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My Daily Productivity Routine

Time LostI’ve been asked by a number of people recently “How do you find the time…” to blog, to stay in touch with people, to travel, etc.

The reality is that I don’t have any more hours in a day than anyone else, but I’ve built some routines over the years that support me focusing on the important over the unimportant. The truth is also that I’m a lazy person, prone to procrastination – so if I didn’t build a system or a structure to my day to enable me to get things done – I’d be content being busy being busy but not actually productive.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share what a typical day looks like for me and how I structure my typical workday with my daily productivity routine.

  • 0600-0615 – I wake up, aided by the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock App on iOS which wakes me up when I’m naturally ready to and a Lumie Bodyclock which provides some natural light to persuade me to actually leave the warmth of my bed.
  • 0615-0700 – I subscribe to the theory of Decision Fatigue and so make my breakfast routine fairly uniform. I have Cats who insist on some morning fuss (which always brings a smile to my face, however grumpy I am when I get up) before naturally being fed as an utmost priority. While the moggies are chowing down, I take some vitamins and minerals with 500ml of very cold water out of the fridge. I then cook 3 Eggs, scrambled, with some tomatoes, baby leaf salad, chopped up Spring Onion and Saur Kraut, washed down with a cup of Green Tea and Lemon, all while watching an inspiring TED talk or something else from my YouTube “Watch Later” list on my iPad.
  • 0700-0730 – I read a chapter of a book that inspires me.
  • 0730-0800 – I take a normal warm shower before 2-3 minutes of an ice cold shower which wakes me up like a fog-horn. I do some stretches, a short free weights routine and then use some focused breathing techniques for a few minutes while using a Medinose.
  • 0800-0830 –  I use the Pomodoro technique for 25 mins and focus on my most important piece of writing – either a blog post or a chapter of my book.
  • 0830-0900 – I use the Pomodoro technique for 25 mins again to work on whatever is on my “3 important things to do today” list (more on that later)
  • 0900-1000 – I do some admin and empty my inbox. I don’t check my email until I’ve worked on two important things. I’m a GTD evangelist and always aim to be Inbox Zero, so if the email takes 2 minutes or less then I deal with it, otherwise I delegate it, defer it or create an action to take later on. If I finish email in time I’ll browse Google+ and Twitter.
  • 1000-1130 – Typically client meetings. I no longer take meetings of any sort on a Monday and use the day to focus exclusively on my own business development, and I don’t work Fridays at all. Tuesday through Thursday I have slots for client meetings between 1000-1130 and 1400-1530 and Wednesday morning between 0900-100 and 1600-1700 I keep available to speak with other people.
  • 1130-1200 – I take myself out for a 30 minute walk while listening to an inspiring and educational Podcast (here are some recommended Podcasts for IT business owners).
  • 1200-1330 – I typically do some more email (I use Sanebox and so often start to make a dent on non-client emails that have been filtered to my @SaneLater folder), respond to Social Media notifications and make phone calls.
  • 1330-1400 – Lunch – most likely a couple of Chicken Breast fillets with some vegetables. I’m a lazy bum and use the individual bags of Microwave vegetables to minimise my urge to grab something unhealthy to snack on instead. I typically watch some TV on the PVR over lunch – Eastenders and Family Guy are two guilty pleasures.
  • 1400-1530 – Typically client calls.
  • 1530-1700 – Work on the important. Then Make phone and Skype calls. Return voicemails. Inbox zero. Then Social Networking. I’ve also been known to grab 30 minutes relaxation and hypnotherapy with Paul McKenna, if I’m feeling uninspired or low in energy. I close out the day by writing down 3 things (no more than 3) that are important for me to achieve the next day. This means I close down the day knowing what I’ll be working on the next day.
  • Evening – I typically then cook dinner while watching something on my iPad in the kitchen and wind down. I’m a morning person so I’m often to bed by 10pm each night. Not quite the Rock star image I actually imagine myself as.

That’s a typical weekday and the routine I strive to maintain. In other words a “perfect” productive day. That happens most of the time but there are always interruptions and external demands on my time which disrupt this. I work hard to deflect those interruptions or work with them on my terms.

I’m not suggesting the above is perfect for everyone, but for those who have asked – that’s what works for me. Think of it as this lazy slobs attempt to cultivate healthy habits.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below. What does you routine look like?

 

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Friday Favourites – 7th June, 2013 – To Do List Tools Special!

To-Do ListOn a Friday I try to post my favourites from the week – links to cool content and tools that I’ve found or had recommended to me.

Yesterday I wrote about why you should create a To NOT Do list, buto in this week’s “Friday Favourites” I want to focus on To Do list tools.  Those cool tools that help you organise your life and get more stuff done!

  • AllThings.IO – Create shareable lists for all your things. An easy to use and powerful cloud-based app designed to help you organise your personal and business life. Many of you from the IT industry will know and respect David Hay who is involved in this new project, and we wish him the best of luck with the very cool looking AllThings.IO!
  • Any.DO – A beautiful and easy to use “To Do” list manager for iOS and Android, with integration into Chrome. If you’re looking for a simple, easy to use To Do list – Any.Do may be it. Thanks Vaughan Shayler of CompTIA for the heads-up!
  • Remember the Milk – Online To-Do list and Management. Available for PC, Mac, Android, Blackberry and iOS as well as integrations with Google Apps, Outlook, Twitter, Evernote and more. Never forget the milk (or anything else) again!

Do you have any cool content or tools to share with me? Why not e-mail me, Tweet me, or share with me on Google+ and I if I feature them in my blog you can be sure to give you credit!

Have a great weekend! Smile

 

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Why You Should Create a To NOT Do List

To NOT Do ListPart of the work I do with the owners of IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) is inevitably based around time management and productivity. I say inevitably, because for all of us trying to grow a business – there are too many things that need to be done, and not enough time to do them.

With the fact being that the number of hours in a day isn’t about to increase anytime soon, you need to learn how to cut out the unimportant and focus on the important activities that will move you forwards.

I teach business owners about GTD, I share with them techniques on how to manage e-mail, and talk about being in the moment.

But the biggest challenge? Giving up the un-important. Discarding those things you shouldn’t be doing. Breaking the time-eating habits you’ve formed.

The Not To Do List

Many of us have “To Do” lists. I’m now suggesting we should also have “To NOT Do” lists that might feature:-

  • Do NOT check e-mail until you’ve completed an important task
  • Do NOT check e-mail more than twice per day
  • Do NOT look at Twitter more than once an hour
  • Do NOT look at Facebook until after work
  • Do NOT eat your lunch at your desk
  • Do NOT schedule meetings back-to-back

Conclusion

There are plenty more, and you will probably have a list that looks different to mine, but by creating a To NOT Do list and writing out the activities you know aren’t productive, you’ll be going a long way towards becoming more aware of those “tasks” that actually do little good and in reality eat time that is better spent elsewhere.

 

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Friday Favourites – 26th April, 2013

Thumbs Up On a Friday I try to post my favourites from the week – links to cool content and tools that I’ve found or had recommended to me. Cool stuff I’ve found this week, ending 26th April, 2013:-

  • NeedTagger - NeedTagger uses natural language processing to identify customer engagement opportunities on Twitter that matter to your business. Let NeedTagger know about your business, and it will then monitor for and e-mail you with any opportunities.
  • The Secret Weapon – A no-nonsense approach to personal productivity using Evernote and your e-mail client to follow the GTD time management philosophy. Thanks to Bruce Penson at ProDrive IT for the link!
  • TOSDR.org – Do you ever read the Terms of Services (TOS) of software or web-sites? No, most of us don’t. TOSDR (Terms of Service, Didn’t Read…) rate and label the TOS on web-sites to help you understand what you are actually agreeing to!

Do you have any cool content or tools to share with me? Why not e-mail meTweet me, or share with me on Google+ and I if I feature them in my blog you can be sure to give you credit! Have a great weekend! Smile photo credit: soundfromwayout via photopin cc

Why you should write down your goals

Writing down goalsI’ve talked before about “How to set your New Years Goals and make sure you achieve them!”. I mentioned in that blog post about how I find writing goals down helps me to achieve those goals.

I thought I’d share with you how I create and track my goals on an on going basis in the hope you might find it useful to help your own goal setting.

Write everything down

Firstly, I write everything down – I’ve long since learnt not to try and keep goals just in my head. The act of writing down my goals helps me to feel more committed to achieving them.

Here’s a list of the different types of lists I keep for those written goals.

The Life Plan

Life Plan – I keep a Word document, broken down into specific areas (Professional, Health and Wellness, Friends and Family, Financial, Personal, Contribution) with each area containing a list of Commitments – i.e. What I want to achieve (“I will spend more time with my friends and family”), an Execution Plan – i.e. the steps I’ll take to achieve this goal (“I will invite friends and family around for dinner at least once per month”) and Key Measurements i.e. A check on whether I’m achieving the goal or not (“Did I invite friends and family around for dinner at least once per month”?”).

This Life Plan is more a “high-level” view of my personal and professional goals on an on-going basis, which I review and tweak once per quarter (there’s a calendar reminder set for me to do this quarterly so I don’t forget) and includes a “Bucket List” – all those “someday” things I’d like to do, but don’t have an immediate time-scale or plan for. For me it contains things like “Take a trip to Japan”, “Fly in a Hot Air Balloon” and the like. Interestingly, I’ve noticed since I’ve been keeping a written “Bucket List” as opposed to just keeping those ideas in my head that I seem to be ticking items off that bucket list more frequently than before, after doing them spontaneously over time.

The quarterly review of my Life Plan means I’m conscious of what I’m doing well, and reminds me to step things up on those goals I’ve not been giving attention to.

The Task List

  • Task List – Everything that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis goes into Microsoft Outlook Remember The Milk. I like RTM for it’s simplicity, but you might use Microsoft Outlook or, if you want to share your tasks with others, AllThings.io. Often, these tasks are routine daily jobs such as telephone calls to make and errands to run, but they also contain project tasks – individual “slices” of much larger tasks from my Life Plan above (remember the “Salami” technique I mentioned for breaking down big goals?) Thanks to my Smartphone, I’m connected to Remember The Milk (RTM) from just about anywhere – so reviewing information I’ve entered becomes easy.

Because I’m a fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, I use GTD for Outlook from Netcentrics find that customising the RTM with specific categories works best for me. I have categories like “@Errands” to remind me of little jobs that need to be done, “@Calls” so I have a list of Telephone Calls I need to make, and can make them in batches, and “@Home” – stuff I need to do around the house. You’ll need to find whatever the categories that work for you, but again, the key is to “write down” this information somewhere so that it’s out of your head and on a list. It’s surprising how much energy you waste repeatedly subconsciously telling yourself to “remember to do that”. Once it’s out of your head and on paper, that nagging voice quietens down.

The To-Do List

  • Daily “To Do” List – Every day I take a minute or two to think about what I need to do for the day, and then write 2-3 important things down on my “Things to do today” paper notepad, sat on my work desk. These are the 2-3 things that, if I got NOTHING else done today, I’d feel satisfied and productive having achieved those things.

I then follow the “Worst First” mantra – avoiding e-mail, Facebook and Twitter until I’ve got the first item on that list done and dusted. However many distractions I get for the rest of the day, I’ve at least done something productive already!

Pen and PaperOld Fashioned Pen and Paper

  • Paper Notepads – Electronic Gadgets such as Smartphones are good for staying connected, but there’s nothing as quick as writing something down with pen and paper. I find the act of getting the idea/note/to-do out of my head and on to paper reduces my stress levels. I therefore keep notepads just about everywhere I ever am. On my work desk. In the living room. In the Kitchen. In the study, and even by my bedside. If you’re like me and can’t get to sleep because something is on your mind – try keeping a pad by your bed and writing it down. It’s amazing how well this works to help you relax.

Weekly Sweep

Importantly, at least once a week I do a “sweep” of all these various notepads and make sure that they are transferred into RTM, AllThingsIO, Outlook or whichever system you use. Otherwise, those written tasks may get overlooked for my Daily “To Do” list.

Conclusion

You’ve probably got your own method of saying organised and recording your goals – both big and small – but whatever method you use, writing goals down is the first step to successfully achieving them on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

I’m always learning new techniques – so if you have any to share, please do get in touch by leaving a comment below or reaching out to me via Twitter or e-mail!

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