highlighting sections in documents. Strangely, I don’t ever use it for writing. I’m a fountain pen user, and the Apple Pencil (or any stylus, for that matter) doesn’t feel right for me. Plastic on glass doesn’t work (in my humble opinion). The feel of a 14 carat gold nib on some fountain pen-friendly Japanese paper has got to be experienced to be believed. I also use my iPad Pro to listen to music when I am working. The battery on that thing lasts forever. I have a Bluetooth speaker in my office that has incredible bass (I love deep house music when I am working; the bass really helps)  My computer is for the heavy lifting: recording this podcast, editing my YouTube videos, and creating workbooks and documents. I also do a fair amount of my writing on my computer too. I also prefer to clear my actionable emails on my computer. All my design work is done on my computer from creating thumbnails for YouTube videos to workshop banners and online course materials.  And that’s it for devices. Now apps.  My primary productivity apps are Apple Calendar, Todoist and Evernote. I have experimented in recent months with Apple Notes, and while Apple Notes is an excellent note-taking app, Evernote has some features that Apple Notes does not. Primarily the ability to create note links that can be pasted into Todoist. You can do this in Apple Notes, but it’s fiddly, and I hate things that are fiddly.  Todoist is where I keep my tasks. It has a beautiful and simple interface, and in the ten years I have used it, it has never let me down. Todoist is on all my devices, as is Evernote, but… This is where Evernote is currently weak; I find the mobile version of Evernote poor. The text is too small, and there are too many button presses to get to where I want to be. However, as I use Drafts to get notes into my system, that’s something I can live with.  And that’s a good point to make. I’ve used Todoist for over ten years, and Evernote has been my go-to notes app for almost fifteen years. This means I have learned how to use these apps properly, I’ve come to trust them, and I don’t have to waste time trying to figure out how to do a particular action. I’ve learned everything I need to learn to use these apps optimally.  Apple Calendar has been my calendar app of choice for pretty much the last twenty years. I did try Fantastical for a couple of years, but the additional features were not very useful to me. Certainly not worth a subscription.  Now for the miscellaneous apps. I use Acuity for my coaching scheduling service. This means my coaching clients can book a call whenever they want to, and there’s no back-and-forth trying to find a mutually convenient time. As mentioned earlier, I use Readwise for my book highlights and for collecting articles. This is a recent change as previously I used Instapaper, but they are doubling their prices in May, and they don’t offer anywhere near the service Readwise does. The great thing is as I read a book and highlight a section or add a note, those notes and highlights are synced to Evernote in a notebook called Readwise.  For all my writing, I use Ulysses. This is a fantastically minimal writing app that, in full-screen mode, is just a dark screen with white text. There are no distractions at all and I can focus all my attention on my writing. This is synced with iCloud so if I am out and about and only have my iPad with me, I can carry on writing where I left off.  I recently looked at the number of words I have in Ulysses, and it’s now approaching three million. That just blew me away—three million words in eight years. I wrote my book, Your Time, Your Way in Ulysses, as well as all my podcast scripts, blog posts and newsletter articles. It’s a treasure trove of all my writing, and it’s all archived in iCloud. That’s one of the best things about not app-switching. You begin to create an archive of all your work in one place.  There is an exception to my writing process. I send my coaching clients written feedback after each call, and for that, I use Apple’s Pages, which is Apple’s version of Microsoft Word. Pages allows me to use a saved template for all my feedback.  For my admin and financial tasks, I use Apple’s Numbers. I don’t need the complexity of Microsoft Excel; my spreadsheet needs are simple.  And that’s about it. The only other item I use to get my work done is paper. I use an A4 Rhodia notebook as my planning book. This is where all my projects, weekly planning and YouTube video ideas get developed. I also returned to writing my journal by hand after using Day One for five years. That was because I felt my life was beginning to be dominated by screens, and it’s nice to get more use out of my fountain pen collection.  The most important thing for me is to keep the tools I use to a minimum. I’ve been down the road of trying out a lot of apps. What I discovered is that it’s not the app that does the work. It’s me. And for me to do my work in the most efficient and effective way possible, I need as few distractions as possible. Simplicity is my keyword when it comes to apps. The longer I need to spend trying to learn to use something, the less time I spend doing work. Which in turn means I spend less time with my family and doing the things I want to do. Not a very good way to manage time or be more productive. I hope that answers your question, Mark. Thank you for sending it in and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
3/11/202414 minutes, 9 seconds
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PRODUCTIVITY: Regain Control of Your Life.

What can you do when your calendar’s full, your task manager is bulging at the seams, and you find yourself stuck with nowhere to turn? That’s what we are looking at today.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 314 Hello, and welcome to episode 314 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Do you feel, or often feel, that no matter what you do, there is always too much to do? Hundreds of emails that need responding to, several projects all coming to a close at the same time, and a demanding personal life?  It’s a horrible feeling, isn’t it? It feels like there’s no room to move or do anything you want to do. Turn up each day, and the noise destroys your energy, willpower and sense of being human—the “rinse and repeat” approach to life. It leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, yet with a feeling you got nothing important done.  The good news is all is not lost, but you are going to have to do something that every instinct in your body will tell you can’t do. Yet, if you do not do anything, these miserable days will continue forever.  Those who have managed to drag themselves out of that pit of despair have had to do something that was uncomfortable yet brought them the organisation and calm they were looking for. The good news is the action you need to take is not so dramatic that you need to quit your job. In fact, once you commit to taking action it can be a lot of fun. (No, really!) So, with all that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Anthony. Anthony asks, Hi Carl, Can you help? I am completely overwhelmed with emails and tasks. I have three deadlines coming up at the end of this month, and I am so far behind I know I will miss those deadlines. How does anyone stay on top of their work?  Hi Anthony, Thank you for your question, and I hope you had time to renegotiate your deadlines before the end of February.  Okay, where to start? When anyone finds themselves caught in a spiral of never-ending tasks, emails and projects, there is only one thing you can do, and that is to stop. And this is the part every instinct in your body will scream NO! I don’t have time.  You are right in one respect; you don’t have time, but then you don’t have time to do your work either, do you? So, really, there’s nothing to lose by stopping altogether.  Let me explain why stopping altogether, at least for a couple of days, is the best thing you can do.  A lot of what you have accumulated likely does not need doing, but it is swirling around in your head or in your task manager telling you it does need doing. It’s only when you stop, step back and look at everything as a whole that you begin to see what needs doing and what likely does not. You won’t see that unless you stop.  Let’s take email as an example. At what point will responding to an email become embarrassing for you? A week, two weeks, a month or three months? If you have not replied to an email after three weeks, do you think the person who sent the email to you is still waiting, or do they even remember sending you the email in the first place?  Where is your line?  You see, there is a professional consideration here. If you have not responded to an email for three weeks, what do you think the sender will feel about you if they get a reply now? Unprofessional? Disorganised? A mess?  The thing is, if you have failed to respond to an email for three or more weeks often the best thing you can do is to leave it. Archive the email and move on. If it is important or does need your attention it will come back at some point. I would say if it has been a few weeks, the chances are things have moved on already anyway, and you won’t need to worry about it.  In my email system, Inbox Zero 2.0, I advise you to pick one of two options. A hard or soft email bankruptcy. Most people choose the soft email bankruptcy; this is where you select all the emails you have not responded to that are older than two to three weeks and move them to a new folder called “Old Inbox”. Then clear off the remaining emails in your inbox.  For these older emails you can go through them at leisure over the next few weeks and decide what to do with them. The reality is most people end up deleting this folder after a few weeks because they realise nothing in there is worth keeping.  The hard email bankruptcy is more effective but scary. Do the same as you would do with the soft email bankruptcy, but instead of moving them off to a folder, you hit the delete key and delete them.  You don’t need to worry about any retention issues; if you received an email, there will be a copy of it. Someone sent you the email in the first place, and anything you delete will sit in your trash folder for at least 30 days unless you change the defaults.  Just this action will get you back on top of your email.  However, to prevent the problem from reoccurring, you will need to change your email management practices. The best advice I can give you here is to set aside an hour a day—every day—to deal with your communications. Staying on top of email requires time each day. Miss just one day, and you will require double the amount of time the next day. It’s just not worth it. If you want a future where you are in control of your mail, you will need to deal with it every day.  I’m reminded of Friedrich Nietzsche (that’s the philosopher with the amazing moustache) who, among other things, popularised the Stoics term Amor Fati - which loosely translated means “loving your fate”. We all have to live with instant messages and emails today which means either we learn to love dealing with it or allow it to become a burden.  I prefer to find ways to make dealing with email a pleasure. I set the environment. Some great music, a comfortable chair and a warm dog sat next to me while I plough through as quickly as I can the emails I need to respond to today. Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory cup of British tea. Perfect. Now, for me, email’s a joy!  Now for the tasks in your task manager. Again, this will require some time out. Whether you have a few hundred or a few thousand tasks in your task manager, the best thing you can do is to go through this one by one and delete those that are no longer necessary, or you feel you have no time to get to this year. Your goal here is to reduce this list by at least 50%.  Your task manager really needs to be only concerned with anything you need to do in the next three months. Anything beyond that is either going to change significantly or won’t get done. Anything that you think needs to be done beyond three months can be put on your calendar as an all-day event. Or if you are not sure when you will do it or even if you ever will, you can create a list in your notes app and dump them there.  Task managers only work if they are clean and tight. In other words, if anything on your task list is something you may like to do or sounds like a good idea today but doesn’t really need to be done it should be removed.  Only tasks you know need to be done should be there, and nothing else. Wishful tasks should be in a project note or a master would-like-to-do list—in your notes. Your notes app can be the dumping ground for these, never your task manager.  The problem with dumping everything in your task manager, whether they need doing or not, is your task manager will soak them up willingly but will also want to remind you of them at some point. So what do we do? We add a date or a tag or label so we don’t forget them. And now you’ve just created overwhelm for yourself. These tasks will come back on random dates, and you will be swamped. Now, you will either reschedule them or give up altogether with the task manager—a great tool if used properly.  So, clean up your task manager and make sure only things that need to be done are on there, and nothing else.  Finally, let’s look at your calendar. The chances are when you look at your calendar, you are going to see the underlying problem fairly clearly. It is here where you will see how you are managing your time. Which is, after all, the essence of everything.  I mentioned earlier about setting aside some time each day for dealing with your communications; the question now is, what else do you need time for each day?  It’s likely you will need time for dealing with administrative tasks—those little things that need to be dealt with. Things like managing your personal finances, expense reports, arranging your next vacation and such like. What about family time or time for exercise, etc? How much time do you want for these activities each week?  This is where your calendar becomes the master. You can allocate time for these activities and block them out on your calendar so you won’t be tempted to allow anything else to get in the way.  How many meetings do you have, on average, each week? Are you spending too much time in meetings? Do you need to attend all those meetings? Could you be excused from some of them? These are questions you can ask yourself when you go through your calendar.  Could you find two to three hours, three to four times per week for deep-focused work? If so, block the time out now. Create the space you need to do the things you want to or need to do. Only your calendar will tell you if you have the time.  You may look at your calendar and instantly see you have overcommitted yourself. If that’s the case, what can you do to remove some of those commitments? Who do you need to talk to?  To get in control of your time and work, there will likely be some difficult choices to make. The issue is, though, if you don’t make those difficult choices today, the problems you are trying to solve will come back again and again.  If you try and resolve these issues without stopping and stepping back, you’ll only find yourself putting it off. There has to be a break-point. Why not do it now and get things back under control today?  Alternatively, you could block out a weekend in the near future to get everything under control. Two days, where you are completely on your own to get everything sorted out, can be great for your mental well-being. You get to see where the problems are, and once you see them, you can spend time finding the solutions.  I hope that has helped, Anthony. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you a very, very productive week.   
3/4/202414 minutes, 7 seconds
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Is Productivity Technology Going Too Far?

Where does technology help, and where does it hinder your productivity? That’s what we’ll be exploring in this week’s episode.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 313 Hello, and welcome to episode 313 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Over the last ten years or so, there’s been an explosion in the world of productivity technology. Prior to around 2010, most of our technology use was to create documents and presentations and send and reply to emails. We were in control, and technology served us.  Today, technology is creeping more and more into our lives. Now, you can use apps that will look at your task manager and your calendar and tell you when to work on what. Microsoft Outlook suggests times for focused work (not taking a walk or a rest, I notice), and many developers are promising more and more automation.  The thing is do we really need that?  When it comes to time management and productivity, I believe it’s important to retain control. My calendar or task manager telling me to work on the report when I feel exhausted is only going to leave me feeling guilty if I do what’s best for me—taking a rest.  Now, don’t get me wrong here. I think technology is great, and one of my favourite features of Spotify and Apple Music is how these apps use my listening history to create random playlists. I love playing those playlists. I like how YouTube serves up recommendations, again, based on my watch history. This is useful. I find documentaries I would otherwise have missed. However, I get to choose what to watch and when.  I was reminded of this recently with the sad death of BBC Radio 2’s DJ, Steve Wright. I was able to open YouTube and type in Steve’s name and was able to listen to some of his most iconic moments. I discovered long-lost recordings of him—stuff I would never have been able to find ten years ago.  These are some examples of where technology works and enhances our lives.  But (and there are many buts here) that nicely leads me to this week’s question. Which means, it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Scott. Scott asks, hi Carl, what do you think of apps like Motion and others that will organise your appointments and tasks for you so you no longer need to do any planning? Hi Scott, thank you for your question.  Let’s look at where technology has an advantage. Communications. Digital communications are brilliant. They are instant, and because of that, the number of phone call interruptions has significantly reduced over the years.  Phone call interruptions are the worst, aren’t they? Your phone rings, and it’s like an alarm call that we feel obligated to answer. We have no idea what the caller is calling about or how long it will take, and that creates its own anxieties.  Today, I can see who’s calling and can decide whether to answer or not. I can also put my phone on silent so I don’t get that horrendous shock when the phone rings.  And I know a lot of you may have a downer on email, but compared to what we had thirty years ago, it’s far better. And, no, we are not getting more emails than letters. It’s about the same. The difference is with letters, we did not feel they had to be replied to instantly, and we could take our time.  Although, as an aside, in the past, large companies employed people to work in the mail room. These wonderful people’s job was to sort the mail, so you only got the correspondence that mattered. Sadly, these people are gone now, and we are left to sort our own mail. That’s where the problem is. A large proportion of people don’t set up rules in their email service to filter out the rubbish from the stuff that matters.  Give yourself a couple of hours to set up some rules, and in effect, you will have given yourself your own mail room staff.  Digital calendars are fantastic. Rather than having to carry around a large diary with all your appointments, you can now have your calendar on all your digital devices, which makes it so easy to see where you should be and with whom. It’s also a lot easier to make appointments with people with services such as Calendarly—where you send a link to the other person, and they can choose the best time for them based on your availability.  Now, things go wrong when you blindly accept meeting requests. When we had paper diaries, we had to manually enter the appointment, and we could see instantly we had already committed to something else. We either asked for another date or cancelled the previous appointment.  Today, I see so many people with conflicts in their calendars where they are double—and even triple-booked. I mean, come on. Your digital calendar makes it easy to see your conflicts. Sort them out. You cannot be in two meetings at the same time. Don’t let that happen.  The problem here, it’s far more difficult to rearrange a meeting or appointment after you have accepted it. When you get a meeting request, and it conflicts with another commitment, decline it. Or, if it’s more important than the commitment you currently have, give yourself a few minutes to sort out the conflict.  And, technology has really helped with creating reports, presentations, books and videos. Technology has brought previously prohibitively expensive tools to us all for less than $100 a year.  When I look back over the last ten years, I have been able to produce four books, over a thousand videos, 300 podcasts and millions of words in blog posts and articles. It’s mind-blowing what a computer and an internet connection give us the ability to do.  And yet, I suppose it’s human nature to go too far. It’s like discovering chocolate cake for the first time. That first experience leads to you wanting more and more and more. Forget vegetables, fruit and other healthy foods. I want cake!!!! And more of it.  Of course, only eating cake will have negative consequences, and I feel this is where time management and productivity technology is beginning to go. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  As I alluded to, allowing your calendar to schedule your day for you is not necessarily a good thing. Your calendar does not know if you have the flu or didn’t sleep well last night. It doesn’t know whether you had a fight with your partner over the breakfast table or had a car accident on the way to work. All it knows is you have a ton of work to do in your task manager, and you have eight meeting requests. It’s programmed to schedule all that for you.  Perhaps doing all that work and attending all those meetings is not the best thing you could do that day. Maybe the best thing you could do is go back to bed or take a walk to clear your head.  On planning, I think we need to be careful here. What makes humans different from other mammals is our ability to make choices. We can choose to do one thing over an alternative. Now, each choice has a consequence, and we have sufficient intelligence to weigh the consequences against each other. Louis, my little dog, does not have that ability. Sure, he can choose to attack his squeaky ball or not, but he has no concept of the consequences.  If we allow technology to make those choices for us and we blindly follow them, we lose the very essence of being human—our freedom to make decisions about what to do.  Doing your own planning allows you to choose what you will work on and when. For example, last night, I slept well, and I had two appointments cancel on me this morning. This gave me two extra hours I was not expecting and I chose to clean up my office and write this script in that time. I didn’t need to go to my task manager to make this decision. I looked around my office and realised things needed to be tidied up. That took me twenty minutes, and this script will take around ninety minutes.  I could have chosen to read, take Louis out for a walk or go back to bed. But I chose to do work. I wanted to work, and I loved it. If a computer was telling me to do this and then that, it would take the joy out of making decisions.  Task managers are great for collecting tasks and for having everything in a central place. Where task managers are less good is showing us what needs to be worked on and when. Only you know what’s important right now and how much energy you have to do your work.  For example, over the years, I’ve come to learn when I am at my most focused and when I struggle with focus. Afternoons are a struggle if I need to sit down and focus. Yet, I find focusing very easy in the morning and later at night. This means I can structure my days based on when I know I will likely be at my best for doing specific types of work. An app based on AI is going to be using data from all over the place and will likely be based on the average of other people. You are not the average of other people. You are you, and you are unique.  When it comes to digital note-taking and information storage, technology is fantastic! You can quickly grab an idea, a webpage or a document and save it into your notes. You can then later do a search for that idea or document on any device in any location, and within a second, you have it in front of you. That’s way better than how we used to do it with large, cumbersome filing cabinets that were in a static location. Finding something often took hours.  I also like the idea that AI is then able to summarise that information into bite-sized chunks. That helps us. We have the choice to be able to go into the document for a deeper read or read the summary.  However, with all that said, technology helps us when it can speed things up that don’t need us to make decisions or choices. Technology does not help us when it starts to make those decisions and choices for us. That is where we should push back.  This means your planning should always be done by you. You decide what to work on based on the information you have to hand. You can make it fun by pulling out your pens, highlighters, and a pad of paper and letting your brain think without technology influencing your decisions.  Great thinkers from the past scribbled their thoughts down on paper, and humanity is so much the better for it today. You don’t want to lose that ability—the ability to think, decide and make choices of your own. It’s what makes you special and unique.  Thank you, Scott, for your question and that you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week. 
2/26/202414 minutes, 20 seconds
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Your Calendar | The most Powerful Tool In Your Tooldbox

How important is your calendar in your productivity toolbox? I would argue that it’s the most important tool you have and the key to finally getting control of your time.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 312 Hello, and welcome to episode 312 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Reading the comments on some of my YouTube videos, I see a lot of people trying to make their task manager their primary productivity tool. I would argue this is a mistake. A to-do list or task manager is, at its heart, a list of things you think you need to do. And no matter what you throw at it, your task manager will willingly accept it. And that is exactly what it should do. Make it fantastically easy to collect stuff.  However, after you have collected stuff, what next?  It doesn’t matter whether you have fifty, a hundred or a thousand tasks in your task manager. What matters is when you will do those tasks. There’s no limit on what you want or need to do; that’s infinite. Your limitation comes from time. You only get twenty-four hours a day to do all this stuff, and somewhere in those twenty-four hours, you’ll need to sleep, eat and wash.  Given that the limitation on what you can get done each day is time, that means that the primary tool in your productivity toolbox is always going to be your calendar.  So, with that introduction complete, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Pablo. Pablo asks, hi Carl, I noticed that you seem to be very careful about what you put on your calendar. It looks so clean. How do you keep it looking like that?  Hi Pablo, thank you for your question.  Your observation is correct. I am very protective of my calendar. To me, knowing where my commitments are and where I have space is important each day. It allows me to control my day and to ensure I am not pushing myself beyond my healthy limits.  I have an unhealthy fascination with the routines of highly successful people. It’s always interested me to learn how immensely productive people manage to get their work done. I’ve learned about Winston Churchill’s afternoon naps and late-night writing. Of Leonardo Da Vinci’s polyphasic sleeping, Maya Angelou’s hotel writing room and Albert Einstein’s love of sleep.  One thing these incredible people had in common was their understanding that to get work done, you needed to protect time. Painter Picasso hated interruptions and would go to great lengths to protect his painting time. Maya Angelou would hide herself away in a hotel room between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm to do her writing and thinking. Ian Fleming screamed at anyone who dared to interrupt his 9:00 am to 12:00 pm writing time.  I find it strange that so many people want to become better at managing their time and get more work done yet refuse to take any action to achieve that goal. It’s not the tool that will do the work for you—only you can do that—it’s carving out the time you need to do it.  And that’s where your calendar becomes your most powerful tool. It’s the only productivity tool that will never lie to you. You get a new twenty-four-hour canvas each day, and you are given the freedom to create any kind of day you wish.  You could choose to call in sick and stay in bed all day if you wished. However, you will then need to deal with the feelings of guilt and FOMO that inevitably come when you do something like this. Every decision you make has consequences. I recently did a video on getting control of your calendar, and in my example, I had meetings and blocks of time set aside for doing my important work. There were so many comments on how neat and tidy my calendar looked.  Yet, I see so many people with two or three meetings scheduled at the same time. Why? I mean, you cannot attend all three meetings, so why do you still have three meetings booked at the same time? I don’t think my calendar looks neat and tidy. The difference is I will never allow myself to become double (or triple) booked.  I know you are busy. However, surely, when you receive a calendar invite, the ten seconds it takes to check your calendar to see if you have anything else booked in at that time is not beyond the realms of possibility. Just clicking “accept” without checking will cause you so much damage. Check before you accept. That should be a non-negotiable rule.  Not checking is like driving through a crossroads without looking. Sooner or later, you’re going to get hit by a 40-tonne truck.  One question you will find helpful to ask each day is, “Where is my protected time?” Your protected time is the time you set aside for doing your most important work. That could be writing the proposal that is due at the end of the week, or it could be taking your kids to the park to play. Whatever needs to be done will always require time.  To make things easier for myself, I protect 9:30 am to 11:30 am each day for doing creative work. Usually, that involves writing, but once a week, it will be recording a YouTube video. I know that at the start of the week, I have the time to do all the creative work I want to do that week because I have protected that time. And I chose the word “protected” deliberately. It is protected from everything but a genuine emergency. This means I refuse meetings at that time. Even my wife knows not to schedule anything between 9:30 and 11:30 am. (And that took a lot of training!)  So far, out of twenty-four hours, I am protecting two hours. That leaves me a lot of time for other things, yet each day, something creative is being produced. This is one of the most powerful lessons I learned from people like Ian Fleming, Maya Angelou and Benjamin Franklin. Protecting time for the important things.  Now, I would also recommend you protect a further two hours in your work day for admin and communications. If you are one of those people who is always reacting to every message and email that comes your way, you will, at the very least, feel frazzled. It’s extremely tough on your brain. It’s like trying to drive economically while constantly stopping and starting. It’s not smooth, and your car’s engine (or battery) will be taking a pounding.  The most economical way to drive is smooth, and that’s the same with your brain. By blocking a little time each day for responding to your messages, you will be operating at your most efficient. So, schedule time for doing your admin and communications.  I like to do my communications around 4 pm. After dinner, I do my admin. By doing my email (and other messages) at four PM, I avoid email ping pong—that’s where you end up having to respond to the same email twice in a day because you give the other person time to reply. Do your communications at 4 pm, and you will significantly reduce the number of emails you get each day.  And admin time is for all those little things that you collect that just need to be done. Expenses, sales admin, filing, booking hotels or flights, etc. Anything that gets collected that sit around because they are neither urgent nor important.  Now, a quick tip here. Match your task manager’s tags or labels with your time blocks. This way, you can give yourself a focused view of the tasks that need doing. For instance, I have a label for admin tasks. When I do my admin at the end of the day, I open up a filtered view that shows me only the admin tasks that are due today. This way, I am not distracted by anything else.  If you follow this example, you will be allocating four hours a day for specific tasks. Your important work gets two hours, and you allocate an hour each for communications and admin. Four hours out of twenty-four will put you on top of your work and avoid the build-up of backlogs.  When I look at the daily routines of people like Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming, they spent around four to six hours a day doing focused work and managed to get an incredible amount of work done each day. Yet these two people were very social people. They were entertaining guests almost every day and writing hundreds of letters—what we did before electronic communications. The key to their productivity was their non-negotiable focus time.  Think of your task manager as support for your calendar, and let your calendar run your day. Protect it—it’s the only time you have.  There are other things I will do, too. There are some days when I need to wake up very early—well, very early for me. On those days, I know I will need to take a nap at some point. So, I will schedule nap time. This way, when I do find myself tired and unable to function properly, I can jump into bed for an hour or so. No guilt. Just complete rest. It’s as Churchill said: you get to do a day and a half’s worth of work in one. You get an energy boost and can work more effectively in the afternoon.  This is why I keep my calendar clean. The only things I am committed to get on there. AND… More importantly, if I am invited to a meeting I will always check before committing. I hate having to renegotiate meetings. It’s time-consuming and involves a lot of back and forth.  Here’s another quick tip for you. Use a scheduling service. These are great. You choose the times you are available for meetings, and if anyone requests a meeting with you, you can send them the link to schedule a meeting. There’s some human psychology going on here. The person requesting a meeting is unlikely to ask for a meeting outside of your allocated times because they also know it is time-consuming to do so. It’s far easier for them to pick a time from your availability. I can promise you this will save you a lot of time and also make structuring your day far easier.  And there you go, Pablo. That’s how to keep your calendar clean and tight. It’s the most powerful productivity tool you have, and it’s worth protecting.  Thank you for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
2/19/202413 minutes, 56 seconds
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The Pen Really Is Mightier Than The Keyboard

Do pen and paper have any role in your productivity system these days? If not, you might be missing out on something very special. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 311 Hello, and welcome to episode 311 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. A few weeks ago, I posted a video on YouTube that demonstrated how I have gone back to using a pen—or rather, a few of my old fountain pens—and some paper to start planning a project. I’ve since added doing my weekly planning on paper too.  This video and a subsequent follow-up video garnered a lot of interest and some fantastic questions. It also goes back to a question I was asked on this podcast last year on whether it was possible to create an analogue version of the Time Sector System.  This week’s question is a follow-up to that question, and I hope my answer will encourage you to explore some of the unique ways the humble pen and paper can aid in your productivity journey. So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Tom. Tom asks, hi, Carl, I recently saw your video on going back to pen and paper. What was your thinking behind that decision? Hi Tom, thank you for your question.  In many ways, the reason for the “experiment” was something I tried when I was flying over to Ireland for the Christmas break. I decided to take a pen and notebook with me to see if my planning and thoughts would flow better on paper rather than how I usually do it through a keyboard.  The idea came from a video I had seen with Tim Ferriss, where he discussed how he finds his ideas flow better when he puts pen to paper. Plus, I have seen Robin Sharma, Tony Robbins, Andrew Huberman and read about many historical figures such as Presidents Kennedy and Nixon as well as Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and Charles Darwin all take copious notes on paper.  I wondered if there was something in it.  When you think about it, the chances are you spend far too long in from of a screen these days. If it’s not your computer, it’s going to be your phone or TV. We just don’t seem to be able to get away from them. When you pick up a pen and a pad of paper, you are no longer looking at a screen. The whole effect on your eyesight is going to change.  This is certainly something I was beginning to feel. Pretty much everything I do involves a screen. There’s even a heads-up display in my car! I just don’t seem to be able to get away from them.  Then there’s the type. I was recently looking through some of my old planners from 2009 and 2010 and found myself being transported back fifteen years to what I was thinking back then. It was a wonderful, nostalgic journey. My handwriting was unique; I could tell which pen I used and even the ink I was using back then.  I can look at a digital document I created ten years ago, and it’s boring Helvetica in black. It pretty much looks the same as any document I create today. There’s nothing nostalgic.  There’s a wonderful video on YouTube by Adam Savage (yes, the Adam Savage formerly of Mythbusters) where he shows an exact copy of one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codecs. WOW! I was blown away. It looked gorgeous—even though Da Vinci wrote backwards. The aged paper, the diagrams, the pen strokes. Everything looked so beautiful.  So, as I was thinking about how I could bring pen and paper back into my system, I realised the one area where paper, for me, always works better than digital is in planning—well, certainly the initial planning stages. I also find despite Apple’s attempts at creating quick notes using the Apple Pencil, it’s still not faster than having a notebook next to you on your desk with a pen.  Now, one problem many people face with using pen and paper is you end up with a load of half-empty notebooks all over the place. I can assure you if you think there are too many productivity apps around, wait until you begin going down the notebook rabbit hole. There’s thousands of different styles, colours and papers. You’ll learn about the incredible quality of Japanese paper and what constitutes fountain pen-friendly papers. You’ll learn about dot grids, grids, graph and lined paper. Then there are the covers—leather bound, ring bound, sewn, bonded and WOW! So many decisions.  You’ve been warned.  And if you start investigating fountain pens, you’ll find yourself in serious trouble. YouTube is full of videos on what constitutes the best pens for all kinds of writers. You’ll learn about grail pens—pens everyone wants in their collection. I confess I have a soft spot for the Namiki Urushi and a Montblack 149.  Anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now, back to how I am utilising pen and paper in my system.  I have two notebooks. The main one is my planning book. This is an A4 lined notebook where I will begin any planning session. I write the title of what I am planning at the top and then brainstorm in one colour—usually blue.  Now, I find the best place to do this is at the dining table, not at my desk. There are no screens on the dining table. So all I have is my notebook and my blue inked fountain pen. This is what call my first pass.  Now, the trick here is to write whatever comes into your head and write anywhere on the page. Remember, this is the first pass. It doesn’t matter how good or bad any idea is. Just get it out of your head. Even the craziest ideas may contain a seed of something special.  Once you’ve finished and can think of nothing else, close your planning book and leave it for twenty-four hours. Let your subconscious brain do its thing.  After twenty-four hours or so, come back to your note and, with a different colour pen, expand your initial thoughts. You could also bring your highlighters to the table if you prefer.  One reason I use royal blue as an ink colour for my first session, is a simple pencil looks great next to royal blue. But I do like to use black, green colours too.  What you will find is you’ll begin adding more ideas, and the initial ideas you had will sprout new, better ideas.  This is what I call the first pass. If there is time pressure, I will move on to the next step now. However, I prefer to have time to run a second and third pass just to get all my ideas out.  So, what is the next step? This is where I scan the paper note into my notes app. From here, I can pull out the key points and ideas and begin developing the project or video idea. There’s often research to be done at this stage and also to decide what action steps I need to take. All of which will likely require a computer.  The second notebook I have is my scratch pad. Now, this could be down to my age, but even at school, I always had a pad of paper and pen next to me for jotting down quick notes and random thoughts. There’s something comforting about having it next to you. I could, for instance, be writing this script and suddenly have an idea, and I can quickly write it down on my scratch pad for later. Once it’s written down, it’s not going to be forgotten. I can deal with it later. This notebook is an A5 ring-bound notebook. It’s a perfect size for scratching down ideas, and the ring binding allows me to lay the book flat on my desk.  At the end of the day, I will go through the captured notes to see if anything needs to be transferred to my task manager. Anything I have dealt with previously, I will simply cross out.  However, the most important thing here is stepping away from the screen, and all the distractions a computer will throw at you and just focusing on thinking about the project, goal or whatever you need to think about.  There’s something about the feel of a pen on paper that no digital tool can replicate. I’ve tried things like Remarkable 2 and many of the other so-called “paper replacements”. Sorry, but they cannot replicate that exquisite feel of a fountain pen nib flowing across paper. I suspect this is why fountain pens are still popular among so many writers today. Handwriting is in our DNA - from the thousands of years old cave paintings to the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics we’ve been writing for years. Keyboards and typing are relatively modern, and anything you type looks the same—after all we generally use the same fonts for everything.  With handwriting, you’re creating art. It’s unique. Each new note is going to look different from a previous note. You can choose different pens and colours and take them anywhere and just sit and write. It is such a different experience from sitting at a computer screen and typing. That difference will give you different ideas and thoughts.  Funnily enough, I have returned to writing my journal by hand again after five years in the digital journaling world. While it was very convenient to be able to add a photo to each new journal entry, I realised when I was reading through my old planners and handwritten journals there was something so different about what I was reading. I rarely read through my old typed journal entries, but I was captivated by my old-written journals. I could have sat there for hours reliving my life though a handwritten page.  So, there you go, Tom. That is why I have returned to the analogue world.  I would also add, that I have started doing my weekly planning on paper too. If you are familiar with my Weekly Planning Matrix. You can draw out the four squares in your planning notebook and give yourself twenty minutes to think about what needs to be done next week. If feels like you are tapping into a different way of thinking which is clearer, more focused on the bigger picture and in a way more emotional than trying to do this digitally.  I hope that has inspired many of you to go out and get yourself a notebook and pen. Have a go at it. See what happens. You might just fall in love with pen and paper all over again. Just be careful, there’s a whole world out there of notebooks and pens. For me, my trusty old fountain pens and some Rhodia notebooks do the trick. (Although, O confess I’ve ordered some of the famous Japanese paper to test)  Thank you, Tom, for your question and thank you, to you too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
2/11/202414 minutes, 13 seconds
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Stop Being So Strict With Yourself (It'll only end in disappointment)

Are you restricting yourself too much? Attempting to stick to a too-embracing structure? It might be time to loosen up a bit. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The 2024 ULTIMATE PRODUCTIVITY WORKSHOP The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 310 Hello, and welcome to episode 310 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Having some kind of structure or routine built into your day is important if you want to consistently get the important things done. The trouble starts when you try to stick to that structure or routine too rigidly. It begins to limit what you can do and holds you back from accomplishing the things you set out to accomplish. Plus, if your plan is interrupted by the inevitable “emergencies”, the plan is usually thrown out the window, and everybody else’s problems become the focus. I’m all for building a structure around your day and week. It’s this structure that will ensure you get the right things done on time every time. But sometimes, something will inevitably come along and stop you from sticking to your routine or structure, and then, if you don’t have built-in inflexibility, everything will come crashing down. Either you drop everything, which leads to a build-up of backlogs, or you’ll stay too rigid and miss an opportunity that could lead to bigger and better things.  This week’s question goes to the core of this dilemma, and I hope to give you some ideas to prevent it from happening to you.  So, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Andre. Andre asks, Hi Carl, I love the idea of having a structured day, but I am having a hard time sticking to my plan. I never seem to have enough time to get all my work done, and I have a huge backlog of emails and project work to catch up on. It’s causing me so much stress and worry. Do you have any advice?  Hi Andre, thank you for your question.  You are right to create a structure around your day and week. Aside from weekly planning, I would say if anyone wants to become better at managing their time and ultimately more productive, they are going to need some form of structure to their day.  However, as with most things, this can be taken too far. Take time blocking, for example. Time blocking is an excellent way to make sure you have enough time to do the critical things that need doing, yet if you try to micromanage your day—that is, you block your whole calendar—you only need one meeting or one task to overrun by just a few minutes and your day is destroyed. For time blocking to work effectively, you will need plenty of blank spaces.  For example, you may wish to block two hours for some deep work in the morning, say, between 9:30 and 11:30, then an hour for managing your communications and an hour for clearing your admin tasks for the day. That way, if you work a typical eight-hour day, you have four hours for anything else that may come up.  However, this rigidity may also be coming from outside forces.  I love reading contemporary history. My favourite era is between 1945 and 1990. These were transformative years in both the US and Europe. I am particularly interested in how creative people, like Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, managed their days.  What was noticeable was with few exceptions, there were no rigid working hours. If you worked in a factory doing physically demanding work surrounded by dangerous machinery, there were laws in most countries preventing you from being forced to work beyond eight hours. For the rest, you worked until the work got done.  And between 1940 and 1980, there were no computers helping you to do your work. If you needed to write a report, you either sat down at a typewriter and typed it yourself (no delete key with typewriters—if you got a page wrong, you began again), or you may have been lucky and were allowed to hand the work to the typing pool for typing up—and then you either needed to handwrite the report or dictate it.  And don’t let anyone tell you that people got less mail in those days. People got a ton of mail each day (often quite literally). It wasn’t electronic mail; it was physical mail, and responding to that wasn’t as simple as hitting the reply key and typing. There were conventions to a written letter. You could never write, “Please find attached the file you requested”. You had to include a greeting and an ending, then sign it by hand, stick it in an envelope and take it to to post room.  There were a lot of late nights in the office getting work finished back then. Probably a lot more than we have today. I also remember in the 1990s regularly having to come into the office on a Saturday to clear files that needed clearing before the start of a new week.  Yet people adapted, and the work got done.  In many ways, we might be attempting to structure our days in the wrong way. Let me give you an example.  I’ve recently been reading a biography of Winston Churchill. Now, Churchill had an unusual structure to his day. He would wake up around 8:00 and while in bed, read the newspapers and deal with his communications. He’d read his letters, call a secretary into his bedroom and dictate the replies.  He would get out of bed at 11 am and take a bath. Often, he’d have a secretary outside the bathroom door taking more dictations—that could be a speech he was preparing or one of the many articles or books he wrote.  Let me pause here. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, only a privileged few could afford to hire their own secretaries or assistants. Today, it’s relatively affordable to hire a virtual assistant, or you could learn to use the dictation features on your digital devices. This means you could dictate in a Churchillian way—while taking a bath and while reading your emails in bed.  After his bath, Churchill would come downstairs for lunch. This wouldn’t be a sandwich while sat at his desk. It was a full hour affair with wines and champagne. After lunch, he’d walk around his garden, feed the fish in his pond, and often paint. This was his rest time. A time when he spent some time thinking and relaxing.  Then, at 4:30 pm, it was nap time, and again, this wasn’t a quick twenty-minute nap. It was a full ninety minutes. After his nap, it was another bath, then some card games with his guests or family before a full dinner—including an array of alcoholic drinks.  At 10 pm, Churchill would disappear into his home office (or “factory” as he called it), where he would work solidly for the next four to five hours. Then it was back to bed.  If you look at Churchill’s daily structure, it was solid. It got the important work done, and it was conducted on his terms. It was unconventional by the standards of those days. His “class”—the upper class—would usually disappear to their clubs after dinner for meetings and socialising. Yet, Churchill got a huge amount of work done. He wrote almost fifty books in his lifetime, thousands of articles for newspapers and was a full-time parliamentarian.  I tell you about Churchill because his daily structure is a great illustration of what you can do when you work within your own ideals. Churchill was a night owl, not a morning person. He took advantage of that by doing his most important creative work late at night. Tim Ferriss, the author and entrepreneur, is another person who likes to do his creative work late at night.  When people see my calendar, they think I am working too much. Yet, if you look closely, I do my creative work in the mornings, then take the afternoon off (in the same way Churchill did) then return to my work after dinner. I get four or five hours of rest from work every day and can enjoy it in daylight when the cafes are open and when I can actually enjoy living close to the beach. I am also a night owl.  What Churchill did was have some solid structures in his day. These were his wake-up time (8:00 am), lunch and dinner times. If he had guests for dinner, he would stay talking with his guests until late into the evening but would still return to his home office to work until he was tired enough to go to bed.  I fear many people have come to believe it is bad to work after they finish work. But do you really ever finish work? I’m not suggesting you always take work home with you, but if you have backlogs and project deadlines approaching, perhaps giving yourself an extra hour or two in the evening to do a little more work isn’t such a bad thing.  Think about that for a moment. You have the choice of two evils. The stress and anxiety of worrying about all the work piling up and not getting done. Or extra time in the evenings to get on top of the work. One will lead to health issues, and the other is inconvenient.  I remember reading about Michael Dell’s work routines when his family was still young. He would ensure he was home by 7 pm every evening for the family dinner. After dinner, he would play with his kids until they went to bed and then go to his home office to work until midnight.  Hopefully, your days won’t be destroyed too often, Andre, but it is going to happen—that’s inevitable. The key is to be flexible. Over time, you will learn to distinguish between the genuinely urgent and the false urgencies. The thing is, and the reason I told you about Winston Churchill, is you have options beyond nine til five.  Tim Cook is famous for waking at 3:30 am and doing his email—he is clearly a morning person. Former President Jimmy Carter would go to the Oval Office at 7 am every morning to read through the reports he needed to know about that day before having a meeting with his security advisor at 8:30 am.  Productive days are not built by accident. They are built on structure. We can learn from immensely productive people like Churchill and build a structure around meal times and rest.  Insisting you must not work in the evenings is admirable, but if you have outstanding work to be done and a backlog of emails and other messages, what is that doing to your stress levels? Would it not be better for your long-term mental health to spend a few evenings or early mornings getting on top of that backlog so you give yourself less stress and more free time in the long-term?  Thank you, Andre, for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
2/5/202413 minutes, 13 seconds
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Efficiency by Design: Crafting an Organised Life.

How much time do you spend organising and reorganising your work each day? A key question to ask if you are seeking better productivity and time management. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   The 2024 ULTIMATE PRODUCTIVITY WORKSHOP The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 309 Hello, and welcome to episode 309 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Deciding to get organised and better at managing your time is a good goal to have. After all, when you know where everything is and what needs to be done, you will see an exponential increase in your productivity, and that means, if managed well, your time management will also improve.  However, there is a fine line between spending too much time managing your stuff and not enough time doing your stuff. When you get caught up in that trap, you are lulled into feeling you are being productive when, in fact, you are not getting anything important done.  There are many reasons why this happens, the most common of which is becoming obsessed with tools—the apps and technology that promise to make organising and doing your work easier. No, this does not happen. Sure, a solid set of tools can help, but these tools will never do the work for you. Some of the worst tools will cause you to waste a lot of time organising and maintaining them instead of helping you to do your work more effectively.  Now, before we get to the question, I’d just like to give you a heads-up about this year’s Ultimate Productivity Workshop. This will be held on Friday the 9th and 16th February. Starting at 7:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (A little under two weeks away), This workshop will cover your calendar and task management in week one. In week two, we will look at how to manage email and other communications, as well as the all-important daily and weekly planning. By the end of these two sessions, you will have the know-how to build your very own “perfect” productivity system. But what’s more special about this workshop is when you register, you get access to four of my mini-courses for FREE, as well as a workbook for all sessons. PLUS, you get a chance to ask me anything about time management and productivity.  Now, places are going fast, so if you don’t want to be disappointed, get yourself signed up now. Full details for the workshop are in the show notes below.  So, what do you need to do to ensure you are spending the appropriate amount of time doing your work and managing the work coming in? Well, before we get to answering that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Kris. Kris asks, Hi Carl, is there a right balance between keeping my tasks and notes up to date and organised and doing the work? I find that keeping everything up to date takes me at least an hour a day and sometimes longer. It’s very frustrating.  Hi Kris, thank you for your question.  I am always very careful with these types of questions because it is a good thing to use a few tools to help you with your organisation. For instance, a well-maintained notes app will do a lot for your overall productivity because note apps today have incredible search functionality. This is far better than when we were trying to keep all our notes up to date in paper notebooks and file folders.  However, because of this search functionality, we no longer need to spend a lot of time organising notes into folders (or notebooks, as some note apps call them) and tagging. All we need to do today is make sure we are making the title of the note easily searchable. That involves ensuring you have a keyword you would naturally search for and perhaps the date in the title.  After that, all you would need to have in your notes app is a simple folder structure, so you have at least the remnants of a system. A simple work and personal folder system would work today because search is so powerful.  The more complex you make your folder structure in notes, the longer it will take you to keep things organised.  One other tip on notes. It’s likely that anything you put in your notes is not going to be urgent. Urgent things are normally things we have to do, and we would put those into our task manager or calendar. This means when it comes to cleaning up what you collected, you can do this once a week. I do this on a weekend when I do my weekly planning.  Another issue I come across is prioritising the task manager above the calendar. If you stop and think for a moment, this does not make a great deal of sense. A task is something that can be done at any time. It may need to be done on a given day, but when on that day you do it is not important. For example, you may need to call a client, but no time has been specified. This means you could call them at 9 am or at 2:30 pm. All that matters is you call them that day.  But if you were meeting a client for lunch, that would be a different matter. You would need to be in a specific place on a given day and time. That would be in your calendar.  In those two scenarios, the lunch meeting would naturally take priority over the phone call.  This means your calendar is at the top of your productivity tools hierarchy.  If I were to choose one tool that was kept up to date at all times, it would be my calendar, and to do that will likely only take two or three minutes a day.  But let’s step back a little here and look at the process for managing your tasks. If you’re listening to this, you will probably be aware of the COD system. COD stands for Collect, Organise and Do. We need to be collecting the stuff we need to do, then allocate a little time for organising that stuff and finally, we need to do the work. The ideal split between organising and doing is 95% of your time doing and 5% organising. That works out at around twenty minutes a day organising your stuff and the rest of the time doing.  You are collecting all the time, and your process for collecting needs to be quick and with a minimum of friction. Here, technology helps you because you will likely be carrying your phone with you everywhere you go. This means your phone becomes your UCT—Ubiquitous Collection Tool.  To ensure that your phone is optimised for this role, you want to make sure collecting tasks, notes and events is as easy as you can make it.  However, once you have all this stuff collected, when will you process it? I do my processing in the evening. It’s quieter, and I can process all the stuff I have collected without distractions.  Now, processing is not about moving all your stuff from your inbox to your folders. The emphasis needs to be on eliminating, not accumulating. Your thinking should be around asking yourself, “Do I really need to do this task?” not where can I put it?  There will always be more stuff to do than time available to do it, so eliminating as much as you can at this processing stage will save you a lot of anxiety and overwhelm—lists have a habit of growing uncontrollably if not checked.  The great thing about focusing on eliminating rather than accumulating is it reduces the need to spend time organising. The delete key is a lot easier to operate than adding additional information and ensuring the tasks are written in a way you will understand what they mean next week.  The thing is, if you get your processing right the first time and you are not arbitrarily adding dates so you don’t forget a task (as opposed to adding a date because the task genuinely needs doing on that date), you will not have too much reorganising to do.  I see a lot of people having to spend a lot of time rescheduling tasks every day because they were being a bit over-ambitious about what they could accomplish in a day. On a given day, that may not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up, and by the end of the week, you will have spent thirty to sixty minutes just rescheduling.  There’s an old carpenter’s saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” Well, in productivity terms, this would equate to thinking twice before dating a task and doing the task once. Every time you reschedule a task, you will mentally picture yourself doing the task and deciding you don’t have time for it right now, so it gets rescheduled. Not a very effective way to manage your time.  Think of organising tasks as collect fast, process slow. This way, you will find yourself less likely to waste time reorganising and rescheduling stuff. There’s a better chance you will get it right the first time. An extra few minutes when you process will save you a lot of reorganising later.  And now the elephant in the room—the tools you are trying to use to organise all your stuff. Be careful here. The more complex and pretty an app is, does not necessarily mean it will be better for your productivity. In fact, I find the more complex an app is, the slower you will be. All those bells and whistles mean more buttons to push.  When I compare my coaching clients’ speed at being able to find things, Apple Notes seems to be the fastest, and that is the simplest. Notion, Evernote and Obsidian may have a lot more features, but all those extra features mean it’s harder to remember where something is stored. And if you become adept at using search, you will find the complexity of getting something into your system slows you down. Avoid these attractive yet complex apps. They are procrastination traps, and it will take a superhuman effort to avoid playing and fiddling with them when you are tired or not in a very productive state.  I hope that has helped, Kris. If you get your collecting, organising and doing right, you will only need around twenty minutes a day to organise your stuff. The rest of the time, you can spend getting your work done.  Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
1/29/202412 minutes, 53 seconds
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Who Controls Your Time?

Podcast 308 If you’re not in control of your time, who is? That’s what we’re looking at this week.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 308 Hello, and welcome to episode 308 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. One of the most common comments I get on my YouTube videos is about who controls your work day. The answer to that question is you. It’s always been you.  Even at its most basic level, you accepted an offer to work where you work at some point, which was a choice you exercised. Similarly, as each day begins, you could choose to stay in bed and fake sickness—not something I would recommend, of course, but you always have that choice.  And, you always have the nuclear button option—to quit at any time—although I hope it doesn’t need to come to that. The problem with all these choices—choices you make every day—is while you are free to make these choices, you also have to accept the consequences of your decisions. So, what you are really doing is calculating the cost/benefit of the decision you make.  Staying in bed might seem a great idea on a cold, wet morning, but you probably know that by 11 am, you’ll be feeling guilty, and when thought about further, you will likely begin to feel a little anxious about all the things you might be missing out on.  But one thing you should never tell yourself is you have no choice. You do, and you always will.  Let’s put it this way: you may have an important, critical meeting with your CEO arranged at 11:00 am tomorrow morning, but if a close family member—your son or daughter, mother or father—is taken seriously ill overnight, you’re going to choose to be at the hospital with your family. (Well, at least I hope you are)  In that situation, you are exercising your choice. You cannot be in two places at once, and therefore, you have to choose your priority.  So, with all that said. Let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Isaac. Isaac asks, hi Carl, I have tried time blocking, but my boss won’t let me. Every time I sit down to get on with some deep work, he’ll call or message me, and I have to answer immediately. How do you deal with these scenarios? Hi Isaac, thank you for your question.  One of the benefits of getting organised and in control of your day is you get to clearly see what needs to be done each day. Being able to see everything that needs to be done allows you to prioritise your work.  The problems we face, though, rarely come from the work we have to do. They come from the interruptions and distractions coming at us from other people.  But let’s get serious here. Most of us are not working in jobs that involve the life or death of patients. It’s not like someone in need of urgent attention from us is being wheeled into our offices for our immediate attention. So, let’s get real about how much time we have to do the work that comes at us.  Your boss might like you to respond immediately, but I am sure they can wait, and if you have allowed them to become accustomed to your quick responses, perhaps it’s time to slowly ween them off that expectation.  In my experience, bosses who demand instant attention from their team have been conditioned to expect instant responses. It’s not often your boss’s fault; it’s yours because you do it, therefore they expect it.  In this situation, you have two options. You can have a face-to-face meeting with your boss and explain the difficulties they create when they expect instant responses and how the quality of your work and productivity would improve if they allowed you some breathing room.  The second option is to re-train them. Slowly, over a few weeks, lengthen your response times. Begin with five minutes, then ten, then fifteen and so on until you find the right balance. When I’ve tried this experiment on bosses in the past, I’ve found anywhere between fifty minutes and three hours can be gained here. If you’re lucky, you may find you have a boss who forgets they ever asked you and never chases you up. (Although, I admit they are rare)  However, Isaac, I was a little concerned with your choice of words, “I have to”. Do you? I mean, really, do you “have to”? In life, there rarely are any “I have tos”; these are concepts created by ourselves to create a sense of urgency.  If you’re listening to this podcast, you live in a free society, and that means you always have a choice. When we use the words “I have to”, we are delegating responsibility for our choices to other people. If you do that, you are never going to find a sense of peace or fulfilment. You’ll always be waiting for instructions from someone. It’s never “I have to”; it should always be “I choose to” because that is the truth. You choose to allow your boss to interrupt you.  When you reframe things to “I choose”, you take responsibility for your actions and that will give you a little more assertiveness when it comes to working with your boss or customers and clients.  One of the most effective things I ever did when working in a law firm with demanding clients and bosses was to create what I called “protected time”. I learned this when I was working in sales. If I didn’t have an hour or two each day when I wasn’t available for customers, I would drop the ball on almost everything. I needed that time to sort out the sales admin and to ensure the deliveries to my customers were on time.  When working in a busy law office, I came across the same issue. Always being available meant too many things were not getting done. Sure, I was a hero to my colleagues and clients until they found I didn’t get around to doing what they were asking me to do. I was prioritising the here and now, instead of what was genuinely important—ie the commitments I’d already made.  You cannot sustain that. Allowing all these interruptions is going to catch up with you and not only leave you exhausted and stressed out, but it will also destroy your career.  Now, you’re not likely to be able to suddenly impose one or two hours of protected time each day if you’ve allowed yourself to always be available. You’ve set expectations, and you are going to have to change those expectations. The most effective way to change things is to have a talk with your boss. Explain your dilemma and ask him (or her) to allow you one or two hours a day for deep, focused work. Explain to them how this will benefit them and how it will ensure you will be able to produce better quality work and service to your customers.  You could ignore this advice. But if you want things to change, something’s going to have to change that change must begin with you and the way you approach your day.  The only way I was able to get control was to initiate the “protected time” protocol. I chose the quietest time of the day to do this. When I was in sales, that was from 9:00 to 10:30 am. When I was in the law office, it was 8:30 am to 11:00 am. After that, the phones lit up, and it was go go go.  But I was relaxed. I’d got the most important work done that day, and aside from answering some random questions about ongoing cases, it was plain sailing. Sure, there were some days that it didn’t work; emergencies inevitably crop up from time to time. But you just deal with those when they come up. They don’t happen every day, and if they do seem to happen every day, you can look at your strategies and see where you can make changes.  If you’ve got overlapping commitments on your calendar and no space to get on and do the work you’re employed to do, you’ve got serious time management problems. It’s time to stop, look at your calendar and decide what you can and cannot attend.  I know it’s hard. It’s very hard. As humans, we are naturally wired to please people. But you’re not pleasing people when you let them down by not being able to carry through with your commitments. And then consider the toll on your family life. If you leave yourself exhausted at the end of the day and have to take work home with you, what does that say to your family about your priorities?  I like to think of it this way. I was not employed to be a people pleaser. I was employed to do a job. That could be selling a lot of cars or helping people with their legal problems. That does not mean you should not be polite and respectful, but when someone interrupts you, they are not respecting your time, and that needs to be addressed.  I’ve often said that the best time management hack is the learn to say no politely. The best strategy I’ve found is to say yes but impose your time frame. For example, if a colleague or boss asks you to do something, you can say you will do it once you have completed your current work or project. Then tell them you can do it next week. That often gets them to pause and then say, “Don’t worry, I’ll get someone else to do it.”  That’s not a poor reflection on you; you will soon begin to shine because the quality of your work will improve. You’ll not miss deadlines, and your reliability will increase. It’s a win-win for everyone in the end.  Ultimately, it comes down to you deciding where your priorities lay. I’m reminded of the story of the consultant working for a large famous consultancy who was asked to come in on a Saturday to help prepare for an important presentation the following Monday. She apologised and said, I’m sorry, I cannot come in on Saturday as I have an agreement with my husband to spend Saturday with him and our daughter. Her boss was frustrated at first but accepted her reason. A few days later, he called the consultant into his office and thanked her. Her refusal to come in on Saturday because of the agreement with her family inspired him, and he decided he would never ask his team to come in on a weekend. He even imposed the family rule on himself, which he later credited for saving his marriage.  I’m not suggesting taking action on this with your boss will change the culture in your company, but that story is a good example of how sticking to your principles can earn you a lot more respect from your peers.  I hope that helps, Isaac. And thank you for your question.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
1/22/202413 minutes, 24 seconds
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Master Productivity | What Really Matters.

How much time do you spend organising and shuffling your work? And how much time do you spend doing the work? That’s what we’re looking at in this week’s episode. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 307 Hello, and welcome to episode 307 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. One of the great things about deciding to get organised, becoming better at managing time and being more productive is a sense of being in control and on top of everything coming at us. Nothing beats that feeling of knowing what needs to be done and that you have sufficient time today to get it done.  However, there is a dark side to all this. That is elevating the tools and practices above actually doing the work. It’s great that all your tasks are neatly organised in a task manager, and your notes are all perfectly tagged and in their respective folders. But is the return on the time invested in maintaining all that worth it?  I would go as far as to say that with all the technology built into your apps’ search engines, 90% of what you are doing to maintain all these apps and tools is wasted time. You don’t need to spend all that time doing it because a couple of hours spent learning how to search on your devices will render most of these maintenance activities redundant.  And that is where this week’s question comes in. How much time do we need to spend each day organising and processing? The answer to that is probably a lot less than you think. So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Alysha. Alysha asks, hi Carl, I have been on a quest to get myself organised and become better at managing my time, but all the books and articles I read seem to tell me I have to spend hours each week organising, tagging and filing and I wonder if that is actually the best use of my time. Do you have any thoughts on this area? Hi Alysha, you make a very good point and one I often find myself despairing at when I see some of the questions I get in the comments section on my YouTube videos.  It seems a lot of people are not actually interested in getting better at managing time or being more productive. They are much more interested in playing with the tools instead of doing the work.  Let me explain. The tools and devices you use to be more productive are around 0.005% of what it takes to be more productive.  To be more productive is about what you are producing. It's not about how well your task manager is organised or how precisely you have your notes tagged or organised. I mean, let’s be honest here, you can be exceptionally productive armed only with a paper notebook and a calendar. You don’t need anything more. All these wonderful digital tools are great, don’t get me wrong, but if they become the main focus of your whole system, then they become the distraction and prevent you from doing what needs to be done to be productive—that’s doing the work.  Recently, I’ve been re-reading some older time management and productivity books. Books from the late 1980s and early 90s. These books were written before the massive advances in computer technology in the workplace and yet, the problems people were facing back then are the same fundamental problems people are facing today.  There are the parents who are trying to juggle their career with raising their children. There’s the busy executive who is struggling to get their core work done because they are always having to be in meetings or dealing with clients calling them all the time. And there are the people struggling to respond to all the letters and messages they receive each day.  The tools and channels may have changed, but the problems in managing all this work have not. It’s still there, and I am sure it will still be there in fifty or a hundred years’ time.  The thing is, it’s never been about the tools. You can have the best, most advanced tools available today, but if you are not getting on and doing the work, you will still have backlogs and be overwhelmed. If you are not keeping control of your calendar and allowing other people to schedule meetings for you, you will be overwhelmed and unable to do your core work.  I was reminded of this recently when listening to David Goggins on the Andrew Huberman podcast. In one part, they talk about all the supplements and protocols we are supposed to be taking and doing. Yet, unless you put on your running shoes and get out and do the run, none of these supplements or protocols will help you. They should never be used as an excuse not to do the work.  Yet, that is what so many people are doing today. They are using the tools to avoid doing the hard thing. The actual work.  If you have a twenty-page report to write for your boss, open up your computer, click on the Microsoft Word icon and write it. If you need to email a client, open up your email app and write it. You do not need to have a thirty-minute debate with yourself about which is the best tool to use to write the report, and you don’t need to clear your email inbox to send the email to your client.  What I have noticed over the last few years is a lot of people are using their tools as an excuse to procrastinate on doing the hard work. People will spend hours on YouTube or an app-finding website looking for the miracle app that will somehow miraculously do the work for them.  It’s a little like the person who wants to lose weight and get fit and invests all their time and money in supplements and training gear but never goes out and does any exercise. You know that will never work. You’ve got to do the work.  Planning and organising do have their place. It is important to know where everything is and what needs to be done. But that should never be at the expense of doing the work.  Yesterday, as I was recording and editing this week’s YouTube video, my little studio was a mess, and my desktop was covered in footage and screenshots. Everything appeared disorganised and messed up. Yet, the video was recorded, and the editing was done. During the five or six hours I was working on that video, my only focus was the output. I didn’t care about how untidy everything looked. That did not matter. What mattered was the video was recorded, edited and posted.  When I’d finished, then I could clean things up. Move all the stuff from my desktop to the folder and cross off the task in my task manager. Job done.  The focus is always on getting the work done, not how beautifully everything is organised.  One of the biggest problems with digital tools these days is the battle app developers are having to stand out in a very crowded productivity field. In order to stand out, they are adding more and more features, and that leaves us with more and more things to fiddle with.  I see people spending a lot of money on apps like Super Human and Hey email apps. These apps claim to sort your email for you, moving to the top of the list of the emails they think are the most important. Now, I am sure most of the time, they get this right, but the reality is you can do this yourself in apps like Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail. You do not need expensive apps for this.  But as a new toy to play with, these apps are great. They will stop you from getting on and clearing your backlog and give you something new and interesting to play with. But is that the goal? I hope not. If you want to clear your email backlog, you have to get on and clear it. No app will ever do that for you.  If you have subscribed to hundreds of newsletters and signed up to get the news delivered to your inbox every morning and are overwhelmed by the hundreds of emails you are receiving, perhaps the problem is not the tool but you. You signed up for these. You can give yourself an hour or two and unsubscribe from them any time.  One of the most common questions I get is about how to organise projects. Now, many projects have a lot of moving parts, and tasks need to be done in order to keep them moving forward so the deadlines are met.  But do you really need a complex system to organise these projects? I have a project at the moment to update my free COD course. I have my notes and the outline neatly organised, and each week, I review the project. Yet this week, the project hasn’t moved forward. Why? Because I am ignoring the obvious thing. I need to do the work. I need to set up my studio and begin recording it.  I can spend the next six weeks shuffling files, but that won’t result in an updated course. The only way that will happen is if I go into the studio and record it.  And that’s the same for you, too. If you want to be more productive, then you need to do productive things. That means doing the work. There is no other way, and there certainly is no app out there that will do that for you. If your car needs washing, then take your car to the car wash centre. If you need to clean up your home, then when you get home today, do it.  If your email is out of control, then open up your email and get it under control. If you need to lose weight, put down the cookie, put on your exercise gear and exercise.  None of this is complex. It might be difficult, and you may not want to do it, but if it needs to be done, you will have to do it sometime. Why not now?  The bottom line is if you genuinely want to get control of everything going on in your professional and personal life, you need to do the work. Planning, organising and searching for better tools will not do that. They are less than 1% of what it takes. The only thing that worked forty years ago is the same thing that only works today. Doing the work.  I know this may not be what you want to hear. But the reality is the miracle tool does not exist, and if it did, you would soon find yourself out of a job.  The most effective way to become more productive and better at managing our time is to develop processes for doing your work so you become more effective and efficient at doing it. That way, you will get faster, and that, in turn, will leave you less overwhelmed and with more time to do the things you want to do.  Thank you, Alysha, for your question, and thank you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
1/15/202413 minutes, 18 seconds
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Getting Control Of Your tasks Once And For All.

Are you guilty of attempting to do too much each day? If you are, you may be suffering from something called “hero syndrome”, and it’s not a very productive way to manage your life.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 306 Welcome to episode 306 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. I remember a few years ago someone commented on a post I had written about only having 24 hours a day. The lady suggested that this was not strictly true because some people had more privileges than others. For instance a CEO might have an army of assistants, or a wealthy individual may have cooks, nannies and butlers in their home to do a lot of the work less privileged people need to do.  I don’t disagree with her. What she pointed out is true. But, no matter who you are, you still only get 24 hours. A CEO is employed to make decisions, meet with key people within the organisation which their army of assistants cannot do for them, and if the wealthy individual wants to sit around all day with nothing to do drinking champagne and canapés, then good luck to them. It’s not a life I would like to live. The key to becoming more productive and better at managing your time is in how you make the most of your twenty-four hours. Knowing what your essentials are would be the first step, but what else can you do to ensure you are making the most of each day while ensuring you are getting enough rest and relaxation? Well, that’s the subject of this week’s question. Speaking of which, that means it’s time for me to hand you over to the Mystery podcast voice. This week’s question comes from Richard. Richard asks, hi Carl, I’ve always struggled to get everything I need to do done and when I get home at the end of the day, I’m just too exhausted to do anything but crash on the couch. Do you have any suggestions on better managing my time? Hi Richard, thank you for your question.  It looks like what you describe is part of the journey to becoming better at managing your time. The first step is to acknowledge that things could be better. Your question suggests you are at that stage.  One thing I would recommend is to do a task audit. What tasks are you trying to complete each day? Are they strictly necessary and if they are, could you group similar tasks together so you develop processes for getting them done.  Let me give you an example.  Most days I cook my own dinner. I also like to do my fair share of the house chores. So, I found a way to group cleaning up the kitchen and dining room while I cook my dinner. At first it felt a little overwhelming—watching my dinner cook while I was cleaning down the fridge or vacuuming the floors, yet today, it’s just something I automatically do. I no longer need to think about what I am doing.  I’ve also taken to sorting out the laundry at the same time now. The laundry room is just off from the kitchen so it just seemed logical to either put a load of washing on or to fold the freshly laundered clothes. Now, I am cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen and dining area and checking the washing.  Now if I put all those tasks onto a task list, it would look ridiculously overwhelming. Yet it isn’t. It’s surprising what you can do in three and 3/4 minutes while you wait for your eggs to boil.  The great thing is, I no longer need any of these chores on my list. When I make dinner, that’s my trigger to do the chores.  Doing a task audit will likely highlight a lot of inefficiencies. I certainly found a lot. The key is to look at different areas of your life and work and to find better ways of doing it.  It will naturally feel strange at first. You’re changing a habit and that’s always hard. Yet, the long-term benefits are huge.  I’m reminded of a story about the former Ferrari Formula 1 Technical Director, Ross Brawn. When he started his own team, Brawn Racing in 2009, he quickly discovered that he didn’t have time to read all the documents and emails he was receiving. One of his team members suggested printing out all the documentation and emails and placing them in a folder he could then read as he was commuting in to work. The commute was one hour each way, so this gave him two hours of reading time each day.  Being self-employed, I generally eat my lunch alone. I use this time for reading articles related to my work. This gives me around forty-five minutes each day for reading.  This way of managing our work is called leveraging time. We cannot change the amount of time we have each day, but we can seek ways to maximise what we do in the time we have.  Wealthy people do this by hiring people to do work for them, we probably do not have that luxury, but we can still leverage our time by being smart about how we use time.  Now, life is not just about doing our employed work. There is a lot more to living life. There’s time spent with the people that matter to us and exercise, for example. Where do we fit all that in when we are already busy? You mentioned in your question you are “too exhausted” to do anything other than crash on the couch when you get home. Now, unless you are working a job that involves a lot of running around, that tiredness is likely mental tiredness. I would suggest in the evenings you get out and move. Do some form of exercise. This could be taking a walk, or doing a few body-weight exercises for twenty-minutes or so.  I know this will go against every instinct. You’re exhausted and all you want to do is crash. The problem with this is once you stop and slow down your body is not going to want to get up again. This is when you will likely get caught in the cycle of mind numbing scrolling and streaming TV shows. While there is a time for this kind of activity, doing it every day is not going to be healthy for you in the long-term. Physical activity in whatever form will help to prevent you crashing at the end of the day. It will reduce your stress levels and help you to sleep better. It will also give you what is called a “second-wind” where your energy levels will rise a second time in the day. It will also leave you feeling a lot more positive which in turn will help your relationships because you will be much more engaged in any conversation.  Earlier, I mentioned building processes to help you to maximise your time. I remember discovering processes as the key to becoming much more efficient with the work I do. For instance, I used to get anxious about all the admin tasks that seemed to build up each day. It wasn’t until I realised that admin was a part of life that would never go away that I decided to do something about it. Admin tasks are relentless and never go away. Sure, some days you may not have much, but others you will—I refer you to the tax submission season, for example.  Now, I have a block of one hour each day dedicated to dealing with admin. Most days, I don’t need the full hour, but it’s there if I need it. What this has done is taken the anxiety of not having enough time away. I know I have time. I have up to seven hours a week for it, and that’s more than enough to manage all those little admin tasks.  I do this with email, too. Communication is an inevitable part of your life today. If it’s not emails, it’s text messages. The question is, how much time do you need each day to keep on top of it?  The problem with not having a dedicated time for responding to your messages is you will allow incoming messages to distract you. I recently read that the average person is checking email every six minutes! Wow! How on earth would you ever be able to get any meaningful work done if you were allowing yourself to be distracted that often?  Not just the fact you are being interrupted, it’s also the mental energy required to do that much task switching. If you are doing this, Richard, no wonder you are crashing at the end of the day. Your brain was not designed to work that way.  Here’s the science bit. Our brains work in cycles of 90 minutes—interestingly it does this in sleep as well. You can focus your attention on deep meaningful work for around 90 minutes. After that you will be fatigued and need to rest. Now that rest does not mean you check email or scroll social media, it means you should switch things around. So, you could break your day up into 90 minute segments. Deep work followed by something light and physical. You do not need to do physical activity for 90 minutes, but a ten to twenty minute walk would do wonders for your focus, mental energy and overall feeling of wellbeing. It gets the blood flowing and clears out your brain ready for the next session of work.  One final bit of advice I can give you is to start with what you want time for. Work is generally eight hours of your twenty-four. Aside from work, what do you want time for? Start with that. Build that into your calendar first. The great thing about our employed work is that time is already fixed. Using the tips I’ve shared with help you manage your work there.  So what do you want time for? How much sleep do you need or want? Get these fixed into your daily routine and calendar and build from there. You’ll be much happier and more energetic this way. The only thing you need do then is to experiment, find the right balance and pretty soon all that end of day exhaustion will disappear.  I hope this has helped, Richard, Thank you for sending your question in and than you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you a very very productive week.   
1/8/202412 minutes, 18 seconds
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The Secret To Sticking With Your New Year Goals: Finding Your Why and Your How.

Hello and welcome to 2024! And in this episode, I’m answering a question about sticking with your New Year plans.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Script | 305 Welcome to episode 305 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. So, 2024 is here. A New Year with a lot of potential new opportunities and plans. The challenge you will face (because we all face this challenge) is executing on all the ideas and plans you have for this year without a loss of enthusiasm or energy.  And that will happen because no matter how well you have planned the year, things will not work out as you imagine. Some things will go exactly how you expect them to, but most will not. And that’s the same for everyone. If you deliver all your plans and projects exactly as conceived, you are not ambitious enough to move forward. You’re making things too easy.  So how do you avoid the loss of enthusiasm and energy that you will need to see you through the year? Well, that’s the topic of this week’s question, so let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for the question. This week’s question comes from Carrie. Carrie asks, hi Carl, every year I get excited about all the things I want to do, and when it gets to February or March, I lose all my enthusiasm because I haven’t done anything I had planned to do. Do you have any advice on avoiding this?  Hi Carrie, thank you for your question and Happy New Year to you too. One thing I can tell you straight up is you are not alone. It turns out 92% of those who set New Year goals or resolutions have given up by 16th February. Only 8% manage to achieve some of their goals.  This means we need to learn what those eight percent do that is different from the 92%.  The first thing I discovered about the 8% is they have no more than three goals for the year. And those three are very specific. For example, they may have a financial, a physical and perhaps a career goal. And that’s it. If we use these as an example, the financial goal is possibly the easiest. Imagine your financial goal is to save $5,000 this year. You can break that down into twelve months and send $417.00 per month to your savings account. On the 31st of December, you will have a little over $5,000 in it.  On a task level, this is a 30-second task once a month where you send the $417.00 to your account.  Now, if your finances are tight, you may have to review what you are spending money on and make some changes to what you spend, but the action to take is just thirty seconds per month.  Physical goals can be a little more complex. Not everyone does exercise to lose weight. Some just want to improve their overall health; others would like to challenge themselves physically by running a marathon or climbing a big mountain. However, whatever the purpose or “what” the goal is, physical goals mean you need to find time for regular exercise. The essence of the goal is to find the time and do the exercise, and that will almost certainly achieve your goal.  The difficulty with these types of goals is the starting point. If you have not exercised for a number of years and are not in great shape, it is going to be hard. This is like pulling a large truck. The hardest part of pulling a truck is the start. When the rope you are attached to takes the strain to get the truck moving, it takes an inordinate amount of strength. However, once the truck begins to move, it gets easier and easier. The difficulty then becomes stopping the truck.  Starting an exercise programme is the same. It’s incredibly hard to begin with. The first session’s never that bad until you wake up the following morning. When you step out of bed, your muscles scream out in pain, and you’ll wonder how on earth you will be able to repeat your exercise again today.  The thing is, getting fit and staying fit is the same. It’s all about turning up and doing the exercise. But it doesn’t have to be the same exercise each day. Jog one day, walk the next. Then perhaps go for a swim or do some light weights in the gym on other days. Fitness is all about movement, so find time each day for movement.  What I’ve discovered about fitness is that it’s all about routine. It needs to be built into your day, and the time of day you do it needs to work for you. Once it becomes a routine and you get through the first fourteen days, it becomes much easier, and there’s rarely any muscle soreness (and when you do get sore, you feel a sense of achievement because you know you had a good session the day before). What about a career goal? This is likely to be the most complex of goals. There are likely to be multiple different parts to it. Skills acquisition, experience and time are all involved. So, finding out what skills you need to move up the corporate ladder would be one task. Arranging a meeting with your boss or HR to discuss your goal would be a first step.  Once you know what you need to do, you can then formulate a plan to make it happen. If you need to go back to school, then you can research how best to do that. Then you will need to find the time to study. Again, like exercise, this needs to be scheduled. You won’t achieve educational goals by winging it. You need to set aside dedicated time for studying.  A number of my coaching clients have dedicated days for learning. Two of my clients use the weekends for studying and taking courses or having coaching sessions. Saturday mornings seem to be the most common time for this, but it will depend on your own schedule.  Just one piece of advice here, avoid Sunday nights. These are not the best times for studying. You’ll be distracted by what you have to do next week and likely be tired from all your social activities. The thought of sitting down to study after an eventful weekend would be off-putting for most.  Ultimately, if you want to successfully achieve your goals in 2024, then you will need to establish some habits and routines. This does not need to be overwhelming. You can do as much or as little as you feel capable of. For example, if you plan to read twenty-five books in 2024, that’s one book every two weeks. If you spent an average of forty-five minutes reading each day, you would easily accomplish that goal. This means the only question you need to answer is, when? When will you do your reading?  Perhaps you could include this as part of your morning routine, or instead of watching TV late at night, you read a book.  I will confess that in the last six months, I have spent far too much time watching TV in the evenings. In 2024, instead of watching TV, I intend to read. I have already prepared a comfortable corner to read. It’s a place Louis, my little dog, likes to cuddle up to me in the evenings, and I’m already looking forward to it.  I will still watch TV. However, I have created a list of TV shows and YouTube videos to watch, and I have allocated Saturday evenings to TV watching. If I find I have the urge to watch something, I will add it to the list, and then on Saturday, I can open the list and choose from that list.  What about daily and weekly planning? This is something that will bring you so many rewards. Having a plan for the week is a no-brainer for me. I know what happens when I don’t have a plan. The week goes south very quickly and then I am in overwhelm territory just trying to keep up with silly little things.  When I have a plan for the week, I am more focused. The right things get done, and I have the mental space to deal with the unknowns and urgencies of others without losing focus.  This is something I would recommend to everyone. Make it a habit in 2024 to do both the weekly and daily planning sessions. This one habit will do so much for you when it comes to achieving your goals in 2024.  One thing I must stress, though, is to keep your list of goals as short as you can. Two or three goals is about the right number. Any more than that, and you will be overwhelmed and unable to stay focused on what needs to be done.  Remember, we are all a work in progress. You do not have to change everything in twelve months. Pick the two or three things that are most on your mind right now.  I neglected my fitness in 2023, and regaining my fitness is my number one goal in 2024. Today, I will be heading out for a run, no matter what the weather is. It’s the first day of the year, and it’s not about how well or far I run; it’s about re-establishing the habit of exercising each day. Get the 1st of January in the bag, and tomorrow I can do a few push-ups or go for a long walk.  My goal in January is to do some form of exercise every day. I’m not worried about February right now. If I get through January having done exercise on 25 or more days, that’s a result I will accept. It’s not perfect, but it’s 25 days of exercise—that’s something to celebrate! I can then decide what I will do in February to maintain my momentum.  And that’s what setting and achieving goals is all about. You are not going to be perfect every day or week. But that does not mean you failed. It just means you had a bad day. You can pick it back up the next day or week. It’s not what you achieve in one day; it’s what you have accomplished over 365 days. (Or 366 days this year)  So there you go, Carrie. Keep your list of goals short, and look for habits and routines you can build so that the action you need to take becomes automatic. And remember, just because you had a bad day or week doesn’t mean you failed. You can pick yourself up at any time and get moving again.  Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive 2024.  
1/1/202413 minutes, 4 seconds
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Building A Productive Retirement.

In this week’s episode, how can you stay motivated and productive in retirement?  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | 304 Hello, and welcome to episode 304 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. We often think time management and productivity are the realms of students and busy people trying to maintain a growing career and balance a growing family. The truth is once we begin making decisions for ourselves, how we use our time becomes a deciding factor in what we do each day.  This means once we leave the workforce and take full responsibility for what we do each day, managing our time becomes even more important. If you think about it, when we are in work, there’s often a time we need to be in the office, an array of meetings and deadlines for projects that need to be completed. These deadlines and commitments are often given to us by our bosses and customers.  Once you retire, those deadlines are no longer handed out by bosses and customers. Now you have complete control over what you do each day. You can go to bed and wake up whenever you like; you no longer need to wait for the weekends or evenings to meet up with friends, and all those activities you promised yourself you would do once you retire can now be done.  Just because you are retired and no longer working does not mean you no longer need to worry about how you manage your time. In many ways, now you have complete control over what you do each day time management and productivity practices are more important than ever.  And that neatly leads me to this week’s question, and to give you the question it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice.  This week’s question comes from Kai Yee. Kai Yee asks: Hi Carl, how would you suggest a person apply your systems after they have retired? Hi Kai Yee, thank you for your question. One of the things I’ve learned is that no matter where you are in life, there will always be things to do. In many ways, when you are working, managing your time is much easier because your work gives you structure to your day. You have a time to wake up, a regular place to be at a set time each day and a finish time.  When you retire, that structure disappears, and it can be disorientating. You no longer need to wake up to be somewhere at a given time, and without a plan or a reason to get up, time will disappear incredibly fast.  So the first thing you should do is to give yourself a solid structure which means bringing your calendar into play.  What do you want time for each day? You could begin with your wake-up and going-to-sleep times. Get these fixed into your calendar. If I were in the fortunate position to retire today, I would set my wake-up time at 8:30 am and bedtime at 1:00 am. I love the quiet between 11 and 1 am, and I get a lot of reading or learning done at that time. Your wake-up and going to bed times will act as the bookends for your day.  One of the most important things you can do when you retire is to find time each day for exercise. And as I have mentioned before, exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym or out for a run. All it means is movement.  When you don’t have any commitments for the day, it can be tempting to wake up, make your morning beverage sit down and not do anything all day. Time will just slip away.  I experience this frequently when I head over to Ireland for the Christmas holidays. I don’t have a structure, so after waking up, I will make coffee, sit down and read the news or scroll social media and before I know it, it’s lunchtime, and I haven’t done anything. To overcome this, I give myself some structure.  This year, for example, my wife and I have decided we will go out for a morning run as soon as the sun comes up. The act of getting into our running gear, going out for thirty to forty minutes, coming back and preparing for the day will give us structure and ensure we don’t gain too much weight over the holidays.  What is your preferred way to get some movement into your day? That could be going out for a walk or a bike ride. It could mean you go to a gym or an exercise class. Or perhaps you do some resistance band exercises. Maintaining your mobility is going to be very important, and that means you can use movement and exercise as part of your daily structure.  What else would you like time for each day? Perhaps there will be things that don’t necessarily need to be done daily but weekly. Get these into your calendar. All of these things are going to give you structure.  There are a number of things that will always form a part of your life. Movement, eating, sleeping, learning, hobbies and socialising. All these are important. The question is, where will you put them into your calendar?  One thing I noticed with my parents, who are both retired, is they still have tasks to do. My father, for instance, has maintained his love of animals and still runs a small farm, not for profit, but to give him something he enjoys doing. Waking up and going out to feed the animals is all a part of his structure, but each week he needs to go and buy feed and do maintenance tasks around his small farm. Repairing fences, fixing leaking roofs and cleaning up are always on his list of things to do.  It’s easy to imagine that once you retire, you no longer need to keep up with your calendar or task list. Would it be that simple? Just because you stop working, it doesn’t mean there in nothing to do. In reality, while some things will drop off your lists, other things will replace them.  I know a lot of people say when they retire, they will redecorate their home and do up the garden (back yard if you live across the pond), yet when the time arrives, nothing happens. It all seems overwhelming. Yet, if you set about planning out your projects and making sure your areas of focus remain the central part of your life, you will have the structure to ensure these things happen. This means you will still need a way to manage all those tasks and appointments.  Always remember, the work won’t get done unless you do the work.  In many ways, the biggest challenge you will face is no longer having someone to keep you accountable for your projects. Instead of a boss or customers expecting things from you, the only person holding you accountable is going to be you, and that can be hard. This is why building structure into your days is going to be so important.  What time will you begin the day? What kind of things will you do in the morning? When will you eat? What time will you finish t the day?  There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself that will help you to build some structure into your day. As with when you were working, consistency and a structured plan are going to ensure the right things are getting done each day.  When you finally finish your working life, it doesn’t mean life ends. In fact, a lot of what you likely planned to do in life will suddenly become doable. You have the time and, hopefully, the financial resources to do those things. The only question you need to answer is when? When will you do those things? Once you know when you can then go about working on the how. How will you do them?  All of these questions are no different from when you were in full-time employment.  It’s easy to believe when you retire, things will change. And sure, they do change, but you will still have stuff to do. That will never change.  So, if you want to get the most out of your retirement, make a plan. Begin at the year level; what would you like to do this year (or perhaps next year now, given that it’s only a couple of weeks away)? Think in terms of projects you want to complete and places you want to visit. Once you have that list, create four boxes, each representing a quarter. Then spread out these projects and activities you want to do across those quarters.  For instance, if you want to work on your garden, perhaps Q2 and Q3 would be the best quarters for that activity. What about the places you want to travel to? When will you do your travelling? And finally, for the winter quarters (Q1 and Q4), what activities could you do in those months?  Having a mapped-out year will give you a sense of purpose. It will give you structure, and it will prevent you from procrastinating.  Procrastination is going to be the biggest challenge you face. You have all this apparent time, no boss shouting at you, and no customers waiting for you. It’s all on you, and without that accountability, you will suffer. Make sure you build it into your day.  So there you go, Kai Yee, just because you are retired, it does not mean you don’t need to maintain your activities. In many ways, it can be harder to motivate yourself. However, with a bit of planning, being clear about what you want and know what needs to be done each day, you will soon find yourself moving towards a healthy, happy and fulfilling retirement, Thank you for your question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
12/18/202311 minutes, 20 seconds
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Weathering the Storm: Practical Tips for Handling Disruptions

I and many other people in the productivity world talk a lot about planning your day. However, what happens when your plans are frequently destroyed by other people?   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 303 \ Script Hello, and welcome to episode 303 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote “The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley”. “Gang aft agley” can be translated as go awry. This means that no matter how well you plan your day or week, things are not going to go according to plan. Similarly, one of my favourite quotes that is often attributed to Mike Tyson is, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.” And it’s so true.  One of the reasons so few people actually do a daily or weekly plan is because they believe that no matter what they plan, it is going to be torpedoed once they begin the day. A simple text message or email can derail the whole day. Yet, I still believe it is important to have a plan. Without a plan, you will be waiting for others to give you something to do. You will feel lost and never get anything important to you done, and you are guaranteed to build horrendous backlogs. This leads me to this week’s question, and for that, it means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice. This week’s question comes from Sasha. Sasha asks, Hi Carl, what tips do you have for me to harden my system so that it doesn't constantly wobble when life experiences significant deviations outside of the planned week?  Hi Sasha, thank you for your question.  Now, I know there is a little more background to your question. Specifically, managing two young children and both yourself and your wife working full time.  So with that in mind the first problem people face is with being too structured. What I mean by this is being too specific about what you want to get done each day. Most of the things we want to get done around the house do not really need to be done on a specific day. For instance, I like to give my home office a really good clean on a Saturday morning, but more often than not something will come up that prevents me from being able to do that.  Now if I want to follow my calendar religiously, it would annoy me if I was prevented from doing what I had planned, but really, does my office need a good clean specifically on a Saturday morning? No of course not. It would be nice, but it really doesn’t matter if I do it on Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. The only thing that really matters is at some point in the week I do it. (But even then that is debatable).  This problem can be exacerbated if you have young kids. With kids under the age of 13, there’s no way you will be able to maintain a well structured home. Kids were born with the natural ability to destroy all well intentioned plans. And that’s fantastic. It’s all part of the experience of raising children. If it didn’t happen, you’d miss out on one of life’s joys.  I can promise you on the day your kids turn 13 you will miss all that disruption. Your kids are going to go from being entirely dependent on you to wanting to have nothing to do with you as they go through adolescence.  For most of you, I hope, your family comes first. This means if you get irritated because a family member ungently, and unexpectedly, needs you you should be happy. It might be inconvenient, but family comes first. There’s no debate. If there is a debate, then perhaps family (or this particular family member) is not really your number one.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is as soon as you involve another living creature in your plans, you are going to need to be flexible. My wife, for example, has no concept of time when it comes to family plans. She’s spot on with her time when it comes to friends or strangers, but when it comes to her family, her buffer is two or three hours. I remember not long after being married I used to have to lie to her about when we needed to be at the airport. If check in time was at 9:00am I would tell her it was 8:00am. This meant we were able to build buffer time into our plans. Today, she’s much better—I must have coached her well, but it did take ten years to get her to that state.  And there will always be the unexpected. As you say, kids get sick and that changes everything.  Now, as you both work, what contingency plans do you have in place for when a child cannot go to school or daycare centre? This is critical because you cannot plan for a child being sick. This is contingency planning and as soon as the decision to keep you child at home, what needs to happen? Do you call your parents and ask them to take care of your child, or does one of you need to stay at home? Ensuring your contingency plan is in place and ready to roll should the unexpected happen will save you a lot of stress and panic.  Now the question arises; what do you do with all the work you had planned to do when the unexpected takes over your day? Well, if you are planning for the week, all it means is you reschedule what you wanted to do to some other time in the week. It’s likely you will have a few days to reschedule things over and you may be able to renegotiate some of your commitments. A few years ago we had a family emergency that became apparent at 7:30am. I had a full day of work planned, yet this was family and I immediately took action to deal with the emergency. This essentially destroyed my plan for the day and the repercussions continued into the next day. However, I was able to sit down for ten minutes later in the afternoon and I messaged my appointments scheduled for the next day to tell them I was going to be unable to attend. I was then able to get back to the emergency.  The most important thing is you deal with the issue in front of you first and once everything is back under control, you can review what you have on your plate and reschedule where necessary.  Life is never going to be a straight line and no matter how well planned you are, things are going to go wrong. In a previous episode I spoke with Simon Jeffries, former UK Special Forces officer and Simon mentioned about when in the special forces you know before you begin things are not going to go according to plan. However, the important thing is to know precisely what you objective is and you stay focused on accomplishing that. Special forces soldiers do consider everything that could go wrong and what they would do in those situations, but the most important thing is they keep their eye on the objective.  If you have ever seen the news footage of the the British SAS storming the Iranian Embassy in 1980, you may have seen one of the SAS soldiers getting caught in the rope he was descending on. His colleagues did their best to cut him down, but the mission still went on. They dealt with the emergency quickly and as efficiently as possible then got straight back to doing what they had planned to do. It’s this approach we want to be bringing to our lives too. Things are not going to go according to plan. However, when you are clear about what must be done that day, you put yourself in a much stronger position because you are more focused and disruptions will just bounce off you.  Now you don’t want to be setting yourself too many objectives. I only set myself one or two. I know that I will get those done 99% of the time. Yesterday was a very disrupted day, yet I had two things to complete. I needed to go to the bank and record and edit my YouTube video. My wife woke up feeling rather unwell, so I took her to the doctors. While she was there I realised I could call in to the bank, so I did that (there’s long queues at this time of the year to see a doctor). Once done at the bank, I picked my wife up from the doctors.  I had to go to the pharmacy to get her prescription once I’d got her home and tucked up in bed. After a short sleep, my wife was feeling a lot better, so I was able to pick up the video recording and editing. There are other things on my list for the day, and a few of those I needed to reschedule, but when I finished for the day, I was surprised how much I’d actually got done.  The important thing is not to panic. Accept the disruption for what it is, a disruption that needs to be dealt with then move back onto your objectives. Things will always calm down and return to normal, so there really is no need to panic. If meetings need to be postponed or cancelled, get on and do it as soon as you can. If planned work needs to be rescheduled, then do that. Just don’t overthink things.  The great thing about having a plan for the week (because you did a weekly planning session) you have a plan to get back on to. This means no matter what disruptions that come your way, you only need a few minutes to review your plan and decide what still must be done and what can be renegotiated.  In worst case scenarios, you may feel the need to do a weekly planning session to get yourself back on track. That’s okay. Sometimes that’s the wisest thing to. I think over the last year, I’ve had to do that once or twice. It’s not something you will need to do often, but if you feel that’s the only way you will get back on track, then by all means do it. You’ll feel a lot better and much more focused.  I hope that helps, Sasha. Thank you so much for your question.  It just remains for me now, to wish you all a very very productive week.   
12/11/202312 minutes, 3 seconds
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Surviving the End Of Year Overwhelm Storm: Your Resilience Toolkit

This week, what to do when your day, or week, turns sour and you’re left feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 302 \ Script Hello, and welcome to episode 302 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. In my weekly newsletter last week, I wrote about how, for some reason, the end of the year seems to throw up a lot of stuff that suddenly needs to be finished before the end of year.  While deadlines are always around us, it seems December is the month that projects and tasks, that were slowly moving along just fine, become urgent and must be complete in the next two weeks or so.  This leaves you feeling stressed out and under pressure at a time of year you want to be slowing down and relaxing.  This week’s question talks directly to this phenomenon and I want to give you a number of strategies that will help you to stay on top of things and get through to the end of year break feeling in control and ready to enjoy Christmas and the New Year celebrations.  So, to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Brett. Brett asks, hi Carl, I want to know if you ever feel under pressure or overwhelmed at the end of the year. And if not, what do you do to stay in control when everyone around you is demanding their projects are completed before the Christmas holidays?  Hi Brett, thank you for your question.  You’re right, for some reason before any long holiday there does seem to be a big rush to get things finished. Whether it is Christmas, Eid, Yom Kippur or the end of the calendar year bosses and colleagues suddenly wake up and realise they are behind on a number of projects and so the panic sets in and everything needs to be completed yesterday.  The truth is, it shouldn’t matter where you are in the year, if you have planned things out and developed a timeline for getting things done, there should never be a rush to complete things at the last minute.  Now, when I say planned things out and developed a timeline, I don’t mean micro-managed plans, but a rough set of milestones for each project that needs to be completed in the year.  One trick I use is to divide my year up into quarters and to limit the number of projects I allow to no more than four each quarter. That still means I get between ten and twelve big projects complete each year but I do it in a way that ensures I am not overly stressing my system and I have sufficient breathing room between each one that allows for small over-runs and delays.  Sure, I could set about trying to complete ten or more projects each quarter, but then most of them won’t be finished and all I am doing is letting people down by constantly missing deadlines. That’s not something I will allow myself to do.  Now, when I talk about projects here I am talking about projects that will take four to ten weeks to complete. A lot of what I do each week are things I do every week. Preparing this podcast is not a project, it’s part of my core work and is a process. Likewise my blog posts and YouTube videos are all a part of my core work and I have processes for getting these done each week.  For me, a project is something like developing a new course, or redesigning my website or even writing a book—which I confess took up three quarters this year. And on that subject, the book is now being edited and the cover design is close to completion. We are still looking at publication early next year. And even if I say so myself, this is a fantastic book. I’ve loved writing it AND reading through it.  Anyway, back to staying in control as we approach the end of year.  So the first tip is, where possible make sure you retain control over the number of projects you are committed to each quarter. There is a limit and you need to ensure the people you report to know where you are in terms of the workload you have and what time availability to you have.  If you are in the habit of automatically saying yes to everything you are asked to do, then you are not in control. Instead, it means other people are controlling you. It’s your responsibility to communicate with your pears and bosses so they know what you have on, and what space you have for new tasks and projects. If you re not willing to, or are afraid to do that, you will never find the answers in YouTube videos or podcasts like this. This is one area where you need to do the difficult thing and speak up. Explain your workload and ensure the people you work with know your limits.  Next up is to understand there are only twenty-four hours in the day. Obvious yes? Well, it seems not. I see a lot of people’s to-do lists and it clear to me most people believe they can do a lot more than time will permit. No, you are not going to be able to attend five one hour meetings, deal with 200 emails and write the proposal your boss is screaming for. Something has to give.  This means you need to know what is and is not important. Is completing the proposal more important than one or two of those five meetings you have planned? Could you excuse yourself from the meeting rather than using it as an excuse for not doing your work?  Again, it comes back to you taking on the responsibility for your time and not hoping time will miraculously expand so you can do everything in one day.  Remember whether you are the CEO or an intern, you can always negotiate deadlines. The worst that can happen is the person you are negotiating with is a better negotiator than you and you have to do whatever you are being asked to do. But at least your voice is heard and the chances are you will be allowed extra time to complete the work.  I’ve found when things are chaotic, the most important thing you can do is to double down on your daily and weekly planning. This is about getting clear on what needs to be completed that day or week. When chaos surrounds you, the worst thing you can do is not be clear about what the day’s objective is. Sure, you may spend the day dodging bullets, but at least you stay focused on your objective and that’s how you get the important things done.  Today, I have what appears to be 101 tiny things to do, but I am focused on the two most important objectives. Ge this script written and edit and send out a video to a conference organiser. My focus is on this script right now and prior to writing this, I completed the video edits and sent them out. Those 101 tiny things that appear to need doing, I will do as many of them as I can today, but not worry too much about the ones I did not do. I can decide later when I do my planning for tomorrow which ones must be done then.  Be very clear about what your objectives are for the day. If you stay focused on those one or two things, you will find they get done and most of the other, less important things will find their own solutions.  When are you at your most focused? Are you a morning person or more of a night owl? Take advantage of the time of day you are at your most focused. For most of us that will be between 9:00 and 11:00 am. Do whatever you can to protect that time. Block it out where possible in your calendar so no one can schedule meetings for you.  It’s important that once you have that time blocked out, you intentionally decide what you will use it for before you start the day. Too often I find people waste the first thirty minutes scrolling through their to-do list looking for something to do. No. Don’t do that. Decide beforehand what you will use it for.  This way, when you sit down to do your work, you know what you will do and you can get started immediately.  Most of our time management problems are not because of the volume of work. With the right processes in place and strict control over your calendar, you can maintain control of your inbox, routine tasks and core work and have sufficient space to deal with the unknowns.  It’s much easier to blame the volume of work, than to address the real problem which is we are allowing other people to control what we do each day.  I know many of us need to be available for clients and colleagues, but if you are available eight hours a day, you will never get on top of your work—you will always be doing the work of others and that results in you developing huge backlogs that requires you to work beyond your regular working hours and at weekends. Probably not something you want to do.  Look at it this way; if you were to reserve two hours each day for doing the work you are employed to do—your core work—you would still have six hours for dealing with everything else. If you were to tag an extra hour for dealing with your communications, you still have five hours each day for everyone else. That’s twenty-five hours a week dedicated to serving others. Surely that’s enough time?  Based on what I’ve learned over the years, the cure for overwhelm and overload are the planning sessions. It’s when you skip those that things begin to back up and become urgent. When you give yourself thirty minutes or so on a weekend to plan the following week from a big picture perspective and to allow ten minutes or so at the end of each day for reviewing your plan and making any necessary adjustments you stay in control.  It also means you know where you are at any point in the week and can adjust, reschedule and renegotiate where necessary.  Above all, though, never be afraid to renegotiate your commitments either with yourself or with others. There’s nothing wrong with doing that and rather than being a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. You’re a human, not a machine. Accept that and work with it. It’s far better to have one or two bad days each week than pushing yourself towards illness that requires you to take a long break.  I hope that helps, Brett and thank you for your question. Thank you to you too for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
12/4/202312 minutes, 58 seconds
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The Art of Prioritisation: Cutting Through the Clutter

This week, how do you decide what to work on or put another way, how do you prioritise all the stuff you need to do? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Podcast 301 \ Script Hello, and welcome to episode 301 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. This week’s question is on a subject I am sure you come across from time to time. That is how do you decide what to work on when you have an overwhelming list of tasks to choose from.  In my role as a productivity and time management coach, I get to see how many tasks clients have in their today view and I am often shocked to see upwards of 30 tasks. Let’s be honest here, you are not going to complete 30+ tasks in a day. If you begin the day with this many tasks, your day is already destroyed.  you see the problem is when you begin the day you will likely find it quite easy to choose which of those tasks to do. However, as the day proceeds and your decision-making abilities decline—something that happens to all of us; it’s called “Decision fatigue” and is a recognised condition that affects us all. This means as you head into the afternoon and still have 20+ tasks left you find increasingly difficult to decide what to do. this slows you down alarmingly and you find yourself reaching the end of the day with fifteen to twenty tasks still to do.  Now, a lot of people will blame their task manager at this point. “My task manager cannot be working because I keep getting to the end of the day with tasks still to do.” Well, no. It’s not the task manager. It’s you. You allowed yourself to start the day with all those tasks. You added the dates. What did you expect to happen?  So, with that little warning out of the way, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Lionel. Lionel asks, hi Carl, I’ve followed you for some time now and have always wanted to ask you how best to prioritise my tasks so I stand a chance of completing them all. This is my biggest challenge, and I just cannot find a way to make my list more manageable.  Hi Lionel, thank you for your question.  The first step here is to do a little bit of analysis. While you may be starting the day with say 20 tasks, how many on average are you getting done? You can go into your completed area of your task manager and collect this data. if you use Todoist, you can go into your productivity areas (The Karma points section) and it will give you the total number of tasks you have completed over the last four weeks. Take those numbers and divide it by 28. That will give you your average number of tasks you complete each day.  This number is your optimum number.  So to give you a benchmark, my average over the last four weeks is 79 tasks which means I average around 11 tasks per day over seven days.  Now I cannot argue with that, that’s the historical data. I might like to think I can complete 20 or more tasks per day, but the evidence tells me I complete around 11 tasks per day.  I should say I do not add things like drink five cups of water or take my vitamins in Todoist. The tasks I have in Todoist are work or home related. Tasks such as write this script, record my YouTube video or write my coaching client feedback. The average duration of a task for me is going to be at least forty minutes.  I also don’t add individual emails or telephone calls. I have these in my notes or email app. Todoist triggers me to go to email or my notes and do the work.  So, the first thing to establish is how many tasks per day are you really doing.  Once you have that number, you can now plan your days. If, for instance, you find your optimum number is fifteen tasks, then at the end of the day when you plan the next, you see you have twenty-five tasks, you know you need to go in and reduce that number down. And that means you need to prioritise your list. How do you do that?  Well, first go through the list and ask yourself if all these tasks really do need to be done tomorrow. You’ll likely find that 40 to 60% of them don’t. You’ll also discover that a few of them no longer need doing and you can remove these immediately.  The chances are, this first step will get your list down to a more realistic number on it’s own.  However, if you still have five or six tasks over your optimum number, the next step is to look through what you have on your list against your core work. Your core work is the work you are employed to do, not the work you volunteered to do. For instance, salespeople sell which means any activity involving selling is your core work. Writing up activity reports and doing your expenses while may need doing, are not your core work. Your core work takes priority over non-core work.  I know sometimes your accounts department may be hassling you for your expenses, but if you have promised a customer you will send them a pro-forma invoice, the invoice get’s done first.  The next line of prioritisation is your areas of focus. these can be difficult to justify because if they were on the Eisenhower Matrix, they would be in quadrant 2–the important, not urgent quadrant. However, what I’ve noticed is the most productive people I’ve ever met or read about never neglect these and ensure they are prioritised each day.  For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson will never miss an exercise session. Exercise is a non-negotiable part of their identity and areas of focus. They will say no to other things before even considering missing a session.  Robbin Sharma, will never skip his self-development time and Warren Buffett will never skip his reading time. These areas of focus are non-negotiable.  It’s hard, I know, if you’ve come from a background of dropping everything to please other people to justify these changes in the way you manage your time. But, unless you do make these changes, you cannot expect to ever put an end to the tyranny of task overwhelm. there’s an unlimited number of people hoping you will do things for them. The trouble is, you only have a limited amount of time to do everything you want to or need to do.  Now, let’s look at your calendar.  The calendar is the core to you having the time to complete your work each day. if you only rely on your task manager to tell you what need doing, you will always be overwhelmed. Task managers do not understand time. they can only tell you what you think you have to do. you calendar shows you how much time you actually have after taking into account your sleep, eating and collecting your kids from school.  I’ve always recommended you use your calendar to block out categories of work. For instance, if you group all your communications together—email, messages and phone calls and do them all in a dedicated block of time, you will find you get a lot more done. You will be less distracted and you are focused on one thing—communication. Similarly, for deeper work, work that requires you to focus and concentrate, block a couple of hours out in the morning. I find 9:30 to 11:30am is my best time for deep work. So four days out of seven I have those two hours blocked out for creative work.  You need to find time on your calendar where you don’t have regular meetings and block them out. Be ruthless here and protect that time. It’s surprising how much you can get done in two hours when you know you will not be interrupted.  Remember, if someone asks you if you can meet tomorrow at 10am you can always say: “not 10am but I’m free after 11:30am”. You’ll find 90% of the time they will say great! See you at 11:30. And on those rare occasions where the only time you can meet is 10am, then okay, it’s just one day. it’s not going to break the week. You can reschedule your time block to another time in the week.  The trick with the calendar is to pre-block sufficient time to cover your core work and areas of focus. You can do this when you do your weekly planning sessions. Make sure these critical tasks have enough time allocated for them before you allow the week to run away with you (and it will if you have no plan). That way you know before the week begins if you respect your calendar, you will have sufficient time to get all your critical work done and have sufficient time left over for the things that will inevitably pop up once the week begins.  I’ve often said, if you want to become more productive, the key is to do the backend work. Establish what is important to you bother professionally and personally and ensure you have enough time set aside in your calendar for getting the associated tasks completed when they need to be completed. This means working out what your areas of focus and core work are. then putting the associated events such as as exercise time in your calendar and tasks like sending money to your savings account each month in your task manager.  But above all, work out what your optimum number of tasks per day is. We all have that number. Find it and use it to plan out your day so you are completing everything that needs to be done and eliminating everything else.  I hope that helps, Lionel and thank you for your question.  and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
11/27/202312 minutes, 21 seconds
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It’s the 300th Episode!!! WOW!

It’s the official 300th birthday of this podcast! And to celebrate, I’ve been digging into the archive to put together a comprehensive guide to getting better at managing your time and mastering productivity. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 300 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 300 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Over the last six years—yes, that’s how long this podcast has been around—I’ve answered around 300 questions sent in by you, and I’ve noticed there are a few common themes where a lot of people struggle. So, in this special episode, I thought it would be a good way to celebrate to give you some tips and tricks you can use every day to solve many of these common issues.  So, let’s get started. The first issue many people face is the one of overwhelm. I would guess around 70% of the questions that have come in relate in some way to this problem.  Now, overwhelming lists are created by us. We make these lists. Sure, other people may have given us all these tasks in the first place, but we accepted the tasks and added them to our lists. So, ultimately, the responsibility for these overwhelming lists rests with us. We could have explained we were already “fully committed”, so to speak, but we didn’t. We said yes, and that has led to a situation where we now have too many tasks and too little time to deal with them.  The solution here is to learn to say no, but that is too simple, right? So what else can we do to eliminate this problem?  Well, first is to group all similar tasks together. For example, all your admin tasks can be grouped, equally, and your communications, errands, and deeper-focused work can all be grouped together. You can use tags or labels in your task manager to do this.  Next is to create time blocks on your calendar for these critical sessions of work. I’ve found admin and communications need to be allocated time each day, but project work and other unique types of work can be spread out throughout the week. For example, I have one project work session each week because I don’t have many projects to work on. I do have a lot of processes to get my work done each week, but unique project work is quite low. You may be different and have multiple projects going on at one time. If that’s the case, ask yourself how much time each week you need to stay on top of your project commitments.  Grouping similar tasks together and working on them at specific times each day has a number of advantages. Primary of these is you reduce the number of times you are attention shifting, which is a huge drain on your mental energy. It also means at specific times of the day, you know what you should be doing and that reduces the number of decisions you need to make.  Another advantage is you are working on these every day, and while you may not be able to clear everything each day, you will at least be keeping things under control, and nothing will get missed—which creates issues later.  I would also add that you want to stop trying to complete everything in a day. Most things do not need to be completed in a day. A lot of overwhelm is created by our false belief that everything must be finished today. While some things may need to be done today, a lot of what you have on your plate doesn’t.  Doing a little spread out over a few days will result in less stress and overwhelm and give you better results than rushing to complete something in a day.  However, that means you will need to be doing a weekly planning session to ensure you know when the deadlines are.  And that leads me nicely to the importance of a weekly planning session. Now, if I am being honest, most of your plans for the week will be torpedoed by Wednesday. And that is perfectly okay. Weekly planning is not about creating a plan you rigidly stick to. That would be impossible—there are far too many unknown emergencies and unexpected deadlines.  The purpose of the weekly planning session is to give you a clear view of what needs your attention that week. I see it as setting out a number of objectives that enable me to stay on top of my work and my projects and goals.  In essence, the weekly plan is where you get to decide what needs to be done and allocate sufficient time for those tasks and activities to be done. It goes you a direction and, more importantly, if something new comes in, you can judge whether you have sufficient time or not to complete them.  With that knowledge, you can confidently explain to someone that you will be unable to do something this week but can do it the following week. (Or whenever) This is a polite way of saying “no”.  When you don’t do a weekly planning session, you will be less likely to know what’s on your plate and will accept new work and rushed deadlines, which will result in you not doing your more important work, which will lead to more and more backlog.  I know it’s hard to say no—particularly to your boss or an important client, but if you do not learn to do this, you will never be able to reduce your lists and will always be overwhelmed.  The art of saying no is really all about learning to negotiate. You’re not really saying no you won’t do whatever you are being asked to do; what you are doing is negotiating the deadline. If you have six hours of meetings today and 200 emails to deal with, you are not going to be able to put together a “quick presentation” for your boss. But you may be able to do it tomorrow afternoon when you don’t have any meetings.  And always remember, the worst that can happen is your boss insists you do it today. And given that you have no choice, you can then review your plan for the day and decide what you won’t do in order to accommodate your boss.  Another area where you can quickly become overwhelmed is to create long lists of follow-up and waiting for items. There can be a lot going on here. If you have a long list of tasks you are following up with your team, you have a trust issue, not a follow-up issue. If you ask a team member to do something and you feel the need to add that to a list of follow-up items, that means you do not trust your team member to do their work. Perhaps it’s easier to follow up with them than to address the trust issue, but if you want to reduce your follow-up lists, that is something you will need to do.  But there is something else here. Waiting for and follow-up items are an indication of an incomplete task. For instance, if I ask my colleague Jenny for a copy of a document, the task is to get a copy of the document. Until I have that document, the task is not complete. The task was not to ask Jenny for the document. Until I have the document, I cannot complete the task; therefore after asking Jenny for it, I simply reschedule the task a day or two in the future. I may add a note in the comments section to say I asked Jenny for the document, but until the document is in my hands, the task is not complete.  How many waiting-for and follow-up tasks do you have like that? You could radically reduce that list if you remove them.  The next one causes me a dilemma. As a teacher, I know how important it is to help people develop the habit of collecting everything into their inboxes for processing later. This is a critical first step in developing a good productivity system. Collect everything, then allow yourself a little time at the end of the day to process what you collected. However, the more you collect, the more time you need to spend processing and processing is not doing the work.  Part of the solution here is to use your inbox as a filter. Rather than treating everything in there as something that needs to get into your system, you want to view this as a place where you get to decide whether something needs doing or not. I generally delete 40% of what I collect because, on further reflection, I realise the task does not need doing.  Always remember, a task that does not need doing and is deleted is one less thing for you to do. And, if, at some later date, the task does need doing, there will be a trigger, and you can re-add it. Once you learn to get comfortable with deleting, you soon find very few things come back onto your list of things to do.  The goal is to keep your task list as clean and tight as possible. Only allow things that genuinely need to be done to get into your system. While I encourage you to collect everything, that does not mean everything has to be processed into your system. Look for the things that don’t need to be done and remove those.  Now, back to the planning. I mentioned earlier the weekly planning sessions; well, equally important are the daily planning sessions. Now, don’t worry; the daily planning sessions are easy. All that’s involved is looking at your calendar for tomorrow and making sure what’s scheduled is realistic and you have not forgotten anything important. Your daily planning can be done in less than five minutes at a push, although it’s a good idea to take a look at your inbox to make sure there are no fires burning in there, and if you have time, clear that inbox. However, cleaning the inbox is less important than knowing what you have planned tomorrow and knowing it’s realistic.  And that’s how you avoid overwhelm. Matching categories of work with time blocks on your calendar, being consistent with your weekly planning. Learning to say no politely and making sure when you finish the day, tomorrow is set up and realistic.  Simple things to do; the only question is, will you do it? I can promise you it’s worth it. No more overwhelm and backlogs. Just easily controlled days where whatever is thrown at you, you can handle.  Thank you for following this podcast. It’s been a wonderful journey, and it’s not stopping. You can email me anytime with your questions. Just put Podcast in the title, and I will be sure to answer your questions.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
11/20/202312 minutes, 37 seconds
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Small Steps, Big Results: Overcoming Overwhelm Gradually

This week, it’s all about preventing yourself from becoming overwhelmed and learning to build more realistic days.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 299 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 299 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. How much “stuff” do you have to do today? Do you think you will complete it all? Does it even have to be all done today? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself that will help you to see whether you are running close to being overwhelmed or are already overwhelmed.  There are a number of reasons why you may find yourself consistently overwhelmed. One of which is not having any prioritisation techniques in place. If you cannot, or do not, prioritise the stuff coming at you, you will treat everything as being important and given you cannot do everything all at once, your brain will slide into panic mode, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin.  Another reason is because you believe you can do a lot more than you realistically can. You cannot do fifty tasks, attend six, forty-five-minute meetings and deal with over 200 emails in a day. Nobody can. Even if you went without sleep, didn’t eat or bathe, you would still not get through all those meetings, tasks and emails.  So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Paolo. Paolo asks, hi Carl, I’ve learned a lot from you over the last two or three years, and I am very grateful to you. My question is, I still feel overwhelmed by everything I have to do and was wondering if you have any tips or tricks that will help me to stop feeling overwhelmed.  Hi Paolo, thank you for your question.  This is one area I have thought a lot about over the years—why is it, with all the technology we have today, do we feel more overworked and overwhelmed than ever before? I mean, technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not more stressful, yet life isn’t easier or less stressful.  Part of the problem is with the technology. It’s more convenient than ever to collect stuff. If you wanted to learn more about Yoga, you would have had to find a few hours to go to your local library to research the subject. Today, you can read thousands of websites without leaving your sofa.  Email is easier to send than a letter. A text or Team message is easier to compose than making a phone call, and adding another to-do to a task list is much easier than pulling out a notebook, finding our pen and writing it down. When something is easy, we will do more of it than if it were difficult.  The other problem with technology and apps, in particular, is these are designed to keep you hooked. This means we are encouraged to pour more and more stuff into them and spend time organising and moving stuff around so we can tell everyone how wonderful a particular app is. Just look at how Notion hooks people. It has a ton of features; you can create beautifully designed templates and share them with the world, and this encourages you to join more and more groups looking for more and more templates to download and try out.  Just remember, with all this “playing” and organising, you are not doing any work. So, while you have great-looking and fantastically organised tools, you have an ever-growing list of things that are not getting done. When we realise we have to do some of the work we are organising, it’s a huge disappointment and the fun stops.  This is one of the reasons why I often say our apps need to be boring. If they are boring, we spend as little time as possible in them, which is great because if we are not organising and fiddling, we have no choice but to do the work. Which, in turn, reduces the overwhelming lists that are accumulating.  But let’s return to the prioritisation point. The starting point here is to know what your core work is. What are you employed to do, and what does that look like at a task level? It’s no good saying I am employed to sell, or teach or design. That tells you nothing at a task level. What does selling involve? How many calls do you need to make each day? How many appointments per day will enable you to reach your sales target each month?  It’s making those calls and setting up those appointments that are the tasks you need to be doing each day before anything else. That is your priority.  Beyond your work, knowing what your areas of focus are, what they mean to you and what you must do each day or week to keep them in balance is critical if you want to ensure that what you do each day serves you and moves you towards building the life you want to live.  One of the first books on Time Management I read was a book by Hyrum Smith. Hyrum Smith was the creator of the Franklin Planner, and his book, the 10 Natural Laws of Time And Life Management, was the book that launched Franklin Planner. By the way, you can still buy that book on Amazon. (You can also still buy the Franklin Planner too)  Smith spends around a quarter of the book discussing the importance of governing values. These are the values you hold dear, and by observing them, you have a natural prioritisation workflow. For example, if you place your family above your work, if your boss asks you to stay behind to do some extra work when it’s your daughter or son’s birthday, you would not hesitate to say no to your boss.  There is a hierarchy of values, and there is a hierarchy of areas of focus. At different times in your life, your areas of focus hierarchy will change. When you are in school, self-development will be near the top; as you get older, finances and health and fitness will likely rise. Perhaps in your thirties, your career or business will be close to the top. It’s in this area where we are all different.  The key is knowing what your areas of focus are and what’s most important right now and ensuring you are prioritising anything that will help you accomplish what you want to accomplish there.  Now, that’s all the background stuff. Spending a little time there and working out what is most important to you right now will help you make decisions faster. Now, what about strategy? The simplest way to get on top of everything is to group similar tasks together and do them in one single session. For example, email and communications. Rather than reacting every time an email comes in and responding to it, move the main to an action folder for later. Then, at the allocated time, open up that folder and begin with the oldest one and work your way down. Do as many as you can in the time you have allowed for this activity. If you consistently do this every day, you will soon find yourself on top of your mail.  Let’s be honest: if you have 400 hundred actionable emails, you won’t be able to do them all in one day. So don’t try. Focus on spending an hour each day on it and watch what happens.  Do the same for admin. Schedule an hour a day for your admin. We all have admin to do. That could be activity reports, expenses, banking or attendance records. Don’t let it become a backlog. Allocate time each day for doing it. This consistency will soon have you back on top of everything.  The great thing about having a consistent time for doing things like communications and admin, it very quickly becomes a habit. I cannot imagine going to dinner without clearing my actionable email. Similarly, once dinner is over, I love sitting down with a cup of tea and doing my admin. Sure, admin is boring, but a great cup of tea and a bit of music can do wonders for monotonous tasks like admin.  Now for more meaningful work—work that requires an hour or more; if you know this to be the case, you will need to find the time for it. There’s no point in hoping you will find the time; you won’t. Time does not like a vacuum, so you will always be doing something. Sleeping, watching TV, reading, playing computer games or whatever. So the key is to be intentional with your time. Sure, rest time should be included. If you feel tired, make the decision to stop and take a break. Equally, if you know you have an important piece of work to do, and it will take you longer than an hour or so, schedule the time. Be intentional. It won’t happen by accident.  A strategy I use is to block out two hours each day on my calendar for focused work. Every morning between 9:30 and 11:30 am, I do something meaningful. That could be writing, working on a project or doing client work. My calendar tells me what type of work I will be doing, and my task manager gives me a list of tasks associated with that activity. It’s simple; it allows me to get focused work done each day. It’s having this structure and consistency built into your days that ensure you get your work done. You don’t have to do everything in one day; you just need to know what you will do in your two hours. I knew before I began today I would be writing this script today in my two hours. I know tomorrow I will be finishing off this week’s newsletter and sending it out. If you work a typical eight-hour day, you still have four hours free for other things (allowing for your one hour for communications and an hour for admin). That’s more than enough for emergencies, sudden requests from clients and customers and other unknowns.  I hope that helps, Paolo and thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
11/13/202312 minutes, 29 seconds
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Quick Fixes for Busy Professionals: Managing Your Time When You Have None.

How do you find a solution to your time management and productivity problems if you have no time to stop and find those solutions? That’s what we are exploring this week.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Script | Episode 298 Hello, and welcome to episode 297 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. Have you ever stopped and given some thought to why you are struggling with managing time and productivity? I mean, asked yourself why you have over a thousand emails in your inbox, a desktop full of files, images and PDFs, and are unable to find anything you need to get your work done. One of the first steps to becoming better organised, getting in control of your time and completing your work on time is to establish what the problem is. Knowing that will help you to find the solution to getting everything back in control.  Too often, people look for a solution to a problem that has not been fully explored. Or worse, shut down the possibility of a solution because they feel their situation is unique. It isn’t. Millions of people have been in the same position and have found a working solution. It may mean having to make some difficult decisions and perhaps upset a few people who have been exploiting your good nature, but I can promise you there is a solution.  This is what this week’s question is all about. Finding solutions to the issues that are causing you to lose control of your time and feel out of control.  So, let me take this opportunity to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Julie. Julie asks, hi Carl, I am struggling to keep my head above water with my work. I was recently promoted to managing a team of eight people, and now I am getting hundreds of emails, need to attend double the number of meetings I used to attend and have to work an extra three or four hours a day just to stay on top. Is there any advice you could give me? Hi Julie, thank you for your question.  Starting a new position is always challenging. Your core work changes, and that means the routines and processes you had in place before your promotion will need to change. It can be disorientating and, worse, very time-consuming as you adapt and develop new routines and processes. You will need to give it a little time to get these in place.  However, there are a few other factors to take into consideration, and that is things like a sudden doubling in the number of meetings you need to attend. Let’s say you had five one-hour meetings a week before your promotion, and now you have ten hours. This means you have effectively lost five hours of your work week or one hour a day. If you were busy before, you are now busy and having to cram everything in with five hours a week less.  The problem with meetings is more often than not; you will come away from each one with more tasks to do. So, five hours lost and more tasks to do. Not a great situation to find yourself in.  A question I would ask is, do you really need to attend all those meetings? You have a team of eight people. Would it be possible to delegate attendance at some of these meetings to your team? They can take notes and fill you in if there is anything important for you to know. There must be hundreds of meetings going on at Microsoft every day, but I am sure Satya Nadella does not attend all of them. He has to be very selective about which meetings he attends.  Part of moving into a leadership role is learning to delegate, and to do that, you need to learn to trust your team.  The great thing about delegation is you learn very quickly the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. This will help you become a better leader. And you can decide which of your team needs extra training.  Now, that’s the leadership side of things. What about your personal work? Well, here, as I alluded to at the start you need to stop and take a step back and see where you are struggling. Without that, you will be running around in circles, not being able to find a solution.  One area I find people struggle with today is the volume of messages coming at them. We’re receiving fewer phone calls—which is a good thing—but a lot more instant messages and messages. However, the good news here is this is something we can control.  For example, a lot of issues with messages is we have too many channels. If you’re using WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, instant messages and many more, the problem has a simple solution. Reduce the number of channels you are available on.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Dolly Parton, the legendary country and western singer; she has a fantastic solution to too many messages. She only communicates via fax. Now, you could laugh at that, but in reality, it’s genius. How many companies and people want to reach out to Dolly? Thousands. For anyone to reach out to her, they would genuinely want to. The inconvenience they would have to go through to communicate with her is tremendous. This means the only messages she gets are genuine ones. No spam, no CC’d emails, nothing. Just genuine messages.  Now, I am not suggesting you need to move to communicating via fax, but the principle is fantastic. Force people to communicate with you on your terms.  You see, the reason why we are inundated with messages today is because of the ease it is to send a message. With it being so easy, people don’t think if what they are sending is helpful or a distraction. Most CC’d messages, for instance, are not helpful. I work with many top executives, and to them, all these CC’d messages are not only a distraction, they are annoying, which knocks off their focus and places them in a terrible mood. When it’s a little more difficult to contact you, if someone really does need to contact you, they will find a way.  I heard today that Sadique Khan, the Mayor of London, refused to join WhatsApp during the COVID pandemic so central government ministers could join him in group chats. The ministers in the central government had to send him emails instead.  Theoretically, the Mayor of London is junior to the Health Minister in Westminster, yet he had no problem saying no to joining WhatsApp. And in the end, he got a lot less rubbish, and what he did receive was meaningful and helpful. (It also prevented him from being criticised in the UK Government’s COVID enquiry.) Always remember that you chose to join these messaging services, so it’s nobody else’s fault if you become inundated with messages. This is also the same with email. If you freely give out your name card and give your email address to any company that asks for it, then you need to find a way to deal with the consequences of those choices.  It may be your company’s policy to communicate through Teams or Slack, and if that is the case, then you will need to work with it. One thing I would suggest is to turn on your do not disturb at some times throughout the day. If you can develop the habit of doing some undisturbed focus work, say between 9:30 and 11:30 am, turn on Do Not Disturb. If anyone complains, explain that is the time you do your work. You will only need to explain that once. Clients, bosses and colleagues quickly learn your habits and respect them.  If you don’t believe me, try it for a week. If you do get called in by your boss, talk to them. Explain the situation. Bosses are not evil, you know? They will probably adopt your practice and give you a bonus for having such a brilliant idea.  I recently watched a talk by Jim Donovan, vice chairman of global client coverage at Goldman Sachs, who was talking about “Optimal Client Service”. Of the points he spoke about, all of them made sense until he began talking about always being available for your clients. He argued that you should always be instantly available for your clients at any time of the day. For me, this is a big no-no.  You see, the problem with this is not the idea. It’s a good idea if you are in client services. The problem is this approach is not sustainable 100% of the time.  While many flights do have WIFI these days, it’s not reliable, and I know from experience when flying between Asia and Europe, I am not going to be able to respond to messages or emails for the 15-hour flight. Equally, you should never be expected to be instantly available for your clients when not working, or are sick or even when visiting the bathroom. There needs to be some barriers.  If something is not 100% sustainable, then you are setting too high an expectation and breaking that expectation just once will damage both your and your company’s reputation. It’s far better to be upfront with your clients and explain the best way to contact you and a reasonable time in which to respond.  Sure, it’s hard to do that when you are trying to win the client over, but your future self will thank you for doing that hard thing now.  The final piece of advice is to write out what your priorities are each week. This does not need to take up hours and hours of your time, twenty minutes max. But when you move towards a leadership role, you do not have time for dealing with trivial things. You need to keep your eye on the majors. Again, you will need to trust your team. Give them space to do their work and delegate so you can remain focused on the priorities.  Where do you find your priorities? What are your team’s objectives? Are you meeting them? What are your responsibilities? Are you adhering to your responsibilities? Staying focused on these each week will reduce the work you have to do and allow you to spread the load a little with your team.  I hope that has helped, Julie. Thank you for your question.  And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
11/6/202313 minutes
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From Chaos to Control: How Your Calendar Can Help You.

How do you use your calendar? Is it just a place for your appointments or a powerful way to manage your daily activities? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 297 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 297 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host of this show. For centuries, the great and the good (and not so good) have all used a simple time management system. It’s a system that has largely been unaffected by digital technology and one that has enabled such great things as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting, Charles Darwin’s Origins of Species, and the Apollo Space program’s moon landing. Without this method and tool, none of these amazing iconic events would have happened.  What system am I talking about? The calendar. Or rather your diary.  I was reminded of this recently while helping a high school student prepare for a particularly intensive period of exams and assignments. We began talking about where he was keeping his course notes and how he was managing his time. We considered using a task manager, which he rejected as being just another thing to manage (good point, I thought), and it was when we began talking about using his calendar that I could see instantly that here was the key to helping him through this busy time.  So, just how can a calendar help you with your time management and productivity, and what should you be putting on there? Well, that’s for this week’s question to ask. So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Alan. Alan asks; hi Carl, I’ve heard you talk a lot about your calendar and was wondering if you have any advice on using it better. At the moment, I only use my calendar for my meetings and public holidays.  Hi Alan, Thank you for your question.  I consider myself very lucky today because my introduction to the world of time management systems was a simple A4 desk diary. When opened, that diary showed my full week, and I had space at the bottom of each day for my tasks.  At a glance, I could instantly see how busy I was on a given day, and it was that diary and then a Franklin Planner, from around 1993, that managed my life until 2009, when I went all in digitally.  This meant that my core beliefs about how I managed my time and did my work were centred around my calendar and what I had time for.  Now, the way I use my calendar is for three critical things.  The first, unsurprisingly, is for my appointments. All my appointments, whether manually added by myself or ones that come from my coaching programme’s scheduling service, are automatically added to my calendar.  Now, a quick word about my scheduling service. I have complete control over what is scheduled here. I set the times I am available, and only people who have the link can schedule appointments. This has been a big time saver for me because most of my clients are based in the US or Europe. That means there is a significant time difference between where I am and where they are.  Instead of going back and forth negotiating a suitable time, my clients can pick and choose based on what’s convenient for them without having to waste time sending countless emails. Once they have selected a time, I get a notification, and the time is blocked out in my calendar.  However, the advantage of using a scheduling service is you give yourself greater control over your day. For example, if you want to protect your mornings for focused work, you can set your available times for between 1 pm and 4 pm each day. Doing that would mean over a five-day period, you would be available for fifteen hours. For most of you, I am sure that would be enough time for all your meetings and appointments.  The great thing about scheduling services is your boss, clients, and colleagues enjoy the flexibility and not only do you save time for yourself, but you also save time for everyone else. All they need do is go to your scheduling service, select a time that suits them, and the appointment will then be pushed to your calendar. Job done with no input from you at all.  The two services I know are Acuity, the one I use because it’s built into my website and Calendly. I believe Calendly has a free option if you want to test it out first.  The second item that goes onto my calendar is date-specific events. These are things like bills to pay, public holidays or if my wife is going to be away.  Now, a lot of my bill payments are set up as automatic payments, but I still add the payment date to my calendar because I want to make sure there are sufficient funds in my account to cover the payment.  If you are viewing your calendar as a week to view rather than a month or day to view, when you do your weekly plan, you will instantly see anything that is date-specific that you need to be aware of and can plan accordingly.  Another type of date-specific event you can put here is your project deadlines or if you need to call someone on a given day, and they can be called at any time. (If you need to call them at a specific time, you add the call to that time slot on the appropriate day.)  Another type of date-specific information you can put here would be travel notices. For example, if your town or city or a city you will be visiting that day has a major road closure, you need to be aware of. For example, a couple of weeks ago, the town we live in had the main coastal road closed for five hours while they ran the annual marathon. While I do not often use that road, it is something useful to know in case we decided to go out for lunch or do an errand.  Rail strikes in the UK are usually pre-notified. If you use the rail service and you know there will be a strike coming up, you can add that to your calendar.  All these date-specific events and information should be placed at the top of your calendar as all-day events. That way, they don’t interfere with your timed schedule but act as notices you need to know about.  And finally, your time blocks for focused work. If you have followed this podcast for a while, you will have heard me talking about core work—the work you are employed to do. To get this work done on time every time, you need to make sure you have enough time blocked out for doing it. If, for example, you block your mornings for doing focused work, that would give you a further fifteen hours a week for undisturbed, focused work. Imagine that. Knowing, confidently, you have fifteen hours each week to get on—undisturbed—with work that must be done each week. How productive would you be in that situation?  I don’t block every morning for focused work, though. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are blocked. I keep Thursdays open for calls (my clients on the West Coast of North America are currently sixteen hours behind me). I work Saturdays as well, and I keep Saturdays open, so I have the flexibility to catch up with anything I have not had time to do or am a little behind.  Now, if you pause a moment and look at what you could have here. Imagine you work a regular forty-hour week. You have fifteen hours available for meetings and collaboration and fifteen hours for focused work, which leaves you with ten hours for flexible work—the unexpected and urgent. Would that be enough for you?  Now, none of this should ever be set in concrete. There needs to be some flexibility. If you consistently do a daily planning session, then you can move things around to better suit the week you are in and what needs to be done that week.  For example, once a month, I will have one or two days blocked out completely for project days. This gives me the time I need to dedicate a full day to a bigger project.  There is one more item I would suggest you block out. That is an hour a day for dealing with your communications. Let’s be honest; we all get too many emails and messages that need to be dealt with. If you do not set aside time for dealing with them, when will you do it? You cannot ignore most of these messages and emails (although I am sure you wish you could do so sometimes).  If you know you have an hour dedicated to responding to your email each day, you will find you are less reactive about it and much more proactive. You don’t panic when a message or email comes in because you know you have an hour set aside later in the day to focus on your responses.  There are a lot of ways to get the most out of your calendar, and I would strongly advise you to find ways you can use it to bring a sense of calm and focus to your day. There are little things you can do. For example, I only allow people to schedule either thirty or fifty-minute appointments. That then gives me time to prepare for the next call if I have back-to-back meetings.  You are now likely wondering about where the task manager fits into this system. Well, like the calendar, the to-do list has been around for a long time. However, the to-do list was and should still be considered a subsidiary of the calendar. If something must be done on a given day, it goes into the calendar; if it can be done at any time, it goes into your task manager.  With the Time Sector System, you group your tasks by when you would like to get them done. You can date these tasks for specific days, and if you see you have several calls or follow-ups to do, you can block out an hour or so for follow-ups or communications to take care of these. Your time sectors are holding pens that help you to structure your day. You structure your day in your calendar, and your task manager acts as a feeder for all the little things you need to do in the time you have available.  For example, in my task manager today, I have three writing tasks, which I have done in the three hours I set aside for writing today. I also have a number of admin tasks to complete, which I will do in the admin hour I have scheduled later today. My calendar tells me what I should type of work I should be doing, and my task manager takes care of the tasks I should perform at that time.  When you use your calendar as your primary productivity tool and your task manager as the feeder, you quickly see what you have time for each day and can then reschedule or renegotiate commitments to ensure you are not overstretching yourself.  So there you go, Alan. I hope that has helped, and thank you for your question.  Thank you to you, too, for listening, and it just remains for me now to wish you a very, very productive week.   
10/30/202313 minutes, 24 seconds
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One Thing You Could Change That Will Elevate Your Productivity.

Have you ever wondered what one thing you could change that would have a significant impact on your productivity and time management? In this episode, I’m going to share with you that one thing.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 296 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching and studying time management and productivity strategies and practices. And while a lot of what I’ve read rarely works in the real world, there are many that do and most of these are time tested and have been around for a long time.  For example, use a calendar. People have carried around calendars for decades—well before the digital age. It’s logical when you think about it. Have a single source that tells you where you need to be and when and make sure you carry that with you everywhere you go.  Of course, being humans and having a natural instinct to over-complicate things, digital calendars are now trying to do everything for us and as a result they have become less helpful. Cramming your day full of appointments and tasks you don’t really need to do, has made the calendar a place few people enjoy going to anymore. What’s worse is delegating responsibility for your time to other people by allowing them to schedule appointments for you. Gee why did it go so wrong?  There is one time management and productivity practice that technology has so far been unable to influence. It’s the one skill that the most productive people have mastered above everything else and if you are not skilled and confident enough to do it, you will never be productive and worse, ever be successful in your work.  However, before we get to that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Greg. Greg asks, Hi Carl, I’ve always wanted to ask you what you consider to be the critical skill needed to be good at managing time and being productive?  Hi Greg, thank you for your question.  That’s something I’ve spent years trying to figure out, and there is one skill I have noticed in all incredibly productive people that very few people seem to possess.  That’s the ability to make decisions quickly.  You see, if you want to be more productive and less overwhelmed by what you have to do, quickly (and confidently) deciding what to work on right now is the only thing you can do. Naturally, executing on that decision is the next important thing, but you first need to make a decision about what you will do right now. Writing this script at this moment was a decision I made twenty minutes ago, and writing it was the execution of that decision.  There are a multiple other things I could be doing right now—walking my dog, going to the gym, taking a nap, responding to my email etc. But I made the decision to sit down and write this script. It’s got to be done sometime, right? Why not now? (Although asking for an excuse why you should not be doing something is probably the wrong question to ask)  The time it took me to make that decision and begin writing was perhaps three seconds. And that is how productive people become productive. They make a decision and execute immediately.  What will hold you back and prevent you from being productive is being unable to make a decision about what to do now.  So, if you asked what skill you could develop that would radically improve your time management and productivity skills, I would say become better at making decisions. But it is a bit more than that. You see, making decisions is something you will already be able to do. Even the most indecisive people make decisions. What time you rolled out of bed this morning was a decision, what you ate for breakfast was a decision. We are making decisions all the time.  However, the skill you need to develop is the skill of confidently making decisions. Writing this script was a confident decision. I have around twenty actionable emails sitting in my Action This Day folder, I have four unread messages in my messaging app and fifteen tasks to do in my task manager. But I am writing this right now. That’s because I am confident that writing this is the best use of my time, currently.  Everything else I have to do today can wait. Most of it will get done, some of it won’t and I am comfortable with that.  That’s the state you want to be training yourself to be in. And I use the work “training” intentionally.  Your brain has a natural tendency to overthink things. It has no sense of past, present or future. So as far as your brain is concerned, everything must be done right now. That’s why it’s important to get everything on your mind out of your mind and into an external place. A task manager or notes app or a piece of paper. It’s there where you can make the right choices about what to work on next.  But how do you make the right choices?  That begins with your Areas of Focus and core work. Knowing what these mean to you is a brilliant way to pre-decide what to work on next.  Your areas of focus shows you your priorities based on the eight areas of life we all have in common. Things like your finances, family and relationships, career and purpose. When you know what these areas mean to you, decisions based on what to do next become obvious.  For instance, if a client wants to have a dinner meeting with you on Wednesday and that’s your wedding anniversary and you’ve promised to take your partner out for dinner what do you do? If you prioritise your career above your family and relationships, then you will have dinner with your client. You may not want to admit that, but if you make that choice, that’s effectively what has happened. Your career is more important than your family and relationships.  However, if your family and relationships are more important than your career, you ask your client if you can have dinner on an alternative night, or if they are only in town for one day, perhaps you can have lunch or a coffee in the afternoon.  Knowing your core work works in the same way. Your core work is the work you are employed to do. That does not mean extra meetings, chatting with your colleague about next week’s off site event or reorganising your documents and emails.  Core work requires time and that’s why it’s important that before the week begins you have the time blocked out for doing your core work. No excuses. get that time protected. Once it’s protected, you now have less decisions to make. If you should be finishing off a client proposal and you are asked to join meeting about next quarter’s targets, you don’t go to the meeting, you write the client proposal. The proposal writing is your core work, the meeting is not. You can always ask a colleague to give you a copy of their notes. If you observe the most productive people, you will notice they know what is important and are obsessively focused on getting the important stuff done. They don’t become distracted by trivialities such as email and Teams or Slack messages when they are working on their important tasks for that day.  Those decisions are made before the day begins. Which is why planning the day becomes a critical part of your end of day routine. Plan the day before you finish the previous day and you will sleep better (always good for being productive) will be a lot less stressed and much more focused.  So, the way to become better at managing your time and being more productive is to know what is important and what is not. What can wait and what needs dealing with immediately. And the easiest way to determine that is to know what your areas of focus and core work are.  That means you do need to allow some time to work on your areas of focus and core work. This is what I call the backend work. Spend a couple of weekends determining these areas of your life and the time investment you make will reward you massively later.  The issue I find is the people who most need to do this, are the ones who make the excuse they are too busy to do it. It seems like a luxury they cannot afford to do because they have too much to do already.  But why do you have too much to do? That’s because you don’t know what is important and what is not which means everything’s important. and when everything’s important, nothing is. And now you’re stuck in a vicious cycle that can only be broken if you stop, step back and work on your areas of focus and core work.  Now, the good news is that we have entered the annual planning season. The three months before the start of a new year. If you want to go into 2024 with a focus, a lot less stress and a determination to move your goals and projects forward, use the remaining days of 2023 to build out your areas of focus and core work.  Work out what tasks you need to do to keep these areas in balance, get them into your task manager and set them to repeat as often as they need to be repeated. This will give you consistency and when you get consistent with something you can refine and develop processes for getting this work done without much effort at all. Ultimately, it will come down to how effective your processes are. With a process you can improve and refine them so you become faster at doing them. I have a process for doing my daily admin. Six years ago when I began doing my daily admin, it took me around an hour and half to do the tasks. Today, I can do the same tasks in the same order in less than twenty minutes. That has only happened because I have consistently done the work and refined the process for doing the work.  So there you go, Greg. Those are the critical skills. The most important one of all, though is making decisions quickly and confidently and anyone can learn to do that. All it takes is a little bit of practice. I hope that has helped. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
10/23/202312 minutes, 42 seconds
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How To Be More Efficiently Productive.

This week, what’s holding you back from becoming better at managing your time and ultimately being more productive? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 295 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. A lot of getting better with your time management and being more productive is finding ways to do your work more effectively and quicker. I was reminded of that last weekend when the McLaren Formula One team broke the world record for a pit stop. They managed to change four tired in 1.8 seconds. Think about that for a moment. In the time it takes you to pick up your coffee cup, take a sip and put it back on the table, the McLaren pitstop crew will have taken four tires off and put four new ones on.  How did they do that? Well, it’s more than just practising. Of course, practising will play a large part in it, but it will start with someone breaking down the process and looking for better and faster ways to do each part.  Now, how much of the work you do is similar in nature? My guess is it will be 80 to 90%. You may not think so, but if you are a salesperson, there is a process to selling. If you are a doctor, there is a process for diagnosing a patient, and if you are a designer, there will be a process you follow to create your designs.  Now, each customer, patient and design will be different, but how you begin and do your work will be the same steps.  It’s here where you will discover ways to do your work more efficiently, and that leads to you having more time for other things and giving you a wealth of information you can use to make your processes better and faster. That’s how McLaren broke the world pitstop record, and it’s how you can save yourself a lot more time.  Now, before I get into the details, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Ryan. Ryan asks, hi Carl, I’ve been following you for a long time now, and I’ve always wanted to ask you, how do you become more efficient at getting your work done? Hi Ryan, Thank you for your question. One of the things I’ve always found fascinating is observing how skilled, productive people get their work done. That could be an author, a bricklayer or a Formula One Mechanic. There’s an art to doing our work; it’s how we become better and how we master the skills we have.  I feel so fortunate that I have been able to work for large and small companies. To watch brilliant people do their work. I remember working in a very fancy restaurant many years ago as the bar manager, and each day, I got to see one of the UK’s top chefs do his work. The food he created was exquisite, and how he created it was simply brilliant.  I got to see how he chose ingredients, how he experimented with ideas and how he designed the food he served to customers. It was an obsessive attention to detail, breaking down the ingredients, creating the recipes and workflows to cooking the food and ensuring the standards were always maintained.  Three or four times a year, he would change the menus, and the process (there’s that word again) of changing the menus was followed each time. He learned the process from his mentor, and he passed it on to the chefs he was mentoring.  One thing I noticed was none of them ever considered it as a project. It was simply a process. When the season began to change, there was a week when the kitchen team disappeared in the afternoons and tested, experimented and appeared to have a lot of fun. It was hard work; these chefs were starting early and finishing late, but at the end of the week, there was a finished new menu.  Today, I will consume as many videos and articles as I can find on how successful people do their work. These people are successful because of what they do, and I want to know how they do it. How did they learn their skills, and more importantly, what do they do each day to master their skills?  So, Ryan, a lot of my ideas have come from other people.  One thing that stands out about highly efficient people is they are incredibly strict about how they use their time. They say “no” far more than “yes”, and rather than accept a meeting request, will challenge the host to justify their presence (even if it’s their boss) Most people will not do that. They are afraid to challenge and question. There seems to be a preference to complain rather than take action.  This is about knowing the value of your time. This was probably the hardest thing to learn. Once you know the value of your time and that one day, you will no longer have any time left, you start to realise all those yeses need to mean something important.  The most productive people I have learned about, both historical and contemporary, have something in common. They value their solitude. They will lock themselves away for several hours a day to do their work without distractions. I found it interesting that Jeffrey Archer, the author, will not have a phone or computer in his writing room. He writes by hand. Similarly, John Grisham’s writing room has no internet or telephone. The thinking is writing time is sacred, and nothing should be allowed to interrupt that.  How could you better protect your time? You don’t have to be extreme. You only need to find an hour or two each day. Could you do that?  However, one other way I can improve the way I work is not to be afraid to experiment. It’s through experimentation that I learn what works and what does not.  My email process was developed ten years ago. I was getting thirty to fifty emails a day, and it was becoming overwhelming. I needed a better way to manage it all. So, I did some research, tested a few different approaches, and eventually, Inbox Zero 2.0 was born. It’s simple, fast and has meant email is never overwhelming. Today, I get around 120 to 150 emails a day, and it’s never a problem.  But that did not happen overnight. It took many months of practice, evolution and adjustments. It also meant I had to stick to a single email app. The only way this would work is the tools I used needed to be consistent.  Think about it for a moment: would McLaren have been able to break the world record for pitstops if they were constantly changing the equipment? No chance. The wheel gun operator knows their wheel gun intimately. They’ve used it thousands of times, and they have a feel for it. They know how to micro-adjust it so it hits the mark perfectly.  This is the same thing with your tools. You need to get a “feel” for them. To understand them inside out so when things go wrong, and they will go wrong, you can fix the problem in minutes instead of wasting a whole day searching around on YouTube or Google trying to figure out how to fix the problem.  Ultimately, it all comes back to processes. As I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of what you day at work will be a process, not a project. The key is to find that process, externalise it by writing out the steps and then looking at each one to see where you can do it better.  One key part of this is timing. For me, I am at my most creative in the mornings. I’ve tried doing creative work in the afternoons and struggled. I also find I am creative in the evenings too. Armed with this information, has meant I can structure my day to optimise my effectiveness.  It turns out most people are at their most creative in the mornings; it’s when your brain is at its freshest. So, spending all morning dealing with email and sitting in meetings is such a waste of your creative energy. Far better to push meetings and email writing until the afternoons when that little extra stimulation from other people can help you push through the afternoon slump.  And then there are the three unsung heroes of productivity—sleep, diet and movement. If you think you are going to be productive on two and a half hours of sleep, you’re fooling yourself. You will not be. Likewise, if your lunches are a feat of carbohydrates, you’ve just destroyed your afternoon. You’ll spend all afternoon struggling to keep your eyes open. And if you rarely move from your seat, all your blood will drain to your feet, and you’ll run out of creative energy. (Not really, but it will feel like that). You need enough sleep, a low-carbohydrate diet and movement. Even walking up the stairs once or twice between sessions of work will do wonders for your productivity. You don’t need to go to the gym or out for a run. You just need to move.  And that’s really about it, Ryan. A willingness to experiment, defaulting to finding the process rather than thinking everything is a project. Figuring out where I can make those processes more efficient and making sure I know the tools I use inside out.  Everything productive people do is doable by you. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Avoiding distractions, protecting your time and getting very good at saying “no”.  Plus, understanding your own biorhythms. When are you at your most productive, and when not? Then, structure your day around your most focused times. Make it easy for yourself rather than fighting between wanting to check Instagram and doing the focused work you know you need to do.  And trust me, if you take a stand on your time and challenge people to justify “stealing” your time, they will fall into line—even your boss! I hope that helps, Ryan and thank you for your question.  Thank you to you, too, for listening; it just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
10/16/202312 minutes, 51 seconds
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How To Manage The Unknowns.

This week’s question is all about managing the unknown “urgencies” that will come up each day. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 294 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. How often are your planned days destroyed by something you never even considered when you began your day? It’s likely to be frequent. That’s just the nature of life. It’s always been that way, and it always will be that way. It’s something we need to work with, though, and to develop ways to overcome the worst effects of these unknowns.  That’s one of the reasons why the Time Sector System can be so powerful. If you set things up—knowing what your areas of focus and core work are, then you have a built-in prioritisation method that will help you to sort the important urgencies from the less important ones.  I have to be honest. I have never worked in a job where everything was predictable. There has never been a day where nothing unexpected happened. Take today as an example. When I began the day, I had four hours of meetings booked in the morning and three hours in the evening. By the time I had completed my morning routines, half of those morning meetings had been cancelled.  So, with all that explained, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Alex. Alex asks, Hi Carl, I like the idea of the Time Sector System, but the bit I am not sure about is how you deal with all the unknown tasks that need to be done in a given week. What do you do with those tasks?  Hi Alex, thank you for your question. This has always been an issue for people since the first humans evolved many hundreds of thousands of years ago. After a night’s rest, we would wake up with the plan to find food. If, during the night, you were surrounded by some hungry predators, your focus at that moment was no longer on finding food but on finding safety. Your survival instincts kicked in and overrode your hunger instincts.  Today, while things are no longer as black and white, we are still facing similar dilemmas. Now, instead of a choice between food and safety, we are faced with a choice between writing the report that needs to be finished tomorrow or dealing with our boss’s demand for an update on a project you are working on.  Or, as in the case of a client of mine attending a meeting or dealing with a flat tire she just discovered.  It’s very rare for your day to go according to plan, yet I would still recommend you make a plan.  Making a plan is less about what you intend to do and more about setting the direction for the day. For example, one of my tasks today is to write this podcast script. It would be fantastic if I were able to finish it in a single day, but the chances of that happening are slim. However, if I can make a start on it and get, say, 30 or 40% of it written before the day’s end, that would be good enough. I would be happy with the outcome.  The Time Sector system is about setting yourself realistic expectations about what can be accomplished in the week. It’s about identifying what is really important and being able to recognise when something that appears important is not really important at all. Once you know what is important, you very quickly learn what is not and can either ignore it or delegate it. Let’s imagine you have decided that anything your boss asks you to do on top of the work you are employed to do is urgent and important; then what you have decided is to allow yourself to be overwhelmed and stressed. There’s a limit to what you can do each day and week. If you prioritise the unknown over the known, you’ve just set yourself up for a very stressful life.  The Time Sector System teaches you to quickly identify what is important so that when something does come across your desk (or through Teams or email), you can identify whether it needs your attention right now or can wait until another day.  I saw that someone had written on a discussion board that the Time Sector System doesn’t work because it does not allow for sudden tasks coming in. That’s not an accurate assessment of what the Time Sector System is. What is an accurate description is you prioritise the important so that when something new does come in, you can make a qualified decision based on what you have identified as being important that week.  Right now, my accountant is drawing up my annual accounts. Each day, she sends me requests for further information, which I need to action that same day. I have no idea what she will ask me for; all I know is there will be something requested. There’s no point in me scheduling time each day for this, as sometimes it may only require ten minutes; other times, it could require an hour to find the information. However, when a request comes in, I measure its importance against what else I have planned for the day and can decide whether I need to reschedule something or work a little longer that day.  The important thing is I know what I want to and need to do that day before I begin the day. If I have sudden urgent requests to deal with, then great, I can decide that is where I will apply my time that day.  Whether you use the Time Sector System or not, you will still need to deal with a lot of unknowns. These are a part of life and always will be. Having a method or a strategy for handling these is a critical step to becoming more productive.  It’s also important to ensure you have a solid collecting system. Many things will come at you today while you are working on something important or are with a customer. You are not going to be able to stop and deal with that immediately, so you should be collecting it somewhere where you can assess its importance when you finish what you are doing.  However, before you can accurately assess what is important, you need to know what important looks like. This is why there are two critical preliminary parts to creating a solid productivity system. That is to identify and define what your areas of focus are—while we all share the same eight areas, how we define these will be different for all of us. Equally, the action steps we need to take to keep these in balance will also be different. The second part is to define what your core work is—the work you are employed to do.  If you want to learn how to define and develop your areas of focus, you can download the FREE Areas Of Focus Workbook from my website’s downloads page. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes If you skip working on these two parts, everything that comes at you will be considered important. You have no frame of reference to determine what is critical and what is not. This means a demand from a boss or client will be very loud, and you’ll panic and rush to get whatever you are being asked to do done instead of pausing and assessing whether it is important or not.  Now, if you have decided dealing with any request from your boss or customers is part of your core work, then fine. You made that decision, and when a demand comes in, you deal with it. However, for the most part, requests from customers and bosses are not always going to be “urgent”; they can wait until you have finished whatever it is you are doing or what is the most important thing that needs doing right now.  Another reason why you should be pausing and not rushing to deal with demands as they come in is you miss the opportunity to chunk similar tasks together. Chunking (or grouping) similar tasks is one of the most effective and efficient ways to deal with your work. It prevents context switching—which is very draining on your mental energy—and because you are working on similar tasks at the same time, you will be more focused.  A good example of this is managing messages. It’s accepted that going in and out of your email and Teams inbox all day is not a very effective strategy if you want to get important work done. It’s why one of the best new features in the last ten years or so has been the ability to turn on Do Not Disturb so you can focus on the work in front of you instead of being inundated with notifications and distracted.  How often do you use this feature?  Managing email and messages should be broken down into two parts. The processing—where you decide what something is and what needs to be done with it—and the doing, where you deal with all your actionable messages.  Processing can be done anytime, although I recommend you do this in between sessions of work. For example, when in a meeting, you turn on Do Not Disturb so you can focus on the meeting. Once the meeting ends, you can open up your mail and messages and move anything actionable into an Action this Day folder.  Then, later in the day—as late in the day as you feel comfortable with, you set aside time to focus on dealing with those messages. I’ve found that those who do this are more focused and less stressed. Those that don’t are not.  At it’s very basic, Alex; you collect throughout the day, then before you finish, you go through what you collected and decide what needs to be done and when you will do it. If it needs to be done this week, then you can decide when you will do it based on the other work you have and what your calendar tells you about how much time you have available. If you are squeezed and have little time, you always have the option to “negotiate” with the other person about when you will do it—and that means your bosses and clients. You’ll be surprised how accommodating people are—after all, they are likely to be just as busy as you.  I hope that has helped, Alex. Thank you for your question, and thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all. Very, very productive week.   
10/9/202312 minutes, 20 seconds
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Time Management Strategies: From Chaos to Control.

This week, I’m answering a question about the fundamentals and why it’s important to master the basics before worrying about everything else.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   The CP Learning Centre Membership Programme The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Hello, and welcome to episode 293 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Last week, in my newsletter, I wrote about the lessons I learned from rushing about looking for quick fixes and hacks to improve my productivity. In many ways, I was lucky I was doing this in the 1990s before the plethora of digital tools were available, yet the mistakes I made back then are the same mistakes I see so many people making today.  There’s a lot to say about the advantages of hindsight and experience. It does help you to avoid mistakes made in the past and gives you a level of knowledge that helps you to assess new ideas through a framework of experience. What works and what does not work.  For example, I’ve learned the more complexity and levels a task management system has the less likely you will use it effectively in the future. It’s exciting a fun to play with in the beginning, but once it comes face to face with a busy day or week, it breaks down, you stop using it and you then lose trust in it.  Anyway, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Jono. Jono asks, hi Carl, I see you often talk about keeping things simple, and I was wondering what you consider to be a simple system. I try to keep mine simple, but it is so hard to do so with so many new tools coming out each month. A little help here would be appreciated.  Hi Jono, thank you for your question.  To answer your question for me a simple system is one that works in the background so you can focus on your work without feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or swamped. The trouble is to get to that level, you will need to go through a few gates and that means initially things will not feel simple.  Take the first stage of getting something into your system, the collecting stage. If you’ve never used a task manager before, one of the most difficult habits to build is to collect everything that comes across your desk into an inbox.  If you’ve spent a large part of your life trying to remember to do something and never writing it down, doing the opposite will feel unnatural. I remember when I turned to a completely digital system and pulling out my phone every time I remembered to do something felt very unnatural. Having a laptop or later an iPad in a meeting felt uncomfortable.  Today, almost everyone is in a meeting with a laptop or iPad, but twelve years ago, it was not common at all. There was a fear that people felt you were doing your email or responding to Facebook massages while in the meeting. It was uncomfortable.  And that is where one of the initial problems lie. Changing an old behaviour.  However, the good news is it only take a few weeks for it to become natural. It’s funny today, when my wife asks me to do something and I don’t immediately pull out my phone, my wife will stop and say: are you going to write it down? Not only has my behaviour changed, so has hers. She knows if I put it into my phone I will not forget. If I don’t, I will forget.  However, that means the way you collect stuff needs to be fast and easy. Back in the days when I travelled around the city visiting clients, I used the subway and bus system. I carried a bag (I hate backpacks, they destroy the cut of your suit—which weirdly I no longer wear) This meant I needed to be able to collect ideas and tasks while moving from one train to another or walking through a subway station.  I developed a test I called the changing train test. The test was could I collect a task into my task manager while I was changing trains? If I needed to stop walking, it failed the test. This was one of the many reasons why Todoist became my task manager of choice. It was simple and fast to get stuff into it.  The introduction of Siri in 2014 really helped. I was able dictate my tasks to my phone and later, when Siri developed, I was able to set it up with Apple’s Shortcuts to make collecting even faster.  So the first test for me is to ensure collecting is optimised to be fast and require as few button taps or pushes to get get something into my system.  Today, it’s all about getting things into my system using my laptop computer as that is where I am mostly when doing my work. I no longer visit clients. The principles, though, have not changed. Speed and simplicity. Using keyboard shortcuts to get things into my system is critical to me today. Again, simple, and fast.  The philosophy I follow is the less time I spend in my productivity tools, the more time I have for doing the work. The more time I spend doing the work, the more time I have at the end of the day for other things like hobbies, interests and family.  This means that the next step, the organising also needs to be simple.  I’ve travelled down the road of building complex organisation structures in my notes and files. I remember around seven years ago the trend of developing a complex tagging structure in Evernote. That all began from a blog post Michael Hyatt posted in 2016 where he explained how he used Evernote notebooks and tags. Oh how we all jumped on that ship. It was so much fun creating hierarchical tags structures.  The problems was, it took hours each week just to maintain it. When You collected a new note you had to go through your tagging structure to ensure you attached the right tags to the note or the system would fail.  Fortunately, Evernote helped to wean us off that method by significantly improving their search. Today, I have a very loose notebook structure and use search to find what I need. It’s much faster and simpler and means I have very little organising to do.  Similarly with Todoist, removing all the old project folders and focusing on when I will do a task and slimming down the number of labels I use (I use eight and no more) processing my inbox takes a fraction of the time it used to.  Everything is geared towards simplicity and speed so I spend more time doing the work and less time “playing” with the tools that organise my work.  Over the last few months, I’ve been creating content encouraging people to discover the processes for doing their work. That simplifies how you do your work and when that is simplified you are on the way to speeding it up. However, the great thing about having processes is you can take a single part of you process and find ways to make it better.  This, I realise is what I do with my whole productivity system. I have broken it down in to three parts: collecting, organising and doing. If I feel organising my work is too slow, I can look at how I am organising my work and find a better faster way. I will do that every three months or so. I look at the whole system, and ask the question, how can I do this better.  As the tools I use are being updated regularly, I find every three months enables me to review the updates to see if anything that has been changed helps me to make the system faster. For example, Evernote have recently introduced AI. This has given us faster search results AND, you can use their AI to organise an individual note into a cleaner order.  This means I can take scattered meeting notes and let Evernote organise those notes into a cleaner, more logical order. It puts the highlights at the top of the note which makes for faster scanning for the important points. This means less time organising and more time doing. Always a win.  However, all this comes back to keeping things as simple as possible. We know the less moving parts a motor has, the less likely it will go wrong. That true for motors, it’s also true for your productivity system. The less you have, the less there is to go wrong.  This is why I ditched add ons and plugins a long time ago. I used to use IFTTT to connect different apps together. Unfortunately, these often stoped working or lost the connection and that broke my system. Removing these from the critical tools (task manager, notes and calendar) and allowing them toward independently of each other meant no more stoppages or issues.  Instead, I bought a 32 inch monitor and when I do my planning I have the screen real-estate to have my calendar and task manager open side by side. Remove as many moving parts as possible and there is less to go wrong.  And finally, all the new tools coming out. Yes, it’s exciting and very tempting to keep trying all these new tools. However, what is your objective here. To get your work done as quickly as possible to the highest standards or to play with new tools.  None of these new productivity tools will do the work for you—never forget that. I have asked myself in the past does Notion do what Evernote does for me significantly faster and better? The answer was and is no. Does Tick Tick organise my tasks significantly better and faster than Todoist? No. So there’s not need for me to change.  Changing tools slows you down. There’s the transfer cost, the learning cost and the unfamiliarity cost. All of which dramatically slows things down and I do not want to be spending more time doing work when I could be with my family enjoying an evening stroll by the beach or cooking a surprise dinner for them.  So there you, Jono. I hope that has helped a little. Thank you for your question.  And just a heads up, over the last two years or so, I have been asked for some kind of membership programme in my learning centre. It’s taken me a while to find the right programme for such a membership. But now I am happy to announce that you can join a membership programme.  The purpose of the programme is to give you access to all my courses and workshops when and how you want to access them. But, the biggest part of the programme is the coaching element. My goal is to keep you accountable for your goals and productivity aspirations.  The membership runs for one year. During that year, you will get a monthly coaching call with me, where we discuss how you performed that month. And find simple changes you can make to improve things where they need improving.  Because of the individual coaching, I have limited the membership to twenty people initially. There are a few places left if you want to join., and I urge you to act quickly. These places will and are running out fast.  Oh, and you also can join my exclusive community where you can ask me anything, chat with other members and get the occasional unique content. It’s a brilliant programme, and I hope you will consider joining and allowing me to help you become better organised and more productive.  You can get full details at my website carlpullein.com or in the show notes.  Thank you for listening and it remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
9/25/202314 minutes, 36 seconds
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THe Art Of Getting Stuff Done. (And Not Procrastinating)

Are you planning, playing and fiddling, or are you doing? That’s what I am looking at in this week’s episode.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The All-New Time And Life Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 292 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 292 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. The area of time management and productivity is like many areas in that there is a lot of planning, thinking, tools and systems to play with and much more that is anything but doing.  Yet of all the different areas, time management and productivity is the one that is meant to focus on execution and getting stuff done. Sadly, over the last twenty years or so, certainly since the digital explosion began around the mid-1990s, the focus seems to have moved away from doing the work and more towards organising the work.  Now a limited amount of organising is important, after all, knowing where something is does help you to be more productive. But, moving something from one area to another is not being productive. It’s just moving stuff around. It’s not doing the work. A document that needs to be finished, needs to be opened and finished. Moving it from one folder to another will not write the document. All it does is moves it from one place to another. That’s not being productive. That’s procrastination.  And it’s on this subject that this week’s question is about. How to focus less on the minors and more on the majors—the activities that get the work done.  And so, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Caroline. Caroline asks, hi Carl, I recently took your COD course and I am struggling to meet the target of only spending 20 minutes a day on organising and planning my day. I find I need a lot more than twenty minutes. Is there a reason why this is important?   Hi Caroline, thank you for your question.   The twenty-minute rule, so to speak, is not necessarily a strict number, it more a way to help people understand that planning and organising, if not checked, will become a dangerous form of procrastination.  We often use the excuse of something needing more time for planning or thinking about to avoid doing the work. If you think about it, how long does it take to decide something? The answer is no time. You either do it or you don’t. Now that does not mean some things need researching, but researching is different from thinking about and planning.  To give you an example. One of my bigger projects this year was to redesign my website. It’s been on my list since January the first, and I’ve used the excuse all year that I need to think more and plan what to put there and what to remove.  Yet, really, I already know those answers and I could very easily have written them out in around ten minutes. That extra thinking time was just an excuse to avoid doing the many hours of work that I know is involved in redesigning a website.  In the end, I decided to just get it started. I opened up a Keynote document, planned out the design, asked my wife to choose three complimentary colours (she’s better with colours than I am) and mapped everything out. That took one hour (I felt a fool—not only did it only take an hour, I really enjoyed it.)  The next evening, I sat down and cleaned up my website—removing old pages and cleaning up all the others and implemented the typeface and colour changes. That was two hours of pure joy (really, silly me. There I was procrastinating on the project most of the year and it turned into a very enjoyable project). A couple of days later the hard lift work had been done and all I was left with was the tidying up. Project completed in just over a week.  There really was no excuse. It turned out easier than I imagined, it was fun and it was completed in less than ten days.  Looking back now I feel such a fool. I procrastinated most of the year because I thought it would be long, difficult and boring and it turned out to be the opposite of that.  How many projects do you have lying around sitting there in your projects list with nothing happening? Why? What’s stopping you from starting the project?  Try this little experiment. Pick one of those projects you feel needs more thinking and planning, open up your notes and write out what you think needs to be done to get it started—the very first thing. You do do not need to worry about the second task or the third. Just focus your attention on the very next task to get it started and do that task. That is doing.  The issue with trying to plan out every individual next step is you will be wrong. Many of those steps you think you need to do will not need doing and things you never thought of will need doing.  With my website redesign, I guessed right on about 30% of the tasks. The remaining 70% came up as I was working on the project. You do not want to be wasting time trying to think of all the steps you will have to take. Just do the first one. The next tasks will present itself before you finish the first. This is also a great way to prevent procrastinating on a complete project.  Let’s be honest here, you cannot do a project. You can only do the tasks required to complete that project. So, focus on the next task. Don’t worry too much about what comes next.  Strange how old sayings keep coming back. Saying like: A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.  Well, that very true for your projects. You just have to start wit the first step. The next step will present itself before you finish the first.  Imagine you decide to decorate your living room. You’ve chosen the colour, so the next step is to clear or cover the furniture. While you are doing that you can be planning which wall you will begin with. You do not need to waste time sitting in front of a screen planning out what steps you will take. Begin with the first. Get the furniture out or covered and then tape over the fixed furnishings and power sockets.  The great thing with beginning like this is once you’ve started you’re committed. You’re not going to leave your living room furniture stacked up outside your living room. You’re going to get the painting done as quickly as possible so you can get the furniture back in.  I wasn’t going to leave my website redesign half finished. Once I began, I was committed and it had to get finished as quickly as possible. No chance of further procrastination then.  Now organising tasks in a task list can be fun when you have just switched your task manager to a new one. All those new bells and whistles to play with. It’s a lot of fun. We convince ourselves that once we’ve moved everything over to our new app, then we will be productive. Trouble is, we’re not.  The reason people keep switching apps is because they don’t want to do the work, and moving everything around is just an excuse for not doing the work.  And have I repeated that mistake a lot? I’ve been down that road too many times. Feeling great because I can collect all these new tasks and ideas and it all looks nice and pretty, yet what I forget to notice is while I am admiring my organisational work, the real work is not getting done.  This is the reason I emphasise the importance of restricting your organising time. It’s the easy part of having a productivity system. The hard part is just doing the work. It can be boring, time consuming and difficult. The trouble is the organising can wait, the work rarely can.  The key to better productivity, less overwhelm and improved time management is more time doing the work and less time organising it.  I know this is not for everyone, but I love sitting down on the sofa after a hard day’s work and cleaning everything up. The work for the day has been done, I can put something mildly interesting on the TV, have my laptop on my knee and simply move files, and other stuff to their rightful place.  It’s being away from my usual work environment and in a more relaxed state that makes this process fun. I usually process my Todoist inbox at this time too. As I say, that might not be for everyone, but this means that the work comes first. The cleaning up and organising comes later.  Now, if you are starting out with a new system, there’s a learning curve to go through and that curve is slow. When I devised my email process, for example, clearing forty emails from my inbox would take thirty minutes or so. Today, having run the process every day (almost) for the last eight years, I can process 120 emails in less than twenty minutes. It’s repeating the same process every day for a period of time that speeds you up.  My daily closing down admin routines used to take an hour. Now it can be done in little more than fifteen minutes. Over time I have improved my process for doing that routine. It’s admin, it’s non-critical on a daily basis, but if I allow it to build up over a few days, it’s no longer a fifteen minute task, it’s more than an hour. Now my brain is not going to want to do an hour of boring admin tasks and will try and convince me to put it off again. Nope. I’ve learned that lesson. Far better to have fifteen minutes of boring admin than over an hour of it.  So, Caroline, if you are just starting out on your COD journey, your organising and processing at the end of the day will take longer than twenty minutes. The important thing is you stick with it and build so called muscle memory. Very soon you will notice you get faster at it and the time it takes begins to tumble.  Really, that’s the secret to better productivity and time management. Building processes, running them consistently so you get faster at them.  With all that said, the focus should always be on getting the work done first. If you need to spend a little extra time organising, that could be a sign you are getting a lot of work done. However, never mistake activity for motion. Be hyper aware of what you are doing the majority of your time. Are you moving the right things forward? If not, and you are spending too much time planning, organising and thinking about how to complete a project, that’s when you want to stop, look for the very next tasks and do that.  I hope that helps, Caroline. Than you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
9/18/202313 minutes, 47 seconds
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Calendar Events -V- Tasks (And why tasks do NOT belong on your calendar)

When does a task become an event, and when does an event become a task? That’s the question I am answering this week.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The All-New Time And Life Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 291 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 291 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Last week, in my YouTube video, I shared how to get the most out of Todoist’s latest new feature, task duration. This feature allows you to add a duration time to your task so you can estimate how much time you will need. As I explained in the video, this is not a feature I personally would use but I know a lot of people have been requesting this for some time. This sparked a lot of comments on the subject of Todoist introducing a calendar so people can drag and drop tasks onto a calendar and I know this type of feature appeals to a lot of people. However, there are problems with this approach to task management and this week’s question asks me to explain why this would be a problem. So, I decided to oblige and explain why this is something you do not want to be doing.  So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Steve. Steve asks, Hi Carl, I’ve heard you say in the past that you should not be putting tasks on your calendar and events onto you to-do list. Could you explain your thinking behind that approach? Hi Steve, thank you for your question. In the early days of Mac OS 10, in the early 2000s, Apple brought tasks into their calendar app and they lived on the right hand side of the calendar. It seemed logical. Here was a list of all your appointments and on the right hand side there was a list of all the things you needed to do that day.  It soon became apparent that this was not working. You see tasks and appointments are two very different things. An appointment is a commitment to another person or persons that you will be in a specific place at a specific time. That could be a meeting room, a place or in front of your computer with either Zoom or Teams open.  A task on the other hand is something you decide needs doing but can be done at any time. You might find you have twenty minutes while waiting for a doctors appointment and you could call the people you need to call or send out those emails you need to send.  In my case, I might have a blog post to write but it doesn’t matter whether I write it in the morning, afternoon or evening. The only thing that matters is I write it. I could decide to postpone it until tomorrow because I have too many appointments today and that would be fine. I am not letting anyone down.  The way I look at it is, my calendar is there to tell me what I have committed to and with whom. My task manager tells me what I need to do when I have some free time.  Now, time does not accept a vacuum. We cannot do nothing, ever. If you think about it laying on the sofa mindlessly scrolling through news or social media feeds is doing something. Similarly, taking an afternoon nap is still doing something. You are always doing something whether you are consciously aware of it or not.  Now, one of the most important things you can do if you want to be on top of your work is to maintain flexibility. Flexibility means you can direct your attention where it needs to be when it needs to be there. If you cram your calendar full of tasks, you immediately lose that flexibility. It also means if one or two of your meetings overrun, you get held up in a traffic jam or something goes wrong with your company’s CRM system, your carefully curated tasks and appointments are destroyed.  Now that in itself is not really a disaster, you can reschedule all those tasks, but now you’ve just added another step. Instead of being able to pick the tasks you are able to do in the moment—responding to your messages while being stuck in a traffic jam, for instance, you begin to panic about how much time you are losing and all the work you will now have to reschedule on your calendar.  This also means you calendar loses it’s power. If you schedule tasks to be done at say, 2pm but you are running behind so you ignore those tasks, what’s the point of your calendar? You took the time to put those tasks there but you just ignore them, what’s the point?  Because you are human, you need flexibility. You want to be able to choose the right work for the way you are feeling and what’s on your mind at that moment.  Then there is the human factor. You are not a machine. When planning your day, you will be thinking you will be fully alert, energetic and focused. When you are working the day, you will be tired, distracted and suffering from diminishing energy levels. What you really need is to take a break, but no! You have tasks to complete because you calendar tells you at 2pm you have to spend the next ninety minutes doing your tasks.  Finally, when you look at your calendar and you see almost ever minute of your day taken up with appointments and tasks it can be demoralising. It just drags you down and leaves you feeling busy, stressed and overwhelmed. Not a great state to be in if you want to make the right decisions about what to do with a clear mind.  One way to prevent this from happening, and I alluded to this in my YouTube video, is to operate a time blocking system in your calendar.  What this means is if you have a number of similar tasks to perform, you can block time out for doing this kind of work. For instance, let’s say you need an hour a day for doing your admin and an hour a day to deal with your messages and emails. You could put time blocks in for these.  I do this every day. At 4pm I have an hour time block for communications. This means I have a dedicated amount of time each day for managing my messages. At 4pm, I will sit down and clear my action folders. Sometimes most of that time is spent in email, other days it might be mainly spend in my messaging apps.  When I start the day, I have no idea how many communication tasks I will have, but I don’t need to worry because I know I have an hour to deal with them later that day.  I also have an admin hour blocked in my calendar each day. This hour is for dealing with any administrative tasks I need to do for my accountant, or clients that require a particular type of tax receipt.  I also use time blocks for the kind of work I do. For example, I do a lot of writing, so I have three, two hour blocks in my calendar. One on Monday, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. In my task manager, I have a label for all the writing tasks I have to do and all I need do is search for any writing tasks dated for that day and I can choose which ones to do. I have the flexibility. If I am feeling great, full of energy and focused I will pick the hardest ones. If I am not feeling great, lacking in focus and tired, I will choose the easier ones. I know I have more writing blocks in the week so it really doesn’t matter which ones I do.  I do the same with project and my audio/visual work. I have time blocked in the week for working on these tasks. I also make sure that any focused work (writing and project work) is done in the morning—when I am at my most focused.  However, the key here is blocking time out for the type of work, not the individual tasks. This ensures I maintain flexibility and can decide what to do based on my physical and mental state at that time.  It also means my calendar never looks overwhelming. You want to ensure there are sufficient gaps between time blocks so you have the flexibility to take a break when needed and pick up anything urgent that may have come in that day.  Using this method means I am only managing tasks in one place. When I do my daily planning, I can see on my calendar I have a two hour writing block the next day and I can then choose which writing tasks should be done in that time from my writing list in my task manager. If things change overnight, I have the flexibility to change the tasks around the next day if needs be.  If you go back to the COD principles (Collect, organise and do), you want to be spending a little time as possible organising so you maximise your doing time. I am collecting tasks in my task manager all day, and I will spend around 95% of my work day doing the work. This leaves me with around twenty-minutes each day for the organising and planning. All I need do is look at my calendar for the next day, see what time block I have—lets say an audio visual time block, I can then date any tasks related to audio visual for the next day.  When the next day arrives, I can then decide which of those tasks I will do based on my energy levels, what is important and what deadlines I have.  If you are trying to manage individual tasks on your calendar (as well as your task manager) not only are you now duplicating, but you have just given yourself a lot more organising to do.  I hope that clarifies things for you, Steve. Thank you for your question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
9/11/202311 minutes, 37 seconds
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How To Get Your Big Projects Completed.

Do you have any big tasks or projects that just need a few days of focused work to get completed but you keep putting off? Yep, I think we all have some of those. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The All-New Time And Life Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 290 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 290 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. One of the best things you can do is to structure your day so you get your core work and routines done almost automatically. This is the most important work you have to do each day and week. But that can often create a Parkinson’s Law situation—where activity fills the time available, which means you don’t have time to work on those unique, one-off projects. This then leads to those one-off projects being postponed and delayed particularly if there are no hard deadlines for them.  This week’s question is on how to find the time for additional projects when you already have your core work and routines set up and getting done every day. Now, before I hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice, I would just like to let you know that the all encompassing Time and Live Mastery course, my biggest and best course has just been completely re-recorded.  This course covers everything from discovering what you want out of life to turning what you want into a pathway to accomplishing it. As the headline for the course says: How to create the life you want to live and find the time to live it.  The course includes lessons on COD (Collect, Organise and Do) and building your own Time Sector System. It also also includes the Vision Roadmap, how achieve your goals and so much more.  If you only want one course, a course you can return to over and over again, this is the one for you. You also get incredible bonuses. Free access to my Mini Course Library AND every few months I will be doing a FREE live session where you can ask any questions you have to me directly.  This course will change your life. It will give you a direction and focus and the tools you need in order to achieve the things you want to achieve.  Full details of the course are in the show notes.  Okay, time for me now to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Jen. Jen asks, hi Carl, I took your Time Sector System Course recently and it’s working exceptionally well for me. The only problem I have is getting one off projects completed. I am doing my core work each week, but that leaves me with little time to do some of my projects. Do you have any suggestions on how to include working on these projects? Hi Jen, thank you for your question. With the Time Sector System it’s about first making sure you have sufficient time for your critical work each day. If you’re not doing that, everything falls apart because you end up neglecting clients or missing important deadlines for work you are employed to do. It’s often easier to make sure you have the time for that first before moving on to finding time for unique, one-off projects.  However, if you are employing time blocking into your system, you can dedicate an afternoon or a morning one of two times per week for project work. I do this on a Tuesday, for example. On Tuesdays, I have a couple of morning calls that finish at 9:00am, and I keep the rest of the day free for project work. I avoid scheduling meetings after 9:00am on a Tuesday. It’s only one day a week, and that leaves me plenty of spaces the rest of the week for meetings.  However, one of the beneficial things about the Time Sector System is the automation it builds into your week. You are doing the critical tasks at the same time each day or week which means you develop highly efficient processes for doing this work.  For example, I track my subscriber and sales data each day. I have a spreadsheet that I enter this data on and when I first began doing this it would take me around an hour. Today, I can collect all the data and enter it into my spreadsheet in around fifteen minutes. Over the years I have refined and polished my process for collecting and entering this data.  The same goes with managing email. I used to waste so much time checking and responding to emails. Today, it’s ten to fifteen minutes in the morning clearing my inbox and around forty minutes in the afternoon replying to the actionable mails. It’s not something I even think or worry about anymore.  So, if you are new to the Time Sector System, as with anything new, it takes time to bed in and become automatic.  I learned to drive using a manual gearbox (stick shift), I remember when I first began driving I had to keep thinking about the gear I was in and run a mental checklist to change gear each time. It was slow, but after a few weeks, it became automatic. I don’t need to think about when or how to change gear now. It’s purely a feel thing. I can hear the engine, I know where third or fourth gear is without looking at the gear stick and I change gear as soon as I feel it’s time to change.  And that’s what the Time Sector System encourages. Automating your work processes so you know instinctively how long something will take and can accurately schedule sufficient time for doing it.  However, we all have these bigger one-off projects that do not fit neatly into our carefully curated week. The challenge we face is finding time for doing them.  Over the last two weeks I have been working on the Time And Life Mastery Course update. It’s required a lot of hours recording, editing and writing worksheets. I do have a process for creating courses, but this one is five or six time bigger than my usual courses. I calculated it would require around forty hours to complete.  Finding twenty additional hours each week is difficult. However, there are things you can do.  First up is to accept you may have to work a few extra hours each week while you are working on this project. Last week—the final week before launch—I did a couple of sixteen-hour days. That’s not normal for me, but it’s only two days, and I knew I would need to do it if I was to get this project over the line by the end of the week.  You can also look at your core work and decide what can be skipped. There’s always something. For example, I see part of my core work as writing a weekly blog post, doing this podcast and publishing a YouTube video each week.  When you do the weekly planning, you can decide what can be skipped. I chose to skip my blog post. which saved me around three hours. I also reduced the time I was available for coaching calls which meant I had less feedback to write saving me around another six hours that week.  Sometimes, I feel we are guilty of looking at things too narrowly. Does that email from your boss really need to be replied to today? Could it not wait until tomorrow morning? Instinct may tell you it MUST be responded to today, logic will tell you no it doesn’t.  Have you ever noticed the least stressed people always appear to be on top of their work and commitments? The reason is because they structure their days. Satya Nadella at Microsoft has a well structured day that begins with a morning run, breakfast with his family before heading into the office. You can be confident he has a process and system for dealing with his emails and messages.  Maya Angelou had a brilliantly structured way to write her books and poems. She would block out a month in her diary, book herself into a local hotel and write. She still went home at the end of the day, did her grocery shopping, cooked for her family and ate breakfast with them. It was a structured life. She only needed to do that once or twice a year. The rest of the time she got on with her core work and life.  It’s important, Jen, to look at things in the whole. How much time do you need to complete these projects? When do they need to be finished? How long you need may be a guess, but based on your experience it’s likely to be an educated guess.  If you estimate you need twenty hours to complete a project, then break it down over a couple of weeks. That means you need to find ten hours each week. If you accept you may need to work an extra hour each day for the next two weeks, you’ve just found yourself ten hours. Then it’s about finding one extra hour in your day. Could you cancel a few meetings—or postpone them? Could you put other work on hold for a couple of weeks?  There’s a lot of ways to find an extra hour or so each day. However, if you are not sitting down at the end of the week and planning out the next, you will find your week is hijacked by other people and work, and will mean the project does not get done.  I remember when I redecorated the bedroom in my home back in the UK. I blocked a weekend out for doing it. I made sure I had the paint, rollers and brushes before I began and I told all my friends I would not be available that weekend. I planned out that I could strip the wallpaper and apply the undercoat on Saturday. I could eave it overnight to dry and I would apply the top coat on Sunday.  It didn’t go exactly to plan. Stripping the wallpaper was a lot more difficult than I expected, but after an 18 hour day on Saturday, the room was primed and ready for the top coat on Sunday.  One of the great things about that weekend is I still remember it and I look back on it fondly. It was the first time I had redecorated a room, I had the radio on all day, I got covered in paint and ate an amazing pizza on Saturday night feeling incredibly proud of myself. I didn’t worry about what was going on outside. My total focus was getting the room finished by Sunday night and that is exactly what happened.  And you know what? While I was cocooned in my home painting, the world did not end. Nobody was angry with me because I was not available for a couple of days and life went back to normal that Monday morning, except, I had a completely redecorated bedroom that I completed in the two days I allocated for it.  So, Jen, if you have projects that need completing. Make sure when you do your weekly planning you set aside sufficient time to work on it. If necessary reduce some of your core work and inform the people that matter you will be less available while you complete the project.  I hope that helps and thank you for your question. Thank you to you too for listening and don’t forget to check out the Time And Life Mastery course. It will change your life.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
9/4/202313 minutes, 5 seconds
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Some Uncommon Ways I Save Time Each Week.

This week, I am sharing a few ideas you can use to get some time back for the things you want time for. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   7 Tricks That Save Me 16.3 Hours Per Week Email Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 289 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 289 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Do you ever wish you had more time each day? Not necessarily time for more work, but just time to do what you want.  Many years ago, this is how I felt. I wished there was more time for doing the things I wanted. I looked at my heroes from the past—being able to come home from a hard day in the factory physically exhausting themselves, to spend the evenings in a garden shed inventing the future. People like Frank Whittle (inventor of the jet engine) and James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner.  I often wondered how they were able to do it. It then dawned on me that we are not able to make more time; that is fixed. People like Frank Whittle, James Dyson, Marie Curie and others had the same amount of time you and I do. However, what these people did was decide what they would and would not do with their time so they could maximise what they had doing the things they loved doing.  Is that not possible for you? Could you decide what you will and will not do with your time? Are you currently doing some things that may not be conducive to what you really want to do?  Well, this week’s question had me thinking more about this, and the results of that thinking are all in this podcast. So, to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Patrick. Patricks asks, Hi Carl, I’ve often wondered if you have any tips on making better use of your time. Is there anything you do that saves you time each day or week? Hi Patrick, thank you for your question.  I must confess that your question was the inspiration behind the video I posted on YouTube last week on how I can save around 16 hours each week following a few simple practices.  Now, I should point out that some of what I will talk about here may not work for you, how they work for me, but that does not mean they definitely won’t work for you. You can modify them so that do work. All I ask is you keep an open mind and see how you could adopt them into your life.  First up. Always have a plan for the day. I know; I have spoken about this a lot. But it just saves you so much time. It stops you from being dragged off doing unimportant things and keeps you focused on what needs to be done.  Now, I am not suggesting you plan out every minute of the day; that would be impractical and never works. Instead, what I am suggesting you plan out what must be done. The things that need to be done and tasks that will prevent bigger problems in the future. When you start the day, know what you will do and when you will do it. For example, today, I had a few calls this morning, so I kept my morning free for calls. This afternoon, this script was to be written. Now, it did not matter when precisely I would write this script; all I decided was I would write this script before taking my dog out for his walk.  Beyond that, the only thing that was planned was an hour for responding to my emails and messages and more calls this evening.  The problem you will have when you don’t have a plan is your day will be hijacked by fake urgencies and emergencies from other people. Fake because you will grab onto anything to avoid having nothing to do. Having a plan focuses you and ensures that what you do is relevant to your goals, projects and areas of focus.  All this saves you time because what you do each day is moving the right things forward so they get done on time and without a lot of fuss. And you are not wasting time trying to decide what to do.  The next tip is to reduce the number of channels you are contactable through. I found it amusing a few years ago when everyone was getting excited about apps like WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Facebook Messenger.  At the time, I could not understand what all the fuss was about because we already had email, and text messaging was great. You could see what would happen when groups in these new apps were created. Instead of a conversation with one person, there were going to be conversations with numerous people, which meant a message thread would be constantly updating; to catch up with what was going on, you had to scroll back and read through everything.  WOW! The time wasting that happens now because of these so-called marvellous inventions. The best tip I can give you is to avoid these groups as much as possible. I am proud to say I am not a part of any group—well, there is one. I still teach an English class, and the four students in that group and I have a group chat where we can communicate our absences. But that’s it.  Sadly, companies have now jumped on this bandwagon and forced employees to be a part of a Teams or Slack group. Now bosses can constantly check in with you, asking for updates and requesting you do things. And, of course, because our boss expects us to be reading these messages instantly, we have to drop everything to confirm we have received the message and are working on it.  If you want to be productive, being a part of all these channels of communication will destroy any chance. Aside from the attention switching cost, which can be high, it means you are losing as much as three to four hours a day just checking, confirming and replying to these messages.  You need to find a way to remove yourself from these groups or have a set time each day for dealing with them. For instance, if you are part of a work group chat, perhaps you could check and deal with messages twice a day. Mid to late morning and mid to late afternoon.  Don’t worry, your team and boss soon learn your patterns, and once they are used to it, they are unlikely to bother you.  This is one of those that you may be saying to yourself that would be impossible for me. Perhaps, but have you tried? Have you considered a different way from the way things are working right now? Or are you happy losing as much as three to four hours a day? I will leave that one with you.  Here’s one I began using around ten years ago that has saved me hours and hours. Eat the same thing every day. Now, I know with this one, most of you will immediately say, “NO WAY!” But I am going to say it and let you decide if it could work for you. Eat the same things every day.  Okay, I better explain. First, I am not a foodie. Food doesn’t excite me, and I see it only as fuel. If you are a foodie and love trying new and exciting things, this tip will not work for you, and I would not suggest you change. However, here’s how it saves time.  As I have been eating pretty much the same thing every day for the last ten years or so, I have learned the fastest and most efficient way to cook my meals. It is also easy to ensure I have all the ingredients in stock at home, and I know how long it takes to cook, eat and wash up afterwards.  This means I can use meal times as stakes in the ground for my day. I do intermittent fasting, so my meal times are 11:00 AM for breakfast and 6:00 PM for dinner. So, I have a two-hour session of work in the morning before breakfast, and at 4:30 PM, I stop whatever I am working on for an hour to deal with my communications. After dinner, I have another ninety minutes of work before my evening calls begin.  The biggest time saving here, though, is I do not need to waste time each day trying to decide what to eat or negotiating with my wife about what she wants. She’s more of a foodie and likes to prepare her own meals, and she eats at different times than me. She also does intermittent fasting, but because her mornings are always busy, her eating window is from 2 pm to 10 pm.  We do eat together on Saturdays, though, and I will eat whatever we decide to eat that day. That’s my cheat day.  Next up, use a scheduling service.  This will save you so much time and put you in control of when you are available for meetings. Now, I know not all of you will be able to do this because your work calendar is controlled by other people. But, if you work with clients, this will be a huge time-saving for you.  Scheduling services allow you to allocate slots of time when you are available for meetings, and your clients and colleagues can schedule times with you that are convenient for them as well as you.  Using a scheduling service means you are not going back and forth trying to find a mutually convenient time; instead, the other person can choose a time, and it will be automatically booked on your calendar.  And no, people do not find it rude. Everyone I work with finds it much more convenient because they get to choose and schedule a meeting with you when they are ready rather than wasting time either calling, messaging or emailing you.  Now what about finding time for those side hobbies, the things you want time for? How do you find time for that? If you study people like Frank Whittle, Marie Currie or James Dyson, you will discover they made time for their hobbies. Now, for Marie Currie, there was no TV, and TV was a rare thing during Frank Whittle’s early life. In those days, people found their own entertainment.  There are times in the day when you have complete control over what you do. I remember when I was watching a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk’s YouTube videos, and he preached you should use 11 PM to 1 AM as your development time—when you worked on your “side hustle”.  Today, the word “side hustle” has gone out of fashion somewhat and in many ways, that’s probably a good thing. But as usual, when something goes out of fashion, we throw everything away when there may be some grains of value in it.  For example, I use the late evening for studying. Sometimes I will read; other times, I will watch educational videos on YouTube. It depends on what I feel like learning. But for me, that study time is precious. It helps me to wind down at the end of the day, and while I am not doing this too late, usually around 10:30 pm to midnight, it still gives me some quiet time for things I am interested in.  However, I like to watch some TV shows, and I reserve them for Saturday nights. This way, I have something to look forward to and can relax.  So these are just a few of the less common ways you can save yourself time. There are a few more in my latest YouTube video; I’ll link to that in the show notes for you. But to give you a flavour, there are chunking similar tasks together, getting outside to do your thinking and decision making and finding the process, not the project.  Hope these help, Patrick and thank you for sending in your question. Thank you to you, too, for listening, and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
8/28/202313 minutes, 58 seconds
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Why You Want To Be Building Processes, Not Projects.

Are you still creating projects out of the work you regularly do? If so, you might be causing yourself more work than you really need. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 288 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 288 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. This week, I have an interesting question about why projects are bad, and processes are good. It’s something I discovered around five years ago, yet never realised I had switched away from creating projects for any multi-step job I had to do.  When I look at what I do, for instance, writing a blog post is a process. I sit down at my desk, open my writing software and begin writing. Once the first draft is written around one hour later, I leave it for twenty-four hours before again sitting down and editing it. Once the edit is complete, I design the image and post the blog post. Job done.  I have similar processes for my YouTube videos, this podcast and the newsletters I write.  What I discovered around five years ago is if I treat everything that involved two or more steps as a project, it changed how I felt about the work. I felt there was a need to plan things out, create a list of tasks and choose a start date. All steps that are rendered obsolete when you have a process.  With processes, all you need to know is when you are going to get on and do the work. Because you have a process, you already know what needs to be done, and you can get on and do it without the need for excessive planning and preparation.  But it can be difficult to alter your way of thinking from project to process-based thinking, and that is what this week’s question is all about.  So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Linda. Linda asks, Hi Carl, I found your recent newsletter on projects versus processes interesting, but I am struggling to work out how to turn my work into projects. I work with clients, and they each have unique needs, which means I need to treat each one as a project. Do you have any advice that will help me to find the processes?  Hi Linda, thank you for your question.  Working with clients can be challenging when it comes to following a process. Each client likely needs individual attention, and each task related to the client could be unique.  However, looking at it that way does create confusion. Fortunately, Your processes will begin from the moment of your first contact with your client. What do you do at the first contact with a client?  For example, with my coaching clients, the process begins once I receive a completed questionnaire from the client. That questionnaire is placed in a special folder in my email until the first call. Twenty minutes before that call, I retrieve the questionnaire, copy and paste it into a new client note and then archive the original email.  That begins the process. After that, things can go in multiple directions. But during all my coaching calls, I keep notes; if there is anything specific I need to do for the client, I will add it to the note. After the call, the note is flagged until I write my feedback, which I do as a chunk. I have a one-hour block each day for writing feedback, so I will see what I have committed myself to when I write the client’s feedback.  I can then decide what needs to be done to complete that commitment.  Building processes is not about having a single process. It’s about creating multiple processes for the work you regularly do.  Now that may sound very complex or difficult, yet if you stop for a moment and think about it, you are already using processes for almost everything you do. I noticed when I wash my dishes after breakfast or dinner; I wash things in exactly the same way. I don’t stand there, trying to decide what to wash first. I begin with my bowl and then my cutlery, and then my glass. It’s the same when I prepare to go to bed. I brush my teeth and turn off all the lights before getting into bed. It’s the same process each day.  The great thing about processes is they become automatic. You don’t think about each step involved in brushing your teeth. You just do it.  And the same applies to your work processes. I don’t think about what to do when I have a new client. There’s a process I follow.  Now, processes do not work for everything. A process is used for anything you may repeat frequently. It’s unlikely you will redecorate your bedroom frequently. Doing a job like that will be a project. But what would it be if you were a painter and decorator? In that case, you would have a process for decorating different types of rooms. When you begin painting a new room, you would follow the same process. Clear the furniture or cover it with dust sheets, wipe down the walls and set up your ladders, paint and brushes. (That’s a guess. I’m not a painter and decorator). I recently read about the former Ferrari Formula 1 team’s technical director when they were last dominant in the sport (2000 to 2007). His name was Ross Braun, and he developed a process for preparing the next year’s car.  The FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, would issue the technical directives for the following year at the end of March. Once he received them, he would use April to go through the new rules and regulations and then. there would be a day-long technical team meeting on the first Monday of May each year where they would discuss the new regulations and allocate team members to begin building the new car. By the end of that week, they had started the new car build.  Each different department had a process for making whatever they were responsible for, be that the chassis, engine or aerodynamics. Nothing was considered a project. It was a process that was followed each year.  Now, in Formula 1, the team’s objective is very clear. To build a car that wins. No team goes into building a new car with the thought of coming second or third. They build to win. Motivating team members isn’t particularly difficult.  Every Monday, there was a team meeting to discuss progress and to see where Ross Brawn could help to move things forward. But ultimately, everything was a process.  This quote from the book really nails it for me: “Develop and apply a set of rhythms and routines. Having established an integrated team and structure, Ross instituted rhythms and routines that ensured the completeness of the process of designing, manufacturing and racing cars. These routines constantly reinforced alignment around a shared vision.” That shared vision was to have a championship-winning car and driver.  The great thing about building processes is once you have them, you can then isolate areas where things are not working as well as you would like them to.  For example, I came up with my email management system through a series of refinements over a number of years. As the volume of emails increased, I found it increasingly difficult to stay on top of it. My old system, or process, for managing it no longer worked. I need to look at the process and see where I could make it better.  Collecting email was not a problem. That was a part I had no control over, but I did realise that part of the problem with volume was I was too ready to give out my email address to anyone who asked for it. I soon realised that meant my email address was ending up in databases, and that was part of the problem. So, I created a new email address for all non-important occasions when I needed an email address and kept that as webmail only.  Then I looked at how I was processing mail, and that led to my Inbox Zero 2.0 system. It was a refined version of Merlin Mann’s original Inbox Zero methodology. It works effortlessly now and has never let me down since I modified the process around ten years ago.  A good friend of mine is a copywriter here in Korea. She’s a brilliant copywriter, and each new job that comes her way follows the same process. She takes notes in Apple Notes when she meets the client for the first time. She finds out what they want, the tone of the words and anything else relevant.  Then it gets added to her list of work as a task in Reminders. The task is simple: “Work on new client’s job.” And she works through her jobs in chronological order.  Working on the task means she opens Text Edit on her computer and does all her work there until she sends the first draft to the client.  Her whole process works. She’s consistent and on time, and it’s made her life so easy. Her calendar is blocked out for focused work and meetings with clients, and she’s strict about what goes on it. It’s all process. Never a project.  You see, the problem with projects is we waste so much time planning, organising and thinking about what we need to do. We feel obligated to write out what we think needs to happen, much of which does not need to be done anyway, and we then procrastinate about where and when to start.  With processes, you already know where to start, so the only decision you need to make is when to start. There’s no procrastinating because you already know what the first step is.  Plus, you also have a much better idea of how long something will take. Processes are naturally broken down into different components, and the more you run that process, the more you learn how long something will take.  The best way to build processes is to track how you are doing different parts of your work. Where are the natural breaks? As I mentioned with writing my blog posts. There’s writing the first draft (approximately one hour), editing (around forty minutes), image selection, and posting another forty minutes. There are three key parts, so scheduling my work is easy now. I know I need around two-and-a-half hours. And that’s it.  Keep things as simple as possible, and look for the natural components. Then build processes from there.  I hope that has helped, Linda. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
8/21/202312 minutes, 43 seconds
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Why Is It So Confusing?

Are you confused with all the time management and productivity advice floating around? I know I was, and all this information can and does cause inaction. This week I will show a way through the deluge of information.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 287 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 286 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. When I began my journey into the digital time management and productivity world in 2009, there was a lot of information on how to use the new technology emerging with smart phones. This evolution (or maybe revolution) in the world of productivity was exciting and blogs and podcasts were full of information on turning your digital devices into productivity powerhouses that promised to automate the work we were doing.  The trouble is, back then, as now, much of that information was contradictory. Common ones are things like don’t check mail in the morning, (silly advice) and micro-manage your calendar (more silly advice).  The reality is when it comes to productivity and managing your time it’s important to find a way that works for you. It’s about knowing when you are at your most focused and when you are easily distracted. Trying to squeeze yourself into the way other people work is not going to work for you and the way you work.  So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Michael. Michael asks: hi Carl, over the last year or so I’ve become so overwhelmed with my work and life. I was given more responsibilities at work and at the same time my wife gave birth to twin daughters that need a lot of attention. I began reading and watching content on getting better organised and being more productive and have just become so confused. Everyone is giving different advice. How would you build better habits and routines that would make you more productive?  Hi Michael, great question.  In many ways, I am lucky because my journey into becoming better at managing time and being more productive began in the late 1980s / early 90s. There were no blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels then. All we had were books and the occasional article in magazines and newspapers. This meant, while there were still contradictions, it also slowed us down and allowed us time to test ideas and concepts and give them enough time before attempting to try something else. And that is often the first big mistake people make. Not giving a concept or idea long enough to work.  Change is hard. Changing behaviour is even harder and takes time. You are not going to get a new concept working in 24 hours, a week or even two or three months. You need to give anything new at least six months. You need to learn to use the system, develop the habits and muscle memory.  And that means if you change an app, you put yourself under a moratorium for six months. You do not change it for six months. This has two benefits. It gives you time to really learn how to use the app and it causes you to hesitate before changing something. If you know that by changing your task manager means you are stuck with whatever you change to for six months, you will question yourself about whether the time and energy cost is worth it.  Now watching and learning from others is actually a good idea. But, it’s not about copying their system and tools, it means seeing how they overcome similar problems to you. Not all people talking about productivity and time management have the same issues as you. I remember four or five years ago, I liked how Thomas Frank did his videos, but what he was teaching was how to manage time as a student. I was not a student, however, there were some ideas Thomas gave me about managing information that I did incorporate into my own file management system.  I learned a lot of my time management concepts from people like Hyrum Smith, Stephen Covey, Brain Tracy, Jim Rohn, David Allen and Tony Robbins. These are the pioneers of modern day time management and productivity and you only need to look at the results they have achieved individually to see their systems and methods work.  A lot of what you see on YouTube, for example, are videos on how other people manage their work and they make it look slick, efficient and beautiful. But that’s not always a system. That’s video editing. With the power of video editing you can make anything look fantastic. It does not mean it works in the real world.  I saw a comment on one of my videos recently that made me smile because the person who wrote it has got it. The quote comes from the movie Maverick and it’s: "It's not the plane, it's the pilot." And when it comes to apps, it’s never the tool that causes the problem. It’s how you use the tool that does most of the damage. A hammer will put a nail into a hole very easily. Used incorrectly, though, the hammer can do a lot of damage—although a good beating on the cylinder head with a hammer did solve the problem my old Mitsubishi Colt used to have.  One the earliest lessons I learned about time management and productivity was that the work won’t get done if all I do is rearrange lists and organise my stuff. The only way work gets done is if I do the work.  All you need to know, when you begin the day, is what needs to be done today. Not, necessarily, what you would like to do today. Then, get on and do it.  Now there are different strategies for doing your work. For instance, you may be more focused in a morning. If that’s so, you can take Brian Tracy’s concept of beginning the day with the hardest, most difficult task—the Eat The Frog concept. But, if you find yourself more focused in the afternoons, then you could schedule time in the afternoon for a couple of hours focused work. Find the time you are at your best and do your best work then.  Let’s return to the heart of your question, Michael. How would I build better habits and routines to become more productive? I would first read three books. David Allen’s Getting Things Done because that will give you insights into task management and collecting your commitments and deciding what needs to be done. I would read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, because that will show you how to build habits that stick and also gives some fascinating insights into your own psychology. And finally, I would read Brian Tracy’s Eat The Frog as that will explain the importance of doing over everything else.  Armed with the knowledge you will gain from those three books, you can then set about building a system that works for the way you work.  The objective is to get the right things done each week and to eliminate the unnecessary. Rushing to do everything is not the best strategy because what you think may need doing now, often doesn’t need doing at all if you leave a couple of days—things have a habit of sorting themselves out (a lot more than you think)  Right now, with your twin daughters, I would say that family is your number one priority. The question then is how can you maximise your time with your family? As that involves your daughters and wife, you want to be working with them and making sure you are there when they need you. It may mean you have to be very strict about when you do your work and when you are not at work.  One thing I would not reject out of hand is working later in the evening. I remember reading about Michael Dell (of Dell computers). Back in the 1990s when he had a young family he would ensure he was home by 6pm every day to be with his family. His kids were usually in bed by 9:30pm and once they were asleep, he would spend an hour dealing with his emails and other matters before ending the day. It’s surprising how much work you can get done in the evening when things have settled down. I know I’ve done some of my best work later into the evening when everything quietens down.  That was a trick I learned from Winston Churchill. He was a prolific writer as well as a politician and he would retire to his study at 10pm every evening to do work for two hours. It must have worked because over his lifetime Churchill published over forty books and they were not small books. His book on the Duke of Marlborough, for example, was over a million words long!  However, if you are a morning person, perhaps getting a couple of hours in before your kids wake up would work. Tim Cook of Apple begins his work day at 4 AM and then goes to the gym at 6 AM.  This is why reading about successful people and how they manage their time will give you ideas and insights. Try them. Remember, you won’t see results immediately, you are building habits and that takes time. Be patient.  Much of what I do today is very different from what I did five years ago. For example, I didn’t journal. I have added that to my repertoire in the last four years. It’s habit I love doing now and I am still excited to start my day by writing in my journal. I learned about the importance of journaling by reading Ryan Holiday’s books on Stoicism and Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club.  Ten years ago, I didn’t plan my day the night before, now it’s a habit and I cannot go to bed without knowing what two things I must get done the next day. (It took around six months to develop that habit). If I remember, I got that idea from reading about NLP—Neuro-linguistic Programming. That concept teaches you that you can get your subconscious brain to a lot of the hard work while you are sleeping by using something called “Intention Implementation”.  So, what I do recommend is you read the three books above, study successful people and how they managed their work. Charles Darwin is a great example of structuring days. You can Google Charles Darwin’s daily routine. His daily walks and time spent with his rock—his wife, had a huge impact on his output.  From these resources, you can develop your own habits and structures that may need modifying over time, but begin with what is important to you and build on that.  Thank you, Michael for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
8/14/202313 minutes, 3 seconds
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STOP! How To Remove Overwhelm.

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do? Well, this week’s podcast is just for you. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 286 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 286 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. The number one reason someone comes to me for help is because they feel stressed out and overwhelmed by everything they have to do. They have thousands of emails sitting in their inbox, hundreds of Slack or Teams messages asking for things and a long list of to-dos that never seems to shrink. It’s enough to make anyone scream out of sheer desperation.  The good news is it’s not impossible to regain some control. The bad news is you will need to stop and step back a little. And often it’s that stopping and stepping back that people find most difficult.  When you face an impossible situation, the temptation is to keep digging. The problem is what got into the situation you are trying to dig your way out of is precisely what you are continuing to do. Digging.  You need to stop digging so you can look up and see what you are trying to accomplish and restart with a clearer direction.  This week, I’m going to give you a roadmap you can follow to get yourself out of this hole so you are working towards a less overwhelming and clearer place.  And that means, it’s time for me now to h and you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Enrique. (엔리캐), Enrique asks, hi Carl, I really need your help. I feel so overwhelmed and stressed because my list of tasks keep getting longer and longer and I never seem to be making it smaller. It feels for every five tasks I do, fifteen new ones get added. My boss is always sending me messages and asking for updates so I never have time to do any focused work. How can I stop all this from happening?  Hi Enrique, thank you for your question. Firstly, fear not, there is a solution to this for you but you will need to do something a little uncomfortable. I need you to stop for a day or two.  When anyone gets into a situation where far more is coming in than going out, continuing to do what you are currently doing is not going to solve the problem. The only way you will solve a problem like this is to stop and draw a line under it all, while you fix the underlying problem. If you don’t stop, you have no chance to break the vicious circle that has grown. You have to break the circle and to do that you need to press pause.  Now, once you have stopped, you need to first look at the foundations of your system. Tasks and emails are different things so let’s look at your tasks first.  How are you collecting, organising and doing your work—the principles of COD.  Collecting everything is important, but it does not necessarily mean everything you collect needs to be done immediately or at all. A lot of what you collect can be done later. Quite a few of the tasks you collect may even be deleted because on reflection you realise you either do not have the time or resources to complete them or they do not need doing at all. Do not be afraid to delete these. If they are important, they will come back.  The delete key is your friend.  Organising is how you organise all the things you have decided do need to be done. There are only two questions here: what exactly needs to be done and when are you going to do it?  When you do it will depend on a two factors. Deadlines and available time. Now, here you will come up again the time V Activity conundrum, where the time side of the equation is fixed and there is nothing you can do to change that—that’s the natural laws of time and physics. But, you do have complete control over the activity side. The activities you do in the time you have available.  Now as an aside here, how long does a task take? For quite a few tasks it’ll be likely you will not know before you begin the task. And therein lies the answer… “before you begin the task”. Let’s say your boss asks you to prepare a report on a recent sales campaign you delivered. If you write in your task manager “Write report on recent sales campaign”, it will stress you. Unless you regularly write sales campaign reports you won’t know how it will take you and your brain will tell you “It’s going to take a long time”. That now means every time you see that task in your task list, you will convince yourself you have no time to write it today, so it gets rescheduled for tomorrow.  You will not know how long this task will take until you start it. So, rather than writing the task as “write sales campaign report” you add an extra word: “start writing sales campaign report”.  What you have now done is taken the emphasis away from completing the task, to just starting the task. How long does it take to start a task like this? A few minutes at most. You may only set up a Word document, give it a title and write the introduction, but it’s a start. Now, when you have finished, all you need do is change the task from “start writing sales campaign report” to “continue writing sales campaign report and schedule it for another day.  The benefit of writing tasks like this is as you start and continue to write the report, you will quickly be able to anticipate how long the whole task will take and that will take a lot of the pressure off. If you were to spend thirty-minutes each day for five days on the task, you will have spent two-and-a-half hours on it. That’s a lot better than doing nothing because you kept rescheduling it.  Let get back to the principles of COD.  The doing part is where your calendar comes in to play. Based on what you have decided needs to be done today, where do you have the time to do it?  It’s no good starting the day with thirty tasks you have convinced yourself need to be done today, yet have six hours of meetings. Your day’s destroyed before it starts. You need to be more strategic than that. In this situation you have two choices (and ONLY two choices). Either you cancel some of those meetings or you reschedule some of those tasks. I suppose you could do both as a third choice.  This is where things can become uncomfortable because sometimes we have to let people down and that’s hard to do. However, people are a lot more accommodating that we imagine. If we have promised someone to get a piece of work to them by the end of the week, yet, by Wednesday we know that’s not going to happen, it’s far better to reach out and renegotiate the deadline. In 90% of cases, people are perfectly happy with the renegotiated deadline.  What’s the worst that can happen if you do reach out? They could say no, I MUST have the work by Friday. Okay, now you have a hard deadline and you can renegotiate some of your other work instead. You may have to work an extra few hours that week to meet the deadline. As long as you are not working extra hours every day, that should not be a big issue.  Now, that brings me on to your email, and messages.  How much time do you need each day to stay on top of your email? When I ask people this question the reply is usually “it depends”. Yet, if you were to analyse it, you would find an average. For me, I need around forty-five minutes a day to respond to my actionable email. Some days, I only need twenty-five minutes, others I need an hour.  With that information, I can now block that time out on my calendar. I have one hour each day set aside for communications. I rarely need to full hour, but it’s there if I do need it.  Now with email, there’s a process for this. This process has worked for hundreds of years because it was devised when we received a lot of regular mail, and it’s only two steps.  The first is to process what you received. This is, in effect filtering out the actionable from the non-actionable. You can do this by asking two questions: What is it? Is it actionable?  If it’s actionable—ie you need to do something with it—it goes to an Action This Day folder. If it’s not actionable you only have two choices; delete or archive it and that will depend whether you may want to reference it later or not.  Now, with your actionable email, you reverse the way the folder shows you the mail. You want it to show the oldest at the top. This means when you sit down to deal with your email, you begin at the top—it’s the oldest email there so in theory it is the most urgent—and work your way down the list.  Because they are ordered oldest to newest, if you are unable to get to the bottom of your list for the day, it won’t be a problem because the ones you did not get to will be at the top of your list tomorrow.  When you become consistent with this, you will find email is no longer a problem.  In your case Enrique, one of the things you must do is to clear your inbox and that may take a morning or afternoon to do—it may even take you a whole day, but the only way you will ever get on top of it, is to stop, and clear that inbox.  This may involve declaring email bankruptcy. With that you have a choice you can choose to do a hard bankruptcy—that involves deleting all mail older than ten days. The other choice is to do a soft email bankruptcy, which involves taking all mail older than ten days and moving them into a folder called “Old Inbox”. You can then process that over time. (Although, I find most people end up deleting that folder after a few months) If you want to earn more about managing email, you can join my Email Mastery course. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes for you.  Now there are other things you can do Enrique, you do need to know what your core work and areas of focus are so you can ensure you are working on these. But if you want to get back in control of everything the place to start is to stop. Step back and put in place COD and some better email management practices.  It will take time, but developing the processes and habits will soon have you in control and no longer feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to do. I hope that has helped and than you for sending in you question. Thank you also to you too for listening. It just remains for now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
8/7/202313 minutes, 58 seconds
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What Not To Put In Your Task Manager.

Podcast 285 This week, it’s all about what should and should not go on your To-Do list. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Ultimate Productivity Workshop  The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 285 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 285 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Do you have too many tasks in your task manager? It’s one thing committing to using one, it’s an entirely different thing ensuring the right kind of tasks are on your list. Get this part wrong and you are going to soon find yourself overwhelmed.  I regularly see a common type of task on a to-do list that really should not be there, and I see quite a lot of tasks on a calendar that should be on a to-do list.  I know, it sounds confusing, but once you learn this strategy, you will soon find your task list reduces and you feel a lot less anxious and overwhelmed.  Now, before we get to the question and answer, let me just inform you that on Friday (that’s the 4th August for those of you in the US) My next Ultimate Productivity Workshop begins. That’s a 90 minute live workshop via Zoom where over the four Fridays of August, we cover how to get the most out of your calendar and task manager as well how to better manage your email and messages and finally in the fourth week, we cover planning.  As part of this workshop you have access to my Mini-Course set—that’s four of my most popular mini-courses—AND you get to download the workshop itself so you can keep it for later reference (and also if you are unable to attend one or more sessions)  Places are limited now, but there are a few still available. If you want to take your own time management and productivity to the next level, then get yourself signed up now and I’ll see you on Friday. More details on the workshop plus how to register are in the show notes.  Okay, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Grace. Grace asks, Hi Carl, I began using Microsoft’s ToDo app last March and at first it really helped. But now, I find it’s become so overwhelming. I hate going in there because it reminds me how much I still have to do. Do you have any tips on making my ToDo better? Hi Grace, thank you for your question. This is something that happens to so many people. There’s the initial excitement of being able to put all the things we feel we have to do into a simple app, and to add dates to when we will do these tasks. And because at first we rarely put too much in there, our daily lists are not too bad. They are doable and if we do reschedule something, it doesn’t feel too bad because we got at least 80% of what was on the list done.  It’s a great feeling, yes? However, over time, we add more and more stuff. We start to add things we don’t want to forget about such as an upcoming event, anniversary or birthday. We then start to fiddle with the projects area and start adding more and more and more.  And eventually, we find ourself with an endless list of projects with a lot of unclear tasks telling to do something we cannot remember why we needed to do them in the first place.  We also begin adding random dates to tasks in a vain attempt to prevent us from forgetting something. Of course, when those task appear on our today list we just reschedule them again because we’re now trying to keep our heads above the water and as these tasks are not urgent or they don’t have a clear deadline, they can be sacrificed today. And that, just kicks the problem down the road.  Eventually, what most people do is blame the tool because that’s much easier than blaming the real culprit, and they go back to YouTube and watch their favourite YouTubers and see what they are reviewing now. And lo and behold, these people are talking about the latest new app that promises to make you more productive, more relaxed and do the work for you.  So, it’s switch time and the the cycle is complete and ready to be repeated.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  In my podcast from a couple of weeks ago, I talked about what David Allen taught me over a lunch we had back in 2016. That was the forget the tools and focus on developing your system.  You see the problem is never the tools. You could very easily create your own digital task manager using Google Sheets, Excel of Apple Numbers. Sure, there’d be a bit of setting up work and some fine tuning, but it’s certainly doable and I know a lot of people who have done this perfectly fine.  The problem is with your system and more specifically what you are collecting into your task manager.  Let’s look at the different types of tasks commonly found in a task manager. There are the obvious ones like; “send document to Jenny” or “buy bracelet for Claire’s birthday”. These are clear and very specific. Then you will likely have your routines in there such as take the garbage out, do the laundry or complete my expense report.  Hopefully, you will also have your areas of focus tasks in there. Tasks such as schedule this week’s exercise programme, send money to savings account and call parents.  Now, the other types of tasks are often where the problems begin. These are tasks that involving decisions or thought. If you see a task such as “think about where to go for our summer holiday”, you’re in trouble.  You see a task like this is not actionable. It’s not something you can actually do. It’s something you need to be away from your desk and in a place where you are better able to think. It’s also something that needs a bit of time to do.  For a task like this, you would be better off creating a task such as “create list of possible places to go for our summer holiday” and move over to your note app to create the list.  Similarly with your “decide” type tasks. Again, this is not really actionable. It’s something you need to contemplate and weigh the pros and cons of your options. Again, this should be in your notes app.  Now, I know why these kind of activities are in task managers. It’s because people are afraid they will forget about them. And that’s a valid fear. However, there are two options you have here. The first is to create a recurring task in your task manager to remind you to review you thinking or decision list. The second is to use the all day event space in your calendar and add them there.  In both cases you will not forget them. They will always be visible every time you open your notes or calendar.  Now, what about time specific tasks. Tasks such as pick up Tommy from swimming class? These are not tasks, they are events and should be in your calendar. Watch out for these. We often add them to our task managers because it’s easier than adding them to our calendar. Sure, use your inbox to collect the item, but when you process your inbox, move it over to your calendar. Another way you can overwhelm your task manager is adding individual communication items in there. I frequently see people having ten to twenty tasks a day that begin reply to this email, or email that person. This is guaranteed way to overwhelm your system.  Email replies should not need to be in a task manager. You already have a great tool for managing emails, and messages for that matter. Whether you use Gmail, Outlook or Apple mail, there’s a built in inbox, the same goes for Slack, Teams and Twist. Transfer items from those inboxes to another inbox, is simply duplicating and adding additional steps you do not need.  Instead you can simply have a single task in your task manager reminding you to clear your email and messages. That will then trigger you to move over to your mail or message app and you can focus your attention there.  Now if you take all or some of these tips, Grace, you are going to reduce the number of tasks in your task list immediately.  However, there is one more tip. This tip will remove overwhelm and any anxiety you may have about the number of tasks you need to do each day. Sadly, 95% of you will not do it. Instead you will find an excuse.  This tip is, give yourself five to ten minutes at the end of the day to review you tasks for tomorrow and make sure it is not overwhelming. Now you need to be realistic. You should check your calendar to make sure you have the time to complete what you have on your list and if not, trim down the list to a more realistic one.  Like I said, most people will not do this, and so they begin the day overwhelmed and no idea where to start. When you do allow those five to ten minutes, when you start the day you know exactly what you will start with, you have a manageable list and you there’s no procrastination.  It’s brilliantly simple, works every time, yet, sadly, not sexy. So, few people ever do it. Instead, it’s far easier to blame the tool, or your boss for giving you too much work. That might be true in some cases, but you will be a lot more focused and productive if you can add those five to ten minutes.  So, Grace, I would recommend you go through your tasks in ToDo and look for tasks that require you to think or decide and move them to your notes app. I would also look for anything that is not clear. Tasks that say something like “call George”, that’s not an a task, it’s a statement that gives you no information. Call George about what? Make it clear.  Unclear tasks require you to think and try and remember what it is you need to do. Remove that thought process and make it clear. Call George about next month’s offsite meeting” will prevent any hesitation and give you a much clearer idea how long it will take.  And, remove all tasks that no longer need doing. It’s surprising how quickly these can accumulate. Clear them. Don’t worry about them because if they are important, they will come back and you can add them again.  I hope that helps, Grace. Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
7/31/202314 minutes
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Not Doing A Weekly Planning Session? This For You.

Is what you want to get accomplished this week realistic, or are you setting yourself up for disappointment? That’s what we are looking at this week. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 284 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 284 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. What do you want to get accomplished this week? What are the “big rocks” you want to deal with so you end the week knowing you have got what needed to be done, done? If you don’t know, your week is already destroyed. It’s destroyed because if you don’t know what you want to get completed that week, then someone else will tell you what to do. And that means you are working on other people’s agenda and benevolently helping them to achieve their goals.  But where does that leave you? When it comes to promotion opportunities who’s going to get the promotion? You who are running around dealing with everyone else’s issues and work and as a consequence not getting much done. Or the person who is getting their tasks completed on time and consistently moving things forward each week? Ultimately, all this comes down to making a decision. Will you spend thirty minutes or so at the end of the week looking ahead and establishing some objectives for the following week or not? Only you can make that decision or find an excuse. Either way, on this issue, only you can make that choice. And so, this naturally leads to me handing you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Julie. Julie asks, hi Carl, I know weekly planning is important, and I try to do it, but when I get to the end of the week, I am just so relieved the week is over and the last thing I want to do is think about the next week. I know this is impacting my career prospects and was wondering if there is something I can do that will motivate me to do something about planning the week.  Hi Julie, thank you for your question.  Firstly Julie, this is an area I know so many people struggle with. I think everyone knows the advantages and importance of having some kind of plan for the week, yet it can be hard to motivate ourselves to spend a little time looking ahead and deciding what needs to get done the following week.  However, before we can get to the planning stage there is something very important that needs addressing. That is asking yourself what can you realistically get done the following week. I suspect most people don’t do, or stop doing a weekly plan, because they very rarely, if ever, accomplish anything they plan anyway.  If you spent an hour or two (and yes, some people do waste that much time planning the week) and then never get close to completing that plan, what’s the point? Why bother in the first place?  This is why you do not want to be spending hours and hours on a weekly plan. It’s a waste of time. You see, there are far too many unknowns. You have no idea how many emails you will get on Tuesday morning, let alone what your boss with ask you to do via WhatsApp or Slack on Monday afternoon.  In a way, this is the missing piece of planning a week that almost everyone overlooks. All the unknowns that will be thrown at you throughout the week. It’s these that have an enormous impact on what you can and cannot get done in a week. I recently learned that author Jeffrey Archer disappears to Marbella from 27th December to around the first week of February to completely focus on his writing. During those five to six weeks he does nothing else but write. He effectively removes himself from the possibility of distractions in order to get his work done. It’s this that allows him the confidence to know that he will complete his first draft in those few weeks. It’s unlikely you have the luxury to be able to disappear and remove all possibility of distraction to focus on your work, which means you also lose the confidence to know with almost complete certainty what you will be able to accomplish in a given week.  But that’s okay because you don’t need to know with absolute confidence what you can accomplish in a week. All you need to know is what you want to get accomplished in a week.  Now, this begins with knowing what your core work is—that is the work you are employed to do—the absolute basics.  For me, that means writing a blog post, two newsletters. The script for this podcast and recording two YouTube videos.  I also have between fifteen and twenty hours of meetings each week and I need around an hour a day to deal with my communications. In total, I need around thirty three hours each week to complete my non-negotiable work.  Now, let’s say I want to work on some projects too, if I were to work a forty-hour week I still have seven hours to play with. That’s an hour a day on average for project work and to deal with the unexpected. I’ve found that’s more than enough to keep things moving forward.  Sure, from time I need more time to deal with an emergency or to unstick a project. But that doesn’t happen every week, so on average when I begin each week, I know as long as I have a plan to cover my core work and get that done, I have enough time.  However, if you do not have a plan, you introduce the biggest problem. Uncertainty.  How much time are you losing each day trying to decide what to do? Should you do this or should you do that? Perhaps you should make a start on that thing, but then you had better finish this thing off first. No wait! You’d better check your email—there might be something important in there! How many times a day do you have that conversation with yourself?  It’s conversations like that that demonstrates clearly the disadvantages of not knowing what you want to get done that week.  When you know that Project A needs to be moved forward this week, that conversation does not happen. You know you need to move it forward, so you open up your project notes and get started. If you’ve done a plan for the week you know what you want to do. It could be you want to get the design proofs off to your boss for approval, or it might be to send out a tender to five contractors. If you’ve done a plan for the week you know precisely what you want to get done and there’s no uncertainty or hesitation. The only decision you need to make is when will you sit down and do the work. And making decision is considerably easier than trying to decide what to do in the first place.  Deicing what to do in the moment is hard. It’s what I would describe as a pressure decision. With no plan you are rushed into making a decision based on very limited information. It’s like trying to make a decision about which direction to go in the bottom of foggy valley. When you do a weekly plan, that’s your chance to clamber up the highest peak of the valley and look ahead with clear blue skies. You can see all around you, where the dangers are, which direction to go and where you currently are. It’s a much clearer view than what you get at the bottom of the valley where the fog is settled.  The resistance to planning the week can be attributed to many things. The idea you don’t want to think about work at the end of the week, or the thought it’s going to take you two or three hours to do it properly. And that understandable. After all, if you’ve read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done or read an article about the weekly review, it’s likely you think two or three hours is normal.  But it’s not. Sure the first time you do plan the week it could take you two or three hours (or more), but that’s just the first time you do it. You’re unsure, you’re don’t where to start to where to look. And of course, you will be slow.  Let’s be honest, when you took your first steps in from of your parents, I bet you didn’t walk across the room particularly fast did you? No. You stubbed, fell down and walked very steadily. It’s the same with weekly planning the first and second ones will be slow. But by the time you do your third one you will have cut the time down significantly and the more times you complete one, the faster you will get.  To give you a reference point. My weekly planning takes on average thirty minutes. I know were to look, I know what to look for and I know how to add dates to the things that need to be done the following week.  And now, when should you do the weekly planning.  Okay, so I did a lot of research into this a couple of years ago. I’ve also experimented on myself. What I’ve found is the best time to do your weekly planning is Saturday morning.  Now for those of you who have strict rules about work and personal life and have just spat out a mouthful of your coffee, hear me out. Why Saturday morning? Well, the first thing is you’re not not going to be tired. That excuse is squashed. You can sleep an extra hour wake up slowly and gently—well, you can if you don’t have a young family.  More importantly, though, you get it done early so you can then enjoy the weekend without sudden anxiety attacks about what you think you must get done next week. You prevent that from happening because you will already have cleared your mind and can then relax and actually enjoy the weekend without worrying about what you may or may not need to get done the following week.  Saturday morning is also a time when the week just gone by is still fresh in your mind and you are not going to be disturbed.  Now, all you are asking for is thirty minutes. That’s a small sacrifice for a weekend free of anxiety and worry isn’t it?  This is why I don’t recommend doing your planning on a Sunday evening. That leaves you at the mercy of worrying thoughts about the week ahead all weekend. That’s not going to give you a pleasant weekend and it’s very difficult to pick yourself up off the sofa and go power up your computer and start planning the week after a lovely, relaxing weekend.  No, get it done early so you can relax and enjoy the weekend free from thoughts about work and horrors that may reveal themselves to you at 8:30am on Monday morning.  So there you go, Julie. I hope that helps and gives you a little motivation for doing a weekly planning session. Enjoy it, put on some of your favourite music, make yourself a lovely cup of tea and smile. You know you are doing the right thing.  Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
7/24/202314 minutes, 8 seconds
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The Life Changing Tip David Allen Gave Me.

This week’s question is all about what is important in your time management and productivity system.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 283 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 283 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. With the constant influx of new productivity tools it can be difficult to settle on a set of tools because you are worried that you might be missing the boat or there could be something out there that is better than what you are using now and could, in theory, make you even better at managing your time and being more productive.  But wait, do all these new tools really offer you the opportunity to improve your time management or productivity? Have you considered the time cost penalty of switching and then learning the new way to find what you need and organise everything?  The truth is not what you may think and it’s something I learned several years ago. Once I did, my productivity shot through the roof. I was better organised and I quickly discovered I had more time to do the things I loved doing. Which was a bit of a shock.  So that brings me to this week’s question, it’s also a question I frequently get on YouTube comments, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my discoveries with you so you can make your own decision.  So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question come from Kevin. Kevin asks, Hi Carl, I’ve always wondered why you don’t use apps like Notion and Obsidian. I notice a lot productivity YouTubers use these apps, but you seem to stick with the same apps. Is there a reason you don’t check these apps out?  Hi Kevin, thank you for your question.  To answer your question directly, the reason I don’t switch my apps is because David Allen told me not to.  Now, for those of your who don’t know, David Allen wrote the “bible” of time management and productivity: Getting Things Done and he is considered the Godfather of today’s productivity systems.  Back in 2016, David visited Korea and I reached out to him and I got to meet him. We had lunch together, and we inevitably talked productivity. The conversation soon got onto tools and I asked him if he really does still use eProductivity—an app that was an offshoot of the old Lotus Notes. He confirmed he did. Now at that time, I was still on my productivity tools journey. I don’t think I stuck with a task manager for longer than three of four months before I was searching around for a new one to “play with”.  I was curious, and asked him if he’d ever considered using something else—something that was available on his iPhone or iPad as as well as his computer. (eProductivity was only available on a computer) and he said: Why?  I was a bit stuck there, but he added why would he change something that works? Something that he’d learned to use inside out and could pretty much use with his eyes closed. He also pointed out that eProductivity was reliable, it didn’t rely on syncing (which back in 2016 was not particularly reliable for anything) and he couldn’t remember the last time it crashed.  As our conversation continued, David elaborated on his system. He carried with him a leather wallet that contained a little note pad and pen. If he thought of something he’d write it down on the notepad and when he got back to his office (or hotel room) he would tear out the notes and add them to his inbox (or traveling inbox if he was on a business trip).  Later when he had time he would transfer those notes to eProductivity. This gave him an opportunity to filter out the stuff that didn’t need any action and decide whether something was a note or a task.  That process wasn’t something he’d developed overnight. It took twenty years or more. Refining and developing the so called muscle memory to automatically add something to the note pad when anything came up isn’t something you will develop over a few weeks or months. It takes years.  But more importantly, the method David Allen had created for himself ensured he was always asking the right questions about something. If you’ve read the Getting things Done book, he writes about these questions. They are:  What is it? Is it actionable? If so, what needs to happen?  It was during our conversation, I told him of my dilemma at that time which was Todoist or OmniFocus? David answered, “pick one and stick with it.”  It was that that revolutionised my productivity. “Pick one and stick with it” has been my mantra since then. This is why I still use Todoist and Evernote to this day.  Everything David told me, happened. My productivity went through the roof. I was no longer searching around looking for something better, I was focused on, forgive the pun, getting things done.  Suddenly, I was able watch a little TV in evenings instead of reading about new productivity tools. I started having longer and better conversations with my wife because I wasn’t distracted playing around with another new toy.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that from around late 2016 early 2017, I was able to run two businesses, produce two YouTube videos a week and write a blog post as well as start this podcast. None of that would have been possible if I were still searching and looking for new and better tools.  You the see the time cost involved in switching your tools every few months is ridiculous. There’s the searching around and watching countless YouTube videos. Then there’s the switch cost, where you move everything across and organise things how you want it (which ironically is rarely different from the way you organised it before) and finally, the biggest time suck of all, learning to use the new app. That can take weeks, if not months to get up to the speed you were at using your previous app.  Oh, and there’s all that researching trying to figure out how to do something you were able to do in your previous app, which you now discover is not available in your new app.  Do I want to go through all that again? No thank you. Now, that’s not to say there are no reasons for changing your tools. Evernote is a classic example. A few years ago they changed their app considerably when Evernote changed to Evernote 10. The early versions were horrible and everything I’d learned in the previous eight years changed and I was faced with relearning how to use Evernote. I was very tempted to change to Apple Notes at that time. I didn’t because I know the penalties of changing and I’m glad I didn’t. Evernote 10 is now reliable and robust and I’ve had three years to learn how to use Evernote 10.  But, had Evernote not solved those initial problems, I would have changed. I need my tools to work so I can work. I don’t want to spend time in the day trying to figure out how to fix a broken app.  The more I research productive people, the more I see tools are not important. Recently, I researched author Jeffrey Archer. He began writing his books in the 1970s and wrote them by hand. He still does today. In interviews, he talks about having a system that works, so why change it.  John Grisham writes his books in Word—there are loads of new writing apps that are possibly better than Word, yet he knows Word, it works, so why change it? For him, Word is a part of his writing process, and over 50 books later, why change that system?  For me, Todoist and Evernote are all a part of my process. Todoist tells me what I need to work on, Evernote contains my notes on whatever I am working on, whether that is a YouTube video, this podcast, a blog post or a course. It’s seamless, it works and can all be done in less than two seconds. Why would I want to change that?  A client of mine is a screenwriter and he’s been using Final Draft for over twenty years. Can you imagine how quick he is getting down to writing his scripts?  I worked with a copywriter who had used Apple’s built in Text Edit app for fifteen years and would not contemplate using anything else to do her work because as a simple text file her work was transferable to any computer system or app. The brilliance was in the simplicity of her system.  I’ve worked with photographers who can do incredible magic with Adobe’s Lightroom at lighten speed because they’ve used it every day for over ten years.  It all comes down to what you want. Is it the thrill of playing with something new? There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need need to be honest about it. You do not want to be fooling yourself in to believing that the next new app will make you more productive. It won’t.  What will make you more productive is the system you put in place. Going back to Jeffrey Archer, his writing system is simple. He disappears on the 27th December to his house in Mallorca, where for the next five weeks he will follow the same process each day, By the 2nd or 3rd February, he has a completed first draft of his next book. All handwritten on a large bundle of paper.  That’s how you become more productive. Focus on your process for doing your work. Whether you are a salesperson, an interior designer, a doctor or a software developer. Pick tools that will work for you for many years to come and focus on doing your work not the tools. The simpler your system, the better and faster you will be.  All you need is a calendar, a task manager and notes app for your productivity tools. These days, I would advise these are all available on each of the devices you have, so you have everything you need with you at all times. Pick tools that work for you and stick with them. By sticking with them, your system will develop, grow and adjust and that pushes you towards focusing on your work—which is the secret to becoming more productive and better with managing your time.  Thank you Kevin for your question and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
7/17/202313 minutes, 35 seconds
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Managing The Demands Of Others.

This week, what can you do when the demands of others prevent you from doing your work. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 282 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 282 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Do you have a boss or a customer that expects you to be available 24/7? Perhaps, your boss always wants to know where you are and what you are doing or they rely on you to get them information because they are too lazy, or unable, to look up the information themselves.  These demands and distractions are a common intrusion and do prevent you from getting on with your work. It could be you are being invited to meetings you have little to contribute to but feel you must attend because your boss sent the invitation.  And on the other side, there are clients and customers who expect you to drop everything in order to serve them.  It’s these interferences into our carefully curated schedules that cause a lot of our time management and productivity issues. You are willing, but outside forces prevent you from getting on with your most important work. What can you do? Well, that’s the issue in this week’s question.  Now, before I hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice, I’d just like to mention that My Ultimate Productivity Workshop is returning in August. For the four Friday evenings in August I invite you to settle in for a ninety-minute intimate workshop with myself where we cover your calendar, task manager, communications and the daily and weekly planning sessions.  In all, this workshop will give you the know-how to build your own, personalised productivity system—a system that will grow with you over many years.  And not only that, when you register for the workshop, you get free access to my mini-course bundle as this will be important for getting the most out of the workshop.  I hope you can join me, and if you are unable to attend one or more of the sessions, do not fear, you can email me any questions and I will answer them in the session and you can get the recording of the session almost immediately after the session ends.  Anyway, back to this week’s podcast question and that means it’s time for me to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from George. George asks, Hi Carl, I’ve tried to implement a lot of what you teach but always come up with a problem. My manager expects me to answer her questions immediately and that stops me from being able to focus on my core work or use time blocking. How have you overcome managers like this in the past?  Hi George, thank you for your question.  You are not alone. This is a pernicious problem I see with a lot of companies these days. And it’s not just micro-managing bosses, but can also be caused by demanding customers and clients who expect you to be available whenever they have a question.  Fortunately, I have experienced these types before, and over the years developed a number of strategies to prevent the interruptions and demands.  I’m surprised this is still happening. I am frequently reminded that companies these days are more considerate about their employee needs and welfare, yet at the same time, old-fashioned managers who feel they need to know what each of their direct reports are doing and where they are are still employed.  If you are a manager who needs to know what their team are doing at all times, then you have a trust issue. Either you are unable to trust your team, or you are employing the wrong people. Either way, the problem is with you. If you want your team to flourish, grow and produce the results you employed them to produce, you need to let them free and get on with it. Trust they will do their part of the work.  Now, in your case, George, you have identified the problem, which is a great start. From that start, you can now begin to come up with some ideas that may reduce the interference from your boss.  The first step, and the one that has always worked for me, is to have a sit down conversation with your manager. Ask her what she expects of you, where she feels you are not performing and what you can do to change that. Never point the finger at your boss, let her tell you what she expects and where she would like to see improvements.  The first things she tells you will not be the real problem. The real problem will be the second and third issues. We all feel uncomfortable criticising other people, so we tend to begin with the gentler, less negative issues. Push her to continue, ask questions about why she feel that way and listen carefully to what she tells you.  This approach will be uncomfortable for you too. Nobody likes to hear criticism, particularly if you pride yourself on being organised and productive. You do not have to accept all the criticisms. A lot will not be fair or true. But it is important for you to listen.  The final few items will not be real issues. We add them to pad out our criticisms, and to make the list, if you like, appear bigger than it really is.  Once you know where your boss feels there are issues, suggest remedies. Think about how you can change things so these issues disappear. Use the If I… Will you.. Approach.  This means when you make a concession, (If I…) you ask for a concession in return (will you…)  For instance: If I commit to updating the CRM system at the end of each day, will you allow me to focus on my work from 10:00am to 12:00pm without disturbing me?  Now you may find you have to negotiate a little. For example, if your boss does not want you to ’disappear’ for two hours each morning, try one hour.  Once your boss begins to see results, she will concede more trust to you. She will give you greater freedom to organise your own schedule. But, it takes time and the onus is on you as much as it is with your boss.  Now, to a related matter. What about clients and customers. How do you deal with their demands? This is an expectations issue and one that can be easily resolved through good, clear communication.  When I worked in law, the barristers we worked with (that’s legal counsel in the UK, not coffee brewers) made it very clear they were in court between 10:30am and 12:30pm and between 2:00pm and 4:30pm each day. We knew we could not contact them between those times. We were the client for these barristers, yet I never remember any barrister not telling us when they would be available. I suspect it was part of their legal training to make sure clients were informed when they were not available.  That has always appeared to be a common sense approach to me, it just made sense. Yet so many people when working with customers and clients cause themselves problems by promising the world knowing deep down they could never keep that promise.  It’s far better, when starting a new relationship with a client or anyone else related to your work, for that matter, to inform them of your availability up front. Tell them the best way to contact you and when. Explain there will be times you are unavailable and what you and they can do in those situations.  I live on the opposite side of the world to the majority of my clients, which means I am between 17 and 8 hours ahead. When it’s 10pm at night for me, it’s 9am in New York, 2pm in London and 6am in LA. To overcome any communication issues, I inform all my clients to email me any questions and promise to respond within 24 hours.  In order to comply with my own ‘rules’, I need to allocate an hour of my day to dealing with communications. That’s blocked off in my calendar and so I know when it’s 4:30pm, it’s time to sit down and respond to my messages. This means whenever a client wakes up, they will see my reply in their inbox waiting for them.  It’s not sustainable to be always available at a moment’s notice for your boss or customers. That’s how things get missed, backlogs build and ultimately your performance at your job will suffer. You need to find time to focus on your important work. Abraham Lincoln is attributed as saying” Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It makes sense, yes? You are going to be more productive chopping down trees if your axe is sharp. Well, I’ve noticed that the most successful people in business do something similar with their time.  Stella Rimington, the former head of the UK’s Security Service would arrive in her office at 7:00am each day in order to get two hours deep focused work done before the day began. She would read the overnight intelligence reports and use the time to prepare for her work day.  Time Cook at Apple, does something similar. He also arrives in the office early (some say 6:30am other claim it’s 7:30am) and uses the time before the work day begins to get a grip on the day and to ensure he has everything prepared.   Now, if you work purely for the financial compensation, this will not work. For you, working an extra two hours or ninety minutes each day would be sacrilege. But if you are developing a career, using your employment to learn and grow yourself, then this is something worth considering. Perhaps begin your day thirty or sixty minutes earlier and use that time for focused work.  It gets you ahead of the day, it means you have time to process all the information needed to make the most of your day and you are not going to be disturbed. It’s surprising how much you can get done in just a couple of hours early in the morning.  So there you go, George, a few ideas you can use to take control of your day. The most powerful one is to have that conversation with your boss. Reset expectations and use the “If I… Will you…” approach. Tell everyone when and when you are not available. You can even put that into your email signature.  Demanding bosses can be ‘controlled’, just like customers and clients can be controlled. I don’t mean control in a dark and evil way, I just mean in terms of their expectations. Don’t make promises you cannot keep, and be ruthless in the way you apply your rules.  It will be uncomfortable at first, but you will be surprised by the amount of respect you receive and the results you start to get.  Thank you for your question, George and than you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
7/10/202314 minutes, 13 seconds
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Breaking Tasks Down And Timing Tasks

This week’s question is all about breaking tasks down into manageable chunks and how to organise your academic studies. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 281 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 281 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. An area I find most people struggle with is breaking bigger tasks down into manageable chunks. How do you determine something like “write report on Quarter 1 Marketing campaign” when you may not know where to start? While it might be clear what needs to be done, it may not be clear how long something like this would take.  In many ways this comes about because we are not prioritising correctly. If your number one task for the day is to complete a report, or write a paper for your professor, why would an email or message become more important. You have no idea what or how many emails and messages you will get each day, you only know you will get some, but email and messages can never be your priority for the day. They don’t move things forward for you. They might help other people, but if your number one priority is the report, why change your plan?  Anyway, before we go any further, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Meghan. Meghan asks, Hi Carl, thank you for your recent podcasts on core work. One area I struggle with is knowing how long a task will take. Should I be allocating time for each task or just doing what I can. Additionally, how would a Ph.D student define their core work?  Thank you Meghan for your question.  Let me begin with the second part of your question first. What is the core work of a Ph.D student?  This is going to relate to your chosen topic. What are you studying? The vast majority of your work here is going to be researching, taking notes and perhaps conducting studies. This is primarily likely to involve a lot of reading. So how much reading do you feel you need to do each week?  This needs time allocating to and that’s where you calendar comes in. Let’s imagine you want to spend four hours a day reading. How will you break that down? If you were an early bird—someone who likes to start their day early, you may choose 6am to 8am as your reading time. You could then perhaps set aside a further two hours later in the afternoon. That would still leave you with plenty of time for dealing with communications, socialising and meeting with your professor.  If you are not an early bird and prefer doing your reading later in the day you can schedule it for late evening,  Working on any studies you are conducting or papers you are writing should also be scheduled in your calendar.  With these two activities your calendar will tell you your writing and reading blocks and that’s all they say. You task manager and notes will indicate what you will read or write.  Now, onto establishing how long a task should take you. That’s going to be very different most of the time. However, it’s not really about how long you should spend doing a task, it’s more about how much time you have available to spend on that task.  Let me give you a personal example from this podcast. It takes me around two hours to write the script for this podcast. Some days I can write it faster, other days I may need more time. Every Tuesday morning, I have a two hour writing block in my calendar and for the most part I can get this script written. However, this week, I was only able to schedule an hour on Tuesday morning, which meant the script was only half done. I then needed to find another hour later in the week to finish it off.  When looking at my calendar, I discovered that the only time I had available was Saturday evening. Now that raises a question. Do I use time I generally protect for other things, or do I allocate an hour to writing the script? Well, as I need to record and publish the podcast on Sunday afternoon and Sunday morning I have a lot of meetings, the only time I had was Saturday. The decision was made.  I could of course have decided not to publish a podcast this week, but I see this podcast as part of my core work and therefore non-negotiable. So, the decision was easy, block an hour off on Saturday evening.  The truth is that doesn’t happen very often, so it’s not like I have to regularly write this script in my rest time, but if it must be done, it must be done.  Now, for the first part of your question, Meghan. How do you determine how long a task will take? For most of you a lot of what you do will be predictable. A simple example, would be doing a weekly grocery shop. I know, for instance, I need an hour for this. Similarly, taking my dog for a walk will be an hour.  You will also find a lot of the work you do is part of a process. If you were a graphic designer, perhaps much of your work would be sending concepts and ideas to your clients and awaiting their approval. If you been designing for a long time you will likely know how long a piece of work will take. I know, for instance, I need an hour to write my weekly blog post. It’s not an exact science, some days I can write it in forty minutes, other days I need ninety minutes. On average, though, it takes around an hour.  I watched an interesting talk by Jeffrey Archer. Jeffrey Archer is a prolific author having written over forty books in the last forty years. He has an interesting schedule for doing his work.  He will wake up at 5:30am, and begin writing at 6AM. He writes for two hours (by hand, not keyboard) and then take a two hour break. Then from 10am to 12pm he will write some more before taking another two hour break. He will do another two hour session from 2 til 4 and finally between 6pm and 8pm he will read through what he had written for that day.  The interesting thing here is he is not counting the amount of words he writes. That depends on the flow. Somedays he will write a lot, other days it will be a struggle. The key for him is he follows the process each day. He knows, after forty books, it will take him around 1,000 hours to write a book and see it on the bookshelves.  I know after nearly 800 blog posts that a blog post from first draft to publication takes two hours.  Notice that Jeffrey Archer gets six hours of writing in each day and has plenty of time in the breaks to make phone calls, write emails and deal with other administration tasks. He’s focused on the 1,000 hours over six months, not worrying about how many words he will write each day.  So, what about you, if you have a task to do when does it need to be finished by? Imagine you have a task to do and you need to deliver it by the end of the week. The best day to start is today. First task, look at what needs to be done. Do you need to do some research? If so, how much time can you dedicate to the research? Perhaps you can only do two hours. That’s fine, block research time off in your calendar. How much time will you need to prepare the finished task? If its a written piece or a presentation, how long do you need?  If you leave that to Thursday, you are going to find yourself in trouble. My advice is to start writing it no later than Wednesday. It’s likely you will only know how much time you need when you begin the work. I find if I am designing a workshop for a company, I only know how long it will take once I develop the outline. Once I have that I can anticipate how much time I need.  There’s always going to be something in the work you do that will give you an indication how long something will take. Let’s imagine you have a difficult customer. When you first learn of the problem, you will have no idea how long you will need to resolve the problem. You will not know that, until you speak to the customer. So, speak with the customer at the earliest opportunity. From that conversation, you will now have some idea about what needs to be done and how long it will take.  If you delay having that conversation, all you will be doing is guessing. And, worse, your brain will be warning you that you need a lot of time. It’s likely you won’t need a lot of time, but our brain is not logical, it panics until you can give it something solid to work with. So, make the call or open your notes and make a decision on what you will do first and when you will do it.  However, the only way you will learn how long something will take is to develop a process for doing your work. It’s through processes that you will learn how long something will take. When I was teaching English, I used to do seminars for companies in different aspects of English communication. The first time I put together a seminar, I didn’t know how long it would take. The first one took me around twenty hours, the second and subsequent ones took on average sixteen.  Once I knew that, I could plan out my preparation time and refine things. I also focused on the process for building the seminar, so I was able to break down the components parts and make those more streamlined and gave me a better understanding how long each part would take.  It also taught me I needed a minimum of two weeks to prepare the seminar. It was possible to do it in a week, but that would mean working longer hours than I wanted to. I ended up with a process that took sixteen hours spread out over two weeks.  And that’s what I would suggest you do with the work you are doing. Track what you do, how long each part takes and look for ways to naturally break it down. You an then use your calendar to spread out the different parts so they get done.  I hope that has helped, Meghan. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
6/26/202312 minutes, 47 seconds
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How To Stay Motivated.

This week, how do you motivate yourself when you are just not in the mood to do any work? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 280 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 280 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. How often do you wake up in the morning with a long list of to-dos and just want to crawl back under your duvet? Or come back from lunch, look at your desk and just go “naw, just not in the mood”? If it’s more times that you would like, you are not alone. If you are a living human being, it’s going to happen. You are going to have good days and bad. It’s perfectly normal and not something you should beat yourself up about. However, sometimes that lack of motivation to do the work, can be untimely. You may have a deadline, an urgent matter to deal with or some preparation for a meeting to complete. What can you do in these circumstances? Well, that’s the topic of this week’s podcast.  And so, to get things started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Mohammed, Mohammed asks, Hi Carl, how do you stay so motivated each day? I really struggle with this. When I get up in the morning, I feel demotivated and just don’t want to get up. Do you have any suggestions on how to wake up feeling more motivated?  Hi Mohammed, thank you for your question.  There are a number ways you can wake up feeling more motivated and energised for the day. One simple trick is to make sure you get enough sleep. We all need between six and eight hours of sleep each night although we differ on the optimum number—for example, I discovered I needed seven hours, twenty minutes, not the six I thought I needed, I’ve learnt if I sleep less than seven hours, I will not have a very productive day and will likely need to take a nap sometime in the early afternoon.  You can discover your optimum daily sleep hours by doing a simple test. For one week, sleep with no alarm and track how many hours you sleep. At the end of the seven days, total up the number of hours you slept and divide it by seven. That will give you the number of hours you actually need, rather than guessing the number.  Once you know your optimum number of sleep hours, set yourself a going to bed time (thirty minutes before you need to be asleep) and stick to it.  I know this may require you to change a few things. If you are in the habit of scrolling social media or watching TV late at night, you may need to adjust the amount of time you spend doing these things. But I can assure you once you dial in your sleep patterns, you will soon find yourself waking up feeling a lot better than you likely do right now.  While sleep is not going to affect your motivation, it will ensure you have the energy to get through the day.  Now, what about motivation. This has everything to do with your mindset about the work you do. If you see your work purely in monetary terms, you are going to feel demotivated. Money as has been discovered is a poor long-term motivator. Sure if someone offered you a lot of money to do something, it’s probable you will do it as long as it does not conflict with your personal values—after all the saying “everyone has their price” is largely true. But is it the money that motivates you or what you think you could do with the money?  As Daniel Pink discovered several years ago, there’s an amount of money you need to earn to live and anything above that figure will not motivate you. Daniel Pink set that amount at around $70,000 per year. Beyond that, because it does not affect your ability to eat, have a roof over your head or the financial ability to take a holiday once or twice a year, money no longer provides an incentive. (Although we think it does) It might be nice to buy an expensive watch or to own a luxury beach-side villa in the Mediterranean, but your needs—food, and shelter are taken care of and material things are not going to motivate you when it comes to getting up in the morning to do your work.  I’m currently reading about Robert Maxwell. In case you do not know, Robert Maxwell was the chairman of Mirror Group Newspapers in the 1980s and early 1990s. (If you are listening in the US, Maxwell also bought the New York Daily News) Maxwell, it turns out was a crook. He was stealing money from not only his public companies, he also stole his employees pension funds and owed multiple banks many millions of dollars when he died in 1991.  Maxwell didn’t steal all this money because he wanted more material things. He already had a helicopter, private jet, a yacht and multiple homes. He stole this money because he desperately wanted to maintain his identity and reputation. His self image prevented him from being able to cut back his excesses and it ultimately destroyed him and many thousands of Mirror Group employees’ pensions.  Maxwell’s motivation each day was his need to maintain his empire and his image as a high-flying successful business giant. It ultimately failed and he was soon exposed for the person he was.  However, beyond narcissism—which can be a very powerful motivator, What does motivate people is the sense we are doing something worthwhile. And that is controlled by what we want to accomplish in life.  My first job was cleaning the changing areas in a hotel health club. It was three hours a day six days a week and I loved it. It was not the work that I loved, that was hard, but I saw it as an education. I was given autonomy on what I cleaned and when and that allowed me to feel I was in control. I took pride in ensuring the showers were spotless when I had finished. That the floors were clean and the towels were neatly stacked in each changing room. I learned about systems and processes for getting my work done and it began my fascination with how to accomplish my work in the most efficient way.  All my early jobs taught me valuable lessons. I saw each one as an education and valuable experience. Working in hotels taught me the importance of standards. Selling cars taught me about the art of selling, working in law taught me about integrity and professionalism.  No matter what work you do, whether you love it or hate it, it is giving you an education. You don’t become the CEO directly out of university, you have to learn through experience, make mistakes and understand the intricacies and nuances of managing people. You don’t become a surgeon straight out of medical school. You have to do your shifts in the emergency rooms, do the rounds and learn from your peers.  When you begin the day, you have a new opportunity to learn something and move your career forward. You also have the choice to go into to work and complain about how much you hate it, come home, scroll through social media looking at people doing what you want to do and feeling jealous and thinking about how unfair life is.  You also have the choice to go into work and instead of hating what you do, look for ways to improve it. It wasn’t pleasant scrubbing walls in the showers, but I learned how to do it better and even today, I use what I learned when I clean my bathroom. Weirdly, I feel a sense of pride in my abilities to clean a bathroom and make a bed (another thing I learned working in hotels)  What else can you do to motivate yourself to get up in the morning? One trick that works is to have a morning routine you love doing. Something you look forward to doing. For instance, making my morning coffee, writing my journal and cleaning my email inbox is pure joy for me. I look forward to sitting down with my coffee and writing whatever’s in my mind into my journal. I also enjoy clearing my email inbox. I have no idea what will be in there. There could be problems, kind comments, newsletters and spam. Each day is different. I also gamify it by timing how fast I can clear my inbox. I especially enjoy the days where I have 100+ emails to process. Learning those in less than 25 minutes always makes me smile.  What would you love doing in a morning that will take less than forty-five minutes? Experiment, and see what excites you.  Another way to avoid that dread of a new day is to ensure you have a plan for the day before you go to bed. This is a psychological trick you can use that will motivate you in a morning called “implementation intention”. Your plan for the day gives you the intention to get it done. Writing these out in a journal in a morning reinforces it. For instance, I could have begun today by planning to write this podcast script. I would have make sure that was flagged in my task manger before I finished the previous day and when I wrote my journal I would write it out again.  Be careful here, if you write more than two or three things you will fail. There are too many unknowns that could come at you in the day, so limiting it to two tasks makes it doable no matter what is thrown at you.  Finally, what are your long term goals. Where do you want to be in five, ten or twenty years time? If you don’t know what’s the point of getting up in a morning? You don’t have to have lofty expansive goals, it could be you want to learn something new such as photography, or graphic design. Perhaps you would like to learn to swim or play golf. Having something to aim for gives you purpose and purpose gives you motivation and motivation gives you energy.  So there you go, Mohammed. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, you have the right mindset for your work or studies, that you have a plan for the day and you have something long-term to aim for. It surprising how these can transform your life and make getting up in the morning something you are excited about.  Thank you for your question and than you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
6/19/202312 minutes, 44 seconds
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What Happens When You Do Master Your Time? (It’s not pleasant)

Podcast 279 In this week’s episode, I share with you what happens when everything begins to work as it should. Be prepared; this episode is scary.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 279 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 279 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. This week’s question comes from a coaching client of mine who has worked with me for a few months and has developed a system and a way of working that has enabled him to get on top of his work, but has also left him feeling anxious and uncomfortable. He told me there’s a sense of missing something, that he should be doing more.  So, to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Gary. Gary asks, Hi Carl, my system is working perfectly, but I feel there’s something missing. It’s like I have this feeling I am not doing enough. Is this normal? Hi Gary, thank you for allowing my to share this on my podcast.  So why is Gary feeling as if he should be doing more? Well, it’s likely he’s become addicted to the stress caused by feeling overwhelmed and busy. That sense of not being in control, which means each day he felt he was being pulled from one crisis deadline to another without ever feeling he had time to work on what was important or even a chance to take a break.  If you think about it for a moment, when you’ve spend a large part of your working life reacting to events, when you finally reverse that and start to anticipate events so they do not overwhelm you, it is going to feel weird at first. It may even frighten you. You stress levels drop—often suddenly—and that can cause anxiety. If your body has become used to dealing with a lot of stress, not having that around is going to be strange and that is why we often feel something’s missing. There is, it’s called stress. It’s gone.  In many ways, as you become better organised and more productive, you need to prepare yourself for the withdrawal effects of a reduced amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) surging through your bloodstream. These withdrawal effects are often the reason why so many people unconsciously self-sabotage their efforts. They will do things like change their task manager or notes app. Not because the new app is any better than the ones they used before, but because it gives them a sense of doing something constructive—yet, transferring all your notes and tasks to a new app is not a constructive use of your time.  The real question to ask yourself is what can you do with all the extra time you will have once the way you do your work becomes more efficient?  This is where you can look at your areas of focus. Only one part is related to your work, yet, depending where you are in life it’s likely that will be the area that is taking up a disproportionate amount of your time. But what else is there in your areas of focus that is not getting the attention it deserves? For example, a lot of people would like to spend more time with their friends and family. Is there anything you can do to be able to spend more time there?  Perhaps you could pick your kids up from school or call round to see your parents more often.  What about hobbies? I know we don’t talk about these a lot these days, but hobbies are a great way to reduce stress, relax and take your mind off things. Now if you are working in an office environment, how about doing some mentoring? One of the roles leadership involves is mentoring the next generation. Even if you are not a leader, yet, helping your colleagues develop their skills is a great way you can make use of your extra time. The great thing about mentoring is not just what you teach, but also what you learn. Coaching, has not only given me a way to help others, I have also learned an incredible amount from the people I talk to every day.  Something you could consider is to work on your education. Now, I am not talking about formal education, but more unusual fields. For instance, advertising and marketing company, Ogilvy’s vice-chairman, Rory Sutherland has spent the last twenty-years or so learning about behavioural psychology. This is the study of why we do what we do and it has not only been a fascination for him, it’s helped him in his work and given him an avenue to develop a side business public speaking and entertaining people with his observations. If you haven’t already watched his TED talk from 2009, I highly recommend you do so.  He’s also written a book, called Alchemy, which I would also recommend.  The point is, you have the ability to take control of what you do with your time. And, with the way we work changing at a rapid rate—whether we like it or not—and the potential for artificial Intelligence causing some radical changes to the types of jobs available, the people who will succeed are the ones who have the time to look ahead and make choices based on analysis rather than being forced to change.  So, how do you get to this point?  Well, this podcast has given a lot of advice over the last five years on how to get control over your time but the one thing that I live by is to eliminate not accumulate. This insight came from my project a few years ago when I decided to try out minimalism. I read the books, watched the videos and I followed a lot of the advice and paired down my wardrobe and possessions. I also adopted a one in one out policy. So, if I buy a new pair of jeans, I will throw out an old pair. Or, if I buy a new computer, iPad or phone, then the old one goes out.  The temptation when you become better organised is to add more and more stuff to your task manager and notes app. After all, you have a system that will take all that stuff in, but do you really want it to? The more you put in, the more you have to deal with at some point.  I am always looking at ways to reduce the time it take to do things. For instance, I love it when I wake up to an inbox of 100 plus emails. I set a timer and see how fast I can clear them from my inbox. I see this as training, because being fast at making decisions about whether something is important and needs a response or not will help with other areas of my life. The same goes with my daily and weekly planning, I’m always looking at ways to speed it up. Do I really need to go through and review every project? (No you don’t, by the way).  Daily planning can be done in less than five minutes if you have a process for doing it. Mine is simple, Calendar to see where my appointments are for tomorrow and Todoist to review my task list and to ask myself is this realistic.  But one of the greatest benefits of adopting an eliminate not accumulate philosophy is a lot of the stuff you may be collecting today is likely to sort itself out it you leave it alone. I learned this with my online course learning centre. Occasionally, someone will have difficulty logging in to their account—they may have forgotten their password or are using the wrong email address. They send me an email asking to help.  In the past I would rush to respond. Now I wait an hour. I’ve discovered nine times out of ten I soon get a follow up email saying they’ve figured out the problem themselves.  Best advice here is slow down. A lot of what you are asked to do is a reflex and if you slow down, people will often find the solution themselves.  Another tip for you is to make yourself less available. I learned this from reading about the routines of successful people. Authors such as Stephen King and John Grisham lock themselves away when they are writing. No internet or phone. Just a quiet room so they can spend three or four hours focused on their writing.  How much work could you get done if you had just two hours each day where you knew no one can disturb you? Being less available is scary at first, but you soon become used to it and the best thing you boss and colleagues will begin to respect your focus time because they see the results you are producing.  Don’t ever accept the thinking you have to be available all the time for your colleagues and customers. You don’t. Set some boundaries. Experiment and see what people will accept or not. You might be surprised how accepting people are.  So there you, when you make the decision to become better organised and more productive you are setting yourself on a course where some big changes will happen. You will have more time, be a lot less stressed and it will feel uncomfortable at first. However, don’t let that stop you and certainly don’t self-sabotage your hard work. The anxiety and feeling uncomfortable is just your brain’s way of adjusting to the new you. A person in control of their time and not stressed.  Thank you Gary and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
6/12/202312 minutes, 6 seconds
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HowTo Take Control Of Your To-Do List

Are you the master or slave of your task manager? In this week’s episode, I’m going to show you how to take control of your tasks.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 278 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 278 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, people were busy, much as we are today, yet we never began the day with to-do lists of twenty-plus tasks. That wasn’t the way we used to-do lists. To-do lists were for the essential, must not forget to do tasks.  Most desk diaries at that time only had space for around six tasks at the bottom of each day’s column. Ironically, six tasks was the number Ivy Lee recommended when he devised the Ivy Lee method for Bethlehem Steel in 1918. That method worked then and it still works today.  So what has happened over the last fifteen years or so? Have our brains diminished somehow? I don’t think so. I suspect the reason why we are struggling now is because we believe everything that must be done should be added to the to-do list, yet does it? How effective would you be if the only things you saw on your list each day were the things that really mattered? I know you would be a lot more focused.  That’s what we’ll be looking at this week, so, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Michelle. Michelle asks, Hi Carl, I’ve tried so many times to use a to-do list and it always begins well, but after a few days, it becomes overwhelming. I know how helpful they are and I wondered if you could break down what should and should not be in a to-do list.  Hi Michelle, thank you for your question.  Let’s go back to Ivy Lee. While we don’t know why Ivy Lee chose six tasks to add to a to-do list, what we do know is anyone who has used this method almost always complete the six tasks and has enough time at the end of the day to plan the next six.  Ivy Lee’s method is simple. At the end of the day, write down, in order of priority, the six tasks you want to complete tomorrow. Leave that piece of paper on your desk so when you arrive back at work in the morning, the first thing you see are those six tasks. Then, you begin at the top and work your way down the list until you have all six crossed out.  Think about that for a moment. How confident are you at being able to consistently complete six tasks each day?  Let’s imagine for a moment you are a university professor. Today, you have two ninety minute lectures to give from 9:00am. Your lectures will finish at 12:15pm and then you have to arrange some meetings with your Ph.D students, mark some papers, spend a little time writing your own paper, respond to your email, prepare for your lectures tomorrow and exercise. That’s six tasks. Do you have time for anything else? If you work a typical eight or nine hour day, three hours have already gone lecturing, which leaves you with five to six hours to do everything else.  Exercise can be done after you finish for the day, but marking papers, writing your own paper and responding to email are not five minute tasks. I would say, if you try and cram anything else into your day, you’ve already lost the day.  The key to this Michelle is to understand that time is limited. We do not have an infinite amount of time each day. Sure, you can work eighteen hours a day trying to do everything, but that is not sustainable. You might be able to that for a couple of days, but eventually you will break. You are not a machine and there needs to be balance between work and rest. (Whether you like that or not).  But look at the professor’s day, if she were to do the tasks she had set for herself, she would be moving important things forward. She might not be able to finish everything, that’s fine as long as she’s consistently working on the important things.  In many ways, we are our own worst enemies. Thinking that everything has to be finished in one day will always lead to overwhelm and in the worst case scenario, burnout. It’s not possible to complete everything at the first try. Sometimes you need to continue with a task on another day.  Now, there is something else at play here. How are you writing your tasks? You are not going to do very well at the supermarket if all that was on your list was: food, drink toiletries. Sure you would pick up something, but more than likely you would pick up all the wrong things. Instead, we need to be smarter than that and be more specific. Apple, bananas, chicken, salmon, broccoli, sprouts, red wine and shampoo would give you a better (and faster) experience at the supermarket.  The same applies to your to-do list. Writing things like; Ph.D curriculum, Bathroom and Board meeting, on your to-do list is not going to help you. What do you need to do related to the Ph.D curriculum? What does the “bathroom” mean? Perhaps what you mean is you want to redecorate the bathroom. Great, what does that mean at a task level? Pick up some paint swatches? Buy paint and brushes? What?  Another thing about writing vague words down on your task list is you will have no idea how long it will take you. Ph.D curriculum, how long will that take you? How about if instead of writing a statement, you wrote something like: continue writing Ph.D curriculum”? Now you can decide how long you will spend writing the curriculum. Using the word “continue” (or begin) here puts you in control of the time you spend on the work. A simple change, but one with a huge benefit when it comes to reducing an overwhelming to-do list.  Now, let’s go back to the number of tasks you are putting on your to-do list. Many to-dos have what I would describe as a natural trigger. For instance, your garbage can needs taking out when it is full. I know I see my garbage can every day, so I can tell when it needs taking out. Similarly, I know when my car needs washing every time I drive it. It would be pointless add these as tasks to my task manager.  How about email? Do you send all your actionable email to you to-do list? Why? You already have the mail in your email app, why do you need to duplicate it in your to-do list? All you need is a folder in your email app, called something like “Action This Day”. Any email that requires action can be placed in there and if you dedicate a given amount of time each day for dealing with your actionable emails, you can simply go to that folder and work from there.  Now, I know there can be an issue with emails that contain a bigger task. For instance if your boss emails you and asks you to prepare a report for this month’s board meeting. That’s not going to be a five minute task. However, rather than sending the email to your to-do list, add the task itself and archive the original email. You can then make a decision about when you will write the report. Once the report is finished, you can retrieve the original email from your achieve (it’s simple to do with search) and send the report.  Now, I know I may have made this sound easy, the trouble is it’s not. To reduce your to-do list requires a change in approach. If you’ve been told to capture everything, it will seem counterintuitive to not do so.  I advise to look at all your tools. For instance, if you need around an hour a day to respond to your email and messages, then schedule that hour in your calendar. There’s no point in saying you cannot find an hour for emails and messages, when you still need an hour. That’s fighting against time itself, you will never win that battle. To give you an example, generally, I set aside 4:30 to 5:30pm each day for responding to messages and emails. For the most part I can be consistent, but occasionally, I have to move the time around. That’s fine. The objective is to do it, not necessarily do at 4:30pm.  Exercise can also be put on your calendar. I’ve found if you put exercise on a to-do list, you will find an excuse not to do it. On your calendar, and it’s unlikely you will find an excuse.  Project notes are a great place to put your dependent tasks. A dependent task is a task that cannot be done until something else has been done. For example, you cannot complete a sales report until all the sales data has been collected. Or you cannot redecorate the bathroom until you have bought the paint.  Another tip I would give is to keep your grocery list separate from your task list. For example, I use Todoist as my to-do list, but my grocery list is in Apple Reminders. I wear an Apple Watch and to add an item to the list is as simple as raising my wrist and asking Siri to add something to the list. You can also keep a shopping list in your notes app if you prefer.  If you are struggling with your to-do list, remember the only list that matters today is your today list. Nothing else is important. If you are planning the week and giving yourself ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the day to review your tasks for tomorrow you can make sure you have not over-committed yourself before the day starts. You should not be working from your folders. That’s a sign you have not planned the week. Weekly planning gives you time away from the noise to calming decide what needs to be done next week. That will go a long way towards reducing your daily list.  I hope that helps, Michelle. That you for your question. And thank you to you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
6/5/202313 minutes, 1 second
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Why Use Three Tools When One Could Do It All?

This week, how do your task manager, calendar and notes fit together in a time management and productivity system? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 277 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 277 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. A frequently asked question is how does everything fit together? By that what is meant, is having three separate productivity tools too much for something as simple as being guided toward what needs to happen next? On the surface it might well look like that. After all, why use three tools when one tool could do it all. Your calendar, could easily manage your appointments and tasks and quite a few task managers have tried this by integrating with the mainstream calendar apps.  However, what is missed is the ability to compartmentalise. To be able to quickly see the big picture of your day and then to drill down deeper to the micro level and make decisions about what you can or should be doing with your time at that moment.  So, that is what we will be looking at today and to get us started, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Andy. Andy asks, Hi Carl, I’m struggling to understand why I need to use a to-do list and a calendar. Everyone seems to talk about this but why not keep everything you need to do on your calendar and dispense with using a task manager?  Hi Andy, thank you for your question.  The truth is you do not need a task manager at all. When I began my time management journey, I used an A4 desk diary that showed a week over two pages. When open on my desk, that diary showed me the whole week at a glance.  At the bottom of each day, there was sufficient room to add a few tasks and that is exactly how I used it. Appointments in their allotted time and to-dos written out at the bottom of each day. It worked brilliantly for over fifteen years.  However, with that said, digital tools have made somethings a lot easier. For instance the digital to-do list allows us to create recurring tasks—tasks we would frequently forget to do. This way we can off load a lot from our brains into a digital system without feeling anxious about whether we will remember to do something or not.  However, why do we need three productivity apps when in theory one could do everything for us?  The biggest problem with having everything contained within one app is the overwhelm it will produce. Seeing everything on one page (and I mean everything) will prevent you from quickly seeing what is important and what is not. Generally, in the hierarchy of tools the calendar gives you the overview of your day. It tells you where you need to be at a given time. For example, if you need to collect your kids up from school at 4pm, that would be on your calendar. Similarly, if you have a meeting with an important customer at 1pm, you need to know about that and you need to see it in the context of your whole day.  With tasks, you likely have ten to twenty tasks to perform each day. These will include big important tasks, such as preparing for an important meeting with your boss, to smaller, less important tasks such as refuelling your car before an early morning start the next day. Preparing for the meeting and refuelling your car can be done at anytime in the day and in terms of priority, will be less important than being outside your kids’ school gates at the correct time. (I hope) If you were looking at a list of all your appointments and tasks for the day, it’s going to look overwhelming—even on the easiest of days. You will have important and not important tasks all mixed up together and being able to quickly distinguish what you should be doing will be challenging.  Instead you can look at your calendar as showing you the big picture of your day. It tells you where you need to be with who and when. It’s a quick reference tool in that you can glance at your calendar and see instantly where you should be next and when. It’s not overwhelming because it only shows you your events and blocks of time where you can do the smaller tasks.  Your task manager is the micro-level of your day. It shows you, at a micro-level, what needs to be done. For instance, today, I have a task reminding me to call into my dog’s vet to pick up some anti-tic tablets (it the tic season here in Korea). This task can be done at anytime as the vet’s clinic is a twenty-minute walk from my home. I’m not going to schedule that as I can do it anytime up to 6pm and I know I will need a break at some point in the day and I can do it then.  My task manager also shows me all the little routines I should do today. From clearing my actionable email and updating my business tracking spreadsheets to scheduling my social media. I do these everyday throughout the day and it’s helpful to see what I have and have not done when it comes to closing down my day.  Your notes is something different. This is a tool that has always been used, whether keeping these in notebooks or on bits of paper, we’ve always kept notes and they have been separated from our productivity tools. As far back as Leonardo Di Vinci or Isaac Newton, notebooks have always been where we kept thoughts and ideas.  In our productivity toolbox, notes are the support for your projects and ideas. You only need these when working on a particular piece of work. The great thing about digital notes is they are searchable and that is where they have a huge advantage over paper notes. It means less time filing and searching.  The key to having all these tools working effectively is in how you use them. I recently looked at replicating my old paper-based desk diary system in my digital calendar and it works exceptionally well—which really shouldn’t have surprised me as it’s simple. The only issue I had was not being able to cross completed tasks out. It was either the task stayed at the top of my calendar or they disappeared, which meant I did not have a record of what had been completed. However, in theory the system would work.  However, the issue of overwhelm raised its head again. Seeing all my appointments and tasks in one view is just not a pleasant experience. It dilutes your attention and will cause you to cherry pick easy tasks just to clear some space. That’s not the more effective way to do your work.  Instead, what I have found works best, is to use tags (or labels) to correspond with my focus work time blocks. Let me give you an example of how this works. On a Monday I have a two hour block on my calendar for writing between 9:30 and 11:30am. In my task manager, I have a label for writing. When I plan my day, all I need do look at my writing tasks for that day and decide which one I will do.  I am not being distracted by emails I may need to respond to—I will do that in my communications hour later in the day—or if I need to do any project work. My calendar tells me I am writing for two hours between 9:30 and 11:30 and as long as I respect my calendar—and after all, I was the one who decided I would be writing at that time—then I know each day I will be working on the right things and not being pulled off onto less important, but perhaps louder tasks.  And that’s an important point. Your calendar is your creation—or at least should be. When you get a calendar invite, you don’t have to accept it. You have a choice: accept, decline or maybe. If the invite clashes with a focus block time, you need to have the courage to stand your ground and request an alternative time. A quick tip here, when suggesting an alternative time, always offer two times. You increase the chances the other person will accept your offer of another time with that technique.  Now if your calendar is “compulsory”—at least once you have finalised your calendar for the day it should be, your task manager is discretionary. Never get upset if you do not complete all you tasks for the day, but hold a full blown investigation if you ignore your calendar.  The reality is, there are too many unknowns that could happen in the day—particularly if you are working with other people—you may begin the day expecting a meeting with an important client, only to find they had to cancel and ask for another day and time. Suddenly the meeting you were going to have this afternoon in another part of the city is cancelled. Now you have three hours, you didn’t expect. What are you going to do? That’s where being able to open up your task manager and bring a few tasks forward is helpful.  It’s quick, and you can quickly rearrange the appointment knowing the important things you had planned for that week will not be interrupted if you have to rearrange a meeting.  Now, I should point out, none of this will work if you are not doing any weekly planning. If you’re not planning you will always be working on the latest and loudest. You will never look at the big picture, and you will always feel overwhelmed. The weekly planning sessions are all about giving you some breathing room to look ahead, see what’s heading towards you and making decisions about what you should be working on.  Not everything is important and a lot of what we think we should be doing will, given time, sort themselves out. But, you will never know what those are without doing a plan for the week.  So, there you go, Andy. I hope that has helped. Thank you for your question and than you to you too for listening. It just remain s for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/29/202312 minutes, 46 seconds
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How To Establish What Your Core Work Is? (Leadership Edition)

This week, we’re looking at how to define your core work and how that translates into what you do each day.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 276 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 276 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. In the Time Sector Course, I introduce the concept of “core work”. The work you are employed to do or perhaps another way to look at it, the things you are responsible for at work. It’s your core work that you will be evaluated on by your employer, and if you are self-employed it is the work that generates your income.  If you were never to define what this part of your work is, you would find yourself caught up in trivialities masquerading as important work. Those petty disagreements between colleagues, most emails and messages and water cooler gossip.  However, defining what your core work is one part of the process. There is another, more important part to understanding your core work, which is what this week’s question is all about. This question also came up in a recent workshop I did. Defining your core work is quite different from knowing how that definition operates at a task level. Today, I hope to illuminate this important step for you. So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Linda. Linda asks, Hi Carl, I am a Senior Vice President for a small pharmaceutical company. I took your Time Sector Course and have got stuck with my core work. I think I know what that is, but I don’t know how that works day to day. Could you help me with this? Hi Linda, Thank you for your question.  Let’s start with why it’s important to identify your core work. Most of our time management and productivity issues evolve from having too much to do and not enough time to do it. This creates backlogs and that leads to you feeling overwhelmed and anxious about how much to feel you have to do.  Yet, there are different types of tasks we need to do. There are the absolute, the discretionary, and the time wasters. If we do not identify what our absolutes are we end up spending too much time on the discretionary and time wasting tasks.  Spending some time identifying your absolute must do tasks means you can then allocate sufficient time to get these done each week. However, in order to identify what these tasks are, we need to know what we are specifically employed to do.  For example, if you are a salesperson, you primary roll is to sell your company’s products or services. This means your core work is any activity that will potentially lead to a sale. This could be calling prospects, meeting with existing customers and asking for referrals.  Once you know this, you can define what these activities mean at a task level. Calling prospects, for instance, could mean you dedicate one hour each morning to call potential customers and try to arrange appointments. You could also, set aside a hour on a Friday afternoon to contact your existing customers to make appointments to meet with them the following week.  A salesperson core work is not filling out activity reports for their sales manager or sitting in sales meetings. None of these activities risk leading to a sale. However, these might be important, to your sales manager, and you will need time to do them, but they should not take priority over your sales related tasks.  It’s as Brian Tracy and Jim Rohn preached—majors and minors. Major time is being in front of your customer. Minor time is sitting in an office chatting with your colleagues.  Now for you Linda, your roll is a leadership roll. Your core work is likely to be centred around supporting your team so they can do their jobs with as little interruption as possible. Your roll is not to micro-manage your team, your roll is to clear obstacles so they can get on and do their jobs. This will inevitably involve meetings with your team—although not too many so as not to interrupt their work. I’m reminded of how Red Bull Racing’s Team Principle, Christian Horner, organises his work. Christina Horner is not only the Team Principle, he’s also the CEO of the company. In a recent video Red Bull put out we were given an insight into how he divides his time. During a race weekend, he is the Team Principle and will be track-side with the rest of his team. He’s dealing with media responsibilities, leading team briefings and managing race strategy.  When he returns to the team’s base on a Monday or Tuesday, he’s the CEO. His role and core work has changed. Here he will have meetings with his key people to make sure everything is running as it should be and if it isn’t he will discuss strategies to get things moving in the right direction. Christian Horner’s role as the CEO is to keep a focus on the company’s goals and to be guide his team towards achieving their goals.  Christian Horner’s core work as a CEO is to listen to his team, ask question and help to remove blocks to successfully completing projects and goals. His tasks will come from these meetings. He may need to discuss with the board to increase funding for different areas, or he may need to call a key supplier to speed up the delivery of a key component. His core work is to assist his team in solving problems so they can achieve their goals and targets.  A leader’s core work is generally two-fold. To support their team and to report to the board of directors. To support their team, that will involve talking with the key people. So arranging regular meetings with these people is a task. Similarly, serving the board is a core work task. What does the board want? Quite often, information for the board is consistent. Reports, for instance may need to be sent to the board each month. Collecting the information and delivering these reports will be core work tasks. When and how will you do that?  Now an issue I frequently come across is a person identifying their core work, but then not distilling that down to a task level. For instance, I create content. I consider that to be a part of my core work. Yet, just saying I create content is not enough. What does that look like at a task level? For me, that means writing a blog post, two newsletters, recording this podcast and filming two YouTube videos each week. The tasks here are writing, recording and filming. Now I know that, the only question remaining is when will I do that each week.  Now I’ve been creating this content for a long time, I know how long each piece takes, so all I need do now is block time out on my calendar for creating content and make sure the tasks are in my task manager.  So, to give you an example of how this looks, I have two hours blocked out Monday and Tuesday morning for writing. That is sufficient time to get my writing commitments completed. I have three hours blocked out on Friday morning for recording and filming. That takes care of my podcast and YouTube videos.  Core work is non-negotiable, it must be done. This is why once you know how long you need (and you will soon learn how long your core work will take) you make sure you have sufficient time blocked out on your calendar each week for doing it. If I include all the writing, recording and editing, I need around twelve hours each week to do my core work. When you distil your work down to its core level, you will find to complete it requires considerably less time than you think. You soon realise you have plenty of time left over for meetings and other work. By blocking out time each week for your core work, you know before the week begins you always have sufficient time for this important work.  Architects and designers need time to do their creative work and discuss projects with clients. Architects may also need to discuss materials with suppliers. However, the core work—the work that ultimately pays their income—will be the design work. If they have not set aside enough time for doing that work, everything else will be irrelevant.  If we look an example of a hotel general manager, their core work is to ensure the hotel is profitable, and the highest standards are maintained. Describing core work like that is not helpful at a task level. What does ensuring the hotel is profitable look like at a task level? That could be to regularly meet with the hotel’s sales and marketing team to discuss strategy. What about maintaining the hotel’s standards? That would involve walking around the hotel each day inspecting rooms, food service and cleanliness.  I once worked with a general manager who did this every morning before his management meeting. If he spotted anything below standard he would discuss this with the relevant departmental manager in the management meeting. This was not done as a telling off session. It was about highlighting issues with the relevant manager. This method ensured the management team were all focused on the same thing. No manager wanted to be called out in the meeting.  This particular manager went on to have a highly successful career rising to becoming Operations Director of the hotel group.  While leadership roles are different from managerial roles in many ways, the key with leadership is to empower and trust your team will do their jobs to the best of their abilities. As a leader, your job is serve your team and help them do that. It’s not to get in their way or do their jobs for them—if you need to do that, why are you employing them in the first place. I always think of leadership core work as communicating with their team and guiding them to successfully completing their projects. Meetings helps, but can often get in the way of doing the work. Perhaps you could learn from my former general manager and make it a core work principle to do a walk round of your department each morning virtually or in person.  So there you go, Linda. I hope that has helped. It’s likely you have identified the abstract part of your ore work. All you need do is answer the question; what does that look like at a task level?  Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/22/202313 minutes, 54 seconds
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How To Set Some Rules To Make Your Life A Lot Easier

In this week’s podcast, I answer a question about setting some rules of engagement for yourself. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 275 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 275 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Have you ever stopped to establish some rules by which you do your work and live your life? If not, you could be missing out on something very powerful that helps you to automate what you do and reduce a lot of decision making.  A lot of the issues around productivity and better managing our time comes around because everything we do is treated as unique or new. Yet, a lot of what we do each day is not unique. In fact, we are likely repeating the same steps each day, but because we have not established a routine or process for doing these tasks, they feel cumbersome and that leaves us finding excuses for not doing them.  That then kicks off a cycle of pain. Take email for example, we let it pile up until eventually we are forced to do something about it, and then we waste a whole day (or in some cases a week) just trying to get on top of it and deal with the backlog. That’s not a very productive way of managing your email.  This week’s question is all about how and where to establish some rules of engagement with your work.  So, before we get to the answer, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice, for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Matty. Matty asks, Hi Carl, do you have any suggestions for simplifying tasks and work? I find as soon as the week starts, any plans I may have soon so complicated I never know where I should be starting.  Thank you, Matty for your question.  Interesting you use the words “simplifying tasks and work”, that’s what it’s all about. If we can find a way to simplify the work we do, we become faster at it and it requires a lot less thought—and that’s always a good good thing.  So what can we do to make doing our work easier and more automated?  Let’s begin with email and other messages we receive at work. This is an area that screams out for a process and some rules. Email is coming at us all the time. It never seems to stop. For many of you, you likely get emails through the night as well. If we were to let it pile up it would become a tedious task trying to find the important mails and messages. So, a process here would help you to automate it.  I’ve talked before about setting up an Action this Day folder in your mail for any email that requires some action from you. That could be replying or reading. If you need to take any kind of action, drop it in your action this day folder.  Now the process you follow is at some point in the morning you clear your inbox. And that is clear it, not scan it. Delete emails you don’t need and archive emails you think you may need in the future. Anything you need to act on goes into your action this day folder. Then at some point towards the end of the day, you set aside an hour for clearing your action this day folder.  Now here’s the thing, email is still an important part of our work communication. I know a lot of companies are using internal messaging systems such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, and because of that you want to include any responses to these messages in this time you have set aside. There may be some messages that need responding to more urgently, and you will likely need to deal with these sooner, but for the most part try to push off responding until your dedicated communication time.  If you were to skip your communication time one day, you will find yourself having to double the time you set aside the next day. This is why, it needs to become a rule. No matter what, you will dedicate one hour of your work day for dealing with your communications. If your work involves a lot of email and message interaction, you may need to extend this time, but try it out with one hour first and see how you get on.  Now when it comes to setting rules for communicating here’s something that will help your reputation at work. Set some rules for your response time. Now, it’s important not to be overly ambitious. If you regularly have client meetings that take two or three hours, telling everyone you will reply to your messages within an hour is unrealistic. Here’s my set of communication rules: For email I will respond within twenty-four hours. Now if anyone it trying to engage me to use email as a form of instant messaging I will deliberately slow them down, no matter how important they are. Email should never be used for anything urgent. If your neighbour’s house was on fire you would never email them. You’d call them. There is a hierarchy of urgency. If something’s urgent, make a phone call. If it needs doing today, use instant messaging. Everything else can go by email.  For instant messages, my rule is within four hours and phone calls, I will try to answer immediately, but if I need to get back to someone it will be within an hour.  Whatever rules you apply, tell everyone. You can add your rules as an email signature to reinforce this. Once you’ve set your rules, the first step if for you to begin living them. You’re not likely to be perfect straight away, but just because you missed something, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Stick with it. You’ll become comfortable with it and as long as you are dealing with your actionable mail each day, you won’t have backlogs building up and that will be one area of your work you now have under control.  Now where else can you apply rules? How about doing focused work in a morning? This is when your brain is at its freshest—after a night’s sleep (even if it wasn’t a good night’s sleep). Take advantage of that and try to block one or two hours a couple of days each week where you will not be available for other people. You will need to be smart about this. Look through your calendar and see where the peak time for your meetings are. If most of your meetings happen in the middle part of your work day, you can make sure your blocked out focus times, are at either side of those peak times.  You know your schedule, so find some blocks of time where you can get some quiet focus time. You do not need to do this every day, although you can try to get there over time.  As an example, I block Monday and Tuesday morning for writing. It blocked out on my calendar and even my wife knows I am busy at those times. Thursdays and Sundays I keep free for meetings and Wednesday is blocked for family commitments—I don’t have weekends off. This is fixed and now it just feels automatic. All I need to know is what day it is. If it’s Monday, I know I’ll be writing. No thinking, no negotiating. It’s Monday. I write.  If you were in sales, you could block 9:00 to 9:30am for calling customers and prospects to set up appointments. If you were to do this every day, that would be two-and-a-half hours a week. If you were to call five people on average each time, that would be twenty-five people. That’s likely to convert into plenty of appointments. And I know from my own experience in sales, appointments lead to sales and sales lead to better bonuses. You’re doing something simple every day that will have an impact on your income. And all you have done is set a rule.  Now, if your calendar doesn’t have a lot of structure, you could just set the daily rule that would call five people each day to set up appointments. When you do this, you get five calls each day to improve your sales calls skills. When you first begin doing this, you may not convert many calls. But over time, you will refine your skills and you will see significant improvement. You can also measure this by calculating your conversion ratio. How many appointments you get from the calls you make. Other areas where you can set rules is with planning sessions. Make it a rule where you cannot finish your work until you have spent ten minutes planning what your must-do tasks for tomorrow will be. Writing these out or saying saying these out loud has been scientifically proven to increase your chances of carrying out the tasks. It’s called “implementation intention”—where you plan out what you will do and when.  You can also use implementation intention for your personal life. Let’s say you’ve neglected to do exercise for a while. You could, as part of your daily planning, say to yourself, “tomorrow I will go for a thirty minute walk immediately after eating lunch”. You can then add that to your calendar, so the time is protected and watch what happens.  Setting standards for yourself is also a way to implement some rules into your life. I was always fascinated when a new coffee shop opened up near where I live. I would watch to see their standards. Usually for the first few weeks or months, you will see the owners wiping down the windows and tables outside every day. The Coffee shops that ultimately failed were the ones where the owners (or employees) stopped doing these little tasks after a few weeks.  If you were lucky enough to be invited to Rolls Royce Motor Cars head office in Goodwood, UK, you could measure the grass outside reception every day and it would be the same length. That’s because Rolls Royce employs a front of house manager, whose job is to measure the length of not only the grass, but also the trees outside over hanging branches. That’s all about ensuring the highest possible standards.  What are your standards?  So there you go, Matty. Simplifying your system is really all about setting yourself some rules and ensuring that each day you live by your own standards. It’s repeating these tasks day in day out that will mean you will have les thinking to do and your work will just run that little smoother.  Than you for your question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/15/202313 minutes
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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Calendar.

This week’s episode is all about getting on top of your calendar so you remain in control of your most valuable asset.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 274 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 274 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Of all the productivity tools you have, your calendar is the one tool that will bring you the biggest benefits. It does this by only telling you the truth.  While your task manager and notes are likely to be feature rich and new innovative ways to manipulate your tasks and notes are being launched every week, the humble calendar has remained much the same for hundreds of years. Today, we may be using digital calendars, but the layout and functionality of these digital calendars work the same way as a paper-based calendar.  And your calendar is a true leveller. No matter who you are, where you live, your educational background or job title, you still get the same number of hours as everyone else.  Theoretically, each day gives you a blank canvas to choose how you will paint it, and your calendar acts very much like your sketchbook. It’s a place where you can design your day, experiment and plan.  Your calendar can take care of the basics by reminding you of upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. It can also be used to remind you of bill payment dates, concerts you may wish to go to and your kids’ school terms and holidays. But those are the basics. What else can your calendar do for you? Well, that is the topic of this week’s episode.  So, with that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Rob. Rob asks, Hi Carl, I’ve heard you talk about the calendar being the most important part of a time management system, but I’ve always struggled to organise my calendar well. Do you have any tips or tricks to help me get more out of my calendar?  Hi Rob, thank you for your question.  Your calendar should be the foundation of your whole time management and productivity system. It is only your calendar, yet, of all the potential tools you may use, it is the only one that shows you how much time you have.  You can fill up a task manager with hundreds of tasks and if you date them for the same day, your task manager will assume that on that day you want to complete hundreds of tasks. It’s not going to warn you that you don’t have enough time or there are important meetings to attend. It just shows you what you tell it to show you. It has no way to inform you that you are being over-ambitious about what you want to get done on any given day.  Your notes is where you store information you may want or need later. It does not have any time management functionality within your system.  The only tool you have that will indicate how much time you have is your calendar. It never lies to you. You get twenty-four hours each day and you get to choose where you spend those hours.  And that’s the power and beauty of the calendar. Because it gives you a blank canvas, you can use it to design your day. Which means, if you delegate responsibility for your calendar management to other people, you are giving away responsibility of your most valuable asset. Time.  So, with that said, how do we take control of our calendar and use it to design our day and week?  When I am working with an individual who has no productivity system in place, the first area I encourage them to work on is their calendar. What we aim to do is to get the basics in first.  Now, I recommend that you first do an exercise and create a new calendar with your calendar app. I like to call this my “Perfect Day” or Perfect Week” calendar. It is here where you can create a week that covers everything you want time for. Try to do this on a larger screen than your phone—your computer or tablet—because you want to be able t clearly see the whole week in one view. Now, begin with how much sleep you would you like to get? This is not about how much sleep you are currently getting, rather, ho much sleep you want to get. Remember, this is your “perfect week”, so what would be the “perfect” amount of sleep for you. Why would you start with sleep? Well, ask yourself, how do you feel when you don’t get enough sleep? How effective are you through the day? On day’s when you have not got enough sleep, how productive were you?  If you want to be at your most effective each day, you need the right amount of sleep. That could be six, seven or eight hours. Whatever number of hours you need block your sleep time out on your “perfect week” calendar.  The reason for beginning with your sleep is once you have your sleep schedule in your calendar, you now know how much time you have available for everything else.  Next, what would you like time for in your personal life? Why start with your personal life? Well, this is the area of our lives we often neglect at the expense of our work. Yet, if you want to live an active, balanced life, we need to proactively create that life for ourselves. Nobody else will do it for us.  So, if you want time to go to the gym three time a week, then schedule that on your calendar. This is reminiscent of when I was a teenager and doing track and field. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening was training nights, and I would never let anything get in the way of that. The only way to ensure that happened was to block out those days.  What about your hobbies? How much time would you like to spend on your pastimes and, more importantly, when would you like to do it? Again, schedule out time each week for these activities.  Then there are your family responsibilities. Things like taking your kids to and from school and walking your dog. Our dog, for example, likes an hour’s walk each day. This should be blocked out too.  Only when you have everything you would like time for each week on your calendar on a personal level, do you switch your attention to your work.  For your work calendar, the place to start is with your fixed appointments. I know a lot of companies have weekly team meetings. If these are fixed, get them in your calendar. I would also suggest, if you get a break for lunch, you get that on your calendar too.  What we are looking for is to see where the gaps are once all the fixed work commitments are in your calendar. It is these gaps that will inform you where you have time to do your important, core work—the work you are employed to do.  Let’s imagine one of your core work responsibilities is to produce a sales report for your CEO each week. This report’s deadline is every Friday at 12pm. If your CEO requires the sales figures for Thursday, this leaves you will two options. You will either do it after business hours on a Thursday evening—probably not the best option as you will be preparing the report after you finish work. Or Friday morning.  If you know you need forty-five minutes to collate the data and get it into the correct format, then you would block an hour for this work on a Friday morning. Ideally, you would fix this in your calendar, so there was no risk someone else can come along and “steal” that time away from you.  This exercise is about designing your “perfect” week. A week where you have time for everything you would like to do. It will be unlikely you will be able to immediately start living this perfect week, although some of you may be lucky enough to be able to do that, for most of us, it will become an aspiration.  If when you have finished and you look at the calendar and feel, yes, this is the kind of week that would leave me feeling accomplished and fulfilled, the next step is to begin the process of merging your real calendar with this “perfect week” calendar.  Because you have already set this up as a separate calendar, you can periodically turn it on and off and compare it with your real calendar.  A tip I can share with you here, Rob, is pick one part of your perfect week calendar and focus on bringing your real life into alignment with that. For example, if, on your perfect week, you have your going to bed time at 11pm and wake up time at 6:30am, yet at the moment, you are going to bed after midnight and struggling to get out of bed at 7:00am, this would be a good place to start.  In my experience, readjusting your sleep schedule takes around two weeks. So, you can begin by committing to going to bed at 11pm every night for the next fourteen days.  I have also found you can build a work item into your real week as well. If you have a block of time on your perfect week calendar for focused work each Tuesday and Wednesday morning, try aligning that with your real week. Again, make sure you block it out on your calendar and see how you go.  Much of this will be a trial and error. However, if you work at it, over time you will find you are beginning to adjust things in your life so you have the time do the things you want to do. A lot of the stress associated with work comes from a feeling we don’t have enough time to do all the things other people are demanding of us. It’s not just our work commitments, but commitments to our family, friends and partners. It can also be voluntary commitments we have made in the past that perhaps are not bringing us the sense of accomplishment we thought they would.  It maybe you will need to make some difficult decisions and have awkward conversations about the demands others are making on your time. While these will be uncomfortable in the moment, the sense of release you will get when you do it will be huge and the benefits to you, your mental wellbeing and ultimately your accomplishments in life will make those brief moments of discomfort worth it.  To finish, here are some quick fire tips to help you with your calendar management. Try at all possible to have one master calendar where both your personal and work commitments can be seen together. If you work in a company that restricts access to your work calendar, you can copy your appointments over, although you won’t need to copy over your focus time blocks.  When planning your week, begin with your calendar. That will show you how committed you are before you start deciding what tasks you will do. This way, you will be able to better see where you can add more or less tasks. If you have a day of meetings, you can reduce the number of tasks you do, when you have days with fewer meetings you decide to add more tasks.  Don’t allow yourself feel wedded to your calendar commitments. If you feel tired, sick or just want to have an easy day, move your commitments around if you can. Your calendar is there to serve you, not the other way round. The only thing I would advise against is ignoring your calendar completely. Your calendar is there to guide you, but if you start to ignore it, its usefulness will disappear.  So there you go, Rob. I hope that has helped and given you some motivation to begin using your calendar.  Thank you for your question and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
5/8/202314 minutes, 10 seconds
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Managing Email and All The Other Forms of Communication.

This week’s question is all about managing your communications and ensuring you have enough time to deal with it every day.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 273 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 273 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Last week, I talked about how by turning everything into a project was a sure fire way to become overwhelmed and overstretched. Instead, I suggested you look for the processes for doing your work.  If you write articles, create marketing campaigns, deal with clients on a frequent basis, then these are not projects. They are just a part of a process for doing your work.  However, there are some parts of our work that are difficult to develop processes for and one of those is handling all the communications you get each day.  Prior to 2000—before the current digital age, most communications largely came from mail, telephone or fax. That meant things were relatively easy to manage—there were only three channels of communication and each one gave us a logical timeline for a response. A letter could be responded to within a week or two, a telephone call was instant—if we were near a phone—and a fax could be sat on for a couple of days. There was not sense we had to respond immediately. Today, thing are quite different. Almost all the messages we receive today could be responded to immediately.  I remember reading the book: The Man With The Golden Typewriter, a book of letters written by Ian Fleming, and awed by the number of letters beginning with the words: “Please accept my apologies for the delay in my reply. I have just returned from an eight week sabbatical in Jamaica”.  That’s two months to reply and nobody would have been angry. It was just the way life was back then. Not necessarily slower, just there were conventions in place and acceptable reasons for not responding in a timely manner.  Back to today, how do we manage our communications so they do not become overwhelming and out of control. Well, before we get to that answer, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Annie. Annie asks: Hi Carl, I was hoping you have some advice for organising all the messages and emails I get each day. My company uses Microsoft Teams and it’s always alerting me to new messages. And Emails are a joke. It takes me all afternoon just to stay on top of these. Do you have any ideas for handling these? Hi Annie, thank you for sending in your question.  It’s a timely question too as I covered communications last week in my productivity workshop and there were a lot of questions about getting on top of these.  Let’s deal with email first as this is the easiest to manage. With email we can create a simple process that if followed each day, will get you on top of it and keep you on top of it.  There are two parts to managing email: processing and doing. The key is not to mix the two. Processing is about clearing your inbox as fast as you can. This means when you open your inbox, the goal is to get to zero. This means you do not want to be stopping to reply to those emails you think will take two minutes or less (they rarely take two minutes—more like five or six minutes)  Any actionable email get sent to an Action This Day folder and everything else is either deleted or archived. Now that’s a quick summary, but the essence is get that inbox cleared.  The second part of the email management process is to “do email”. This means as late in the day as you feel comfortable with, you go into your actionable email and begin with the oldest one and work your way through the list. Now, you may not be able to clear them all each day, but as long as you begin with the oldest one, you will not have emails hanging around.  The key to this method or process is to decide how much time you need on average to clear your action this day folder.  To give you a benchmark, I need around forty to forty-five minutes each day to stay on top of my actionable email. What I do is schedule an hour each day for dealing with my communications. I have this scheduled and blocked off in my calendar for between 4:30 and 5:30pm each day.  If you want to learn more about this process, I have a free download available on my website under the downloads section where you can get the workflow in its entirety. If you want to go deeper with this, I also have a comprehensive course called “Email Mastery” which will show you how to set everything up and turn you into a master of email.  The key this is consistency. If you do this sporadically, it will not work.  The way I look at it is if I skip a day, that means I now need two hours the next day to get on top of email. I don’t have two hours spare in the middle of the week to deal with email—there’s a lot more important things to do.  So, that one hour a day is non-negotiable. It gets done.  Last week in my Productivity workshop, one of the participants asked me how to handle email when it takes more than two hours just to reply to a single email? Here’s a unique problem—most email does not take more than two hours to respond. However, if you do get an email that requires two hours or more work, that becomes a task in your task manager.  The question is: where will you find the two hours to work on that email response? If you leave an email like that in your Action This Day folder, it will list there for a long time and no work will get done on it. It needs pulling out and putting into your task manager and you can then decide when you will work on it.  Now, what about all those messages?  Here’s the thing about messages. You don’t have to respond immediately. Let me repeat that: You do not need to respond immediately.  Now let that sink in for a minute.  Let’s look at this logically, if you were working on something important that required all your concentration, why would you allow a message to interrupt your chain of thought?  A doctor performing open heart surgery is not going to stop in the middle of the operation to read and respond to a text message. A pilot in the process of taking off or landing their plane is not going to look at her messages. And a lawyer defending you in court is not going to allow themselves to be distracted by messages coming in. How would you feel if they were always pausing their arguments to read and reply to their messages? I’m sure you’d be wanting to fire your lawyer.  So why do you allow it to happen to you?  To me, this is about professional standards. But then I get annoyed when I stand in line at the bank for ten minutes only to get to the counter and the bank clerk answers his phone while I am talking to him. Ooh that really annoys me. The most annoying thing is that phone call likely came from his boss. Why is his boss more important than a customer?  For the less urgent messages, you can deal with these as part of your communication hour, however, if they are urgent don’t feel obligated to respond immediately. Finish what you are doing before replying.  There’s a reason for this. You want to be slowing down the response time. You see, if you set an expectation with your boss, clients or customers and colleagues that you respond immediately, then you’ve just caused yourself a lot of problems later down the line.  The goal is to slow things down. A good tip here is to add your response times to your email signature. For example: Email: 24 hours Messages: within 6 hours Telephone call: within 2 hours.  This way you are telling people that you know the importance of your work. And constantly being distracted by messages is going to destroy your effectiveness at doing the work you are employed to do.  Look at it this way, nobody gets promoted because they answer their messages immediately. They get promoted for the quality of their work. People remember you for the work you produce. Always remember that.  Now, I understand this can be a bit scary when you first begin to do it—particularly if you have a boss that expects instant responses—but you can do this gradually. Perhaps for one week, leave each message for fifteen minutes before responding. Then the following week, extend that to thirty minutes.  Keep doing that until you get someone complaining. This way you will find the balance.  You phone and computer have a do not disturb function. You can turn this on when you need to focus. There’s a reason why so many productivity and time management specialists harp on about this. It works. And you do not need to turn this on all day. You turn it on when you need some distraction free time to do your work—the work you are employed to do.  I find, I can respond to instant messages in between sessions of work. As I am writing this script, I will likely have received four or five emails and a few messages. I don’t know exactly because I haven’t looked.  However, it takes me around ninety minutes to write this script, so nobody will be waiting long for my response. When I finish the script, I will stand up and use my phone to check messages and email. I can do that while walking around and then make a decision about which ones I will respond to.  Finally, reduce your communication channels. If you have every social media messaging service, Teams and Slack as well as several email accounts, is it any wonder you are inundated with messages? Reduce these channels. The great thing about reducing your communications channels is you reduce the number of time wasters. You force people to communicate with you on your terms. For instance, my wife and mother know the best way to get in touch with me is through iMessage. I only give that out to family and very close friends.  Everyone else I advise to contact me though email because I have a process for handling email and it means I can work on my timeline.  There have been occasions where I was asked to use WhatsApp or Telegram for a particular event I was speaking at. I will install the app for the duration of the event, and as soon as it’s over, I delete the app.  If someone really wants to get in touch with you, they will. They will find a way.  So there you go, Annie. I hope that has helped. Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
4/30/202313 minutes, 29 seconds
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Do You Really Need All Those Projects?

This week we’re exploring the need for projects and why the way a project has been defined is causing most of your task management problems.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 272 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 272 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. How many projects do you have? 50? 75? More than a hundred? Well, if you are defining a project as “anything you want to do that requires more than one action step”, as many people do, you are going to have a lot of projects. And all those projects need looking at to decide what needs to happen next.  When I was researching the reasons why so many people resist doing a weekly planning session, one thing I kept coming up against was the large number of “projects” people told me they had to review, which made doing a weekly review or planning session too long.  I began to realise that if our resistance was down to the sheer number of projects we had to review each week, that was something fixable because we have control over the number of projects we have. More interestingly, we also have control over how we define what a project is.  If we change the way we define a project to something that fits better with the work we do, we can reduce the number of projects we have and that in turn will reduce the time it takes to complete a planning session.  So, before we dive a little deeper into this, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Christian. Christian asks: Hi Carl, I’ve always struggled with managing my projects. When I look at my task Manager, I have over 80 projects. These take a very long time to go through each week and I hate doing it. (Which is why I don’t do a weekly planning session) My question is; is it normal to have so many projects? Hi Christian, thank you for your question. I’ve found those who have read and tried to implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done, do tend to have a lot of projects. This is a consequence of how David Allen defines a project. That being anything that requires two or more steps.  This means, in theory, making an appointment to see your dentist, take your car in for a service or arranging your annual medical check up will all be projects. Yet, if you stop and think about this, if you dedicated thirty minutes on a given day, you could easily make all these arrangements. They certainly don’t need to be projects.  Over my working life, I’ve worked in a number of different industries. From hotel management, to car sales, law and teaching. When I look back over these jobs, I cannot remember treating everything as a project. I came into work, and got on with the work.  For instance, when I was working in a law office, we had around 150 cases ongoing at any one time. We never treated these cases as projects. They were our work. And our work had a process. When a new case came in, we needed to collect information and there was a checklist on the inside of the case file that we checked off as the information came in. The first step, once the new case was entered into the firms computer system was to request the information we needed.  Each day, we were receiving information for many of these cases and we simply printed off the file or, if it came in my regular mail, check the information, put the documents in the case file and checked off the information that had come on the checklist.  It was a part of my core work to ensure that the cases due to be completed that month, were monitored and any reasons why a case might not complete on time, were communicated to the client. To manage this, we had a spreadsheet, which either myself or my colleague updated every Friday afternoon and sent it to our client.  I remember when I worked for a famous marketing company here in Korea, the copy writers and designers never considered individual campaigns as a project. It was just a part of their daily work. They would come into work, make coffee and then get on with the work they were currently working on. It was almost like a conveyor belt. Once the current piece of work was completed, it was handed on to the next person in the chain and they did their bit.  It seems to me, that perhaps what we are doing is confusing our core work with project work.  So, what is a project? For me a project is something unique that has a clearly defined deadline that is going to take a reasonably long time to complete. For example, moving house, would be a project. There are a lot of interconnected things here. Putting your current house on the market, finding a new home and arranging for furniture to be moved.  Moving house is not going to to happen over a weekend and will only happen if you have a plan to make it happen.  Theoretically, producing this podcast would be a project. There are multiple steps from deciding which question to answer, to writing the script, organising the Mystery Podcast voice to record the question and recording and editing the audio track. But it’s not a project. It just a part of my core work. I produce a podcast every week so I have a process for doing it. I also consider producing this podcast as part of my core work, which means I have a process for doing it.  Each week, I write the script on Tuesday, I send the question to the Mystery Podcast Voice on Thursday and record the podcast on Friday during my audio visual time block on a Friday morning.  I don’t need project folders, I don’t have anything to review. It’s just a part of my work that I do every week. The only thing I have is a list in my notes app of all the questions I have collected and on a Tuesday morning I will pick a question to answer.  So, Christian, what I would suggest is first look at the work you do and identify your core work—the work you are employed to do. What are you responsible for? What results does the company you work for expect of you? That will give you a clear set of activities to perform each week and month. Once you know what these are, you can distribute those activities throughout the week to ensure they get done.  For example, if I take working for the law firm as an example. Each morning we would receive around five to ten new cases. The first job with any new case was to get the case into the firm’s system. So, I would have a daily recurring task on my task list that says “Input new cases into the case management system”.  Every Friday, I would have a task that says: “Update case spreadsheet and send to client”. That task may mean I need two hours to collect the information, which likely means I need to block two hours out on my calendar every Friday to do the work.  If I were to treat each new case as a project, it would be overwhelming trying to keep everything up to date. But my core work was not to micromanage individual cases, it was to ensure that all cases were up to date and in the system and to report updates to the client each week. That’s not a project, that’s a process.  For many of you listening, your company will have some form of work management system. That could be a CRM system if you work in a sales related job, or it could be a central file folder where the work you do on a daily basis can be shared with your colleagues—as there was for the designers and copywriters in the marketing company.  One of my clients is a screenwriter and while he will have two to four scripts to work on at any one time, and theoretically each script could be considered a project, each day, his focus is on writing. When he does his weekly planning, he will identify the most important scripts and decide which ones to work on the following week. This will be determined by script deadlines. Then, on Monday morning, he will open his script writing software, sit down and write. His core work is to write scripts, deal with any re-writes the producer requests and meet his deadlines. The only way that will happen is if, when he begins his day he focuses his attention on writing scripts.  I’ve never heard my client talk about projects. He knows his core work. He knows what his responsibilities as a script writer are and he’s developed a process for getting his work done. All he needs to do is follow that process.  Another way to look at this would be if Toyota decided to create a new car. If, to build this new car, they have to build a factory then building a factory is a project. It’s a one off unique task with a deadline. Making the cars, that’s a process. If Toyota treated each new car as a project, it would be the most inefficient way to make a car. Instead, they follow a process. That way they can monitor productivity, costs and resources.  Last week, I answered a question about analogue v digital systems. I was lucky, I began my working life when the world of work was transitioning from a paper based one to a digital one. One of the advantages of the paper-based world was we could put the work we need to do into a physical in-tray. We would then begin at the top and work our way through the in-tray. As we completed work, we move it to an out-tray. At the end of the day we would then transfer what was in our out-tray to the filing cabinet and close out our day.  Being able to see our work in a physical form meant we could instantly see how much work we had to do. The digital world hides our work, we have emails with documents attached to them hidden inside Outlook. Presentations, spreadsheets and reports are hidden inside folders deep within our computers. We cannot see the work we need to do.  However, if you build processes for doing you work rather than creating projects, you are going to find life a lot easier. Following processes ensure you get your important work done. The work you are responsible for. Hiding everything inside self-contained projects not only risks things being missed, it also wastes time when have to go looking for things you think you may have missed.  So, Christian, rather than turning every multi-step task into a project, look for the processes. And if there are no processes for doing your work, create some. It’s how surgeons and pilots do their work every day. They follow processes. It’s how Formula 1 racing teams can move a whole team and two cars from one country to another week after week. It’s not projects, it’s about following a tried and tested process.  I hope that helps, Christian. Thank you for your question. And thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week. 
4/24/202313 minutes, 55 seconds
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Is Pen And Paper Better Than Digital?

Are the old ways still the best ways? That’s what I explore in this week’s podcast.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 271 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 271 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Have you ever wondered how people managed their work before we had computers on every desk and a smartphone in every pocket? I mean, how was it possible to manage our email when the only place we could read and respond to email was at our desks in our place of work? How did we know when we had a meeting when the only way to add a meeting to our calendar was to pull out our diaries and handwrite the meeting into it? Well, it may come as a surprise to many of you, but people did manage. In fact, I would go as far as to say people managed a lot better than they do today. Not using a digital system meant that it was far easier to compartmentalise our work. For instance, responding to letters—the things we used to communicate before email—meant we needed to be in the office. If we were not in the office, we could not respond to the letter.  This meant if an important, so called urgent, letter arrived on a Saturday morning, it would not be read until Monday morning and a response would not be going out until, at the earliest, Monday evening. So, in theory, if an urgent letter was sent on Friday afternoon, you would not be getting your reply until Tuesday morning, at the earliest. And, there was absolutely nothing you could do about it.  Yet, things got done. Deadlines were met and there was just as much stress around as there is today.  I was lucky, I began my working life just as the workplace was transitioning to the digital systems we use today. This meant I had the opportunity to see both sides. The analogue, the midway (where it was half analogue, half digital) and digital.  What I’ve learned is that there are advantages in both types of system and when you combine the best of the analogue systems with the best of the digital systems you can build yourself a robust, reliable time management and productivity system.  So, before we continue, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from David. Hi Carl, When I was working in the mid-1990s, we did not have computers or smartphones but we did have a system for managing our appointments and tasks. Do you think technology today has helped us or made managing our time harder?  Hi David, thank you for your question. You are right in observing that people managed just fine before computers, smartphones and iPads came onto the scene. In fact, while people still became overwhelmed, there was a better sense of time than there is today. Because we had to manually write out the things we had to do, rather than enter them into an app, we were much more conscious about what we were committing ourselves to.  Today, your task manager will take thousands, if not millions of tasks, and while that may sound fantastic, it does create a problem. The problem being: when will do do all these tasks?  The reality is, we cannot and never will be able to do everything. There is just too much we would like to do and a limited amount of time to do it in. When I was teaching English, I enjoyed the session where we looked at the words time and money. The two nouns share the exact same verbs. For instance, spend time on something, spend money on something. Or we can save money or save time.  But not only do these two words share the same verbs, they can also be thought of as the same thing. If we choose to spend money on a new iPad, that means we have less money to spend on other things. So, if you have $3,000 in your bank account and you choose to spend $1,000 on an iPad Pro with a keyboard and Apple Pencil, then you are going to have $2,000 left to spend on other things.  Let’s say your rent to mortgage is $1,000 and household expenses come to $800.00, then you only have $200 to spend on other things.  With time, we all get 166 hours a week. We are usually committed to spending 40 hours at work, perhaps we need to spend 2 hours a day commuting to and from work (that’s ten hours) and there’s sleeping, eating and keeping ourselves clean.  If you decide to pay less rent or mortgage pretty soon you will have a debt that needs to be paid and if you don’t pay it, you’ll lose your home. If you choose to skip your sleep for a few days, you’ll make yourself sick and won’t be able to do your work and you’ll likely lose your job.  Just like with bank account, there is a finite amount you can use and you get to choose how you spend your money or time on your commitments Technology has not changed that. Just because we can manage our to-do list digitally, doesn’t mean we automatically become more productive. And just because we can schedule repeating events on our calendar, doesn’t mean we have more time.  Most companies and individuals go bankrupt because they have over-committed themselves with debt. Likewise, you will burn yourself out if you over-commit yourself with time.  Now, one of the downsides of the digital systems is, the ease with which we can commit ourselves. We can throw an unlimited amount of tasks into our task managers without necessarily seeing what we have committed ourselves to. The more you throw in there, the less time you have for other things.  Conversely, with an analogue system—one written out on paper, you can see exactly what you are committing yourself to. Either you are writing your tasks out on a piece of paper or you are adding them into the notes section of a diary.  The act of writing them out, triggers your brain to resist adding too much. You become very aware of what you are committing to and how little time you have.  Recently, I was talking with a tech loving friend of mine who is always trying out the latest productivity apps—he understands it’s a bad habit of his. However, he did confess to me recently that whenever he feels overwhelmed he pulls out an old fashioned notebook and writes out all the things that he thinks he needs to do.  Once he’s done this “brain dump”, he will cross out all the tasks he either doesn’t want to do or knows deep down he’s never going to get round to doing.  This act of pruning his list leaves him feeling better and a lot less overwhelmed.  And that is where good old fashioned pen and paper still holds an advantage over the digital tools we now have access to. The awareness of what you are committing yourself to is far greater than when you use digital tools.  I love my Apple Calendar, it allows me to add recurring events, subscribe to my rugby team’s calendar so I can see when they are playing and I can share a calendar with my wife so I know when our family commitments are. The downsides to modern digital calendars is you can allow other people to schedule events for you. For me, that’s not good. That’s like giving people access to your bank account and letting them withdraw money without asking you. You’re never likely to do that are you? So why are we allowing people to do that with our time.  With a digital calendar, I would recommend you make sure you have, at the very least, the option to “accept”, “decline” or “maybe” a meeting request. I would also suggest if you need time to work on a piece of work, to block that time out. You do not need to worry, the other person cannot see what you have blocked out. All they see is that you are unavailable at that time. This will safeguard you against time thieves filling up your calendar with their priorities.  One area where I feel digital tools are better than analogue tools is the notes app. Traditionally the issue people had keeping all their notes in a notebook is finding their notes later. There was also the issue of scribbling down an idea on a scrap of paper only to lose that scrap paper.  With digital notes, you don’t lose them and finding notes you wrote years ago is as simple as doing a keyword or date search within your notes app.  There is a danger if you in the habit of switching your digital notes app every few months that you will lose something. But if you stick with one notes app, over the years you are going to build, as Tiago Forte called it a “second Brain”.  I’ve been using Evernote for nearly 13 years and when I do a keyword search for something I am often pleasantly surprised when I get a note I wrote sever years ago. It’s a great way to reminisce and also can trigger me to build on the ideas I had back then. That isn’t as easy with paper-based notes unless you spend a lot of time carefully indexing and organising your notebooks—which can look incredibly impressive in a bookcase, but does take up an enormous amount of time just keeping organised.  Digital notes apps do a lot of that hard work for you.  So, David, to answer your question, I have found that when it comes to my calendar and notes, digital tools have made life much easier. There are dangers with your calendar, but if you are vigilant, your digital calendar can serve you better than having to carry around a diary everywhere you go.  And with your notes, you now have access to a library of ideas and thoughts on your phone—a digital device you carry with you everywhere you go. That again, is far better than carrying around a notebook—or series of notebooks so you have access to everything.  The only digital tool I feel is better in an analogue system is the to-do list. A paper based to-do list worked for centuries. The digital to-do list, or as we call it now task manager, can cause a lot of overwhelm and stress. It doesn’t help you to prioritise what’s important unless you keep it well organised and curated—which I find most people don’t do—and a lot of things we add to our task managers disappear, never to be seen again until it’s too late.  Thank you, David for you question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
4/17/202313 minutes, 37 seconds
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Balancing Your Life’s Responsibilities.

Podcast 270 Do you feel you have balance in your day? If not, this episode is for you. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Planning Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 270 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 270 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. So, if you’re listening to this podcast, the chances are you have an interest in managing your time and being more productive. And that’s a great interest to have, but the real question is why? Why do you want to better manage your time? Is it because you feel you have too much to do or it seems all you ever do is work work work?  The real reason why anyone would want to better manage their time is because they want more balance in their lives. After all, we have a lot of lives to manage. At a basic level, we have our professional and personal lives, but inside those, we may have different roles. We could be a mother, a daughter, a sister. We may have interests such as painting or sketching.  At a professional level, we could be a manager of people, an accountant, a salesperson or a project manager—it’s likely you are all of these. You need to manage your team, allocate your department’s budget and make sure your projects are moving forward.  The realities of life today is that there will always be something you have to do. It can be difficult to bring any kind of balance into our lives. Yet, it may be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible if you focus on what’s important to you.  That, nicely leads me to this week's question, which means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week's question.  This week’s question comes from Mary-Anne. Mary Anne asks: Hi Carl, I know you and many other people in the time management world talk a lot about planning the day and week, but I find it’s impossible. I have two teenage daughters, a full-time career, and I have to take care of my father, who needs full-time care. I find it impossible to get any balance. There are just too many demands on me. What would you say to someone who is really struggling to find some kind of balance in their day?  Hi Mary Anne, thank you for your question. That’s a great question, and I know it can be very hard to organise everything when other people are involved. The good news is, somehow you are managing everything. It might feel like you are juggling a lot of balls each day, but it does appear from your question that you are not dropping any.  Now, we must return to the fact that time is fixed. You only have 24 hours a day. What that means is the only control you have is what you do in those twenty-four hours.  Before we can move on, though, we need to look at out areas of focus. The eight areas that are important to all us. These range from our family and relationships to our career and self development. Now these eight areas will change in importance as we go through life.  When we are in our twenties, it’s likely our education (self development) and career are near the top of our list. As we settle down into adulthood, finances and lifestyle become more important. As we age, family and friends become more and more of a priority and our career drops down the list. Your areas of focus are dynamic. As we go through the different stages of life they change in importance.  Now, looking at what you wrote, Mary-Anne, it seems your family and relationships and career are at the top of your list. Knowing that, means when you sit down to plan your week, you begin with these two areas. If you need to attend to your father two or three times a day, then that’s what you need to do. It becomes a non-negotiable part of your day.  Your teenage daughters may be able to help you here, or maybe not, either way, as teenagers, they will likely have some independence—may even demand some independence. Encouraging them to take on more responsibility for their lives, will not only help you it will also help them.  With you career, you need to establish what your core work is. The work you are employed to do. This does not mean the results; for example, if you have to make $20,000 in sales each week, that’s the outcome, the result you want. Your core work is the activity that will produce that result. That could be you need to make ten calls to prospective customers and have three appointments on your calendar each day. Making those calls and setting up those appointments are your core work activities.  These need to be your priority each day you are at work. You do not want to confuse results with activity. To get the results you want, you need to identify the activities that will give you those results. You can also bring this to your family. What are the results you want, and then determine what the activities are that will bring those results. Those activities are your priorities each day.  So, to give the care you want to give to your father, what do you need to do? That needs to be your priority.  Now, once you know what activities you need to perform each day to bring the results you want, you can make sure they are embedded in your day.  To give you a simple example. Louis, my dog, needs to go for a walk every day and I like to spend an hour exercising. In total two hours, that means two hours of my day have already been taken up before each day begins. The only question I need answer is when? When will I do these activities? For me, I like to break up my day. So, I take Louis out for his walk around 2pm, then when we get back home, I will exercise. My calendar is blocked from 2pm until 4pm each.  I don’t work a typical nine til five job. I work mornings and evenings and do my personal activities in the afternoon. That works for me.  You will likely have work commitments through the day leaving you with the early morning and evening for your family activities.  Now, what about you, Mary-Anne? What do you want to do for yourself?  Balance is all about balancing our commitments to others with the commitments to ourselves. If we spend all our time on the commitments to others, we will feel out of balance and lost. Our lives will be directed by other people and that is never going to be good for you.  You may want some time to yourself for reading, pursuing a hobby or exercise. We all need some “alone time”. It’s what recharges us and help keep us mentally balanced.  Too often we feel guilty about spending time on ourselves, but you should not. It’s healthy and vital if you want the energy to take care of others—which is something we naturally want to do. The problem is you cannot do that if you are exhausted from giving too much of yourself to others.  Time for yourself does not need to be a lot. We’re talking an evening or two a week or an afternoon on a weekend where you can step away and do your own thing.  Whatever time you do set aside for yourself you want to put that on your calendar. It gives you something to look forward to and every time you look at your calendar you’re going to see it. And, once it’s on your calendar, it becomes non-negotiable. You do not sacrifice that time for anyone or anything. Tell everyone that this time is for you. You need to protect it.  I do this with my Saturday nights. Saturday night is the only night each week I have to myself. It begins with a family dinner and once finished, the rest of the evening is my time. To do with whatever I want. I usually settle down to some TV and just wallow in doing absolutely nothing at all.  The key, Mary-Anne, is to step back a little. Prioritise what is important to you and make sure that whatever time you want for the important things in your life are scheduled on your calendar.  While I was away on my quarterly “Strategy week” last week, I undertook to watch all episodes of the early 70s action comedy, The Persuaders! Starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. The show was set in the early 70s (perhaps late 60s) and well before the mobile phone or home computer. What I noticed was how less stressed people were. The beauty of paper is it slows everything down. If you needed to send a document you only had one way to do it—the mail (and not email). So there was always around 48 hours to wait before things got completed.  But because everything was slower, we had time for ourselves. Mornings were never rushed, we ate a proper breakfast—bacon and eggs (all natural ingredients) and as there was fewer cars on the road, there were no traffic jams.  I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a better time—but it was a lot slower. Many of the words we use today were not used—burnt out, stressed out and overwhelmed—nobody used those words. There were fewer distractions and finding out the news meant you either watched the 9 O’clock news or sat and read the newspaper.  What we can do is learn from that. Slow down and have fixed times when you do things. What do you do after dinner? Could you not find an hour for yourself and either go read a book or out for walk? Where are the pockets of time that you can use to do the things you want to do to add balance to your own life—rather than serving others?  Ultimately, Mary-Anne, it’s about taking control of your calendar and making sure you have the things you need to do and want to do on there. Task managers and notes apps don’t help here. All these do is tell you what you still have to do. Not helpful if you want to take control of your day and have a more balanced life.  Where possible try to make your activities routine. Routines require a lot less energy because you can do them without thinking. You’re not wasting time thinking about what to do next. You know and you automatically do it. For instance, I go downstairs to cook dinner at 6pm every evening. It’s automatic.  This also means I have some markers in my day. As I mentioned before, I break between 2 and 4pm, then come back to some work until 6pm when I go down to make dinner. These markers mean I can balance my work between these natural breaks in my day.  I should also mention that if you are struggling with doing a weekly plan, then I just launched a new mini course that covers just that. If you hurry, you can get that course for the early-bird discount of $25.00. This course will help you to create plan for the week which will not take you two or three hours to do—forty minutes tops. I’ve put the details of this course in the show notes for you. I hope that has helped, Mary-Anne. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
4/10/202314 minutes, 28 seconds
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Why You Need To Do Your Weekly Planning

Why bother with a weekly plan when a single crisis can destroy the whole week? That’s what I’ll be answering this week.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 269 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 269 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” There are numerous variations to this quote, one of my favourites is allegedly by Mike Tyson; “Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”.  Now, it would be easy to take these quotes at face value and decide that there’s no point in planning the week when the chances are some crisis or another will come up on Monday morning rendering any plan you may have useless. Well, that’s not strictly true.  A plan’s purpose is to guide you through the week. It’s designed to keep you focused on what’s important and prevent you from being pulled off track by these crises that will inevitably crop up. There’s always something unexpected. That could be your colleague calling in sick, an important meeting being cancelled or postponed or a catastrophic problem with one of your customers.  However, having a plan means no matter what is thrown at you, you still have a road map that will guide you through the week. There’s still an objective and it’s that that ensures that while you may not be able to get everything done that you set out to accomplish, you at least get some of it done.  So, today I will outline why, despite the chances of you being pulled away from your plan, it’s still important to have a plan. And so, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Matthew, Matthew asks; Hi Carl, I know you always stress how important it is to do the weekly planning, but I find every time I do one, by Tuesday afternoon that plan is useless because so many issues and problems come up and I have to deal with them and forget my plan. Do you have any insights why and how planning can stop this from happening?  Hi Matthew, thank you for your question.  Sometimes when we talk about doing a weekly plan or weekly review many people miss its main purpose. A plan for the week is not to give you a step by step micromanaged plan for the week. It’s to give you a set of objectives to achieve that will take you from what you are today to where you want to be at the end of the week.  Let me give you a simple example. Let’s say I need to get a 5,000 word report written next week. Now, logically, I would divide that work up into writing 1,000 words each day next week. That’s a plan. It’s a project broken down into smaller a steps.  But what happens if something comes up on Tuesday afternoon at 4pm that requires all my time and attention. I may even have to go off site and visit an important customer on Wednesday to fix the problem. Now, my carefully laid plan of writing 1,000 words each day has been destroyed. I’m not going to be able to write anything on Wednesday and Tuesday, because of the crisis, I was only able to write 500 words.  Now, the week is only half way done and I’m 1,500 words behind. Now, here’s the thing, the objective was not to write 1,000 words per day. The objective was to complete the 5,000 word report by the end of the week. The plan was to write 1,000 words, that’s now gone, but the objective still remains the same.  All I need do now, when I get back on Wednesday after resolving the issue, is to readjust my plan. Okay, I cannot finish it by writing 1,000 words on Thursday and Friday, but I can if I write 1,750 words per day.  I will still accomplish my objective and all I needed to do was to adjust my plan.  Now, it’s likely you will need to also adjust your timings. Perhaps you allocated an hour each day to writing the report, you now need to increase that time to ninety minutes per day, but finding an extra thirty minutes each day for two days is not a huge dilemma.  Making adjustments to your plan is far better than giving up altogether and getting stressed out. That’s not going to solve anything. Work the problem in front of you, don’t make things worse by worrying about things you cannot do anything about right now.  This why we need to build two things into our days. The first is some buffer time. For me, I like to give myself at least thirty minutes between sessions of work where possible. Sometimes, that’s not always going to be possible, say when I have back to back meetings, but for the most part I will have at least two thirty minute buffer slots in my day—even on the busiest of days.  Secondly, doing a daily planning session. Now, your daily planning session is not about creating a new plan. Its purpose is to make sure you are still on track with your weekly plan. It’s here where you have an opportunity to make adjustments to your weekly plan that will help you to reach your objectives for the week, or if necessary, adjusting your weekly objective.  I like to think of my weekly plan as like a flight plan for a commercial flight. Let’s say I am flying between Seoul and Paris. This is a flight that leaves Seoul at around 11:30am (Seoul time) and arrives in Paris around 4:00pm (Paris Time). It’s a fifteen hour flight.  The flight is scheduled every day, yet each day the pilots will have a briefing meeting to review the weather, the flying time, the anticipated weight and calculate how much fuel they will need. They will also confirm their flight plan based on conditions in countries they are flying over both in terms of weather and geopolitical developments.  For example, This flight previously took around eleven hours. Yet, in February 2022, it was no longer possible to fly over Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not known to Air France before the day they entered Ukraine. Yet, the pilots will have adjusted their flight plan to fly around Russia and Ukraine thus avoiding any potential danger to the flight.  The objective of the pilots was not to fight between Seoul and Paris in eleven hours. The objective was to get the passengers, crew and plane to Paris safely. On that day in February last year, the pilots achieved their objective. Nobody complained that the flight arrived four hours late.  So, Matthew, the purpose of planning the week is to give you a set of objectives and a framework in which to achieve those objectives.  The purpose of planning the day is to confirm you are on track and to make any adjustments if necessary.  When I begin a typical week, I will have twenty coaching calls booked in. That’s twenty hours of calls and a further seven hours of writing feedback on those calls. However, each week, I will likely have two or three calls cancel and reschedule for another day. That means I will have a few extra hours in which to catch up or work on something else.  I know most of you may begin the week with a set number of meetings planned, but some of those will cancel or reschedule for another week, so while it’s likely additional work will come in as the week progresses—work you did not anticipate having to do, you are also going to pick up some extra time too with work that either no longer needs doing or cancelled meetings.  Over the course of a week, things generally balance out. Throwing your plan out because Monday or Tuesday didn’t go to plan is not a good strategy. Work the problem in front of you and get back to your plan. Then at the end of the day, give yourself ten to fifteen minutes to make any adjustments to your weekly plan based on your objectives for the week. Now how to stop problems and issues arising in the first place. That comes down to anticipating future problems. This will generally only come from experience. But, doing the weekly planning also gives you an opportunity to plan ahead and to anticipate what could go wrong.  One the biggest benefits of getting yourself organised and being consistent with your weekly and daily planning is you are moving from being reactive—reacting to events, to being proactive—being prepared for events. It’s not something you even need to learn. It’s a natural coincidence of having some time at the end of the week and looking forward and seeing the bigger picture of what you are trying to accomplish.  Now, something else that works well is to what I call “front load” the week. What this means is you try to get as much of your fixed work done early in the week. If you have a number of tasks that require a lot of focus or time, try to schedule these for early in the week. This will help you later in the week because either they are done, or if they need finishing, the biggest part of the task has been completed—you only then need to find a small amount of time to fin ish them.  I do this with my writing. I try to get as much of my writing done on Monday and Tuesday. If you have an important meeting to prepare for later in the week, do the hard work on Monday and Tuesday. It takes the pressure off you and leaves you free to fine tune things.  However, the most powerful thing you can do is to make sure you are doing the daily planning session. Think of this as a debriefing meeting with yourself to review your plan and consider new tasks that have come in and to revise your plan if necessary.  Becoming better with your time management and being more productive is not going to stop additional work from coming in. However, what it does do is train you to quickly decide what is important. You become better at making decisions, and it’s that speed with your decision making that improves your overall productivity.  If something needs to be done, then it meeds to be done. All you need do is decide when you will do it.  Thank you, Matthew for your question. I hope this has helped.  And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me to wish you all a very very productive week.   
3/27/202313 minutes, 9 seconds
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How To Complete Your Personal Projects.

How confident are you setting up a project and delivering it on time every time? If you struggle in this areas, then this podcast is for you.    You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 268 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 268 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Completing our personal projects is something we all frequently find difficult. This is largely because there’s usually nobody holding us accountable and we don’r have access to the same resources our companies will have. However, it does not have to be difficult if we follow a simple formula.  I’ve spent many years studying how NASA went from a seemingly impossible challenge to successfully landing Neil Armstrong on the Moon in 1969.  When that project was first floated by President Kennedy in May 1961, NASA lacked the knowledge of whether humans could survive in space, they were struggling to get a rocket off the ground, and the nobody had left the confines of Earth’s orbit. Yet, eight years later, Neil Armstrong spoke those infamous words: “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind”. Now it’s true that NASA did not have to worry about resources, Congress gave them the money to make this happen. But it was not all about the money. Sure, that helped, but the technology still needed to be invented, scientists had to work out how to get a spaceship out of Earths orbit and into the Moon’s orbit and they needed to know if humans could survive in space and if so, how.  I’ve always been a believer in finding the success stories and then breaking them down to their component parts to understand how the success happened. It’s why I know there is no such things as an overnight success, there’s much more to completing a project than being in the right place at the right time.  And with the Moon landings, everything is there to show you the roadmap towards completing a project—or a goal for that matter—all we need to do is break it down. And that is what we will do in this episode. So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jonathan. Jonathan asks, Hi Carl, one thing I really struggle with is working on my personal projects. I have some home improvement projects that I’ve had on my list for years and I just never seem to get around to doing them. Do you have any tips on getting these projects done?  Hi Jonathan, thank you for your question. Firstly I must start by saying this is something very common and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over this, Jonathan. The good news this is an opportunity to develop skills.  Now, let’s begin with what I talked about a moment ago with the clarifying sentence. I used to talk about this as the clarifying statement, but somehow the word “statement” invited people to write line after line of words defining what the project was. No. That’s not what you are trying to achieve here. What you are looking for is a simple sentence that gives clarity on what you want to accomplish with the project.  Going back to the John F Kennedy sentence setting the parameters of the Moon landing project when he stood before Congress and announced that the US; "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."  Twenty-six words that set NASA on a course that captivated the world. Those words were clear, contained a deadline and left no-one in doubt about what was to be achieved. Now, Kennedy was no scientist. He was a student of government and international affairs. Certainly nothing that gave him a deep knowledge of the science and engineering feats required to land and walk on the moon.  But that didn’t matter, Kennedy was the leader, not the implementer. There was a reservoir of talented, motivated scientists and engineers ready to take up the “challenge” and turn Kennedy’s project outcome into a reality.  Now, depending on the size of the project you are attempting to do, Jonathan, you may need to reach out for the skills you do not process. For instance, one of your home improvement projects could be to build a conservatory onto the side of your house. Now, unless you are a builder, you are not going to have the know-how or skills to build the conservatory—you are going to need to hire outside help. A builder and an electrician are likely to be your first requirements.  Plus, you may need to hire an architect to draw up the plans for you.  So, this means you will need to “secure the funding” for the project. Now, Kennedy assigned this part of the project to his Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, who pushed Congress for the necessary funding.  Now, if I were to undertake building an extension to the side of our house, I would need to “Secure” the funding somehow. That could come from my savings or I may need to talk to the bank for a loan. Either way, because I would need to hire experts to do the work, I would need funds, so before anything started on the project I would need to get some estimates on how much the project would likely cost.  One area where I find people waste time with project planning is to sit down and plan out the whole project step by step. In my experience, I find there’s always time to plan the next steps, but planning can and often does become the source of procrastination. There’s too many unknowns and if you really want to get the project off the ground take the first logical step.  To write a book, start writing the first draft. Don’t worry about publishers, writing applications, chapter headings or book cover designs. Until you have a first draft you are not going to have anything to work with anyway.  Similarly with your home improvement projects, you will need a budget, so get the quotes and estimates together. That will give you the right information to proceed to the next step.  With the Moon landings, NASA broke the project down into three parts. There was Mercury, where they wanted to learn what was required in order to get humans into space. Then came Gemini, where they learned all about rendezvousing with other spacecraft and doing space walks, and finally Apollo, which was the part of the project that took humans to the Moon.  Each part of the lunar landing project had its own set of objectives. Whatever project you are working on, will be the same. The first part could be to secure the funding. The second part may involve hiring the right people to do the work, and finally the construction part. Each part will have its own outcome, but ultimately, the overall project sentence will guide you.  For example, if you want to have the conservatory built by the summer, and you have three months until the summer begins, each part of your project will need to be broken down to meet that deadline. If, when you get the estimates, you are told the builders will require eight weeks to complete the work, then that leaves you with four weeks for the other parts of the project.  When we moved to the East Coast of Korea, my wife and I first sat down to decide how we were would do it. Our initial plan was to spend three months living in a guest house in the area we wanted to move to. These three months confirmed we definitely wanted to proceed with the project and we extended our stay in the guest house until the end of the year.  During that time, we began looking at properties and working on our budget. We decided on our new home in October and as it was still being built, we were given a moving in date on the 20th December. That gave us almost three months to put into action the second phase of our project—which was the interior design and furniture. And then the final part of the project was to move in.  Looking back at my original notes for that project, very little went according to that initial plan. But one thing did not change. The deadline (by the end of the year) and the move itself. The initial action was to move to the area we wanted to live in for three months and we did that within two weeks of making the decision to proceed. After that plans changed, but the outcome did not.  There’s always going to be delays, issues to resolve and changing plans. That’s to be expected. However, if you have been clear with your project sentence, and you stick to your overall deadline for the project, you will push yourself to get things moving.  And problems and issues will always arise. That’s part of life. With the moon landing project, tragedy struck on the 27th January 1967 when during a test on the new Apollo programme (the third phase) a fire broke out in the astronauts cockpit instantly killing the three astronauts. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffy were killed in the tragic accident and all manned flights were stopped, just three years before the project deadline while a full investigation took place.  NASA, continued developing the programme, as information from the tragedy came through, changes were implemented and by the time the final investigation report came through, almost all its recommendations had been implemented.  Hopefully, nothing as tragic will happen with your projects, but problems and issues will inevitably arise. While you are dealing with those issues, what could you be doing to make sure they the issue does not delay you from your final deadline?  For instance, there could be a materials shortage and there may be a two week delay to receiving some of the materials needed to build your conservatory. What could you do so that when the material is available and delivered you minimise any further delays?  And finally, you need a competitor or villain. For NASA and the United States, the villain and competitor was the Soviet Union. When NASA began the project to land on the Moon, The Soviet Union had already been the first to put a man in space and had launched the first satellite, Sputnik. NASA was still struggling to get a rocket to lift off without exploding.  The introduction of a villain or competitor brings energy to the project. Now, of course, with our personal projects it’s unlikely you will have a competitor. However, the reality is you do. The competitor is you.  The reason most of us fail with our personal projects is because of us. We are our own worst enemies. If you want to go deeper, it’s comfort that stops you from completing your projects. We naturally don’t like change and we always default to our comfort zone. But if you really want to complete these personal projects, whether they are home improvements or buying a new house, you will have to get uncomfortable.  The way I deal with this is, it to turn whatever comfort I am defaulting to into the enemy. At its simplest level that comfort could be the sofa. I never let the sofa beat me. No matter how inviting and seductive the sofa tries to be, I will still go out for a run when it’s raining. The sofa will never beat me. That’s my mindset. And it’s an easy mindset to develop. First identify the comfort, then look at it and tell it that it will never beat you. You will always win. If you find yourself procrastinating, externalise it by writing Procrastination in big words on a piece of paper and stare at it as if it was your worst enemy and tell it it will never ever beat you.  Steve Jobs invoked this strategy. First it was Microsoft and IBM, then it was Intel. With Steve, there was always an enemy to galvanise his employees. Today, Tim Cook does it with Samsung and Android.  Interestingly, because there was a clear competitor and enemy for NASA in the 1960s, their staff were highly motivated and focused on winning. They were making history and that was enough for them to succeed. NASA never needed table football tables (Fuzzball), nap pods, massage rooms or any of the other crazy benefits for their employees. Having a clear outcome, a strategy and a defined enemy was all that was needed to keep their employees focused, happy and engaged.  So there you go, Jonathan. I hope that has helped. I strongly recommend the documentary film Unsung Heroes, The Story Of Mission Control and Tom Hanks film Apollo 13. Both of these films will inspire you and give you everything you need to finally complete all those projects that you are stalling on. Thank you for your question and thank you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.  
3/20/202315 minutes, 57 seconds
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Mindset, Goal Setting and Project Planning With Former UK Special Forces Soldier, Simon Jeffries

This week, I have a very special guest. Former UK Special Forces soldier Simon Jeffries. Simon talks about mindset, self, discipline, goal setting and project planning.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin   Links to Simon’s Websites: The Natural Edge (Sign up for his newsletter here) Simon’s Instagram Simon’s LinkedIn Page   The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page  
3/13/202341 minutes, 13 seconds
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Get realistic about what you can do in a day.

This week, are you being realistic about what you can get done each day? Most people are not.      You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 266 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 266 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Most people'ss problems with time management and productivity are not actually problems with time management and productivity. The problem lies with being over-ambitious about what you can get done each day.  I’m reminded of common phrases such as “biting off more than you can chew”, and my favourite “your eyes being bigger than your stomach”. It seems to be almost human nature to think we can do a lot more than we really can.  Let’s get realistic here.You are not going to be able to attend seven hours of meetings, respond to 120 emails and complete fifty tasks from your task manager today. If that’s what your calendar, task manager and email is telling you, you’ve just deluded yourself and it means your system is broken—even before you’ve started the day.  It’s time to get real about what you are capable of doing each day. We can do a surprising amount of work in a day, but we need to be strategic and, more importantly, aware of our human qualities. Work to our strengths, rather trying to slog it out.  So, without any further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Kirsten. Kirsten asks, Hi Carl, than you for all that you do. It has been a huge help in my life. I was wondering how you cope with all the work you have to do each day. I don’t just mean work work, but all the personal tasks that need to be done as well. I find I never have enough time to finish everything I’m supposed to do. How do you keep your workload manageable? Hi Kirsten, than you for your question.  This is an issue I’ve spent many years struggling with. I used to believe I’d wake up each morning feeling refreshed, energetic and focused on what needed to be done. I’d get straight onto my tasks, be ready for my appointments and end the day with plenty of energy to attack my personal tasks.  The reality is very different. There are days I wake up feeling refreshed and energetic, there are also days when I wake up feeling tired.  And focused?—hahaha, that’s a very rare occurrence. It’s that old belief we have where we say, I don’t feel great today so I’ll skip exercise today and do it tomorrow instead.  Sure, it gives you an adequate excuse for today, but tomorrow comes and you’re desperately searching for another excuse not to exercise. We generally have very unrealistic ideas about how tomorrow will be different. It won’t be, unless you get real about what is required to get the things done that you want to get done.  And this is where we need to know what our limitations are. How much can you do each day, realistically?  To give you an example from my own experience. I know I can do three fifty-minute coaching calls in one session. I learned that the hard way. In the beginning I would schedule four or five calls one after another (with a ten minute gap between calls). After the third call, my voice was beginning to go and I was getting mentally and physically tired. I could do four, but the fourth one was a struggle. Now, I limit my call sessions to no more than three calls.  That leaves me with sufficient energy to make sure my notes on each call are correct, and I am still capable of doing the other work I need to do that day.  I would love to be able to do four or five calls straight, but realistically, doing so would leave me exhausted and unable to do the rest of the work that needed to be done that day.  Often we don’t have much control over the meetings we are expected to attend each day, yet I strongly advise that you find a way to be less available. You can do this by scheduling meetings with yourself on your calendar. Other people cannot see what you have scheduled, all they see is you are not available at that time.  This means you can schedule focused work sessions if you wish, or just block the time out so you can get away from your desk for twenty minutes or so and get some movement in. That movement will give your brain a rest and leave you feeling ready for the next session.  And that’s another tip I would give you. Break your day down into sessions of work. While it might seem counter-intuitive to step away from doing work for twenty minutes or so between sessions, but it recharges your brain ready for the the next session. It’s as if you close down one session, get a break and then start the next session.  For example, set aside two hours or so in the morning for doing your most important work for the day. You are much more focused in a morning—even if you are a night owl. Your brain has its most energy in a morning. That energy is gradually depleted throughout the day.  After two hours, step away from your desk and move. Get some sunlight, a drink of water or tea or coffee and then begin your next session of work. Make that session an hour. Then break for lunch. After lunch try to schedule your meetings. Human interaction helps to avoid that ‘afternoon slump’, and gives you a different environment to work in.  The way I break down my day is early morning calls—no more than two hours. Then I take a fifteen minute break, and then I settle down to a two hour creative work session. That’s followed by breakfast (I do intermittent fasting so my eating window is between 11am and 7pm) Then it’s back to my desk for around ninety minutes to do my smaller tasks for the day.  The afternoon, for me, is all about activity. I’ll take my dog for a walk, do my personal errands and exercise, before coming back to my desk around 5pm for an hour of communications—dealing with email and other messages. 6pm is dinner and from 7:30pm until 9pm I do my admin. 9:00pm to 11:00pm is call time. And then I close down my day and, all being well, be in bed for 11:30pm.  That structure has evolved over the years. It works for me. I need to work in the mornings and evenings because of the time zone I live in. Being in the far east, I am 8 hours ahead of Europe, 14 hours ahead of eastern US and 17 hours ahead of the west coast of America.  So, my afternoons, both Europe and the US are asleep. I’m never likely to have any meetings or “urgent” messages coming in at that time.  I’ve tried all sorts of different structures, but trial and error has helped me to develop this structure.  However, that means, I have five and a half hours each day to do non-meeting related work. That’s more than enough time if… And the if is important here.  If you plan out the day. You see if you are not planning the day, your brain will plan it for you and your brain has no concept of time. Remember, the clock—hours and minutes—was developed by human beings. It’s not nature. Nature works a much simpler day. Daylight and night. Your internal clock recognises only day and night. This is why we will over-estimate or under-estimate how long something will take to do.  It’s why so many people think a quick follow up call with take less than two minutes, when in reality you are often still on the phone fifteen minutes later. And why you think that presentation for tomorrow’s meeting will only take an hour, and four hours later you’re still struggling to finish it.  I have a little analogue clock on my desk, and when I begin my session of work, I will look at the clock and tell myself when I will stop. For instance, when I began preparing this script, I looked at the clock and told myself I would finish at 1:30pm.  Now, aside from my little dog telling me it’s walkie time, I also have my little clock telling me how long I have left. That clock adds a little pressure and prevents me from being distracted by something else. I am here, sat at my desk and my focus needs to be on this script.  Now when it comes to planning your day, it’s all about knowing where you have time for sessions of work. If today were a Thursday, when I have three calls in the morning and three calls in the evening—I call Thursday my calls day—I would not have scheduled many tasks. In fact, I try not to have any tasks except for my routines and small catch up tasks on a Thursday. I know I will be tired from those calls and it would be pointless trying to get any creative work done.  The problem with over-scheduling your day is when are you going to do those tasks you could not do? If tomorrow is already busy, when will you find the time to do them? You’re only adding to your backlog.  Now, this means we have to be very protective of our time. I know it’s much easier to say “yes” than “no”, but if your default position is yes, you are going to be overwhelmed.  In the past, senior executives had secretaries—some still do but they are now called “assistants”. These secretaries were not just there to type letters and documents. Their primary role was to act as gatekeepers. To prevent their boss from being interrupted. The best secretaries were exceptional at this part of their work.  They made it incredibly difficult to make appointments with their boss. They protected their diaries so their boss had time to do their work and think.  Today, most of these secretarial skills have gone with the secretaries, they are very rare today. This means we need to act as our own gatekeepers. To make it difficult to make appointments with you.  This does not mean you have to “disappear” or be rude. It means you need to know when to be available and to whom and when not to be available.  It’s a an art form to “disappear” at times in the day, but it’s an art worth learning and developing. It take practice and a fair amount of courage to become unavailable—particularly if you have a demanding boss. But, the trick is to begin slowing. Perhaps try thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the afternoon. Then as you gain the courage, increase that time.  You’ll be surprised how much work you get done when you know for the next thirty to sixty minutes nobody can find you.  Ultimately, Kirsten, it comes down to knowing what your limitations are and planning the day ahead. It will take time to learn how much you can realistically get done each day, but if you stick with planning the day you will soon find it becomes much more manageable. To give you a benchmark, I know if my task manager is showing more than twenty tasks for today, some of them are not getting done. If you are using Todoist you can go into the karma points area and see your average number of tasks completed each day. Add those up and divide it by seven. That will give you your average and will be a realistic number of tasks per day.  When you do the daily planning, you want to be looking at this number. If it’s too high, reduce it—look for tasks that do not really need to be done tomorrow and can be pushed off to another day.  I hope that helps, Kristen. Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
3/6/202314 minutes, 31 seconds
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How To Plan Your Week In Less Time.

Podcast 265 This week, why not consistently doing a weekly planning session is destroying your productivity. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 265 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 265 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. This episode is for the 95% or so of you who are using a task manager and a calendar and not doing a weekly planning session.  The truth is, if you’re collecting all this stuff and then not planning out when you will do anything about it, you’re heading for a catastrophic failure. It’s why so many people are constantly switching apps—it forces you to actually do some planning and organising, but it also stops you from doing any work.  All this stuff we are collecting is information. Information we want to be reminded of, perhaps do something with or delegate it. Yet, if you are not doing any kind of planning, most of this information will get lost inside your task manager or notes app and you’ve just created a horrendous list of stuff you’ve made no decisions about.  They often say information is power. This is not strictly true. Information is only powerful if you act on it. We all know how to lose weight, and we also know it is dangerous to be overweight for your long-term health. Yet statistics show that 60% of the US adult population is dangerously overweight. So there’s clearly a large number of people not acting on the information they have.  However, once you do become consistent with your weekly planning (and daily planning to an extent), you will see some incredible results. The first thing you will notice is how relaxed you’ve become. Knowing you have the week planned, that nothing has fallen through the cracks and you’re ready to get started leaves you without any worries or anxieties. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.  Anyway, enough of me going on about weekly planning, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Amy. Amy asks, Hi Carl, I’ve taken your Time Sector course and it’s completely changed my life. I feel so much more in control of what I am doing each day. The one area I really struggle with, though, is the reviews. I try so hard to sit down at the weekend for an hour to go through everything but keep avoiding it. Do you have any tips or tricks to help me become better at these?  Hi Ally, thank you for your question.  I suspect a lot of the difficulties with motivating ourselves to do the weekly planning sessions is because we’ve come to think it’s going to take at least an hour. The truth is, if you are consistently doing these sessions, you will soon find it takes you less than thirty minutes. Mine, for instance, takes around twenty minutes for the most part, although I do often do a longer one on the last Saturday of the month.  Let’s first look at the timing of your weekly planning session. I did quite a bit of experimenting with the best time to do this.  Turned out, Sunday nights was the worst time to do it. You spent all weekend worrying about all the things you think you needed to do next week and it felt like Sunday night was the beginning of your working week. Plus, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to get up and go to a quiet room to do some planning when you are fully relaxed.  Friday afternoons looked promising, but I found I was tired and just wanted to get home.  I found the best time to do the weekly planning session was actually Saturday morning. The reason for this was I had no excuses. It’s the first thing you do on Saturday morning and generally, you can wake up a little later and you feel well rested. Plus, the week is still fresh in your mind so it’s less likely you will forget anything.  The biggest benefit, though, is once you’ve done it, you can relax and enjoy your weekend. Your brain isn’t going to throw up anything that you may have forgotten and you feel a lot less stressed and in control.  So the first tip I would suggest is do your weekly planning first thing Saturday morning.  Next what do you include in your weekly planning?  Well, the first thing to do is to clear your inboxes. Hopefully, your email inbox is relatively clear already, but here I mean your task manager’s and notes’ inbox. What you are doing is organising everything you’ve collected and deciding when you are going to do the tasks.  Once your inboxes are clear, you look at your This Week folder to see what’s left over and decide a) if you still need to do it and b) if you do, decide when you will reschedule it to.  Then move to your Next Week folder and move any tasks in there that need pulling forward to This Week.  Once you have done that, open your calendar, and add dates to those tasks for the days you have the time to do them. Your calendar will guide you towards the best days to do the longer tasks.  The goal here is not about what you get done on an individual day, it’s more about what you get done in the week. So if you don’t complete all your tasks on Monday, all you need do is move any unfinished tasks to later in the week.  Another quick tip here, always keep in mind new tasks will be coming in that need to be done that week. This is why you do not want to be filling your days up. It’s okay to have one or two days where you may stack the tasks up, but do keep a few days relatively easy for those additional tasks you will inevitably collect.  Now, this week, I introduced a new concept for helping people be more consistent with their weekly planning. I call it the Weekly Planning Matrix and it’s made of of four squares. These are: Core work, Projects/issues, Personal/ areas of focus and the radar.  This matrix should be used t get you started once your inboxes are clear. The first box, your core work, will be fixed. It will be the same each week. These are the tasks that get your primary work done. Your core work is the work you are paid to do, not the ancillary work we’ve added. For instance, if you are a salesperson, your job is to sell. It is not to sit in meetings with your colleagues and boss talking about sales. Your core work happens when you are in front of your customers making sales. Admin is not core work unless you are an administrator. It might be necessary, but it is not core work.  When you set up your weekly planning matrix, you write out your core work and there is remains until your job changes. The reason it’s in the matrix is you need to know you must find time for doing this work each week.  Next up in the top right, is your projects and issues area. This is where you list out the projects you want to, or need to, work on that week. It also includes any issues that need resolving related to your work. Just getting these off your mind will ease the anxiety.  Be careful here, you do not want to overloading this area. Remember you will only have around forty hours available for all your work. Overloading this area and either you will have to steal time from your personal life—which should only ever be used in extreme circumstances—or you will find important things will be sacrificed for the loud less important things.  Next, in the bottom left of your matrix is the personal and areas of focus area. This is where you will list out the important personal things you need to get done that week. It’s also where you would highlight any areas of focus that may have been neglected over recent weeks or months. What can you do to get them back on track.  Finally, there is my favourite area. The radar. This is in the bottom right of your matrix and it’s for all those things you want to keep an eye on.  It’s quite hard to explain what the radar is in word, but imagine you are sat in front of a radar screen with everything going on in your life represented as little dots on the radar screen. You cannot focus on all of them at once, you have to decide which ones to look at. It’s these you will list down in this box.  I use this for things I might be waiting for, issues or projects that, while don’t need my personal input, maybe something I want to keep an eye on. I also use it for projects or appointments that are coming up that I want to be thinking about that week.  And that’s it. Once I’ve written things out in this matrix, I can transfer tasks to my task manager if they are not already there, schedule time on my calendar to work on things if I need blocks of time for them and to make sure that what I am asking of myself that week is realistic and balanced.  If you keep your matrix in your notes app, you have a reference point to start from the following week and you see how you did again your plan. You also have a working document you can use each evening for when you plan the next day. Oh… Did I not mention the daily planning? Well, this is a simple task you should perform each evening before you finish the day. All you are doing is confirming that you upcoming day is realistic—that you haven’t overloaded it with things you know you will not have time to do. It’s also a good time to look at your task manager’s inbox to make sure there are no fires in there and to clear it if you have time. You should also look at your calendar to make sure you know when your appointments are and look for gaps in between commitments where you can decide when you will do your tasks. It’s amazing how often you will find you have say six or seven hours of meetings and twenty plus tasks scheduled for the same day. I mean, who are you kidding? You’re not going to get all that done. You need to go into your task manager and reduce the number of tasks or cancel some appointments.  And that’s the fine art of prioritisation. Which is another subject altogether.  So, in total, Amy, your weekly planning will take no more than thirty to forty minutes, and the daily planning should take around ten minutes. It will take longer initially, you’re learning new habits and developing new processes. It’s worth sticking with because over time you will find you can shortcut the process and make it even faster when the need arises. For instance, I have a quick closing down planning session I can do in two or three minutes if I need to. I don’t like t odd that everyday, but on my rare days off, if we are out for a trip somewhere and I get home late, I will do the 2 minute planning session.  SO, there you go. That’s how to perform the daily and weekly planning sessions. I hope that helps, Amy. Thank you for your question.  And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
2/27/202314 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Analogue Time Sector System

Podcast 264 This week, The question is all about implementing the Time Sector System using a paper-based method. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 264 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 264 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. There’s something special about pen and paper. The feel of the pen moving on paper and the simplicity of collecting notes, ideas and even marking off tasks feels better than tapping your mouse or trackpad on a task.  Sadly, technology has made task and appointment management extremely convenient. It’s fast and easy to add and check off tasks and it’s far easier to carry a phone than to always having to make sure you carry a notebook with you.  While I love technology and the convenience it brings with it, I do miss being able to slow things down and handwrite notes, ideas and lists of things I want to do and it seems many other people also prefer the more naturalness of using pen and paper to manage their lives.  So, wit that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Max. Max asks; Hi Carl, The problem for me lies in the tools. Before coming across your work, I used a paper notebook and generally followed the Bullet Journal methodology. I have found that I do not enjoy using digital tools for organising, note-taking and general brainstorming. Something about moving a pen across paper just works for me. How would you implement your Time Sector system with a paper notebook and a pen? Hi Max, thank you for your question.  One of the benefits of using a digital system is that all your repeatable routines and areas of focus tasks automatically show up in your list of tasks to do today. These will need to be manually transferred to your today list when you do your planning with a paper based system.  The good news here is, if you do a daily planning session, you can pull your recurring tasks from your routines and areas of focus lists and add them to your list of tasks for tomorrow. This gives you the opportunity to decide whether you can do those tasks for tomorrow. This would likely mean you will be copying five or six tasks each day from a master list to your daily list.  Personally, I like this as it forces you to deliberately consider what you will do today.  However, to make this more concrete, so you don’t miss anything, I would create a page divided into seven boxes. Each box represents a day of the week, and you can add your recurring tasks in there.  For monthly and yearly recurring tasks, I would put them on your calendar. As you are only doing this with your monthly and yearly recurring tasks, it won’t overwhelm your calendar.  Okay, aside from that, the Time Sector System works very well through a paper based system. In all task management systems whether they are digital or not, the most important list is your today list. The key with this list is it is curated, relevant and up to date will all the excess removed.  This is one of the disadvantages of the digital system. Because it is so easy to add a date to a task and then “forget” about it—the date and forget problem—we add random dates to tasks and then our daily lists become swamped before we even start the day. The paper based system avoids this because for you to create a daily list you manually need to add tasks to it.  So, what about the folders? Well here I would create a This Week list every eight pages in your notebook. (Or 14 pages if you have two pages representing a day) You can then add tasks you want to do that week to those pages.  These lists would take care of your Next Week lists so you would not need to create a Next Week list.  For the This Month list, That I would add to the beginning of each month. These are tasks you know need to be done sometime this month, but are not entirely sure when you will do them. This is a list you can review each week and bring forward any tasks to the appropriate list.  Long-term and on hold lists would be kept either at the beginning of your notebook or at the end. You can decide where that list is best kept in your notebook.  One of the downsides to running an analogue system is you need to set up each notebook you use. This is the same with a bullet journal as well as a non-digital GTD system—something I did when I first began using the GTD method years ago. You will need to set up the pages each time you start a new notebook.  The good news here, is this process does get faster with each new notebook and each new notebook gives you an opportunity to refine your system.  The focus with the Time Sector System is on “when” you will do the task, rather than “what” the task is. This means the most important page in your notebook is today. Nothing else matters today when you are doing your work and relaxing in the evening. Tomorrow comes in to play when you do the ten minutes planning the evening before.  That’s the set up, what about collecting stuff? Where would you put the inbox? When I ran an analogue system, my inbox was the daily page. I would add new tasks and reminders to the bottom right hand corner of the page for processing later in the day. Once I had transferred the new tasks to their relevant week, I would cross them out. This way, when I did the weekly planning, I could do a quick check to make sure I had caught everything and I wasn’t looking all over the page for tasks I may have missed.  Your project notes want to be kept at the back of your notebook. When you transfer to a new notebook, you want to only put in your current, active projects. If you have projects not due to start over the next three months, you can add these to a master projects list on a separate page.  However, here comes another issue with analogue systems. Email and digital documents such as Google Docs and shared Office files. You will need a digital system to run along side your notebook.  Managing your actionable email would be fairly easy as you can put a single recurring task reminding you to clear your actionable emails. Adding links to documents in the cloud will obviously be difficult. For this you will need some form of digital system to run alongside your paper-based system.  However, there is another way you can do this which is more of a hybrid system. You notebook can be used as your collection, and planning tool. It can also contain your list of tasks for today. You can also use your notebook for all your meeting notes.  However, you maintain a master list in a digital format. For instance, keep all your recurring routines and areas of focus in a digital app. You can also transfer all your collected tasks into your task manager and move things around your time sectors there. Then each evening, when you do your daily planning you can transfer you daily list for tomorrow to your notebook.  This method has the advantage of overcoming any issues with the digital world. While we may want to maintain everything manually, the world doesn’t operate like that and we do need access to shared documents, emails and text messages.  It will also save you a lot of time when you fill a notebook. You won’t have to set up a new notebook as the backend information will always be maintained digitally and all you are doing is transferring information to your notebook on a daily basis—a great way to force you do to a daily planning session.  I’ve experimented a lot over the last few years with different methods, and my love of fountain pens and quality notebooks has had me try a paper-based system. Sadly, I’ve struggled to run a 100% analogue system because the people I work with operate digitally. That said, many people I know still take notes in meetings with pen and paper and keep that notebook on their desks while they are working and takes notes directly into it through the day.  So, it is possible to run the Time Sector System via notebook. It’s a bit fiddly, but certainly doable. Analogue systems do assist the planning sessions, because if you are not planning regularly your notebook will rapidly be out of date. However, the best approach would be to run a hybrid system where all your project details, regular recurring tasks and areas of focus are kept digitally and on a daily basis when you do your daily planning you can transfer everything over.  And planning out goals and projects will always be better on paper. AS you said in your email, “there’s something about moving a pen across paper just works for me.” And if it works for you, then don’t change it.  I hope that helps, Max. Than you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
2/20/202311 minutes, 14 seconds
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How To Get Back To Basics With Your Task manager.

Podcast 263. This week, we are looking at the humble task manager and at how to get the most out of it by getting back to basics.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 263 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 263 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Since even before the Ivy Lee Method was first used in 1918, listing out your tasks for the day has been a common way to manage all the things you have to do. Externalising what needs to be done, is a tried and tested method for managing what we do each day. When you combine a well managed task manager with a calendar, you have a very powerful way to get your work done and to have time for rest each day. Now, as usual we humans are incredibly destructive. For some weird reason we seem to hate simplicity and love to over complicate things until they are destroyed.  A classic apocryphal story that illustrates this is during the space race, both NASA and the Russians were having difficulty finding a writing implement that worked in a zero gravity environment. The traditional pen needs gravity to work and when you take gravity out, the pen will no longer work.  NASA spent millions of dollars researching this. Yet the Russians spent nothing and solved the problem. The Russian space agency gave their astronauts pencils. Pencils don’t need gravity.  This week’s question touches on this problem of over-complexity and I will give you some ways to get things back to a more simple footing so you can focus more on doing your work and spend less time organising your work. So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Thomas. Thomas asks; Hi Carl, I’ve recently been watching a lot of YouTube videos on using task managers. I like the idea of keeping all my tasks in one place, but it’s so confusing. There’s so many different ways to use a to-do list I just cannot figure out which is the best one. Do you have any recommendations?  Hi Thomas, thank you for your question and yes, you are right; it is very confusing.  The problem here is everyone will have a different way to manage their work. This is in part because we are all different (which is a good thing), and we all do different types of work. While you might have a generic job title such as a doctor or dentist within those generic titles there are a multitude of different disciplines.  Another problem is we now have many more options than using a piece of paper and a pen to write out what needs to be done today. Now the task manager has been digitalised, developers can add features to differentiate themselves from other developers building task managers.  It a combination of these two factor that has inevitably led to things becoming overly complicated.  But let’s just push back the complexity and look at what a task manager needs to do. A task manager needs three areas: An area to collect things, an area to store things and an area that tells you what needs to be done today.  Anything else that adds to that is just adding complexity. Now task manager developers can easily create something with those three areas that works well. Unfortunately, for us, that would be boring and so we now have flags, tags and filters (and a whole lot more in many cases) Now these can be useful, but they are definitely not essential.  So, how can you make a task manager work effectively? Well, understanding the three areas would be a good start. Let’s look at these individually.  First you need to be collecting all your commitments, tasks and anything else you need to do in your inbox. It’s no good collecting some and leaving others in your head. This is not something you can do half-heartedly. Either you go all in or don’t bother at all.  Your head is the worst place to remember what needs to be done. It’s not designed to store information. It’s designed to recognise patterns. We use all our senses to do that. Sight, taste, smell, touch and sound are our primary pattern recognition senses and the ones used every day. We would immediately think something is wrong if we go outside when there’s a blue sky and the sun is shining, but when we do step outside we get wet. There’s an interrupt in the pattern and our brain alerts us to something not being right and our fight or flight reaction will engage.  That’s where our brains work incredibly well.  If someone gives us a random series of numbers that do not fit a pattern (such as giving us a telephone number) we will struggle to remember them. Give us a series of numbers such as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and we will remember—we recognise the pattern.  So the first thing to do if you want a task manager to work is to collect everything and not trust your brain to remember to do the task.  The second area of a task manager is the storage area. I like to think of this as a holding pen for tasks I have not yet decided when I will do them or are not due today.  If we were not organising tasks into holding pens, our inbox—the place you collect your tasks—would soon be swamped. Once that happens you stop looking at it and it becomes a waste of time.  This means every 24 hours or so, you want to be clearing out your inbox, making decisions about when you will do a task and storing them in appropriate holding pens.  Now, there’s a lot of variability in how you organise your tasks. For instance, I organise my collected tasks into time sectors—ie when I am going to do the task. For me, all I want know is whether I will do the task this week, next week, this month, next month or sometime in the distant future.  Other ways to organise your tasks would be by context. This is more commonly known as the GTD method (Getting Things Done) Here you would organise tasks by what you need to do the task—such as a computer, or where you would do the task—in your office or at home, or person, such as your boss, partner or colleague.  The truth is you can organise your tasks in whatever way you want. The important thing is; the way you organise your holding pens needs to work for you.  The thing about these holding pens is you do not work directly from them. They are simply storage areas. They are for planning purposes only.  In my coaching programme, I can quickly tell if a client does any planning by where they choose their next task. If they are in and out of their holding pens looking for tasks to do, that’s a clear indicator that no planning is being done. Essentially, you are planning every time you complete a task and move on to the next one.  This means instead of spending thirty minutes or so on at the end of the week doing a weekly plan, you are doing micro planning between tasks and that adds up to a lot more time than thirty minutes over the course of a week. It’s a very inefficient way of managing your tasks.  It’s a little like working in a shop. If you do your planning, the stock you need is right there in the shop on a shelf where the customer can pick it up, bring it to the counter and pay for it. It’s a seamless, efficient way to conduct your business.  If you don’t do your stock planning, a customer would come in, ask you for a particular product and you would need to walk into the warehouse, find the box the product is in and bring it to the counter. It’s incredibly inefficient and will leave you exhausted. And yet, according to statistics, 93% of people are doing no weekly planning. No wonder there are so many exhausted people. The final part of your task manager is your today list. It’s this list that needs to be kept clean and tight. It must show you only the tasks that need to be completed today and not anything you might like to do. This is what I like to refer to as the business end of your task manager. If you do have extra time at the end of of your list, by all means go into your holding pens and look for a few tasks you can clear before the next day—or better still, take some well deserved rest.  If you are collecting everything and doing your weekly and daily planning, when you start your day and open your today list, you can be confident that the tasks on this list are the only ones that need concern you today.  When you have your task manager working in this manner, where you collect everything, process what you collected into their appropriate holding pens, (or delete the things that are no longer relevant) and you work primarily from your today list, you will find getting through the day Is easy.  You won’t feel as mentally exhausted because you are not doing mini-planning sessions between tasks,—which is a real drain on your mental resources—and you find you flow from one task to another.  There are other strategies for managing your today list. For example, group similar tasks together so you are not switching your focus. This means if you have five or six calls to make, block an hour or so out and sit down and do them all together. Respond to your actionable emails all at once—as late in the day as you can as that prevents email ping-pong. Now the problem we all face today is in the competitive world of productivity apps the only way for developers to distinguish themselves from their competition is to keep adding features. We now have flags, which to be honest is quite useful, tags and labels, filters and multiple different views.  While all these extra features may seem nice, none of them actually help you to do your work. We cannot do multiple tasks at the same time. I cannot make two phone calls at the same time nor can I write three articles. I can only do one task at a time. This means for me to be at my most focused, all I need to know is what to work on now, and then get on and do it without being distracted by what I need t todo next. If I have a lot of random tasks on my list, I’ve just slowed myself down because now I have to decide what to do. And human nature being what it is, I’m likely to pick the easiest task—just to complete a task and get the dopamine hit.  This is a terrible way to do your work. You are at your best in the morning and that is the time to tackle the hardest tasks, leaving your easiest tasks to later in the day when you are not going to be at your best.  So, Thomas, if you want to remove all the complexity, focus on the three areas of your task manager and make sure you get those parts working well for you. Ignore al the extra features—they may become useful later, but if you are starting out, focus your attention on collecting everything—make that a habit. Don’t overthink how you structure your lists, folders etc. These are holding pens for when you do your planning, and make sure you spend enough time dong the work to clear your tasks each day.  I hope that has helped, Thomas. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listen. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
2/13/202314 minutes, 59 seconds
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Why You Must Become Boring To Succeed.

This week’s question is all about building success into your life and why to do it, you need to become boring.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 262 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 262 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. It’s strange how themes crop up and then suddenly I see the theme everywhere. This week, that theme has been all about how to turn something into a success and why so many people fail.  It’s sad that the media only show the fruits of success—showcasing expensive houses, exotic holidays and flashy cars. That may be the results of living a successful life, but it is not how you become successful. The way success is trailed would make anyone feel that only a lucky few can ever be successful, yet that is simply not true at all. Success has nothing to do with where you were born, what school or university you went to, whether you have wealthy parents or were lucky enough to win the lottery. Success has nothing to do with genetics or background.  Whether you succeed or not depends entirely on the choices you make and how you define success. When I see so called instagram influencers living it up on expensive looking yachts or standing at the steps of a private jet, I turn off. I do not see that as success—that’s showing off. Success should be measured by you and what you achieve and ultimately what you contribute to this amazing world.  So, before we get to this week’s question, just pause for a minute an ask yourself what you would have to achieve in order for you to consider yourself a success?  That could be to complete a full course marathon, to raise your children to be respectful of others or it could be to solve a global problem. However you define success, that needs to be your starting point. If you don’t know what that is, you will have no information on which to build a strategy.  Okay, enough of my rambling introduction, let me know hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Roger. Roger asks: Hi Carl, I recently took your PACT course, and was curious to know if you still follow those ideas and whether you would add anything to the cours e today.  Hi Roger, than you for your question. Okay, before we start, I should explain to those who don’t know, I have a free course in my Learning Centre called PACT. PACT stands for; Patience, Action, Consistency and Time. It’s a course that gives you a framework to achieving success at anything. In the course, I used building a blog, podcast or YouTube channel as examples, but you could apply to principles to anything and you will be successful. I’m willing to guarantee that. However, one thing I know is 95% of the people who set out to succeed at something will fail. Why is that? It’s because to become successful at anything you need to become boring. You will also likely have to ditch quite a few of your friends and stop seeing some of your family members as well.  It’s this sacrifice that most people are unwilling to make.  Now, if you have read Napoleon Hill’s brilliant book Think And Grow Rich, you will know about “Burning Desire”. It’s this burning desire that Napoleon Hill discovered was the common denominator among the thousands of highly successful people he interviewed for the book. They knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and set about single-mindedly to achieve it. The excluded everything from their lives that distracted them from achieving that success.  One example, Napoleon Hill gave was Edwin Barns’ single-minded determination to work with (not for) Thomas Edison. Edwin Barns’ gave up everything he had, boarded a freight train and traveled to see Thomas Edison.  He started out cleaning Edison’s offices. Never complained and just worked his way up. Never forgetting his desire to work with Thomas Edison.  After five years of hard work, he got his chance and took it. Barns promised Edison he could sell the Edison Dictating Machine, a machine Edison was having difficulty in selling.  Barns never lost that burning desire and became a fabled rags to riches story.  Barns’ story epitomises how to become successful at whatever you want to be successful at. The problem, for most people, is you need to make sacrifices and sadly, most people are not willing to do that today and instead will reach for all the excuses they can find—the excuses that successful people abandoned years ago.  In many ways, becoming successful is all about shifting your mindset from one that will happily accept any excuse to one where you no longer accept them. A trick I use is if ever I catch myself saying words like “I can’t” or “I don’t have time” I stop myself and ask “why?”  Interestingly, almost always the answer is: I don’t have a desire to do it. To me that’s not an excuse. That’s being honest with myself. I’m fascinated with NASA’s 1950s and 1960s space programme. I will read articles and books and watch documentaries on the amazing things those pioneers at NASA achieved. Yet, I have no desire to go to the moon.  To me PACT is all about becoming successful. You need patience because success in not going to come overnight. No matter what the media tells you. You have to start somewhere, and more often than not that start will be at the bottom. You don’t walk out of university and become the CEO of Google, Apple or Coke a Cola on your first day. You have to start at the bottom and work you way up.  But more than just having patience you need to take action. You need a plan or a strategy from which you will take action that will lead you towards becoming successful. It’s likely you will need to change your plan—adjust course from time to time—but the overall objective is never lost.  It’s here where goal planning comes into the mix. The overall desire to achieve something is going to be far off into the distant future. The college graduate with the desire to become the CEO is likely to have a twenty to twenty-five year apprenticeship. This means the long-term desire needs to be broken down into bite sized chunks. Chunks you can focus on each year. From being a fresh recruit, you might set the goal to become a supervisor in two years, a manager after a further two years etc. This helps you to stay focused.  And then you need consistency. The quality of your work needs to be consistent, your approach to your work needs to be consistent and your daily actions needs to be consistent.  It’s this consistently doing the right things day after day where you develop mastery.  I mentioned in a previous episode one of my favourite TV shows, BBC’s The Repair Shop, those skilled craftspeople have repeated their skills day after day. Susie Fletcher, the leather specialist, sews leather every day. She began her passion for leather crafting when she was thirteen years old. Forty years later, she’s still passionate about working with leather and repairing leather goods. Consistently using the skills she learned many years ago day in day out.  And it’s being consistent with the simple things. I’m still shocked at the number of people who do not consistently do a weekly planning session. How will you ever be successful at what you do if you are always reacting instead of giving yourself thirty-minutes each week to step back look at what you are doing and to plan out the week ahead. It’s that weekly planning that will keep you on the right path. It will stop you from being distracted by the unimportant and keep you focused on what’s really important to you.  And finally, you need to take your time. To be successful at anything you need time. Time to develop your skills and knowledge and time to build experience. You cannot short circuit this. Sure, you can go out and buy subscribers on YouTube or Instagram, but you will know they are fake and these subscribers will not be engaging in your community. It doesn’t take long for others to see through your charade anyway.  I’ve noticed that for a blog, podcast or YouTube channel to really start to grow it will take on average four years. Four years of consistently taking action every week. It’s the same with most businesses. You will not likely be earning a consistently good income for the first four years. It will be hard, difficult and often painful. But if you apply the PACT principles, you will more than likely get there.  Your journey to success is a personal journey. The sacrifices you will need to make will be different from other peoples sacrifices. Some of you will achieve the success you want quickly, others will take a lot longer. That’s absolutely fine because ultimately, it’s not really about whether you become successful or not. It all about becoming a better person each day.  It’s that sense of continuous improvement that leaves you feeling fulfilled and feeling a lot less stressed and worried. It’s as if you know you are on a mission and some days won’t be great, but others will be and as long as there are more great days than bad, you will be making progress.  So to answer your question more directly, Roger, no I wouldn’t change anything about the course. PACT still works. Its formula has helped many people, including myself, to build a business, blog, YouTube channel or podcast. Or all of them.  I recently wrote a blog post on three keys to success. These three keys are research, experiment and practice. They fit into the PACT model in a way. The first step is to decide what you want to accomplish, but after that you need to do research. Find the people who have already achieved what you want to achieve or something similar. That will give you the blueprint to success (or the strategy you need if you like)  After that, you need to experiment. The blueprint you found worked for someone else, it’s not likely to work for you exactly—that would be copying anyway. Instead you take the blueprint and modify it to better fit you. That where you need to experiment.  After that, you need to practice and keep practicing. You’re developing your craft, your expertise and there you need to be patient. You need to accept that it will be boring because you’re following the same process day after day. However, following that process is something you will love doing because eventually you will see the results. It also makes your day a lot easier. You’re not trying to reinvent anything, you already know what you do will result in something at the end of the day. Just keep following the process.  And every once in a while look up, review what you are doing and modify where necessary. That will keep you on track.  And finally, the best advice I can give you is to enjoy the journey. Embrace the good and bad and learn. That’s where the fun is.  Thank you Roger, for you question and than you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.  Carl.  
2/6/202315 minutes, 25 seconds
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How To Manage Your Calendar.

This week’s question is all about getting the most out of your calendar. The most powerful tool in your productivity toolbox, yet surprisingly the least spoken about.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin The Ultimate Productivity Workshop Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 261 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 261 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. The humble calendar has been around for a very long time. And there are many iterations too. There are seasonal calendars still used by many farmers to the little electronic calendars on our phones. It always strikes me as odd that when you do a search for productivity apps, all you get are task managers and notes apps.  Yet, if you don’t take control of your calendar, you will always be running out of time, missing meetings and chasing the elusive goal of being “finished”.  It’s your calendar that will never lie to you. It gives you the twenty-four hours you have each day and you get to design how you use those twenty-four hours.  In my opinion, your calendar beats all other productivity tools and apps because it’s the only tool you have that will tell you where you need to be, when and with whom.  Now, just before I hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice, I just want to give you a heads up that there are still a few places left for February’s Ultimate Productivity Workshop.  Beginning on Friday 3rd February, and for the following three Fridays, I will be doing a ninety minute workshop that takes you through the process of building your very own productivity system—a system that works for you. We will start with the calendar, then go on your task manager and managing your communications—email and messages and end by bringing everything together. This is a wonderful opportunity to join a group of likeminded people who together will help you to overcome any obstacles you may have and to bring in some solid practices that will serve you over the years to come.  The focus of this workshop is on you. I want you to bring your productivity and time management issues so we get real life experiences and to develop methods and processes to ease these issues so they no longer create a bottleneck or obstacle to taking control of your time and you life.  I hope you can join me. I’m so excited to being able to help you and others build their Ultimate Productivity System.  Full details for this event are in the show notes.  Okay, now it’s time for me to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Lisa. Lisa asks, Hi Carl, I’ve see a few of your videos on how you use your calendar, and was wondering if you have any tips for someone who works in a typical office and struggles to find time to get on and do my regular work in between a lot of meetings and interruptions.  Hi Lisa, than you for your question.  I think we need to address the elephant in the room first. Allowing your calendar to show you are more available than you really are.  For many of you working in an office environment where your boss and colleagues can see your calendar—or at least when you have availability—it can be hell trying to organise your day. When your boss or colleague is attempting to set up a meeting, they are not concerned with how much work you have to do, they just want to schedule a meeting and ultimately the day and time will be set according to when everyone is available.  This means if your calendar is showing you free at 9:30 am or 1:30pm (a common free time for most people) that’s when meetings are likely to be arranged.  Now the problem here is 9:30am is the best time to get down to some focused work. You’re much more likely to be fresh and alert at that time and less susceptible to distractions. My advice to anyone who wants to get better at their time management is to block 9:00am to 11:00am for their most important work of the day.  Equally, if you get outside at lunchtime for twenty to thirty minutes, you are going be fresh again when you return—well perhaps not if you’ve had a high carbohydrate lunch—but for most people, the early afternoon can result in another good focused session.  These times should be protected at all costs.  Of course, you may not always have control here—some departmental meetings are set for early Monday morning and later Friday afternoons, but you can still block time out on a Tuesday to Thursday for focused work.  Just giving yourself a few hours each week for focused work time will often give you enough time each week to get the bulk of your work done. It doesn’t have to be every day. And all you need to do is block the time on your calendar. I call these session by what I will do in them. For instance, I have a two hour writing time block on a Monday morning I also have a three hour audio/visual time block on a Friday morning where I record and edit my videos.  Now, If you are a boss, I beg you to implement a no meeting day each week. It might not be convenient, but the amount of work your team gets done on the no meetings days will astound you. There’s something about knowing you are not going to be disturbed that will allow your team to plan what work needs doing and they will be a lot more focused.  Another tip on calendars is to have a master calendar. By this I mean have at least one calendar that shows everything going on in your life; both personal and professional.  Now, in an ideal world you will be able to subscribe to your work calendar on your phone or personal computer (not work computer) and you can then add this to your personal calendar. This way you will see everything going on in your life.  This is important because your dental, doctor and physical therapy appointments, for example, are not going to happen before or after work. You need to see these with your work calendar. Equally, you may need to pick up your kids earlier some days or there might be an event in the evening you need to leave work a little earlier for. If you separate your work and personal calendars, you are inevitably going to miss these when you do your daily and weekly planning.  Now, I subscribe to the belief that we live one life and our work is just a part of that one life. And if you think about it, we work on average 40 hours a week. Well, that’s only 24% of your total week. When you separate your work and personal calendars—ie you have them on different devices, because your work calendar is the most dynamic—the one that changes the most—it will be this one that dominates your life and that isn’t good.  Balance is created when you see you life as a whole. Where you can see, on one screen, your work and personal commitments. This is how you avoid overwhelming yourself and being constantly late for meetings and appointments. You can see quite clearly how much discretionary time you have and how much of your day you have committed to meetings, appointments and other commitments.  Now this might be a good time to remind you of the time -v- activity equation. Of the two sides to this equation, only one is flexible. Time, is fixed. You cannot change that. Now within those twenty-four hours, you need to eat and sleep—that’s going to eat up more of your 24 hours that your work. You will likely need around ten hours for sleeping and eating. Throw in showering, brushing your teeth and you are looking at 11 hours of you day taken up already.  It’s up to you to decide what activities you will do each day. That’s the only part of the equation you can control. Delegating that control to other people is going to leave you miserable and you will feel your life is out of control. It’s not a pleasant feeling and is often a cause of all sorts of mental health issues.  Now how do you take control?  Well, the first thing to do is to create a new calendar and call it your “perfect week”. This is your ideal week. You want to go into as much detail as possible here. Don’t just block out your work hours, for instance. Instead, block out focus time blocks, commuting time (you’re idea commuting time) and other work related items you would like to do each week such as project days, catch up days and prospecting time or creative time. Whatever time you need for doing your work.  You also want to scheduling in your exercise, family and relationship time as well as time for working on your hobbies, reading and anything else you would like time for in your personal life.  When you do this exercise, you will be surprised how much time you actually have. You have a lot more time than you think. It’s this exercise—putting everything together as you would like it on one calendar that you get to see this.  Now, it’s unlikely you will be able to start living this perfect week immediately, that’s not really the point of the exercise. The goal is to merge you real life calendar with this calendar over time. To give you a benchmark, it took me nearly two years to merge my real life calendar with my perfect week calendar. It was a fantastic exercise (and project, in a way). It was also fantastic to initiate a change and see how my life changed and how much more balance I was able to bring into my life.  For me, I started with my morning routines. I put them into my calendar. Seven days a week and scheduled that in. It’s 45 minutes every morning and one of my favourite times of the day.  I then fixed in my exercise times and then rearranged my appointment availably that around the things I wanted to or needed to do .  I should point out your “perfect week” calendar will always be a work in progress. Things change, and we change with them. I revisit my perfect week every six months or so to see how I am doing and look for ways that will improve it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a content creator, coach, admin staff or nurse. We all have the ability to take control of our lives and build the kind of week that empowers us, keeps us healthy—physically and mentally—and leaves us feeling in control of our destination. All you need to do is to decide where you want to spend your time.  Now, finally, for those of you who work in a company that is obsessive about security and will not allow you to subscribe to your work calendar on your personal devices. This means you have some extra work to do.  My advice is to use twenty minutes of your weekly planning time to copy out your meetings and appointments into your master calendar. I know this is extra work, but there isn’t another way round it. You could live with two calendars if you wish, but in my experience you are inviting trouble with that approach. Hopefully, there will be a few recurring meetings that can be fixed anyway. I know it’s extra work ,but the effort will be rewarded.  Well, I hope that helps you, Lisa. Than you for your question and thank you to you too for listening.  Don’t forget my Ultimate Productivity Workshop starts on the 3rd of February. Get yourself signed up today—you won’t regret it.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
1/30/202314 minutes, 32 seconds
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A Few Of My Favourite Productive Habits.

This week’s question is about all those little secrets I’ve discovered over the years that make getting work done on time, every time, easy.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 259 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 260 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that have adopted have helped me to fine-tune my system and greatly improve my overall effectiveness and productivity. This week’s question asked me directly about some of my lesser-known secrets. It was an interesting question because many of the things I do each day I’ve absorbed into my system and never really think about it anymore. It’s a little like learning to drive a car. At first, you have to consciously remember to put the key in the ignition, or to put your foot on the brake and press the start button; after a while, those steps are done unconsciously. And BOOM! I’ve just given you the first tip, and I haven’t even revealed the question.  The secret to mastering productivity or anything else is repetition. However, before I explain that a little more, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Craig. Craig asks, Hi Carl, I’ve followed you for a while now, and I have always wondered, beyond what you share through your YouTube and blog if there are any other little nuggets you use every day that you haven’t revealed in some form or another? Hi Craig, good question. I’ve never thought of that before. I’m sure there are things I do do every day that I do unconsciously that help my overall productivity. You set me quite a challenge here.  Well, let me return to what I was saying in the introduction. “The mother of mastery is repetition”. The more you do something, the better and faster you will get at it.  Take, for example, the humble weekly planning session. When you first do one, it will take you a long time. There are a lot of things you need to go through for the first time, and you will have to consciously think about what you are looking at and will likely read through everything.  Over time though, you learn what needs looking at and what can be skipped. If you come from a GTD background, you will feel you must go through all your open projects. And again, if you are a GTDer, pretty much everything you want to do will be a project—the anything involving two or more steps being a project idea.  That means you are going to have to go through hundreds of projects each and every week. Good luck with that one, my friends.  Now a more pragmatic way of doing your weekly planning session is to look through only your active projects. And here, you really only need to ask yourself what needs to happen next and when do I need to do it.  This dramatically reduces the amount of time you need for a weekly planning session, and as you get consistent with it, i.e. you do one every week, you know exactly what needs looking at. It just becomes natural. You know where to start, and that triggers everything else.  Incidentally linked to your weekly planning session is timing. When should you do yours? Now, over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of different times. I discovered the worst time to do your weekly planning is Sunday night. Yes, I know many of will be shouting at whatever device you are listening to this on. But bear with me.  Doing your weekly planning on a Sunday night is akin to leaving your exercise until the evening. You are going to be inconsistent. Your willpower is at its lowest in the evening, and worse, you will have pretty much forgotten a lot of what happened in the week just gone by.  The best time for a weekly planning session is first thing Saturday morning. Hear me out. Firstly, you’re doing it in the morning and therefore, your willpower is at its highest. It’s also a time where you likely do not have wake up early for work and you can wake up refreshed.  Next, no matter what you are doing on a Saturday morning, there’s no excuses. If you need to set off early for an adventure day, you can wake up thirty or forty minutes earlier and get it done. AND… The icing on the cake… getting your weekly planning done first thing Saturday morning, leaves you worry free for the rest of weekend knowing that you’ve got the week ahead planned and you can now relax and enjoy the weekend.  Next tip. Turn everything you do repeatedly into a process. What I mean here is whether you are replying to your actionable emails, preparing for a meeting, or doing follow-up calls, create a process for doing it.  For example, when I clear my actionable emails, I make a cup of tea, turn on BBC Radio 2 and listen to Ken Bruce on the BBCs Sounds App—well I do at the moment, sadly we learned this week that Ken Bruce will be leaving at the end of March and I don’t know what I will be listening to from April. But that’s something I can deal with another day.  The tea, the music and the time of day (5pm to 6pm) sets an atmosphere and I open up my Action This Day folder and start at the top and work my way down (my email’s in reverse order—oldest at the top). I resist the temptation to cherry pick. I just start at the top and work my way down.  Sometimes, the top two or three are quick replies, sometimes they are longer replies. Either way, I start there and work my way down the list.  I would say five or six days a week I clear them all, and on the day or two I don’t, no worries, the ones I did not get to will be the first ones I deal with tomorrow.  It’s a process that begins in the morning when I clear my inbox. There’s usually 80 to 120 emails in my inbox in a morning (I live on the other side of the world, so most of my mail comes in through the night) So, I clear that first—I need to know about cancelled appointments and any “fires” before I start my day, and then email is pushed to the side until later in the day when I clear the actionable mail.  If you want to learn more about my process, I have a couple YouTube videos on it, and if you want to go much deeper, you can always enrol in my Email Mastery course. (Details as usual in the show notes)  Speaking of email and other forms of communication, here’s another tip I follow. Set rules for how and when you will respond to the various inputs. And I can assure you this works whether you are the CEO or the newest recruit if, and you need to courage to do this, you spell out your rules to everyone.  My rules are: Emails will be responded to within 24 hours. Instant messages within two hours and phone calls immediately.  I remember those laughable days when companies tried to apply rules such as phone calls will be answered within five rings. These kind of rules are ridiculous because they are unsustainable. It left staff on edge because every time the phone rang they started counting. Terrible if you were trying to do some focused work.  I’ve come across some companies that still think this is a good idea. Respond to customer or client emails and messages immediately. Not only is this impossible, but it’s terrible for your customers and staff. You set unrealistic expectations for both.  Set your own rules and communicate these to everyone. People don’t care whether you respond immediately or not, what they want is consistency so once you set your rules. Be consistent. I can assure you, once you have these in place, you are much less jumpy when you get a message or an email. You know you have time to finish what you are doing before having the need to look at it. (That’s also hard to do, but again, with practice it does get easier)  One of the most powerful productivity habits I have is never going to bed without knowing what two things I must do tomorrow. This is so ingrained in me now that I cannot sleep until I know.  Most days, I will do this leisurely in front of Todoist before I close the lid on my computer. Other days, when I am a bit rushed, or not in my office, I’ll do it from my phone. Just open up Todoist, look at my tasks assigned for tomorrow and flag the two I must do tomorrow.  The beauty of this is I know once my morning routines are complete what I need to do and instead of not looking around for what to do, I get straight onto it. And that saves me a huge amount of time cumulatively through the week.  Ideally, I like to sit down and do this in front of my computer with my calendar open. It’s a ten minute daily ritual, if you like, that saves me hours each week. I think this is why I cannot understand why so few people do it and why I preach so much about it. As I was thinking about this question, the biggest thing I do is to create processes for doing my core work—the work that is essential each week. That’s this podcast, my YouTube videos, blog post and newsletters as well as writing client feedback and of course doing my coaching calls. I know exactly how much time I need for these activities each week and that time is blocked out in my calendar.  It’s a non-negotiable part of my work life. Each part has a process, and from time to time, I look at my processes to see where I can improve them.  One final tip, whenever Todoist or Evernote update their apps, I always have a play with the new features. I want to know if the new features will enhance my processes or not. The only way to learn that is to play. Likewise, when Apple do their OS updates, I will watch the event, again to see where I can improve my processes.  I also resist the temptation to look at new apps. Todoist and Evernote have served me very well for the last ten years or so. I know them, they are familiar and they have never let me down.  And that’s about it, Craig. I think I’ve covered quite a few tricks I use that I may not have covered here or in my YouTube videos. I hope they can be useful to you.  Thanks, Craig, for your question. And thank you to you, too, for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
1/23/202313 minutes, 34 seconds
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How To Keep Your Daily List of Tasks Manageable

This week’s question is on how to reduce the number of tasks in your task manager.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 259 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 259 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show.  We’ve all face this problem. Getting tasks into our task manager, adding dates and then discovering that we have far too many tasks to complete on a given day. It’s problematic because we feel once a date is added, it must be done on that day.  The truth is, most of the tasks on your list for today do not need to be done today. They could be done tomorrow or the day after, and nothing would go disastrously wrong. Yet, the task being on your list today leaves you feeling it has to be done today.  In many ways, this is a symptom of becoming better organised and more productive. It’s not the disaster many feel it is, just a growing pain and one that, with a little strategic thinking, can be overcome.  So, today, that’s what I will do. I will share with you a number of tips and methods that will help you to overcome this feeling of overwhelm and the need to do everything on your list each day. And that means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Philip. Philip asks; Hi Carl, I’m having a big problem with my daily tasks. No matter how hard I try, I never complete my tasks for the day, and it causes me to feel deflated and disillusioned. I keep trying different task managers, and that does help for a week or two, but after that, I find myself in the same problem. How do you stay on top of your tasks every day? Hi Philip, thank you for your great question. And don’t worry. You are definitely not alone with this problem.  The first thing to understand is if you are following the Time Sector System, the focus is not necessarily on what you do each day; the focus is on what you get accomplished in the week. This is why the most important folder you have in the Time Sector System is the This Week folder. This is where you put all the tasks you want to complete this week.  All the other folders are just holding pens for tasks you have not yet decided when you will do. And that’s okay. When you stop focusing on daily task numbers and instead focus on what you will accomplish in the week, if you get to the end of Monday and you still have several tasks to complete, you can relax and simply reschedule the remaining tasks for another day in the week.  Now, there will inevitably be tasks that need to be done on a given day. For those tasks, you use the 2+8 prioritisation method—where two of your ten most important tasks must be completed that day. (Even if you have to pull an all-nighter to do it—which hopefully doesn’t ever happen, but that’s the mindset you want to have) You can utilise the power of time blocking and block out sufficient time to make sure you get those two tasks completed for the day. For instance, this week, on Tuesday, I had a two-hour block of time for writing. On my task list, I had this podcast script to write as a priority task. Hence, I wrote this script in that two-hour block of time.  When I did my planning for the day on Monday evening, I saw the task, and I saw I had a writing time block. I made writing the script a priority task and went to bed knowing I had sufficient time to write the script.  Linked to this, there are a couple of things you can do that will help to reduce your daily task list numbers. The first is to theme your days. This is an idea from Mike Vardy of the Producivityist podcast. Mike calls it Time Crafting, and essentially, you theme each day. For example, you may have Monday and Tuesday for client and customer work. Wednesday for follow-ups and chases, Thursdays for project work and Friday for admin.  Knowing what your core work is will help you design this effectively. If you don’t know what your core work is, you will fall into the trap of firefighting—where you are always reacting to what is thrown at you rather than being more proactive and focusing your time and attention on what you are employed to do.  Once you set your theme for the day, when you do your weekly planning session, you can move tasks that relate to each theme to its day. For instance, all your admin tasks can be scheduled for your admin day, your client matters can be scheduled for your client work days, and any project tasks can be done on project days.  The key to making this work, though, is to fix the days. When you find yourself knowing that Mondays are for working with your clients and customers and Fridays are your admin days, life becomes that little bit easier. Now, there will inevitably be emergencies that need your time and attention on days when you planned to do something else. That’s just life, and that’s where you need to build some flexibility into your approach.  One of my favourite TV shows is BBC’s Repair Shop. If you don’t know this show, it’s about a group of skilled craftspeople who restores and repairs people’s things. These things can range from old alarm clocks that a grandparent owned and passed down to an old corner shop sign that has seen better days. The skills on the show are amazing. But one thing that stands out to me when I watch this show is before any work is done, the craftsperson looks at the object as a whole and looks to see what work needs to be done.  Invariably, the first step is to clean the object so they can get a better view of what needs to be repaired.  Often when we get a task, we don’t stop to look at the task as a whole and see what needs to be done. Our brains are terrible at estimating what needs to be done and how long it will take. It’s far better, when you process what you have collected in your inbox, to give yourself a few extra seconds to stop and think about what needs to be done before you move it to one of your time sectors. In my experience, most of your collected tasks don’t take as long as you first imagine. Often a task is similar in nature to other tasks you have to do and can be added to the same day you plan to do those similar tasks.  Which leads me to one of my favourite tricks to reducing my task list for the day, and that is to use spreadsheets. The great thing about a spreadsheet is you can design it to contain whatever information you like. You can then manipulate that information in ways that give you a list you can work from.  So, if you work in sales and you need to follow up with prospects each day, rather than have all these follow-ups in your task manager, you put them into a spreadsheet. You then only need a single task in your task manager that tells you to do your follow-ups for the day.  The great thing about this is rather than having ten to twenty individual tasks randomly thrown into your task manager; you can “chunk” your follow-ups together because when you open your spreadsheet, the only decision you need to make is how long you spend on that task.  This also helps you better manage your time. You can dedicate however much time you like to doing your follow ups each day, and rather than looking for the tasks and the time you waste doing that, they are all contained in a single place with all the information you need from when you last spoke to the customer, to their contact details and any other information you want to keep.  This also avoids the problem that is inherent with a task manager. Once you check off a task it disappears. You no longer have any information you may have collected. You can try and search for your completed tasks and I know most task managers do allow you to do this, but it’s cumbersome and is a huge time waste. Plus, if you are using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel online, you can get the URL for the sheet and paste that into the recurring task so all you need do is click the link and you’re straight into the sheet you need with all the information you need right in front of you.  The final part to this conundrum is to be strict about what gets into your system. This comes back to the time v activity equation. Time is fixed. We only get 24 hours a day and we cannot change that. The only part of the equation we do have any control over is the activity part—what we do each day.  I’ve been reminded of this since I returned to Korea from Europe. Travelling east gives you jet lag and I am terrible with it. This means for the first week or two, on my return, I am very tired in the afternoons, become wide awake in the evening and wake up around 4 AM. I have in the past fought this and stayed in bed wide awake getting more and more frustrated. Instead, these days I get up at 4 AM and get as much work done as possible before the inevitable slump later in the day.  Gradually, my sleep returns to normal, but I find the 4AM starts are great for my productivity. I know. I cannot change the time I have each day, but I can get as much work done in the time of day I am awake and rest when I am feeling extremely tired.  So, there you go, Philip. I hope that has given you a few tips and tricks that will calm your overactive task manager and bring you some peace. Thank you for your question and thank you for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very, very productive week.   
1/16/202312 minutes, 18 seconds
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How Get Started With A Solid Morning Routine

This week, it’s all about building a morning routine that leaves you focused and energised.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 258 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 258 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Something I have noticed about productive and successful people is they all have a morning routine that helps them to focus and energise themselves for the day ahead. Whether these people are sport stars, business executives or a stay at home parent, each days begins the same way—with time spent on themselves.  And that is the key to an empowering morning routine—it’s the time spent working on yourself in a way that leaves you feeling focused and ready for the day ahead.  This week’s question is all about morning routines: what to include and more importantly, how to be consistent with them.  So, with that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jules. Jules asks, Hi Carl, I like to idea of having a morning routine, but I’ve never been able to make anything stick. Do you have any tips or tricks for being consistent with things like morning routines? Hi Jules, thank you for your question.  The one thing I have learned about morning routines (and end of day routines) is to make them stick you need to ensure that the activities you do are activities you enjoy doing. For many people it would be nice to start the day with exercise, but if you live in a country where the weather is somewhat unpredictable, waking up and heading out for a walk in torrential rain, is not necessarily the best start to the day.  Another mistake I see is to copy someone else’s routines. For example, Robin Sharma, advocates waking up at 5 AM and spending the first 20 minutes of your day with exercise, then 20 minutes planning and finally 20 minutes of study. That works for Robin and indeed works for many others who follow the 5 AM Club (as it is called), but for others—such as myself—waking up at 5 AM is impractical as I often work late and need seven hours sleep.  Indra Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO wakes up at 4AM to read books and her email. For me, if I were to wake up at 4 AM to read books I’d find myself falling back to sleep very quickly.  Other people’s morning routines are not going to work for you. You need to find your own way. But the question is how do you do that? Well, the first step is to decide how much time you want to spend on your morning routines. Too much time, for instance, will either mean you have to awake up too early, or delay the start of your day leaving you with too much pressure to get things done.  The ideal amount of time is no more than sixty minutes. Sixty minutes is enough time to do most things and means you are not going to interfere significantly with your sleep.  For the record, my morning routine takes around 45 minutes.  The next step is to decide what you want to do in your morning routines. Now, the thing here is whatever you do it must be something you really enjoy doing. You are not going to be consistent with these if you do not wake up and look forward to starting your routine.  So, what would you enjoy doing in a morning? Some things you may want to consider are: Meditating Some light exercise Writing a journal Reading Going for a morning walk (preferably with a dog—that’ll put a smile on your face) Taking an ice bath (not my cup of tea)  Choose activities that leave you feeling happy and energised.  You may want to experiment here for a few weeks. I’ve found some things look exciting on paper, but in a morning when you try doing them they just don’t fit right. For instance, a few years ago I tried meditation for fifteen minutes. I really didn’t enjoy it, so I ditched meditating.  Once you have a few activities the next step is to find your trigger.  This comes from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. The idea is you use a trigger activity that is easy to begin your routines. For example, my trigger is putting the kettle on. This has been the first thing I have done each morning for years. The turning on of the kettle to make my morning coffee starts my morning routine.  While I wait for the kettle to boil, I begin my stretching routine. These are a series of stretching exercises I picked up from Brian Bradley of the Egoscue Method. Once the kettle has boiled I brew my morning coffee and while that is brewing, I drink a glass of lemon water.  The great thing about having a trigger activity is that once you start, it becomes natural to move on to the next activity and you do not need to think about what to do next. This is again something from James Clear’s Atomic Habits and it’s called habit stacking. The trigger begins the stack.  Now on to timing. Once you know what activities you want to do in your morning routine, the question is how long do you need? As I mentioned earlier, anything up to 60 minutes is great.  My work day usually begins at 8:00 am, and I need forty-five minutes for my morning routines. This means I wake up at 7:00 am. This gives me plenty of time to complete my morning routines and leaves me around fifteen minutes to prepare for my first work activity whether that is a coaching call or writing.  Now, if I need to wake up earlier—which sometimes does happen—for example, let’s say I have a call at 7:00am, then my wake up time is 6:00am.  If you have young children, being consistent with your start time can be difficult, however, as your children grow up, they will go through phases. Some phases could be they wake up early, and you may need to work with them—perhaps give them an activity to do while you do your routines, other times you’ll struggle to get them out of bed and perhaps waking your kids up could become a part of your morning routines.  The thing is, don’t let outside influences destroy your morning routines. My recent holiday travels meant I wasn’t able to complete my morning routines consistently and that was okay. As soon as I landed and got to my hotel, had a good sleep, I started the next day with my morning routine. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day or two because of travel or kids waking up at unexpected times.  Now, one thing I would advise you don’t do is to add your whole morning routine to your task manager. Most people have five to ten items on their morning routine list and adding these to your task manager will clutter things up.  If you want to track your routines, use your notes app. Most notes apps allow you to create a checklist so all you need do is create a checklist and duplicate this list each morning, if you want to track your progress.  Alternatively, if you do want to track your routines, I would advise going old-school analogue and printing out a calendar. Stick that on your refrigerator or the door of your bedroom and crossing off the days you complete your morning routines. There’s something about seeing your progress across the month on paper that encourages you to keep going.  While all our digital technology is great and allows us to get a lot of things done, it can also hide inside our devices and be forgotten. Having a piece of paper stuck on your door cannot be hidden. You see it every time you go to bed and every time you wake up. It’s there to remind you of your commitment.  One thing I would recommend you do as a way to close your morning routines is to end them by reviewing what your objectives for the day are. This helps you by focusing you on the results you want from the day. For instance, if you have a proposal to finish, make that an objective. You may also decide that getting out and doing some form of exercise is important that day. These can then form your objectives for the day and when you review these, you can decide when you will do them.  It’s reviewing my objectives for the day that has been a revelation for me. This has been the single most important thing that has helped my focus. All I am looking at are the two most important things I have decided on doing that day. Before I end my morning routines, I decide when I am going to do them and that’s it. I’m ready for the day ahead.  So, Jules, to help you stick to your morning routines, keep things simple. Make sure you only allow thing you love doing onto your morning routines list and most importantly of all, find your trigger. The one thing you do each morning without fail. I should have mentioned that brushing your teeth is one of the best triggers because it’s something you do each morning.  Thank you for your question, Jules and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
1/9/202311 minutes, 57 seconds
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Building Productivity Into Your Team.

In our final episode of the year, we’re looking at how to improve the productivity of a team. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 258 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 258 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Over the last year or so, I’ve received a number of questions related to helping a team improve their overall productivity. Now, this is a difficult question to answer because each individual team member will be motivated by different things and each person will have a unique approach to getting their work done.  Motivation is a key part to individual productivity. If you are not motivated by your work and you see it only as a way to pay the bills, more fulfilling motives such as ownership of a project or task, developing your skills and helping people solve problems don’t feature in an individual’s mindset. That said, it is possible to build a highly productive team that has clear outcomes each day and week and at the same time builds ownership, camaraderie and a strong team work ethic. And that is what we will be looking at today.  So, with all that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Tony. Tony asks, Hi Carl, I manage a team of eight people and we are responsible to sales and the initial after sales programme following delivery of out product. The problem I am having is keeping my team focused on what we are trying to accomplish. They often get distracted by low value tasks that means we often fall behind on our plan. Do you have any advice on helping teams be more focused? Hi Tony, thank you for your question.  As I mentioned in the introduction, working with a team of people has its own challenges when it comes to productivity but there are a few things you can do that will enhance you teams overall productivity. The first is clear communication.  Often what happens within a team is there is poor communication on the results that the team is expected to accomplish. At the beginning of a year or a quarter, team leaders are usually reluctant to talk about what the team’s targets are.  Managers are quite happy to discuss individual targets with employees, but rarely talk about the group target.  The problem here is you encourage team members to focus on their individual targets and the team’s. What you want to be doing is ensuring that the team as a whole knows the target so that they can work together to achieve that team goal.  I remember when I was selling cars in the early 1990s, there were three of us in the new car sales team, plus a sales manager. Claire, Bob and myself.  Claire was an outstanding sales person. She was focused, aggressive (in a positive way) and could pull sales out of nowhere. Bob on the other hand was slower. He was patient and gentler, yet he had an enormous amount of experience and consistently brought ink the sales. Me? I was somewhere in the middle.  Each month out team’s target was to sell 35 cars. Now, traditionally, that number would be divided between the three of us equally, but while Claire rarely missed her targets, Bob and myself struggled to hit the target.  Yet, our sales manager, David, realised that the important target was the 35 cars. Not that his three sales people sold twelve cars each per month. If we had focused on the individual numbers, Claire would have slowed down in the forth week of the month, while Bob and I would be slow at the beginning of the month.  On the white board in David’s office, there was only two numbers. The target (35) and the number of cars we had sold that month. This way, we were encouraged to work as a team.  It also meant that if Claire’s more aggressive approach was not working with a particular customer, David would ask Bob or myself to step in and close the sale. Equally, if a slow burn approach appeared not to be working, we would ask Claire to step in and close the sale.  We had a regular morning meeting at 8:30am and in that meeting we discussed what we had on as potential sales, and we set objectives for the day.  The communication was clear and we set about our day with clear objectives to accomplish that day.  That team was the best team I ever worked in in terms of productivity. As far as I recall we never missed our targets, and we won a lot of awards for the best new car sales team within the group.  The success of that team was down to simple communication and a shared objective.  The next important factor for improving your team’s productivity is to trust your team to get on and do their work. This is about allowing your individual team members to own the task or objective.  If, as a manager, you are micromanaging your team and always monitoring what they are doing, you are destroying the team’s trust. You, as a leader, need to trust your team to get on do what they do best—their job.  As a leader of a team, your job is to ensure your team is moving in the right direction and to remove any barriers your team may face in the execution of their work—more on that later.  What this means, is once you have given your team members their instructions, so to speak, you need to leave them to get on and do it. Hence the importance of clear communication. If you are constantly calling, messaging and emailing them for updates, you are preventing them from doing their work. Your team need space to do their work.  Now in my experience, if a manager or team leader is always requesting updates, it’s a sign they do not trust their team. That is not a productivity issue, but a recruiting one. It means you are recruiting, or you feel you are recruiting, so called “B players”. That needs to stop. If you are employing the right people—the A Players—you can then step back and let them do what they do best.  Now, I know as a leader you need to report to your manager or leader. And that goes back to how you are communicating with your team. If you need to regularly report numbers to your manager, you should set up a simple reporting system that your team updates at the end of each day or week. That way, you will have access to the numbers you need to report to your boss without interrupting your team.  So, make sure you have clear reporting processes put in place for your team. Do not over complicate this. Updating the reporting system should not take your team more than ten minutes each day to do.  Now, back to your role as a barrier remover.  The best managers I’ve ever worked with saw their job as helping me and my colleagues to do their job with as little friction as possible. If there were procedural problems within the company, my manager would step in to sort out these problems. If I ever had a difficult customer, or student, my manager would step in and clear whatever problems I was having.  I remember one occasion where we had a particularly difficult student in our language institute. She was never happy with the teacher she was given and would inevitably complain if the teacher diverged from the textbook. Whenever she turned up in one the teacher’s classes, they would freeze up and their classes became very boring, which meant they lost students.  Our institute manager and I (as I was the native English teacher’s manager at that time) sat down and worked out a strategy to help this student achieve what she wanted to achieve. We even had a meeting with her to explain our teaching philosophy.  In the end it was decided I would teach her next class and before the class started I sat down and explained my teaching methodology to her and got her to agree to following my method for a month.  What we did was take a difficult student away from the other teachers so they could get on and do their job and allowed the most experienced teacher (at the that time, me) to solve the problem. We did. And, I got an invite to that student’s wedding six months later.  The one thing you do not want to be doing as a manager is imposing your productivity system on your team. What works for you is not likely to work for them. Instead, you want to be focusing on is giving clear instructions to your team and letting them get on do what they are best at doing.  The final piece of this puzzle is how you communicate with your team. If you allow your team to communicate in anyway they like, you are going to find you are swamped with emails, Teams or Slack messages and a backlog of phone calls.  Set a standard. If you are not already using something like Microsoft Teams or Slack, then look into adding a channel like this as your team’s communication channel.  This allows you to centralise all messages and gives your team a resource for solving problems that individual team members have solved. It can become a team Wiki page.  You also need to avoid placing response time expectations on your team too. If they feel they need to reply to your messages within minutes of receiving them. They are not going to be productive. Your team need the space to do their work, not worrying about replying to your messages as soon as they come in.  However, if you put in place a workable reporting system, you should not need to be asking your team for updates—that information will be available in the reporting system.  One final part to this is the question about whether you need a task or project manager to manage the tasks within your team. These can help if your team are working on joint projects. These can also help you as a manager to see what’s happening, what still needs to be done and where there are holdups. I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of the various apps you can use here, but in my experience working with teams, the best apps for managing team based work are apps like Trello, Microsoft Planner and Asana—boards seem to work better than lists with teams.  The key to making task and project managers work is someone needs to have responsibility to ensure they are updated. If you, as the team leader are the only one using this system it is not going to work. You need commitment from your team and that means you will need to show the benefits to your team.  I would suggest you set up a training morning or afternoon with your whole team to go through how to use the system. Allocate responsibility for making sure the system is up to date and clearly define expectations.  In my experience, if you commit to training your team correctly in using the task manager, you will get support. A lack of training and understanding of the benefits is usually the reason why these well-intentioned approaches fail to work.  So there you go, Tony. I hope that helped and thank you for your question.  Thank you to you too for listening and let me wish you a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate Christmas), and a fantastic start to the new year.  This podcast will be back on the 9th January. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
12/19/202213 minutes, 55 seconds
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The End Of Year Clean Up

This week, what could you change about your system to get it ready for 2023?   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 257 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 257 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. There’s something about an end of year that turns our minds towards cleaning things up, making changes and planning. Yet when you think about it, these things can be done at any time in the year. Cleaning your task manager of tasks that have been sitting around for over a year, reviewing how we manage our tasks and making plans can all be done anytime. All we need to do is make that decision. That said, the end of year often does give us some extra time to do these things. Emails reduce a little, and most people’s attention turn towards the upcoming year. And certainly if you live in the west, Christmas week does take us away from our work and spending time with family and friends.  I find this presents opportunities to clean up my notes for the year, delete tasks I’ve added, not done and are just sitting around in my task manager cluttering things up.  This week’s question is on this very subject. What can we do to change things, reenergise tired processes and fix things that haven’t worked well throughout the year.  So, without further discourse, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Jan. Jan asks: Hi Carl, I’ve seen you mention your end of year clean up in your blog posts in the past but I’ve never seen or heard you describe what you do. Could you explain your process for cleaning things up? Hi Jan, thank you for your question. My end of year clean up has become a bit of a ritual for me now. It’s something I enjoy doing because I am not working in the sense of creating content, instead I am doing a lot of sitting around and TV watching, not something I do at anything other time of the year. It’s relaxing and my mind isn’t “on” in the sense of thinking what to create next. So, where do I start?  The first step for me is to do a review of all the apps I am using. The goal here is to eliminate apps I am not using. That means evaluating the usefulness of the apps I have on my computer, phone and iPad.  Through the year I will test a few apps to see what everyone is talking about. In the past, I’ve had apps like Notion, Obsidian, Things 3 and OneNote on my computer and as they didn’t make the cut, so to speak, I deleted them.  This year, I will be happily removing all the COVID apps I installed, I noticed these were still hanging around on a “just in case” basis. But as Korea is no longer doing test and trace and we can travel without the need for a PCR test, I can remove these.  I should point out if you do this exercise, once you’ve cleared all these apps, your computer, phone and tablets feel faster. I’m sure there’s no difference, but it does feel faster.  Next is to go into my workhorse apps and clean them up. I usually start with Todoist because this is the easiest one to clean up. With the Time Sector System, the folder you want to be paying attention to is your Long-term and on-hold folder. This folder can easily become a dumping ground and the end of the year is a good time to go in there and delete tasks you know you’re not going to be doing.  For tasks that have been sitting in there for a while but you feel you will still likely want to do them, you can move them out of your task manager and create a project note or add them to a list of tasks you want to do in the future but require further planning out, again in your notes.  Then it’s time to go into my notes. Now for me, this year is going to be a difficult one. This is the year I will be making a decision on whether to relegate Evernote to being a storage app and go all in on Apple Notes. Now, the reason for this change of approach with Evernote is because Evernote is going in a direction that will not support how I use notes. That’s not a criticism of Evernote, I feel Evernote is doing brilliantly. However for me, I want my notes app to be simple with as few features as possible. When an app has too many features, the temptation to play around with formatting, colours and setups is too much for me. I spend more time playing than doing and that does nothing for my productivity.  Apple Notes, on the other hand, is simple, has great search features and works across all my devices. The test size is readable (while Evernote on my phone and iPad is too small for me to read comfortably), and it does the job I want a notes app to do with little fuss.  Throughout the year, if you are using a notes app properly, you will have collected a lot of notes that you no longer need. These need to be deleted (or archived). I love this purge. It almost acts as a review of my year. I go through my folders, clearing our old notes and making sure the titles and any tags I am using for the notes I keep are relevant and searchable.  This step is important. The search features on our computers are very powerful these days, and saves us a lot of time when looking for a note. If you haven’t learned how to use the system search on your devices, that’s something I highly recommend you do. It will save to a lot of time.  It during this clean up process when you will also see ways where you can improve your structure. If you’ve read Tiago Forte’s Building A Second Brain book this year, a book I would highly recommend, you may want to implement some of the principles in that book at this stage.  Now while you cleaning up your task manager and notes app, you want to be asking yourself: “how can I do it better?”. We want to be building seamless and effective systems, and there’s always room for improvement. If you remember the principles of COD—Collect, Organise, Do—you want to be asking yourself how you can improve your collecting process and how you can reduce the time it takes you to organise what you collect so you can spend more time doing the work.  The more time you spend in your task managers and notes apps, the less time you spend doing the work. So ask yourself, where can you speed up the process?  The final step to the end-of-year clean up is to go into the folders where you store your documents. Now, this is often the hardest part of the process because, over the year, we will have accumulated a lot of documents that either we no longer need or can be archived.  I use an external hard drive to move files and documents I no longer need. This helps to keep my computer’s drive clean and also reduces the need for more space in my cloud storage services.  I would also recommend you go into your Documents folder on your computer. We often download PDFs and other documents here and then forget about them. Clean that out.  Once you’ve cleared everything up, now it’s time for the fun part. Asking yourself how you can improve your system. Again, what we are looking for here is speed. How can we get faster at finding our stuff? Researching your device’s search tips and tricks is a great way to do this. I’ve learned so much by watching YouTube videos on learning how to get the most out of Apple’s Spotlight (and optimising it to work better for me).  The point of this exercise is to get your systems ready for the new year. You don’t want to be going into the new year with slow, unwieldy systems. Starting the new year with a clean set-up not only speeds everything up, but it also sets you up for a fantastic year.  The final part of this process is to look for bumps in the road where your system isn’t working too well. I find these bumps are usually in your task managers. Your task manager needs to tell you what you should be working on today. Everything else in there is simply holding pens for tasks you don’t need to do today, or you have not yet decided when you will do them.  How can you best set this up so when you go into your task manager to see what needs to happen today, you can see instantly what your objective tasks are—the tasks that must be done today?  And now for the bonus. In recent years, I have taken to using the end-of-year break to go through my calendar to see how I can better optimise my week, so I get to spend more time doing the things I love doing. From spending more quality time with my family to being more consistent with exercise.  For 2023, the area I want to improve is my sleep. I am a terrible sleeper, and I need to be more consistent with this. So, one of my objectives is to redesign my week, so I have a cut-off time each day—a time I need to switch off my computer and a time I need to be in bed.  If you have followed my tip to design your perfect week, you can turn on this calendar and see how you can merge this with your actual week. To give you an example, I want to better use the mornings for creative work. I am at my most creative in the morning and a lot less so in the afternoons. I can block time out on my calendar for writing and recording and push off all my meetings to the afternoon or later in the morning. I understand not all of you have complete control over your calendar. But you likely have more control than you think. Blocking time out now means other people cannot schedule meetings when you could be getting on with your focused work. Try it. It might just work. If it doesn’t, then you can go back to the drawing board and rethink your strategy here.  So, there you go, Jan. I hope that has helped and I also hope you get some time over the Christmas break to play with this. The key is to not put pressure on yourself to do this. It needs to be fun. I like to sit with my parents in the evenings and while they watch their favourite TV shows, I can be getting on and cleaning things up.  As this exercise is fun, I can be present when we are talking and while they are consumed in the TV show. I can be cleaning up.  Thank you for your question, and thank you for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
12/12/202213 minutes, 6 seconds
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Why You Need To Take Projects Out Of Your Task Manager

Podcast 256 This week, we’re looking at the overwhelming number of so-called “projects” people create and why it’s these that contribute to overwhelm and a lot of wasted time.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 256 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 256 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. I read David Allen’s seminal book, Getting Things Done, around fifteen years ago, and it helped me to transform away from a manual Franklin Planner that had served me well for the previous 17 years to a fully digital productivity system.  In Getting Things Done, David Allen defines a project as anything requiring two or more steps to complete. He also mentioned that most people have between thirty and a hundred projects at any one time.  Now, if you are following a correct interpretation of GTD (as Getting Things Done is called), that would not pose a problem because projects are kept in file folders in a filing cabinet near your desk and your task manager is organised by context—meaning your lists are based around a place such as your workplace, home or hardware store, a tool such as your computer or phone or a person, such as your partner, boss or colleagues.  Unfortunately, when apps began to appear, many app developers misread or misinterpreted the GTD concept and built their apps around project lists instead of contexts. It could also have been a concern for intellectual property rights. But either way, this has led to people organising their task list managers by project and not context. And it is this that has caused so much to go wrong for so many people.  This week’s question is on this very subject and why managing your task manager by your projects is overwhelming and very ineffective.  So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Lara. Lara asks, hi Carl, Last year I read the Getting Things Done book and have really struggled to get it to work for me. I have nearly 80 projects in my task manager, and I feel I am spending too much time keeping everything organised. I never seem to be able to decide what to work on, and everything feels important. Do you have any suggestions on spending less time managing work and more time doing the work?  Hi Lara, thank you for your question.  So, as I mentioned in the opening, the problem here is you are managing your projects in the wrong place. Task managers are there to manage your tasks, not your projects. If you want to manage projects with software, you would be better off purchasing dedicated project management software. However, those apps can be very expensive and have been designed for corporations and large teams working on a single project. Apps like Monday.com and Wrike are examples of accessible project managers.  However, apps like these are designed for teams of people working together on a single project and will not solve your problem of being able to spend more time doing your work and less time organising it. Now, you did not mention if you wanted to continue using the GTD model or not, but if you want to get things better organised, the first step would be to remove your projects from your task manager and replace your lists with something you can better manage.  Now, I use the Time Sector System to manage my tasks. This means my task manager is organised by when I will do the task. There are five time sectors: This week, next week, this month, next month and long-term and on hold.  This means when a task comes into my task manager, the only thing I need to decide is when I will do the task. If it needs doing this week, it will be added to my This Week folder; if it does need doing this week, I will distribute it accordingly.  In the GTD world, you need to set up your task manager by your different contexts. These can be anything, but they do need to work for you. While in the GTD book, David Allen gives us examples of @office, @computer, @phone and @home etc, these are a bit out of date today. We can do email from a computer, tablet or phone, and many of us work in a hybrid way in that we do a lot of work working from home.  Now, I’ve seen some people organise their work by energy level: for instance, high energy would be for big tasks that require quite a bit of time, low energy would be for easy tasks that can be done at any time.  The great thing about GTD is you can choose your own contexts that better fit your lifestyle.  However, a better way to manage all this is to treat the folders in your task manager as holding pens for tasks yet to be done. The only thing that really matters is what you have to do today. Allowing yourself to be distracted by what can be done tomorrow or next week will slow you down and bring with it a sense of overwhelm.  But, before we get there, let’s look at how you are defining a project.  In GTD a project is defined as anything requiring two or more steps. This is where I think GTD breaks down. For example, arranging for my car to go in for a service will require more than one step. I need to confer with my wife for a suitable day that we both will be available, I need to call the dealership to book the car in and I need to add the date to my calendar because the dealership is sixty miles away from where we live.  Yet, the only task I have in my task manager is an annual, recurring task that comes up on the 1st September reminding me to book my car in for a service. When that task appears, I know to ask my wife when she will be available. I don’t need three tasks all written out in a separate project.  Equally, much of the work we do is routine. For example, every week, I need to write a blog post, two essays, prepare and record this podcast and create two to three YouTube videos. Technically, in the GTD world, each of those tasks are projects. There are more than one step involved in each of those pieces of content. But I do not treat them as individual projects. They are tasks I just do.  I know I need around five hours a week for writing, so I block out five hours each week for writing on my calendar. I need three hours to prepare this podcast and another three hours for recording and editing my YouTube videos. As I know the amount of time I need for each of my pieces of work, I block the time out in my calendar.  Now, in your case Lara, what is the work you have to do each week? Before you do anything else, block out sufficient time for getting that work done on your calendar now.  Let’s say for example; you are in sales and each day you want to contact ten prospects. How long does that take you? If that takes you an hour each day, then you need to block an hour out on your calendar to do that work. There’s no point in ‘hoping’ you will find the time. You won’t. If it is something you must do or want to do, you need to allocate sufficient time for doing it. On your calendar, you would write “Sales Calls”. In your notes, or a spreadsheet, you would have a list of people to contact. In this example, it’s unlikely you need a task for this because your calendar is dictating what you will do and the list of people to contact are in a dedicated CRM, spreadsheet or notes app. You don’t need to duplicate things.  Let’s look at a different kind of project. Let’s say you are moving house. That’s a big project. How would we manage that?  My advice is open your notes app. Project like this that are going involve checklists, emails, images, designs, things to buy, copies of contracts and so much more would never work well in a task manager. You are also likely to need a file folder on your computer to keep all these documents.  On your calendar, you will have your moving date and perhaps a few extra days for organising your new home.  What would go on your task manager? Very little. You may have tasks such as send signed contracts to landlord or your lawyers, or to call the electricity company to notify them of your moving in date, but you would be managing a project like this from your notes app, not a task manager.  Most of our difficulties with task managers is we are putting too much in there. There’s a limit to what we can do each day. We are constrained by the time available. It’s that part of the equation we cannot change. Time is fixed. The only thing we have any control over is what we do in the time we have available. And it’s there where we need to get realistic.  If you begin the day and there are 60+ tasks in your task manager for today, you have failed. You will never complete all those tasks. You’ve got to get realistic about what you can achieve each day.  For me, if my task manager has more than twenty tasks to do, I know I am not going to complete them all. I will go into my task manager and reschedule some of those tasks. It’s no good telling myself these tasks have to be done, because I already know I will not have enough time to do them all. You need to get strict about what must be done and what can be rescheduled for another day.  So, Lara, my advice is move your projects out of your task manager and into your notes. Whether you use Apple Notes, Evernote, Notion or OneNote (or something else), it’s your notes app that will better manage your projects. You can keep copies of relevant emails, links to documents and so much more in your notes. You can also create checklists. I will be travelling to Europe in a couple weeks. It’s a ten day trip and I’ve create a note for the trip in my notes app. That note contains my travel checklist, copies of my flight confirmation email, and a list of the things I need to do while there. There is nothing in my task manager. A few weeks ago, there was. I had a single task telling me to book my flights. Now that’s done everything related to this trip is managed from my notes app.  The goal, is to keep your task manager clean and tight. Only relevant things that need to be done should be there. Routines such as cleaning my office and doing my admin and cleaning my actionable email each day are in there—while I don’t really need these reminders, they are there in case I have an emergency and need need a lit of things that should have been done where I can decide what must be done and what can be rescheduled. I hope that has helped Lara and thank you for your question. Thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.  
12/5/202213 minutes, 55 seconds
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How To PlanThe New Year.

This week, we’re looking at new year goals and what we can do to improve our chances of success. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 255 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 255 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. A few weeks ago, I published a video on planning 2023 on my YouTube channel. In that video, I encouraged viewers to create a note in their notes app and to begin a two-month brainstorming period where they looked at a few areas of their lives and thought about what they would like to change.  These areas were around what they would like to change about themselves, their work and their lifestyles. Plus a couple of questions about goals and bucket lists.  The idea here is to open you up so you can go deeper than your usual new year's resolutions and to give you time to think about the person you want to become.  Well, that two month brainstorming period is coming to an end and it’s time to start looking at what you can do in 2023 that will move things forward on the areas you would like to make changes and in this week’s podcast, a break from the normal format, I will take you through the process of building a plan for 2023 that will be achievable, fun and more importantly will be the catalyst for the changes you will need to turn these ideas into reality.  So, this week, the Mystery Podcast Voice will be having a break, and we’ll get straight into the answer. So, if you did the annual planning exercise, you will hopefully have quite a lot of ideas written down on your planning sheet.  Now, don’t worry if you haven’t done the annual planning exercise; there’s still a little time left for you to do it.  So, the four main questions on the planning sheet are: What would I like to change about myself? What would I like to change about my lifestyle? What would I like to change about the way I work? What can I do to challenge myself? Each of these questions is designed to get you to explore a different part of your life, from you as an individual to the way you work. The final question on challenging yourself is there to help prevent you from stagnating and getting stuck inside the dangerous comfort zone.  If you have completed this exercise over the last six to eight weeks, you will, by now, have quite a list. The problem is you will not be able to complete all of these ideas in twelve months. The trick now is to look at your list as a whole and look for a pattern.  Often you will find in the part about making changes to yourself that there will be some areas you have not been happy with for a while. Your time management might be bad, or you may not be happy with the state of your health.  To give you an example, last year, I wanted to improve the quantity and quality of my sleep—which was not healthy. This led me to look at my day as a whole and to see why I was not getting sufficient sleep. I had too many early starts and late finishes. I could see from my calendar that this was not sustainable, so I created a few rules.  Now, I must be finished at my computer by 11pm and be in bed by 11:30pm. I also changed my morning start from 6:00am to 7:30am.  I also made a point to read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, which is a fantastic book and learned a lot more about ensuring I had a better quality of sleep each night. I have not been perfectly consistent with this, but I have made a lot of progress and will continue to refine this going into 2023.  And this is something you will discover. It’s unlikely you will be able to change something perfectly—most things we are working towards will always be works in progress—but the act of starting and building in new routines and habits will lead you towards where you want to be.  When it comes to the lifestyle question, what we are looking at here is the way we are living our lives. Three years ago, at the end of 2019, I realised I had got stuck in a rut in where we were living. A few years earlier, my wife and I had decided we wanted to move to the east coast and away from the noisy and poor air quality of the big city, but we were doing nothing about it. I saw that our reliance on the public transport system was great if we wanted to stay living in the big city, but was the reason we were ‘trapped’ there. We decided that the best way to break this would be to get a car. And that became our goal in 2020.  This meant I needed to get serious about saving money, and that is what I did from the start of 2020. Now, I was helped by the pandemic. That reduced our expenditure significantly because for a large part of 2020, we were unable to go out.  In September of that year, we bought our car, and that changed everything for us. We travelled around the country once a week, discovering new places, and in December, we found a guest house on the east coast that we could rent monthly, and we took the plunge. We signed up for an initial three-month stay in January, and that led to us staying the whole of 2021. At the end of it, we had let our apartment in the city go and moved to a new home on the east coast.  None of these changes would have taken place if I had not identified areas we were not entirely happy with. It was taking the time to look at things as a whole and seeing where we could make changes that would lead us to where we really wanted to be.  Now, what about the way you work? Here you have greater control over things than you may imagine. The pandemic has brought more flexible ways to work, and that’s a great thing. Research suggests that if you are more of an extrovert, you thrive in an environment surrounded by people. Conversely, if you are more of an introvert, you will find working from home incredibly satisfying and productive.  So, perhaps one of the first things you want to investigate is what kind of person you are. Where do you do your best work? Alone, in a quiet place or when surrounded by people and noise.  But there are other things you can look at with your work. For one, identify what your core work is. This is the work you are paid to do. Look at your job description. For instance, a departmental manager is employed to manage a department. What are the core tasks involved in managing a department? Where do you think you could improve in these areas?  For instance, if you want to improve productivity within your team, the best thing you can do is improve your communication. If your way of communicating is not simple, direct, and to the point when assigning projects, that will profoundly affect the outcome of the project.  The method is to tell your team in clear terms what the outcome you want is, and to trust that your team will use their skills and knowhow to deliver the results on time. Interfering, calling too many meetings, and micro-managing will result in a team that performs poorly and is demotivated.  Learn to tell them what you want to and let them get on with it. Develop simple reporting systems that require little time from your employees so they can stay focused on the objective.  If you are a salesperson, what could you change next year that would improve your overall performance? Where do you feel you are weak and what could learn, change or develop that will improve that area?  And that brings us to the final question: what can you do to challenge yourself? One of the biggest dangers in our lives is our comfort zone. Our ancestors had to deal with war, revolution, disease and predators. Today, for the majority of people on earth, our lives are incredibly easy by comparison. We have an abundance of food, safe houses and access to clean water.  This has made our lives far too easy, and we no longer put ourselves in challenging situations. Without challenging ourselves, we stop growing and when that happens our lives atrophy and we fall behind. You cannot let that happen. It’s devastating on your mental health and leaves you feeling left behind.  Set yourself a challenge in 2023. That could be to climb the tallest mountain in your country, or to do the from couch to 5k running race. Alternatively you could sign up for a challenging course such as a masters degree or to design a 30 day challenge for each month of the year.  Something that would really challenge you.  The great thing about setting yourself something challenging is you will reintroduce yourself to the concept of failure. Failure is the best way to learn and to grow. It’s through failure we learn what works and what does not work. From my own personal experience I’ve learned that failure is the greatest teacher there is.  It teaches you to analyse where things went wrong, where they went well and and helps you to reframe problems and difficulties so you find a way around them.  The important thing to remember is you do not have to change everything all at once. Changing slowly over a number of years is likely to give you better results than trying to change everything in one year. One of my favourite Tony Robbins’ quotes is “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade”  So, think long-term. Having an approach of CANI—Constant And Never-ending Improvement will help you to achieve the things you want to achieve and bring you a lot more fulfilment that trying to change too much too fast and giving up. That destroys your confidence and leaves you feeling terrible about yourself.  Thank you for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
11/28/202212 minutes, 37 seconds
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The 3 Unsexy Productivity Essentials.

This week, we’re looking at the unsexy part of becoming more productive and better with our time management. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 254 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 254 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. Now, most people in the time management and productivity field, such as myself, will generally talk about systems, routines and applications. And while these do have an important place in the helping us be more productive, there are three other parts to the productivity equation rarely talked about and often overlooked.  What are those?  They are Sleep, exercise and diet.  For many people, these three elements are elephants in their otherwise well-ordered life. You know, deep down, if you are not getting sufficient sleep, not getting outside and moving, and eating highly processed and unnatural foods, you are destroying your ability to focus, concentrate and ultimately that effects your overall output. (Not to mention what these will do to your long-term health) And I am not just talking about work output. If you are constantly tired and unable to concentrate, that’s going to have negative effects on your family life. You will be too tired for quality time with your kids and partner, and that poor diet and lack of sleep will adversely affect your mood when you do have time for your family life.  We have a lot to look at here so, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Ryan. Ryan asks: Hi Carl, I’ve been so busy at work this year that when I get home all I want to do is crash on the sofa and do nothing. I end up watching TV or watching YouTube videos until very late and then not getting enough sleep. I know I should spend some time planning my day and doing some exercise, but I just don’t have the energy. How do you fit in time for exercise and planning?  Hi Ryan, thank you for your question.  This is a problem I know many people face. Planning the day at the end of the day when you're tired and just want to do nothing because you are exhausted. It’s not going to be something high on your list of priorities.  Let’s be honest, we can all operate a reasonably productive day without doing daily planning. For most people, this is how they have operated for years without any immediate adverse effects. However, a question I would ask is without following a few simple daily practices, how are things turning out?  If you are stressed out, anxious and exhausted at the end of your working day, is that a good thing? Is that how you want to feel at the end the of the day?  So, what can we do? Well, this is what I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. While new systems and apps are exciting, and the sexy part of productivity and time management, these things will only go so far. No new app or system will change the work you still have to do. Just because a task is in Things 3 instead of Todoist, won’t change the fact that the task still needs doing.  No app is going to plan the day for you—even with machine learning or artificial intelligence. Only you, as an individual knows what’s important to you. I find it interesting that Outlook Calendar’s AI will fill your blank times with work, never tell you to call your partner, or go for a walk.  Now, I’ve been studying productivity and time management long enough to know that it’s never the case of not having time. You have time. You have more than enough time to fit everything in. The real reason you “feel” you don’t have time is you have not prioritised what’s important to you.  But, let’s step back a little and look at the three absolute basics of being more productive. Let’s start with sleep. When you get sufficient amount sleep, you are more awake, more creative and focused. Those three on their own will give you a far more productive day than being half asleep, and distracted.  I did a little experiment earlier this year. I spent a week surviving on four and half hours sleep each day. That week was a complete disaster for my overall productivity. Work that I was normally able to easily get done in a week, was a struggle. In fact, I had to give up trying to do some of the work I wanted to do.  By the end of that week, I had a backlog. I NEVER have backlogs. I was too tired to clear my actionable email each day. I became irritable towards the end of the week, and I started craving sugary snacks after only two days.  By the end of the week, I was exhausted. My exercise was terrible. Even taking my dog for a work became a chore—something I normally love doing.  Now, I’ve never been a good sleeper. But The lessons I learned from that little experiment got me serious about my sleep. I will cancel meetings and appointments now if I need to, to ensure I get my minimum number of hours (six and half).  So, Ryan, my first tip is sort your sleep out. If you don’t know how much sleep you need, do an experiment over the end of year break and sleep with no alarm for seven days. Make a note of how many hours sleep you get each night and average it out. That will tell you how much sleep you naturally need. We are all different here.  From my experiment during my last break, I discovered I actually need an average of 7 hours 20 minutes. I’m not there yet. As I say, I have a minimum of 6 ½ hours, but next year I will work towards moving that to the seven hours twenty minutes.  I would strongly recommend to all of you that you read Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep. That will change your whole thinking about sleep.  Just getting enough sleep each day will radically improve your overall productivity as well as your mood, so you are a lot more attentive to the people you care about.  Now, what about exercise? Now here’s the problem with exercise. A lot of people hate exercise. Possibly because how they were introduced to exercise at school has left a scar that still lives with them today. Yet exercise is essential for productivity. However, to get the benefit of exercise, you do not need to go to a gym or out running. Really, what is meant by “exercise” is movement. We need to move.  It’s interesting that when Apple were developing the Apple Watch, the two key parts to their exercise app were number of “active” minutes and the number of times you stood up per day. They even put a target on these: Thirty minutes of activity and standing twelve times per day. The standing metric was measured by making sure you stood at least once for sixty seconds or more every hour or so.  So, what is involved in movement or activity. Well, a thirty minute intentional walk would do. But you can go further. Stop using lifts (or elevators as they are called in North America) and escalators. Reintroduce yourself to stairs. The stairs are a great source for getting the blood flowing and improving your focus and productivity.  Even if you have a disability and are unable to walk unaided, any kind of activity you can do that will raise your heart rate counts as exercise. A non-motorised wheel chair gives you wonderful opportunities to move with your upper body for example.  One tip I learned from a preventative medicine doctor (Dr Mark Hyman) is to get yourself outside and walk for twenty minutes after a meal. That movement will prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal and help you to avoid the ‘afternoon slump’ that affects so many people.  Seventy years ago, it would have been very hard to find a gym. Lifting weights was an exclusive and minority sport and unless you were into body building—a sport most people had never heard of back then—your only introduction to a gymnasium was at school and most people treated those as a wicket form of torture netted out my evil PE teachers. Why were gyms so rare back then? Well, that’s because we moved a lot more and never needed them. There wasn’t the convenience we have today. Escalators were rare, very few people had TVs in their home (and those that did had to keep getting up to change channel) and if someone called you, you again had to get up, go to the hall and answer the phone.  There was no home delivery pizza or other convenience foods, so we had to cook. Our whole lives were based around movement.  Today, it’s perfectly normal for many people to get home, sit down on the sofa and not move again until they head off to bed four or five hours later. They left their home, walked the three metres to their car, drove to the office, parked in the car park, walked the five metres to the lifts, got to their desks, and spend the next eight or nine hours sat down. Then repeated the homeward journey, to spend the evening sat on a sofa.  Is it any wonder in the developed world over 60% of people are dangerously overweight and suffering from some form of preventable cardiovascular disease? And that leads me to the final piece in the mix. Diet.  Yes, convenience food is often delicious. It’s also quick and can fill a hole instantly. You would think if all I have to do is order something through an app, have it delivered to my door within thirty minutes that would allow me more time to get more stuff done.  Well, no. The majority of food we eat today is highly processed, full of sugar and is not satiating. It leaves you craving more which has disastrous effects on your blood sugars. This then leads to spikes in your insulin levels and if repeated over a long period of time will result in you becoming pre-diabetic or full blown diabetic.  And diabetes is not a disease you want. It’s linked to the increasing numbers of dementia, not to mention the likelihood of limb amputations, irreversible heart disease and kidney failure. You really do not want to develop this horrible disease.  The effects of all that sugar and highly processed food on your productivity is devastating. It’s what leaves you feeing hungry mid-morning, sleepy in the afternoon and exhausted in the evenings. You’re not in the mood to focus your attention on anything. This is why we are so easily distracted by email, messages and our co-workers gossiping.  The trouble is most people are in denial about the state of their diet. They think the problem is they have too much work, they are overwhelmed or their systems are a mess (so they need to find a new app).  No. If you’re not getting enough sleep or exercise and your diet is a disaster zone, that is the reason why you are stressed out, overwhelmed and tired all the time. It’s not your work or the things you have to do.  Now, as we come towards the end of the year, my advice is start with these three unsexy parts of the productivity mix. Make a commitment to yourself to start moving and sleeping more and sort out your diet.  As I mentioned before read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep book. In addition, I would recommend Dr Mark Hyman’s Pecan Diet book as well as Dr David Perlmutter’s Drop Acid.  Once you’ve read those three books read Dr Jason Fung’s Obesity Code.  If you commit to reading those four books over the end of year break, you will furnish yourself with the knowledge to make better choices about how and when to sleep as well as what to eat. They will dramatically change your life.  Making changes in these three areas of your life: your sleep, movement and diet will have a profound impact on your energy levels through the day which will impact the quality and quantity not only on what you do last work, but with your relationships with the people that matter most to you.  Plus, of course, you will significantly reduce your risk of developing debilitating lifestyle diseases that will ultimately prevent you from living the life you have always dreamed of.  Thank you, Ryan, for you question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
11/21/202215 minutes, 42 seconds
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How to Bring Real Balance Into Your Life.

This week, we’re looking at building balance into our lives, and I explain why we look at the whole idea of balance the wrong way. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 253 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 253 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. We frequently hear about balancing our lives. Terms like “work/life balance” are bandied around as if it’s something we can achieve. The trouble is, building balanced days and weeks is an elusive goal. There’s simply too much we want to build into our days: Seven to eight hours sleep, quality time with our family, exercise, eight to nine hours of work and time for eating, resting, TV and hobbies. Add all that up and it’s more than twenty-four hours.  This week’s question is about how we can build a more balanced life and there is a way, but first we need to dispose of the traditional thinking about what a balanced life is and embrace a different approach.  So, without further ado, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question from from Annie. Annie asks, hi Carl, I work a full time job, have two young kids, a husband and a lot of hobbies I want to pursue. The trouble I have is I cannot fit everything I want to do into my schedule. I’ve tried your perfect week idea, but I find I run out of time. Are there any other ways I can try to have a more balanced, less stressful life?  Hi Annie, thank you for your question.  I was very much in the same boat as you a few years ago. I was trying to build a business, work a full time job, exercise every day and spend quality time with my family and it was impossible.  Whenever there was a public holiday, I wanted to work on my own business, but there were family responsibilities that could not be ignored and my regular work days were lengthening. I found myself working well past midnight, and having to wake up at 6 AM to get to my first classes.  It was around then I realised that there will always be periods of time when we need to get our heads down and do our work. But these intense periods of work do not last.  Take starting a business as an example. If you decide to start your own business, the first thing to get thrown out of the window is the idea of working nine til’ five. That’s a corporate office life concept that does not work when you start your own business. Starting your own business requires a 24/7 commitment. If you’re not working on your business, your brain will be solving problems and coming up with fresh ideas. It’s constant and doesn’t stop.  However, that’s when you are in the startup phase. Once you have your business up and running, things slow somewhat. You develop processes for doing your work and you soon start to get your time back.  When I first began my YouTube channel, it took me pretty much all day on a Friday to record and edit my videos. Today, I can do the recording and editing in less than three hours. I developed processes. I learned how to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro video editing software and I have systems in place to ensure everything is uploaded quickly and efficiently.  What we need to do is to look at time and balance over a longer period. You are not going to balance individual days, everyday. You may be able to balance occasional days, but to do that you would have to almost micro-manage your day, and there are so many things that could torpedo your plans, trying to do this too often will just result in stress and anxiety.  For example, Annie, if you are trying to juggle your work, your family, hobbies and other things in your life, you could look at your whole week. Accepting on, say, Tuesday and Thursday you will be focused on work, but you could also make Wednesday and Friday family nights and Mondays could be used for your hobbies.  For this to work, you would need to be doing a weekly planning session. It would be during this planning time where you block activities on your calendar for the following week. Having a plan like this then allows you to plan at a deeper level at what you will do. For instance, one of your children may have a swimming lesson on Wednesday evenings. You could block out Wednesday evenings to go to the swimming pool and perhaps add going out for dinner with your kids afterwards. That’s spending quality time with your kids.  If you know, you will have time on a Thursday for catching up on work, you would be much more relaxed and present with your kids on a Wednesday.  One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that there will be periods of time when we need to be completely focused on a project. A project that requires a lot of time and attention over a month or more.  In these situations, if you are worried about trying to balance your time, you are introducing a lot of unnecessary stress into your life. Important projects that need lot of focus need time. You cannot rush these things. Introducing stress into the mix is going to harm that focus and will be very unhealthy for you. However, if we look at a period of say three months, and see how balanced those three months were, you are likely to find that you have been pretty balanced. When I analyse my last three months, I’ve worked on two big projects, spent a few days with my family, exercised almost every day and managed a few easy days of rest and relaxation.  Those big projects consumed me for around ten days each. They involved a few sixteen hour days and a lot of focus and thinking. But a three month period has around ninety days, so twenty days out of ninety is pretty balanced.  In those ninety days, there have been twelve days off (I try to take one day off a week) for you, Annie, you may two days off a week, so that twenty-four days.  Most people’s problem with balance is they are looking at things in a too shorter time frame. If you extend the time frame over three or more months, you have a far greater chance of balancing your life.  If you look at author, John Grisham’s work and life balance, he will spend around three to six months of the year in intense writing mode. Each day for those three to six months he’s completely consumed with the book he is writing. Once finished and the manuscript is sent to his publishers, he disappears on holiday. For the next few weeks it’s all about rest and relaxation.  The great thing about seeking balance over a longer period of time is you feel a lot less stressed and anxious. You know you can allow certain parts of your life to consume you for periods of time. Whether that is work or family related. It also means you can be much more present in the moment, without worrying about what you are not doing.  Another concept I’ve looked at in the past is the eight week work cycle. This is where for six weeks you focus all your efforts and attention on working on a specific project and once that has been concluded, you rest for two weeks. During those two weeks you attend to all the things you haven’t put much attention on.  Around two years ago, I adopted a quarterly week off. This is where I take the last week of each quarter off. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss. He actually takes two weeks off and travels to a different country or city for the duration of the break. He’s a little stricter than I am in that he comes off the grid entirely. No phone, no internet, just him his thoughts and a notebook.  What I’ve noticed is people who have adopted a longer time frame to create balance in their lives get a lot more done and are a lot happier and less stressed. They know there will be time for spending with their family and friends, and when they are with their family and friends they really are with them. Not being physically present but mentally being elsewhere—thinking about work, or a project that is not getting done.  In a recent weekly newsletter, I wrote about the time pendulum. In this the needle swings to the left occasionally when you have a lot of work related stuff on your plate. It’s all consuming and needs you attention beyond your regular work hours. However, the pendulum will always swing back towards the right where you get time to rest recuperate.  Fighting to keep the pendulum in the middle is a stress you do not need. Acceptance of the intense period of work, knowing that the pendulum will swing back to the right is a welcome way to maintain a reasonably balanced life.  There are always going to be periods when your time and attention will be dominated by a single project or event. That’s life. There’s no point in fighting it, you cannot win that battle. However, acceptance, though, relieves you of that stress and you no longer feel like you are in a fight. Instead, you can put all your focus and attention on the task in hand, knowing you will soon have time to rest, recuperate and focus your attention on other areas of your life you feel may be out of balance.  Hence the reason why it’s so important to know what your areas of focus are. If you haven’t taken the time to build out your areas of focus, that would be the first thing I would recommend you do. I’ve put a link in the show notes for you to download the areas of focus workbook. I would recommend you give yourself a few days to go through that and build out those eight areas that important to us all.  Thank you Annie for your question. And thank you to you too for listening.  It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
11/14/202212 minutes, 33 seconds
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How To Stop Overthinking and Overcomplicating.

This week, we’re looking at how to stop overthinking and over-complicating our lives. You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 252 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 252 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. One of the biggest drains on our productivity is over-thinking things. It’s this overthinking that usually leads to overcomplicating our task managers, notes apps and work in general.  However, there are a few things we can do that will eliminate the need to think too much about things. One of those, I’ve written and spoken about a lot, and that is in the way we write our tasks. If you write tasks in a haphazard way, you will end with tasks such as a website address with no idea what you need to do, or a single name with no indication what you need to do with that name.  Whenever you write a task, you need to have an actionable verb telling you precisely what needs to be done. For instance: “look at this website for design ideas” or “call Jenny about next week’s meeting”. It’s a simple trick that adds, perhaps, a few seconds to writing out the task, but it will save to a lot more than a few seconds when it comes to deciding when you will do the task.  It’s surprising how much time we lose when we need to think about what to do and how to do it. It’s when we do that that we discover multiple different ways to do something, and if we are not motivated enough to get whatever needs doing done, we use the excuse to “think about it” as a way to delay doing the task.  So, before we get into the depth of this, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Leon. Leon asks, Hi Carl, I’ve been following you for a long time now, and I understand how to set up my system. The problem I have is I feel I waste so much time trying to decide what to do and how to do it. I collect everything in my inbox but then never do most of the things I put there. How do you manage all your tasks?  Hi Leon, thank you for your question. When you say, “I waste so much time trying to decide what do and how to do it” I presume that this will be a symptom of how your write your tasks and not being clear on where your priorities are. If we leave writing your tasks out for the moment and look at the decision part, this should be almost automatic. When you know where your priorities are, there will always be a natural hierarchy for the tasks that you do.  For instance, if you were a salesperson when at work, your priorities would always be those tasks that risk you gaining a sale. Everything else, no matter how loud the task is—colleagues or bosses screaming at you for an activity report, for example—are not priorities.  I know it’s hard to ignore your boss. But if you needed to call your boss about your activity report or a customer asking for further information, your customer is the priority and there shouldn’t even be a debate about it. Remember, you’re a salesperson. Your job is to sell. So, of the two calls; calling your boss or calling the customer, which one is likely to result in a sale?  A doctor would never leave a seriously ill patient to answer a question from a manager. Doctors are trained to identify where their priorities are. You need to train yourself to know instinctively where your priorities are.  And therein lies the secret to simplifying your work.  When you know what your objective is, all you need work out is the fastest way to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  Now, it would be very rare for you arrive at a project or task you haven’t done before, or done something similar. A manager having to hire or fire someone will have done that before. The difference is the role you are recruiting for or the person you are firing. However, there will already be a process to achieve these results.  Over time you want to be fine-tuning your processes. I understand when you do something for the first time it’s likely to take longer, but as you are doing it you are learning how to do it, and you can fine-tune your process as you go along.  The key is the keep focused on your outcome. What are you trying to achieve?  Imagine you need to hire a new designer for your design team. Your company will likely already have a recruiting process, and if not, someone within your organisation will have hired someone at some time. Find out how they did it. Open your notes app, and write out a checklist of all the steps you anticipate you will need to do. Once you have your checklist, go through it and look for the shortcuts.  When we brainstorm these ideas, we overcompensate. We think of all the little things that likely don’t need doing. Once we have brainstormed what we think needs to be done to achieve our outcome, we should go through the list and eliminate the unnecessary (and obvious tasks). Now, I’ve covered daily and weekly planning numerous times on this podcast, and it is a vital part of making decisions about what to work on.  What I’ve noticed is those people who get the importance of daily planning and do it consistently, are the ones who are not overwhelmed or struggling to get their work done. It’s this step back at the end of the day to look at what needs to be done and deciding what you must get done the next day that makes all the difference.  It eliminates procrastination at a key part of the day—the start. You know, from the moment you wake up what you will do first.  For instance, last night, as I was doing my planning, I identified my next YouTube video needed to be uploaded and scheduled and this podcast script had to be finished before 11:00am.  If you look at that sentence, two important words: “needed” and “had” to. There’s no debate. Once my morning routines were finished, I completed the YouTube video and uploaded it, and now I am writing this script. The current time is 9:40am. There’s no question in my mind about whether I will get these two tasks complete before 11 AM. They will be done.  This means, right now, my email is off—anything coming in in the next sixty minutes can wait and my phone is on do not disturb. I am focused on the job in hand and anything else can wait until this script is finished.  Now, if you have never allowed yourself to be in an environment where you cannot be disturbed by all the digital noise in our lives, you will find working in this focused way very uncomfortable. But the discomfort is temporary. When you know what’s on your calendar, and you know what needs to be done before your first commitment of the day, you will be relaxed and focused on the job in hand.  The worst thing you can do is to look at your task list first thing in the morning and try to decide what to work on. This will inevitably lead to procrastination and you waste so much time trying to decide, that very little of your important work will get done before you have to attend to your first appointment or the noise coming in from your phone or email.  Now here’s a quick tip for you. Do this planning on a weekend as well. On a weekend we do not need to be as meticulous, but it’s a very powerful way to make sure that the things you want to do in your personal life get done. For example, if you decide on Friday night that tomorrow you will wash the car, there is a greater chance you will do it without hesitation. Equally, you may decide that Sunday morning, you will take your kids out for a bike ride or a walk in the park. Make those decision before you end the day. When you wake up, you will be focused on getting your kids ready and won’t be looking for excuses not to do it.  Finally, how are you writing your tasks, Leon? David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says: when you write a task in your task manager write it for your dumb self. What he means is, if you write out a task such as: “mum birthday”, that tells you nothing about what you need to do. All it tells you us your mum has a birthday.  Instead, what do you need to do about your mum’s birthday? Do you need to organise a family dinner? Buy her a present? Or something else? Make sure when you write a task like this you include what you need to do. For instance, “Call my brother and sister to organise a family dinner for mum’s birthday”. Sure, it will take a few extra seconds to write a full task, but doing so will save you so much time later when you come to doing the task. You won’t be wasting time trying to remember what you need to do.  When you next do your weekly planning session, go through your tasks and make sure they are written out in a way that makes immediate sense to you.  If you are like most people there will be a lot of tasks that have been in your task manager for a long time. If they are not written out in a way you would immediate know what to do, either rewrite the task or delete it altogether.  That one trick will turn your task manager from a hodge podge of random tasks into a set of meaningful activities you can do something with without trying to remember what needs doing.  A way to remember this to make sure you have an active verb in your task. If there’s no active verb, it does not belong in your task manager.  I hope that has helped, Leon. Thank you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all very very productive week.  
11/7/202212 minutes, 42 seconds
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How To Manage Your Digital Files

How best to organise all your files, documents and articles? That’s what we’re looking at this week.  You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page Episode 251 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 251 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. Over the years, we have seen a lot of wonderful ways to organise our stuff. Elaborate notebook and tag structures in Evernote, Complex folders on our computers organising every facet of our lives.  And all that’s great. It’s a fantastic way to get things organised and gives us the motivation to clear out our stuff—which is no bad thing. We do collect too much stuff anyway. However, are all these wonderful organisation methods the best use of our time? You see, getting all our stuff organised is a great idea, but that’s a one-time task that may take a few days or even weeks, but long-term we have to maintain this new structure and therein lies two problems.  The first is it will take time for you to develop the natural muscle memory to move stuff to their rightful place, and in my experience, most people have enough on their plates as it is. And secondly, the deeper the organisation structure you build the longer it will take to move the stuff you collect in the future—which will mean you won’t do it. After all, you likely don’t have a great deal of free time as it is, so adding a new process that takes time is not going to solve any problems.  So what can we do? Well there are a few things you can do and that is what we will look at this week. However, before we do that, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Janine. Janine asks: Hi Carl, I am a professor at a large hospital and I not only have patients to see, I also teach. On top of that, I need to stay up to date with the latest research. This means I have a lot of papers to read, review and study. I really struggle to keep all these things organised and wondered if you have any tips and tricks that might help.  Hi Janine, thank you for your question. This is the dilemma that has been creeping up on us over the last ten to fifteen years. More and more digital stuff has been replacing what typically would have been paper.  I remember in the late 1990s, I had a filing cabinet in my study that held all the important papers and documents I needed to keep. My car and house insurance, a file folder for gas, electric and water bills as well as bank and credit card statements oh, and a place to keep my running magazines and Law Society Gazette.  And because if I didn’t file these papers away almost immediately, they would be left sitting on the dining table, there was a constant reminder that these papers and documents needed to be filed.  Today, most of these documents are now online or in digital format. I don’t get bank or credit card statements through the post anymore. They are all digital. I no longer have a filing cabinet in my office. I am now largely paperless—save for documents such as my passport, residency permit papers and such like.  I can keep all these important documents in a single drawer in my office.  However, the problem isn’t really just about these important documents. The problem now is we receive so much more digital clutter than we ever received paper. Largely because it is so much cheaper and easier to send out a digital document than a paper one, we get exponentially more digital stuff.  So, how do we manage all this stuff. First I would recommend you establish some basic rules. Don’t put files and documents in your notes app. Over time, this will slow down your notes app. It’s far better to put receipts, documents—such as your medical and teaching documents—into dedicated folders in the cloud.  Now it doesn’t matter whether you use Google Drive, Microsoft OneNote, Dropbox or iCloud. What matters is how you structure your folders. My structure is based around the work I do. For instance, I have a folder for my Online courses, YouTube, and Company documentation, which includes my receipts. Inside those folders the relevant parts are added as sub-folders.  For example, inside my company folder, I have all the company registration documents, invoices I need to keep for my accountant, salaries and other such administrative documents. These are inside appropriately titled folders. For you, Janine, you would structure your folders as Medical and Teaching and then inside of those folders you would have the different areas. For instance, you would keep documents related to the different subject matters you teach inside your teaching folder under their relevant topic.  Now one piece of advice I would give you here is to try where possible to use your computer system’s drive. For example, if you are using a Windows computer, use OneDrive or if you are using Apple’s OS, use iCloud.  The reason for this anything on OneDrive will be searchable through your computer. Similarly, anything in iCloud will be searchable through Apple’s Spotlight search tool.  I know that is not always possible, but where it is. Stick with your computer’s system cloud storage system. It will just make your life a little bit easier.  Now, before we go any further, what about all your articles that need to be read (or you want to read). Use a read later service such as Instapaper or Pocket. One of the downsides to being able to save articles we see on the web is we save articles into our notes apps and then never read them. Often I see people saving these articles into a “read later” folder in their notes and then never go in there to read those articles. Soon they have hundreds of articles saved that never get read and just clutter up your notes app. Use Instapaper or Pocket to filter out articles you will never read. My system is simple. Any article I want to read, I will send to Instapaper and then, only after reading it, if Want to keep it for future reference, I will then send it to my notes app.  One thing that has happened over the last five years is Microsoft, Apple and Google have realised we are terrible at organising our stuff. For years these companies left it to us to organise our stuff how we want to and we failed. I know some people have created good, clean organisation, but most people haven’t. Just look around your colleagues’ desktops. They are full of documents, PDFs, Presentation files and so on.  Unfortunately, what happens then is we waste time searching for something we need.  So, Apple, Microsoft and Google have started to take that responsibility away from us and have developed excellent search tools. Apple’s Spotlight for instance, will search iCloud for any document I have with a keyword, date range or type of document. It doesn’t mater whether I am on my phone, MacBook or iPad. It will find those documents.  This means, once you get comfortable with how the system search works on your device, the only responsibility you have is to make sure the title of your document is something you will find.  For that I would suggest you create a format you use for all your documents. To give you an example, I use the same file naming convention for all my documents. This is The date to document was created or downloaded, the type of document. That could be invoice, receipt, or company I am creating a presentation for. And then the title.  What this does is helps me to quickly find what I am looking for directly from Spotlight. For instance, if I need to find a presentation file for a presentation I did for a company last year, All I need do is type the company name into Spotlight and I will see from the list of results what I am looking for. I can see the date, so I know I am choosing the right document and I know it is a presentation.  Another thing that Google, Apple and Microsoft have done in recent years is to keep like documents together. This means if you have an Excel file, you can keep it inside Excel. Now the document itself is kept in OneDrive, but when you open Excel, you will see all your documents in one place. Google does this with its Docs, Sheets and Slides and Apple does this with Pages, Keynote and Numbers.  At first I resisted this sticking to my old-fashioned ways of moving these documents to separate folders. However, over the years I’ve trusted Apple to organise these for me and it’s so much easier. If I am looking for a Keynote file, all I need do is open Keynote and I can quickly find the file from the start menu.  Google is even better at this, if someone shares a Google Doc with me and I open it, it automatically gets stored in my Google Docs folder.  What I’ve learned over the last few years is don’t fight the system. All these companies are making it easier for us to find out stuff. If we stubbornly stick to our old ways we are making it harder for us to do our work productively. If we allow our computers to worry about how we organise things, we are saving ourselves a lot of time.  We don’t need elaborate organisation systems anymore. All you need is a loose folder structure that covers the different areas of our lives. This will help to keep things neat and tidy. Apart from that, let your devices worry about the organisation and start trusting your computer’s system to find what you need.  Incidentally, this also applies to email. In the past I’ve had a lot of complex folder structures. Now, all I have is four folders: An inbox, an Action This Day folder for emails that need some form of action from me, an Archive for stuff I may need later and the trash. That’s it.  Email search is incredibly fast and easy. I can search by person, date range, keyword or title. I have no need at all for elaborate folders that only slow everything down.  I hope that has helped, Janine. My advice is keep things simple, let your computer do all the hard work and focus you attention on getting your work done.  Thank you for you question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.  
10/31/202213 minutes, 15 seconds
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How To Fit Goals Into An Already Busy Schedule

This week’s podcast answers the question: where do goals fit into a task manager? You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 250 | Script Hello, and welcome to episode 250 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein, and I am your host for this show. We are told that setting goals for yourself is important, and, yes, I would agree with that. But the question is, once you have set yourself some goals, where do the activities you need to perform come in? If you are already close to your limit in terms of what you can do each day, how will you find time to add more stuff?  Now I think of goals as milestones on the road of a much longer journey. The destination of that journey is the same for all of us: death. Sorry to be so melodramatic, but that is true. Nobody gets out of life alive. It’s a very predictable end.  The good news here is that we all have a degree of flexibility and freedom to choose what road we take. The difficulty we face is there is so much choice. So many paths we could take and trying to decide which path to follow is scary. Which is why it is all too easy to make no choice and just follow the ebbs and flows that life throws at us—which unless you are extremely lucky is not going to lead to a fulfilled and happy life.  So, this week, I will share with you ways you can build your goals into your daily life so they become less of a task to be completed each day and more of just something you do, because that is who you are and what you do.  So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question. This week’s question comes from Adrian. Adrian asks; Hi Carl, I recently saw that you opened a new course on goal setting. I would love to have some goals, but I just don’t have the time to fit them in. I’m sure I’m not alone with this dilemma. Do you have any tips on fitting goals into an already busy life?  Hi Adrian, thank you for your question. You are right to be concerned about adding more stuff you an already busy day, but there is a difference with tasks or activities related to our goals. Goals are not something you do, and once complete or accomplished; you stop doing. A goal’s purpose is the create change. Once that change has happened, you don’t want to be returning to where you were before you started the goal. That would not be a clever move.  I remember in my twenties, many of my friends (and myself, I have to admit) would hit the gym in the spring and try to lose our ‘winter weight’ ready for the summer holidays so we could strut confidently up and down the beach. Once the summer was over, we’d pile the weight back on.  Looking back now, I can see how ridiculous this form of yoyo dieting and exercise was. Now I am older (and allegedly wiser), getting into shape should not be something you do for a particular time of the year; it should be an ongoing thing. Keeping your weight down and exercising regularly is a necessity if you want to enjoy a robust, healthy life.  So, today, I am careful about what I eat—no refined carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I also exercise pretty much every day, whether that is a session in the gym, a run or a gentle walk with my dog.  It no longer feels like a task. Spending an hour on exercise is an investment in my future. It’s built into my daily schedule, and I use it as a break from sitting at my desk all day doing work. I see exercise as something that assists my productivity rather than as something that needs to be done.  The same applies to financial goals. If you’ve read Dave Ramsey’s book; Total Money Makeover, he gives you five strategies to build a safe and healthy financial plan for you and your family. None of those strategies involves a lot of work. For instance, paying down your debts is a single action each month. Once you get paid, you use a percentage of your salary to pay down one of your debts.  Equally, a second strategy is to build an emergency fund that would cover your expenses for a given amount of time if you were to lose your job. For something like this, it’s simply putting a little money aside each month into a savings account. That would be around five minutes a month (or less if you were to automate the payment)  The goal here, for example, maybe to clear all your debts over the next three years. That’s a simple task. You send money to the debt each month until it is clear. You have a timeline (three years), and you have an action (send money somewhere).  However, the bigger goal here is to change your behaviour from one of spending to one of saving. Once that becomes a behaviour, it is not something you ever need to think about again. You just do it as part of who you are.  When you set a goal, whatever that goal may be, there is an initial stage where you need to be consciously taking an action. That stage will usually last around a month or two. Once you have been consistently taking action on your goal for that time, you find it becomes something you automatically do.  For instance, today, I know I will be going to the gym at 2:30pm. This means when I planned today, I knew I had around three hours of focused work plus a couple of meetings before I needed to go to the gym. That gym time has given me structure to my day. I know when my calls are, and I know what focused work needs to be done before I go to the gym. I have a purpose from the moment I wake up.  The way to look at a goal is to treat it as a waypoint. It tells you that you are moving in the right direction. I use fitness goals to make sure I don’t go stale. The habit of exercise is built into who I am. I am a person who exercises every day. However, like most people, I can quite easily become bored with doing the same thing over and over again, so I set fitness goals every three months.  These could be to run a certain distance or to run a half marathon in under two hours. Alternatively, I might decide to focus on strength for three months and set a target weight to bench press or squat. I mix it up depending on the season. I use the goals to give me focus and direction.  If you were to set a goal to complete a master's degree, what would be the behaviour or habit you need to develop? It would be to spend some time each day studying. The habit of working on your own self-development (an area of focus) should already be something you are doing. Whether that is spending thirty to sixty minutes a day learning something new or being more focused and setting yourself some study days each week doesn’t matter. Developing yourself by learning means you are growing mentally. Something important if you want to feel fulfilled and accomplished.  So the goal to complete a master's degree becomes the waypoint—the signpost—to give you something to focus on and to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.  You see, the real reason why we need to set goals is to prevent us from stagnating. Whether we like it or not, the world is constantly changing. It’s changing around us and we either change or we will get left behind.  During my time teaching English, I worked with many middle management people who refused to learn the new technologies that emerged from the smartphone revolution. Within five years, they were trapped in middle management no-mans land. They were passed over for promotion, and rather than staying where they were, their jobs were downgraded or removed altogether. They had become too comfortable with the way things were and resisted the changes that were happening around them.  The onus is on us to make sure we have time to learn new things. To stay ahead and to keep pushing our boundaries, so we continue to grow. The good news is the world changes at a slow pace. We can change at a faster pace, and that’s where goals help us. They pull us towards changing ourselves for the better.  Now one tip I would give you here is to not set too many goals all at once.  The way to use goals is to step back and look at your life as a whole. Where do you feel you need to improve? Are your skills giving you an advantage in the workplace? How is your health? Are you moving towards the vision you have for yourself in the next ten to twenty years? What do you need to change in order to feel more fulfilled in life and work?  To set strong, motivating goals, you need to do quite a lot of self-reflection. You need to find people who are already doing what you want to do and research them—a kind of healthy cyberstalking. Find out what they did to get where they are and see what changes you can make to follow a similar pathway.  We are building a life, and a big part of the pleasure we get is the journey to achieving that life. The goals you set form part of that journey; they ensure you are moving along the right path and tell you when you need to adjust your direction. The old phrase: “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again” is very apt when goal setting. There will be a lot of failures. A lot of adjusting, and with that you learn so much more about you.  I remember a few years ago I decided to do Robin Sharma’s 5AM club. I loved the idea of waking up early and having a series of activities that were dedicated to me and no one else. And for eighteen months I was pretty consistent with it.  However, as my coaching practice developed I found myself working alter and later into the evening and it came to a point where waking up at 5AM was no longer practical. For a few weeks I fought on, but in the end I “failed” to maintain the consistency.  I reviewed the goal and realised that what I really wanted was the empowering morning routine. The waking up at 5AM was nice, but it wasn’t the main purpose. The purpose was to have an hour or so for myself every morning. I revised the goal and set it to being consistent with my morning routine no matter what time. Woke up.  That adjustment began three years ago and there has not been one day since that I have not written my journal, done my stretches and drank a glass of lemon juice.  Now, I don’t even think about it. I just do it.  That’s what goals are there for. They change your habits and behaviours so you adopt better living practices that fulfil you and leave you feeling happy, accomplished and focused on what’s important in life.  I hope that has helped, Adrian. Thank you for your question and thank you to you too for listening. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.   
10/24/202214 minutes, 10 seconds
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To Multi-Task or Not To Multi-Task?

This week, it’s all about multiple projects and tasks—all in one day.   You can subscribe to this podcast on: Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN   Links: Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin Email Mastery Course The Time Blocking Course The Working With… Weekly Newsletter The Time And Life Mastery Course The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System Carl Pullein Learning Centre Carl’s YouTube Channel Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page   Episode 249 | Script Hello and welcome to episode 249 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. How do you manage running a new business, or even running your own department with multiple things happening each day and projects that need to be got off the ground, or maintained. It a real challenge and leave you feeling exhausted, and more importantly, stressed out about what you may or may not have done. This is one of the many reasons why getting yourself organised and being consistent with your daily and weekly planning is so important. It’s this planning that gives you an edge. It elevates you above the fray and keeps you focused on the bigger picture.  Without a plan for the week, you will inevitably get sucked into the daily churn of low and high important tasks. It will feel endless and it doesn’t lead to a great outcome. Sure, you may have a reasonably successful business or department, but you, as an individual, will be exhausted, tired and stressed out and that leads to poor decision making and mistakes.  Now, before we get into the question, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I have just launched my latest mini-course. The Goal Setting course will give you a blueprint to build the life you want to live by developing the vision of what you want, and then using goals to make sure you are moving along the right pathway.  It’s an exciting course that will inspire you to grow, develop and start making the changes you need to make to become the person you want to be.  Full details of this mini-course will be in the show notes.  Now, on with this show and that means it’s time to hand you over to the Mystery Podcast voice for this week’s question.  This week’s question comes from Cara. Cara asks: Hi Carl, I run a growing start up business and have found managing multiple tasks and projects each day is a real pain point. How would you suggest we manage multi-tasking to keep the business running and developing new projects? Hi Cara, thank you for your question. Now, we better first deal with the concept of “multi-tasking”. Straight up, don’t ever do it. Or rather try to do it. It’s impossible, never works and only leads to mistakes which will need correcting later.  Slow down. There is more than enough time each day to work on the important things. You don’t have to do everything in one day. I know our minds are telling us it has to be done today, but really? Does it?  When you step back, take a breath and look at what you have on your list of things to do, you will see that many of those tasks don’t really need to be done today. It might be nice to be able to do them, but it would not be the end of your business if you rescheduled the less important tasks to later in the week.  Now, there’s a good reason for rescheduling less important things to later in the week and that is most of these will not need doing anyway. They are what I call “reactive” tasks. Tasks that seem important right now, but with a little time resolve themselves and can be discarded.  I’m reminded of a story about former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who would put aside his letters and memos for ten days before reading them. What he found was 90% of the issues resolved themselves and the remaining 10% was where he needed to put his attention.  Now, in today’s world things move a lot faster than they did in the 1980s, but the principle still remains, most of what comes into our inboxes will resolve themselves, there is no need to rush. You can put aside most issues for twenty-four to forty-eight hours without any problems. When you do come to them, it’s likely many of them will have resolved themselves.  I’m always surprised at how many emails I get asking a question, only to find an hour later the same person writes to tell me they’ve resolved the issue. That taught me to slow down and not rush into a response.  Of course, there are some issues that do need dealing with straight away. But most don’t. Learn to slow down. You will thank yourself for that later.  Now, I mentioned in the opening about the importance of planning. Planning is the key to staying on top of everything being thrown at you. You need some time each day and week to step back and evaluate what is important. What needs to get done about all else.  For instance, last week, my priority was to launch my Goal Setting course. I still had my core work to do—content and coaching client feedback—but aside from that work, my priority last week was launching the course.  Now, this was not the first course I have launched, so I have a process for launching courses. However, that process still requires a lot of time. This meant, each day last week, I made sure my core work was done early. For instance, on Monday, when I wrote the blog post, I started my day by getting that written. Once that was written, I blocked out two hours to work on the course.  For those of you who don’t know, your core work is your most important work—the work you are employed to do. If you are a salesperson, your core work is any activity that results in a sale. If you are an analyst, your core work is any activity that involves analysing. Everything else (email replies, meetings and admin work) is secondary to that.  When I finished each day, I gave myself ten minutes to go through my task list to see what I had on for the next day and prioritised two things: my core work and the course. I then looked at my calendar to see where I could fit those tasks in.  This month I have two courses to work on. That’s unusual, not only do I need to launch my Goal Setting mini-course, but I also need to work on the update to my Apple Productivity course. It would be easy to stress myself about the Apple Productivity course, but what’s the point? I can only work on one course at a time, so the only question is which one do I work on tomorrow? Now that the goals setting course is launched, I can turn my attention to updating my Apple Productivity course. My work is much more manageable and realistic.  If I had tried to do both at the same time, I would be stressed out and inevitably make a lot of mistakes that will need to be resolved later.  The key is to focus on one project at a time. Of course, you may have multiple projects going on at the same time, but given that you cannot work effectively on two or more projects at the same time, you need to decide, at a weekly level, which projects you will focus on that week.  One thing that has worked for me, is to allocate time each week for certain activities. I also know a lot of business founders have also found this method effective. That is to block time out each day of the week for certain activities.  For instance, email and communications. These come in every day and it’s unlikely you will be able to stop them. This means, you need time each day for managing your communications. For me, I need around forty minutes a day to stay on top of my communications. So, I have a one hour block each day between 7 and 8pm for responding to my actionable messages.  Find an appropriate time in the day and block it out on your calendar for managing your email.  Other activities you need to do regularly, for example, prospecting, accounting, admin and your personal life need time allocating to them. You could dedicate Mondays to prospecting, Tuesdays to admin and Fridays to accounting. Wednesday and Thursday could be dedicated to project work.  Knowing you have time allocated to prospecting, admin and accounting leaves you feeling less stressed and it makes it easier to decide when you will do something. I would add, that it helps to keep one day each week as free as possible for catching up when you have fallen behind with something.This is one of those