Systems, not Goals

Here is a link to a fantastic article by a gentleman named James Clear at which actually goes against a lot of the productivity and success advice you have been given in the past.

Yet it makes sense.

I focus so much on goal setting, it's true that I am never satisfied with what I have in life and enjoy the moment. My family will certainly attest to that. However if I ensure that I have my systems set up and use them religiously, I'll be able to achieve as much as I would by setting goals, without having the feeling of deflation that comes with not meeting one for whatever reason.

 Here is the link - check it out. It may make you think

How To Manage Your Email

I subscribe to a fantastic productivity site called Asian Efficiency. The stuff these guys come out with is superb. It's thanks to them and the work they have done that I have implemented the Pomodoro technique for work as well my morning routine which ensures I am as productive as I can be at the times I should be. 

This link will take you to their guide on managing email and I encourage you to give it the once over. It's a superb guide and one that I implement almost fully on a daily basis. Remember, the stuff they post isn't meant to be a de facto "You must do this" set of rules, more guidelines for you to think about and implement to best suit your style of working. 

Check them out. 


Eat That Frog - really

Mad title I know, but when we explain it, it really makes a lot of sense. 

I recently read the book "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy, a self-help guru. It's a fantastic productivity title that focuses on the fact that if you do your most important task in the morning, the rest of the tasks you do during the day will seem so much easier - and you will find yourself actually completing your daily task list rather than procrastinating over that task you don't really want to do. 

The biggest reason for taking this approach is that you have the most energy in the morning and you also have the most focus. Other times of the day you can find yourself feeling drained, having difficulty summoning the energy to take on a big task. Then there is the worry that comes with knowing you haven't undertaken that task but it STILL needs to be done at some point. Worrying is a pointless use of energy and only leads to negativity. There is no productivity with negativity.

By focusing your highest energy levels on the tasks that require the most focus, you are then taking a very streamlined approach to your day. You are then able to complete your 'low energy' tasks when you are actually starting to flag. 

This is why I have set up a Low Energy context in OmniFocus. When it gets to around 3pm, I switch to the Low Energy context and I'm presented with a list of tasks that I don't really need to think about that much. This could be performing backups, making phone calls, filing photo's, standard business admin tasks. 

So in essence, do that task you hate the most, or the one that requires the most effort first thing. Eat Your Frog. Once you've eaten that frog, the rest of the day is a breeze!

Do Not Disturb - Not just for meetings.

When I first saw the Do Not Disturb setting on my iPhone, I thought "So what?" - essentially, it's just a replacement for the Silent mode on my phones of old wasn't it? Well, in a sense yes, but in this case there were a lot of other features which, at the time, my older phones didn't have. The ability to still accept calls from VIP's for one. Repeated calls from certain numbers as well were able to be configured. On the whole it was perfect, but again, restricted really to being in a meeting or when I'm asleep - one time both together, although that wasn't intentional. I just don't like Powerpoints. 

When I got my first Macbook I saw the Do Not Disturb setting in the Notifcation Centre and thought it was strange at first. Why does a laptop need a DND mode? It's very rare I'm going into a meeting and even then, the volume is on mute and only I can see the screen. Then, the first light bulb moment - it's the equivalent of Presentation Mode on Windows devices, meaning that when it's connected to a projector, there won't be any embarrassing email pop-ups asking why you still haven't paid for that Viagra you didn't really order. 

True - it is very much like the Presentation Mode described above in principle, however it comes into it's own from a Productivity point of view. I realised, after a few days of using my MacBook at work how many pop-up's I actually get a day. 

  • iMessages from work colleagues or family.
  • New email coming into Mail.App
  • New email coming into Outlook because even though I don't use it, being a new Mac User, I didn't realise that hitting the red button in the top left hand corner doesn't close the app completely, merely keeps it in the dock. 
  • DEVONthink syncing it's database.
  • RSS feeds from 9 to 5 Mac (cracking site, go see it)
  • DropBox notifications. 
  • 1Password backup notifications.
  • Hazel Helper alerts. 
  • Downcast download alerts. 
  • LinkedIn updates. 
  • Facebook Updates.
  • Twitter Updates.

This isn't all of them, I guessed that by now you have the picture. Every time one of these notifications pops up on the screen, it's the equivalent of being tapped on the shoulder because it pulls at your attention. When you are at work, your attention should be 100% on the task you have in hand. I do not know a single person that is able to work to the maximum of their ability when they are being tapped on the shoulder 10-15 times an hour - and that is a VERY conservative estimate for how many of these alerts come up. 

So the point of this short productivity post is to point out that, even though it takes 5-10 seconds to look at a notification and close it, it takes you far longer to get back into the mindset you were in before you were disturbed. How many times a day do you say to yourself mentally "Right, where was I?" - you can pretty much guarantee it is because you were disturbed by something you weren't expecting to deal with at the time. When you multiply this by the amount of times you are actually looking at those notifications, all of a sudden you can begin to understand why it is you are finding yourself having to either stay later at the office, or leave for the day knowing you haven't actually achieved as much as you would have like to. That's not a nice feeling to have. 

So I use Do Not Disturb on the Mac principally as part of my Pomodoro technique and for when I am on a task that has a time-limit assigned to it. To that end, it forms a part of my life as a whole. 

I will post a blog at some point that details how I set up Notification Centre on all of my devices in order to maximise my productivity as I'm planning on doing a review of this at some point in any case - so it fit's in nicely. Two jobs at once, now that's productive!