Juan Felipe Campos (@juannikin) is the host of the Productivity Masterminds Podcast. He serves as VP of Tech and Partner at Manos Accelerator via Google Launchpad. He has graduated his company NomadApp from the largest accelerator in the world, Plug and Play, and the Go Silicon Valley program. Juan helps run the largest digital marketing community in Silicon Valley with over 20,000 members. Juan’s companies have been featured in major publications including Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Forbes.
You’re not just managing your time, your managing other aspects of yourself as well: your attention, your intentionality, your energy, and finally your time. Managing time is just the beginning – managing all of the 4 aspects is super powerful.
You shouldn’t manage your time until you’ve asked yourself where you’re going. Intention without attention is powerless and attention without intention is aimless. Start with a big picture in your mind and then take the baby steps to get there.
You are mortal and your time is limited. If you don’t protect your time, other people are happy to waste it for you. Every activity comes at the cost of another one that you could have done instead.
Your time is valuable. Your time is depleting. It matters more than money because you can’t get it back. You can only enjoy it, learn from it, and do better.
[00:49] Hello and welcome to another episode of Productivity Masterminds. Today we have a very special guest. It’s me. I can tell you that running this podcast has been a huge learning experience for me and I just love to share with you what have been the biggest highlights and lessons learned on this season and what those things have been for me. My background is in tech entrepreneurship. I’m based in Silicon Valley and work with VC funded startups and I meet a lot of smart people every day who are pushing themselves to the max on productivity and time management, but if you want to manage your time like some of the top performers we’ve had on the podcast, like Yotam Cohen, who raised 30 million for his company or Jessica Chen, who is an Emmy award-winning content producer, or even like a top-notch productivity expert like David Allen, who is the author of the international bestseller “Getting Things Done” or Stever Robbins who hosts the get-it-done podcast.
[01:48] If you want to manage your time like these guys, you need to get on this totally new level of consciousness about the topic and the number one lesson for me has been: you’re quite simply just not managing just your time, you’re managing other aspects of yourself as well. You’re managing your attention, your intentionality, your energy, and your time. So let’s break it down. So again, you’re not just managing your time. You have to manage your attention, intention, energy, and time. On episode one, Mike talked about productivity and he says that
Productivity is the interplay between intention and attention.
So if you have an intention and attention, you’re productive. He says, if you have an intention, so a reason for doing things, okay, you have an intention, a reason for doing what you’re doing, but you don’t have attention than it’s powerless, right? Because you have all of the intentions, but you’re not taking action. So it’s powerless. It’s like a plan without action. But he says actually, that a lot of people have attention. They’re paying attention day in and day out, hustling and bustling, but they have no intention, no bigger picture, no plan. So it’s aimless. Uh, Sam Huber, on episode 14, he says that he starts with the big picture in mind, so he questions direction and purpose, and then finds the smaller baby steps to get there. That way he can be confident every day that he’s getting one step closer to the end goal because he has an end goal. He has an intention behind his actions. So that’s about attention and intention. But what about the other two? Right? What about energy? And of course time. Well, Manuel Bruschi, the Timeular CEO talks about energy management on episode 11 and how important it is to have the energy you need at the time you need to take care of the scary things and he has a good framework for it, by the way, on episode 11.
Finally about time management on episode five, Matt Kohn talks about tracking your time so you can see what tasks are taking up, what time, and you can be smart about creating processes so you can automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks, and he’s found that you can create 5, 10, 15, or even 20 hours extra per week if you just simplify and systemize non-mission-critical tasks so you can focus on getting in flow and operating in your genius zone. Okay, so those are the four different ones, right? We have attention, intention, energy, and time.
My conclusion again is that time management by itself is for beginners. The best top professionals are managing all four aspects: attention, intention, energy and time. These elements when combined are super powerful.
[04:38] My second big lesson has been that you shouldn’t manage your time until you take a first quick step and I’m about to tell you what that step is. Basically. Let me explain. If you just manage your time, two things are going to happen. Okay, so you get a tool or a product that manages your time because you were overwhelmed and you just start managing how you’re spending your time. Right? Day in and day out, you’re going to get to results. Number one is you’ll get a retrospective receipt of how you spent it so you look back at the end of the week, thanks to the tool that you’re using and you’ll realize that you didn’t do a good enough job at sticking to your ideal myself. So then you’ll try again the following week and the following week and time will go on and you’re not really fixing things quickly enough because you’re always looking backward at the receipt of how you did spend your time.
[05:26] So it always feels like you’re busy and you’re not actually making the impactful changes quickly enough. So if you just manage your time without managing the other things, you’re just pretty much always going to be busy and then that’s number one. And then number two, as you’ll be moving really quickly in the wrong direction, and this is, this has been the big lesson for me, is you shouldn’t manage your time until you fix this aspect. You may be moving really quickly in the wrong direction. So Stever said on episode two, he talked about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, and he says,
Efficiency means using little energy and resources to accomplish a task
So if you’re doing it quickly, it means you’re efficient, or if you’re using very little energy, if you’re using very little resources, you’re being very, very efficient,
…but effectiveness, on the other hand, means you’re doing the right thing.
[06:19] And think about that for a second, like what’s better? Doing the right thing slowly or doing the wrong thing very, very quickly. And that’s the point here. If you just manage your time, you run the risk of not zooming out far enough to understand whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. You may be moving quickly and it may trick you into thinking there’s momentum, but if you stop and think and zoom out, you can be both a strategist and an executor of your own life. Schedule your priorities in advance and then start managing your time to hold yourself accountable to speedy progress made in the right direction. I always say that
You can’t find the shortcuts if you don’t know where you’re going.
So by understanding your direction, you can understand what all these amazing guests understand, which is that time management should work in service of life goal management. I’ll say it again, time management should work in service of life goal management.
The third and last big lesson learned for me by recording season one of the Productivity Masterminds podcast is my favorite. It’s that you are mortal and your time is limited.
If you don’t protect your time, other people are happy to waste it for you.
Nicolas Cole talked in episode seven about opportunity costs and seeing every decision in life as an opportunity cost of doing something else. So an hour of watching Netflix – okay, that’s an hour that you’re not working on your goals. Time is limited. Every activity comes at the cost of another one that you could have done instead. Omar Khateeb explained in episode six, how to say no to time wasters by knowing what it is that you want out of life so you can more confidently defend if things are a yes or a no immediately by becoming binary.
[08:05] Yuval Rechter on episode four, he defines just three things to get done each day and goes all in on those. Everything else is a distraction or everything else gets done only after those three things have been done. John Trabelsi finds just one VIP task every day that will get done no matter what. So in the end, here’s the punchline.
Your time is valuable. Your time is depleting. It matters more than money because you can’t get it back. You can only enjoy it, learn from it, and do better.
So there you have it. Productivity masterminds directly from your host who has enjoyed about a dozen amazing conversations. My highlights, again, our number one, you’re not managing your time, you’re managing other aspects of yourself as well: your attention, your intentionality, your energy, and finally your time. Number two is you shouldn’t manage your time until you’ve asked yourself where you’re going. And number three is that you are mortal and your time is limited.
So here’s to much more productivity and fulfillment in your lives. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, I just ask for one thing and that is that you leave a five-star rating and review on your favorite podcast APP. You can find me on Twitter @juannikin which will be linked in the show notes, all the best Juan Campos and the Timeular team.
Tommy Barav is the founder of Supertools: a community and blog that helps people become the most optimized version of themselves through technology. He is also a Forbes 30 under 30, a writer for some of the biggest tech magazines in Israel, and the host of his own podcast. Previously, he held a variety of positions in Israel’s startup ecosystem— most recently as Director of Marketing at MassChallenge. Let’s hear more from him on this episode of the podcast.
To-do lists can be overwhelming. Writing everything on your to-do list can be very overwhelming and not help you with productivity at all. To-do lists are very great for capturing but not really structured for managing your time.
You always want to do the easy, urgent tasks first. You do all these small things and forget about the big picture. You always move the tasks that are important for your growth, for your business to the next day, next week, next month. You get more stressed because of lack of prioritization.
We need to stop thinking about productivity and start talking about efficiency. It’s all about creating more impact with less energy and optimizing energy.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix. Separate the tasks that are urgent from the tasks that are important. Don’t forget about your big dream while writing all these emails.
Use Google Keep to not forget the big picture. Create your life dashboard on Google Keep. Create five cards: morning routine, today’s 5, weekly review, monthly review, and yearly review.
Juan: [01:18] Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Tommy Barav: [01:20] Thank you for inviting me.
Juan: [01:21] Tommy, you certainly know something about productivity and time management that most of us don’t. Can you tell me a little bit at a high level how you think about time?
Tommy Barav: [01:30] Yeah, sure. So if you’re thinking about time, I always think about my to-do list because I always manage my time with my to-do list because you know, my calendar was structured to manage meetings and manage my doctor meetings in my day-to-day. But as for productivity and for work, I use my to-do list and really thought about and after a while, I thought that everything is, is overwhelmed and I’m overwhelmed with so many tasks and it’s not very productive.
To-do lists are very great for capturing but not really structured for managing your time.
And I had to invent a different system and after working with a to-do list for a while, it became actually most stressed I became more stressed because you lack of prioritization and you don’t really know, uh, the big picture.
Tommy Barav: [02:35] Um, so this system really doesn’t work. And In productivity you want to get rid of, you know, of all these spending tasks as soon as possible. Um, so what do you do? You select the first thing that you want to get rid of, you know, many, many tasks. You just pick the easiest task in your to-do list. Okay? And then you have more complex tasks, you know, like the things that are impactful for your growth impactful for your life. You really, um, um, snooze them for, for the future, for the next day and the next day, the next week. And you always pick the easiest task. Um, so you know, you feel satisfied in the one end because you just completed like 20 different tasks. So you feel satisfied. But when you get to the end of the month, you ask yourself, what did I do this month that, you know, helped me grow my career, helped me grow my business, you know, what did I do?
Tommy Barav: [03:42] And I think that I asked myself this question all the time and I found out when I use a to-do list I always I’m more focused on the easy task, you know, emailing, calling other people’s, always busy with other with someone else’s priority and not my priority. So I had to find a different system. Um, so, um, so
We need to stop thinking about productivity and start talking about efficiency.
And what is really essential to our life because I don’t think is a, like when you talk about productivity or thinking about doing more in less time. Okay. It’s always like we need to do, you know, we need to do like 10 different meetings and 20 different tasks and we need to get more and more productive and more, you know. And I don’t think like that. I think that it’s all about creating more impact with less energy and when I think about less energy, I think about efficiency and actually optimizing energy.
Tommy Barav: [04:45] Okay. So you can save energy to your family, you can save your energy to spend some time with your kids to spend some time with side hustling. You can save your energy to do other stuff. And and the first thing that came to my mind when I, when I explained my, my method is a, is based actually on, on Eisenhower Matrix. So, which in my opinion is one of the best concepts. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but let me explain it in one sentence. So we should separate tasks that are important from those that are urgent. Okay. So we have all these important tasks and all these urgent tasks. We always, we always focus on the urgent tasks because, you know, probably they are easy, easy to, to complete. There are not complex, but it’s something that is very urgent and we need to complete it now.
Tommy Barav: [05:40] So we are forgetting about the important and, and, and non-urgent tasks. You know, all these complex tasks that are associated with our growth and with our career growth and with the impact that we can bring into our life, you know, and shifting perspectives is finding the next thing I’m prepared to, I don’t know if your dream is to do a Ted talk, so you are always going to postpone it, because you are going to focus on all these urgent and small and annoying and stupid tasks. So we need clarity and the way that I, I actually, the tool that I use to get clarity to see the big picture is actually Google Keep, and I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Google Keep, but this is, it’s a very popular tool.
Tommy Barav: [06:31] If like the Google ecosystem, you will love Google Keep. And I’m sure that many, many users are using this tool included in our listeners. But you know, you might use it for taking notes. You might use it for reminders and other things.
I took it to a whole new level and created my life’s dashboard on Google Keep.
This is the way I frame it and so you can really get clarity. So what you can you do, either you can wait a year for the New Year’s resolution, okay. To get some clarity, you know, a day in your year that you can really think about your life and then you can reflect the previous year and you can think, okay, I did so many emails, but I have this project that I want to do.
Tommy Barav: [07:36] I want to lose weight, I want to find another career. I wanted to do so many things. But, but you know, so, so you do this new year’s resolution and this big list of things that you want to do. But after a few weeks you, you look back and, and you go back to your old habits and you’d go back to your new a to-do list, which is probably filled out with many urgent tasks and not with the important task. So what we really need to do is to optimize the system to work for us so we can really choose the right system. So with Google Keep, I’ve decided that I’m going to create a canvas of five cards, five different cards. So imagine that you have one screen on your, uh, on your laptop and you can see five different cards. And for each card, I have a different panel.
I’m using these panels to first get a reflection of my life, of my goals, and also the to define my today’s five, the most important tasks of the day.
Tommy Barav: [08:42] So the way I do it. So imagine that I have a card and I’m sure that a, we’re going to upload a picture somewhere so people can actually see it. And maybe take this concept. So imagine that you have a screen and you can see the first card. My first card is actually my morning routine, so you have like a checklist of everything that I want to do in the mornings, something that, you know, tasks that boost my energy in the morning. And so this is the first one, the next one is my, today’s five. So today’s five a. The way I actually pick this task is by asking myself several questions is, you know, what is first of all, what will bring the most impact into my life, the most impact into my a company’s growth and what kind of tasks I, I’m the only person who can do them what kind of tasks you cannot delegate to anyone else and what kind of tasks are urgent for tomorrow.
Tommy Barav: [09:47] But I’m trying to keep all the urgent tasks important as well.
So if ever a task is urgent but not important, I’m trying to delegate it or to use outsourcing to complete it.
Um, some really focusing. I’m laser-focused on tasks that are important but not that are important and urgent and are important and are not urgent as well and I’m trying to be the biggest advocate of tasks that are important but not urgent because I think that these tasks are more that are more like projects that you really want to promote, but you always postpone it because they are not urgent so you can really, you cannot complete them because there are more like a sequence of tasks rather than one task that you can do. Um, so today’s five – I am asking all these questions, I’m always limiting it to five tasks and not more than that.
And I’m just, I’m trying to think about tasks that will keep my eyes closed during the night, you know like the will not bring me some thoughts so I can sleep better at night.
So I’m trying to complete like I’m trying to really think about the tasks that if I will do it, my life will be better. I will be a better husband, I will be a better worker, I will be a better entrepreneur, I will be a better boss. So this is the task that I’m always, always selecting, but what helped me select the tasks, my today’s five actually based on the free cards that I have on the right of this screen, which is my monthly goals and my yearly goals as well. And also have another card that I’m using. I’m sharing with my wife, uh, so you can share it with your spouse and this is like a something that you want to do together, some goals, mutual goals that you have to improve your family’s life and to improve, uh, your, your personal life.
Tommy Barav: [11:47] So I have like a mutual card with my wife as well.
And so with this framework with this canvas, you can really see the big picture because you can see your yearly goals and also limiting my yearly goals to five different goals.
And I’m trying to think big. I’m trying to think about what things that I really want to do. I’m trying to organize it in a way it will not be only for my work, it will be also for my personal life or my health or my fitness for my mind. So it’s a, it’s a, it’s a holistic development process that I’m doing with myself, so I have it always listed, always can always see it and I can like always a look back and see what I have for my yearly goals. And then I can see based on my yearly goal, I can, I can, uh, create my monthly, my monthly goals based on my yearly goals.
Tommy Barav: [12:45] And then once I created my monthly goals, I can prepare my, today’s five, uh sorry, my weekly goals and then my two days five. So today’s five, weekly goals, monthly goals, and then yearly goals. And then you can really see the big picture in the process.
It’s like a funnel. You create a funnel of your life and when you create, let’s say, for example, I’m creating my monthly card with my monthly review card, my monthly goal.So when I’m thinking about my monthly goals, I’m basing that on my yearly goals. Okay, so in order that will not make any mistakes because if I have different tasks that are not connected to my yearly goal, I will not put it on the list.
Tommy Barav: [13:38] So this is a very simple concept, but I cannot even tell you how impactful this concept is. It’s the ultimate task lists for me because I know, you know, at first you reduce friction with a complex management, you know, to-do lists tool because it’s very simple, it’s very easy to update. You can put reminders, you can sync it with your calendar, it really boosts my efficiency. So you get always lays on the calendar, for example, like a small trick that I did. When you put a reminder on your monthly card, the monthly review card, um, it’s automatically integrated inside of your calendar. So each Friday I actually see this card. I’m sorry, my weekly review each Friday I can see my weekly goals card and then I can just click on my calendar and immediately this card opens up and I can update it in seconds again the same way to my monthly goals card – so once I click on my monthly card, each, each month when I click on my monthly goals card which appears on my calendar, I can immediately update it.
So I really try to live and to optimize the Google ecosystem for me and to keep it simple, to keep it clear and to really see the big picture.
Juan: [15:08] Tommy, that’s awesome. Makes perfect sense. Do you find that you’re actually editing your cards throughout the week or throughout the month or you only find one specific day that you make the edits and then you commit for that whole period of time before you edit it again, update it for the next cycle?
Tommy Barav: [15:21] Yeah, that’s a great question because I always see this as the dashboards. So when I’m, I need more clarity always go back to this dashboard, but uh, for me updating actually was, was a day like I’m creating my daily five and in the evening, each evening I’m sitting on like opening up a Google Keep updating today’s five and then forget about it. In the morning I have it always open, there’s a pink tab on Chrome, so I ever taught was open so I can see this dashboard all the time and if you’re using like an ultralight screen, like a big screen, you can put it all the time as well when you’re doing other tasks.
It will be like a great reminder, a great lighthouse for all your tasks.
So, and also each, each week I update it on Friday I have like a reminder on my calendar and also each month and of course by the end of the year, this is my new year’s resolution. I’m updating my yearly goals as well.
Juan: [16:37] Love that. Okay. There you have it. Productivity masterminds. Tommy has cracked Google keep to work for something that it’s not meant to do. Most of us use it for reminders, most of us use it for to-dos but what Tommy found is that most of us are operating on just to-do lists and we’re taking care of things that are only urgent but not important. So how do we fix this? We need to stop thinking about productivity and start thinking about efficiency and making sure that we’re doing the right thing. Tommy tackles this by using Google Keep, not for taking notes again or tracking reminders like most of us, but by actually creating a live dashboard on Google Keep and we will be sharing a picture of this in the show notes. This system helps Tommy focus on important tasks and not just on urgent tasks and it’s very easy.
Juan: [17:19] It’s just five cards left to right and you can replicate this at home or you can fire this up on your own Google Keep. On the lefthand side we have our morning routine followed by today’s five, which is the most impact, you know, you were answering things like what’s gonna have the most impact into my life what’s going to impact my company’s growth. What can’t I delegate? What is urgent and important, not just urgent for tomorrow. That’s the second card, right? Today’s five. Then the third card is your monthly goals followed by your yearly goals and then finally a mutual goals card to improve your family and personal life, which is actually shared with Tommy’s partner, with his wife. Tommy, thank you for sharing this with us. As you continue to grow and take your career forward, where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Tommy Barav: [18:04] Yeah. Basically, I have my own blog. Currently, it’s in Hebrew, but I’m going to translate it very soon to English. I live on emails, so like you can contact me all the time via email. I make sure to share my email with you and you know, and I have also, I just created a podcast which you can different podcasts where I am speaking about technology and make sure to share the link as well.
Juan: [18:36] Perfect. Okay. Tell me. Thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing all this with us.
Tommy Barav: [18:40] Thank you so much. It was Great.
Cooper Harris is the CEO & Founder of Klickly.com – an award-winning e-commerce company that helps you make faster purchases on the Internet. She is based in Venice CA, was recently nominated for Google’s “Young Innovators Award” and named a “Top Thought-Leader” by Adobe. She’s also a contributor to a number of publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur and has taken the stage as a speaker at conferences including SXSW, CES, and General Assembly. Let’s hear more from her on this episode of the podcast.
Time is the number one thing you can’t get back. It’s really important if you want to build a business to be really diligent about how you allocate your time and where you allocate it.
Go laser focus on one thing at a time. Find something that sticks and then once you’ve found that you can go all in because the truth is too many people are trying to boil the ocean all at the same time and that’s not gonna work. So if you can focus on one thing that matters at a time, then you can go all in 100 percent.
Be diligent about your schedule. Do not waste time, not on Facebook, Instagram, or on Netflix, but just being diligent about your schedule and just being very aware of the things that matters.
Make promises to your calendar. Once you find things that matter, you put them on a calendar and you make promises to yourself for you to just stick to the things that are on your calendar.
The three steps of behavior change.
Antecedents. Set antecedents which are basically triggers. So if it’s working out, you need to make sure that you’re successful to workout by setting up your clothes the day before.
Doing it. Take action.
Consequences. Whether they’re positive or negative that you actually feel in order to affect your behavior change..
Juan: Cooper Harris is the CEO and founder of quickly and award-winning e-commerce company that helps you make faster purchases on the internet. She is based in Venice, California was recently nominated for Google’s young innovators award and named a top thought leader by Adobe. She’s also a contributor to a number of publications like Forbes, Huffington Post and Entrepreneur, and it’s taken the stage as a speaker at conferences, including South by southwest CES and general assembly. Let’s hear more from her on this episode of the podcast.
Juan: Cooper, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Cooper Harris: Oh, I’m excited to be here.
Juan: Cooper. So you certainly know something about productivity and time management that most of us don’t. Can you tell us a little bit at a high level how you think about time?
Cooper Harris: Yes. I, uh, I,
I battle with time every day. It is the number one thing you can’t get back, right?
Um, it literally is the one, if you want to call it, like constraining element in a solution that is life. It is, it is that it’s a chemistry term. Some folks will get that super nerdy, and you can’t make more. So it’s really important if you want to build a business to be really diligent about how you allocate your time and where you allocate it. I, I think of things very much. Um, one thing at a time I kind of multitask, but I found just as a general tenant in my life, I have to go really laser focus on one thing at a time. And that’s actually how I get the most out of my time and my energy, if that makes sense.
Juan: So how do you know what thing you should laser focus on?
Cooper Harris: It’s a really good question and you don’t always know at the beginning of let’s say an early stage company, a startup, a burgeoning venture if you will. You don’t always know what’s going to work. So I would say, you know.
Do an iterative process so that you are focusing on tests one after another after another and when you find something that sticks, like go hard on that.
And once you’ve built that for let’s say as an example, maybe a year, to whatever KPI you’re, you’re, you’re saying whether it’s a time milestone a year or maybe a usership milestone, like 5,000 users, whatever that KPI that says to you, we’ve, we’ve accomplished this and we’ve had success. Then you can start like let’s say an ancillary business or similar in different revenue stream or whatever.
But I think it’s very important to establish what’s working. Get a solid foundation of revenue or daily active users and only when that’s very well oiled and really well established. Only then do you want to go onto that second thing, and that’s been kind of the ethos of everything I build is really finding what works. Doing it for a considerable amount of time to where it’s set steady and solid because I see, and again I’m rambling, but I’m passionate about this. I see so many startups and young companies fail because they’re trying to boil the ocean. They’re trying to be everything to everyone and they’re all over the place and it is insane. No one would win doing that and so
I think it’s very important for us to understand like we need to be disciplined, very disciplined and do what’s working. Set it up to a place where you can be successful.
Almost run itself perhaps an only then launch the second revenue stream or that ancillary business or whatever it is.
Juan: I love that because I think most of us in our professions, we try to find how we can be like really well rounded and we can tackle as many things as possible and that’s what’s so attractive about even content like this. We people want to know how they can get more done in less time and it sounds like what you’re saying, it’s actually about becoming more one dimensional and finding like the one thing that you’re going to go all in on. Yes, there is some testing behind it. You’re going to try three, four or five different things probably over the course of two months or a year. However much time you give yourself to reach those KPIs, but once you find that that one strategy, then you go all in on that and it’s actually in that focus that you’re able to accomplish more in less time as opposed to just trying to juggle too many things without letting plates at the floor. So that’s really interesting. So true way you approach it.
Cooper Harris: Yes, that’s exactly how I think of it and part of it too is we have to recognize when you switch tracks and when you switch your focus and in between everything you do in your day, when you go from one thing to another, you’re using valuable time, you’re wasting time because your brain and your everything about you and us as humans, we take a moment to adjust in between. Right? So there’s the opportunity cost of actually every time you switch gears so to speak, you will actually lose an amount of efficiency. In my mind, you actually want to do that as little as possible.
Juan: So Cooper, what kind of advice would you have for someone that maybe isn’t coming from the opportunity that maybe we may have as entrepreneurs where we can actually manage pretty much all of our time, but let’s say someone that works at a company and they’re thinking, cooper, I can’t just focus on one thing. I have like all these different stakeholders, all of these different tasks. What kind of advice would you have for someone like that that actually has to shift their attention between tasks? Every day and they have multiple KIPs they are trying to meet. How would they kind of apply your thesis into their life?
Cooper Harris: I would apply it by quitting your job. I say that literally. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful and I also have insanely high-risk tolerance and I’m a little bit delusional so, so I really actually somewhat believe that. I think if you’re really like gung-ho about starting something, like you should just start it because if you don’t have a plan B, you will make plan A work by and large most of the time. Now that’s a huge generalization and that definitely won’t be possible for a huge number of people. So you have to keep in mind if that’s actually like a safe thing to do. I don’t want to tell you to do something stupid, but I think if you’re really passionate you genuinely want to start something and you have somewhat of the resources or the ability to do it. I think you should just do it. I quit a TV show to start my first company, which actually, fortunately, worked out well. But yeah, just walked, so that was insane and I don’t want that anyone should do that, but that kind of idea, I think that’s the number one thing that will galvanize you. There are other ways that I do actually recommend that are tactical for people who have a lower risk tolerance or want to be more practical about it because that’s not for everyone. Um, and those would be:
Use your calendar. I’ve made a promise to my calendar that I will do what it says and therefore when something comes up on my calendar that I don’t want to do it, it doesn’t matter because I have to.
So if you can make that kind of a promise to your calendar and then be very diligent about putting those antecedents in. Antecedents are things that cause an outcome, right? So if you want to become a writer, your antecedent is a, you put in every single night at 7:00 PM. Once you get home and you eat and you eat quickly so you don’t waste time. You put in, I’m going to write for an hour and a half every single evening. Guess what? I mean? That’s a lot. But if you did that, you’d have a very good chance of just by virtue of them mount of content you were putting out there, you would have good chance of you would be a writer because you’d be writing. But then too, you’d have so much content out there that that it’s just a lot more likely that that thing would happen. And again, a better example would be like fitness. Fitness is a really good example because it’s not dependent on other people. If you worked out for an hour and a half every single night at seven, you would be the fittest mofo out there.
Juan: Yeah. Yeah. Cooper, I love that. I think this really helps me understand a lot about like what’s under what’s behind your success because honestly I think that the hardest promises for us to keep are the ones we make to ourselves. I think whenever it’s like a very real deadline, like you tell someone that your pitch deck is going to be done on a certain day or you tell someone that you’re going to have a dinner on Thursday at 6:00 PM and you’re going to present the 30, 60, 90 day growth plan, like whatever it is. Those are easier to keep. But whenever you promise yourself that you’re going to work out at 7:00 PM your way flakier to your own ambitions than you are with other people and if you can somehow crack that, if you can make promises and then you actually believe in yourself enough to know that you are going to uphold that promise, that’s when things really started locking. So I love hearing that. You’re like, I literally just like set up things on my calendar and then I do what I say I’m going to do and I take myself seriously enough to accomplish that. I think that’s like a major, major, major key.
Cooper Harris: Well that’s cool. I mean there is a way to crack that and I can tell it to you right now. It’s probably about behavioral therapy. Yeah.
When you want to change a behavior, there are three parts to that behavior change. The first part is an antecedent. It’s what do you put in place before to make it lately as an outcome?
Juan: So like triggers or. Okay.
Cooper Harris: Yeah. Antecedents, anything kind of the preliminary set up that makes it likely for you to do this thing. The second thing is you actually doing it. You have to do. If you set the time in your calendar to go to the gym, that’s an antecedent. Then the second thing is actually doing. You have to go to the gym, right, but then the third thing is the one that’s the most overlooked and this is the reason it is easier to skip the gym and not be accountable to ourselves than it is to let’s say skip a major deadline at work they actually don’t care about and here’s why and all comes down to this. It’s the third piece of the behavior change rule which says that there have to be consequences that we feel if we are to affect behavior change and if you don’t have consequences there, which you don’t really nothing urgent there. I’m like, but if you don’t turn in your work at work, you likely will be fired and we’re very keenly aware of that. But if, if literally, you would, I don’t know, some dreadful consequences from not going to the gym, we will be as accountable to ourselves or more and I think it’s so important to press to really understand that and I’m still just really trying to internalize it myself, but we, because of consequences they are the things that screw us up because there are natural consequences at work, we take work more seriously than we do the actual dreams and visions that we have for ourselves in our lives.
So you have to put in serious consequences for the things you actually want to make them happen or they won’t.
Juan: Got It. Okay. So just like we create the artificial carrot of delayed gratification, if we can somehow create artificial sticks that are actually negative consequences for us to not move towards the carrot, then that’s when we finally have the full circle,
Cooper Harris: Yes, negative or positive, negative or positive. So here’s the other thing you could after if you started working out and after every workout, let’s say you wanted to put in a consequence that wasn’t shaming or or you did both, you weighed yourself and then you also walked by like, I’m going to be really crude here, but like a yoga class full of hot women, if you’re a dude, the more you walk by that class and see their reaction, that’s an immediate consequence. So we, after you did that, after six weeks and then suddenly you’re looking buff and you’re getting tram or whatever, that’s a very primal consequence there that will trigger in your brain. So this the important thing is that it releases some chemical in your brain, either a positive or a negative consequence,
Juan: And then the key there is to make sure that the rewards you have are actually positive rewards and you’re not rewarding yourself with then grabbing in and out right afterwards. So as long as he can have good consequences or it could be like kind of punishments that you set for yourself, then that’s like a trigger. At the end of this amazing, Cooper. Okay. Do you have any like wrapping up thoughts about how you think about time or productivity time management tips here?
Cooper Harris: I do. I mean here, here’s what I use. You guys are gonna think I’m insane. I use slack for everything on my team of course, and then I integrate that into my personal trello board and have a really tight trello board that I’ve actually built in swim lanes too and I have a swim lane for every single element of my life, my investments, my health and actually beauty because my hair care is in there because if I’m spending $100 every, I mean the rough numbers every six weeks on my hair. Like I need to budget that out and you need to plan that out. It’s going to be two hours of my time. Right? So everything is in there.
Juan: Like nutrition, everything,…
Cooper Harris: Everything. Yep. Everything. So it all becomes this like machine that just kind of runs itself. Every single thing has a due date and then they just pop up and then you just do them and it becomes like if you pull yourself out of your feelings and your emotions and you program Trello as a, as a businessperson, it’s not actual programming, but if you program Trello to get the outcome you want and then you just follow it, you will actually do it.
Juan: Yeah, you need to put yourself in a position where it is paint by the dot success at that point yet, but that’s only gonna happen if you like. Actually zoom out long enough for you to look at it in that way.
And put in those consequences or discipline such that when it pops up and you don’t want to do it, you do it anyway.
Juan: There you have it. Productivity masterminds. Cooper Harris, battles with her time every day one, and she sees that as the one constraining element in life and the the one thing that you can’t get back. She kind of multitasks, but she’s found that you have to laser focus on one thing at a time to really do it well. In this comes from doing an iterative process to find something that sticks and then once you’ve found that you can go all in because the truth is too many people, like Cooper says, are trying to boil the ocean all at the same time and that’s not gonna work. So if you can focus on one thing that matters at a time, then you can go 100 percent of your time. Then you can go all in 100 percent. So this starts by being diligent about your schedule, not wasting time, not on facebook than on Instagram, not on Netflix, but just being diligent about your schedule and just being very aware of the things that matters.
Once you find things that matter, you put them on a calendar and you make promises to yourself for you to just stick to the things that are on your calendar. You can do this by first setting an antecedent which are basically triggers and preliminary setups, so if it’s working out, you need to make sure that you’re successful to workout by setting up your clothes the day before. Setting up your alarm, having those antecedents. Number two, you actually have to take action and then finally you have to have consequences, whether they’re positive or negative that you actually feel in order to affect your behavior change.
Cooper uses slack for everything on our team and has swim lanes on Trello so she can see items go from left to right on her screen and make sure that she’s actually holding herself accountable to getting things done and that she has specific expectations for what it means once something gets done and those are the consequences that she talked about.
Cooper, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all this with us as you continue to grow and take your career forward. Where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Cooper Harris: Yeah, I think, I mean social, right? So I’m @cooperharris. Just one word. Um, I’m, I’m still very active on Twitter. I’m on Instagram and then, um, I think, you know, business wise at Linkedin is a great platform and I use it frequently.
Juan: Excellent. Cooper, thank you again for coming on the show and sharing all of this with us.
Cooper Harris: Thank you so much and for your amazingly succinct encapsulation of what I said there. I feel like I could listen to that again and again. You are brilliant.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dane Sanders is a coach, consultant, and keynote speaker. After growing his own photography business to more than 6 figures, he founded Fastermind.co, a community of freelancers looking to scale beyond themselves. Today, he serves on the executive team of AlphaUSA.org and is the author of two best-selling business books for creatives through America’s largest publisher of its kind, Penguin Random House. Let’s hear more from him on this episode of Productivity Masterminds.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZhbmNob3IuZm0lMkZwcm9kdWN0aXZpdHktbWFzdGVybWluZHMlMkZlbWJlZCUyRmVwaXNvZGVzJTJGRXAtMTctRGFuZS1TYW5kZXJzLS0tSGFjay1Qcm9kdWN0aXZpdHktYnktUmVmaW5pbmctWW91ci1EaXJlY3Rpb24tZTF0amhmJTIyJTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTIyMTAycHglMjIlMjB3aWR0aCUzRCUyMjYwMHB4JTIyJTIwZnJhbWVib3JkZXIlM0QlMjIwJTIyJTIwc2Nyb2xsaW5nJTNEJTIybm8lMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZpZnJhbWUlM0U=[/vc_raw_html][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Super performers are not sleepwalking through life. Time is a finite resource and can’t actually be managed. It is coming and going all the time for everyone at the same pace exactly. It has more to do with awakeness. You are super trustworthy when you’re awake, but when you’re sleepwalking through your life, you are not trustworthy.
Try to not be consumed by Social Media. You need to relate with your life more like an art form and figure out ways to dance with the power that we get from digital without being consumed by it.
An addiction is a desire for a feeling. It is a discipline to keep your phone in your pocket and almost count the seconds and figuring out “What am I feeling right now?” And when you do that, you are more awake and therefore get much more accomplished.
All productivity and time management hacks have one thing in common: consciousness. All these hacks are trying to get us to a place of consciousness and when that consciousness is in play you get more done.
Think big picture. If you’re asking bigger and bigger questions, you can look for the tools that can help you do those things faster, but if you’re not doing that, you’re not thinking big picture enough yet, then no matter short-term tactics are going to help you win.
Juan: [00:00] Dane, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dane Sanders: [01:23] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Juan: [01:26] Dane, you’re a top performer. You’re running multiple brands who are helping entrepreneurs and freelancers make the best life that they can, make the best use of their time and take their business forward. You’ve authored multiple books. You’re a speaker, you’ve endorsed, you’ve been endorsed by people like Seth Godin, Ann Hanley, you know, something about time management that most of us don’t. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about time in general?
Dane Sanders: [01:46] Sure. I mean probably the best way to start is what everybody does already know and that’s, that time can’t actually be managed. It’s, it’s a finite resource that is coming and going all the time for everyone at the same pace exactly. So if it is a finite resource and it’s happening, whether we’re paying attention to it or not and everyone gets the same amount of it, um, how is it that there are some super performers who seem to be able to get so much more from it? I think that’s the really interesting question. And what are, what are they actually doing? Um, and I don’t think it has very much at all to do with time. Ironically.
I think it has more to do with awakeness, people’s ability to stay awake at the wheel. Like I’m super trustworthy when I’m awake, but when I’m sleepwalking through life, I’m not trustworthy.
It’s only when I’m conscious. Examples of that are things like, how do I find myself or any of us, uh, you know, the cliche now to be lost in a social media scroll. Um, you know, just blank eyes staring off into space, looking for the next step would mean head. It’s kind of ridiculous. Or you know, you’re standing around at a party, no one’s talking to you, do you, do you grab your phone or I’m paying attention to distractions or I’m so into Netflix and getting constantly entertained or there’s just an overabundance of content that I feel even responsible to consume. Um, but I don’t have enough time to do it. So these are all symptoms. They’re not the problem, they are symptoms of a much bigger concern. And what I’m interested in is how can I design my life to match my commitments?
[03:25] So, or another way to say that is how do I stay awake to my commitments, um, and how do I do that in a way that is really humanly informed where I’m really thinking about it from the perspective of what is true of humans regardless of the area you’re born in. And what I’m learning is that life like that means that I need to not plug my life into like an Internet culture, like a robot, uh, or mimic artificial intelligence – we’re smarter than AI and we always will be.
I need to relate with my life more like an art form and to figure out ways to dance with the power that we get from digital without being consumed by it.
Juan: Sure. And how do we do that?
Dane Sanders: Yeah. So, um, you know, I suspect your listeners especially are up on the latest life hacks. You know, there’s so many tips and tricks. Uh, in fact, I think there’s so many. We’re, um, we’re, we’re, we’re kind of tired of them. Uh, I, I, I love them, I’m always looking for a sense of doing things more efficiently, but underneath the surface what it really trying to do is deal with these phenomenon, these things we described and I have, um, I have found that if I treat the, all those dynamics that I just mentioned really as symptomatic versus problem and I go, okay, what’s the real problem? So here’s a practical thing you could do. I think of like guys like Russell Brand who wrote a really fascinating book, the Comedian Russell Brand on a, on addiction. And I have a dear friend who’s going through recovery right now in this book became a book he and I read together. And as I was reading it, I was so struck by his, uh, example of basically saying like, if you’re, if you’re on, say, like heroin, you know, you have an addiction problem.
[05:15] Like there’s no – everyone in the whole planet knows you have an addiction problem, but if you, if you just check your phone a lot, it’s tempting to think that, um, you know, that’s just what everybody struggles with or whatever. And not call it addiction. And I think that’s so helpful to see it as a spectrum that we’re all connected to some in horrific ways, some in a lighter weight ways, but still just as dire. And if that’s true and addiction is really a desire for a feeling, Gosh, how can I, how can I slow the train down and let myself feel the parts of life that I’m, I’m avoiding the, the, um, uh, the anxiety that comes up when I’m standing by myself in a room and no one’s talking to me instead of checking my phone. It’s a discipline for me to keep my phone in my pocket and almost count the seconds almost just figuring out like, what am I feeling right now? [06:03] Can I get in touch with that? Because when I do that, I tend to be more awake. And when I’m more awake, I tend to be more trustworthy and when I’m more trustworthy, I tend to get more accomplished, like radically, much more accomplished. A mentor of mine, a guy named Seth, you mentioned earlier, Seth Godin. Seth says all the time I’ve asked him directly, Seth, uh, how do you get so much ridiculous things done? And his response was, well, I have nine more hours than most humans because they’re all watching television or they’re getting entertained or, and, and you just cut that out. It’s Kinda like diets, like if you just cut out soda and alcohol and sugar, you’re going to lose 10 pounds in two weeks. It’s just without doing anything and that’s where I would say these hacks are pointing to, but they’re not –
You need to think what is the hack actually trying to accomplish and it’s trying to get us to a place of consciousness and when that consciousness is in play, those people conscious people get more done. They are super performers and that is what we’re fighting for.
Juan: [07:01] Yeah. No, those are really good points. That makes a lot of sense. Dane, have you found that it’s better to eliminate that addiction by treating like the real problem or is it more about replacing the addiction and rewiring, retaining the addiction into better habits? Like which of the two is it because it sounds more like removing a need for that kind of self-medicating behavior as opposed to maybe replacing it with better habits, which are the two?
Dane Sanders: [07:29] Yeah, I’d probably go. Well, so I think about it. First of all, I just want to get clear on what’s actually happening. Making sure that I’m clear. What is a symptom an a problem is. When identify the symptoms I want to go look, let’s not make these bad, let’s get curious about them. What are they telling me that I’m, I’m going on for me underneath the hood and, and, and in a similar way, like so funny that the sponsor for the show,
Timeular, I, I love their little dice tracker thing because I use it as a tracker. It’s not, it’s, it’s really meant to tell me current reality and if I’m very elegantly able to track my time without overthinking not doing a ton of clicking or buttoning or anything like an analog device and just twisting and turning and at the end of the day I can go, Oh wow, that’s fascinating, that I did life that way.
Even Apple’s new update where they are tracking your use, I don’t think very many people are checking their use because they’re nervous about what it’s going to tell you, but if anyone did it, that would be a way to get sober really quickly and go, oh, that’s fascinating. What, what is that telling me about me that I’m drawn to? And um, so I don’t, I guess that’s kind of a, a way to reverse the habits or gain awareness of the why’s behind the habits or maybe get curious with them. But I think it begins there if you don’t have a sense of what current reality actually is and you go straight to like, oh, I’m going to build new habit. A, you’re probably going to land back in the old habit. This is why people can do like New Year’s resolutions every year have the same ones for 10 years in a row because they didn’t actually get to the source of why they keep drawing their lives in the wrong direction. When they get clear on that and they align right and they just practice aligning right relative to where they were aligning wrong, they have a different experience. Um, so I, I liked the idea of getting a current reality check in. And I also love the idea of when you get to new habits, really going slow. Like one of the most significant habit hacks for me in my life was like flossing my teeth. I just knew I didn’t want to do it. It turned out flossing my teeth first thing before I went to the restroom was one of the most critical things I could do because it got me awake right away. I didn’t want to do it. I always, I tied it directly to, um, uh, and by the way, you should get on James Clear onto your show. His new book on atomic habits relate to this. When you start habit stacking and, and really, um, engineering your life for consciousness, uh, there’s so much that can open up for you.
Juan: [10:02] It’s so fitting, Dane, given your background that you studied philosophy because if you really look at some of the themes that you’re bringing up your operating on even a topic like time management from a very zoomed out approach, you’re thinking more about human connection community, like legacy, like it’s operates from a very zoomed out approach, am I going in the right direction with my life and then reverse engineering what your daily habits look like and I think you’re so onto something with those principles because most of us really do just get caught up on the how do I squeeze an extra five minutes here or there? You’re saying you want extra time and here’s an extra nine hours and it’s actually based on something that you’re not addressing, which is your need to again, just self medicate with non constructive behaviors.
Dane Sanders: [10:50] Yeah. Well it’s funny, you know, aristotle talks a lot about the good life and he called it eudaimonia and this notion of what does it mean to flourish as a human? And I’d argue that’s probably the, the fundamental question of being human. Even when you suffer, like whether you’re reading guys like, um, like reading man’s search for meaning, you know, an amazing book about a guy who suffers in the Holocaust and his conclusion at the end of it, he’s basically asking the question, how come some people suffer and they get crushed, they got crushed and other people suffer and they get stronger. What’s the difference between those two people that relates to. And it turns out there’s a lot of habits of mind and body that really influenced your capacity in those moments. Um, I think of other folks like I, I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. I think he’s like the most resourceful human on the theater of life ever who’s walked the earth, uh, someone who doesn’t believe that it’s Ryan Holiday, but he’s my favorite atheist because his commitment to stoicism really, um, it, it gets people into a philosophy of life that you’re going to start getting being able to measure results from those philosophies and to see does it hold water the way, uh, the proponents of it say it should. And I, I honestly,
I like the idea that truth takes you wherever you needed to go.And like if you, if you’re committed to following truth, wherever it takes you, no matter what, you’re going to get to a good place.
And I have a hunch, Ryan and I will get to the same place someday, but the point is that you’re taking your life seriously enough to, to wrap it around a rule of life that you, that makes sense, that’s going to have something you’re gonna look back on and go, I’m, I’m glad I spent my life that way. And again, most people I think are just kind of sleepwalking and, and they’re wondering like, well, why do I do life the way that I do with these kinds of habits over and over and over again? And I think it’s a very important question. And if people get serious about looking for the answers they’re going to get, they’re going to discover a lot more than answers to those questions are going to discover a life that could really become something significant.
Juan: [12:53] That’s fantastic. Dane there, I think you’re really hitting on so many important points here. I think the temptation is to look for technique or tool and what you’re suggesting is much higher level than that. You need to be looking for a purpose. You need to be looking for things that are triggering the distractions and the actions that are wasting your time, and if you’re really bringing it back to those triggers and what it is that’s wasting your time, then you’ll start asking yourself the right questions that guide you towards a bigger purpose.
Dane Sanders: [13:19] Yeah, you nailed it. I just. Well, let me comment real quick. Like I.
We are so much more than a hack. Humans are more than a hack.
And I love the way you articulated that because it. It’s just so tempting in the fury of life, that is the pace of digital culture. It’s just tempting to think that we’re not humans that we’re just like rat race doesn’t even capture it anymore. That’s what people used to call it in the fifties and sixties, so this isn’t a rat race anymore. This is like a flurry of, and we call it life where there’s this old quote, “People settle for a level of despair they can tolerate and call it happiness.” , I think it was Soren Kierkegaard that came up with that and that’s such a discouraging and haunting quote because most people have settled for so little when so much is available and and it starts with moving above technique and looking at what is your reason for being and when you start there you actually find things like meaning and purpose and that informs your actions and people’s whole lives can be transformed just from that thought experiment.
Juan: [14:24] Amazing. So these teams you are bringing up in a community and legacy. You’re basically proposing that every human has a philosophy in life, whether we know it or not, and in you know in your case it’s Christianity and your faith in Jesus and for listeners at home they might be something else, but it all comes down to what is my productivity for? And those are the right questions to be asking yourself and all of this. All of this efficiency is instrumental to a bigger mission or vision, so you’ll be more astute if have a bigger sense of purpose.
If you’re asking bigger and bigger questions, then you can look for the tools that can help you do those things faster, but if you’re not doing that, you’re not thinking big picture enough yet, then no matter short term tactics are going to help you win.
And something that you’ve said before that I love is that the war is really between the 12 inches between your ears and what you’re paying attention to. So as we started zooming out into that, we can start creating a plan of action for productivity that is practical, but it does start with a bit of philosophy essentially.
Dane Sanders: Yeah. At least good practical philosophy. Yeah, that’s right. By the way, I’d say one, I would love to sit at your feet and learn, man, you, you’re such a great position to be picking these things up from folks and your capacity to articulate it back. You make me sound better than I am, so I really am grateful.
Juan: Thank you so much, Dane. It’s been a fantastic experience getting to talk to so many productivity experts and people in this space, top performers, it’s made a huge impact in my life, so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to this with me, with us listeners at home, and Dane I just want to ask you, as you continue to take your career forward, uh, where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Dane Sanders: Well, they can certainly go to danesanders.com to get to know me or reach out, but I would say the most exciting project I’m in the middle of right now is this thing called fastermind.co. And faster mind is really a whole community of people who are trying to live this out. They’re trying to, they recognize that, uh, whether you’re a freelancer, you’re like you’re in a non scaling business or you’re an entrepreneur and you’re trying to really build something that’s bigger than you, regardless you’re still a human being, navigating a very complex world and doing it solo is very challenging. So we built a little community that is is growing and intimate and, and, and we’re trying to sort these things out together in real life around real businesses with real business owners and even employees of big companies that are, they just want their life to matter differently. And I’d say, if that sounds interesting, I’d encourage folks to, to pop over there and say hi, and let’s start a conversation.
Juan: Amazing. Dane, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of this with us.
Dane Sanders: Hey, my pleasure. Thank you, Juan.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Charles Byrd is a passionate productivity and Evernote certified influencer specializing in joint ventures, marketing and creative communications. His online courses have reached over a million people in 2017. As a productivity expert, Charles coaches CEOs and entrepreneurs how to “Kill the Chaos” of information overload.
Charles works with partners such as Brian Tracy, Eben Pagan, Josh Turner, & Mike Filsaime. Let’s hear more from him on this episode of the podcast.
The power trifecta. It’s the combination of tools, workflows, and habits because you could have the best tool in the world, but if you don’t know how to apply it to your life and your business, it’s worthless.
Use your five-second superpower. Learn how to use tags in Evernote and be able to find everything you need in five seconds.
Ring the I-dig-it-I-need-it bell. It’s the bell that goes off in your head when you figure out that something’s either interesting or important. And when you hear that, that is your cue to put that information into Evernote right then and there and tag it.
Understand the secret of tagging. The secret of tagging is focusing on the who, what, when, where, why. And not that you need five tags, but if you simply walk yourself through that it makes it super easy to capture what it is.
Evernote is not just a tool for to-dos. It’s a place to document your step by step processes so you can do them again faster later and make it easier to delegate to other team members.
The Tracker helps you stay focused. When you pick a side to put the device on, you don’t want to pick it up again in two seconds and flip it so it helps you stay on that task and to make the most out of your day.
Juan: Charles Byrd is a passionate productivity and Evernote certified influencer specializing in joint ventures, marketing, and creative communications. His online courses have reached over a million people as a productivity expert, Charles coaches, CEOs and entrepreneurs how to kill the chaos of information overload. Charles works with partners such as Brian Tracy, Eben Pagan, Josh Turner and Mike Filsaime. Let’s hear more from him on this episode of the podcast. Charles, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Charles Byrd: [01:22] My pleasure. Thanks for having me,
Juan: [01:24] Charles. You’re an expert in productivity and your work with lots of top notch professionals. You certainly know something about productivity and time management most of us don’t. Can you walk us a little bit through your framework and how you think about time?
Charles Byrd: [01:35] Yeah, absolutely. So, um, I, I have a corporate background. I worked in the Silicon Valley for 15 years. I was a project manager, program manager and director at a billion dollar software company and I create trainings and really the systems I created were primarily for my own survival and being able to, you know, handle 12 enterprise projects at a time and things like that where, where the stress is high and there’s so many pieces to manage. So, um, I, I remember one of the catalysts for, for creating the system I teach today. I walked, walked into the office and one of the VPs was like, we’re looking forward to your presentation. I’m like, Yep, next Tuesday, like usual. And he’s like, no, we need it in half an hour. So I walk in my office, I’m sweating bullets, my stomachs and not.
I’m trying to find stuff I can’t find that fast and I vowed to create a system that would not put me in that situation again and that system is very much based on using Evernote.
[02:39] So at this point I’m an Evernote certified consultant. I teach Evernote to hundreds of thousands of people a year and some of the tricks to the trade, really it’s something I call the power trifecta. It’s the combination of tools, workflows, and habits, because you could have the best tool in the world, but if you don’t know how to apply it to your life and your business, you don’t have Evernote sitting on your phone, you have hashtag never note and nevernote doesn’t hook you up all that often. So, or if you know how to use the tool, you’ve got the tool, but you don’t have the habits in place to capture what is interesting or important when it comes across your awareness, whether you think of it or it comes in your inbox or your web browser, then it won’t be there when you need it. So that’s really what I focus on the power trifecta.
[03:28] And one of the easiest ways to find things is by learning how to use tags in Evernote and tags – they enable you, what I call your five-second superpower, to put your finger on anything you need in five seconds. And so to be able to do that, we simply need to recognize when something is either interesting or important.
It’s what I call the I-dig-it-I-need-it bell, it’s the bell that goes off in your head when you figure out that something’s either interesting or important.
So when the testimonial comes in from one of your lead clients and you’re like, sweet, I can’t wait to use this again, that’s when the bell interesting and important would go off. Sounds like that in your head. And when you hear that, that is your cue to put that information into Evernote right then and there and tag it.
[04:22] And you want to know the secret of tagging. That’s a loaded a leading question. Yes. The secret of tagging is focusing on the who, what, when, where, why. And not that you need five tags, but if you simply walk yourself through that, who, what, when, where, why, it makes it super easy to capture what it is. In fact, I have a note up right now. It’s tagged with your name. It’s tagged with Timeular and it’s tagged with podcast. Who, what, when, where, why. Again, you don’t need all five, but see how in the future I’d be able to pull this up and two seconds by typing a word or two. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of the backbone of what I teach and um, it’s, it’s been a really fun ride going from corporate with zero connections and trying to learn online marketing and all of that to now working with some of the biggest people in the world. Both you and I separately had David Allen on our shows a week or two ago. We work with other people you have on this podcast, my friend Mike Vardy and so many others. So it, it’s very satisfying to be able to help people at scale. And that’s really what I’m passionate about.
Juan: [05:39] Wow, that’s wonderful. Charles. There’s a few things for us to kind of break down here. I really understand the tools and habits. I think that’s pretty universal. The workflows isn’t too clear for me right now. What, what exactly are you talking about with workflows? Is that just the habits of having the tags and things like that. It’s kind of the mechanics
Charles Byrd: [05:56] For example a tool like Evernote, we could be talking about Asana or anything else, but you can have the tool sitting there, but you need specific workflows to know how to apply it in specific situations. So just as an example, I spoke with a 30 year veteran of consulting yesterday and, and I do consulting myself but certainly haven’t been doing it 30 years, so he gave me this wonderful onboarding document and so I need to know the workflow, what to do with that. So obviously I put it straight into the Evernote, tag it template, tag it consulting so I know exactly what to do with different types of information. Is this something for reference? Is this something actionable? And basically it’s designing the workflows within the tools so the tools bring the benefits that they promise because most people have Evernote on their phones, 94 percent of people have heard of it, three fourths of them have it. And when I survey them, how many of you know you could be using it better or plan to use it more? It’s 95 percent.
Juan: Oh wow. And even something as simple as tags. I, I personally like using Google keep and I have only used Evernote to tinker with it for a little bit. But what I like about what you’re suggesting with using tags is that I can also look up stuff very easily on my google keep, but it’s not all organized in my head. It’s just a bunch of sticky notes in like an APP version. But what you’re doing with tags is actually being intentional about cataloging each of these ideas and you, you’re putting the burden of cataloging on yourself as a human and not just on the tech and letting the tech find what you’re looking for six months from now, but you actually remember how you’re organizing things in a very visual way. You know, you have like 15 different folders that make up your life, let’s say.
Charles Byrd: [07:47] Because I have, I have friends like my friend Dr Ron Friedman. He’s like, well I can search for things and evernote is going to find it. And he’s absolutely right. And there’s, there’s the front end effort of putting these tags. But really how much effort is it to type podcast, Timeular, Juan. So – not a lot of effort.
And here’s the thing, like if I search Evernote for the word car, it’s going to find all kinds of stuff. Any other word that has car in it? It, it’s gonna find a mountain of stuff. But if I search for the tag car, it’s only going to get what it should be getting, right?
Juan: No, it makes perfect sense. Yeah. Okay. So someone’s sitting at home right now and they’re listening to this like, okay, I get it. There’s tools, there’s workflows, there’s habits. I see how everything fits together. Now how does this tie into your brand? You’re a productivity expert. So the more that I take ownership of these aspects of my life, how do I now leverage that into productivity?
Charles Byrd: [08:56] Okay. So for one, learning my systems simply with the Evernote side will save you three hours a week and by saving three hours a week minimum, that adds up to 144 hours a year or 18 working days of reclaim time. That’s just learning one of my systems and tools. Now when you combine that with task management solutions, project management solutions, email and so forth, and integrate them into a, a beautiful web of magic productivity sauce, it, uh, it, it just streamlines businesses, teams, things like using slack and so forth. You integrate multiple tools together to create workflows across what you do as a company or an individual. Uh, so as noted just with the Evernote course, if that’s saving that much time, which it, which it is my Evernote trainings, um, then the other things combined you, you start saving more and more. You just keep optimizing. It’s Kaizen continuous improvement. You keep adding layers to simplify, which sounds ironic, but that’s how it works.
Juan: Funny enough, how would you encourage someone to actually start coming up with these workflows and integrations themselves? Like, I guess Evernote is easy enough. It’s looking up the tutorials. It’s contacting an expert like yourself. Byrdword.com and learning more about your services in general. How would I start now tagging along like what you’re saying, the slacks and the troubles of the world and making this applicable for my business life.
Charles Byrd: Sure. So there’s a few ways to do it.
One of the easiest ways to do it is going to an expert who will save the savior of the time of figuring out. That’s why so many people who have Evernote are not using it. They don’t know how to apply it to their business and their life.
Juan: [10:53] It’s like having a treadmill at the house, but unless you have a personal trainer, you probably liked that accountability. Right? Or at least a workout buddy.
Charles Byrd: Yeah, and it’s basically they would have to take the time to design the system. Now I think it’s worth it, but if you just handed me the playbook, I mean it’s going to make it far easier to get up and going and that’s not to say you can’t work on this stuff yourself. If you come up with a good solution for something, simply document it so you can repeat it next time and if something’s working really well for you can share it with one of your team members and try to make it a standard for how you manage certain information. It’s like SOP – , standard operating procedures at work. If you come up with whatever your field is, but let’s use marketing examples, if you figured out a great way to build a landing page for promotion or something, just document those steps in Evernote and or whatever, google docs, whatever you’re using and then that way you can start taking each system that works well and iterating and improving and tracking those along the way so you, you do end up overtime building kind of a, an arsenal of, of um, duplicatable systems
Juan: [12:09] That, okay, that makes a lot of sense because basically how you’re using Evernote, it’s totally different than how I’m using Google keep or even a lot of people use sticky notes or to do lists at home.
You’re actually using Evernote as a tool to document processes as you’re doing them in real time, as long as you know that you’re going to do it again and you end up polishing these processes and they become just your step by step kind of recipe cookbook guides on how you can do it again better and faster next time.
So instead of all the information residing in your head, now it’s in digital format, which is not only very easy for you to pull it back up later, but also it’s very easy to then delegate. I imagined as well. It’s a great advantage of this. You can just send someone, hey, this is how I do my podcast. This is how I do my videos, this is how I do my landing pages.
Charles Byrd: [12:50] Exactly, exactly. So we do a lot of online trainings. I’ve got, I have one right after this interview and when I created the whole workflow between all the different tools, I documented each step and I shot a little video showing how to do it and that made it super easy to hand off to my team.
So there’s something I’m very excited about and I know you are. It’s a product from a company called Timeular. Have you heard of them?
Juan: I have heard of them.
Charles Byrd: Okay. So a little bit funny story. I’d mapped out my own physical product for time tracking. I’d have the whole idea laid out and then I get a facebook-ad with your product it, I’m like, yes.
Juan: Was it similar? Did it look anything like what you imagined?
Charles Byrd: Well, I am basically cubes that uh, you can track time against specific projects and you set it on this coaster and it tracks your pomodoros and things like that. Um, so bluetooth software, it was very similar actually. So I was quite stoked to find this and reached out to your company, meet immediately. Um, and I wanted to share with you a few ways I use this. And by the way, I, I share this and teach it with all my private clients. I’m in different mastermind groups. Everyone I bring it up to just gets very excited about it. Um, so it’s definitely, definitely a winner. I’ve helped you guys move quite a few of these, which makes me feel happy because I’m helping those people have a lot more visibility as to where their time is going. When I left, one of my first big clients was like, oh, can you track your time using this system? And I was a director at a billion dollar software company.
Time tracking to me felt really lame. I did not like it and it was annoying. But this tool is a tool for you to see where your time’s going.
It’s visibility like I’ve never had because you’re tracking in real time. So there’s minimal effort or there can be no effort other than turning the device. And then you can see where your time is really going. So if you say this much time should be going to new lead generation or revenue generation a week, now you have a way to track that. You’re actually doing that, right? Make sure you’re meeting your own goals. So I get very excited about that. Um, and it, it’s also had one other effect that I love and that is, you know, throughout your day you’re looking at your calendar and email comes in, you click on that. Then you remember you’re supposed to email Susan and you’re just flowing through the day like rabbit holes everywhere. And what I’ve found is:
When I pick a side to put the device on, I don’t want to pick it up again in two seconds and flip it so it helps me stay on task.
Juan: That’s great. I really liked your take on that Charles, because I think a lot of people see a device like this and they hear time tracking and they just start thinking time sheets and they start thinking reporting and they start thinking micromanagement. They’re very, like, they have a very negative reaction to time tracking, which I think is a shame because all of us could benefit from just getting more out of our lives. We all have limited time. We all have the same 24 hours a day. If all of us were more intentional about our time, then we could be just living more of the life we want, whatever that looks like. And so your interpretation of it, it’s like, no, this is a device for you to get more than what you, more of what you want out of your life and your time as opposed to just a reporting tool set. Then you can export the time sheets and be like, oh, here you go. This is how much I worked. It’s not just a reporting tool for your boss.
Charles Byrd: Yeah, exactly. It’s, it’s, I’m a huge fan of the pomodoro technique that 25 minute timers and all of that. And uh, this, uh, the way I’ve always used Pomodoros, I get them, they, they helped me get up and going stay focused on something. And then I get in the groove of that task and I actually stopped using them because I’m already in the flow. They helped me get into the flow state. I’m getting traction on focusing and then I have no idea how much time I really put on the project because I stopped using the Pomodoros, which after you’re in the flow, I find become a distraction where this device lets you also get in the flow and it tracks the real time. I can tell you to the minute how much time I’ve spent with each of my clients, how much time I’ve spent getting new business, how much time I’ve been fulfilling for clients and trainings and things like that.
And it’s a level of visibility I’ve never had ever. So it’s pretty remarkable.
Juan: There you have it. Productivity masterminds. So Charles worked in Silicon Valley for 15 years in tech, doing trainings and leading teams. He started doing trainings by himself to have an infrastructure to handle multiple big projects for a billion dollar tech company. And the system he created was based on evernote. What he’s now a certified consultant for. He works off of what he calls the power-trifecta, which is understanding tools, workflows, habits, and how they fit together. So tools and habits are pretty easy to understand. It’s getting in the habit and every day of taking advantage of your tools, but then the workflows is interesting. It’s understanding how to apply the tools and specific situations and that’s what he does the training for for entrepreneurs, experts, authors, professionals, and one of the biggest things that he suggested we do is to use tags in evernote in order to have info at hand within five seconds. He uses the I-dig-it-I-need-it bell and so that’s basically understanding if it’s something that you need to reference down the road or not and he encourages us to think to ourselves who, what, when, where, and why – when we’re trying to come up with what tags to use on these evernote tasks. This is super important: evernote is not just a tool for to do’s. It’s a place to document your step by step processes so you can do them again faster later and make it easier to delegate to other team members. One less thing that Charles spoke about is ZEI, the time tracking physical device by Timeular, which makes it really easy to stay accountable to yourself about what you’re doing with your time so you can make the most out of your day. Charles, as you continue to take your career forward and move, move your business to the next level. Where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Charles Byrd: [19:20] Sure, so a) people can go to our main website, byrdword.com. We also are a big fan of helping people kill the chaos of information overload. You can find us at killthechaos.pro.
We want you to be a pro at killing the chaos so you can create space to focus on your business instead of being in your business, on your profession, focus on what matters to you to create a space station for procreation, the infiltration of a new sensation like meditation, the inebriation, the dedication of the productive nation need. I mentioned this new dimension. I have your attention. Now. Here’s your mission.
If you want to change these things in your life, you take the simple steps to do it popping over to killthechaos.pro to check out our Evernote training will get you down that path. We have a free webinar that will walk you through everything in more detail that I just covered and I I get very excited about helping people make the difference in this world that they want to achieve their goals and do it with less stress.
Juan: [20:22] Perfect. That was so awesome. It will be linking to all of this in the show notes to the Evernote Webinar and to Charles’ website. Charles, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of this with us.
Charles Byrd: My pleasure. Thanks for having me Juan.
Yotam is the co-founder and COO of Wibbitz – a video production web tool that powers thousands of videos every day for partners like Reuters, Bloomberg, Forbes and Time Inc., helping them increase their audience engagement and revenue through video. (Think of it like a Canva for video.) Wibbitz has raised more than $30MM USD in investment and now has offices in New York, Tel-Aviv, and Paris. To accomplish all this, Yotam has created his own productivity strategy called Another Hour a Day. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Have all your tasks in one place. Many people have their tasks in different places. They are losing a lot of time by just going through all those lists. Avoid this by having your personal and work tasks on the same list. (Trello-board template from Yotam Cohen)
Prioritize. Prioritize your tasks according to what time it takes you to achieve them and what impact this task is going to achieve.
Have an inbox-zero. The idea is to clear the email, slack and every other message app and focus on the things you actually want to achieve for the day and not let people or other stuff take your time.
Learn how to get to a zero-email-inbox. Start your day by clearing all messages and if it takes less than five minutes, just get it done. If it takes longer, put it on your list as a task to get it done later. Batch all these messages into different sections: morning, lunchtime, evening, night and make sure you get that awesome feeling of there is nothing that hasn’t been tackled today.
Juan: [00:00] Yotam Cohen is the Co-founder and COO of Wibbitz video production web tool that powers thousands of videos everyday for partners like Bloomberg, Forbes, and Time Inc, helping them increase their audience engagement and revenue through video. Think of it like a canva for video. Wibbitz has raised more than $30 million dollars in investment and now has offices in New York, Tel Aviv, and Paris. To accomplish all of this, Yotam has created his own productivity strategy called another-hour-a-day. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of productivity masterminds.
Juan: Yotam, thank you for coming on the show.
Yotam Cohen: [01:28] Thanks for having me.
Juan: [01:31] Yotam, so you are a Rockstar entrepreneur, a founder, a productivity expert, and you have come up with a different paradigm to help us maximize our time. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about time and what that paradigm is?
Yotam Cohen: [01:42] Definitely so the way of kind of like I called it: it’s another hour a day. And the reason is that after working with several people and helping them to actually maximize their day they told me that it actually created another hour, hour in a day for them. And the idea behind that is really not about the tool. I think that a lot of people around the world are thinking that if they will have this crazy app or this tool that they can manage their task with, it will solve their problems. And what I saw is that that’s really far from the truth. Um, a lot of people are managing their tasks on different places like the calendar and maybe the write on a notepad and also kind of like a to-do app or other stuff they are using.
The main problem is that they are managing their tasks in different places.
So I came up with a new system that helps people to actually create a very, very clear system to manage your tasks. The first thing in this system is to have all your tasks in one place. This is the most important thing. Your personal and your work tasks, and I know it sounds a bit weird, but to have all of them in the same place in the end when you think about yourself, you need to think about yourself as a resource. One resource that needs to do several types of tasks. And if you don’t have all those tasks in one place, you will find yourself in the end trying to jump from one list to another from, I don’t know, ordering a plumber to actually closing a research that you need to do in your work.
The idea is to have everything in one place.
After you have everything there, and just as personal note, I use Trello to do that, but you can use any tool you want. After having everything there, you need to prioritize it of course, according to what you want to achieve by today, tomorrow, the next two weeks or something which I call the backlog task.
[03:43] So afterwards if you want, you can go to my blog post and actually see the trello-board that I use. It’s a template that will help you to get started, but in the end it’s really divided into what are the tasks I want to achieve today, what are the tasks I want to achieve tomorrow? And then looking, let’s say a week or two weeks ahead and all the rest will be in the backlog.
I will prioritize according to one, how much time it will take me to achieve this task. And the second thing is how much impact this task is actually gonna achieve.
The second thing that is super important, I know a lot of blog posts and other I was talking about and I really believe in it, is having an email zero and I know if it’s something that is a big thing, I know it sounds like impossible to achieve, but I can guarantee you that I have at least 200 emails every day and I get to zero three times a day and the way I do it is by actually having a really an organized system throughout the day.
[04:44] So first thing I do in the morning is clearing my inbox and when I’m saying inbox it means also slack. Other messaging things you’re using in your world, clear everything and all the emails that are long, you know, that I need actually to think about or respond or is it use it as a test. I actually add them as a task to my trello board and all the ones that are not important. Of course I delete. And and all the, you know, all the things I can postpone. Sometimes you can use boomerang or other staff to respond only if it’s actually related to a specific date. Then you can also do that, but don’t really use misuse this feature and so the second thing, as I said is, is having an email zero and to have a very systematic way of how you go about your emails throughout the day.
[05:38] So I do it in the morning, I do it after lunch and I do think in the evening when I leave work and again in the night. So if you do it four times a day, you, every time you’re going to go over, I don’t know, tens of emails but not hundreds and you will be able to have your email in zero all for the day. Another really cool thing about it, it does a really nice psychological effect on you, right? I think feeling and know a lot of people in the world don’t feel that feeling, but it’s amazing to actually have it and the way to do it is having really a set of routines that you go throughout the day and clear your emails. Again, you can see it in my blog post afterwards. They are already organized how you’re going to run it.
The idea, in the end, is really to clear the email and clear slack and, and move and focus on the things you actually want to achieve for the day and not let people or other stuff take your time.
Juan: [06:33] So and Yotam, you must have gotten really good at saying, no, this is a little bit of a curve ball question, but not all emails you can just say yes and let’s follow up. Yes and let’s schedule a meeting. How are you actually dealing with turning down opportunities and knowing what not to do?
Yotam Cohen: [06:47] Yeah, I think it’s really all about focus. Like you mentioned. I think it’s really around prioritization in the end, you know, you have 24 hours a day. I didn’t see someone who can actually change that, so if you have 24 hours, this is what you can achieve, so you want to achieve the things that will actually make impact and the way to do it it’s just to prioritize and understand what are the things you need to focus on and what’s not and in the end it’s all about that. You you won’t be able to achieve all the things on your trello board and it’s okay. It’s a matter of actually getting the right things done first and the way to do it is really to have a very systematic way on how you go about your tasks and not just to come in the morning, okay, what do I have to do?
[07:31] Okay, open the emails. Okay, let’s go with them and then you jump back to your notes and go back to emails. If I came back from a meeting and I have 15 minutes, they are very productive. I know exactly what I need to offer because I just go to the next card that I have on my list because I already prepared it in the morning.
I know exactly what I need to work on so I don’t have this 15 minutes between meetings that I’m not productive in.
I’m actually getting things done in 10 minutes because I know exactly what I need to work on.
Juan: [07:59] So do you start your day? Okay, so let me. Let me get this right. You Start Your Day by actually going through your emails and your messages first or do you start your day by scheduling out your priorities? Which one comes first?
Yotam Cohen: [08:10] First is clearing all the places that can actually generate tasks for you. So first I go over all my emails, slack channels, Eh, whatsapp messages if you have or other stuff that you actually get things from. And then I put everything that are tasks that came out from those emails in the Trello Board. It could be going over the email that Uwe sent me and and answering about it. It sounds weird, but then I prioritize this email compared to other tasks that need to do and sometimes it I will answer two days, maybe I will just answer him, I will look at it and then in two days I will actually answer it because that’s the right time that they actually need to work on this email and not because email just push up all this things that I know that according to time and not according to priority. Right?
Juan: [09:00] Right. Do you have a structure for how you actually think about, you mentioned impact versus time. Are you thinking about them? Like on a scale of one to 10, how much time is this going to take it on a scale of one to 10, how impactful this is. Do you have anything like that?
Yotam Cohen: [09:13] I started to do that. I must say it was a bit kind of like weird. So what I do try to do is really to break the tasks as much as possible. So for example, if I need to decide on a specific vendor for my company for Wibbitz, then you know, I’ll do one task of research, one task of setting goals, one of setting a table too to compare and one task, maybe to make a decision, right?
So I will try to break those big tasks into smaller tasks or be able to achieve them in a shorter amount of time.
And I think it also really helps you to, like I said, to get things done and not just to put light on a two days a task, right? Then you know, you, you always won’t be able to go to it because it sounds too big.
[09:58] But in the end it’s more about an impact that you think. And again, in impact could be something personal as well, right? If you have something urgent at home, you need to, you need to solve it, right? And other tasks might need to go back. Right? So you need, you need to see everything in one pic in one place. And I think if I look back at, you know, all the people that I manage today and look and I worked with them on this, I saw that the biggest thing that most people do are managing those tasks in different places. One of the things a lot of people are doing are either mark and read or style or stuff like that. When you do that, it’s actually a list if you think about it, right? So you have a list in the email, you have a list in other places, and then you find yourself jumped from one to another throughout the day and trying to think what’s next. And if you set it from the get go in one place, you will know what you need to work on.
Juan: [10:50] Okay, that’s amazing. And we’ll actually have your terms trello-board template in the show notes of this episode so that you can actually download it and see what he’s talking about. Okay? So let me make sure I have this right. You Start Your Day by clearing out all your inboxes were, tasks could even be created and then you start prioritizing the tasks that come in, whether it’s through slack, whatsapp, email, wherever that is, you start prioritizing them and then you go through your day, but now as you’re saying, it basically sounds like from then on it’s just autopilot because you go, you do your things in batches and you never have to actually put any creative energy about what to do next. You were kind of at that point by your to do list and since everything about your personal and professional life or in the same dashboard, then you can really just lean back and trust the process.
Yotam Cohen: [11:35] Exactly. And, and you know, we all know that life is unexpected, sometimes so.
If something urgent happens and it’s okay, you just put it in the top and take something out for tomorrow.
Right? So that’s, that’s exactly what you said. You have autopilot, you know exactly what you need to work on. Something happens, you just switch it, then it’s okay. Finish the day again. Just a reminder, I do go over the emails also after lunch, also on the evening before I leave the office and do the same process every time and change priority sometimes when I need to.
Juan: [12:11] Okay, perfect. So let’s get into the show notes now so that we can recap all of this and learn Yotam’s habits for success in productivity and time management. So Yotam has this paradigm called “another-hour-a-day” and he found after helping lots of people maximize their day, that people, it was taking them a whole other hour just to be productive and to start managing their time. So the problem that he finds is that people are thinking that they need just one more tool to help manage their time. That’s really not the best way to do it. You don’t need another tool. What you actually need is a system and infrastructure that helps keep all your tasks in the same place. This is your personal and your work tasks. So you need to start thinking of yourself as a resource and you need all your tasks in the same place to make the best use of your resource, which is you and your time. Yotam actually uses Trello to do this. He starts by having his board ordered by day, so today than tomorrow than two weeks, and then he even has a column for backlog tasks. He starts gauging all of this by time and impact to make sure that he’s doing the things that are impactful and that don’t take a lot of time if they don’t take a lot of time, they get done faster and sooner. He also has this policy. It’s the email zero policy, which is basically having the zero email inbox and how he does it is he starts his day by clearing all messages from slack, email, whatsapp, and if it takes less than five minutes, he just gets it done. If it takes longer than he puts it on Trello as a task to get it done later, then the last thing he does is he patches it all of these messages into four different sections. That’s in the morning, lunchtime, evening, and then at night to make sure that he gets that awesome feeling of there is nothing that hasn’t been tackled today. Everything has either been organized or handled. Yotam starts his day by clearing his inboxes and then prioritize his tasks to fit into each other. Everything is on the same place, which is Trello and we will be sharing the Trello board in the show notes of this episode so you can use Yotam’s habits of success and productivity in your own life.
Yotam, as you continue to grow and growing your company, which is super exciting. Where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about you?
Yotam Cohen: [14:12] You can reach me on Linkedin it’s Yotam Cohen, Wibbitz and you can find it there and you can also see my blog there. You can also follow me on twitter, Yotam C um, and yeah, that’s it. My company or my side wibbitz.com
Juan: [14:35] And that will also be in the show notes. It’s an awesome tech startup that will help you create tons of content moving forward your time. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Samuel Huber is the founder and CEO of Admix, a VC-funded startup based in London that helps Virtual Reality and AR developers monetize their creations through native and non intrusive ads. He previously worked as an engineer in Formula 1, founded Kout.io, raised funds through an accelerator, made and grew his own app to over 8,000 daily players which he later sold, and raised close to a quarter million $$ for a gamified video sharing platform. He currently balances multiple projects under the vision of pushing the VR and AR industries forward. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Have a vision: everything starts with having a vision. After knowing that vision, make sure that everything you do is always getting you a little bit closer to that goal.
Step by step: when having your big vision, try to deconstruct it into tangible, workable goals. This makes it more manageable. Just take it step by step and every day try to work towards it.
Urgency and importance. Work with that framework to say no to things that do not fit in. What’s important is very seldom urgent and what’s urgent is very seldom important.
Communication. To get people helping you achieve your vision, you need to find good ways to communicate it so that people can actually understand it. Let them know that this is going to happen. With or without them.
Juan: You must know something about time that most professionals don’t, and that’s the whole point of the podcast, to highlight these experiences and these lessons learned. Can you share with us a little bit about how you’re actually thinking about time and maybe how you’re prioritizing different tasks?
Samuel Huber: [01:45] Sure, yeah. It’s funny you see it as different things and I think that’s really the key for me, is that I started with a goal. I have a vision and everything I do to get one step closer to that vision and, you know, even if it’s maybe multiple projects, one of it is the tech side of the development. The other is the sales, hiring, finding an office, expanding to San Francisco. All of that actually is just one step, a little tiny step closer to the goal. And so if, I think if you start, you know, taking a step back and looking at the macro, what do you want to achieve?
Think about what you want to achieve and then you just make sure that everything you do is always getting you a little bit closer. Every time you go to bed, you’re a little bit closer to your goal than when you woke up. I think that’s the best way to manage your time.
Juan: [02:31] That’s perfect. That’s such good advice. How did you come up with what that bigger picture vision was in the first place?
Samuel Huber: [02:39] I guess I’ve always been more of a kind of a creative kid and you know, even a teenager I always had big plans and thinking ‘it would be great to have this,’ and then trying to find a way to actually make it work. So instead of just, you know, getting to develop something and then eventually figuring out where it might be. I’ll always start with a big idea a big concept. And then some of them we pursue and some of them, you know, I would just leave I guess for other people to do. Yeah, it’s basically like I said, it started as an idea and then thinking, you know, ‘how big could this get?’ And eventually ended up working on it. And uh, you know, every vision is not like necessarily set in stone. It’s something that evolves with time as well. I guess when you walk on it, if you think that actually can get bigger, it’s getting even more exciting. That’s when you know that you’ve made something interesting.
Juan: [03:38] So the way that you think about it is you’re always, it’s basically giving yourself permission to pivot and change the bigger picture idea as new information comes in, new experiences and the opportunities come in. But basically, always going all-in on whatever the opportunity at hand is. And just trusting that as long as you’re going all-in on every opportunity, or on the opportunities that fit the bigger vision, that the bigger vision will eventually take shape. As long as you’re working towards that, you’re making that the measure for success, then everyday you’ll be successful because everyday you’re actually working towards that goal.
Samuel Huber: [04:13] Right, right. And I think more than pivot, it would be more refined. So you know, you have these kind of big idea like I really want to help VR developers make money. That’s like a super broad idea and then you start figuring out, ‘okay, well I need to develop a product that enables advertisers, for example, to place content.’ But then that’s still very broad. Right? And so as you work towards it, as you meet people, you actually refine it and then it becomes a very tangible goal that you can actually walk towards in a matter of weeks maybe. And so if you walk that way and really started the big vision and then try to deconstruct it into tangible, workable goals, I think it makes it a lot more manageable.
Sometimes it can feel very intimidating to have a big vision and you don’t really know where to take it, but you just take it step by step and everyday try to work towards it.
Juan: [05:07] So I guess it’s fair to say the Samuel Huber way of thinking about time and goals, you start by thinking of big goals, then you try to find the opportunities and the resources and the people that will actually make that vision a reality. And then you take those bigger goals and you chop them up into more bite size pieces. So, you’re basically working your way backwards, you’re reverse engineering the end result.
Samuel Huber: [05:32] That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not thinking, ‘okay, what is possible?’ And then you know, based on what’s available, where can we get to. It’s more like, ‘I really want to do this, let’s see how we can do it.’ Right?
It’s to some extent like, ‘let’s go to Mars, okay, well then we need to build a ship.’ It’s not like ‘let’s build a ship and see how far we can get,’ because it’s very unlikely that you would get to Mars if you were using that method.
Juan: [05:57] Do you have a framework on how you actually turn down opportunities that are fighting for your attention? Like, let’s meet for coffee, let’s talk. Let me pick your brain.
Samuel Huber: [06:07] Yeah. Yeah. I mean again, it’s the same framework which is, is it getting closer to my vision and that’s basically what it is and sometimes you don’t know and you have to allow for serendipity and you know, I love meeting people. You never know what’s going to happen, but you know, as you get more granular goals and you have to put in the time as well, it actually gets fairly easy to figure out if, okay, is this going to be helping me towards my vision or not? And I guess there’s two things, right? It can’t. It could help you maybe in five years’ time. So, you also have to prioritize based on the urgency of the situation. I think it’s not something I follow very religiously, but there’s an Eisenhower method or something, the president of the United States and he said that
What’s important is very seldom urgent and what’s urgent is very seldom important.
It’s very interesting to make the distinction between the two. because you always have stuff, especially in these days like emails and calls and, but that’s not necessarily urgent. So, I think urgency is something very interesting and actually one of the challenges I’ve always had a big feeling of urgency. I think, you know, every minute of the day we should be productive and do something. But it’s very hard to instigate that feeling with people that work for you. And that’s something that, you know, I’m, I’m still learning how, how can we make them understand that, you know, it should be done today, not tomorrow. And of course it’s very hard because it’s not their business, right? As much as I’m trying to communicate the vision at the end of the day, you know, it’s just a job for them and I have to be comfortable with that. So it’s been a challenge and I’m still trying to find the best ways to be able to communicate that sense of urgency.
Juan: [07:55] Do you have any kind of advice for that maybe you found it over the last few months or years of having that experience and actually instilling the urgency or right now you’re still testing out different things?
Samuel Huber: [08:05] No, I think, I mean, you know, obviously the best way is not shouting at people, it’s definitely to make them part of the vision as well. If they believe in the vision, they would want it to happen and they would want it to happen quickly.
My only tip of the day isfind something big that you really want to work towards and find good ways to communicate it so that people can actually understand it and also want to help you achieve it.
Juan: [08:35] Right. Which just goes back to focus. If you don’t have focus on your bigger vision, then there’s no way that you can actually inspire a team of people, let alone other allies and partners to come onboard. You have to get people to a position where they believe that it’s going to happen with or without them, and that’s the kind of the best negotiation technique because they’re like, ‘okay, it’s going to happen. I want to jump on board’ and make this happen. But if you are unsure or your vision isn’t focused enough, then it’s understandable for people to be even less excited about it than you are. And so if you’re like a 4 out of a 10, then they’re going to be like a one out of a 10.. You know what I mean? Like unexcited and committed.
Samuel Huber: [09:13] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And what’s also important is the sense of urgency is not only created by my vision necessarily, but in my case, which is developing something for virtual and augmented reality, we’re talking about a market that is also exploding, right? So, with or without me, VR and AR would happen.
If you find an industry that is also on the verge of explosion, it makes it a lot easier to motivate people because they can see something happening, they want to be a part of it and they know that they have the opportunity to make it happen.
I used to work on like, you know, gaming or ecommerce which is a proven market. It’s not exploding, so it’s not as exciting to be working on because you’re not a pioneer and you know, if it’s not done today, we can do it tomorrow. You’re not worried about someone necessarily doing the same thing.
Juan: [10:07] One thing you lightly touched on in the last point you were saying, you just got to put in the time. I don’t know, Samuel, if you remember whenever I asked you to come on the show and I asked you about your tips for productivity. Do you remember what you told me?
Samuel Huber: [10:21] I think I do, yes. Yeah.
Juan: Well what did you say?
Samuel Huber: I basically said that I don’t have any, you know, time management techniques. I just kind of work all the time. And what I mean by that is like awesome advice.
Juan: Yeah. Can you, can you expand on that?
Samuel Huber: Yeah. It’s not that I don’t do anything else. It’s like I’m basically setting myself to, you know, at work, I don’t really have time to look at productivity tips, you know, it’s like I just do what I need to do and um, and I think if you need to kind of force yourself to like find ways to be more productive, um, you know, I think all of that, uh, tactics, right? I’m more talking about like the religion of getting towards my goal and that’s basically what it is.
I kind of plan at least my weekday life around work so that I don’t have many distractions during the week and I can just focus on what I need to do because at the end of the day, you can try any type of tools and productivity, but you know, you just got to get down to the email and pick up the phone and do whatever.
Juan: [11:29] Any productivity tool or tip is just kind of has to work in service of you already putting in the time. I think, you know, going, approaching this from the standpoint of ‘I want to be working less hours, I want to be putting in less time. How do I make sure that the time that I do put in is the most productive?’ You kind of have to graduate into that level of retirement mentality. That’s after you’re already in a really good position like either financially or professionally, but for most of us that are on the up and up, if we’re already thinking in terms of ‘how do I make sure that I’m already only working four hours a week,’ you know, Tim Ferriss’ book, the 4-hour work week, the four hour workweek, it really plays to people’s like they want to be sipping a Margarita on the beach way before they’ve actually put in the time to do that. And so what you’re saying is like, yeah, ‘I mean I love the tactics and the tips and the tools and everything, but it’s actually much more important to just putting like put in the time, have a focus, rally up a team and go all in and you can then start optimizing from that.’ But that has to be your starting point. Not ‘how do I work less hours.’
Samuel Huber: [12:37] I’m not trying to force anyone to work long hours. I’m talking as to what I’m interested in myself. I know that people, some people want lifestyle businesses and being able to work four hours a week and make, you know, whatever Tim ferris advocates that you can make, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. That’s just not really the way that I want to lead my company. I don’t think that, you know, I’m not here really for the lifestyle and so I cannot talk to people who like are really committed to making something happen and putting in long hours. Right? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think tools are very important, but mostly to communicate that to the rest of the team as you start growing. So, like we use a lot of simple tools like Trello for example, we have like balls for everything and people can just follow on the progress and you can assign it to someone and you can take what has been done that’s just fantastic. Right? Or like slack, everyone can communicate on the same platform. So yeah, I mean we use a lot of tools but mostly sort of simple tools, trying to not overcomplicate what’s already complicated, and you don’t have to learn the platform and here it just makes sense.
Juan: [13:42] That’s perfect. What is the best way for people to stay in touch with you, what you’re up to and follow your career as you continue to grow?
Samuel Huber: [13:49] Uh, so I have a personal website, SamHuber.com, where you can see pretty much all the talks that I do about virtual reality advertising and all of that. And you can also check what the company does, which is admix.in and yeah, that’s about it.
Juan: [14:04] Perfect. Thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing this with us.
Samuel Huber: No problem. And thanks for having me.
David Allen is the author of international best-seller Getting Things Done. Published in over 28 languages, TIME magazine heralded it as “the defining self-help business book of its time.” He’s been recognized by Forbes as one of the top five executive coaches in the United States, and as one of the “Top 100 thought leaders” by Leadership magazine. He is the engineer of the GTD® methodology, which has shown millions how to transform their lives to produce successful outcomes. Let’s hear more from him on this episode of the podcast.
The game is always on. The big key is building out an inventory and a menu of all the options. Think about all the things you should do. Review and reflect on them the right time to make a good choice about what to do. Because if they are always on your mind, you won’t get anything done.
The five steps of the GTD-methodology: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage.
Capture: notice what’s got your attention (e.g. oh I need cat food)
Clarify: clarify it and define exactly what those tasks need to look like
Organize: organize and you categorize things so that they are in the right order
Reflect: reflect on them and visualize what those tasks are going to look like
Juan: [01:22] David, thank you so much for coming on the show. David, so you’re a speaker, you’re a best-selling author, you’re a coach, you are running a big company that is doing things internationally. You certainly know things about time that most of us don’t. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about time and your main core pillars of success?
David Allen: [01:41]
I don’t think about time so much. I think much more about my attention than time.
Time is a component like spaces too. I need to know when I need to be on this phone call. I need to know when I need to have a doctor’s appointment. So being aware of time and how you manage it is an important component, but it’s certainly not. That’s not the essence of productivity. The essence is where do you put your focus and is it on the right thing.
Juan: [02:10] Do you have a framework for how you determine if something is worth the focus or not?
David Allen: [02:16] Well, you know, the whole Getting Things Done methodology I uncovered over the last 35 years is, how do you get the clear space inside your head, so you can make a really good priority decision about what to do. Should I take a nap? Should I have a beer? Should I work on this project? Should I call this person, should I go do this errand? And all of those are, you know, minute to minute, moment to moment decisions.
We’re all making all the time. So you’re constantly making priority decisions.
The trick is do you feel comfortable about the decision you’ve made? So the whole idea, if anybody thinks they’re procrastinating, it’s just they feel uncomfortable that they should’ve done something they didn’t do as opposed to look what I chose to do was exactly the right thing to do, but you can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing and most people don’t have a clue of how many things they’ve committed to, how many things have gotten in their inventory of stuff that are banging around in there in their head, which is actually a crappy office and most people are trying to keep a whole lot of their life and their commitments and remember stuff in their head and your brain did not evolve to do that. So a lot of what my methodology is, get it out of your head besides sooner than later what that stuff really means to you. What you’re going to do about it. If anything, and then have some trusted external brain system that you parked the stuff in that you review and reflect on it the right time to make a good choice about what to do. That’s what I do. I constantly have to keep doing that myself. It doesn’t end when you’re always needing. The world was changing. I’m growing. I’m getting different perspectives, so I’m constantly need to be on, so this is not something, some silver bullet that you swallow, you swallow the pill and suddenly you will know this for the rest of your life. It’s like, hey guys, here’s the game. Here’s how you play it.
The game is always on.
Juan: [03:56] David, if you had to break down that GTD methodology into maybe like a few different faces, can you walk us through what that looks like?
David Allen: [04:04] Yeah. I just mentioned the five steps. It’s capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage. That’s how you get your kitchen under control. How you get your consciousness over control. I didn’t make it up. I just recognize what you do. First of all, you notice what’s got your attention, what’s not on cruise control, what’s not on autopilot right now, and you don’t have to go very far. Just notice what’s got your attention. What’s what’s pulling on your mind, oh, I need cat food, or I need a life, or oh my, should I get divorced? So should I buy a house? Should I ask for a raise? You know, all of those things need to be captured outside your head and then parked in some truck trusted place. That’s the capture function and then you need to sooner than later, disciple what’s the next step about asking for a raise? What do you need to do next? What’s the very next thing you need to do and is that something you’re actually going to move on or you want to park that to review it in two months, what you know, so you need to then get some clarity about those things that you do have attention on. So that’s step two, so it’s capture the new clarify. Then if you say, oh, okay, that’s a phone call I need to make here, that’s a website I need to search. And you can’t do it that very second then you can park some reminder to do it at the right time. So that’s where you need to trust a list. Benefits, we’re like, keep listening. The errands I need to run, stuff I need to do on the web stuff, I need to talk to my partner about the, you know, whatever, and so you keep track of the work to do where you’ve defined what the specific work is and that’s step three, which is the organized. Let me, once I’ve determined what these things mean, let me put reference where that goes. You put trash with that goes, let me put a reminder, I need to see two months from now where that goes and what’s the next step on any of these things I have attention on. I need to move on. Where do I park that? What’s the project, if there’s anything that one step we’ll finish that I need to keep track of. So those are.
That’s a thinking process and there’s no tool that does that except your forebrain.
That’s a required thinking process. You have to apply to all the stuff that you get out of your head and then once you got a good organization system where you park all that stuff on the right place, if you’ve got an afternoon, you might run errands, go look at your list, go reflect and review on the content of what you’ve got.
You’re sitting down to have dinner with or spend a few minutes talking to your partner about the business of life stuff you’ve kind of worked together. What’s the list of things you need to come up with it? You need to talk to him or her about, you know, and motor, all the projects that you need to keep track of on some at least weekly basis. Would you see that inventory on a regular basis. So you need to build in some sort of reflection, that review process. Once you put the content in your external brain, you need to then use your brain. It’s kind of funny. You’ve got to actually think. You actually have to use your brain to shut right up. Another gem to use your mind to look at all your stuff like you, you, you look at your calendar and say, okay, this is what I need to do right now.
I don’t need to worry about any of this stuff. I’ve already looked at it and so you’re already doing this and everybody listening to this is already doing this to some degree because most people aren’t really going up the way that you really need to do it. If you were able to keep a clear head and then step five is an engaged, then you make choices about them – how you put your attention into actions based upon what you’ve captured, clarified, organized, and reflected on. So it’s that in a sentence that simple, but that’s a pretty profound thing to do actually. If you build that practice in.
Juan: [07:16] Okay, so the fifth step after reflect, what is the name of that fifth step?
David Allen: [07:20] Engage.
Juan: [07:22] Engage.
David Allen: [07:22] Yeah. That could be taken a beer. Have a thinking about a proposal of Dr Bause, whatever’s next that you figure is the best thing to be doing at that point. Give up all the options you have.
The big key is building out an inventory and a menu of all the options. Otherwise, you’re going to be driven by latest and loudest and then you just hope that what you’re doing is right, but you know, subliminally there’s other stuff in there you’re not thinking about and maybe this isn’t the right thing to do.
Oh my God, and that’s this, this, this sort of angst that most people walk around, but because they frankly are keeping a whole lot of stuff in their head.
Juan: [08:02] Totally. And you know, something I really like about your approach, David, is it seems like you really give your full attention to whatever it is that you’re doing, so you’re actually able to unplug yourself from the clutter by kind of batching all of these steps. And then once you actually move on to the engagement phase, you’re fully engaged in that task. Right? Which is very different than most of us. We can’t unplug from the stress
David Allen: [08:22] That’s the most productive place to operate from. It’s the best place to get a golf ball from, getting it from, or fire somebody from or whatever, when there’s nothing on your mind, but that.
So the big key about getting things done, it’s not so much about getting things done. It’s about managing that you’re, that you’re appropriately engaging with all of your different commitments in an appropriate way so that you can be fully present with whatever you’re doing.
That is the most productive state to operate from – the healthiest place to operate from. The most stress-free place to operate from. If you’re in your zone and time is disappeared. There’s no distinction between work and life. This is what’s next.
Juan: [08:59] Sure. So David, I imagine if we go and pick up one of your books or we sign up to take a certification program through that, through Gtd are, are there specific tools or like worksheets that you encourage people to actually help them guide through this process? Or is it mostly have a strategy that we need to own intellectually and put ourselves through? Is it a part of the tools or it’s more about that actual concept of this?
David Allen: [09:22] Well, the methodology is quite rigorous in quite detail. So if you were wanting a training or to be a coach for this. There’s a lot of training you need to go through and make sure you understand because you’re going to need, you may need to sit down with a CEO of a company, you may sit down with a 12 year old kid and you may need to sit down with the dad that you may get all kinds of people who’ve got all kinds of tools and all kinds of things they might want to use and know how to engage with them appropriately as opposed to having some some hard nose kind of template that you’re trying to over structure into somebody’s life that, that they’re not ready for. So there’s quite a bit of sophistication about understanding what this methodology is and how you would apply it in almost any circumstance. So it’s not a lightweight process to get certified to do this.
Juan: [10:08] Absolutely. Do you have any preferred tools that you, that you could recommend that you’ve found worked really well here? Like I don’t know, Trello, Asana, Google keep, anything like that? No? Do you have any worksheets that we could get from your website? I think you have some white papers and templates that are pretty useful. Right?
David Allen: [10:24] It describes the methodology, but it’s. Any tool works.
Juan: [10:29] I love that.
David Allen: [10:30]
You can use Trello. You can use Asana, you can use a paper based planner or you can use Post-its. It doesn’t matter.
Right? Right. So you know, a lot of people want a new tool because they think the tool’s going to solve it for them and then they want a new new tool because they think that tool didn’t work that well, now they going to try to get the new new and new and you’re dead in the water. You know you’re in your into productivity port so you know you’re not. That doesn’t work.
Once you understand this methodology – you can make any tool work.
Then you can find one that’s cool and one you want to work with, what you like to use, that’s fine, but they’re all lives matter. They’re coming out weekly by the way. There are over 300.
Juan: [11:13] Yeah. What’s fascinating is you’re actually able to translate this, like you’re saying, into different pockets of people, whether it’s a 12 year old or an executive. You recently moved over this methodology over to a brand new niche. It seems like for you, which is a fourteens, right? You wrote the book gtd Teens, um, how do the concepts translate over to a younger generation and how are they different?
David Allen: [11:35] The subtitle is staying focused in a distracting world, so you know a lot of what the young folks are dealing with is this plethora of just bombarded inputs and potentially ways to get addicted to distraction to keep you from focusing on what you need to do. That could be homework or get ready for the prom or, or get ready for college or whatever you do. So we just translated, we, we, we took an frankly, my two coauthors did most of the heavy lifting. Those are the ones that have kids and are working with kids. But basically it’s the same methodology. We didn’t step it down at all. It’s just an executive when they come back from a board meeting they need to empty their briefcase with business cards, they collected and then meeting notes, they took a nine year old needs to enter their pack and get all the notes from the teacher that the parents need to sign.
[12:23] Same thing, same process. There’s different content, so all we did was trying to frame this for caring adults that are dealing with teens because come on as soon as you leave high school, if you’re in the US and you know mom is no longer a trusted system and so this whole graduated process as you grew up at some point you couldn’t feed yourself – they fed you, at some point you couldn’t dress yourself – they dressed you. Then you had to do it yourself. At some point you couldn’t do your homework by yourself. They needed to help. Now you’re on your own, so you’ve grown up through a graduated process of having to take home on your own accountability to or have your own structure to manage thing is self manage. Right? So that’s been a graduated process, but most kids are not trained to do any of that.
So that’s what we tried to do is to bring this down into, to take this methodology, is that okay, how would you translate this through those different skill levels as kids need that then take more accountability for how they manage their life as opposed to just waiting until they’ve thrown out after high school and then the fire hose of life and then very easily get off track because they didn’t know how to manage their freedom.
Juan: [13:34] Absolutely. So as we move on to the later part of this show, we will go through the show notes here. David Allen has created a framework that helps you focus on your attention and not time management and the system basically helps you determine whether or not something is worth your attention. It’s a five step system. You first start by getting things out of your head in the capture phase. You unclutter your mind and get it into the physical world. That’s number one. Number two, you clarify it and you define exactly what those tasks need to look like. Number three, you organize and you categorize things so that they are in the right order. Then you reflect on them and kind of visualize what those tasks are going to look like and finally you engage in doing the tasks. David’s concepts have been translated to more than 28 languages and are now transferred over to a younger generation in Gtd teens, so these are things that are tried and true and are not just a new tool for you to get started in. You can check out more of his work on gettingthingsdone.com, and we will copy all of this in the show notes. David, as you continue to take your career forward and move your business to the next level, where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing.
David Allen: [14:37] So gettingthingsdone.com as you mentioned is a good place. You’ll sort of see that and you can follow me on twitter – I’m gpdguy. On Instagram I am dallen45. I think there is a Facebook page. Our folks sort of made a thing for this. So you can kind of circle around. I’m around all the time. I’ve done three fedexes is so you can just do a web search for David Allen of GPD and they’re going to see tons of things to play around with.
Juan: [15:02] Amazing. David, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Jessica Chen is an Emmy-Award-winning content producer and CEO of Soulcast Media, a storytelling agency that helps brands communicate their company’s story to the public. Jessica has also been awarded an Associated Press award for her work at Time Warner Cable News. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Good Earth Foundation. Jessica is a top performer who balances lots of projects in her professional life. Let’s hear more from her in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Divide your time into three different parts. 60% are doing a lot of research, brainstorming, changing the company – this determines how you will move forward and who you will contact. The next 20% are selling. And the other 20% are taking meetings in person or on the phone – building relationships, connections and just getting to know people.
Always have a plan B: As a reporter, Jessica had to deliver a new, finished story every day by 4pm. Through this, she became an expert at prioritizing tasks and making sure she always had a plan B, C or even D. If your work depends on external input, make sure you have plan B to not get stopped by external blockers.
Focus on your strengths: Don’t underestimate your transferable skills that you will have built up through experience and focus on these strengths. If there are certain weaknesses you want to work on, don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to people who can teach or mentor you.
The first priority should be the people who are like, yeah, let’s see what we can do. If there was an actual interest in having people wanting to work with you, be quick and forward your plan to work with them. This is the way you should prioritize who you’re talking to. If the people are lukewarm, of course, you still have to follow up with them and continue to communicate with them, but the first priority is the people who are like, yeah, let’s see what we can do.
Jessica: [01:15] So I’ll start from the beginning. My background as a news reporter, we were really careful and conscious about time because every day we had deadlines and the deadline was when the news would go on. So no matter how crazy your day was, you still had to hit your deadlines so that therefore, you know, we had to work very efficiently. We had to prioritize. So that was kind of a reporter mentality that we had and as an entrepreneur, you know, it has shifted a little bit.
And the way I think about time now is I divide it into three different parts.
I would say I spend most of my time as an entrepreneur really just doing a lot of the research, brainstorming, brainstorming ways of how I can grow, change the company. And I think that is like really big because of course that determines how you will move forward and who you will contact. And then I’d say the next 20 percent of how I spend my time is really the selling, the pitching. And of course this is really important because this is where you get your clients. So 20 percent is that. And of course that also had to do with a lot of the brainstorming and research I did beforehand and then I would say the other 20 percent are just me taking meetings, meeting people on the phone or in person. And a lot of that is just kind of like building connections, building relationships, just getting to know people.
Juan: [02:32] So it’s like investing in future opportunities. Whereas the other 80 percent is on more immediate return, whether it’s a brainstorming for something that you’re going to be doing this week or even later on that day. And then also just pitching for new business. Then you reserve 20 percent for kind of new opportunities.
Jessica: [02:46] Exactly, yeah. That 20 percent, you know, there’s really no intention other than just to get to know new people, get to talk to people, hear about what they’re doing, building new connections.
I think as an entrepreneur it is really important to be open-minded, to meet people from different backgrounds.
You’d be surprised about once you become an entrepreneur, I found, there is a whole group of people, you are introduced to. It’s so cool you’re talking, getting to know them. So I do try to allocate at least 20 percent of my time just meeting people for fun and professionally too.
Juan: [03:19] That’s awesome. And so I’m really interested because there’s a lot that we can learn about what you were doing with your journalism career and how you were able to meet those really, really tight deadlines. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were finding kind of like trimming the fat of this is not important, this not is important, this is mission critical, and going all in on the things that are mission critical. I’m sure we can all relate in each of our professions, you know, weeding out the bad opportunities from what actually matters. How, how were you doing that?
Jessica: [03:48] Yeah. I mean, as a reporter, every day we would start the day, first of all, every day is completely different, you know, meaning because your assignments, your story of the day is different. When you start your day you have a focus of like: this is my targeted story of the day, therefore these are my targeted actions that I need to take.
Juan: [04:09] And you’re never working on longer term projects? It’s always just what that day holds? And you take it a day at a time?
Jessica: [04:16] As a general assignment reporter, which is what I was, it is. Every day is completely different. So it is kind of you are a jack of all trades. One day you’re doing a political story. The next day you’re doing a business story, the next day you’re doing a fun feature story. So you really have to be flexible. And I think in terms of time and how you manage it, we start our day, and I think this is relevant for anybody. You know, you go when you wake up and you’re like, okay, this is what I have to do today. Meaning as a reporter, this is who I have to try to talk to today for my story and that’s when you start reaching out to people and, a lot of that really is dependent on whether this person will get back to you and I think the key is you can’t rely on just like one person to get back to you because what if that person doesn’t? Right?
Juan: [05:03] Because you have to talk to them that day. And before 4pm. It sounds like you still have to coordinate where are we gonna meet, what time am I going to get there? And you have to balance out the other stories that you’re working on, right?
Jessica: [05:03] Exactly.
Juan: [05:14] The other people that you have to talk to. That’s crazy. So you’re a total counter puncher. I mean because you’d never know if you’re going to hit traffic on the way there or if it’s going to take too long or even if they’re going to be there. And then you have to just react and react, react, react.So that’s probably a skill you’ve really developed over years of being in that industry.
Jessica: [05:32] Yeah.
You had to be really good at having a plan B, C, D, all the way to Z.
Juan: [05:35] It sounds like entrepreneurship. No wonder you’re doing this. Wow.
Jessica: [05:40] Yeah. Because you know, you walk out of the newsroom, for example, thinking your story’s going to be this way and you’re going to be talking to this person, but there’s so many factors working against you every day for like the person you’re supposed to talk to or you’re supposed to meet whether there’s traffic, all these things can determine how your day goes. So you really have to be flexible. And I would say of course, don’t put, in a sense all your eggs in one basket. Relying on this one person or relying on this one project. Make sure you have a backup in case it doesn’t work out.
Juan: [06:10] Okay. So it sounds like – to translate this into other industries – it sounds like the big takeaways are having backup plans, rolling with the punches and knowing that no plan is actually going to be exactly as you imagined it originally. And then how are you actually prioritizing mission critical things? Are you laser focused on just the story that people I have to talk to and then everything else needs to fall together in service of that? Or are you thinking of it as like a bigger task list? What does that look like in your head? Like prioritizing the things that have to get done?
Jessica: [06:44] As an entrepreneur, like, so when it’s the day where I’m, for example, selling and pitching, you know, I’m sending a bunch emails out that day, I’ve dedicated, let’s say four hours to, you know, I had this list of people that I want to contact. I send out that list and I’m not necessarily waiting for anybody or everybody to get back to me because you just don’t know if they will. And so once I do that and I send it out and then once I start getting responses, depending on what they say, whether there’s interest or not, that’s how I prioritize who I respond to. If there was actual real interest in having them wanting to work with me, then I’m really quick and I’m forwarding them my spreadsheets, my plan to work with them. So when there’s real interest and then that’s I think the way you should prioritize who you’re talking to and if the people who are lukewarm, you know, of course you still have to follow up with them and continue to communicate with them. But I would say the first priority is the people who are like, yeah, let’s see what we can do.
Juan: [07:44] And this is where your people skills really kick in. You are actually reading each conversation to gauge how far along the sales process, so to speak, they are. And then you prioritize based on that from an order from “most likely to purchase right now, essentially like tomorrow” to “this is a conversation that I need to nurture and so it will kind of take a backseat until I’ve knocked out the ones that are ready for tomorrow, for today”. Right? Is that kind of your structure for it?
Jessica: [08:12] Exactly. That is a hundred percent right. And you know, there are certain people who totally get what you’re doing from the get go and they want to work with you and those are the people you’re like, yeah, so we have to seize this opportunity. You have to respond immediately and then there’s some people who, you know, they have to warm up to you a little bit. You have to kind of explain things a little bit more and there’s people who completely are just like, sorry, not right now, but that doesn’t mean you don’t follow up with them.
Following up is really important. Maybe following up in the week or a month, but you know, following up I think is super important.
Juan: [08:39] I love the parallels between what you’re working on now and how journalism works. It seems like the same. I mean you were, you were sending out messages. Some respond right away, some don’t, some respond in a little bit, but there are actually more willing to do an interview or jump on a call sooner rather than later. And so you just kind of you’re constantly re-prioritizing and then now what you’re doing in entrepreneurship? Yeah, it’s a 60/20/20 split, but that’s more like a 60/40 split. It’s 40 percent talking to other people whether it’s selling or working on like expansion, new opportunities and then 60 percent just brainstorming and being kind of introspective in terms of where you want to take the business, but that 40 percent that is related with people, it’s the exact same skill set that you’ve developed from day to day reporting and basically being able to read people. That sounds like it’s your super power in this sense. Would you agree? Is that kind of how you see it or even that, that intentional? Do you realize that about yourself? It seems like a super interesting way to tackle it. You’re doing the same thing that you were doing before now applied into a new industry, but it’s the same skill set.
Jessica: [09:41] Yeah, it is really funny because back then when I was a reporter, I never thought some of these day to day skills are really transferable, but I do think as a reporter and doing that, your mentality changes when you’re in this environment and you know, now that I’m an entrepreneur, it is very interesting to kind of see how much of the skill sets is like really valuable to being an entrepreneur.
Juan: [10:06] Definitely and especially I love hearing different perspectives from people that are crushing it because they always arrive at that level of excellence from different paths and
I love seeing that really any strength is a superpower if you just run with it.
But people are so obsessed with like thinking about their weaknesses and what they’re lacking and it’s like, Oh, Jessica does that. Now we need to take a course on how I can be better at that thing instead of being like, Oh, Jessica does that. I think that’s something that I do, now let me be more intentional about that strength that I already have because this is a person that looks like me, that has my same skill set and she was able to take it all the way to as far as you got professionally even being awarded an Emmy, even working with ABC News even all the way to the end zone and it’s like, yeah, off the skill set of being a counter puncher, being able to read people and understanding how to prioritize my time and any of us that are listening that kind of identify with that, that’s, it’s more a call to action to double down on the skills that you do have. If they are this, then realizing, oh, I don’t have that. Oh, I should take a class on it. Oh, I’m missing all of these things and it’s so cool jumping on these conversations and hearing different people that have totally different ways of approaching time and still got so far and it’s just about resonating with those stories.
Jessica: [11:21] Yeah. No, I totally agree. I think for me, I know my strengths and I know what my weaknesses are and I think it’s really just what I know I’m good at, really just focusing on that and whatever I can’t do, you know, reach out to people who can teach you, but you know, with any industry, whether you want to stay in your industry or you want to change industries:
There is something that you’re great at. Figure what that is. Figure out what that is and just run with it.
Juan: [11:49]I love it. Jessica, people that want to stay in touch with you, they want to follow up on your career. Where’s the best place for them to learn that?
Jessica: [11:55] You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m very active on LinkedIn. I also have an Instagram page. Both of those you can find me at Jessica Chen Page, so very easy to remember. Jessica Chen Page and my website is www.soulcastmedia.com.
Juan: [12:10] Perfect. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us.
Today we have a very special episode: We interviewed our CEO of Timeular, Manuel Bruschi. Manuel started bootstrapping Timeular in 2015 and led it to where Timeular is today: over 15,000 customers in 80 countries including companies like Pixar, Tesla and Magic Leap. Manuel has been recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30 for his work with Timeular and is a former Austrian National Champion in Rugby 7’s. He is passionate about finding ways how to achieve more in less time and share it with others. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Not sky’s the limit – time is the limit. Time is the most important thing we have in life. Everyone has it but nobody really knows it – we just spend it without really caring about it, but we should, as it is very limited.
Tracker is like a physical handshake with your time. The main advantages of Tracker are that:
it’s physical – you can touch it
you have something that reminds you to take care of your time, to decide what you’re going to spend your time next on
as soon as you flip it, you are committed to that task/project/action
Tracker is like a physical agreement with your time
you see exactly how much time you spend on each task/project/action
Subjective impression ≠ objective impression of time. For example, if you are at university and there is a boring talk, it feels like an eternity, but then as soon as something is really exciting, one hour might feel like one minute. Our perception of time really gets distorted based on our emotions. That’s something we have to be aware of and that we can fix if we track the time.
Find your biggest goal every day. Think about maybe two or three things that you actually want to tackle and then focus on that. Put off anything else that doesn’t align with that until later.
Do the little things on Little-things-Monday. Batch those little things into a particular time block so they don’t interrupt your workflow. Manuel has the important things done in the morning and the little things in the evening and afternoon.
In the end, it’s not time that counts. It’s energy. Block your time – do things that are important, like creative work, in the hours where your energy is on its highest level and make sure you don’t get distracted. After those hours you can do all the other things like meetings, calls, …
Juan: [00:52] Today we have a very special episode. We are talking to the CEO of Timeular, which is the startup behind the productivity masterminds podcast. Manuel thank you so much for coming on the show.
Manuel Bruschi: [01:32] I am very happy to do this.
Juan: [01:34] Manuel so you know something about time management that most of us don’t. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about time?
Manuel Bruschi: [01:41] Well, I think the time is the most important thing in life because it’s something that everyone of us has, but we don’t really know it. So, um, we, we just spend it without really caring about it. Um, we, we think it’s unlimited, but it’s not in fact for many people obviously sky is the limit, but I say time is the limit.
Juan: [02:02] Wow. So what brought you to create Timeular in the first place? Obviously, you really care about the space.
Manuel Bruschi: [02:12] Yeah, I totally do because, uh, I worked as a freelancer. I was um, web developing and so I had multiple clients at the same time and I had to record the time just to bill them. And yeah, it was always a hustle and at the end of the week, I was like, hm, how many hours did I work for whom? And obviously I couldn’t recall all the hours and so I lost money because I couldn’t bill all of them and I tried like I think every solution out there and I really loved many of them because they had a pretty UI, are pretty simple to use – it’s just unlocking the phone and hitting one button but still I wasn’t doing it so I thought: hm why not? And then I thought yeah, because it’s not even instant and immediate enough. So I thought how, how can I make that happen? And the initial idea was some kind of buttons and then I came up with the idea of a cube and then I turned it in.
Juan: [03:09] That’s amazing. So you started with the idea of creating a physical product or did you want to create a digital product first and then move into the physical space?
Manuel Bruschi: [03:18] No, no. The idea was really to create something physical because I think that all the UIs solutions or software-based solution out there already got to the best point you can get. They made it already as effortless as possible, but still most people don’t use it and so I thought why not?
So I think you have to make it physical and tangible.
Juan: [03:48] And so you’re finding that by creating a physical product, people are being more aware of their time and they’re actually using the product and actually keeping themselves accountable to their time management as opposed to just forgetting about it or putting it off until later.
Manuel Bruschi: [04:01] Yeah, yeah, totally. It has basically the following advantages: So first of all, you have something there which reminds you to take care of your time, to decide what you’re going to spend your time next on and then as soon as you flip it, you’re, you’re really committed to that task, to that project, to that action, and it’s like a physical agreement or a handshake with your time.
Juan: [04:28] Right. That’s amazing. So Manuel, how do you think about prioritizing time, it’s not just about tracking your time, but then finding things that you think are actually worthwhile for you to do in that moment.
Manuel Bruschi: [04:40] Yeah, tracking without any action is not healthy. It’s just useless data that’s flying around so you always have to look at the data and try to find ways how to improve and that’s actually sometimes not simple, but I think most people already just by recording the time and seeing where it goes already realize that are, how do I say, or how we feel about time and how it really is.
So our subjective impression of time is different than the objective one.
So for example, if you are at university and there is a boring talk, it feels like an eternity, but then as soon as something is really exciting, one hour might feel like one minute and our perception of time really gets, gets, gets distorted based on our emotions and that’s something that we have to be aware of and that we can fix if we track the time.
Juan: [05:45] Do you have a framework, Manuel, for how you actually think about what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re working?
Manuel Bruschi: [05:52] Yeah, well I have, so obviously being CEO of a startup you have like a ton of things you can do and I have somehow to prioritize because the resources are very limited.
What I do is I always try to focus what’s currently the biggest goal and the biggest issue that we have and what are the three things I can do next to improve.
So I think focusing on one thing and improving step by step and saying no to many other things can really help to move forward.
Juan: [06:34] Okay. So you start by thinking what is the biggest goal that I’m going to do? You think about maybe two or three things that you actually want to tackle and then your full focus on that and then anything else that doesn’t align with that you, you just put off until later and maybe actually declined.
Manuel Bruschi: [06:49] Yeah. So, so the day for me looks like this. I wake up and I look at my huge to-do list and I think, okay, what are the next top three I have to do? Or maybe sometimes they are just two, sometimes they are four, but what are really the main things that I need to achieve today before everything else somehow matters. So, um, I, I write down those things and then I really block my time till 10:00, 11:00 AM. So because yeah, people have to know –
I get up at 6:00 sometimes at 5:00 AM and then I really block my time, my phone is switched off so I can’t really get interrupted by anything else.
And I really tried to tackle all those things, um, till that time and afterwards it’s just Syracuse. So people from everywhere asking things and whatever he needs something, she needs something, I need to do this, I need to make that call, that meeting and so on. But before it’s really calm, focused work.
Juan: [07:53] So it sounds like a big habit of batching your time is actually getting up early and then doing all of your creative work at the beginning of the day. And then you become available for all of the day to day messaging, right?
Manuel Bruschi: [08:08] Yeah. Yeah. More or less. Yeah, you’re right. I, I only try to do one more creative thing, um, after lunch because that helps me again to be, to get energized, so, like to have a break, a creative break.
Juan: [08:22] Sure. Okay. Do you find that you’ve done that on purpose? Have you always done that? Doing the creative work at the beginning and then batching it or is that kind of a new habit that you would recommend um, new people that, that have similar opportunities juggle to do?
Manuel Bruschi: [08:40] I’m doing this for a long time already. Um, but it started I think five years ago. So back then I was really struggling with getting university work and everything done at the same time. And then there were so many little things, so I was living in a flat with five people and I was taking care of all the bills and administrative things there. And so I had many things to take care of. So many little things and sooner or later I thought, how can I get, get, get some order in this chaos. So what I came up was the little-things-Monday. I called it like that so the little-things-Monday is like I, I tried to put all the little things that I have to do in that week, like going to that office to send over this form to request this and so on. So all those little annoying things. I batch them into Monday morning if possible. And I do them all and then I really have a great start into the week because I have the feeling I got already a ton of things done and out of my head. And so I really free up my mind. And so the rest of the week is like more focused work. Obviously, I can’t do this anymore now with the startup because you have so many little things that would be the little-things-week.
I tried to do it now the other way round to have the important things always done in the morning and all the little things always in the evening and afternoon.
Juan: [10:21] That’s amazing. So one thing that’s really interesting to me is you’re actually being intentional about batching your work at the beginning of the day. It used to be that you were able to do it at the beginning of the week and now you’re actually batching that sounds like a very important habit of yours is actually batching the word between creative and management, creative and management as opposed to just being available at all times, which is what a lot of us do and then you’re always reactive and you can never actually get into flow with work. Was that intentional? Did you – is that through a resource that maybe a book you read or a podcast you listened to that brought you to that realization? How did you learn how to do that?
Manuel Bruschi: [11:04] Obviously there are articles and books that talk about this stuff, but the idea really came from analyzing how I feel and how, how I can get productive. So yeah, it was all about that.
Juan: [11:19] So a big element for you has been self-awareness. Yeah. Actually auditing, so what you’re doing the, correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re doing is actually energy management more than time management. You’re actually auditing how you feel about the things you’re doing.
Manuel Bruschi: [11:36] Yeah, totally. So that might be a bit ironic. So but what I think is that in the end, it’s not time that counts. It’s energy. So because you can spend five hours on one thing or you can spend one hour on one thing and I’m very likely the energy you’re going to put in it’s more or less the same. The amount of energy, the total one. Right? So, so for me is I, I know my highest level of energy is in the morning and most people at that time are still sleeping so I can use this advantage for me to like spend the most energy that I have so the most valuable energy that I have in the morning on the most important things and later on when I am not that energized anymore, I can spend it on managing things. Then I have lunch or a break and afterwards I am again more energized and recharged a bit and then I can do creative stuff again.
Juan: [12:45] That’s amazing. So there you have it. Manuel’s habits for success and time management are really around batching and prioritizing what is helpful and what is not. He starts by prioritizing what is the biggest goal that we’re currently working on and either he does it or he doesn’t. There is no mediocrity. Either we realized that this is an important thing that we’re going to do or we don’t, and he gets up early and starts doing creative work first before becoming available for messaging throughout the day. He started by doing this by doing what he calls little-things-Monday, which is batching all of the errands that he was going to do throughout the week, into Monday morning, but is now actually doing this early in the day every day of all of the errands that need to get done into his creative time, which is in the morning. He’s more about energy management than time management, and so what this allows him to do is be very intentional about how he spends his time on activities that are very creative and time consuming in the morning and energy consuming in the morning as opposed to doing them later on in the day where he is available for bigger opportunities and other things where the day may take them. Manuel, as you continue to grow and move your career forward, where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you?
Manuel Bruschi: [14:02] I think the best thing is on my email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juan: [14:09] Okay, perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Manuel Bruschi: [14:12] Yeah. Thank you for having me and I hope to talk to you again.
Do test tasks to find your rockstar. If you want to outsource some small things and want to find a good assistant, run test tasks. Not to see how they are accomplishing it, but to see which questions they ask, if they follow up with you. Then you’ll find your rockstar for your team.
Always balance time commitment and results. When making a decision whether or not to do a project, always consider the time you need to do it and the results you get out of it. If you don’t have enough time and resources then don’t force yourself to do it. Simply say no.
Juan: How are you dealing with so many different projects? What is the kind of secret sauce, fully tactical about how you think about time and how you could kind of encourage or advise others on rethinking their time and how they’re able to execute?
Goldie Chan: [01:39] So, I love this question because I literally just started doing something about three or four weeks ago as a trial and so I will share it with you now.
I have a VA who is wonderful and what she does is I have her in the morning, she pulls from a master list of to do’s that are color-coded and they’re organized by importance within their category.
For example, outreach or general work or personal life, things like paying rent. Those are pretty high-priority, so they’re in order of priority. They’ve also been categorized by myself by date, so she’ll pull from this list and she’ll also bold things and be like, ‘don’t forget that you need to talk to the caterers about your event today’. Like that has to happen, that cannot be a to-do that falls off the wagon, so I have her send these to me in the morning, she actually checks in during the day just to see if I need help or if there’s anything that she can actually do remotely.
And then at night, she sends me a follow-up email that is really adorable because she’s just an adorable person that has something inspirational on it that does a wrap-up of basically I say what I’ve actually done and this is so, so helpful because I have her send it to me around seven or 8:00 PM my time and if there is something urgent had to get out midnight and I see this list again and I’ve forgotten it, then I can do it between those hours so I can catch myself on anything that was urgent that I maybe accidentally left or didn’t do or let to the wayside. My day has become so busy that I’ve started, sometimes every once in a while I miss calls or I miss things like this, recordings, so I now have her send me my daily calendar, and once again, remind me, ‘you cannot miss your 3:00 PM call. This is so important.’
Juan: [03:32] That’s super interesting. You know, some of the other interviews that I’ve done, the way that a lot of top performers think about time is they get hyper-focused on basically selecting what matters and what doesn’t matter. And it’s cool hearing a totally different perspective, which is, ‘oh actually you can just increase your entire bandwidth by just increasing your personal team.’ It’s like your street team. It’s not, you know, people are always thinking teams in terms of like companies like, okay, you’re an individual, a virtual assistant, especially if you do it offshore, doesn’t have to cost a ton of money.
There are super smart people that have college degrees that are well-trained, that are bilingual, that are willing to work for super cheap. Especially if you live in the US in Europe and you’re working with someone even though know I’m from Colombia, you work with someone in Latin America, super cheap, top talent. So do you have any suggestions about how, how we can find talent like these virtual assistants that are just rock stars and isn’t going to actually end up taking more time to train them, more time to follow up with them.
Goldie Chan: [04:30] So it always takes, there’s always an amount of time it takes to train and find the right person. I personally use both Upwork and Fiverr as ways to outsource some of the smaller tasks that I have in my life. I found this particular person because I like to give test tasks t, e s, t space t a s, k s because those words sound very similar, but I like to give tests where I asked them to accomplish something within a timeframe.
It’s less about if they can actually do that particular task and more about what questions do they ask me if they get confused, do they follow up with me?
Do they say, ‘hey, I couldn’t actually do this because I ran into this, this, this, can we do this instead?’ And so I ran through this particular test, with about three or four different VA’s and she was the one that got back to me the most and was just like, ‘actually I can’t do this and what you were suggesting wasn’t the best way to do this. So can we try this instead?’ And that is the kind of person that you want on your team is somebody who can proactively tell you you’re being an idiot.
Juan: [05:44] You know I always remember that I learned it probably three or four years ago from someone that I really admire. He was, he would always be on this kick of, ‘I can’t work with you until I work with you.’ And basically what that means is ‘I will never commit to a macro project until we’ve done something micro together and just really enjoyed working together.’ I keep seeing this habit and people that get really, really far in life because time is so valuable and we don’t have the time to make big mistakes that are going to take three months before everyone is sick of one another. It’s better to just do a one-week project and just test the waters a little bit and look for exactly those sort of things.
Does the person I’m outsourcing to even have the time availability? Do they have the skill set? Are they proactive in self-evolving and getting themselves out of ruts, or are they just putting everything back in my court saying, ‘oh, that that was the wrong password, so I just didn’t do it.’
Like, oh my gosh. Then open a new account. I don’t know, figure it out and that ‘figure it out’ as super important when you’re working with a team, it’s really interesting to hear from you how you’ve actually done that, it’s actually through micro projects to figuring out if the talent is right for you. How do you think about prioritizing tasks, Goldie? You’re so, for those of you listening, if you don’t know Goldie, she has millions of views on her LinkedIn videos. She’s a top influencer on the platform, on of the top creators on LinkedIn. Actually, I think you have probably put out more video content than just about anyone on the platform. Is that accurate to say?
Goldie Chan: [07:05] Yes.
Juan: [07:06] Are you number one? I mean you’ve got to be top five, top 10 top creators on Linkedin.
Goldie Chan: [07:10] So I for sure have the longest-running daily channel on LinkedIn period, and because some days I get very excited and the LinkedIn team actually will send me things in Beta and ask me to test them out. So, some days I actually put out two videos a day.
I probably have the most number of videos period on LinkedIn that are uploaded natively.
Juan: [07:31] Yeah, I bet. So. Okay. So, that’s amazing. And what and what I was driving to that is tell me a little bit about how you prioritize and how you think about what is important and what’s not important, because as much as you’re increasing your bandwidth, there’s got to be at least some part of you that works as a north star of like, do I take on this opportunity or not? What is that gauge for you?
Goldie Chan: [07:52] So, when I think about what I take on in terms of what is new, because there’s always commitments that you already have. So, I think it’s always important to think holistically.
‘What am I already doing, right? What is this new thing and does it actually maybe even fit in with some of the older things that I’m doing, some of the preexisting things, can I double my work? Can I repurpose some of my work for this new thing?
Or can I repurpose some of my team, my contractors, or my employees for something that’s new, but maybe that still falls under their skillset so I don’t necessarily have to take on all of it?’ So I always think in terms of how can I allocate resources intelligently- is this something that requires just me alone and therefore that is a huge, huge spend, I guess you could say in terms of my time, or is it something that I can then give to the rest of my team and I only spend maybe additionally, a little bit more time. So it really just depends and I like to weigh decisions that I make based off of those two factors.
Juan: [08:59] So, you kind of put everything in a balance and you’re looking at time commitment and you’re balancing that with result output, essentially. So is this a 10 result output? But is it also a 10 time commitment? Maybe that’s like your steak for like the next three or four months, that’s like a main thing that you work on and if it’s like a two result but an eight time commitment, then you just wave it off and that’s kind of how you’re constantly balancing and looking at the opportunities based on those two factors on whether or not you’re going to move on something new.
Goldie Chan: [09:30] Yes, and I think that’s so important that you think about it. For example, if entrepreneur magazine, I’ll just say that comes along today and is like, ‘hey, do you want to do a new show for us,’ to me, the result of that, even if it takes me more time, that is so worth it for me to do, so I’m willing to put in a lot more extra personal time into that. However, if something comes along and say it’s a brand new podcast that just rolled out wink, wink, that’s not run by one of my dear friends, then they say, you know, ‘we need you for 10, 20 hours out of this month.’
I might have to say ‘no’ just because I actually don’t know what the result of that would be.
And if it’s also, once again, not my friends or a brand that I super like, I probably won’t take on those commitments. So, I weigh in those things as well of course, because you know, you’re always giving back to the community. So, I spend a lot of time as you know, giving back to the community and that’s important to me, but if you’re not honestly part of my community necessarily and I don’t resonate with your message, I probably will not invest my time also into a new project that I’m not sure what the payout will be and especially when people come to me and they’re like, ‘we won’t pay you.’ Then there’s no payout.
Juan: [10:54] Totally. I think this is something that is very unique about being a thought leader, a public figure, an influencer, you know, it’s known by a bunch of different names, but the more content that you put out, the more that you are faced with these opportunities at scale and the more that you have to get really good at prioritizing what you’re going to jump on and what is just a distraction. It sounds super funny and it might even sound bad or like, oh, so what? You’re literally just getting bombarded with 100 opportunities. I would assume actually at your scale, yeah, actually.
So, I mean it might sound weird or bad or wrong, but I think if we’re able to look past the, you know maybe like how that might look wrong and we just actually apply that into our daily lives, any of us that aren’t influencers, that aren’t putting ourselves out there with so much content can learn a lot from someone that’s like, ‘guys, if you don’t fix this problem, when you have 10 opportunities, it’s really going to be a problem when there’s 100 opportunities,’ and if you’re creating something that’s valuable, whether that’s with your company, with your business, your agency, or your own personal brand, it’s something that you can be more intentional about right now if you are really betting on yourself and you really think that over the next three to five years, so you’re going to be getting to that scale of opportunities.
So, I think there’s a ton of value Goldie and learning from someone like you that is balancing 50 projects in 100 opportunities a day to say actually, you kind of have to weigh the output and the result to the time commitment. I think that’s such a good, that’s such a good takeaway from this conversation. Something that I think is super applicable for anyone at home. Goldie, so thank you so much for sharing all this content with us. What is the best way for someone to stay in touch with you, catch up on what you’re up to and learn more about what you’re all about?
Goldie Chan: [12:41] Sure. So right now the best way to find me is where I live, which is on LinkedIn. So you can always find me at linkedin.com/in/Goldie. Yes, I got Goldie.
Juan: [12:55] Goldie is G-O, can you spell it out?
Goldie Chan: [12:57] G-O-L-D-I-E
Juan: [13:00] I-E. Perfect. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
John Trabelsi serves as Principal Visual Designer on the Innovation & Advanced Technology Group of Intuit: a Fintech company based in Silicon Valley, California. He previously worked as Creative Director at Evernote and Director of Brand and Design at Treasure Data. He is now an investor and brand advisor to the startup responsible for the coffee that’s served at the Facebook and Google Headquarters– Progeny Coffee. Let’s him more from him on this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Think long-term and short-term. Being intentional with getting you to the next place while still being practical with where you are right now. Spend time in the present to keep your business running but also focus on some time for the future.
Split off your creative time from your meeting time. Protect the time that you are actually being productive and set separate times for things like meetings to protect your workflow.
Think ahead of time. Plan your day. Write down your to-dos on Friday for the next week. You’re able to just get started from the beginning of the day just executing and building momentum.
Have one VIP task every day. Choose one important task every day that you have to get done, no matter what. And so if you do five tasks a week that are VIP, your business is going to move forward.
Juan: You’ve done some really awesome things in your career, John, from working with Evernote, working with Intuit and now you’re doing your own startup. So you know something about time that most of us don’t about prioritizing about using it. Can you walk us a little bit about how you think about time, how you prioritize your opportunities?
John Trabelsi: [01:43] Yes. So when I have right now, especially because I have full-time job at Intuit and the Progeny coffee company that’s picking up very, very fast. Um, I have one app that’s called fantastical to manage my calendars. I have an overlay of my two companies in my agenda and it’s pretty, pretty cool and it’s a great app and I recommend anyone to use it. It’s 50 bucks but totally worth it because in the Apple, so you have a task system and so we can combine task and meetings in the same calendar, and so that’s pretty powerful for me.
And so what I do is that I divide my days in doing and talking, brainstorming.
And so Mondays and Fridays I have no meetings no matter what happens. And so even if it’s someone important, I’ll never have these meetings those days. And so, I spend these days on the doing and usually the middle of my week, we got to spend the most time talking, [02:45] like Wednesdays I sometimes don’t even open my computer, I just talked with people. And so I see some people doing the opposite, doing meetings on Mondays, all the end of the week, but that’s the week where you’re going to be the most efficient at producing or the least efficient at talking about things because Monday morning you’re fresh and you want to use that energy to produce. And on Friday you’re the least fresh. And so if you spend these days on things that you don’t want to do, which is talking and, and responding and fighting around ideas, you’re not going to get things done. So, do the things you’re the most excited about at the end of the week. And so, one of the most important things, it is something I tell my wife and my co-founder, is that
Every day you have to have one task that’s VIP task.
And so, no matter what you have to make it done, even if it’s late or very early, you have to do it. And so if you do five tasks a week that are VIP, your business is going to move forward, no matter what.
Juan: [03:49] Wow, that’s, that’s amazing input. Oh my gosh, there’s so much for us to like, like down from the. It sounds like you basically, I’ve heard of this concept before, there’s that manager’s schedule and then the artist scheduled the creator schedule, right? If you, so for a lot of people, you know you have like meetings, even if they’re only 20 minutes, 30 minutes long, if you have them in the middle of your day, it’s actually going to totally break you out of your creative flow so you’re not going to be able to give your best work, even if you just have one meeting that day.
Most of us have 3, 30-minute meetings throughout the day, and if you do that Monday through Friday, well guess what, you’re never inflow for longer than two or three hours.
So what you’ve actually done is separated days where you just do the meetings and you have these like micro interruptions from the days where you just create for long periods of time and that gives you the ability to actually have full work days where it’s nothing but flow and nothing but creating and doing the things that you know how to do best, [04:45] right? Is that how you see it?
John Trabelsi: [04:48] Precisely. And so what happens is that usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, are kind of like a mix up of like meetings and tasks, but you don’t always have tasks that last the full day. Sometimes you have small tasks and so that’s the day is where I usually spend the time on the smaller tasks, right? The quick deck modification or do quick emails that need like a little bit of attention and so that’s where I usually spend my time on. But Mondays and Fridays are where I spend the most time in creativity of deep learning because for me it’s constant learning. Like even right now I’m learning 3D, which is completely out of my mind because I’m running a very complex software and and even though I have a startup and a full-time job, I find a way to implement 3D into both of these areas, which is very interesting. Yeah, and it’s adding a lot of values and so those days are for that and that’s, I think that’s what helps me move forward on those.
Mondays and Fridays are the best day for productivity, for creativity.
Juan: [05:54] Right. And they build the momentum for you to even know what to fill up the other days with what the meetings and it’s not just meetings to meet, it’s meetings because it’s like a followup of things you’re creating or following into what you’re going to be creating on Friday. That’s a really good infrastructure. Walk us through a little bit about, you’re talking about one VIP task that you get done every single work day. How do you determine what that is?
John Trabelsi: [06:17] So like I said, I have fantastical, I have a list of tasks and right now it’s basically out because I finished everything I had to do so I need to read because we’re finished. We’re finishing a project right now so I’ll have to add more, more things there, but I have a huge backlog.
But what I do basically is that usually by the end of the day Friday, I set up the next week and so I don’t have to think about that.
And I think that’s one of the mistakes people usually do is they arrive in the morning and then they stay set themselves for the day. And so, this is the time where you just got your first cup of coffee, if you’re like me a coffee junkie, this is the time where you just woke up, you just rested, this is the time that you should be producing, not thinking about what to do. And so at night I do a quick checkup every day for the next day and pick my VIP task, but on Friday night I set the week. And so, that really helped me move forward and not think about what should I do. And so, some things come sometimes where it breaks to flow and that you can’t, you can’t avoid it. Like there is no, there is nothing you can do, especially when you work for a full time company, or you have your own startup, that’s going to happen. But what’s very important is that you have this list of tasks and if something takes over one of the VIP tasks, it’s okay, do that. Just find what to replace it with, but have one VIP task a day, that’s what I would recommend, because then you get overwhelmed and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, I have all of these to do.’ And I was like, I never think about that. I like, I know I have that task today. I had to finalize a deck, it’s done and then I could really focus on the other task if I had time. And so that’s what I did.
Juan: [07:55] Do you have a framework for understanding whether or not a task is important enough to become a VIP task?
John Trabelsi: [08:01] So there are these frameworks of value. I think it’s a balance of long-term and short-term for me, because long-term you don’t know how much value you’re going to have until they do. Right. And so, especially in a startup world when like I’m going to invest spending time in designing this, like for example, we just did this weekend and I’m going to talk about a project a little bit, I’m so sorry, but we had this weekend a virtual tour of the farm, and we had like a booth at the mountain view. Like a street fair, my Friday was supposed to be spent on something else, but I changed everything because we had this idea and so we made and we partnered with a company and we made that VR tour of the farm with the accudose go. And so we went budget crews go and I have to figure out how to put it on because it was a new system for me, and so I spent my whole day doing that. But it was a bad right? in. So my VIP task of Friday completely changed with that new VIP task because we had the idea on Thursday and so it wasn’t bad but it’s all about short-term and long-term.
You have to balance this out because if you only focus on short-term, you’re not building a muscle for your company.
Right? And so the short-term is going to be like taking risks, doing very important fixing your app, if you have application bugs and do long-term sometimes long bets along the idea or a long-term type of thinking you have to place there.
Juan: [09:37] Do you have a pulse or a suggestion on what that split looks like? Is it 50/50? 80/20.
John Trabelsi: [09:45] The problem is that sometimes long-term task takes longer, so it’s broken into multiple pieces. But I will say that it can be a 50/50, because at the end of the day, the day is very important. I will say it’s more of a 70/30, 70 short-term, 30 long-term. But, if you have a very important, like something that could really change the path of where your company is going, maybe invert for a little bit, you know, focus on the long-term first. Like something that I’ve seen many, many times, I’ve been working for so many startups right now, like maybe 12 in the past 10 years, like it’s crazy. But there’s something that I’m seeing is that some startups focus on hiring salespeople, but they don’t focus on their brand, and so as they grow, they hire more salespeople and so it costs them more money.
And I keep telling them like ‘if you invest in your brand, which is a long-term thing, you’re going to build a muscle that’s gonna overdo the need of hiring more salespeople, right?’
And so in the future. And so they put in their energy in the sales but not in the brand, so it’s the same way for tasks, it’s like if you’re focused on the present 100 percent, you’re always going to have to focus on the present to get your business moving forward. So, just spend some time in the future also, whatever that means for you.
Juan: [11:17] Wow. There you have it. John just shared with us a framework for thinking long-term and short-term, being intentional with getting you to the next place while still being practical with where you are right now, especially if you’re running a business, you have to just think practical in terms of the short-term, but even there we have a framework for splitting off our creative time from our meeting time, making sure that we are guarding and protecting the time that we’re actually in flow and thinking ahead of time so that we’re not caught by surprise on the day-to-day by what it is that we have to do. We’re able to just get started from the beginning of the day just executing and building momentum. John, thank you so much for sharing all this with us.
John Trabelsi: You’re welcome.
Juan: For those of us, we were listening into this, we want to keep up with your career, everything that you’re up to. Where’s the best place for people to do that?
John Trabelsi:[12:01] So LinkedIn is a great place. John Trabelsi, you can just add me, I accept pretty much everybody because you never know who’s going to be a good person to be in touch with and who is going to become a friend sometimes you know, like I will certainly build a relationship with you and with you. I think we can become friends and so LinkedIn is a great place. If you want to follow, buy some great Colombian coffee, you can go on our website, progenycoffee.com. And, and that’s it, I think that’s the best place for me today. Feel free to send me a note if you have any questions or if I can help you with anything, I’d love to help always. I know how it’s hard to be in a startup world today.
Juan: [12:42] That is amazing. John Trabelsi from progeny and Intuit, thank you so much for coming on the show.
John Trabelsi: Thank you so much for welcoming me here.
William Frazier is the founder of Viabl, a web and mobile app development firm that uses proprietary software to create tech solutions for entrepreneurs. Prior to Viabl, William worked as a full-time freelancer for almost a decade and has done projects for clients ranging from small businesses and entrepreneurs to big companies like VISA, Mastercard, Monsanto, Saudi Aramco, and many more. He knows something about time management and self-actualization that most don’t. Let’s hear it from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Every morning spend time on activities that compound over time. Even 5-10 minutes of writing everyday compound into hundreds of articles a year. Even though these small daily actions don’t pay off right away they are an investment in a higher payout in the future.
Have a mission statement. No matter what format you choose: always bring it back to why you’re doing all of this and what you’re trying to accomplish. This will help you gain laser focus and prioritize your activities better.
Be intentional about self-development. Spend some time every day on reading or learning. This helps you think more creatively and grow into your best self.
Externalize experiences. Write them down. Share them. Process them on a public platform so they don’t clog up your brain. Thinking about writing a blog post about an interesting encounter you had that day? Share it in a blog post the night you come home. This helps you process experiences faster, create space for new ideas and at the same time, it helps you create content for your blog.
Juan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Productivity Masterminds podcast. Today I am with…
William Frazier: William Frazier
Juan: And William, what are you working on?
William Frazier: So, yeah, I’m currently working on a new startup called Viable. We are creating web and mobile apps for startups and entrepreneurs. But it’s a lot more accessible because we have an app that builds other apps. So we are able to save a ton of money on our end and we pass those savings along to people.
Juan: That’s amazing! Can you give us a little bit of context about how you got here professionally?
William Frazier: Sure, yeah! So man, I have been freelancing full-time for almost a decade roughly two years before I graduated back in 2011 from college. And since then I started, I would say traditionally in graphic design and branding, but I kind of shifted over to working with startups, entrepreneurs, in terms of branding, UX, UI, web, pitching material and kind of prototyping ideas. And so that’s how I met my current co-founder Chris Clark.
Juan: [01:57] Can you give us some insight about the kind of clients you’ve worked with or some metrics, maybe some big clients you’ve worked with? Anything that we would recognize to get us some scope about your career?
William Frazier: Sure! So, starting off, I did probably what a lot of other, I would say ‘creatives’ do right after they graduate. I started looking around locally in St. Louis, Missouri where I’m from, and I got connected with a few creative placement agencies, which are just essentially glorified middleman. And so because of those agencies I was connected with a few larger clients, including, I’ve done work with a Visa, Mastercard, Monsanto, Saudi Aramco, so those are definitely the larger end. But on the smaller scale, I would say individual solopreneurs who are just starting their, let’s say their first app or their first business and kind of everywhere in between, I would say I’d start off with the traditional kind of small business client right out of college. But like I said, over the past few years I’ve definitely shifted towards the more, tech entrepreneurial space.
Juan: So the reason that William is coming on the show, a lot of us listening, we’re either freelancers or we have small entrepreneurial efforts, agencies, things like that. William has been doing this for 10 years successfully, he’s able to sustain his own business, he’s able to provide for himself, grow his own practice and probably has learned a ton about how to prioritize, how to schedule your time, how to actually either delegate or work with other people to make sure that you’re able to do this sustainably and it’s not something that you just do for three or six months, but are able to make a career out of it. So, William, you know something that most don’t about how to think about our time and productivity. Can you walk us a little bit about how you think about productivity and prioritizing tasks?
William Frazier: [03:47] Yeah, I’d love to. Honestly, I think my big takeaway from these past 10 years have, I call it ‘productive fumbling,’ would be that if you actually are considering a sustainable long-term freelance career, like you said, versus a few months, being able to balance being proactive with being patient, which sounds kind of like a paradox, but I think it’s true because, when you’re on your own, especially in the beginning, things can get a little rough because once again, you have no one else around you. If you haven’t built a team yet, then you’re kind of on your own, and so you do have to proactively find those opportunities. And even each day, I know I wake up every morning and I proactively detail, alright, at the very least, if I get three things done today and I better make sure that those three things are going to make the biggest long-term impact, which is where the patience coming comes into play. I think, you know, too many people, especially starting out assume, ‘oh, dive in you know, take the leap and I start tomorrow then and one to two to three months, I’ll have all these clients and I’ll, you know, I’m set for the rest of my life.’ That is not usually the case. I’ve definitely gone through, you know, like most people gone through some great times where you have plenty of work coming in and you can’t even keep up, and then obviously there’s a lot of downtime. So, I think in that downtime, using that time productively is also important. And to be honest, I would say that was very apparent to me about three years ago and I started actually writing online and that’s what forced me to create that daily routine because I wanted to make more time for daily writing. And so every morning now, I mean, it is, I would say it’s pretty rigid. I wake up and kind of the first things I do every day are included in that routine, at the very least after that I can get the client work, I can get to my own, you know, let’s say promotional work. But at the very least, I have that time that’s very sacred.
Juan: And what, what do you fill that time up with that you are already, that you won’t get to reap the rewards from, for like you said, like let’s say three months or six months. I mean, it takes a while. What do you actually fill up that time with?
William Frazier: Sure, sure.
I started piecing together this routine using micro habits. So just super short, five, 10, 15-minute, little chunks of activity that eventually grew into longer periods of time.
So within the routine, I’m doing everything from journaling every day, reading the news, reading books, usually fiction in the morning all the way to writing articles for my blog and other blogs. I’ve started writing on quora I’d say roughly three to four months ago and have definitely seen a lot of impacting a lot of engagement from that, to publishing online. And then, after that I usually leave my long-term writing projects like books and other things for last. At the very least, I’m chunking out, you know, 30 minutes to an hour of time on these projects and I may not see those results until a month or two or three down the road.
Juan: So, basically your suggestion, if I’m a creative, I’m a freelancer trying to actually do this for a living, it’s, yes, it’s cool to think about the, the short term return on your time investment, that’s fine, and that’s actually what most of your day will be, but you need to carve out very intentional time for bigger opportunities that are actually got to have a bigger payout at the end, and those are non-negotiable. The easiest way to get started is chunk up five, 10, 15 minutes of your time a day for each of these tasks that you’ve deemed are appropriate, that will actually give you the, you know, that return. And then over time you actually start building more of a habit.
But it’s with a small buy-in at the beginning, five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and just letting that momentum over time you’re going to find yourself spending more and more and more time doing those activities, and they just compound.
That’s basically the strategy for doing it.
William Frazier: Exactly. Because I think most of us, we’re all human and we say, oh, we want to, you know, at first, until after the first of the year, we’re going to start working out, we’re going to do this or that. No one ever was able to sustain that. So if he starts super small, literally five or 10 minutes, eventually that becomes a given and they’re like, ‘alright, I might add five or 10 minutes more,’ then eventually you have 30 minutes of reading, 30 minutes of writing, 30 minutes from this or that. And I would say as somebody who’s experienced with design, I think there are still not enough creatives who are writing and sharing. It could be writing, video, I would say there aren’t enough people creating content and there’s still too many people consuming content. So, I think that’s another shift that I would personally like to see with freelancers sharing their story because I think it’s never too early to start sharing that and have other people benefit from that.
Juan: So that sounds like a big principle to you. It’s just start kind of externalizing the content you have, the knowledge you have sharing with people. Other than that, do you have any other kind of paradigms about how you view that self-development time every morning and you put tasks into that time or remove them? Like, how do you actually see the things that get put into those morning routines?
William Frazier: Sure, sure. So like I said, and I kind of five to 10 minutes of a daily journaling in the morning, I will kind of just unpack. I’m feeling if I’m stressed out, what’s going on, whatever. But I think for me the most important part is after that.
I will write down three specific tasks that, like I said, it’s not answered this email, it’s not, you know, knock out this client project. It’s usually all personal development related and it’s for example, you know, edit one chapter of my book or you know, submit one article to this publication.
I may not hear back that day or the next day, but eventually, you know, investing time in that creative output and creating that content and finding those opportunities, I think those are the things for me that I’ve paid off, you know, 10x down the road for sure. So, and the nice thing about that is because it’s on my journal every, let’s say, few weeks or a month, I’ll go back and look, alright, well which task did I not check off continuously? And I realized alright, at the end of the day after either commit and do that or just, you know, take it off completely because I think too many people.
I mean we all have just a specific amount of mental bandwidth and I feel like if you fill it up with stuff that just continuously open, you’re never gonna get to the things that actually matter.
Juan: So William, it sounds like we’re talking a lot about the things that we do do. Walk us a little bit through how you decide what not to do and kind of how you actually get rid of tasks and opportunities that land in your inbox.
William Frazier: [10:20] Sure, sure. So man, like most people, I had a really bad habit. I’d say my biggest downfall is sometimes lack of focus because I want to do so much and everyone wants to be the best writer, the best designer, the best videographer, whatever it is. And so I think a really, really good exercise for me at the end of each month, I’ll try to do is I’m kind of just a brain dump, you know, luckily I work at a local co-working center there. And you know, every surface is a whiteboard and so I’ll just kind of take what’s inside, put it out there, kind of create this visual map of different projects and different, you know, endeavors I’m working on. And then I’ll kind of look at it and survey the entire scene.
So, kind of zoom out and realize, ‘alright, is this kind of leading me towards, someplace I want to go in the future?’
And another kind of element of that I’ve realized that over the years I’m very passionate about connecting people and very passionate about ideas. And so I’ve realized kind of my weird personal mission statement is ‘creating a smaller world connected by ideas.’ So I always compare that against what I have in that visual mind-map and if I’m working on something that’s not, you know, meeting me down that path, it’s hard, but I’ll usually exit or I’ll try to kind of wrap it up as soon as possible. So, I think that helps me align my short term-action with my long-term vision.
Juan: There you have it. William Frazier. He is intentional about self-development, intentional about externalizing his intentional about spending time every day on future payout activities, intentional about having a mission statement that serves as a North Star for everything he does. Thank you so much for sharing all this knowledge with us. William, where’s the best place for people to stay in touch with what you’re up to and keep up with your career
William Frazier: For sure. So honestly, anywhere online social media, anywhere you can find me at William Frazier, but condensed. That’s going to be pretty much everywhere else. I’m like I said, my current company is called Viabl, so it’s B-E-V-I-A-B-L.com, and you can find that anywhere else online too. So, I think those are two big things. Last thing, if you like reading articles and stories about making ideas happen, you can check out an imperfectionist.co, that’s my blog that I’m working on, so feel free to check that out too.
Juan: Excellent. Thanks so much for coming on the show now.
Nicolas Cole is a Top Writer on Quora with published work on Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur, TIME, Business Insider, CNBC and more than 400 articles on Inc Magazine. He writes about self-development, productivity, and positive habits. He is also the founder of Digital Press, a content marketing agency that builds CEO’s, Executives, and serial entrepreneurs into industry Thought Leaders. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Dream big enough. And think big enough. And don’t make excuses around it. Rather sacrifice things to make sure that you’re able to excel there.
Combine two things to have more time. So whether it’s friends and fitness or spirituality or learning, education – there are all these different elements that make us up, and by combining them you’re working on two different habits, two different things that instead of having to create new time for each specific aspect of your life
Learn how to play the game. Find out the principles of what makes the whole world work, as opposed to just the short-term tactic on how you win at one industry specifically. Apply this knowledge to all the things you do and you will see, even if they seem unrelated, they are all the same.
Opportunity costs. You might make a few thousand dollars, but you’re missing out on potentially a much larger introduction, a much larger project, a much larger something. If you start to look at every decision in your life as opportunity cost, it’s like, do I want to watch Netflix? Yeah. What’s the opportunity cost? That’s one less day that I work on my next book. You’re always measuring things back and forth.
Juan: Cole, you’ve done more in the last five years than most people do in a lifetime. You certainly know more about time than most people do. What is it that you understand about time and productivity that you can share with us today?
Nicolas: [01:40] So this is, this topic- it’s been a huge driver behind how I’ve been able to do a lot, you know, and I think it started with when I was in high school, I played World of Warcraft, you know, and I became one of the highest-ranked World of Warcraft players in the country. And by nature of it, if you’re a student in high school, you’re in class from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM and then you come home and then your parents come home and everybody’s home and you have dinner at like 5:00 PM. And then your dad’s like, ‘you need to study.’ And so you’re studying till like seven or 8:00 PM. And then you got to get ready for bed and like all of a sudden your day is gone, right? And so for me as a kid, I was like, ‘I want to become the best player ever, but I don’t really have the time, because I have to go to school and I had these responsibilities,’ you know what I mean? Like at a very young age, it became so apparent to me that I had to make a decision around.
Do I just go to school and not achieve this goal or do I set parameters for myself and demand that I find the time to achieve this goal that I want to.
And in order to do that, I had to be like, by nature, you know, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I spent a lot of time by myself, I stayed up really, really late at night. I sacrificed a lot in order to achieve the thing that I wanted to. There were a lot of things that most people either don’t like doing, don’t want to do, but at the end of the day, that’s what I had to do, you know? I just kind of have carried that through everything that I’ve done. I kind of have applied that to, you know, I got really into bodybuilding and college and then applied that to writing and applied that to business.
I think the most actionable way of thinking about protecting your time for me is that I’ve never thought about my interests and my friends as different, I’ve always seen them as one in the same.
So I’m not the type of person that goes, ‘I’m really interested in, you know, writing, but I’m going to hang out with people who have no other interests of mine and we’re just going to sit on a couch and hang out and watch TV together.’ Like, I don’t do that, I’ve never done that, that’s not who I am. Instead, the friends that I make are always in line with where it is that I want to go. So when I wanted to become the best gamer in the world, all of my friends were gamers, when I wanted to become a bodybuilder, all of my friends were in the gym, when I wanted to become an entrepreneur, all of my friends were entrepreneurs. And when you do that, you realize very quickly that your time is so valuable that you have to build friendships through what it is that you love, as opposed to segmenting those two because then you’re living two separate lives.
Juan: [04:41] Totally. So you’re touching on kind of two main tactics that are very, very practical for most of us. There’s dreaming big enough in calling yourself out on your own excuses as if you’re not carving out enough time to do things, you’re probably not driven enough or it’s not a vision that’s compelling enough to actually get you to sacrifice the things that you have to sacrifice to make the time to actually excel in that habit or that specific vertical, that discipline, you know, so that’s one element of it. It’s like thinking big enough, making it compelling enough and not making excuses around it, but rather sacrificing things to make sure that you’re able to excel there, so that’s one aspect of it. And then the other aspect is combining different interests. So whether it’s friends and fitness or spirituality or learning, education, you know, there’s like all these different elements that make us up, and by combining them, now you’re actually compounding, you’re working on two different habits, two different things that make you, you at the same time, instead of having to create now new time for each specific aspect of your life. You’re not able to have overlapping, compounded time that’s working towards both disciplines at the same time. And in your case, it’s friends and your interest, your friends and your professional career. Right?
Nicolas: [05:55] Yeah. And the reason why that works so well is two reasons. One is that when you spend that much time with people, and you’re co-constructing something together, like I remember being in the gym and lifting with the same people over and over again, and it becomes something that you do together, you build together, and it forges a better relationship because you’re creating something together. That will always lead to a more meaningful relationship. And a lot of people really fear walking away from certain friendships or whatnot because they’re like, ‘what will people think of me or like what if I let them down or whatever,’ and what I’ve learned, because I’ve always stayed so true to that aim, and doing things that I wanted to do is that the best friends will always understand, even if I have a really close friend, we lifted together every single day for two years straight, and then when my interests changed and I went a different direction and we no longer were seeing each other every day and we no longer were lifting like that and we didn’t have that same relationship, our friendship didn’t go away. Like we might not talk for six months now, but when we do, it’s like, you’re my brother. We went through this together, we built this together, that’s a real friendship, that’s a real relationship. Whereas all the other people that fell off, the truth is you weren’t even really ever a real friend. Like you were a friend and your relationship was there for the time that it needed to be, but it didn’t need to be held on any longer than that.
Juan: [07:30] That’s an amazing lesson. It’s straight out of Dr. Seuss’ book ‘those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’ It’s that whole principle of like, well, the people that actually matter, they won’t mind, and if they do mind, then they didn’t matter anyways.
Nicolas: [07:44] Yup. And then the second reason why I advocate so much for building friendships and relationships in the direction that you want to go.
The more that you hang around people that share your same interests, the faster you grow, the more skillsets you pick up, the more people in that ecosystem you meet.
It builds momentum. So many people don’t understand that every single industry, every single thing in life, it’s just a game and it always follows the same rules, the same community, the same language. Every single industry has those same basic elements. And so the more time that you spend in that, the more relationships you build, the faster you learn the language, the more you understand the measures for success, the more skill sets you pick up. So, if you construct your whole life around that game, you will move faster. It’s impossible not to move faster.
Juan: [08:45] And it’s been great for you too because you’ve practiced these disciplines on a bunch of different interests. So, now you’re prepared to jump into any new industry and then already be looking for these things. They’re much more intentional about looking for them as like a gamer that justs understand gaming, if they put them in front of a new game, he gets how it works- there’s a scoring system, there’s players, there’s ways for you to be able to move ahead and unlock new features. Most of us, if we’re like in one career for a long time, we think that our career is very unique and that these elements only apply to us. But you’re a perfect example and the testimony of the fact that there are these patterns and the more intentional that you can be about cracking them, the faster that you’ll be able to evolve in them, and that by itself is a huge productivity hack.
If you are just more obsessed with the principles of what makes the whole world work, as opposed to just the short-term tactic on how you win at one industry specifically.
Nicolas: [09:37] You know, that’s why I know once you know the principles, there isn’t a ceiling, you can seriously pick. I mean there is no real relationship between like gaming and bodybuilding and creative fitness, creative writing and then entrepreneurship. Like on the surface, those are entirely unrelated. But in my mind, they are 100 percent correlated because the principles are all the same. And once you’ve done it enough times, you start to realize, ‘oh I can literally pick anything I want in life,’ and as long as I learn the community, the language, the game, and like my measures for success, it is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of when.
Juan: [10:18] Always, always principles over tactics. I love that, Cole. One more question: you’re balancing a lot of different projects, a lot of different things. How do you think about prioritizing tasks and turning down opportunities?
Nicolas: [10:31] Always opportunity cost. So I really, I really liked this idea of if I’m doing this, what aren’t I doing? And constantly asking, this was something that I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of days now, but this idea of even like free work, you know, a lot of people make their decisions based on, you know, this is going to pay me versus this won’t. And I don’t think that that’s a blanket true statement.
I think you need to ask what sort of impact that thing is going to give you.
And there are a lot of decisions where I will forego making money in order to do free work for someone that I know will lead to a bigger and better opportunity. And there’s something to be said for- it’s like, what’s your opportunity cost there? You might make, you know, a couple hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars or something, but you’re missing out on potentially a much larger introduction, a much larger project, a much larger something, you know. If you start to look at every decision in your life as opportunity cost, it’s like, you know. do I want to watch Netflix? Yeah. What’s the opportunity cost? That’s one less day that I work on my next book. You know, you’re always measuring things back and forth.
Juan: [11:46] There you have it. Nothing but knowledge nuggets from Nicolas. Thank you so much for coming on the show as you to grow, Cole, and people want to stay in touch with your career and what you’re up to. What’s the best place for people to see that?
Nicolas: [11:59] I think between Quora, Medium, Instagram, I’m always writing something new, otherwise I post updates to Nicolascole.com and I encourage people with questions, uh, if they want to know anything one want specific help, you know, shoot me an email. I try and respond to everybody.
Juan: [12:19] Perfect. There you have it. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Make your bed in the morning. This gets you in the routine of accomplishing one task before you even start your day. Furthermore, it puts yourself in a positive state within your mind so that way it carries over into the rest of the things that you do throughout the day and therefore you are more productive.
Take 5 to 15 minutes to meditate. The reason why people lose time, is not because they’re not efficient enough, it’s because they have too many things going on in their head at once.
You got to get really good at saying no. Have boundaries that are well-defined and based on that decide what you want to engage with, what routine you want to have and which information and explosion of things that you’re going to encounter throughout the day. Understanding what your interests are and what you’re driving to will allow you to say “no” to a lot of things.
Don’t put it all in your head, put it somewhere else. Make Lists and get things out of your head. Whether you use some online tool or just a notebook to help you get things off your mind.
Framework to optimize your time: capture, direct, curate.
Capture: capture all the things that need to be done (next day, week, month) in a very logical system
Direct: direct yourself to make front-end decisions
Curate: Ask yourself: is this related to my long-term goals? And then decide whether you take action or not.
One tip to save you a LOT of time. Check your emails at the top of the hour and don’t open those emails, look at the subject lines and based on that, ask yourself a yes or no question which is, ‘can I answer this in two minutes?’ If the answer’s yes, open it and knock it out. If you can’t, leave it.
Omar Mazin Khateeb: [01:22] Thank you Juan for having me on. I was very excited to join.
Juan: [01:26] Thank you so much for coming on the show, Omar, and so what’s really exciting about having you on the show Omar, you’re growing a personal brand as well on top of all of the ventures you’re doing with marketing, customer acquisition. You’re kind of a funny mix really of like biology, like left brain discipline mentality with creative marketing, copy and what you, what you’ve done, that’s been super impressive, you were reading a book a week and sharing your knowledge with your LinkedIn community and now have grown to be a LinkedIn, a sort of influencer as well in that space along with growing your own LinkedIn group, now with your company and you’re juggling so many projects at the same time. What are you like? You certainly know something about time that most people don’t. What is that? What helps you be productive and actually categorize all of these tasks and know what to do?
Omar Mazin Khateeb: [02:14] Yeah, no, absolutely. I think, you know, from the outside, it definitely looks like there’s many things going on and a lot of people have even asked do I have an assistant or a team and I don’t have any of those. I would love to have those one day.
It is actually possible to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.
To be honest with you, it’s a great way to live and work, you know, when you’re very elevated in terms of the levels of effect, is it effectiveness and efficiency that you have, but there is a way to get there.
Juan: [02:51] How do you do that? Do you have like a paradigm, a framework for optimizing your time?
Omar Mazin Khateeb: [02:55] Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Um, you know, the first thing, and this might surprise some people, the first thing I really recommend is, you know, starting your mornings off really well and in terms of productivity, this isn’t really time-based, but this is really effectiveness. So what I mean by that, my routine is this, you know, try and go to bed at the same time and wake up early, you know, waking up really early in the morning, if there’s one thing you can find from most productive people, successful people in the world, majority of them, they wake up well ahead of time from people, and as you get older, you really require less and less sleep. If you’re in your twenties, I recommend get getting good sleep, seven to eight hours. For me, I’m 32 and I’m managing pretty good on six to seven hours, but I wake up every morning at the same time at 5:30 AM, so get you know, get that routine down. So it’s clockwork, right?
Once you wake up, you know, I always make my bed, that way it gets me in the routine of accomplishing one task before I even start my day.
Now a lot of people, they argue, ‘why? How does this help productivity?’ The idea is that you want to put yourself in a positive state within your mind, so that way it carries over into the rest of the things that you do throughout the day. You know, after I’d make my bed, I take five to 10 or 15 minutes to meditate.
The reason why is that a lot of productivity, when you think about it, the reason why people lose time, it’s not because they’re not efficient enough, it’s because they have too many things going on in their head at once.
So, the ability to have absolute clarity and more importantly, when you sit down to do something, you are focused on that one task that you’re doing and that requires know training on a daily basis. To kind of touch a little bit more on that one, and I definitely have some tools and frameworks to recommend to people, but you know, I can’t emphasize enough that, you know, right now the one mistake I see a lot of young professionals make is that work and cognitive boundaries or boundaries in their minds are really ambiguous and not very well-defined. And unfortunately, so are time and space, you know, from which within we work in, you know, and the reason why I mentioned that is that if you don’t have these boundaries set up in place, you don’t have rules and boundaries based on what you’re going to engage with a longing, and that’s not just your routine, this is also based on the continual flow of information and explosion of things that you’re going to encounter throughout the day. So for one, having an understanding of what your interests are and what you’re driving to will allow you to say ‘no’ to a lot of things. I think it’s Warren Buffet that says that, that ‘you got to get really good at saying no,’ I mean you’re a very high-functioning individual as well, but I know that there’s certain things I wanna accomplish will say ‘no’ to because it is not in line with what you want, correct?
Juan: [05:42] Totally. Yeah, totally. And you’re touching on some points that are backed by really big-leading figures. You’re talking about Warren Buffett. Oh my gosh. Like a Steve Jobs, he would always wear the same clothes every day just so that he would have more, kind of energy allotted to making for the rest of the day and not stressing out on things. So he was like opting out of making decisions early in the day. There is a video that was going viral a little bit ago on gold cast. I think it was a Tedx talk from an ex navy seals who was giving his advice for top performers. And he basically said, ‘my best advice is: make your bed in the morning. First thing you do every day.’ And everyone laughed and he’s like, ‘I’m serious. You start with victories, you start with routine and you start holding yourself accountable to the fact that you’re not a victim to how your day is going to unfold, you actually start by leading and start by taking the victories and little by little.’ If you start making this habit and start having that predictable, like you’re saying, when you wake up, when you go to bed, everything else starts falling in shape of that. But, if you’re not intentional about organizing these things ahead of time, you will always just be a victim to whether or not someone picked you, whether or not whatever had your attention that day, and it all starts by forming these habits, these nonnegotiable habits. Well, yeah, nonnegotiable habits essentially that are start leading and taking shape for the rest of the day. They start setting the tone. So, totally agree with what you’re saying. Can you walk me a little bit through what the last thing where you left off is what you say ‘no’ to? How do you actually categorize, and do you have any criteria for what makes it into your list of things that you do say yes to?
Omar Mazin Khateeb: [07:22] Absolutely. And I have, you know, I’ve thought about this, I wanted to give very simple framework to it. So, before I answer the question, let me just prep everyone’s mind with that framework, and it’s going to be captured direct and curated and I’ll walk you guys through that. But, in terms of what you say no to. So if you look at what I’m doing now, it’s all related. So, the mistake that a lot of people make our age, is that they try and do too many things at once, unrelated things. So for me, you know, think of it like design thinking, what is it for and who is it for me, Omar Khateeb, what is this for? Medical devices and medical technologies. Do I do other things? Yeah, absolutely. But I go a thousand miles deep in medical device technology, especially disruptive ones. So, my name is attached to it. What is it for? Omar Khateeb is for startups, companies that want to take new products to market, that’s what it’s for. Based on that, I go very deep specifically on marketing and if you look at some of the books I read, vast majority of them go laterally into things such as psychology, efficiency, a storytelling history, all these things that relate to that and so what, you know from an outsider’s perspective, it might seem like it’s covering a lot of different things all at once, but they’re all related in some way, shape or form. Peter Drucker, who’s a world famous management consultant, talks about this is that have one focus, but at the on the side, have something that’s a little related, maybe even unrelated as a hobby because that’ll set you up for your later part of your career. For me, it started off in medicine, but while I was in medical school in relation to medicine, I studied psychology and a little marketing because I thought one day I’ll open a medical practice. I didn’t end up finishing, I wanted to leave to go to business and so the things that were my hobby that were kind of related, turned out to be my career now, which is implementing marketing and psychology. Now, do I get questions or, or do I get approached for other things? Absolutely. But, you have to be able to say no, and as you and I both know since we’ve lived here in Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of shiny things to distract us and for us to say ‘yes,’ to you got to say ‘no.’ So, and real quick, I’ll walk you through that framework that I mentioned, and this is something that I try and always approach.
I can’t emphasize the importance of really making lists and get things out of your head, whether you use something like Trello or Evernote, for example, or even Google calendar, you know, use these things as tools to help get things off your mind, declutter your mind, don’t put it all in your head, put it somewhere else.
So real quick, if we look at the three things I mentioned: capture, direct, and curate. So, capture: that goes back to using the tool like Google calendar, any calendar, Evernote, something. You want to capture all the things that might need to be done in a very logical system, which is simple as what needs to be done today, this week, one month, six months from now, a year from now off your mind in somewhere where it needs to be put. Number two, we want to talk about direct. Okay? So direct yourself to make front-end decisions. [10:35] And when I say about front-end decisions, simple as this: people are slaves to their emails, right? Here’s a simple trick, I’m going to save a lot of people time because I checked my email maybe a few times a day.
Check it at the top of the hour and don’t open those emails, look at the subject lines and based on that, ask yourself a yes or no question which is, ‘can I answer this in two minutes?’ If the answer’s yes, open it and knock it out. If you can’t, leave it.
And what young managers have the issue of doing is you have to let some plates fall and break because somebody will actually pick up the slack and answer the question or take care of whatever is that is in that email.
If you condition your mind to have the behavior of answering every email as it comes in because you’re trying to impress people with your responsiveness, you are going to become a slave to time and you’re conditioning other people to expect you to respond fast.
That’s how you end up staying very late up at late at night answering emails just to impress people with your responsiveness, it’s a terrible system, it’s a great way to make yourself miserable. If you’re able to set up these things, and this goes back to what we talked about, which is what to say ‘no’ to, you can start to implement processes or just renegotiate these things at the moment they happen. Very last thing, which is curate. You know it, it relates to how you want to direct yourself on making these front-end decisions, curating, coordinate all this content so you utilize different styles of recognition such as you know, two-minute drill of looking at emails and deciding yes or no to them, or if somebody approaches you, let’s say for a speaking engagement or some kind of venture.
Ask yourself, is ‘this related to my long-term goals?’ If you want to be, let’s say, the world’s greatest marketer, ‘will this get me closer or farther away from that?’
The same thing with if you want to look at food, food either kills you or makes you healthier, so if you look at food that way becomes very easy to say, ‘should I eat this? Yes or no?’
Juan: If you look at, it’s basically categorizing. You constantly have to be in the habit of, ‘is this good for me as a bad for me? Does this help me make better use of my time or worst use of my time? Is this a good opportunity or a bad opportunity?’ And it’s not really that great of an area and not everything is like, ‘oh, it’s, it’s a spectrum,’ you have to just get good at ‘it’s good, it’s bad,’ if it’s 51 percent bad, it’s bad. That’s going to help you declutter like you’re saying, your inbox and your mind much quicker, if you just set up some rules for yourself, essentially.
Omar Mazin Khateeb: 100 percent and the more binary you look at it, the faster you’ll be able to make decisions. This is why if he emails ceos, their emails are usually one or two sentences long, yes or no, but that’s how you start operating at a very high level and yeah, is it fun to make black or white decisions about things such as like, ‘should I go to dinner like with a family member on this night?’
Life isn’t supposed to be easy, but if you want to get paid more money, if you want to be more successful, you want to be given higher responsibility, you have to make quick decisions and be very clear about it and honest with yourself.
This kind of goes all back to what I mentioned earlier, which is declutter your mind and getting things off your mind. The reason why things are on your mind is that you haven’t clarified what your intended outcome is, you haven’t decided on the next step and you haven’t put reminders of that outcome or the action that’s required. This is why people are always like, ‘oh, next productivity tool, et cetera.
The number one productivity tool is your mind and learning how to train it.
Juan: No, I love this, this is awesome.
Omar Mazin Khateeb: A quick note on this, and this is where, because I know who’s listening to this podcast, ambitious, high-performing entrepreneurs, listen carefully when I say this: using a calendar, doing these things, you do not want to treat yourself like a master/slave relationship. It’s a bad way to start. You have your mind, which will come up with these solutions, but you’re dealing with your brain, which is like a primitive animal. You don’t want to just punish your brain and just say, ‘we’re going to do like the 50 things for the next three or four hours.’
Think of it like, you know, like an award system. Okay, ‘I’m going to wake up early, I’m going to make my bed, but then I’ll have this interesting thing to do afterwards.’ You know, the reason why a lot of people don’t stick to schedules or productivity is that they treat themselves, you know, like a master/slave relationship.
Not a good way to go.
Juan: [15:15] Well, there you have it. Omar is a top performer, top professional, dedicated to that relentless pursuit of excellence. His top habits for success are: being intentional about your time, making sure that you’re decluttering anything that might be stressing you out by putting it on a Google calendar, on a Trello board, whatever it is for you to treat yourself more like a creative mind and not having that master/slave mentality of controlling yourself by the minute, making sure that you’re categorizing things on a ‘heck yeah, heck no, I don’t want to do this through training,’ being a lifelong learner and understanding yourself better to increase the speed in which you make decisions and being able to see things through to the end. Omar, thank you so much for coming on the show. What is the best way for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about your career as you continue to grow?
Omar Mazin Khateeb: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn. You can look me up as Omar M, as in Mary, Khateeb and I’ll give you a link for the show notes and then I highly recommend for those who are marketers and interested in medical technologies, follow portrero medical on their LinkedIn. We’re going to be doing a lot of exciting things and we actually are launching a podcast with some very impressive people in tech. Definitely will want to catch that.
Juan: [16:30] Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Omar.
Omar Mazin Khateeb: [16:33] Thank you very much, Juan, I appreciate you having me onboard.
Matt Kohn is the founder and Head of Growth at Different Hunger Media, a digital agency and lifestyle brand that empowers agency owners to live more and work less through systems and automation. His agency team and partners have Fortune 50 brand experience and have been featured by Forbes, Inc., Foundr Magazine, Rich20Something, The Next Web, Virgin Media and more. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Time is the only resource that truly matters because you can never get it back. You should know what you want to achieve in your life and prioritize things according to that. Time is limited and if you don’t take the control, somebody else will.
Track your time. There are 1,440 minutes in a day and most people have no idea where those minutes are going. So track your time and then every day go through every task that you’ve performed – that allows you to become just hyper-aware of how you’re spending your time.
The principles of leverage. Every task that you do on a daily basis in a perfect world should create either more time or more money. When you can find which tasks are going to create either more time or more money, or ideally both and you’re able to find tasks that create leverage, then you can escape those hundred-hour work weeks.
Simplify certain tasks. For most people, just simplifying and systemizing just very simple tasks can easily create 5, 10, 15, 20 hours in your week on a day-to-day basis
Be smart with your time and how you prioritize activities. First, care about leads and getting sales. Then, create systems and automate processes.
Juan: [00:00] Matt, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for coming on the show.
Matt Kohn: [01:24] Thank you for having me.
Juan: [01:26] Matt, so you’ve grown a six-figure agency, you’ve served a ton of different clients across different verticals and you’re balancing a lot of things in the air while you are a self-made entrepreneur, growing your brand, growing a community, you certainly know something about time that most of us don’t. What are your thoughts on productivity, time management? How do you see prioritizing tasks to help you be a top performer?
Matt Kohn: [01:49] So, when I quit my job, like most people, I had no idea what I was doing. I Reached out to pretty much any role model that I could reach via email. I think I sent over like 300 something emails and actually turned all of the advice that I received because I was basically hitting these people up and asking them for ‘what is your best advice for your 20 something self, you know, your 20 something self that has no idea what the hell you’re doing with your life.’ I got flooded with replies.
I think people like to give advice, you know, it’s an ego-stroking thing, but also, a lot of people like to help.
And one of the biggest things that I heard from all these people, you know, we’re talking olympians, superbowl champions, a New York times bestsellers, multimillion dollar entrepreneurs,. They all talked about time and they all talked about how, you know, it’s just the only resource, like the only resource that truly, truly matters because you can never ever get it back. And so, I really internalized that and and over the years I’ve really kind of become obsessed with it. One of my greatest sort of motivations is death as well and, and you know, that might sound like weird or creepy or whatever, but I’m very much at peace with the fact that I’m not going to be here forever and I have big goals and big objectives that I want to achieve with my life so that I can help people before that timeline is out.
When it comes to time management and prioritizing, it’s just so, so important, it’s literally the golden resource that you need to guard with your life because if you don’t, then you’re just going to lose it and people are going to take advantage of that and you’re not going to be able to do what you want to do with your life.
I mean, that’s what we all want to do, right? We all want to be in total control. So, from a high level that’s kind of that, that’s what I would share.
Juan: [04:02] That’s amazing. So, by realizing and being aware of your own mortality, it makes you increase the value that you see in time. Instead of just being this unlimited resource, you’re actually noticing the scarcity of it and it’s making you be more intentional about what you do with it. What frameworks do you use, Matt, if any, to actually then take all of that kind of like high-level cloud thinking about how you look at time and then turn it into actionable steps.
Matt Kohn: [04:29] So, uh, the first thing and the most important thing is being able to track your time. So many people just have no data when it comes to how are you spending your time on a daily basis, you know, like where are the minutes actually going, right? There’s, there’s 1,440 minutes in a day and most people have no idea where those minutes are going. And so being able to track your time is just absolutely critical. And so, um, something that I do every single day is, is I track my time, you know, right now I’m using a tool called toggle, um, and it’s going live up, up above our interview. Um, and then at the end of the day, I actually go through an audit all of my time. So, what I do is I track my time on toggle, I use Zapier to set up an automation that pushes my tasks and time logged into a spreadsheet.
Every day I go through every task that I’ve performed on a daily basis and that allows me to become just hyper-aware of how I’m spending my time.
And you know, if you’re trying to grow a business, um, and you’re spending, 75 percent of your day replying to emails and handling client communications, you’re not going to grow the business because those are tasks that are going to kill your growth and prevent your growth. So, by auditing your time and actually programming yourself to be aware of how you are spending your time, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be able to get those insights that you can then use to better spend your time and better leverage your time. That’s just a quick sort of exercise that I’ve been doing, you know, I wouldn’t say 100 percent of the time for the past few years, but it’s something that I’m very committed to. And um, you know, when you do that, you’re actually able to calculate the value that you generate per day. Um, and so you can reverse engineer your 90 day revenue goals to a daily value amount based on, you know, how many days you want to work per quarter and make sure that you actually know your own goals.
Juan: [06:54] Wow. Matt, that’s perfect. So, a lot of our listeners, they’re self-made professionals in the sense that they are able to change how much income they earn. So, they’re either entrepreneurs or they’re freelancers and that’s a community that you’re very familiar with because you’re growing in it or leading your own community in that space. How do you see the things that actually should be getting put into the things that should actually be getting tracked? So, you’re talking about tracking time, what actually should you be tracking? What should you be optimizing for as a freelancer, as a self-made professional as an entrepreneur?
Matt Kohn: [07:36] Yeah. Right. So, after about, after I quit my job really for like 10 months, I just like, I just hustled my ass off, right? I just worked 70 hours a week, 80 hours a week, 90 hours a week. And um, you know, that’s kind of the norm, like, you know, it, I know it, most people that quit their job, they just become antisocial, they bury their head in their work, but that’s not sustainable and not only that, but it’s like, you know, we didn’t quit our jobs to do that- we quit our jobs to have the freedom that we wanted and to have the life that we want, right? So, when it comes to like how to improve and optimize your time, after about 10 months, I hired a business coach, I went into a lot of debt and I was just desperate to find an answer, the answer wasn’t working anymore because I would have just crashed and burned even harder. [08:31] So I hired someone, he shared with me this principle of leverage, right?
So, every task that you do on a daily basis in a perfect world should create either more time or more money, right? When you can find which tasks are going to create either more time or more money, or ideally both, and you’re able to find tasks that create leverage, then you kind of can escape that, you know, those hundred-hour work weeks, right?
Because, you know, instead of replying to emails for three hours a day, you can set up a system that you can give to a virtual assistant and outsource that entire process, and boom, you just saved yourself three hours a day, right? So, those are three hours that you can put towards, okay, what’s my, what’s my sales funnel going to look like?’ You know, ‘what’s my marketing strategy?’ Um, you know, ‘what types of partnerships can I set up?’ Right? And you know, we’re in business and there’s only, you know, there’s only a sort of fixed amount of tasks that you can do, but things that create more time and more money are where you should be spending all of your time as the business owner. And, and the thing with most freelancers and independent consultants and coaches and that kind of stuff is they never break out of that, you know, they’re there consistently just trading their time for money without creating systems that create that leverage that they need to remove themselves from the business while also growing their income. When it comes to leverage creating tasks, it’s, you know, there’s sales, there’s marketing, there’s systems, there’s operations, and you want to think about, ‘okay, you know, instead of writing a brief to this designer, this developer, why don’t I just create a template that I can just reuse and repurpose over and over again.’ And, and you know, that’s kind of at a basic level, but then at a more advanced level, you can start leveraging a lot of different technology and automation to further automate this stuff. But, you know, for most people, just simplifying and systemizing, just very simple tasks can easily create, you know, five, 10, 15, 20 hours in your week on a, on a day-to-day basis.
Juan: [11:01] Wow Matt, that’s so many golden nuggets about how you’re thinking about this. I think this is very, very relevant to our audience. Uh, one more thing. You were talking there at the end about sales marketing systems and automation. Is there any advice that you have for where people can learn more about this or how they can kind of become pros at the same things that you’ve learned? Is it through hiring a consultant or is there any material that you can recommend?
Matt Kohn: [11:29] Um, where it all started for me, was like the Four-Hour work week, which I’m sure is how probably 90 percent of us got started or you know, got that picture in our heads of working from a laptop, living on a beach and all that good stuff. Um, so that’s good, but that book is also really dense and it’s also very potentially overwhelming. Honestly I think there’s not as many resources as there probably should be around these types of topics. I’ll just do a little self promo and send people into my face. So if you’re, you know, if you’re a freelancer or agency owner and you’re looking to get that leverage, that’s something that we talk a lot about. And that’s just differenthunger.com/fbgroup.
Um, and you know, we’re working around this. Um, but let me, let me think about some other resources. I think, you know, like I said, four-hour work week, that talks a lot about outsourcing and that kind of stuff. Process Street is a really amazing tool that I’ve been using, they have a really good blog. They probably have the best blog on systems that I’ve found, and they do a good job of really simplifying things. And another thing is it’s also really easy to get caught up in the systems and kind of use that as an excuse to not really be taking action.
And that’s something that I even have had to sort of check myself on, right, is you kind of sit back and you spend hours just creating systems without actually doing shit.
And so you know it, if that’s you, don’t let that be you because you know, if you don’t have sales, your business isn’t gonna grow, if you don’t have leads constantly coming in- one is to focus on getting leads and getting sales and then you can work on systemizing what’s actually working. And that’s something that I think even myself, it has held me back and it holds a lot of other people back is, you know you kind of hear like, oh, ‘systems and automation and it’s really sexy,’.
Unless you have that machine of cash flow, then you’re going to run out of cash and those systems aren’t going to get executed because you’re broke.
Juan: [13:48] Yep. You heard it here first, directly from that Matt Kohn. Just goes to show, I mean, as business owners, if we come from a corporate background and more focused on creating systems, which is something that we’re used to doing in the bigger companies, we’re focused on delighting the customer, which is something that we’re used to doing in a bigger company. You are making that the non-negotiable thing that you do in your business. We will absolutely, no matter what, build systems, we will absolutely no matter what delight the customer, but what you’re making a variable that you’re okay with – maybe we will, maybe we won’t – is making money, and the thing about running a business as it’s like the most important thing, you have to make more money than you spend and people really struggle with the morality of it.
Like is it okay for me to care about money more than delighting the customer more than building systems? Those things really matter. It’s just you have to care just a little bit more about running a profitable business.
If you want to stay in the game, and by the way, if you want to run a profitable business, you will care about delighting your customers and about scaling, so they’re not mutually exclusive. And if you can get over the fact that absolutely matters and that absolutely is the non-negotiable, then you’re able to scale your business and not stay in the hamster wheel of hustling. So, Matt, let’s do a quick show notes wrapup to understand all of your principals and your paradigms for how you are a top performer and maximizing your time.
So, Matt Kohn first asked mentors for professional direction and he got flooded with advice and the number one top trend that he learned from his network was that time matters, by realizing that he is mortal and that what he does with time matters, he started getting much more intentional about what he does with it. Actionable steps that he recommends include tracking your time. Most people don’t, and also Matt then at the end of the day, every day looks back at how he spent his time and assigns dollar values to each slot so that he can anchor how he’s actually spending time to revenue-generated activities or opportunities lost. He’s found that the answer is not working more, but rather finding tasks that create leverage. And this is very simple. Everything you do should create more time or more money and everything you do as a self-made professional should be in service of leveraging opportunities. So, if you’re not doing that, you’re not creating leverage.
There’s four things that Matt talked about: sales, marketing, systems and automation. They all matter for business owners in order to get out of the hamster wheel of hustling, but there are two major steps.
Step one is to care about leads and sales before caring about step number two, which is systems and automation. Matt, as you continue to grow and scale your agency and your career, what is the best place for people to stay in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Matt Kohn: [16:40] Yeah. So, Facebook is a good place to connect with me personally. And then as far as keeping up with the work that we’re creating, differenthunger.com is our website. We’re days away from launching the new and improved sexier website, it’s funny because I got featured on a youtube video where I was talking about like how to build an agency and my blog and website at the time was from when I was kind of building the agency and I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. So this guy was like, ‘who’s this guy to be telling us how to build a business, he just quit his job a few months ago and he’s, he doesn’t even know what the hell he’s doing?’ Um, so we redesigned the website and we fixed that issue. But differenthunger.com. And then as far as if you’re a freelancer or you’re an agency owner, go ahead and join our Facebook group of other freelancers and agencies that want to grow without working 100-hour weeks. And that again is differenthunger.com/fbgroup.
Juan: [17:50]. Excellent. Matt, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Yuval Rechter serves as the Head of Digital at First Media, a media company responsible for more than 25 billion views on Facebook and more than 68 million social media followers. Yuval and his team are behind the most-viewed video of all time on Facebook with over 400 million views and have done branded deals with Walmart, dollar shave club and Bed, Bath and Beyond among many others. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Every day define your most important tasks. Ask yourself what is going to make the difference today in our business. Focus on two or three things and don’t let yourself be reactive to emails as they come. Try to find two or three slots a day, 15 minutes each to make sure your inbox is empty. Everything else will be just done if there is any time left.
Do one task and do it very well. If a task can be done pretty fast and if you can get it off your day, then do it. But if it’s something where you need to put in the hard effort and do some research, don’t just do it. Set a time for yourself. Say ‘okay, this is the task I need to research, and this is what I’m going to do’.
Figure out if something is high impact or not:
Apply the 10X rule. Look for things with great potential. Put 10X more effort in order to get 10X less reward of what you really think could happen. This means if you want to get a million dollars, go after a business that has the potential of 10 million dollars.
The 85/15 rule. 85% is for existing businesses and 15% is for new potentials of the business. Sometimes it’s more important to just make sure that you work on the things that actually generate the money right now the company can still survive.
Juan: [1:22] What is something that you understand about time that our audience probably doesn’t that has helped you so much in your career?
Yuval: [01:28] So, I would say the major thing every day when I start my day is just five minutes before I step into our studios, into our office, I ask myself: what are the main two, three things that I’m going to achieve today? So, what are the high impact? What is the low impact and what is the high impact, I look for high impact.
What is going to make the difference today in our business?
So, should I work on a new product? Should I train someone? Is training today the most important thing, is HR policies is the most important thing today? I try to focus on two, three things and don’t let myself be reactive to emails into inbound text. So, basically, I am able to focus and make sure that I have two to three big tasks and not more than five, six tasks a day and leave myself some room for inbounds.
And I don’t look at emails as they come, I try to find about two or three slots a day, probably 15 minutes each to make sure that my inbox is empty and empty is a big word for me because I believe in the zero email strategy.
Juan: [02:35] Great. It sounds like your number one thing is actually being intentional about how you spend your time, like you didn’t say anything about doing things faster, doing things better, you’re just being intentional about, first of all, I’m not going to be reactive to emails. Second of all, I’m not going to be reactive to just what the day holds if there are any surprises. I’m specifically trying to get two or three things done first, and then everything else you kind of do for dessert based on how much time you have left, correct?
Yuval: [03:00] Right, exactly. So, I think it’s super important to do things right.
I’m not a great believer in multitasking. I actually don’t believe in multitasking. I believe that you should do a task and you should do it very, very well. If you create a task in a mediocre level, then basically that trickles down to the entire organization and then the entire organization working in a way that the tasks are not being done correctly.
If a task can be done pretty fast and if I can get it off my day, great. But if it’s something that I need to put a hard effort and do some research, I don’t just do it, I set a time for myself. I say ‘okay, this is the task I need to research, and this is what I’m going to do.’For example, you know, now we’re looking at, I’m selling Instagram stories, right? So, Instagram stories, do you want to look? So instead of just saying, ‘okay, let’s just sell Instagram stories and let’s just tell the salespeople to sell that,’ I took it upon myself to create a whole task about what is the product that we’re going to offer? What are the different Instagram stories that we’re going to offer? How can we be first media, the most innovative Instagram stories and product out there, and I think that’s the difference. Instead of just saying, ‘let’s just send three lines to the sales team,’ why don’t we create a real presentation, understand what’s out there and what’s performing the best.
Juan: [04:23] Do you have a framework or a process for how you actually figure out if something is high-impact or not? That sounds super high-impact. I mean, understandably so that’s one of the main core pillars of your business. But in general, how do you get into a new situation and figure out what’s the main high-impact thing that you need to knock out?
Yuval: [04:39] Right, so the first thing is scale, right? You want to make sure that there’s some scale and what you’re doing, right? So if I’m going to, let’s take a bad idea, right? If I’m going to start opening a page that already has a potential for three or four videos and the rest will be fatigue of the content, right? Because people kind of get used to that. Definitely, I don’t want to open a page, a Facebook brand or an Instagram brand that it will actually get tired after three or four videos. So, you want to make sure that this is a long-term value to the company.
Everything we do has to have a complexity that is doable.
Something that is doable. The second thing that has high potential in terms of long-term value, that has some defensible asset and is able to monetize in a big way. I really believe in the 10X rule, the 10X rule was, it’s always harder to create something and you need 10X amount of effort in order to create it and it’s actually going to come down to 10X less than what you thought it’s going to be.
If you want to get a million dollars, go after a business that has the potential of $10,000,000, right? So, you’re going to get the million dollars in the end and it’s going to be 10X harder to do that.
So, put 10X more effort in order to get 10X less reward of what you really think could happen. So in the end, you’re going to get a million dollars. So, when I look at a business, when we look at a business here, we always want to make sure that there’s enough potential in order to do that and the complexity is not that hard. The second thing is innovation, right? Everybody likes to say they want to be first movers, but are we sure we want to be first movers? Are we sure we want to be the most innovative, the most innovative has some major risks. I think one of the books that I really love is the hard things about hard things, and that talks about first mover versus second mover, if I’m not mistaken, it’s that book eight percent success to first mover, 40 percent to second movers. Actually, it was their originals. Actually the book is the originals.
Juan: The originals. Okay.
Juan: [06:51] That’s brilliant, so you’re looking at longevity, you’re looking at making sure that this is something that you can actually scale, you’re looking at opportunity to see if you can even monetize it and then if it’s passing all of these checks, then it sounds like something that now you pass into the final stage, it sounds like it’s going to be a mission-critical thing. It takes my main priority and then it’s one of the top three things you do on the day. How do you make sure that you’re also working towards future opportunities and not just doing it on a day-by-day basis? How do you think about that?
Yuval: [07:19] Right, so what I try to do is split my day, so operation and potential. I think it’s very important to not put too much of your day in potential. I think it’s very important to monetize and capitalize on the things that are actually generating money for you today. One of the risks is always talking about what is the next big thing? What is the things that I’m going to work on in a year, or in six months?
You have to pay the bills somehow so you better first of all, monetize what you’re doing right now and make sure make sure every division in the company knows what’s the core product of the company in this given moment.
Make sure that we monetize well. Make sure that we capitalize on all the inventory that we have. Is it stories? Is it branded content? Is it a tutorial? Is that ecommerce? First of all, capitalism what you’ve got. There’s a lot of money left on the table. Sometimes when people just say, ‘what about creating another asset?’ Another asset? Well, first of all, someone has to pay the bills for the existing customers, for the existing employees, and the second part always be ahead of the curve, right? So leave some spot in your day, 10 percent of your day to yes to read digiday and ad age and Ad Exchanger and Venture Beat. The problem is when people start reading Venture Beat for 40 minutes, for 40 percent of the day and saying ‘but I’ve seen this one in VR and AR and VR and triple VR, and the end of the day, if VR is going to be here in a few years, so we need to pay the bills somehow,’ Right? So be very careful and not being too advanced and too innovative. So, I think you have to find a really fine balance.
I like the 85/15 rule when I make sure that the 85 percent is for existing businesses, probably 15 to 10 percent is for new potentials for new businesses.
It’s very tempting and fun to talk about potential things, but it’s actually sometimes it’s more important to just make sure that you actually work on the things that actually generate the money and the company can still survive.
Juan: [09:25] That’s right.Perfect. Yuval, I want to thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. It sounds like your number one habit is being intentional about your time, not letting your life take control over your time, but you actually control your time. You’re intentional about how you put it. You put it in different buckets in order of making sure that it monetizes, that it’s actually scalable, that it’s something related to the core business. You’re making sure that you’re only spending about 15 percent of your time on moonshot opportunities and not spending all of your time on just exploring all the possibilities and getting distracted, which is why you’re able to build a profitable business that actually scales, build your team up into now I think you’re over 70 employees now, right?
Yuval: [10:05] Right. So, yeah, it’s doing well. You know, we worked with Walmart and we just did a Brendan blossom, did a Walmart video, a bed bath and beyond, shoprite dollar shave club, Halo Top. So, really working with brands is something super exciting. Then we’re building a really nice company here, so always looking for creators, for data scientists or analysts, salespeople. I will take this opportunity, so anyone that wants to join, just either add me on Linkedin, Yuval or just go to first.media.
Juan: [10:40] Perfect. All right Yuval, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder and CEO of Real Life E®, a time coaching and speaking company that partners with individuals on the journey from guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to accomplishing more with peace and confidence. Her first book was published by McGraw Hill, her second by Harvard Business Review, and her theird book by FaithWords. Elizabeth has appeared in Inc Magazine, TIME, Forbes, The Chicago Tribune and on NBC, ABC, and CBS. She is an expert in time management and productivity. Let’s hear more from her in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Elizabeth focuses her time management and productivity coaching on three key elements to time management: (1) clarifying action-based priorities, (2) setting realistic expectations and (3) strengthening simple routines.
Clarifying action-based priorities: Make sure you know what your priorities are and set up an order of your priorities. And then you need to translate those abstract priorities into tangible actions you can put on your calendar.
Setting realistic expectations: Learn how long certain activities take and be realistic. If you constantly overestimate how much you can get done every day, you might feel like you’ve failed while the only thing you’ve done “wrong” is that you set wrong expectations.
Strengthening simple habits: Every habit (both good and bad) has the power to compound in impact over time. For example, daily planning or weekly planning or even deciding when you exercise or how you make decisions about what you’re going to eat can help decrease the amount of time you have to spend on things because it’s already predetermined.
Juan: Elizabeth, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Juan: Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit of a kind of paradigms or structures that you use with your coaching clients that could be useful for our audience?
Elizabeth: Yes. I have written three books and my first book is called “The Three Secrets to Effective Time Investment” and I really in that book broke down what I consider to be the three key elements that I think are really important and so I’ll just outline those briefly here.
The first is around clarifying action based priorities. The second is around setting realistic expectations and the third is around strengthening simple routines.
If you follow those three areas, you’re really going to be in a place of having effective time investment and investing your time in what actually matters to you. Not just getting lots of things done.
Juan: That’s perfect. So, walk us a little bit through how that works. You’re, you’re being intentional about what you spend your time on, your setting up routines for it, strengthening the routines and what was the second one?
Elizabeth: Setting realistic expectations.
Juan: Realistic expectations. Can you walk us through how you do that?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So, the first is to clarify action based priorities and so I’ll talk you through exactly what that means. To me it’s obviously common sense, but to everyone else they probably haven’t heard of it. So it’s a two-step process. One, you want to be clear on what your priorities are because particularly in the culture we live in with so much technology, if you’re not clear on what want to accomplish, other people are more than happy to spend your time for you. So you want to make sure that you know, like, this is my priority to get done at work today or this is my life priority and that you have set up an order of priorities.
And then what makes them action based and this is really where a lot of people make mistakes, is that you need to translate those abstract priorities into tangible actions you can put in your calendar.
So, I’ll give a few examples. So, a lot of people listening to this podcast are entrepreneurs or people maybe with an entrepreneurial spirit. And in order to do that, you need to think about things like business development or strategy, but that’s very abstract compared to getting your inbox to zero or you know, accomplishing this project. And so, what you have to do is to translate that into an action. So, for example, I spent one hour a week on Wednesdays working on brainstorming ideas or reading articles in my field, or I’m talking with people about what I’m coming up with. And so, by translating that priority into an action in getting it in your calendar, you actually get a lot farther, a lot faster.
Juan: So, a question that I’d like to ask on these recordings is actually figuring out what your structure is to figure out what goes on your calendar and what doesn’t. Do you have a process for understanding of something should even go on your calendar or not when you’re creating those tasks?
Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a great question. A good thing to understand about me is I do time management coaching with people around the world, all different jobs, all different situations. And so, I just want to preface this by saying it depends, so I’m not someone to say everyone has to do it this way, but here are some general principles that I’ve found are really helpful for many of my clients. Um, so number one, if it’s a meeting you committed to, please get that on your calendar. You’d be amazed how many people try to just keep everything in their head, even calendar appointments. And so the more you can get on your calendar with reminders, the better. Secondly, there’s a couple of other categories of activities that I find to be really helpful for most people to have as a placeholder.
If there’s certain recurring routines like we had talked about, strengthening simple routines that you really want to see in your life, I highly recommend you get those on your calendar.
So, for example, I’m a huge advocate of weekly planning and daily planning. Have a recurring event, you know, Friday afternoon at 3:00, to do your weekly planning or have a little tickler even for 15 minutes to do your daily planning for leaving work. Or at the beginning of the day. So, for my clients, especially when they’re learning their routines, I want to see those as recurring events in their calendar because A, it helps them remember to do them in B, it reminds them, oh, it’s gonna take time to get those done. And then another category in this goes along with a part of setting realistic expectations is if you have a larger project, so I’m talking maybe something more than one hour, so like one hour or more, I recommend that you try to find a space on your calendar to get that done. Does that mean it will necessarily get done on that exact day, in that exact hour? Maybe, maybe not, but the idea is that if you have this larger project, you look at your calendar, there’s no free space like you’re in back to back meetings or you have all these things going on. It’s not going to get done, you know, or it’s not going to get done until late at night. And so, I recommend for those bigger projects, you find time, you try to get a block in your calendar because otherwise it’s just too easy to not have time in then beat yourself up because you’re not getting it done. Or secondly forget that that’s really important and just revert to answering email or doing other smaller tasks and then gets none of your day and be like, oh no, I never worked on that proposal and be really stressed out.
Juan: You probably find that this happens a lot with top performers and people that get perfection paralysis on something so they know it’s really important and because it’s so important, they want to batch it together and then do it when they have five, six, seven hours to knock out the proposal or the website or whatever the thing is. And so, it ends up not getting done at all because that time has never scheduled in advance. So, you never. You will never magically have the six or seven hours to work on that big project. And funny enough, some of the biggest things actually end up not getting done because we’re just waiting for us to magically … exactly for the perfect time to get it done.
Elizabeth: Exactly, exactly. And it also helps you be realistic if you see, I love to spend six hours, but when I look at my calendar, there’s only three, so I just need to do the best I can in three hours, make it happen and that’s good enough.
Juan: And that’s getting us into the second pillar for how you view time management, which is the setting of realistic expectations. Can you walk us a little bit through that one?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So in regards to that, I find that a lot of people really struggle with guilt and really struggle with overwhelm because they don’t have any realism around how much can fit in a day. And so, what that’s about is setting yourself up for success. So, if you’re a top performer, you do want to stretch. I’m not saying be lazy or don’t try hard or any of that, but you don’t want to set yourself up to feel like a failure constantly because you told yourself you’d get, you know, 40 hours of work done in eight hours and they were like, why can’t you get it all done? I’m so stressed out. So with this set realistic expectations, what I encourage you to do is either block in your calendar or if you prefer not to do that, when you do your daily to do list, try to do a little estimated time beside each item and then just see how it adds up and if you’re finding that you’ve got eight or 10 hours of work, but you also have four hours of meetings.
You might need to pare down your expectations of what you can accomplish in that day so you can actually feel good about what you get done and/or delegate or renegotiate expectations on that.
Juan: And Elizabeth, you probably find that it’s really important to even define what success looks like before you get into the scheduling and face of things. Right? So, before you even try to put the expected time, it’s actually figuring out what it is that you want to get done. It’s not answering emails for two hours or three hours because they were adjusting everything for the length of time. It’s actually for how many emails you want to knock out or conversation started or prospects that you follow back up with and then you put the expected time for however long you think it’s going to take to get back to 40 people, 50 people, whatever. Right? Otherwise, you’re constantly, like you said, you’re constantly going to be a feeling disappointed and guilty because you’re not getting to this unrealistic thing that you never actually defined what success for that project would look like. Right? And that just adds so much stress for these top performers and professionals that want to. They’re pushing themselves to the limit, but if you’re not defining success and you’re not able to be a good steward of your own time.
Elizabeth: Right, exactly.
Juan: I’m moving onto the third pillar that helps you do time management. We have clarified action based priorities. We have setting realistic expectations and then finally walk us through the routines.
Elizabeth: Yeah, so strengthening simple routines is basically about how to make your life easier and it’s funny because most of my clients are spontaneous people, so their natural desire is to go with the flow, like they don’t want routines, you know, they want to just like see what happens. They want to be reactive and they tend to be super smart and super talented so they can actually get away with this for a long time, but what anyone finds when you hit a certain level in your career, your business, your life, that eventually you get to the point you can’t act like that and not be stressed out. And so the idea of strengthening simple routines is that there are little things we can do, whether it’s daily planning or weekly planning or even deciding when you exercise or how you make decisions about what you’re going to eat.
That can really reduce the number of decisions that you have to make in a day and really decrease the amount of time you have to spend on things because it’s already predetermined.
You’re like, okay, I already know Monday morning this is what I do, or I already know this is when I work out or I already know like this is when I answer email and so instead of having to think, oh, what do I want to do next? Or like, oh, when am I going to exercise or how am I going to know what I’m doing for the day? You just know. And it really, I really think strengthening simple routines is one of the biggest capacity building exercises that people can do.
Juan: What do you do, Elizabeth? When a client comes to you and they say, well, my genius zone is a little bit of this organized chaos. It is just having the creative time that on my face I just get to do and less structure. What do you do there, do you say then just scheduled that creative time?
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s totally fine. The thing about planning and the thing about routines is it allows you to have more of that freedom and creative time because you’re not just constantly stressed out and you’re not like just barely making deadlines. You’re more free to have that creative time.
It’s not that everything needs to be structured, but you just need to figure out what are the key elements you need to have in your life in a day to day, week to week basis to be able to not be stressed about stuff that should not be stressful.
Like you shouldn’t be stressed out because like every night you have no food to eat because you never figured it out either going to the grocery store or like getting grocery delivery.
Juan: That is amazing. So let’s do a bit of wrapping up and show notes for everybody listening right now. These are some of the top principles that help Elizabeth work with top performers all around the world to maximize their time. The three pillars are to clarify action based priorities, setting realistic expectations and strengthening simple routines. To clarify action based principles, she translates everything and every goal into actions, and then she puts those tangible actions on the calendar. To figure out what goes on the calendar, she works through prioritizing meetings and daily and weekly recurring habits. Number two, on the setting realistic expectations, Elizabeth makes sure that clients are not dealing with guilt and stress because of unrealistic expectations by defining what success looks like for every project, and then reverse engineering how long each of those tasks will take and scheduling them in advance so that the clients are not caught off guard. And then the third pillar is to strengthen simple routines, so not everything needs to get structured, but you shouldn’t be stressed out by things that catch you off guard. So this is just being intentional about things that have to get done on a daily or weekly basis to make sure that clients and top performers are able to maximize their creative time, but that creative time is scheduled in advance and it’s not just crossing your fingers and waiting for the perfect moment to happen.
Elizabeth: Yes, exactly.
Juan: Elizabeth, anything I’m missing out? Does that pretty much sum the three pillars that you use?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I think that’s a great, great summary and what I would say is also not to get into all or nothing thinking, so not being like I have to have the perfect day or the perfect plan or the perfect routine or do my routine every day or I’m a failure and none of it works. Like just let yourself have these support you, have the structure work for you and it’s okay if you get off track one day or you get distracted, just get back on track as quickly as possible and it really can help you be a lot more successful and a lot less stressed.
Juan: There you go. Productivity masterminds. Give yourself some grace when you mess up. It’s okay as long as you keep anchoring yourself to productivity and maximizing your time. Elizabeth, as you continue to grow. Where’s the best place for us to stay in touch with your career and what you’re working on?
Elizabeth: Well, the best one place would be my website, which is reallifee.com.
Juan: Perfect. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing this with us.
Stever Robbins is a public speaker, author, workshop leader, executive coach and host of the successful Get-It-Done-Guy podcast which has been downloaded more than 36 million times. He has been featured in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ABC News and FOX News. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.[
80/20 rule: Understand that not all effort produces equal results and you can be doing something that is productive in the sense that it actually produces some kind of result, but it can be very low leverage.
Checklists: When working on a task that you’re going to do more often, create a checklist and write down each step. Next time you’re doing the task, just follow the steps and immediately look for ways to optimize and speed up the process. Bonus step: Once your process is optimized (and potentially automated) enough, decide if this task might be better delegated or outsourced to someone else.
Efficient vs. effective: Being efficient means that you are doing something using very little energy or very few resources to accomplish that task. Being effective means you’re doing the right thing. It is far better to be inefficiently effective than it is to be ineffectively efficient. If you’re very efficient, but you’re not doing the right thing, then you will get where you don’t want to be faster, which is not smart.
It’s up to you: ‘You have a fixed amount of time, you don’t know how much you have and every moment that you have you is up to you and your decision making to decide how you’re going to use it. So time management really all comes down to ‘what am I going to do with the next minute of my time?’
Juan: Stever, thank you for joining us. Welcome to the show.
Stever: Thank you.
Juan: Stever so, you know something about time that most people don’t and you must have figured by now some frameworks of productivity and time management. Can you walk us a little bit through how you think about time?
Stever: Sure. Well, it’s ticking and it is ticking regardless of whether or not you’re using it. Well, a lot of people think that time is divided up into neat little buckets like, oh, I want to talk about work life balance. There’s really no such thing like work life balance. You have a fixed amount of time, you don’t know how much you have and every moment that you have you is up to you and your decision making to decide how you’re going to use it. So time management really all comes down to ‘what am I going to do with the next minute of my time?’ And that’s the only question that there is and it’s all about how do you make the decision about what to do with that next minute. I mean there’s gazillions of different frameworks. I’ll just choose a couple that I think are especially important.
One is the 80/20 rule. Understand that not all effort produces equal results and you can be doing something that is productive in the sense that it actually produces some kind of result, but it can be very low leverage.
You can be producing some result that is only useful here and now. So for example, let’s say you are doing personal outreach to 200 people as part of a fundraising initiative and you sit down and you’re typing an email message to one of those people. That seems very productive, right? You’re taking action that’s gonna move you towards getting your fundraising by getting this person on board. However, unless all 200 people are highly, highly, highly individualized, that same time might be better spent creating a generic template with three or four customization slots in it where once you have that template created, which might take you four or five times as long as to write a single message, but once you have the template created, you basically hit whatever temp used the template button you have and it says, okay, ‘please enter the personalization paragraph for this person.’ You type that in and then you hit send and suddenly you have gone from 200 times, you know, say 10 minutes, which is a very low leverage activity of doing the individual emails. Now, instead, you’ve spent maybe 30 minutes developing the template, but it allows you to do the remaining 199 emails in maybe a minute and a half apiece and overall, even though the beginning takes longer, the whole task takes far, far less time,
Juan: Right. It’s the whole concept of spending more time sharpening the ax than just hacking away at the tree and then when you are actually cutting down the tree, it’s going to move on much faster because you’ve spent time on kind of preparing for the task. How do you find the opportunities for actually optimizing these things? Are you thinking in terms of batching work, it sounds like?
Stever: Oh Gosh. I think all kinds of different things. Since I started life as a computer programmer, the first 17 years of my career were spent doing nothing except figuring out how to modify and optimize processes, so I have a very, very large toolbox and how I do that, but the kinds of things I look for:
Any type of communication that is being done electronically can be templatized, whether it’s a mail merge in word or you can use an automated email system or you can even just use keyboard macros.
So text is always easy to templatize. Um, I have a concept that I discussed in my book which is ‘The Get It Done Guys: Nine steps to work less and do more’ and that I call resource books or resource manuals, I forget the exact phrase. It’s funny because this is something that I invented for myself and it seemed like an obvious idea and a lot of people don’t do it. In fact, almost no one does it, which is when I’m doing some new task that I haven’t done before, I get out a book, I get a blank notebook and I write down every step of the task as I do it and if I have to go back, I’ll insert little arrows and say, ‘oh, I forgot step the step between steps two and three.’ If a particular step of the task requires external information, I’ll write that right there in the notebook. So for example, if I’m learning how to edit a video and I want to add a title sequence to a video that I’m producing, I’ll write down, you know, one: launch Camtasia, two: pull the video in, three: move the video over to the right on the timeline, four: record intro sequence by pressing the record button, five: place intro, seek, etc. So, I go through piece by piece. If it does involve outside information like I, maybe I say go find clip art that I can use for the background of the title screen in my little resource book. And remember, this is a paper notebook that’s sitting next to me on my desk, I will actually write down, go to clipart.com or unsplash.com or whatever website I’m using to get the clip art so that- and I continued going through the process and by the time that I’m done, I now have a list of every step in the process and all of the resources that it took to be able to make that, to complete that process and to complete that task. So now, I have a step-by-step instruction for here’s how to edit a video and put my title screen on. Then we’ll do that a couple of times, so the next time that I need to do a title screen, I’ll follow the instructions in my book and I might find out like, ‘oh wow, I can combine these two steps because it turns out Camtasia has this great annotation feature’ or you know, ‘this step seems like a lot of work. I wonder if I can find a way to shorten it. Oh, I can because I can pre-render the title intro and I never have to do it a second time. I can then just pull it in as a separate video clip or whatever the pieces are.’
So I do the task a second time, this time I do it from my resource book and I’m looking for just ways to optimize and to speed things up.
Once I have all of that done and I have a list of steps that I know works, now I can either type that list of steps into an online checklist of some sort and checkvist.com is the particular tool that I use to record my checklists. And now next time I need to do this, I can just go to check this to pull up the process map of what I need to do and just go through step-by-step and check things off. Alternatively, I now have an online checklist. I can call a virtual assistant or I can hire somebody in the neighborhood, a kid or whatever. And if it turns out this is a task that is better delegated to someone else, now I can give them the checklist and walk through it with them the first time and then I’ll discover, ‘oh, what are the steps that were obvious to me and that they now have trouble with.’ So to me, if it said type in the title, but you know, type in the title and the name of the, of the video, to me, it’s obvious how to do that. And it will always say blah blah, blah video by Stever, but they won’t necessarily know that and I’ll watch them do it, and I’ll go ‘oh, what are the missing steps that were in my head, but I didn’t think to write down,’ I’ll add those to the checklist. Then voila, I have a complete checklist that this virtual assistant or this local neighborhood person can use to be able to do whatever the task is. And that is one system that is useful for finding opportunities, for streamlining, it’s useful for finding opportunities for delegating. It’s what I do and I find that it works really well.
Juan: No, that’s perfect. I guess to kind of sum that up in a pillar of success that Stever uses, I mean you are pretty much really into premeditated action, so by creating a plan for things that you know you’re going to do more than once, you can find opportunities for optimization. If you’re letting every task catch you off guard and you’re always reacting as opposed to being proactive to tasks that you already knew you were going to do more than once, then you won’t be able to create processes that you can hire or outsource to them be able to do more quickly. So, it’s all about actually being intentional, right?
Stever: I want to clarify something because you’re saying preplanning. I’m not saying preplanning, I’m saying the first time you do the task, just write the steps down as you encounter them so you’re not preplaning the first time through. It’s your diary of the steps that you took that becomes your plan for the second time through.
Juan: Gotcha. Okay.
Stever: Because you don’t necessarily know the plan in advance, you don’t know ‘oh, this person is going to forget to type my name as part of the title,’ you have to find that out. It’s just as you find it out, write it down so you never have to do it, you never have to find it out a second time.
Juan: That makes a lot of sense. When you work with clients, Stever, do you typically consult them on doing this, getting in the habit of doing this for every action? Or, is this specifically for actions that you know you’re going to be taking more than once?
Stever: Oh, this would only be for actions you’re taking more than one, otherwise it’d be since the first time through, you’re just writing stuff down for you.
Stever: I don’t know that would give you any benefit. I’ll tell you, that’s one of my personal trapdoors, is I have a tendency to want to try to automate everything even if it’s something I’m only going to do once. There are a number of times as I have created very elaborate and fabulously, theoretically, pure systems that could absolutely do the thing that I only needed to do the thing once. So, the fact that I created the system was actually no help whatsoever.
Juan: Right. Oh my gosh, that’s super relatable. I think we’ve all gone through that creating complex systems. Stever, walk me through any one last thing that you typically find is very helpful when you work with self-employed clients that are looking to optimize their time. Is there anything else you teach them about time management?
Stever: Oh, I’ll tell you what, the number one thing that most people don’t understand is the difference between being efficient and being effective. Being efficient means that you are doing something using very little energy or very few resources to accomplish that task. Being effective means you’re doing the right thing and it is far, far better to be inefficiently effective than it is to be ineffectively efficient.
And what I mean by that is if you’re very, very efficient, but you’re not doing the right thing, then you will get where you don’t want to be faster, which is not smart.
So, most people don’t spend their time to make sure that they are concentrating on the action that’s really going to move them forward. I’ll give you a personal example, which is one of my, again, another one of my personal trapdoors. Since I spent the first 17 years of my career as a programmer, I have a tendency to get hijacked by technology. So, for example, I’m putting up a bunch of tools, videos for the current, “Get It Done” group that I’m running, and I find it very, very easy for me to get sucked into, ‘oh, as long as I’m on this page of my website, I can redo the layout’ and ‘look, there’s this new plugin that I can add in.’ And I end up doing stuff and I could, in some abstract world, justify it. I can say, ‘look, the page looks better now, it’s easier for my students to navigate,’ you know, I did this useful thing, but the reality is that’s not the thing that’s going to move the business forward. The page as it was worked perfectly well and the fact that I can move it from 89% effectiveness to 93% effectiveness is just not relevant to the business. If I had spent that very same amount of time putting together an advertisement or calling a prospect, it would’ve made a heck of a lot more sense. So, know at the risk of showing that I’m not perfect. That’s one that I always am personally struggling with.
One of the things I do is I put a post-it pad on my screen every morning, a little sticky note that just says: here’s the top priority for the day.
So, when I do get hijacked by something, as soon as my eye runs across that the sticky note, I go ‘right, I’m supposed to be working today on say, building my mailing list or whatever as opposed to editing videos.’
Juan: No, that makes a lot of sense. There you have it, productivity mastermind. Stever is a productivity expert and consults self-employed professionals to make sure they’re getting the most out of their time, by not just focusing on being effective, I’m sorry, efficient, but also being effective to make sure that they’re not getting to where they don’t want to be faster, but rather working towards getting to where they actually do want to be. He helps professionals create plans in tandem while they’re doing them for things that they know they’re going to do more than once, so that they can hire or outsource them in the future and be much better with their time. Thank you Stever so much for coming on the show.
Mike Vardy is a productivity expert best known as host of the Productivityist Podcast. He is a coach and consultant for top professionals on the topics of time management, goal setting, work optimization and more. Mike’s work has been covered by Lifehacker, Fast Company, Success, and The Huffington Post. Let’s hear more from him in this episode of Productivity Masterminds.
Productivity equation. Productivity = Intention + Attention. Mike defines productivity as an interplay between Intention and attention: what is your intention and how are you going to pay attention to it? If you have intention with no attention, it’s powerless. The problem a lot of people have is that they have attention with no intention, so it’s aimless
Slowing down: The only way you can figure out what your intentions should be is by slowing down and becoming more self-aware. This will yield greater results than just hustling away.
Day theming: Instead of managing every minute of your day and overly focusing on quantitative data, i.e. trying to check off as many boxes as possible, Mike uses the framework of ‘day theming’. Every day of the week has a theme, e.g. Mondays are for planning and at the end of the day he assesses if he focused most of his day on that specific theme.
No one-size fits all: You need to have a framework in place but there’s not one system where if you don’t follow it, then you’re not doing it right. Try and experiment with different frameworks and approaches and see what works for you.
Juan: Can you give us a little bit of context about how you got here career-wise? What’s your story?
Mike: So, back when I was just working a day job, I was working at Costco for a long period of time, I started to learn how to balance my time because I was working in one area of the warehouse and I was in charge of another area of the warehouse, so I had to really be good at kind of understanding the amount of time I had available to me as well as the amount of energy I had available to me too, and different types of businesses. So, eventually I left Costco, I was there for over a decade and I ultimately decided that I wanted to start exploring a comedy career. I was starting to explore that kind of stuff. And what happened was, is that understanding of time management and personal productivity came into play. And long story short, what happened was, is by using all those tools, I became more obsessed with productivity. So, I started to study the David Allen’s, the Steven Covey’s, all of the modern contemporaries in the space, and then ultimately I ended up doing a productivity parody site called ‘Eventualism’, so I was making fun of the genre for a long period of time. And then I did a podcast, so I’ve been podcasting for about 10 years now. And I did a episode with a bunch of different, like Seth Godin and all those guys and brought David Allen on the show. And David Allen was, you know, the father of getting things done, the creator of Getting Things Done, the GTD methodology. And he said, ‘you know, we want to get you to maybe write for the Getting Things Done blog,’ even though I was making fun, like being a satirist. And what happened was I eventually became the very thing I was parodying. So I became a product – I went from being a productivity parodist or satirist to now a productivity strategist and even a philosopher, to a certain extent. So, that’s been a long journey, it’s been about a 10 year journey.
You know, it’s funny, the people that I talk to look up to him now. Now, you know, I’m kind of in their peer category, which is kind of neat.
Juan: Sure. That’s amazing. It’s super funny, you actually started this from, it sounds like an academic approach first, like studying productivity, but actually out of necessity, if listening back to the early part of your story, it was out of necessity, you were balancing a lot of projects, then started doing the parody, then realized that you actually, by doing the parody you probably had to consume a lot of the content to even realize what to make fun of and how the industry actually works. And next thing you know, you’re actually an expert in the field because you’ve actually gone through and had all these conversations, talked to so many people. Now you’re a productivity expert, you’re running on multiple brands with both your personal brand and then the Time Crafting brand Productivityist. What is it about time that you know that most don’t? You certainly understand how to prioritize tasks, how to turn down opportunities. How do you think about time in general?
Mike: So you know, having come from a comedy background, I used to look everything through a comedic lens. It’d just kind of like that Jerry Seinfeld bit in his movie ‘comedian’ where he says he goes into a bathroom on an airplane and then he sees the razor disposal unit instead of thinking, ‘oh well, you know, someone just has-they forgot to change their blade, the blade was dull,’ he’s thinking ‘who’s shaving so much that they’re going through blades on a plane?’ I kind of look at everything through a time management or productivity lens now and, I think that there’s an element of personal productivity and time management that is timeless. If you look back at even a hundred years ago, Arnold Bennett writing the book ‘How To Live On 24 hours A Day,’ those lessons still apply today. And then you go back to things like stoicism and you know, like they were distracted back then. They talked about focus. So, you know, I think that for me, what I’ve discovered over my years of studying this is that the way time management works hasn’t really changed. Sure, some of the technology showed up and the tools are there, but the tools will only take you so far. You need to have a framework in place and we do have more control over our time than we think we do, I mean things like confirmation bias and over-choice and all of these things present themselves. But, if you take a step back and slow down for a second, you really get some perspective. And I think the thing I know about time management that- people that study it know, but that I’ve really embraced, is that
In order to really manage your time well, it’s about intention and attention.So, what is your intention and how are you going to pay attention to it? And the only way you can figure that out is counter-intuitively slowing down.
It’s funny, I have this timer device and I’ve actually put my themed days, so I’m not measuring like very specific activities. I’m measuring like ‘am I spending most of Wednesday doing audio work because that’s the daily theme? Am I spending most of Friday doing deep work?’ So, I’m not getting super fine quantitative data, I’m getting broader data, like ‘did I spend most of Friday doing?’
Juan: You’re holding yourself accountable. That’s a top performer. You’re holding yourself accountable to whether or not you’re actually doing the things that whenever you were slowing down and taking the time to plan out your week, are you actually doing that or are you just letting the hustle and bustle of every urgent email that lands in your inbox take control over your time?
If you try to manage every little bit of minutia, you ended up being very quantitative, which means you try to check off as many boxes as possible, but instead you should take a step back and go ‘do I even need to check off all of these boxes? Could someone else help me?’
So, I think the funny thing is with personal productivity and time management and you know, basically intention management and attention management what you need to do is, is oddly enough, slow down, become self-aware, do things like journaling, which I think is a hugely undervalued element of productivity because you get to see how you, not just what you did on the day by looking at the calendar, but how you felt, whether your emotions got in the way or got the better of you or whether you embrace them and they pushed you forward. I think that we need to spend more time and invest more time on that kind of thing than trying to check off as many boxes as possible, because that’s not really a human approach and really ultimately, that’s what we all are, we’re human beings.
Juan: Yeah, and you know wow, really, really great stuff that you’re sharing here, Mike. I think that’s something that really spreads across industries and disciplines. As technology gets better and as more tools pop up, we really get into like the shiny object syndrome of, ‘well, what’s the better tool for project management? What’s the better tool for communication? What’s a better tool for…’ and you know, do you think the Romans had trello? Do you think Alexander the Great was sending messages on slack, like they figured it out somehow and so it just goes to show a lot of the principles still stand true and I love your approach of it’s about being intentional, it’s about controlling your attention, it’s about slowing down and planning out what it is that you’re even doing with your time, as opposed to just trying to find the next tool that helps you do things faster. It’s like, should you even be doing the thing actually, and if you could just delete things from your to-do list, you’re going to be able to spend more time and be more productive essentially by doing less!
Mike: Yeah, and I think the danger is that we often by theming my time, that’s an element of time crafting I now have, you want to put yourself in a position where you have sensible defaults in place. So for example, if you don’t do something today, the natural default is to say, ‘well, I’ll do it tomorrow,’ but for me, because I have like audio day is Wednesday, if I don’t get all my audio done today, the natural default for all the audio goes to the following Wednesday. Now, sure, there might be a couple of things that need to be done before that, but it’s not all or nothing. If you put these in place because you’ve got this part of your brain that is very, very primitive, right, it’s the shiny object one, it’s the one that wants to, and then there’s the part that’s got the higher reasoning, the prefrontal cortex. You need to give that prefrontal cortex enough ammunition so that it can combat that primitive part of your brain has been there forever. So, doing things like theming your days, working by modality to say, ‘hey, you know what?’
Not fighting your body clock like, so many people out there say, ‘well, I guess I better be a morning person because morning people are most productive.’ I’m a night owl. You catch me first thing in the morning and I am doing all the low-energy stuff.
All the low-hanging fruit, because later in the day, that’s when I’m better at doing the creative, the heavy lifting stuff. So, there’s no one size fits all, but you need to have some kind of framework in place because frameworks foster freedom, tools don’t, frameworks do.
Juan: That’s amazing. Mike, what is the best place to start getting information about these frameworks? How have you learned that? Is it a lot of reading? Is it through personal experiences, is it experimenting with different frameworks?
Mike: All of that.
Juan: How do you find what works for you? All of it. All of that, and then coming obsessed with the topic in general, right? It’s like if you just believe enough in that this stuff works and that time management can be optimized, you’ll be able to find the solution. It’s not just one book.
Mike: Well, what’s funny is that the term ‘Productivityist’ is was a Portmanteau of productivity and enthusiasts. So, I was really into it. I was like a hobbyist and then I became more of a specialist, which means I knew all of the different- like I knew getting things done and I knew the Eisenhower Matrix and I mean I know all those, but then I became a strategist because now I have my own methodology that I teach, right? Which, I’ve drawn inspiration from other areas clearly, but things like, you know, theming your time, making journaling a real clear part of your practice, I think those things are not maybe not uniquely relevant, you know, parts of time crafting, but they certainly are part of it in a grander sense.
And the thing is, is I don’t believe that there’s one system where if you don’t follow it, then you’re not doing it right.
I don’t like that idea of ‘hey, you’re not doing a review every week, so therefore you’re doing it wrong,’ or ‘you’re not using this matrix every time you make a decision, so you’re doing it wrong.’ I mean for what I teach is look, if you want a different theme every day of the week, that’s going to help. If you only want one theme, one that’s still going to help. If you want a journal in the morning versus evening, like I think that you can, you have to figure out what works and that takes, like you said, experimentation, reading. The reading I’ve done has more or less supported the fact that we need to have some system that has an element of timelessness to it because time has not really changed all that much. Sure, what we do with that time and what occupies that time has changed, but time really hasn’t really sped up all that much, at least not that a human being can sense over the millennia, right? So, I think that it’s important to say, ‘hey, this works for me, this doesn’t,’ and being able to put that framework together and customize it for yourself. I mean like we were saying, I use the Timeular one way, somebody else might use it in another. People were using paper planners again, there’s a real renaissance with paper planners over digital ones. Why? Because the problem with being in a digital platform is that you’re always connected, not necessarily to yourself either. Whereas a paper planner, it’s not going to ping you. It’s not going to give you a notification. It’s not going to crash on you. You’re going to look at it and go, you’re better connecting with what matters to you.
So ultimately what you want to do with any kind of approach to time management, productivity and all this stuff is you want to be able to define your day, funnel your focus, and ultimately make every moment matter.
Not every minute matter, but every moment matter because you’ve never heard of a minute of this occasion. You’ve heard of momentous occasions because moments are qualitative, minutes or quantitative. You need to be able to marry those two together, which is why I think time management, task management are two different things, I think intention management and attention management.
Once you marry intention and attention, once you marry time and task, that’s personal productivity.
Juan: Fire, fire content, Mike. That’s amazing. I love that framework. Just the way you think about time is, I think, the way really any top performer that is trying to achieve that is this relentless pursuit of excellence in any discipline, music, sports, you know, fitness, whatever it is. You kind of in the early stages have to give yourself some grace as you dropped the ball on things and anchor your identity to the fact that I do care about productivity. I am a fit person. I do eat healthy. The moment that you are like a little bit on the fence and you dropped the ball three times or five times in, you immediately pull back and you’re like, ‘oh, I’m not a musician. I don’t do fitness.’ And then you just stop going to the gym. What you’re saying is a bit of grace of like there is no perfect framework, you basically just have to become obsessed with these truths and principles that stand the test of time. It’s nothing new. It’s not, ‘I’m not trying to sell you this new tool or app that you download’ and if you just internalize that and you start building out those daily habits over time, then I guess you get to your point which is you’re actually batching out time daily and you’re optimizing and now you’re able to tweak much, much, much more granularly. But, it all has to start with you giving yourself grace at the beginning to dropping the ball sometimes and being okay and auto-defining yourself to note ‘but I do care about productivity, I do care about making the best of my time.’
Mike: Well, and that’s why I call it ‘time crafting’ because a craftsperson never really stops trying to get better. Someone who wants to get better at their craft are always fine tuning, but they’re using their hands. I mean there’s a difference between assembly and craft, right? You know what I mean? And it’s always going to be evolving, right? So I think that the great thing is you can add bits and pieces. If you’re going to be a golfer, if you want to learn how to golf, and I don’t know how to golf. Oddly enough, I wrote a book called ‘the front nine,’ in which I use golf as a metaphor. I’m a terrible golfer, bad, bad metaphor for me, but the point is, is that you’re not going to be able. I mean, most people say, ‘oh, if I get this tool, it’ll do it for me,’ but the best golfer could have terrible clubs and beat the worst golfer with the best clubs because it’s about craft. And it takes time. I mean, you see people as they spend more time, they get better at it, and maybe not necessarily better in terms of faster, but they understand, ‘hey, well maybe I don’t need to do this, that I can go around this corner rather than trying to do all this stuff.’ And I think that the interesting thing you mentioned about top performers is that there’s almost two types. There’s the ones that go 150 miles per hour all the time. And the quote, I guess you could say ‘hustle.’ And then there’s the ones that go that go deep and they do fewer things, but they do them incredibly, incredibly well. I don’t like the term ‘hustle’ because hustle implies that you’re, always going like, it’s just constant. I prefer the term ‘lively,’ like be lively in everything that you do because that’s sustainable. I don’t think hustle is sustainable, and I think that you want to be able to have a framework in place that is sustainable.
That’s why when I talk about time crafting, it’s the idea of it being simple, flexible and durable. I don’t say it’s easy, because it’s a mindset shift. What I talk about is often like a shock to the system, it’s a shocking of the system.
But it’s simple because if you think about it, most people are already theming their time already. Like you probably have a day where you do laundry. Right? And when you do laundry, you’re probably doing housework. And oddly enough, I can say to people, ‘so when you do laundry,’ ‘oh, I did it Saturday when I do housework inside.’ ‘So what you’re saying is Saturday is like kind of like your household day.’ ‘Yeah.’ Yeah, you’re already doing theming to a certain extent, right? And it’s flexible because you can move things around. And it’s durable because it can stand the test of time, like you will always have some form of household chores to do. You will always have planning to do, which is another one of my theme days. You can approach it without feeling overwhelmed with the tools and the minutia because it gets you keyed in on those intentions that you have and then the only thing you need to put in place is, ‘okay, I intend on writing a book, how am I going to pay attention to that?’
Because if you have intention with no attention, it’s powerless. The problem a lot of people have is they have attention with no intention, so it’s aimless. They’re just doing things for the sake of doing things.
Juan: Mike, thank you so much for sharing this knowledge with us. This is amazing. This is perfect, perfect, perfect knowledge. Something that’s very applicable, I think for all of us, no matter the industry, really. You’re doing a lot of things right now online, what’s the best place for people to stay in touch with what you’re doing and follow up on your career?
Mike: So, I put together a link for you guys and if you go to PM podcast, so productivityist.com/pmpodcast, you’ll be able to grab a bunch of stuff. This is a lot of stuff like, you know, I mean people are gonna have to go back and listen to this, go ‘what? What the what?’ Again, I shocked the system a little bit. So, you can go back and all the stuff I talked about and there’s some freebie stuff in there and that and, and all my social stuff is there. So, just go to productivityist.com/pmpodcast and it’ll be all there. We are rebranding as Time Crafting right now we’re in the throes of doing that, so it’ll just redirect to there eventually. But productivityist.com/pmpodcast is where you should go.
Juan: Can you spell productivityist, is it productivity-i-s-t, right?
Mike: You got it. You got it. Yeah.
Juan: Okay. Productivityist.com. Perfect. Thanks so much for coming on the show.